Book Review | The Kennedy Detail
With the (nearly) half century of wild, black helicopter theories on the John F. Kennedy Assassination (do I really need a citation there?) – I offer a post that ties project management to that horrifying November day in Dallas (or at least tie it to a book about that day). This should be a tortuous stretching of an analogy (even for me).
I spent some of the past holiday weekend (in the 3G/internet dead zone that is my Father-in-Law’s farm) polishing off my latest read. It is a fascinating account of the Kennedy Assassination (and no - I don’t remember where I was when it happened since the event pre-dates me).
This story is told by the men (not quite the ERA era yet) who served on JFK’s protection detail. To wash against the avalanche of hooey on the topic (like Oliver Stone’s film), the Agents wanted to get the story straight (by those who where there) before any more of them were gone.
The author (former U.S. Secret Service Agent Gerald Blaine) does not mention it – but the tragedy of Deep Throat’s history-making story being lost (it came out after Mark Felt’s ability to remember the details or communicate his feeling at the time) crossed my mind while reading the book. I’m glad we got this story in time.
Dealey Plaza disciple
My captivation with the JFK assassination started at a young age. I recall checking out a book from my elementary school library (I attended John F. Kennedy Elementary School) on the assassinations of the Kennedys (Jack and Bobby) and Martin Luther King, Jr. Like a little Woodward, I was interested on sifting through all the facts and trying to piece it all together (this tortuous linking started early).
I read countless books over the years - including the full Warren Commission report (formally known as the Report Of The President's Commission On The Assassination Of President Kennedy) in 6th grade. I watched many a documentary and made the trek to the The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (scene of the crime) in 1992.
I was convinced for many years (along with apparently 75% of Americans) that it was a conspiracy. In addition to the wisdom that comes with time (and a well-honed business analyst mind), the events of People v. Simpson also had an impact on my thinking (where casual omission and incompetence was accepted as conspiracy). And certainly, Gerald Ponser’s 2003 book (Case Closed) provided a deluge of evidence to support the Lee Harvey Oswald, lone gunman theory (while quashing the litany of conspiracy theories).
In addition to the detailed account of the key members of the White House Detail (who the folks were and how they got there), the book covers preparations for the doomed trip (Advance Team), the events and emotions of November 22, 1963 and the aftermath of the assassination on members of the Detail. These events were reconstructed not solely from the memories of those days (some fading), but fact-checked with detailed reports (and personal notes) documented at the time (and who says you never revisit your documentation).
In this day of pat-downs, Advance Imaging Technology machines and shoulder-launched missiles, it’s hard to imagine the President of The United States riding through a downtown area (surrounded by skyscrapers) in an open-top limousine. But it was the norm - President Kennedy had ridden in a 28 mile open-top motorcade in Tampa just the week before the assassination.
Unfortunately for the Secret Service that day in Dallas, their prayers for rain (which would force the hard-top to be on the limo) went unanswered. It (obviously) was only a matter of time for something like this to occur and the end of the open-top presidential limousine forever followed.
But the book is not merely a CSI episode (forensically sifting through facts). Where the narrative is most powerful is when it tells the human toll on the agents the assassination would have (many to their dying day). The most touching (poignant) is the story of Clint Hill (the agent you have seen on the Zapruder film jumping on the back of the moving limo to protect Jacqueline). In many ways, Clint Hill is the star of this book (and certainly the soul of it).
Mr. Hill would personally blame himself for many decades – as seen in this 1975 60 Minutes interview (transcribed in the book). Clint (literally) had a nervous breakdown on nationwide TV during that Mike Wallace interview. The book reveals that interview was the first time Clint had EVER talked about those 6 seconds in Dallas (he had not even talked about it to his wife over the intervening 12 years).
So – if you have followed this story over the years and know the Detail agents by name (like Clint Hill), then this is a book for you (but then again – you probably have already read it).