The Kennedy Detail
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Paul J. Nyden: The JFK assassination: Agent recalls dark day

By Paul J. Nyden

"The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence"

By Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin

Simon & Schuster Gallery Books, 427 pages. Hardcover, $28.

Back on Nov. 22, 1963, a team of Secret Servicemen failed in their task to protect the life of the president of the United States.

Jerry Blaine, a member of that elite team, tells his story for the first time in his book, "The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence."

Blaine also writes about the tragic memories of several of his fellow Secret Service agents. Kennedy often banned them from his car and frequently jumped into crowds of people gathered around him, giving little notice to his protectors.

Blaine is the first member of Kennedy's Secret Service detail to write a book about the assassination.

On that tragic day in 1963, there were only 43 Secret Service members assigned to protecting Kennedy. The Secret Service's annual budget of $4.1 million funded 300 agents.

After JFK was killed, the agency expanded. Today, the Secret Service has 4,000 agents and an annual budget of more than $1.6 billion.

Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots that day. The first shot was fired at Kennedy, and the second hit Texas Gov. John Connally. When the third shot hit Kennedy in the head, Secret Service agents immediately knew, Blaine recalls, that the devastating wound would prevent him from functioning as president, even if he were not killed.

Kennedy's trip to Texas was the first time his usually private wife Jacqueline made a political appearance with him since he was elected president three years earlier.

During his trip Kennedy received warm welcomes from people in Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth.

"It was the hidden loner the Secret Service agents worried about most," Blaine writes.

And while there are no apparent ties with Oswald, the "Dallas Morning News" printed a full-page advertisement the day of the assassination paid for by the American Fact-Finding Committee. The ad accused Kennedy of being a traitor who supported communism.

In a foreword to Blaine's book, Clint Hill, a fellow Secret Service agent also on duty in Dallas that day, wrote: "No matter how much training you've had, nothing prepares you for the emotions and nightmares that follow the horror of seeing a human being alive one instant, their head blown open the next."

Throughout his book, Blaine and his fellow agents tell how friendly the president, his wife and children were to them.

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