Saturday, October 26, 2013

AF1 Tapes - Estimated Time Excised - Trimble AAR

Suddenly there's a spate of interest in the Air Force One radio transmission tapes from 11/22/63.

Since I made a presentation on the subject at the Wecht Conference in Pittsburgh last week, Jeff Morley blogged about it at, then in his talk to the conference the following day, he listed the unedited Air Force One tapes as the most important records still being withheld after the CIA records.

October 2013 Esquire Magazine published an article "Flight From Dallas" which draws heavily on the LBJ Library tape, while acknowledging they did not use anything from the recently discovered Clifton tapes.

Then Washingtonian Magazine published a really long article "Angel is Airborne," that also draws heavily on the Air Force One radio transmissions.

Now Jeff Morley has an article published in the OpEd section of the Dallas Morning News - Sunday, October 27, 2012 that mentions the Air Force One radio tapes and the new combined tape being prepared by Bill Kelly and Ed Primeau, which is something, as Morley said in his talk, that the government itself should be doing. Thanks for the Plug Jeff.

To estimate the amount of tape recordings that have not been released, the correct math is:

Time from Love Field, Dallas to Andrews AFB, Maryland = Two hours, seventeen minutes.

Number of radios "in continuous use" - according to AF1 radioman Master Sgt. Trimble = three.

According to Doug Horne, the staff member of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) assigned to review the Air Force One tapes (From his book "Inside the ARRB, Vol. V., p1662): Trimble's After Action Report: "I...had three phone patches goig simultaneously most of the time."). According to the Esquire article, Trimble is still alive.

Horne: "As an ARRB staff member I was very concerned with determining whether or not a significant ortion of time had been excised from the original recordings. Anyone concerned with the excise must begin with the flight time from Love Field to Andrews AFB: 2 hours and 17 is wise to take a conservative...which yields two hours times three radios...six hours of unedited voice conversations as the length of the unedited Air Force One tapes from November 22, 1963. Since the tapes at the Archives are a maximum of two hours in length, approximately four hours have been excised. It appears safe to say, then, that the amount of time edited out of the existing tapes is twice as long as the length of the information released by the LBJ Library. This is extremely disturbing."

Four hours is 240 minutes of tape is estimated to be missing.

But its not only the estimated length of the tapes that is important, its what's on them and what they tell us today about what happened on that day back then.

Here's Air Force One radioman John C. Trimble's After Action Report

"Somehow, it was all unbelievable."


After an overnight at Ft. Worth, Air Force One departed Carswell AFB at 1125 AM (Local Time) for Dallas. After a short flight we arrived at Dallas and blocked in at 1140 AM.

After the rain storm of the previous night the sun seemed particularly bright as the President and First Lady deplaned to the warm greeting of what was probably the largest crowd of the Texas tour. The Last we were to see of them together was when they departed the airport in their open car.
The first indication that anything was amiss came when one of the WHCA representatives, Theron Burgess, who was on duty at the airport, told me that someone in the motorcade had been hurt. My first reaction was that one of the Secret Service Agents had fallen from the car. About 15 minutes later we were told the ready the airplane for immediate take-off. At this time we were not told why we were leaving or what our destination would be. No information was forthcoming at this time and since we at least needed a destination for flight clearance purpose Col. Swindal asked me to check with the switchboard. After identifying myself to the switchboard operator he told me that the President had been shot and that no other information was available. This was relayed to Col. Swindal although he had just heard it himself from another source.
My communications equipment had been on since receiving the immediate take-off order. I had cleared a voice and teletype frequency with Andrews Airways. Even though I was using the call sign AF 26000 and could not tell the reason for clearing a voice frequency, Andrews cooperated fully. I was making periodic signal checks with Andrews when someone entered the airplane and said the President was dead.
All the chatter ceased and I think we were all numb and did out jobs automatically as we waited --- waited for the body to arrive from the hospital; waited for President Johnson; and finally for the judge to arrive and perform the swearing-in ceremony.
We departed Dallas at 1447 Dallas time for the three hour flight to Washington.
I was busy every minute of the trip and had three phone patches going simultaneously for much of the time. The normal HF air to ground communications had to yield to higher priority traffic. Some position reports were sent, some were not. Quite a bit of time was spent by Dr. Burkley and General Clifton in the air and General Heaton on the ground concerning removal and preparation of the body after reaching Andrews.
My circuits were in continuous use and Andrews always had a waiting list of various officials who wanted to communicate with the airplane. Due to the limited facilities on both ends, many times I had to decide who we would talk with next. I had a good knowledge of the Kennedy team and don’t think I made any mistakes in this respect.
We had been cleared to an altitude of 29,000 feet upon leaving Dallas. I was able to send one of the few position reports over Nashville and found that we were then at 41,000 feet because of winds and weather.
About this time I received a call from the rear of the plane saying that President Johnson wanted a phone patch with Mrs. Rose Kennedy. I immediately seized my best frequency and placed the call through Andrews and the WHCA switchboard. A short time later both the President and Mrs. Johnson offered their condolences to Mrs. Rose Kennedy. These Mrs. Kennedy accepted in a strong, clear voice.
A few minutes later I placed a call, again through the WHCA switchboard to the wife of Governor Connely in Dallas. Both the President and the First Lady talked with Mrs. Connely and assured her that the Governor would be all right.
The rest of the flight was about as hectic as the first. We landed at Andrews and blocked in at 1805 local time.
A large crowd and many bright lights were visible when the doors were opened. Mrs. Kennedy was scheduled to leave by another exit but insisted on being lowered to the ramp with the remains. She entered the ambulance and accompanied the body out of sight.
After President Johnson made his very short talk and departed, I remember thinking what irony that this terrible thing had to happen at all --- but to have it happen in the United States. Somehow it was still unbelievable.


1 comment:

Steve said...

Thanks for the update, Bill. Excellent work.