Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tale of the Tapes - By Vincent Salandria

The Tale of the Tapes
by Vincent J. Salandria, Esq.

Vince Salandria, one of the earliest critics of the Warren Commission's conclusion, gave a stirring keynote speech at the 1998 Dallas COPA conference, of which this is a partial excerpt that is elaborated on. He calls attention to the references by T.H. White and Pierre Salinger to transcripts and parts of the Air Force One radio transmissions of 11/22/63 that are not contained in the extant tapes and transcripts.


On November 21, 1998, I delivered a two-hour speech in Dallas (at COPA) espousing the thesis of a high-level national security state plot to kill President Kennedy, and that any concept of a renegade conspiratorial killing was irrational.

On November 23, 1998, I sent a copy of that speech to Professor Noam Chomsky, who had long declared a high-level conspiracy to be irrational. I wrote him: "I have that kind of perverse nature that only benefits from negative criticism. Could you find time to provide some?"

On February 16, 1999, Professor Chomsky replied: "It [the speech] is a lucid presentation of the conclusions that you and others have reached." Lucid in dictionaries is defined as rational. Therefore, Professor Chomsky no longer shares the view that a high-level institutional conspiracy explanation of the assassination is irrational.

I would like to excerpt one concept from that speech which compels the conclusion of a high-level national security conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Readers will no doubt recall the 18 1/2-minute gap in the Watergate tapes which served to prove the institutional guilt of and brought down President Richard M. Nixon and his cohorts. I will demonstrate how the U.S. national security state destroyed not 18 1/2 minutes of tape, but about 5 1/2 hours of three tapes which proved their guilt in the killing of President Kennedy.

In November of 1966, I read Theodore H. White's The Making of the President, 1964. On page 9 of the book I came across the following:

There is a tape recording in the archives of the government which best recaptures the sound of the hours as it waited for leadership. It is a recording of all the conversations in the air, monitored by the Signal Corps Midwestern center "Liberty," between Air Force One in Dallas, the Cabinet plane over the Pacific, and the Joint Chiefs' Communications Center in Washington.

Then on page 33 I read the following about the flight back to Washington, D.C. from Dallas:

On the flight the party learned that there was no conspiracy, learned of the identity of Oswald and his arrest; and the President's mind turned to the duties of consoling the stricken and guiding the quick.

I knew that on November 23, 1963, The Dallas Morning News had informed its readers that the Dallas District Attorney, Henry Wade, stated: "Preliminary reports indicated more than one person was involved in the shooting...the electric chair is too good for the killers."

Despite the evidence of conspiracy of which Dealey Plaza reeked, the White House Situation Room had informed President Johnson and the other occupants of Air Force One that, notwithstanding what they may have smelled, seen and felt in Dealey Plaza which spoke of a conspiratorial crossfire, Oswald was to be designated as the lone assassin.

I wrote to Mr. White. Mr. White replied by letter that the communications to Air Force One and the Cabinet Plane were "By government radio --- all relays go through a big Signal Corps center in the Midwest --- and the White House was in constant communications with the plane."

I then wrote to Dr. Robert Bahmer, Archivist of the United States, requesting access to the tape. Dr. Bahmer replied:

We have no knowledge of the existence or location of the tape recording mentioned by Mr. White, despite having made some efforts since the receipt of your letter to obtain some information about it.

I then noted that Pierre Salinger in his book, With Kennedy, reported what the party on the Cabinet Plane heard: The message kept coming off the wire service machine and finally one started grinding out the story of Lee Harvey Oswald and his previous life, in Russia...

So, I wrote to Pierre Salinger on December 3, 1966: In your fine work, With Kennedy, you make mention of radio communications with the White House and the cabinet plane over the Pacific on November 22, 1963 (pp. 212-25) You identify "Stranger" as Major Harold R. Patterson.

Theodore H. White, The Making of the President, 1964, also refers to these conversations but particularly related to those dialogues with the Presidential plane, Air Force One.
I have asked the National Archives for a copy of this tape. Dr. Bahmer, the excellent Archivist of the United States, cannot locate it, although Mr. White states on page 9 of his book: "There is a tape recording in the archives of the government." I enclose Dr. Bahmer's letter; Mr. White will not provide any further information.

Specifically what I am about is the verification of what Mr. White states was on the tape, to wit: "On the flight the party learned that there was no conspiracy; learned of the identity of Oswald and his arrest; and the President's mind turned to the duties of consoling the stricken and guiding the quick." If such was said, before there was any evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin, and while there was overwhelming evidence of a conspiracy, then the White House is in the interesting position of being the first to designate Oswald as the assassin and the first to have ruled out in the face of impressive evidence to the contrary, that there could have been a conspiracy.

Now, Mr. Salinger...That tape is being denied only to the American public...Will you render this service to civilian rule and democracy for which President Kennedy gave his life?

Respectfully yours,
(signed) Vincent J. Salandria

Mr. Salinger replied on December 26. He was most willing to serve civilian rule and democracy:

The section of my book dealing with the conversations between the White House and the Cabinet plane were taken from a transcript of the tape of those conversations made by the White House Communication Agency. I have never either read or heard the tape to which Mr. White refers, i.e. the conversations with Air Force One. Since the tape with which I worked was provided by the White House Communication Agency, it would seem to me that the tape of the conversation to which you refer would emanate from the same source, if such a tape, in fact, exists.

As to the conversation with the cabinet plane, the transcript of that conversation is in my personal files which have been turned over to the National Archives for placement in the Kennedy Library. I certainly have no objection to your seeing that transcript...

I again wrote to Dr. Bahmer, who replied:

After receipt of your letter of December 28, a careful examination was made of the papers that Mr. Salinger has sent to us for storage. We have not, however, been able to find anything in the nature of a transcript of the tape recording that you are searching for.

So I wrote directly to the White House Communication Agency requesting access to the tape recording. James U. Cross, Armed Forces Aide to the President, replied:

I have been asked to respond to your letter, addressed to the White House Communication Agency, concerning a tape recording to Air Force One, November 22, 1963.

Logs and tapes of the radio transmissions of military aircraft, including those of Air Force One, are kept for official use only. These tapes are not releasable, nor are they obtainable from commercial sources.

I am sorry my response cannot be more favorable.

Of course, Cross lied. They were obtainable by Theodore H. White and Pierre Salinger for non-official use.

The content of these messages was confirmed in 1993 by Robert Manning, Kennedy's Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, who on November 22, 1963 was on the Cabinet plane over the Pacific. He reported having heard the same account of Oswald being designated as the presumed assassin. (Gerald S. and Deborah H. Strober, Let Us Begin Anew, An Oral History of the Kennedy Presidency, Harper Collins Publisher, 1993).

Mr. Douglas P. Horne, a staff member of the Assassination Records Review Board, spoke at the Lancer conference in Dallas in November, 1999. He spoke at length of the Review Board's fruitless attempts to locate the audio taped communications to Air Force One. He informed the audience that it was a shame that the 6 or 7 hours of three separate tapes appear to be gone from this world. 18 1/2 minutes of missing tapes was a fatal matter which caused the Nixon Presidency to unravel. A 90 minute, edited tape of Air Force One communications is extant. The disappearance of some 5 1/2 hours of this vital tape which was made to disappear by the U.S. military leaves our national security state, the force behind the assassination of a peace-seeking President John F. Kennedy, undisturbed and still the preeminent power extending U.S. military hegemony throughout the globe.

We know from the three sources which we have supplied what is contained on that tape and what that tape proves with respect to the institutional involvement of our national security state in the killing of President Kennedy.

John Kelin: Vincent J. Salandria wrote one of the earliest critiques of the Warren Commission's published data, an article appearing in The Legal-Intelligencer, Philadelphia's daily law journal, in 1964. Salandria was convinced early on that there was much more to the assassination than was reported in the press. "Dealey Plaza," he said, "reeked of conspiracy."

In the summer of 1964, he went to Dallas with his then-brother-in-law Harold Feldman, and Feldman's wife Immie (see above). Among the witnesses they interviewed was Helen Markham, the Warren Commission's star witness in the murder of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit. They came away convinced that Markham had been intimidated into giving testimony that conformed to the Warren Commission's lone gunman thesis.

Salandria later published incisive articles in Liberation and The Minority of One. He served in an advisory capacity to Jim Garrison during the New Orleans' DA's investigation into the Kennedy assassination.

See John Kelin's Praise From A Future Generation.

Horne Memo AF1 Radio Tapes


October 17, 1995
To: Jeremy Gunn
cc David Marwell
Joan Zimmerman
Anne Buttimer
Dennis Quinn
From: Doug Horne
Subject: Air Force One Audiotapes from November 22, 1963

1. As directed, Joan Zimmerman and I visited Archives II to listen to audio recordings of the November 22, 1963 Air Force One tapes. Our initial effort lasted two working days, October 10-11, 1995.

2. The Air Force One tapes presently held by NARA are 3 edited cassette copies provided by the LBJ library, and are identified as follows:

LBJ Library Cassette No. Identifiers
NLJ 3 SRT 969-1
NLJ 4 SRT 969-2
NLJ 5 SRT 969-3

An unidentified voice informs the listener at the outset of the first cassette (NLJ 3) that the recording is “edited and condensed.” The agency or organization which performed the editing is not identified either. Total length of the recorded material on these edited tapes is estimated at about 2 hours; without running a stopwatch a more precise estimate is not possible, since the 3 cassettes used for the transfer by the LBJ library are not uniformly filled with material. For example, the second side of tapes NLJ 4 and NLJ 5 are almost 100% blank, and the first side of tape NLJ 3 is not completely filled.

3. Procedures: The audiotapes at NARA must be listened to in Suite 4000 at Archives II. The tapes are requested in suite 4000; they are not held by Steve Tilley.

An imperfect, Horne e:\wp-docs\AF1.wpd File: 4.0.4 [...An] incomplete “transcript” of the edited audiotapes can be found in LBJ library box # 19. It is highly recommended that anyone listening to the tapes first check out this item from Steve Tilley on the sixth floor, and run off a photocopy of the transcript.

4. Joan Zimmerman and I took voluminous notes, noting the many occasions when spoken word on the tapes is not accounted for on the LBJ transcript. We also took notes in an attempt to expand on areas of the “transcript” which are only summations of conversations (vice verbatim accounts), and attempted to correct occasional inaccuracies found in the LBJ “transcript.” We both feel that it would be premature, at this time, for the ARRB to attempt to create a true, verbatim transcript of the edited Air Force One tapes, since the Review Board is engaged in a search to locate the unedited tapes from which the LBJ variant is condensed. If-and-when a complete audio record of these conversations is located, it may be considered worthwhile for the ARRB to expend the resources necessary to create a complete and precise transcript for inclusion in the JFK Collection at NARA.

5. The Air Force One tapes commence when the Presidential aircraft (Special Air Mission, or “SAM” 26000) is still on the ground at Carswell AFB near Fort Worth, Texas on the morning of November 22, 1963; as the tape begins, President Kennedy has not yet boarded the aircraft following the Fort Worth breakfast event, so the aircraft is not yet referred to as “Air Force One.”

The LBJ tapes include the flight from Carswell AFB to Love Field outside Dallas before the assassination, and the flight from Love Field to Andrews AFB outside Washington DC after the assassination.

The various parties (or “patches,” to use military communications jargon) include the following, listed exactly as spoken on the tapes:

Name/Call Sign Remarks

SAM 26000 - The Presidential aircraft, when the President is not onboard.

Air Force One - The Presidential aircraft, when the President is aboard.

SAM 86972 - The State Department aircraft carrying Press Secretary Salinger, Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Agriculture Freeman and other Cabinet members and Administration officials. When the assassination occurred, this aircraft was enroute from Hawaii to Japan; subsequent to the assassination, the aircraft returned to Hawaii to refuel, and then flew directly from Hickam AFB in Hawaii to Andrews AFB Washington.

(At) “Andrews” An “Airman Gilmore” answers for Andrews AFB throughout the tape and appears to be the central player attempting to facilitate all “patches.”

“Liberty” - Precise definition unknown, but through context, “Liberty” appears to be the party controlling radio frequency assignments among 26000, 86972, and the various parties in Washington DC who are talking with Government officials on Air Force One while it is enroute Andrews AFB.

[BK Notes: Now we know "Liberty" to be "the Fish Bowl" at Collins HQ, Cedar Rapids, Iowa – On the newly discovered tape – “Cedar Rapids” is mentioned, and refers to the "Liberty" station at Collins Radio HQ station at Cedar Repids.]

“Command Post” - Command Post’s location is never specified.

“Air Force Command Post” - Air Force Command Post’s location is never specified.

“SAM Command Post” - SAM Command Post’s location is never specified.

“Crown” - White House Situation Room.

6. The LBJ transcript from LBJ box # 19 has appended to it many of the USSS-WHCA code names used by personnel onboard SAM 26000, SAM 86972, and at the White House situation room; additional code names found on the tapes can be found on pages xxi and xxii of Death of a President, by William Manchester.

Nevertheless, there are still some code names used in the tape which Ms. Zimmerman and I could not decipher using the research tools mentioned above. Two of these unidentified dramatis personae on the tapes are “Stranger” and “Dagger”. It was interesting to note that on November 22, 1963 following the assassination, presumably due to the great stress induced by the day’s events, use of the USSS-WHCA code names was sloppy and inconsistent, with many speakers interchanging their code names and real names during the same conversation (thus compromising the purpose of the code names).

7. As a result of our review of the LBJ library’s edited and condensed version of the Air Force One tapes, many noteworthy observations were made which clearly justify ARRB’s pursuit of the unedited versions of these audiotapes, or of other records which could shed light on the ambiguities inherent in the incomplete and intriguing record constituted by these taped conversations.

These “investigative leads” are summarized below in no particular order or priority, and regardless of how they are eventually resolved or clarified, any assassination records which could shed light on these sometimes confusing and controversial passages belong in the JFK Collection at NARA:

A. Four radio frequencies were identified as the means of communications between parties onboard aircraft SAM 26000, SAM 86972, and the White House Communications Agency in Washington, namely:
11176 MHZ (Upper sideband)
15011 MHZ (Upper Sideband)
13247 MHZ (Upper sideband)
18027 MHZ (Lower sideband)

Part of the LBJ library collection donated to the JFK Collection at NARA includes a typed summary prepared by Master Sergeant John C. Trimble, USAF (the WHCA technician who was the radio operator onboard Air Force One during the flight from Dallas to Washington on November 22, 1963). In his statement, he says: “I…had three phone patches going simultaneously most of the time.” Since total fight time, from takeoff from Love Field, until “on the blocks” at Andrews AFB was 2 hours and 17 minutes, the unedited audiotapes could conceivably be as long as 7-9 hours in total duration, although how much of this time would be “dead time” is unknown. One serious problem with the edited Air Force One tape is that the listener does not know which frequency (i.e., “patch”) he is listening to at any one time, or whether or not the various conversations which are condensed onto the tape are recorded in the proper time sequence.

B. Onboard Air Force One on the return flight to Washington, Secret Service Agent Kellerman, and later General Ted Clifton (Military Aide to the President) make it clear that their desire is for an ambulance and limousine to take President Kennedy’s body to Walter Reed General Hospital for autopsy “...under guard...,” as specified by General Clifton. Gerald Behn, Head of the White House Secret Service Detail, counters that a helicopter has been arranged to take the President’s body to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda for autopsy, and that all other personnel will be choppered to the South Grounds of the White House. Ultimately, the President’s physician, Admiral George Burkley (on Air Force One), sides with Gerald Behn (at the White House) in support of a Bethesda autopsy and persuades the Surgeon General of the Army, General Heaton (in Washington) to cancel arrangements for a Walter Reed autopsy. Once it becomes clear that Bethesda is to be the site, two things happen: first, both Admiral Burkley and General Clifton insist that the President’s body be transported to Bethesda by ambulance (vice helicopter), even though Gerald Behn at the White House informs General Clifton that President Kennedy’s Naval Aide, CAPT Shepard, has assured him that it will be no problem for the helicopter to carry the heavy casket; second, even though Admiral Burkley and General Clifton insist on ambulance transport of JFK’s body to Bethesda, Gerald Behn at the White House subsequently orders Roy Kellerman: “You accompany the body aboard the helicopter.” Finally, General Clifton insists and then repeats, in great detail, orders for a forklift and platform at the left rear of the aircraft for the casket, a personnel ramp at the left front of the aircraft for President Johnson and other passengers’ debarkation, and another personnel ramp at the right front of the airplane (the dark, unlit side of the aircraft where there is a galley door) for the departure of Jacqueline Kennedy. These concerns are mirrored at flight’s end in a conversation from Colonel Swindal (Air Force One pilot) to Colonel Cross (USAF also) on the ground.

(Editorial notes: (1) The fact that Jacqueline Kennedy never used the ramp at the right front of the aircraft has caused at least one researcher to question the real motivation for its placement; (2) An Air Force document titled: “Historical Highlights of Andrews Air Force Base, 1942-1989″ states that “...the body of the slain President was removed to Walter Reed General Hospital...,” which further fuels the controversy over the movements of the President’s body after Air Force One landed at Andrews. )

C. On one occasion on the tape, Admiral Burkley states to Gerald Behn at the White
House, “I have called General Heaton and asked him...,” but on the LBJ edited audiotape, there is no previous conversation recorded with General Heaton, leading one to the conclusion that a conversation took place which is not present on the edited tape. The first conversation between Burkley and Heaton on the tape comes after this remark.

D. On 4 different occasions on the edited tape, “Crown” (the White House Situation Room) attempts to put “Witness” (CAPT Tazewell Shepard, President Kennedy’s Naval Aide) in communication with Air Force One (and the Air Force One patch with General Heaton) in order to resolve the confusion over the arrangements for the President’s autopsy. There are so many crude edits and breaks on this edited and compressed audio recording that it is unclear whether CAPT Shepard “never got through” to Air Force One at all, or whether he perhaps did on one or more occasions, but those conversations have simply been omitted from of the present version of the recording.

E. Concerning the President’s limousine, SS-100X, two remarks of interest can be heard on the tape. In the first, Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman says to Gerald Behn (at the White House), “I’m sure the Volunteer boys will go over his car and so forth.”

(Note: “Volunteer” was the USSS-WHCA code name for Vice-President Johnson.) Second, apparently late in the flight to Andrews, someone onboard Air Force one is informed about the status of the plane carrying the two cars from Dallas (SS-100X and the Secret Service follow-up car), namely that “...373 (a tail number) departed at 2141 Zulu…the one with the Presidential cars onboard.” Near the end of the flight Air Force One can be heard inquiring if there is an ETA for “the C-130 with the vehicles.”

F. Background chatter can be heard at one point, discussing a “limousine and ambulance at Andrews,” and later in the same background conversation, something about a “black Cadillac”. This is probably an indication of simultaneous conversations taking place onboard Air Force One on different frequencies, which only highlights the importance of obtaining unedited tapes of all of the conversations.

G. During the flight from Dallas to Washington, “SAM Command Post” calls Air Force One and a “Colonel Arnbuck (phonetic) from OPS” expresses a concern from the Chief of Staff (General LeMay?) as to whether President Johnson and Mr. Kennedy’s body is onboard the aircraft. This question is followed immediately on the tape by the confusing tug-of-war over who will control autopsy arrangements, etc.

H. On more than one occasion during the flight, personnel in Washington specifically ask whether Mrs. Kennedy is onboard. “A.F. Command Post” first asks this question, immediately before the “Chief of Staff’s Office” inquires about the whereabouts of President Johnson and Mr. Kennedy’s body. Subsequently, “Air Force Command Post” asks who the top people onboard are. “Winner” (a Mr. Hatcher at “Crown”) later asks if Mrs. Kennedy is onboard. During the flight Admiral Burkley assumes that Mrs. Kennedy will accompany the body, General Clifton very carefully arranges separate debarkation arrangements from the aircraft for Mrs. Kennedy, and Gerald Behn (Head of White House Secret Service Detail) attempts on two occasions to separate all passengers on Air Force One from JFK’s body after arrival (desiring to send the body alone to Bethesda on a helicopter, and all other personnel to the South Grounds of the White House). The significance of this repeated concern about Mrs. Kennedy’s whereabouts and her plans upon landing is a source of controversy among some researchers and is another reason to pursue unedited audiotapes of these flight conversations.

I. Immediately after Behn orders Kellerman to “...accompany the body aboard the helicopter”, the following exchange takes place:

Kellerman: “I was unable to get ahold of Payne and Bob Burke (names are phonetic approximations).” After a break, the words “...Payne and Burke at the ranch…” are heard; it is unclear whether the speaker is Kellerman or Behn. Finally, an unidentified speaker says, “…Payne and Burke were not notified…”. The meaning or possible significance of this exchange, if any, is not known.

J. Immediately after the above exchanges, an unidentified voice twice says, “...is on 6970...”. (Note: Aircraft #86970 was the Vice-Presidential aircraft, which also flew back to Andrews AFB from Love Field on November 22, 1963.)

K. One last noticeable exchange worth reporting is from “Wing” (Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh, USAF, President Kennedy’s Air Force Aide) to “Slugger”(Capt. Cecil Stoughton, USAF, White House photographer who photographed both the swearing-in of LBJ onboard Air Force One in Dallas, and the onloading of JFK’s casket at Love Field): Wing asks that Crown relay to Slugger that he must meet the aircraft as soon as possible after arrival Andrews, and that if he cannot do this, he is to see Wing as soon as possible after arrival, or contact him in any way feasible. The urgency and importance of this matter to Wing is very clear from his tone of voice. Later, Crown informs Wing that Slugger remained on the ground in Dallas. One of the many conversations not on the LBJ transcript which is on the edited tape reads as follows:

Andrews(?): “Air Force One, this is very important.”

Slugger: “This is Capt. Stoughton in Dallas.”

Air Force One: “Warrior advises he is unable to speak with you at the present time and asks would you please call the White House in about 30 minutes.”(Note: It is unclear what this is all about, and additionally unclear why Warrior is the party unable to speak with Slugger, when it was Wing who asked to speak with him in the first place.)



Steve said...

Excellent Bill. Keep it up.

- Steve

mick said...

I believe many questions can be answered with the restoration of the 18 and one half minutes erased by Rosemary Woods. The smoking gun is on that tape. I think the emphasis must be placed on technology restoring those 18 minutes. One must ask themselves, at the point in time that Mrs. woods erased those 18 minutes, Nixon was already finished. There was nothing else at the point in early 1974 that could have come out from those 18 minutes that would have made things worse for Nixon in terms of Watergate. So, the questions is, what was so sinister on that tape that it had to be erased?? The answer deals with what happen in Dallas