Sunday, February 12, 2012
JFK & General LeMay
JFK and General LeMay
By William Kelly
The recent discovery of a previously unknown audio tape recording of Air Force One radio communications from November 22, 1963 has increased public interest in the assassination of President Kennedy and its historical implications, some of which still haunt us today as we approach its 50th anniversary. 1)
The tape is but a micro-spectrum of those times, those days, that moment when the nation collectively learned that President John F. Kennedy was murdered on a Dallas street in a political assassination that shook the foundations of government. It was a moment that was quickly followed by everyone collectively wondering who was behind the assassination and who was now running the country?
Some people are still wondering, as the tape clearly shows.
The subject of intense interest as soon as the tape’s existence was discovered, a number of historians have used it extensively in the course of their narratives, including T.H. White in The Making of the President 1964, 2) William Manchester in The Death of the President 3) and Max Holland in The JFK Assassination Tapes 4).
In a footnote to his book, which was commissioned by President Kennedy's widow and authorized by the Kennedy family, Manchester notes that, at the time of the assassination, “That Friday, Lyndon Johnson did not know that John Kennedy had ordered the taping of all Angel (Air Force One radio) conversations while the plane was in flight. On April 21, 1964, this writer learned that the Love-to-Andrews tape still existed. Since security was not involved, it was first thought that a complete transcript of it would serve as a useful appendix to this book. Presidential consent was withheld however. On May 5, 1965, the author was permitted to read an edited transcript at the White House. Doubtless the tape will be available to future historians.” 5)
T. H. White was also given a copy of the transcript of the recordings to read in the White House but was denied permission to keep a copy, a privilidge permitted Pierre Salinger, the President’s Press Secretary.
As first pointed out by Vince Salandria, Esq., both White and Salinger quote parts of the transcript that they were allowed to read that aren’t on the existing tape that we have today. And equally disturbing is the fact that Salinger’s copy of the transcript is no longer among his papers at the JFK Library in Boston where he left it. 6)
The existing official copy of the tape emerged from the LBJ Library in Texas in the 1970s, and is available from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) or the Mary Ferrell Archives web site, 7) while the recently discovered copy came the personal effects of Gen. Clifton, the President’s military aide who was in the fatal motorcade, on Air Force One flight and can be heard on at the NARA web site. 8)
Both copies of the Air Force One radio transmissions are edited, and each contains unique information, though the most recent tape is forty minutes longer. While the original LBJ Library tape has been extensively reviewed by scholars, the more recently discovered tape is getting more news and generating more public interest. 9)
This has been helped along by the promotional efforts of the Philadelphia historical records auction house – the Raab Collection, who are marketing one of Clifton’s tapes for $500,000, and the NARA (with the GPO) has posted a digitalized recording Raab gave them on the internet that anyone with a computer can listen to on line. 10)
Raab, who deals exclusively with historical records – letters, documents, autographs, photos and such, obtained the Air Force One tapes (there were two identical copies) from the estate of Gen. Clifton, who died in 1991. 11)
After a study of the LBJ tape and a review of the tapes they had obtained from the Clifton estate, Raab realized that he had something different with unique information on it, as well as some other items of interest – including photos and letters related to Clifton and Kennedy. 12)
The tapes contain some very intense and historic conversations – such as the newly sworn-in President Johnson calling the murdered president’s mother and then Mrs. Connally, the wife of the Texas governor who was wounded in the birage of gunfire that killed the President. But most of what is on the new tape is also on the original tape at LBJ Library, and had been previously reviewed by White, Manchester, Salinger, Salandria and more recently by Max Holland and in the documentary film The First 24 Hours. 13)
While both tapes are edited, the newly discovered Clifton tape does not contain the official introduction that is on the tape released by the LBJ Library, but does contain conversations that are not on the officially released version.
Among the conversations that are of interest to historians and assassination researchers are discussions over whether to hold the autopsy at Bethesda or Walter Reed, 14) whether the casket should be transported by helicopter or ambulance, 15) and how the body would be taken off Air Force One at Andrews. 16)
Of the conversations unique to the Clifton tape that are generating the most interest are the ones that refers to Air Force General Curtis LeMay. 17)
As Raab reports on is web site analysis, “All references to LeMay have been deleted from the Johnson version. Note on Curtis LeMay: He was the Air Force Chief and a particularly staunch opponent of the Kennedy administration. Robert McNamara stated that LeMay was a staunch advocate of ‘preemptive nuclear war to rid the world of the Soviet threat.’ Air Force Chief Curtis LeMay, who had been advocating nuclear war with the Soviet Union since the early 1950s, thought Cuba was a ‘sideshow’ and told the President that the United States should fry it.’ LeMay, himself a member of the Joint Chiefs, ‘was in the habit of taking bullying command of Joint Chiefs meetings,’ and with LeMay leading the charge for war, ‘the other chiefs jumped into the fray, repeating the Air Force general’s call for immediate military action.’ Around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy told an aide that the administration needed to make sure that the Joint Chiefs did not start a war without his approval. Thirteen days after that crisis began, the Soviets announced that they would remove the missiles from Cuba, with the US agreeing to remove missiles from US bases in Turkey and ‘pledging not to invade Cuba.’ At the announcement of the end to the crisis, General LeMay told Kennedy, ‘It’s the greatest defeat in our history,’ and that, ‘We should invade today.’ Lyndon Johnson had better relations with General LeMay.” 18)
It should be pointed out that while President Kennedy personally disliked LeMay and often disregarded his advice, he liked the idea that the Russians feared LeMay like the Nazis feared General Patton during World War II, and Kennedy did keep him on as the chief of staff of the Air Force and senior member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Kennedy and LeMay had many contentious moments in the course of a number of major crisis, including the Bay of Pigs, Berlin and the Cuban Missile Crisis. 19)
LeMay is a central character on other tapes as well. Besides ordering the Air Force One radio communications taped for posterity, President Kennedy had his personal phone and Oval Office conversations recorded, one of which included a Cuban Missile Crisis discussion in which LeMay told the President he was “in a pretty bad fix,” to which the President replied, “you’re in it with me.” 20)
Some of the Oval Office conversations during the Cuban Missile Crisis were used verbatim in the Cuban Missile Crisis film “Thirteen Days,” in which the disgust Kennedy and LeMay displayed towards each other is vividly portrayed. It has been suggested that “Thirteen Days” was a prequel to Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” in which President Kennedy is the victim of an assassination conspiracy promoted by the CIA and the Pentagon. 21)
That is a perception is supported by Vincent Salandria’s take on the Air Force One tapes, and others, who find the edited, censored and missing portions of the tape as evidence of conspiracy. 22)
Others find evidence of conspiracy on the existing tape.
The first mention of LeMay on the existing tapes come from a Colonel Horebuckle, who comes on the radio, identifies himself and says “the Chief of Staff wants to know if the body is on board” Air Force One. 23)
One of the most detailed analysis of the existing Air Force One tape was conducted in 1997 by Doug Horne, the Chief Analyst for Military Records for the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), who wrote, “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”
Among a list of “investigative leads” outlined by Horne in his ARRB memo is, “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” 24)
In an article on the recently discovered tapes, the Boston Globe blogger wrote, “It also contains an urgent request to locate the head of the Air Force, General Curtis LeMay, whose whereabouts in the immediate aftermath of the assassination have remained an obsession for generations of conspiracy theorists.” 25)
According to Raab, “LeMay’s precise location at the time of the assassination and after have been a subject of open speculation. This places him.” Raab notes, LeMay’s “aide wanted to reach him badly and immediately, and was trying to interrupt Air Force One transmissions to do so.”
The Clifton tape includes this excerpt: “This is Colonel Dorman, General LeMay’s aide. General LeMay is in a C140. Last three numbers are 497, SAM C140. His code name is Grandson. And I want to talk to him.” 26)
- Andrews Sideband. Sir?
- This is Colonel Dorman, General LeMay’s aide.
- General LeMay is in a C-140
- The last three numbers are 497 SAM 497
- 497 last three numbers.
- Right. He is in bound. His code name is Grandson, and I want to talk to him.
- Grandson. Okay sir, we'll see what we can do. We’re really busy with Air Force One right now.
- Okay. You don’t have the capability to work more than one?
- We're running Air Force One with two different frequencies.
- We're running two patches at once and that's all we can do.
- I see.
- What is your drop sir? Are you on the drop off the Washington switch?
- Yes. Either or seven, nine, two, two five.
- Seven Nine two two five.
- But if you can’t do it now it will be too late because he will be on the ground in a half hour.
- Okay, and what is your name again sir?
- Colonel Dorman. D-O-R-M-A-N
- Okay, I’ll get back to you...if we can get him right away sir.
But this places LeMay in the air on the way to Washington three hours after the assassination, and does not pinpoint his whereabouts at the time of the assassination, so the “obsession of generations of conspiracy theorists” continues.
In his book "LeMay- The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay," (Regnery History, 2009, first paperback edition- 2011-page 356.) Warren Kozak writes, "On November 22, 1963, while on a hunting trip in Michigan, Curtis LeMay heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. He immediately flew back to Washington." But then Kozak brings up the issue at hand and attempts to discount the idea of the assassination being part of a coup by saying, "LeMay remembered a lot of people in Washington worrying that the entire series of events might be some type of attempted coup, a theory he never took seriously. LeMay was just too practical and, knowing the military as he did, he believed the United States was the least susceptible country in the world to a military takeover "because the military profession is itself steeped in the tradition of civilian supremacy over the military... [and] the armed forces of the United States have repeatedly fostered and protected this principle." 28)
LeMay's official biography (p.430, "Iron Eagle: The Turbulent Life of General Curtis LeMay," by Thomas M. Coffey) says he was visiting his wife's family in Michigan when the news arrived about JFK's assassination. 29)
So there is a discrepancy in the records.
According to the Andrews Log book turned over to the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), LeMay returned to Washington from Wiarton, a Canadian military air base. 30)
The log itself is strange, as it covers only two shifts, the days John and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and was apparently ordered destroyed and was saved from a dumpster by an alert Andrews employee, Chuck Holmes. It is officially labeled:
SPECIAL ANDREWS AFB DUTY OPERATIONS LOG FROM NOV 22-25, 1963 AND JUNE 5-6,
SUBJECTS: JFK ASSASSINATION; RFK ASSASSINATION; AIR FORCE ONE; GENERAL LEMAY.
DOCUMENT TYPE: LOG BOOK, TEXTUAL DOCUMENT
UNCLASSIFIED OPEN IN FULL
COMMENTS: Special Log of Events found by Air Force civilian employee, Mr. Chuck Holmes, and transferred to ARRB by USAF. Cover stamped 1254 ATW Command Post.
COVER REMARKS: Special Unclassified
J.F.K. Assassination - 22 Nov. 63 & RFK Assassinations 5 June 68.
1254th ATW Command Post
9 pages long, it is written in long hand, apparently by the duty officer at the time who thought it wise to begin a special log when it was learned the President was assassinated, and the same log was filed away but used again when RFK was killed.
It begins at 1400 hours [2 pm] when “Col. Hornbuckle Heard News Report on the President being shot at Dallas. Put Wing on Alert.”
Twenty minutes later, at 1420 [2:20], “092488 & 2493 CANX. 4197 Set-up
To Dept To Plu Gen Lemay at Toronto, Canada. Trip #1602
Change Gen Lemays Plu from Toronto To Wairton Canada 44.45N 0981.06W
1625 [4:25pm] 24197 Gen Lemay Dept Wairton 1604 ETA DCA 1715, Driver & Aide at DCA ETA changed 1710, Secy Zuckert Will Meet Lemay at ADW. (notified AC f t )
1700 [5:00pm] =09Gen Lemay Will land DCA NOT ADW.
From this log it is apparent that LeMay is at Wiarton AFB, Canada.
Oddly, conspiracy theorists will appreciate the fact that the website for the Wiarton Airport has a link to a website about Camp-X, which was created in World War II in Oshawa, Ont. to train spies. The Camp-X website even has a photo of Ian Fleming visiting the Camp site. 32)
LeMay departed Wiarton at 4:04pm (Eastern) and arrived in Washington at 5:12 pm and some think it significant that he disobeyed Air Force Sec. Zuckert's orders to meet him at Andrews Air Force Base before Air Force One arrived with JFK's body. Instead, LeMay insisted his military plane land at the civilian Washington National Airport. Horne says this would put LeMay closer to Bethesda than Andrews, but it also puts him closer to the Pentagon. 33)
Those who put LeMay close to Bethesda do so to boister the theory that LeMay attended the autopsy and may have had a hand in directing it. Paul O’Conner, a Navy technician who was there recalled one of the autopsy doctors being annoyed that someone was smoking a cigar, a LeMay trademark.
There is also speculation that LeMay could be the four star general who directed one of the doctors not to probe the back wound, or conduct a forensic autopsy but just, by law, determine the cause of death – gunshot wound to the head.
While LeMay’s name is not on the list of those who were officially present at the autopsy, there are those on the list who were not there so the list is not complete.
There's still the question of what was the important message Col. Dorman wanted to get to Gen. LeMay before he landed in Washington.
Three men who could tell us are Col. Hornbuckle, LeMay's aide Col. Dorman and Air Sec Zuckart.
Carl G. Hornbuckle (retired colonel), 74, of San Angelo passed away at 2:10 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, 1997, in Columbia Medical Center. Memorial service will be at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 14, in Johnson's Funeral Home Chapel with Dr. Ron Sutto, pastor of First Presbyterian Church officiating. Military cryptside service will be at 2:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. Carl was born July 18, 1923, in Burnsdalle, N.C., to the Rev. and Mrs. J.P. Hornbuckle. Carl attended Linor Rhyne College, NYU, USC and the University of Hawaii where he received a master's degree in aeronautical engineering. He graduated from the Air War College in 1965. Carl was a member of the 8th Air Force in England and flew missions in World War II, the Berlin airlift, the Korean Conflict and in Vietnam. He also flew missions in support of Operation Deep Freeze at the South Pole and was a member of the Special Air Mission at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. He was a pilot for Air Force One where he flew under two presidents and was host to many VIPs. His last assignment was with U.S. forces at the Azores, Portugal, and retired after 31 years on Sept. 1, 1976. He received many awards including the DFC, LOM and the Silver Star.
Published Assembly Jul '91
George Stanton Dorman NO. 15725 CLASS OF 1946 Died 4 August 1969 near Chu Lai, South Vietnam, aged 45 years. Interment: West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York.
GEORGE STANTON DORMAN was born 23 May 1924 in Portland, Oregon. The youngest of three boys, George was always competing, usually unsuccessfully, with his two older brothers. George enjoyed being a Boy Scout and attained the rank of Life Scout. In high school, he played baseball. His brother Bob remembers the young George as energetic with an excellent sense of humor, having a love of animals, a quick wit and being very loyal to his family. He graduated from Ulysses S. Grant High School in Portland.
George's father was a Reserve officer who served in both World Wars. His counsel, together with his oldest brothers joining the Army Air Corps, shaped George's decision to enter West Point He spent a year at Oregon State College, Corvallis, Oregon, before he received an appointment to enter West Point on I July 1943.
George's cadet life almost ended right after it started. In August 1943, his brother Ted's plane disappeared. This tragic event almost precipitated George's leaving the Corps. However, he was prevailed upon to continue and had a relatively uneventful cadet life. Save for a brush with chemistry, he had no great problems with academics. However, his tremendous leadership potential was sublimated until he entered active duty. When the Air Cadet option was presented to the class, George took it and received his wings together with his second lieutenant's bars at graduation.
George took multi engine transition training at Enid, Oklahoma. Upon completion of his training at Enid, George was married to Mary B. (Petie) Procurat in Orange, New Jersey on 2 November 1946.
His first operational assignment was to the 63rd Bombardment Squadron, 43rd Bombardment Wing at Davis Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona where he flew B29's. George's superb flying skills and leadership qualities were soon recognized, and in 1948 he was selected to be the aircraft commander of the KB29 tanker flying out of the Azores that refueled the B50 Lucky Lady in her historic nonstop flight around the world. In February 1955 George was assigned to Goose Bay, Labrador. In August of that year, he moved to the RCAF Station, Frobisher Bay, Canada, where he remained until April 1956. His next assignment was to Eighth Air Force Headquarters at Westover Field, Massachusetts where he served as executive officer to the chief of staff. July 1959 saw George and Petie move to Pease AFB, New Hampshire as a B47 squadron commander with the 100th Bombardment Wing. Later he became organizational maintenance squadron commander with the wing.
In August 1961, he was transferred to Headquarters USAF with duty in the Strategic Division of Operations. George had received "below the zone" promotions ever since his duty in Arizona, and the evidence of his growing reputation in the Air Force was very clear when he was made aide de camp to the Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis E. LeMay in 1962. He served in this position until 1965 when he was selected to attend the National War College. From there he assumed command of the 7272and Support Group at Wheelus Air Base, Tripoli, Libya. Prior to leaving for Tripoli, George and a classmate attended an annual instrument school refresher course. The classmate recalls that George told him then that he was looking for the toughest jobs he could find.
That George was marked for bigger and better things became more evident in July 1967, when he assumed duties as vice wing commander, 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, RAF Bentwaters, Woolridge, England. This, after nothing but bomber experience! Shortly after George joined the 81st, a classmate, Phil Safford, joined as Assistant Deputy Chief of Operations. Phil recalls that George had an exceptionally keen mind and could get to the heart of a problem before anyone else. His communication skills were superb and he never lost his poise or objectivity, despite many opportunities to do so. George's goal was to command a wing in combat. To that end, he volunteered for an assignment in Seventh Air Force in Vietnam, not so much for a staff job, but as he told Phil, "I am going to be in line on the spot when the next wing commander job is available."
George received his assignment to the Seventh AF Headquarters in Vietnam. His immediate superior was then Major General David C. Jones. George's orders from England to Vietnam were to report immediately, so Petie and their three boys were left to return to the States alone. In a tape to his mother on 8 June, 1969, George told her how worried he was about Petie and the boys having to make the move back from England on their own. He mentioned that in his latest communication from Petie, she had told him of a visit she had from the mayor of Ipswich, England and his wife. He told his mother that this man had been anti US, but thanks to George and Petie he had become a great admirer and friend of Americans. George was very articulate and in that tape expounded on his concern with the media comments on the conduct of war. He mentioned that he was happy in his job and how proud he was to be serving his country.
On another tape (30 June), George told his mother how pleased he was to have heard from Petie that made the move successfully and was safely ensconced in a house in Charleston, South Carolina. His big news, in this tape was that General George Brown, commanding general of the Seventh Air Force, had selected George to be the next commander of the 366th Tac Fighter Wing in Da Nang. Colonel John Roberts (now a retired general) was the commander and had been selected to be promoted to brigadier general. George was slated to go to Da Nang by 10 July 1969 to be vice to Colonel Roberts for about 30 days before he departed. George felt that he had reached the culmination of his career-- a fighter wing command in combat and was extremely happy with this opportunity.
George became vice of the 366th in July 1969. General John Roberts recalls that on 4 August George was flying a low altitude mission near Chu Lai. Upon return to Da Nang, George's wingman reported that when George came off the target, there was an explosion and fire in his F4. This had been an early morning mission; and about 1300 hours General Robert's exec, Bob Kelly (retired as lieutenant general), told him that there was a CIA agent to see him. It seems the CIA man had been in a helicopter near Chu Lai and had witnessed the action in which George had been shot down. He had seen the plane pull off the target, level off for about a mile --one chute out then the plane crashed. He gave General Roberts the coordinates of the crash. General Roberts called the Army for site security and was told he could have it for only one hour. A call was put out for volunteers from the 366th and six were selected, from the many who volunteered, to investigate the crash. This team located the aircraft and was able to recover George's body. They discovered that George had been killed in the plane and that one engine had been knocked out. The man in the back seat had tried to get the plane under control but waited too long to eject. George was survived by his wife Petie, three sons, George, Jr., Robert and William, his mother and brother.
There is no doubt that George Dorman was destined to rise to the highest levels in the Air Force. One of the brightest stars in the Air Force firmament was dimmed on that fateful day in August 1969 near Chu Lai, South Vietnam. General Roberts said, "George was very sharp-- he would have been a hell of a wing commander." His Air Force classmates appreciated his outstanding qualities as an officer and valued him as a friend. He was a professional to the nth degree.
George, in addition to being an outstanding professional airman, was a loving and caring husband and father. All three of his sons are serving their country in one of the Armed Forces. Petie recalls that after 20 years George is still a viable presence in their sons' lives.
George Stanton Dorman always lived by "Duty, Honor, Country." He believed that a man's word was his bond. He was dedicated to the service of his country. At George's funeral at West Point, one of the pallbearers was then Lieutenant General David C. Jones, later to become chief of staff of the Air Force and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In recognition of George's service with the 81st TFW, Phil Safford was asked to represent the wing at George's funeral. Phil recalls that he was honored to serve as a pallbearer at Petie's request. Phil's words, recalling that time, echo the feelings of all George's classmates and are a fitting tribute to one of West Point's own: "As I stood in the bright sunshine in that beautiful setting, I thought of how well George Dorman exemplified the kind of leader West Point produces for the service of our country; and for the first time, I truly understood the meaning of [Well Done!]."