Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Liberty" Station at Collins Radio

"Liberty" Station - Collins Radio, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

"What's the frequency, Kenneth?"

Collins Radio – the First 50 Years

“Air Force One, the Presidential airplane, was placed in service in 1962 using communications equipment developed and manufactured by Collins. The aircraft…was modified to meet special requirements…In 1962, the station that many remember as ‘Liberty’ was opened and operated from the new communications building…(in Cedar Rapids, Iowa)….Collins had a contact with the Air Force to serve as either the primary communications station or as a backup whenever Air Force One, the presidential aircraft, and other aircraft it the VIP fleet carried cabinet members or high ranking military officers. Over the airwaves the station’s call word was ‘Liberty.’”

LBJ Library Tape – Reel 1 Side One – Patch 4

- Air Force One?
- Hello? Liberty!...... Liberty?
- Roger, I have White House Situation Room, Sam 86972,....Over.
- (Static).
- 86972 do you read me? Over.
- White House?
- White House on.
- Standby.
- White House, this is SAM 86972. How do you read? Over.
- 86972, I read you loud and clear, loud and clear.
- Roger, standby One, please, we have another phone patch going on with Sing Sing, but we do have traffic for you, so hold on for a moment please.
- Roger, Roger 86972.

Reel 1 Side One - Patch 8

- Andrews sideband. Airman Gilmore.
- Roger. Are you in contact with the party coming back from Tokyo? Go ahead.
- Yes sir. We’re going through Liberty airwaves for that aircraft.
- Roger, can you connect me with Wayside?
- Standby One Six.
- Sir?
- Yes Sir?
- There’s Mister Jackson running a patch to that aircraft at this time, would you like to listen in or would you like me to break the patch sir?
- Ah, could I wait please?
- Yes, you can standby. You’re number two.

Reel 1 Side One - Patch 10.

- Andrews, 26000. Radio Check.
- 26000 (Two Six Thousand), Andrews, loud and clear.
- [Third voice] 26000, Liberty, loud and clear. Will you try to notify if you close down for good? Go ahead.
- Roger. Will do.
- Roger, Liberty.

Reel 1 Side One - Patch #15

-26000 Andrews. Loud and clear.
- We’ll be moving out pretty shortly.
- 86972. Standby.
- 972 go ahead sir.
- Okay, we’re coming pretty close to Honolulu landing ah. I don’t know if we’ll be able to or not but I’m going to or not but I’m going to try to keep this equipment up, ah, but I’m not certain I’ll be able to do it. Understand that thirteen is pretty good. ….Is that correct?
- This is Andrews. That is affirmed. 26000 is now getting ready to take off. He’s on One Three. If you standby, One, I’ll confer with Liberty and see what frequency, in case you do drop out, what frequency we’ll have standing up on waiting for your call.
- Okay, do that. Get them all set up. I might not be able to keep it open.
- Roger. Standby One.
- Okay, Liberty? Yea, we got One Three and One Five up right now, besides going through you. I don’t know if One Three is going to be tied up or not. And ah, what frequencies do you think you can have set up in case he drops out on so you he’ll know what frequencies we’re listening on?
- I’ll be on One Eight, One Five and One Three. And we can hold on One Eight for a while because we got Newport Jerry up there.
- Right. Do you have another one, a little bit lower maybe?
- We could drop down from eighteen to One Five to thirteen.
- How about Tripple One?
- Ah, on the sideband.
- Okay, I’ll tell him we’ll be on eighteen, thirteen, One Five and Triple One, all uppers, right?
- All right.
- Except this one, we’re on lower.
- Go ahead.
- Okay.
- 86972, Andrews.
- Roger, Andrews is going to be standing by and Liberty on Triple One upper, Triple One Seven Six upper, One Five Zero One One upper, One Five Zero One One upper, One Three Two Zero Seven upper and One three one seven, lower.
- Okay, very good. Out
- Roger

Raab Collection Web Site:


There is expanded conversation about what bands they will speak on, information valuable in assessing the process of communication on board Air Force One during the flight home.

These are just a few of the points of difference we found, using the acoustic equipment at our disposal. Forensic equipment could certainly reveal more. Moreover, this discovery permits the application of new technologies to the original film and not simply to a digital file. It is the most significant piece of audio/visual history ever to reach the public market.

Theodore H. White's book The Making of a President, 1964 – in which White wrote on page 20: 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 [Army] Signal Corps Midwestern center "Liberty," between Air Force One in Dallas, the Cabinet plane over the Pacific, and the Joint Chiefs' Communication Center in Washington.

White continued on page 48:

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.

Corroboration for White's claim can be found in the 1993 oral history edited by Gerald S. and Debroah H. Strober, Let Us Begin Anew: An Oral History of the Kennedy Presidency. On pages 450-451, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Manning – who was aboard the Cabinet plane to Japan with Secretary of State Rusk and Presidential Press Secretary Pierre Salinger – is quoted as saying that the White House situation room was in continuous voice contact with the Cabinet aircraft, and not only informed Rusk that "Lancer [the President] is dead," but also told the editors of the book: "The news then came in that someone named Oswald who had been in the Soviet Union had done this."

October 17, 1995
To: Jeremy Gunn
From: Doug Horne
Subject: Air Force One Audiotapes from November 22, 1963

[...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.

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,….

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.

“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.

“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.

“Aft of the cockpit Signalman John Trimble was too busy to brood. He had three phone patches going to the communications shack, and he was using Hanson's UHF and VHF sets, yet it wasn't enough. Every official in Washington it seemed, wanted to talk to Air Force One...Several conversations were trivial....Lem Johns was forwarding instructions to the White Hosue Communications Agency, and Bill Moyers was talking to Walter Jenkins and Mac Bundy. (Ted Clifon talked to Bundy, too, asking again whether an international plot was emerging. It was not a discreet inquiry. Trimble's patches were not secure. They could be bugged. Bundy replied crisply that the Pentagon was taking its own steps.) But the bulk of the verbal traffic was about President Kennedy...”

- William Manchester. Death of a President (p. 341)

Footnote 9 - p. 371
9. That Friday Lyndon Johnson did not know that John Kennedy had ordered the taping of all Angel 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.

CD 387
The names of the Presidential airplane crew fort the entire trip to Texas are as follows:

Colonel James B. Swindel
Lt. Col. Lewis G. Hanson
Major David D. Oder
CWO John R. McLane
SMSget. William J. Chappell
MSgt. J.C. Trimble
SMSgt. Joseph C. Ayres
MSgt. Vernon J. Shell
TSgt. R. M. McMillan
SSgt. John T. Hames
MSgt. Wyatt A. Broom
SSgt. Eulogio Gomez
TSgt. Charles R. Ruberg

General LeMay and Art Collins HAM it up

The LeMay Reference:

Andrews Sideband. Sir?
- This is Colonel Dorman, General LeMay’s aide.
- Right.
- 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

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