The Swearing In aboard AF1 - A New Perspective
Was it a Public Relations Ploy or LBJ Holding off a Military Coup?
By William Kelly
"Officials at the Pentagon were calling the White House switchboard at the Dallas-Sheraton Hotel asking who was now in command. An Officer grabbed the phone and assured the Pentagon that Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara and the Joint Chief of Staff ' are now the President.”
– Jim Bishop – “The Day the President Was Shot”
Among the law enforcement textbooks on my father’s small bookshelf was one on the elements of a homicide for police officers, detectives, prosecutors and judges, for the investigation of political murders in which elimination is the motive, to concentrate not on the triggerman or gunman, who is only acting on orders, but instead to focus on the victim – and his enemies and adversaries.
Taking advantage of the increased public and media interest in the subject on the 50th anniversary, among the recent spate of books published on the assassination of President Kennedy are a dozen or so books and articles that attempt to blame the assassination on Lyndon Baines Johnson, among them - Texas attorney Barr McClellan, Republican strategist Roger Stone, sniper victim James Tague and internet conspiracy evangelist Robert Morrow, among others.
While LBJ may answer the Qui Bono? test question, and he certainly had the means, motive and opportunity to kill JFK, making him as much a suspect as Oswald, masterminding the Dealey Plaza Operation was beyond LBJ’s capabilities.
operation was far more sophisticated than LBJ or the Mafia or renegade CIA
agents because it involved complex psychological warfare methods and techniques
that LBJ and the Mafia couldn’t fathom, at least until after the fact. Dealey Plaza
The psychological warfare methods and techniques used in the Dealey Plaza operation were not only successful in framing Oswald as the patsy for the crime, they were also used to pin the blame for the operation on Castro Communists, a ploy designed not only to protect the actual sponsors, but to intentionally spark an invasion of Cuba and risk limited nuclear war with the Soviets.
Such a plan and doomsday scenario was well beyond the abilities of LBJ, the Mafia or even renegade CIA agents, but was a coup d’etat from within the federal government, a coup that needed the cooperation or compromise of every agency and department of government.
LBJ may have been a very crude and rude and even a murderer, and is a prime suspect in the minds of many people, but he didn’t conceive the plan that unfolded at Dealey Plaza, not only because it was beyond his capabilities, when he recognized it for what it was he rejected the original cover story.
Before Air Force One left the ground, LBJ had discarded the original cover story –that the ambush was a conspiracy, albeit a Cuban Communist one, and he refused to allow the military to effectively respond to the assassination by invading
as they wanted and as fully incorporated in the original plan. Cuba
That LBJ separated himself from Kennedy’s killers by rejecting their original cover-story, he did so by adopting the “Phase Two” cover-story (as per Peter Dale Scott) of a deranged lone nut being responsible, though the Cuba-Castro scenario provided the nuclear doomsday motive LBJ used to convince Earl Warren and other Warren Commissioners of the necessity for mutual agreement on this issue.
If LBJ was the real power behind the assassination, he would have gone along with the original cover story, recognized the international communist conspiracy behind
and sent the police after the commies in the Dealey Plaza
and the military after Castro and USA ,
as the Cuba
operation was originally designed. Dealey Plaza
It can be shown that LBJ took the first steps against the actual sponsors of the
operation by declining to buy the original Castro-Commie Cover story, but
salvaged his own life by signaling them that he would nonetheless also protect
them by adopting the “Phase Two” cover story of Oswald’s singular guilt. Dealey Plaza
Evidence and support for this perspective can be found in the official archival record as well as the deep political record that is more elusive but when documented, confirms much of what is on the record. It also explains the imperative of LBJ being officially sworn in as President, not to reassure a grieving nation that the Constitutional lines of executive authority has been passed on, but to hold off a full fledged coup by the military to use the assassination as an excuse to commandeer the national command authority and go to war with Cuba.
FIRST STRATEGIC DECISIONS OF THE NEW PRESIENT
From all accounts the first decision LBJ made as president was to go to Air Force One because, as the Warren Report tells us, it had superior communications equipment than the plane he flew in on.
The second decision LBJ made as president was to hold the swearing in ceremony aboard Air Force One immediately – as soon as possible, before they took off for
The first decision was made at
the official announcement that JFK was dead. Parkland Hospital
The second decision was made aboard Air Force One before LBJ made a series of telephone calls, one to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to obtain the wording of the oath of office and another to the office of Federal Judge Sarah Hughes, to direct her to Love Field to administer the oath.
We also know that LBJ made another call to his personal tax attorney J. Waddy Bullion, during which they discussed his Halliburton stock.
While Bullion’s personal biography says the call didn’t get through, one of Bullion’s law partners says otherwise. As recounted by Russ Baker in “Family of Secrets” (p. 132), “Pat Holloway, former attorney to both Poppy Bush and Jack Crichton, recounted to me an incident involving LBJ that had greatly disturbed him. This was around on
November 22, 1963,
just as Kennedy was being pronounced dead. Holloway was heading home from the
office and was passing through the reception area. The switchboard operator
excitedly noted that she was patching the vice president through from to Holloway’s boss, firm
senior partner Waddy Bullion, who was LBJ’s personal tax lawyer. The operator
invited Holloway to listen in. LBJ was talking ‘not about a conspiracy or the
tragedy,’ Holloway recalled. ‘I heard him say: “Oh, I gotta get rid of my
goddamn Halliburton stock.” Lyndon Johnson was talking about the consequences
of is political problems with his Halliburon stock at a time when the president
had been officially declared dead. And that pissed me off….It really made me
While there are no historic records of these calls, we must also assume that LBJ’s close aides, such as Bill Moyers and Cliff Carter also made telephone calls in the hours after the assassination.
The secure telephone lines set up for Air Force One at Love Field were special trunk lines that had to be detached from the plane before take off, after which all the communications were made through radio patches over three or four sideband radios in the communications room behind the cockpit.
All of the president’s communications – the “Star Network,” were controlled by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), then led by Col. George McNally (code name “Star”), who was having lunch at the airport terminal when the assassination occurred. He immediately returned to Air Force One to ensure that the new president could communicate with anyone in the world.
The trunk lines at Love Field connected to Air Force One were only a few of a dozen such secure land lines that were controlled by the WHCA – others being at locations where ever the President was or would be – the hotel in Fort Worth where JFK spent his last night, at the Dallas Trade Mart where he was scheduled to give a luncheon speech, and other locations in Texas where he was scheduled to be that weekend.
base station for the WHCA Command Center portion
of the Dallas trip was
set up in a suite of rooms at the Dallas Sheraton Hotel. Texas
According to William Manchester, it was McNally’s duty to ensure that the president was always within five minutes of a secure telephone. “Colonel McNally had a corps of advance men. By dawn of that Thursday morning temporary switchboards had been installed in trailers and hotel rooms in
Antonio , Houston , Dallas, Fort
at the LBJ Ranch. Each had its own unlisted phone number. The Dallas White
House, for example, was in the Sheraton-Dallas Hotel. It could be reached
through Austin RIverside 1-3421, RIverside 1-3422,
and RIverside 1-3423, though anyone who dialed one of them and lacked a code
name of his own would find the conversation awkward.”
And according to Jim Bishop, who apparently talked with some of the WHCA radio operators, one such awkward phone call came in during the immediate aftermath of the assassination. "Officials at the Pentagon were calling the White House switchboard at the Dallas-Sheraton Hotel asking who was now in command. An Officer grabbed the phone and assured the Pentagon that Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara and the Joint Chief of Staff are now the President." - Jim Bishop's book “The Day Kennedy Was Shot”
Theodore H. White, in The Making of the President, 1964, wrote: “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 "
between Air Force One in Liberty ,
the Cabinet plane over the Pacific, and the Joint Chiefs' Dallas in Communications
“…..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.”
While “Liberty” station is heard on the existing Air Force One radio transmission tapes, there is no mention of Oswald or the lack of conspiracy, which means that these patches were edited out of the publicly released version of the tapes, or perhaps they took place before the plane took off, in which case they were possibly not recorded at all.
Oswald was publicly identified in wire service reports before Air Force One was in the air, so perhaps White was only partially accurate, in that LBJ learned of Oswald’s arrest and there was no conspiracy while aboard the plane, but before it took off, so they weren’t quite yet on the flight back to Washington.
While there is no documented or officially archived evidence that LBJ, as the new president, communicated directly with the Pentagon or any of his generals, except those who were aboard Air Force One, it is possible that LBJ, from the same source that informed Bishop, knew of the report(s) that “the Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are now the President.”
While the constitutional lines of accession for the executive branch of government goes from President to Vice President to Speaker of the House, the lines of authority for release of nuclear weapons – the power to go to war – goes from the President to the Secretary of Defense. According to Thomas B. Allen (of War Games), the nuclear... release authority passes from a ...disabled or missing President to the Secretary of Defense, and then, if necessary, to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who at the time of the assassination was Roswell Gilpatrick, the Texan who arranged for General Dynamics to get the TFX contract over Boeing.
With the president dead, and the accused assassin being a pro-Castro Communist, did the military consider using the murder of the president as an excuse to invade
Consider the fact that shortly after Oswald was identified as the assassin and his Soviet and Cuban background became known, Jack Crichton arranged for a Russian language translator for Oswald’s wife Marina, and the information was then immediately transmitted to the Strike Force at McDill Air Force Base in Florida, who would have taken the lead in any military attack on Cuba.
In the first hours after the assassination, before Air Force One even left the ground, action against
was being suggested, the White House Communications Agency officers were
acknowledging that “the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs were now the
President” and as McGeorge Bundy put it, “the Pentagon was taking its own
At that point, with JFK incapacitated, and LBJ soon to be in the air and out of action, the “Secretary of Defense” Robert MacNamara had the National Command Authority to go to war, and such a war against
had been planned for and was being contemplated at that moment in time. Cuba
If that is the case, rather than merely a public relations ploy to sooth the doubts of the shocked nation, the swearing in ceremony may have been LBJ’s reaction to the reports that the Joint Chiefs “were now the President,” and to prevent the military from using the assassination as an excuse to go to war over
And this wasn’t all knee-jerk reactionary responses to an unforeseen crisis, but a well planned out scenario that had been recently practiced.
“Of all the things Kennedy did for Johnson, none, however, was perhaps more instantly important on the weekend of Nov. 22 than a minor decision Kennedy made months before,” wrote T.H. White, in “The Making of the President 1964.”
“He (JFK) had decided that, in the secret and emergency planning for continuity of American government in the happenstance of a nuclear attack, Johnson should be given a major role. Through Major General Chester V. Clifton, who acted as White House liaison with the Department of Defense, all emergency operational planning was made available to the Vice President in duplicate. These plans, envisioning all things – from the destruction of all major cities to the bodily transfer of governing officers to an underground capital – included, of course, detailed forethought of the event of the sudden death of a President.”
“Because he had participated in all these plans, both panic and ignorance were already preauthorized in the vice President; on the night of Nov. 22, 1963, he knew exactly all the intricate resources of command and communications at his disposal. Beneath this lay the experience of a man who had spent 30 years observing the work of the federal government, while beneath that lay the instincts of a Texas country boy. Now it was him to act.”
So the first two decisions LBJ made – to go immediately to Air Force One because of its superior communications equipment and take the oath of office before taking off, were both moves that were engrained in the special continuity of government plans that JFK had made LBJ privy to.
That LBJ took the oath of office, not to convince the American public who was president, but to head off a full blown military coup, is supported by LBJ’s actions in the immediate aftermath of the assassination and his opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
LBJ’s opinions of the Joint Chiefs, as he himself expressed to them in a meeting in the Oval Office a year later, and as recounted by Lt. Gen. Charles Cooper, USMC (Ret), in "Cheers and Tears: A Marine's Story of Combat in Peace and War" (2002): “….Seemingly deep in thought, President Johnson turned his back on them for a minute or so, then suddenly discarding the calm, patient demeanor he had maintained throughout the meeting, whirled to face them and exploded. I almost dropped the map. He screamed obscenities, he cursed them personally, he ridiculed them for coming to his office with their ‘military advice.’ Noting that it was he who was carrying the weight of the free world on his shoulders, he called them filthy names - shitheads, dumb shits, pompous assholes - and used ‘the F-word’ as an adjective more freely than a Marine in boot camp would use it. He then accused them of trying to pass the buck for World War III to him. It was unnerving, degrading. After the tantrum, he resumed the calm, relaxed manner he had displayed earlier and again folded his arms. It was as though he had punished them, cowed them, and would now control them. Using soft-spoken profanities, he said something to the effect that they all knew now that he did not care about their military advice. After disparaging their abilities, he added that he did expect their help…” [For the complete article on this meeting see:http://jfkcountercoup2.blogspot.com/2012/07/lbj-joint-chiefs-day-it-became-longest.html ]
If LBJ held the same feelings for the military at the time of the assassination, the early reports immediately after the assassination that MacNamara and the Joint Chiefs “were now the President,” which came from the WHCA base station at the Dallas Sheraton, could have stimulated LBJ to hold the swearing in ceremony immediately aboard Air Force One so that the whole nation and the world, as well as the brass at the Pentagon, knew who was President.