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JFK’s body moved to permanent gravesite

JFK’s body moved to permanent gravesite

On March 14, the body of President John F. Kennedy is moved to a spot just a few feet away from its original interment site at Arlington National Cemetery. The slain president had been assassinated more than three years earlier, on November 22, 1963.

Although JFK never specified where he wanted to be buried, most of his family and friends assumed he would have chosen a plot in his home state of Massachusetts. Because JFK was a World War II veteran, he qualified for a plot at Arlington National Cemetery, but he also deserved a special site befitting his presidential status. The spring before he died, President Kennedy had made an unscheduled tour of Arlington and had remarked to a friend on the view of the Potomac from the Custis-Lee Mansion, reportedly saying it was "so magnificent I could stay forever." After the assassination, the friend who accompanied JFK to Arlington that day relayed the comment to the president’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who suggested the site to Jacqueline Kennedy, the president’s widow. Jackie, who was responsible for the final decision, toured the site on November 24 and agreed. “He belongs to the people,” she said.

During funeral preparations, the first lady asked if cemetery workers could erect some sort of eternal flame at the gravesite. Cemetery officials scrambled to put together a makeshift Hawaiian torch under a wire dome, covered by dirt and evergreen boughs. The flame was fed by copper tubing from a propane tank situated 300 feet away. After the graveside military ceremony on November 25, Jackie lit the first eternal flame and, a few days later, the gravesite was enclosed with a white picket fence. In December 1963, Jackie Kennedy returned to the grave and was photographed kneeling in prayer among a sea of wreaths and bouquets left by recent visitors.

JFK’s original gravesite attracted 16 million visitors in the first three years after his death. In 1967, the Kennedy family and Arlington officials chose to move JFK’s grave in order to construct a safer, more stable eternal flame and to accommodate the extensive foot traffic caused by tourists. The final resting place, which is only a few feet from the original site, took 2 years to construct, during which time JFK’s body was secretly moved and re-interred in a private ceremony attended by Jackie, his brothers Edward and Robert, and President Lyndon Johnson. The bodies of two of the couple’s children who died at birth were also moved to the new site from graves in Massachusetts. The makeshift propane gas line was replaced with a permanent natural gas line and furnished with a continuous electronic flashing spark that reignites the flame in case it is extinguished by rain or wind. The Kennedy family chose Cape Cod granite flagstones to surround the flame. They also paid the costs of the original burial, but the federal government funded construction of the final site and appropriates money for the plot’s upkeep.

In 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, also a victim of assassination, was buried near his brother. In 1994, Jackie Kennedy died after a battle with cancer and, although she had remarried and again been widowed, was laid to rest in the same crypt as her first husband, JFK. When former United States Senator Ted Kennedy passed away in 2009, he was also laid to rest near his brothers.

William Taft is the only other president besides JFK interred at Arlington.


What Happened to President John F. Kennedy's First Casket?

Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

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    Chris Raymond is an expert on funerals, grief, and end-of-life issues, as well as the former editor of the world’s most widely read magazine for funeral directors.

    At 10 a.m. EST on February 18, 1966, a large pine crate was pushed out of the open tail hatch of a C-130E military transport plane approximately 100 miles east of Washington, D.C. After watching the box hit the frigid water of the Atlantic Ocean and then sink, pilot Maj. Leo W. Tubay, USAF, circled the drop point for another 20 minutes to make sure the crate did not resurface. It didn't, and the airplane returned to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, landing at 11:30 a.m.

    This ultimately was the fate of the casket used to transport President John F. Kennedy's body from Dallas back to Washington, after the president's assassination.

    This curious tale concerning what happened to JFK's first casket begins 27 months earlier, however.

    After doctors at Parkland Hospital declared President Kennedy officially dead at 1 p.m. CST, November 22, 1963—only 30 minutes after the fatal shot captured in Abraham Zapruder's film ended the president's life—U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Clinton Hill contacted O'Neil's Funeral Home in Dallas, stating that he needed a casket. (Hill is actually the individual seen leaping onto the back of the president's limousine in Zapruder's film a moment after the assassination occurs.)

    Funeral director Vernon O'Neil selected an "extremely handsome, expensive, all bronze, silk-lined casket" and delivered it personally to Parkland Hospital. This casket carried the body of President Kennedy on Air Force One during the long flight from Dallas, Texas, to Washington.

    This all-bronze casket was not the same one seen three days later during the televised funeral of America's slain leader, however. Jacqueline Kennedy wished for her husband's funeral to replicate, as closely as possible, the services of previous presidents who died in office, particularly the funeral of Abraham Lincoln, who also died from an assassin's bullet. Those funeral services usually featured an open casket so the public could offer a last goodbye to its leader.

    Unfortunately, and despite efforts to prevent it, blood from JFK's massive head wound escaped the bandages and the plastic sheet in which he was wrapped and stained the white silk interior of the casket during the flight to Washington, rendering the casket unsuitable. (Later, both Jacqueline Kennedy and Robert Kennedy decided against an open-casket funeral entirely due to the extent of the physical damage to the president's body.)

    President Kennedy was therefore buried in a different casket—a mahogany model crafted by the Marsellus Casket Company and supplied by Joseph Gawler's Sons, the Washington funeral home that handled JFK's funeral services. After transferring the president's body to the new casket, the funeral home eventually placed the original bloodstained casket in storage.

    On March 19, 1964, Gawler's sent the first casket to the National Archives, where it was stored "at all times thereafter in a specially secure vault in the basement." According to an official document dated February 25, 1966 (and declassified on June 1, 1999), only "three top officials of the National Archives" and a historian commissioned by the Kennedy family received access to this casket.

    Meanwhile, the General Services Administration (GSA) continued to dispute the invoice that funeral director O'Neil submitted to the government for the "Solid double wall Bronze Casket and all services rendered at Dallas, Texas." Originally sent by the funeral home January 7, 1964, for a total of $3,995, the GSA asked O'Neil to itemize the goods and services he provided and resubmit the bill. O'Neil did so on February 13, 1964—and even reduced the invoice by $500—but the GSA still questioned the amount. Roughly a month later, the GSA informed the funeral director that the total he sought was "excessive" and that "the actual value of services to be billed to the Government should be in a greatly reduced amount."

    On April 22, 1964, O'Neil visited Washington, (one of two trips he made to collect this bill), and indicated he wanted to obtain the casket he provided that housed President Kennedy's body on the Air Force One flight back to the nation's capital. According to a telephone-call transcript dated February 25, 1965, and later declassified, O'Neil revealed at some point "he had been offered $100,000 for the casket and the car in which the President's body was handled from the hospital to the airplane." While in D.C., the funeral director apparently indicated that he wanted JFK's first casket back because "it would be good for his business."

    In autumn 1965, the United States Congress passed bills intended to acquire and preserve "certain items of evidence pertaining to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy." This prompted Texas' Fifth-District U.S. Rep. Earle Cabell—who also served as the mayor of Dallas when Kennedy was assassinated—to write a letter to U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach. Dated September 13, 1965, Cabell stated that JFK's first bloodstained casket has no "historical significance" but "does have a value for the morbidly curious." He concluded his letter to Katzenbach by stating that destroying this casket is "in keeping with the best interest of the country."

    The O'Neil Funeral Home invoice still unpaid and the casket in question still securely stored in the basement of the National Archives building in Washington, U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy—the slain president's brother—phoned Lawson Knott Jr., GSA administrator, the evening of February 3, 1966. After noting that he'd spoken to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara about "getting rid of" President Kennedy's first casket only to learn that McNamara "is not able to get release of the casket," Sen. Kennedy asked what could be done.

    Lawson informed Kennedy that the very historian commissioned by the Kennedy family—one of only four people granted access to the original JFK casket currently stored in the National Archives, as noted above—was "quite outraged" at the idea of destroying the first casket. According to Knott, the historian (William Manchester) planned to devote an entire chapter of his book to "this particular subject." The GSA administrator added: "I think it is going to raise loads of questions about the release of the casket."

    At issue was whether the first bloodstained casket constituted "evidence" in President Kennedy's assassination, which the bills passed by Congress in 1965 sought to preserve. Unlike the rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository, however, Sen. Robert Kennedy didn't think the casket "was pertinent at all to this case." After stating that "[the casket] belongs to the family and we can get rid of it any way we want to," Kennedy told Knott that he would personally contact Attorney General Katzenbach to, essentially, cut through the bureaucratic red tape and secure the release of the original casket used to fly the body of President Kennedy from Dallas to Washington.

    Not surprisingly, Katzenbach sent a letter to Knott a mere eight days later (February 11, 1966) indicating "final settlement with the Undertaker [Vernon O'Neil] who supplied the casket has been accomplished." Moreover, Katzenbach concluded his letter by stating: "I am of the view that the reasons for destroying the casket completely outweigh the reasons, if any, that might exist for preserving it."

    On February 17, 1966, GSA staff prepared JFK's original casket so that it could be disposed of at sea without fear of resurfacing. Specifically, among other things, three 80-pound bags of sand were placed inside the casket after locking it, metal bands were placed around the casket lid to prevent it from opening and roughly 42 half-inch holes were randomly drilled through the top, sides, and ends of the original JFK casket, as well as the outer pine crate containing it. Finally, metal bands were placed around the pine box to prevent it from opening.

    At approximately 6:55 a.m., February 18, 1966, the GSA officially turned over President John F. Kennedy's first, bloodstained casket to representatives of the U.S. Department of Defense. Less than two hours later (8:38 a.m.), the U.S. Air Force C-130E military transport plane took off from Andrews Air Force Base and delivered its unusual payload to its final resting place roughly 90 minutes later— where it currently rests some 9,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

    A memo issued February 25, 1966, summarizes the extraordinary measures taken by the federal government and includes the following assurance to the Kennedy family and all others: "The casket was disposed of at sea in a quiet, sure and dignified manner."

    Sources:
    "Memorandum for File" by John M. Steadman, Special Assistant, Office of the Secretary of Defense, February 25, 1966. Document in author's possession after National Archives released declassified documents June 1, 1999.

    Letter to U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach from U.S. Rep. Earle Cabell, September 13, 1965. Document in author's possession after National Archives released declassified documents June 1, 1999.

    Telephone call transcript, February 25, 1965. Document in author's possession after National Archives released declassified documents June 1, 1999.

    Telephone call transcript, February 3, 1966. Document in author's possession after National Archives released declassified documents June 1, 1999.

    Letter to General Services Administration Administrator Lawson Knott Jr. from U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, February 11, 1966. Document in author's possession after National Archives released declassified documents June 1, 1999.

    "Memorandum for the Record" by Lewis M. Robeson, Chief, Archives Handling Branch, General Services Administration, February 21, 1966. Document in author's possession after National Archives released declassified documents June 1, 1999.


    Mortician Tells Of Preparing Jfk's Body

    MINNEAPOLIS - The man who placed the body of John F. Kennedy in a casket - dressed him, tied his tie and put a rosary in his hands - says the memory of that long night remains burned into his memory.

    "Put yourself in our place," said Joe Hagen. "We had those same feelings, the same emotions. We shed the same tears that many of you shed during those horrible, sad days."

    Hagen, whose Washington, D.C., mortuary, Joseph Gawler's Sons, has been providing funeral services for major American statesmen since 1850, was in the Twin Cities recently to attend a convention.

    In the three decades since the assassination, Hagen said he had been interviewed countless times about the smallest details of his role in the funeral - often by people seeking information to support offbeat conspiracy theories.

    Why were there two caskets?

    The president's body was shipped from Dallas to Washington in a bronze casket, but he was put into a mahogany casket for the funeral and burial. Hagen's firm provided the wooden casket that was sealed in a vault at Arlington National Cemetery.

    "They told us the bronze casket had been damaged (on the trip from Dallas)," Hagen said. He doesn't know what happened to it.

    Hagen said an open viewing took place in the East Room of the White House for the family. Items placed in the coffin by family members included three letters (two from the children), a pair of

    gold cuff links, a scrimshaw with the presidential seal, a silver rosary and a PT-109 tie clip.

    Did he examine the wounds?

    Hagen said the body he prepared for burial had received an extensive autopsy. Embalming and preparation for viewing took place at Washington's Navy Hospital immediately after the autopsy, in the presence of dozens of witnesses. Jacqueline Kennedy, still wearing her bloodstained dress, waited in another room at the hospital and then accompanied the body to the White House.

    Hagen expects people to continue to ask him about the Kennedy funeral because it remains one of the pivotal moments in American history.


    JFK’s body moved to permanent gravesite - Mar 14, 1967 - HISTORY.com

    TSgt Joe C.

    On this day in history, the body of President John F. Kennedy is moved to a spot just a few feet away from its original interment site at Arlington National Cemetery. The slain president had been assassinated more than three years earlier, on November 22, 1963.

    Although JFK never specified where he wanted to be buried, most of his family and friends assumed he would have chosen a plot in his home state of Massachusetts. Because JFK was a World War II veteran, he qualified for a plot at Arlington National Cemetery, but he also deserved a special site befitting his presidential status. The spring before he died, President Kennedy had made an unscheduled tour of Arlington and had remarked to a friend on the view of the Potomac from the Custis-Lee Mansion, reportedly saying it was so magnificent I could stay forever. After the assassination, the friend who accompanied JFK to Arlington that day relayed the comment to the president’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who suggested the site to Jacqueline Kennedy, the president’s widow. Jackie, who was responsible for the final decision, toured the site on November 24 and agreed. “He belongs to the people,” she said.

    During funeral preparations, the first lady asked if cemetery workers could erect some sort of eternal flame at the gravesite. Cemetery officials scrambled to put together a makeshift Hawaiian torch under a wire dome, covered by dirt and evergreen boughs. The flame was fed by copper tubing from a propane tank situated 300 feet away. After the graveside military ceremony on November 25, Jackie lit the first eternal flame and, a few days later, the gravesite was enclosed with a white picket fence. In December 1963, Jackie Kennedy returned to the grave and was photographed kneeling in prayer among a sea of wreaths and bouquets left by recent visitors.

    JFK’s original gravesite attracted 16 million visitors in the first three years after his death. In 1967, the Kennedy family and Arlington officials chose to move JFK’s grave in order to construct a safer, more stable eternal flame and to accommodate the extensive foot traffic caused by tourists. The final resting place, which is only a few feet from the original site, took 2 years to construct, during which time JFK’s body was secretly moved and re-interred in a private ceremony attended by Jackie, his brothers Edward and Robert, and President Lyndon Johnson. The bodies of two of the couple’s children who died at birth were also moved to the new site from graves in Massachusetts. The makeshift propane gas line was replaced with a permanent natural gas line and furnished with a continuous electronic flashing spark that reignites the flame in case it is extinguished by rain or wind. The Kennedy family chose Cape Cod granite flagstones to surround the flame. They also paid the costs of the original burial, but the federal government funded construction of the final site and appropriates money for the plot’s upkeep.

    In 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, also a victim of assassination, was buried near his brother. In 1994, Jackie Kennedy died after a battle with cancer and, although she had remarried and again been widowed, was laid to rest next to her first husband, JFK.

    William Taft is the only other president besides JFK interred at Arlington.


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    Kennedy's original grave site attracted 16 million visitors in the first three years following his death, prompting the Kennedy family and Arlington officials to move the president's grave in order to construct a safer site. Kennedy's final resting place took two years to create, and his body was secretly moved and interred again in a private ceremony attended by his widow, Jackie, newly instated President Lyndon Johnson and Kennedy's brothers, Edward and Robert.

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    JFK’s body moved to permanent gravesite

    SGT (Join to see)

    On March 14, 1967, JFK's body was moved from a temporary grave to a permanent memorial. From the article:

    "JFK’s body moved to permanent gravesite
    On this day in history, the body of President John F. Kennedy is moved to a spot just a few feet away from its original interment site at Arlington National Cemetery. The slain president had been assassinated more than three years earlier, on November 22, 1963.

    Although JFK never specified where he wanted to be buried, most of his family and friends assumed he would have chosen a plot in his home state of Massachusetts. Because JFK was a World War II veteran, he qualified for a plot at Arlington National Cemetery, but he also deserved a special site befitting his presidential status. The spring before he died, President Kennedy had made an unscheduled tour of Arlington and had remarked to a friend on the view of the Potomac from the Custis-Lee Mansion, reportedly saying it was "so magnificent I could stay forever." After the assassination, the friend who accompanied JFK to Arlington that day relayed the comment to the president’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who suggested the site to Jacqueline Kennedy, the president’s widow. Jackie, who was responsible for the final decision, toured the site on November 24 and agreed. “He belongs to the people,” she said.

    During funeral preparations, the first lady asked if cemetery workers could erect some sort of eternal flame at the gravesite. Cemetery officials scrambled to put together a makeshift Hawaiian torch under a wire dome, covered by dirt and evergreen boughs. The flame was fed by copper tubing from a propane tank situated 300 feet away. After the graveside military ceremony on November 25, Jackie lit the first eternal flame and, a few days later, the gravesite was enclosed with a white picket fence. In December 1963, Jackie Kennedy returned to the grave and was photographed kneeling in prayer among a sea of wreaths and bouquets left by recent visitors.

    JFK’s original gravesite attracted 16 million visitors in the first three years after his death. In 1967, the Kennedy family and Arlington officials chose to move JFK’s grave in order to construct a safer, more stable eternal flame and to accommodate the extensive foot traffic caused by tourists. The final resting place, which is only a few feet from the original site, took 2 years to construct, during which time JFK’s body was secretly moved and re-interred in a private ceremony attended by Jackie, his brothers Edward and Robert, and President Lyndon Johnson. The bodies of two of the couple’s children who died at birth were also moved to the new site from graves in Massachusetts. The makeshift propane gas line was replaced with a permanent natural gas line and furnished with a continuous electronic flashing spark that reignites the flame in case it is extinguished by rain or wind. The Kennedy family chose Cape Cod granite flagstones to surround the flame. They also paid the costs of the original burial, but the federal government funded construction of the final site and appropriates money for the plot’s upkeep.

    In 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, also a victim of assassination, was buried near his brother. In 1994, Jackie Kennedy died after a battle with cancer and, although she had remarried and again been widowed, was laid to rest next to her first husband, JFK.

    William Taft is the only other president besides JFK interred at Arlington."


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    This is only the second time in history that a temporary flame has been used at this site.

    The first time was when Mrs Kennedy lit a temporary flame during JFK's interment service on November 25, 1963.

    Official ceremony: Army Secretary John McHugh lights the eternal flame at the grave site of John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery

    Visitors: The cemetery transferred the flame from a temporary burner to the restored permanent eternal flame that is part of a memorial to the 35th president

    This is only the second time in history that a temporary flame has been used at this site. The first time was when Mrs Kennedy lit a temporary flame during JFK's interment service on November 25, 1963

    Remembrance: November 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in Dallas, Texas


    14-3-1967: Body of US President John F. Kennedy Moved to the New Tomb

    Windowofworld.com – On March 14, 1967, President John F.Kennedy’s body was moved to sites just meters from the original site at Arlington National Cemetery, more than three years after he was elevated on November 22, 1963.

    Although JFK never specified where he wanted to be buried, most family and friends assumed he would choose a grave in his home state of Massachusetts. Because JFK is a WWII veteran, he qualifies for a tomb at Arlington National Cemetery, but he also deserves a special location befitting his presidential status.

    The spring before he died, President Kennedy had made an unscheduled tour of Arlington and had commented to a friend of the Potomac view from the Custis-Lee Mansion, in which he declared the location “so grand, I could stay forever.”

    After his assassination, friends who accompanied JFK to Arlington that day shared comments to the president’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who the site suggested to Jacqueline Kennedy, the president’s widow. Jackie, who was in charge of the final decision, toured the site on November 24 and agreed. “He belongs to the people,” he said.

    During funeral preparations, the first lady asked if funeral workers could prepare some kind of eternal flame on the cemetery. Funeral officials scramble to collect a makeshift Hawaiian dome under the wire, garden by organic waste and green boughs. The fire was fed by copper tubes from a propane tank located 100 meters away.

    After a military funeral ceremony on November 25, Jackie fires the first everlasting fire and, a few days later, the cemetery is covered with a white picket fence. In December 1963, Jackie Kennedy returns to the cemetery and is photographed kneeling in prayer amidst a sea of ​​wreaths and bouquets to which visitors respond.

    JFK’s original grave attracted 16 million visitors in the first three years after his death.

    Moved from the Original Tomb to the New Tomb, the Family Tomb

    In 1967, the Kennedy family and Arlington officials chose to move the JFK cemetery to build a safer and more stable eternal fire and to accommodate the extensive foot traffic caused by tourists.

    The final resting place, which is only a few meters from the site under construction, took 2 years to build, during which time JFK’s body was quietly removed and reintervenated in a private ceremony attended by Jackie, her brothers Edward and Robert, and President Lyndon. Johnson.

    The bodies of the couple’s two children who died at birth were also moved to a new location from the cemetery in Massachusetts. S

    The propane flow gas is replaced by a permanent gas line and is equipped with a continuous electronic flashing spark that resists fire if extinguished by rain or wind. The Kennedy family chose Cape Cod flagstone granite for cooking the fire.

    They also pay for funeral costs, but the federal government is funding the construction of the final site and money for the maintenance of the new tombs.

    In 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, brother of JFK, also a victim of murder, was buried near his brother.

    In 1994, Jackie Kennedy died following a battle with cancer and, although he had remarried and returned to being widowed, was placed in the same basement as his obedient couple, JFK. When United States Senator Ted Kennedy died in 2009, he was also put to rest near his brothers.


    Buried at Sea: The Casket That Carried JFK

    Watched by widowed First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, the slain JFK's casket is carried aboard Air Force One for its flight from Dallas to Washington DC

    By Ray Setterfield

    February 18, 1966 — The casket used to carry the body of assassinated President John F. Kennedy from Dallas to Washington was, on this day, parachuted into oblivion.

    The story of the coffin is remarkable. It was ordered from Dallas undertaker Vernon O&rsquoNeal by Secret Service agent Clint Hill when futile attempts at Parkland Hospital to save the slain President were finally abandoned. Hill is the man who leapt onto the back of Kennedy&rsquos limousine after the fatal shots were fired.

    When the body of JFK was placed in the coffin and the Secret Service entourage began to wheel it from the hospital for a flight to Washington they were stopped by Dr Earl Rose, the Dallas County Medical Examiner. Physically barring their way, he insisted that the body could not be removed because, by law, an autopsy had to be performed in Dallas.

    The agents and Kennedy aides pleaded and argued with Rose, but he would not budge. As tempers began to fray, Justice of the Peace Theron Ward was sent for to overrule Rose. But he refused and, siding with the Medical Examiner, he said: &ldquoIt&rsquos just another homicide as far as I&rsquom concerned.&rdquo

    Still reeling with shock, disbelief, anger and incredulity at what had happened an hour or so earlier, this was the final straw for Kennedy&rsquos men. Kenny O&rsquoDonnell, a close aide of the fallen President, lost his temper and was reported to have shouted: &ldquoGo f--- yourself. We&rsquore leaving. Get the hell out of the way!&rdquo

    With the Secret Service men threatening fisticuffs and apparently ready to draw their guns, Rose, Ward and some Dallas policemen were shoved aside as the President&rsquos coffin, used almost as a battering ram, was hustled out of the hospital.

    Bloodstained because of the magnitude of JFK&rsquos head wounds and damaged in transit, the solid bronze casket was stored in a secure Washington warehouse after the Kennedy family declined to use it for JFK&rsquos interment. Later, there were reports that Vernon O&rsquoNeal had received an offer of $100,000 for the coffin so that it could be put on display as a relic of the assassination.

    But it no longer belonged to him and on 18th February, 1966, at the Kennedy family&rsquos request, it was disposed of by the Air Force.
    They filled the casket with sandbags, encased it in a solid pine box, then drilled over 40 holes into the structure. It was bound with metal banding tape and finally fitted with parachutes.

    This astonishing load was taken aboard a C130 transport plane, which flew about 100 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to a selected point 9,000 feet deep and away from shipping lanes. At 10am the casket was pushed out of the C130&rsquos tail hatch and after the parachutes softened its landing on the water it immediately sank. The C130 circled the area for 20 minutes to make sure nothing resurfaced.

    It didn&rsquot, and to the relief of the Kennedys, the final physical reminder of that dreadful day in Dallas was gone forever.


    Has JFK's Eternal Flame Ever Been Extinguished?

    After John F. Kennedy was assassinated, his wife, Jackie Kennedy, was very specific about the type of memorial she wanted him to have. She had previously admired the eternal flame at the tomb of the French Unknown Soldier in Paris, and felt that a similar tribute would be appropriate for her husband. The idea was approved, and the Washington Gas Company had about a day to design a propane torch that could be used at the funeral. They pulled it off, and the flame has been burning ever since.

    Well, sort of. Despite the fact that it’s designed to reignite itself, the flame has, on at least two occasions, gone out.

    First, there was the holy water incident. On December 10, 1963, a group of Catholic schoolchildren were visiting Kennedy’s memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The gravesite was temporary, a place for the public to grieve while the permanent memorial was being constructed. Even so, the eternal flame was already in place, lit by Jackie Kennedy on the day of the funeral. The children managed to extinguish the flame less than a month later, while blessing it with holy water. Luckily, one of the grave guards happened to be a smoker, and he used his cigarette lighter to reignite the memorial

    Kennedy was moved to his final resting place, not far from the temporary spot, on March 14, 1967. Later that year, inclement weather caused the flame to go out for a second time. The flame is built to withstand rain and wind—there is what the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum refers to as a “constantly flashing electric spark near the tip of the nozzle." Because of this, if the flame is extinguished, it’s reignited almost instantly. But that August, heavy rains not only extinguished the flame, but also flooded a nearby transformer. The faulty transformer prevented the spark igniter from firing, so the flame remained out until officials could light it again when the rain stopped.

    In 2013, the flame went through some significant renovations to make the gas system more energy efficient and easier to maintain. In order to do that, the flame at the actual site had to be extinguished. But before they did that, they transferred the flame to a temporary burner located just behind the original. By preserving that original flame, they can say it didn’t actually go out.

    Two extinguished flames in a little more than 50 years may mean that the flame isn't technically eternal, but it's still a pretty good track record.


    Eyewitness to the Autopsy of JFK

    For 1st Lt. Richard Lipsey, November 22, 1963, was an ordinary day until the news came over the radio—news that would change Lipsey’s life and that of the entire country.

    “It was a nice cool clear day,” recalls Lipsey, owner of a firearms distributorship in Baton Rouge. “The driver and I were waiting for General Wehle when suddenly we heard on the car radio that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. It was 12:30 pm Dallas time, 1:30 Washington time. I jumped out and ran to the back door of the general’s house. He came running out, and we said at the same time, ‘Have you heard the president has been shot?’”

    Lipsey, then twenty-four, was aide to Maj. Gen. Philip Wehle (pronounced Weal), commanding general of the military district of Washington. They jumped into the car and headed for their office at Fort McNair. One of the phones in the car rang.

    “We had two telephones,” recalls Lipsey. “One was the old-fashioned kind where you had to pick up the receiver and hold for the operator. Plus a red phone we never used, hooked directly to the White House. That red phone rang. It was somebody telling us to come to the White House immediately.”

    Washington traffic was in gridlock, but Wehle’s driver was undaunted. “We drove over curbs, down sidewalks, the wrong way down one-way streets,” says Lipsey. “When we got there everybody was standing around in total shock. Most were crying.”

    Riding in a slow-moving motorcade through the streets of Dallas, Kennedy was fatally struck when three shots were fired from the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street. His wife Jacqueline, wearing a pink Chanel suit and matching pillbox hat, was seated beside him. Riding with them were Texas governor John Connally, who was wounded, and his wife Nellie. The Lincoln Continental raced to Parkland Hospital, where doctors made a futile attempt to save Kennedy’s life. At 1 pm, he was pronounced dead.

    Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president aboard Air Force One, which left for Washington at 2:47 pm Dallas time, carrying a bronze casket containing the body of JFK.

    Lipsey and Wehle were at Andrews Air Force Base to meet the plane about 6 pm Washington time.

    “The autopsy was done at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland,” recalls Lipsey, who flew there in a helicopter. “General Wehle and I walked to the front door of the hospital. He told me to go to the morgue in back to meet the ambulance carrying Kennedy’s body.”

    An honor guard lifted the heavy bronze casket from the hearse, took it into the morgue, and set it on the floor. “Then the honor guard left,” says Lipsey. “It was just myself and a couple of technicians in the room. We lifted the body out of the coffin and put it on a table. I had never seen a dead man before.”

    For several hours Lipsey observed photographers shooting photos of the body, technicians X-raying it, and three doctors, assisted by technicians, performing an autopsy. “I was sitting ten feet away,” he says. “Autopsies are gory. They were trying to locate each fragment of bullet in the president’s body, entry wounds, exit wounds. There was no question in their minds that the bullets all came from the same direction.”

    The autopsy was completed around midnight, and Lipsey and Wehle returned to their quarters to shower, shave, and change into dress-blue uniforms. “Meanwhile, the car went to the White House to pick up the clothes Jackie wanted him buried in,” says Lipsey. “While I was at the autopsy, the general had been upstairs with Jackie planning the funeral. He went back upstairs and I went back to the morgue and sat there while Gawler Funeral Home put the president’s body back together. They did a remarkable job.

    “I helped them clean the body, and then I helped dress him. We picked him up and put him in the casket.” (The bronze casket in which JFK had arrived was replaced by a mahogany casket.)

    From there, Lipsey and Wehle went to the White House. “We went to the East Room and put the casket there. It was just Jackie, Bobby [Kennedy, JFK’s brother and his attorney general], and three or four White House servants. A Catholic priest held a private service that lasted about thirty minutes.

    “Jackie had never changed clothes she still had the pink suit on.” (With her husband’s blood staining her suit, Jackie Kennedy had repeatedly refused to change out of it, saying, “Let them see what they have done.”)

    Several hours later, Lipsey returned to the White House, where “Jackie started receiving visitors,” including former presidents Eisenhower and Truman, Supreme Court justices, and cabinet members.

    “General Wehle was in charge of everything to do with the funeral,” says Lipsey. “I followed him around, doing anything that needed to be done. We were still translating the notes from his meetings with Jackie at the hospital.

    “He told me how uncommonly composed she was. She could sit there and think of all the details.”

    Lipsey describes the days between the Friday assassination and the Monday funeral as “surreal.” He had been in Washington for just over a year. Wehle had asked him to be his aide when both were stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana. When Wehle was reassigned to Washington, he took Lipsey with him.

    It was heady stuff for a young man who had grown up in Baton Rouge, where his family owned Steinberg’s Sports Center. He attended the LSU Laboratory School for twelve years and then went to LSU, where he majored in history and government and enrolled in the ROTC, graduating in 1961.

    In the 1960 election, he had voted for Richard Nixon. “I was head of the Young Republicans at LSU,” he says with a smile.

    But Lipsey found the Democrat Kennedy easy to like.

    “Two days after we got to Washington, General Wehle took me to the Oval Office. We shook hands with President Kennedy. He was affable he could not have been nicer. He invited General Wehle to sit down. I was standing at attention. The president gestured at his rocking chair and said, ‘Sit in my chair.’

    “I often met with Kennedy in the Oval Office. I’d give him a briefing book, and he would scan it, sometimes ask a question. He was a real speed-reader with a photographic memory. He could skim through those things.

    “He always called me Lieutenant Lipsey. As time went by, and I saw him more often, he’d call me Richard when we were alone. But he was always Mr. President, and I always stood at attention, even when he said, ‘Relax.’ You don’t relax around the president.

    “I found him sociable, charming. But he always had control of the situation. There was no doubt when you were in his presence who was in charge.”

    Lipsey’s two-year tour of duty ended in January 1964. He had thirty days of leave coming. Wehle released him early so he could spend the holidays with his family in Baton Rouge. In late December 1963, Lipsey left Washington for good.

    In the fifty years since the assassination, scores of books have been written, many contending that it was the result of a conspiracy. Others advance the so-called Lone Nut theory—that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible.

    Oswald, twenty-four, worked in the book depository. He was arrested within hours of the shooting, after first killing Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit. In a shocking turn of events, Oswald was himself shot dead on Sunday, November 24, by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

    Oswald was in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters en route to a more secure county jail. A crowd of police and press, with television cameras rolling, had gathered to witness his departure. As Oswald entered the room, Ruby emerged from the crowd and killed Oswald with a single shot from a .38 revolver. Detained and charged with first-degree murder, Ruby would die in jail, of lung cancer, in 1967.

    Lipsey is adamant in his belief that Oswald alone killed Kennedy.

    “The fact is, Oswald shot him, period,” says Lipsey. “There were no other shots [fired] from other directions. There wasn’t a conspiracy. That discussion will go on to the end of history.”

    Lipsey cites one book he believes captures the truth of the event, Gerald Posner’s Case Closed. “It’s an excellent book with a lot of detail. In my opinion, it’s accurate.

    “Oswald was miserable in the United States. He made a miserable marine. He moved to Russia and found out it wasn’t so great. He was a miserable failure at everything. He ends up in Dallas, where he reads in the newspaper that the president is coming.

    “He works at the book warehouse and knows right where the president is going by. He has a cheap rifle he got by mail order, under an alias. He’s been in the marines he’s a good shooter. He takes the gun to work with him and hides it on the sixth floor.

    “It’s a simple fifty-yard shot that anybody could do with very little practice, but [he was] a marine [who] had shot thousands of rounds. His gun had a telescope on it. Bam, click, click bam, click, click bam, click, click. In eleven seconds, three shots are fired. Two hit the president and killed him. He puts the gun down and walks downstairs, right past his supervisor. Sixty seconds later the police run in and lock the door. Nobody can leave. They count heads the only person missing is Oswald.”

    As for Ruby, “He was one of those guys who like to hang around police stations. He’s friends with all the detectives and the police. He decides Oswald ought to be shot for killing the president. While he’s in jail he has cancer. There’s lots of opportunity for people to talk to him he’s a dying man. Why not tell them [if there was a conspiracy]? But all he ever says is ‘The guy deserved to die, and I shot him.’ That’s where the story ends.”

    But Lipsey, who has granted few interviews, realizes the story will never really end. “Long after we’re gone, they’re still going to be talking about it,” he says. “It was such an emotional period for everybody.”


    Watch the video: JFK: 55 χρόνια μετά τη δολοφονία του, νέο σενάριο εμπλέκει στο έγκλημα την Τζάκι! (December 2021).