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  Gordon Cooper and the JFK assassination? (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Gordon Cooper and the JFK assassination?
dom
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posted 07-27-2013 09:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Today I was browsing through "JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President" by Thurston Clarke, a new book about the last days of President Kennedy's life. One of the photos showed JFK with some NASA astronauts but the caption makes the strange comment that astronaut Gordon Cooper was invited by Kennedy to Dallas on 22 November 1963.

Cooper declined as he was returning to Florida but the book claims that if he'd said 'yes' he'd have been in the car alongside the President when he was shot!

Is this bizarre story true?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-27-2013 10:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The claim doesn't only appear in the caption, but in the book's text, too.
Before leaving Brooks, he invited Astronaut Gordon Cooper to accompany him to Dallas, saying he could use having a "space hero" along on that leg of the trip. Cooper declined, explaining that he had to be at Cape Canaveral the following day for some important tests. Had he gone, he would have ridden in the president's limousine, sitting in the backseat between Jack and Jackie.
The passage is sourced by endnote to Cooper's "Leap of Faith" on page 159:
I spoke with him the night before he was killed. We were together at a function at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio and the president came over and asked me if I could go to Dallas with him the next day. He said he could use a "space hero" with him on the trip. I couldn't make the trip because some important systems tests were scheduled at the Cape for the next day: November 22, 1963. Had I gone, I suppose I would have been riding in the presidential motorcade that day.
If "Leap of Faith" was Clarke's only source for this story, then he embellished where Cooper would have been sitting.

KSCartist
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posted 07-27-2013 10:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow.

mach3valkyrie
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posted 07-27-2013 11:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That would have been a strange twist in that fateful story. I had never heard about it.

bwhite1976
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posted 07-28-2013 08:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for bwhite1976   Click Here to Email bwhite1976     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Would it have been customary for a astronaut to decline a request made by the President? My impression is that whatever requests the President had regarding the astronauts, there would have been significant effort to accommodate him by NASA. Maybe I am wrong, who knows.

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-28-2013 08:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's my question as well. What systems test in November of 1963, with Mercury concluded and Gemini not yet ready to fly, would be so important as to to decline a Presidential request? I don't think James Webb heard about this one, if it is true.

Skylon
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posted 07-28-2013 08:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Clarke definitely embellished where Cooper would have been sitting once you think about it practically. Jackie was sitting next to JFK, and I doubt they'd cram Cooper in the back seat with them (that just looks awkward). And in the front seat you had Texas Governor Connally, and I don't care about the Mercury 7's "Astro-Power" as Tom Wolfe put it. If the President is visiting, the Governor, especially if they are in the same party, will be with him.

Were Cooper there, they'd have probably put him elsewhere in the motorcade.

As far as Presidential requests being declined in regards to the Astronauts - Nixon wanted to dine with the Apollo 11 crew at KSC a couple days prior to their launch, but Chuck Berry said it would violate the crew quarantine rules - the dinner never happened.

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-28-2013 11:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
Clarke definitely embellished where Cooper would have been sitting once you think about it practically...
Not necessarily.

Tommy Eure's classic photo of JFK's limo on November 18 1963 passing his Tampa photographic studio clearly shows that the backseat could accomodate 3 men. The Hess & Eisenhardt modified 1961 Lincoln Continental Presidential Limousine SS100X Reg GG300 could have held Gordo, Jackie, and JFK on the backseat and the Connallys in the jump-seats ahead.

In November 1963, JFK had started his run for office in 1964 and needed all the help he could get. What better way to do that than to be seen in a motorcade with Gordo a little over 6 months after his May 1963 Faith 7 flight had successfully completed Project Mercury.

During the motorcade through Dallas that fateful day, Jackie's assigned US Secret Service (USSS) Special Agent (SA) Clint Hill was on/off the rear of the limo 4 times due to the proximity of crowds on Jackie's side. USSS SA Driver Bill Greer had offset the limo to position the crowds further away on JFK's side. The crowd size with Gordo, Jackie, and JFK may have induced agents to ride the rear bumper as in the Tommy Eure photo 5 days earlier providing better ability to cover and evacuate. The agents would have to have come off the rear of the limo prior to the motorcade reaching the Stemmons Freeway but their presence may have deterred/shielded the shots. With Jackie even closer to JFK who knows if the risk of her getting hit may have acted as an additional deterrent to the assassination.

How different history may have been.

moorouge
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posted 07-28-2013 04:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by YankeeClipper:
During the motorcade through Dallas that fateful day, Jackie's assigned US Secret Service (USSS) Special Agent (SA) Clint Hill was on/off the rear of the limo 4 times due to the proximity of crowds on Jackie's side. USSS SA Driver Bill Greer had offset the limo to position the crowds further away on JFK's side.
JFK actually requested that Secret Service agents Clint Hill and John Ready not ride on the running boards. Hill, as stated, ignored this four times when the motorcade was in Main Street. On one of these occasions the motorcade came to a stop allowing Kennedy to shake hands with people on the roadside. This caused Ready to get onto the rear of the Presidential car for a short time as well. Once clear of the crowds, both agents followed Kennedy's orders and did not ride on the two rear steps.

For more, see p38 of "Reclaiming History" by Vincent Bugliosi.

On edit - a photo taken at the time of the first shot by AP photographer James Altgens shows four Secret Service agents - two each side - riding on the running boards of the Vice-Presidents limo.

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-28-2013 04:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
Nixon wanted to dine with the Apollo 11 crew at KSC a couple days prior to their launch...
The Nixon "snub" was a bit different — medical reason, maybe even a safety of flight issue.

Headshot
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posted 07-28-2013 04:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This interesting possibility seems a little off-kilter and I am surprised that an author of Clarke's reputation would embellish Cooper's account so blatantly. There are several problems to consider.

First, JFK knew that Jackie was immensely popular and potentially a major vote getter. JFK wanted to showcase Jackie during the Dallas visit as it would be her first foray into the political limelight since the 1960 campaign.

Second, presidential protocol dictates that Jackie would be seated next to JFK, putting her in the middle and Cooper on the other side, if he were to ride in the presidential limo. There was no way Cooper would be allowed to sit between them.

Third, with Cooper on one side and JFK on the other, Jackie would not be easily seen, defeating JFK's intention of showing off the First Lady. Like it or not, Jackie Kennedy, at that time, was far more a popular celebrity than Gordon Cooper, or Wally Schirra, or Scott Carpenter, or Gus Grissom.

Had Cooper agreed to go to Dallas, he probably would have replaced Sen. Ralph Yarborough riding with LBJ and LadyBird in the VP limo.

mach3valkyrie
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posted 07-28-2013 04:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree, I don't think he would have been in the President's limo.

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-28-2013 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
JFK actually requested that Secret Service agents Clint Hill and John Ready not ride on the running boards... Once clear of the crowds, both agents followed Kennedy's orders and did not ride on the two rear steps.
I, for one, have never bought the idea of that alleged 'directive' from JFK. The footage from Tampa FL and Hill/Ready's actions in Dallas don't support it. The shift agents are there to do the job of protecting the President and they would take whatever action they deemed necessary whenever they deemed it necessary. There is some interesting refutation of that alleged 'directive' here. Examination of the George Jefferies video shows Clint Hill on the rear of the limo less than 90 secs before the assassination and, of course, he was back on it seconds after. The detail agents lifted off the rear of the limo too early as the crowds were thinner in Dealey Plaza and they could not ride the limo backsteps at freeway speeds. The route selected through Dealey Plaza was overwatched by multiple tall buildings, with a very tight slow turn radius descending into the old Trinity River basin under an overpass - agents should have stayed on the rear of the limo throughout and it was a fatal misjudgement that they didn't. The USSS today uses the Tommy Eure photo from Tampa FL on November 18 1963 to emphasize the importance of agents' proximity to a protectee in order to cover and evacuate them.
quote:
On edit - a photo taken at the time of the first shot by AP photographer James Altgens shows four Secret Service agents - two each side - riding on the running boards of the Vice-Presidents limo.
Those shift agents are riding behind the President in the USSS Follow-Up Vehicle - a 1955 Cadillac convertible "Queen Mary/Halfback" SS-679-X.
quote:
Originally posted by Headshot:
First, JFK knew that Jackie was immensely popular and potentially a major vote getter. JFK wanted to showcase Jackie during the Dallas visit as it would be her first foray into the political limelight since the 1960 campaign.
Agreed.
quote:
Third, with Cooper on one side and JFK on the other, Jackie would not be easily seen, defeating JFK's intention of showing off the First Lady.
The rear seat of the limo was in an elevated position. Jackie was wearing that iconic Chanel-inspired bright pink chez Ninon suit and was readily identifiable in a slow-moving motorcade negotiating large downtown Dallas crowds. Re-examine the Tommy Eure Tampa photo - you can clearly see the middle backseat occupant.
quote:
Had Cooper agreed to go to Dallas, he probably would have replaced Sen. Ralph Yarborough riding with LBJ and LadyBird in the VP limo.
That is entirely possible. However, JFK was in full election mode and was very politically savvy. He would have known the impact and appeal of Jackie and the most recent Mercury Seven astronaut hero. JFK would probably have wanted to be seen side-by-side with his beautiful wife and an All-American space star.

Headshot
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posted 07-28-2013 06:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I disagree that JFK was in full re-election mode. By the time he headed to Dallas, JFK had only one preliminary re-election meeting under his belt. He had not even formally formed a re-election committee and had not yet formally announced that he was, indeed, seeking re-election. The Dallas trip was not a campaign trip, it was intended to resolve a split between the John Connally Texas Democrats and the Ralph Yarborough Texas Democrats.

As far as astronauts backing his re-election bid, I believe all JFK would have needed was to have John Glenn in his corner. Glenn's popularity had legs, while the others did not.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-28-2013 06:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Getting back to Cooper's account of meeting President Kennedy, how much can we independently verify?

Cooper says he met Kennedy on the evening of Nov. 21, 1963 at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio. Kennedy however, was in Houston that night, attending a dinner at the Coliseum.

So was Cooper at Brooks Air Force Base earlier in the day, or in Houston for the dinner?

According to Texas Public Radio, Kennedy's appearance at Brooks was a surprise to the airmen stationed there:

They had no idea he'd be coming, not until about five minutes prior.
So was Cooper there by coincidence or is it more likely he was a guest at the Houston dinner?

Are there any photos of Kennedy and Cooper together on Nov. 21, 1963, or Cooper at either event?

moorouge
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posted 07-28-2013 09:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by YankeeClipper:
There is some interesting refutation of that alleged 'directive' here.
Might I refer you to pages 1242/3 of Vincent Bugliosi's book I mention in a previous post.

Vincent Palamara is a conspiracy theorist. His book "Third Alternative" and its claims are refuted by Bugliosi. If it comes to believing whether there was a Presidential request not to ride on the limo, I take the extensive research done by Bugliosi every time.

On edit - another claim by Palamara is that the use of a 'bubble top' would have prevented the assassination. Again, this is not quite correct. The top in use in 1963 was plastic and meant only to protect the occupants from rain. It would not have stopped any bullets fired at the President. The decision not to use it was made at Love Field shortly after the Presidential party arrived. Kennedy's order that it be removed was passed on by Bill Moyers, a Presidential assistant, with the words, "Get that God-damned bubble off unless its pouring rain.".

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-29-2013 06:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Headshot:
I disagree that JFK was in full re-election mode.
JFK was definitely in Dallas that day with one eye firmly on his run in '64. Since November 1962, JFK had his sights on a swing through Texas in order to shore up support for '64 there, according to this Dallas Morning News article. Jackie was onboard to make the trip appear less overtly political but JFK knew she was a great vote-getter. Watch how he worked the crowds at Love Field and in downtown Dallas - he was definitely in running mode. Having the most recent successful astronaut star like Gordo onboard with Jackie and John Connally would have been a political win-win-win in Texas.
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
Vincent Palamara is a conspiracy theorist.
I don't subscribe to anyone's conspiracy theories on the subject. I posted that original link as it contained quotes from in-person interviews Palamara conducted with Kennedy-era USSS agents and addressed the alleged 'directive' to get "Ivy League charlatans" off the back of the limo.

I have always been much more interested in the medical and close protection aspects of that day having had training in both fields, rather than 'whodunnit' and why. While in town visiting Heritage Auctions, I've taken the opportunity to extensively view Dealey Plaza from that medical/protection viewpoint in order to better understand and reflect on the lessons learned that day.

Headshot
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posted 07-29-2013 07:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I rechecked Jim Bishop's detailed and excellent "The Day Kennedy Was Shot." He does describe events of the 21st as background. He mentions Kennedy being at Brooks, but does not include any reference to Cooper at all.

The book was written in 1968 and Bishop interviewed a lot of people for it who were involved in the Dallas trip and who are no longer with us. I am positive he would have included mention of a Kennedy invitation to Cooper, had it been serious or had it occurred at all.

As Robert said, independent verification is the only way to settle this issue.

moorouge
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posted 07-29-2013 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Headshot:
The Dallas trip was not a campaign trip, it was intended to resolve a split between the John Connally Texas Democrats and the Ralph Yarborough Texas Democrats.

All the evidence points to this. In fact, the split was so deep that the two factions came to blows on the floor of the 1960 National Convention.

In 1963, both sides had favoured locations for the luncheon. Yarborough wanted the Women's Building while Connally wanted the Trade Mart. Eventually, the Governor prevailed. However, this did not mean that there would have been a motorcade. Indeed, Connally didn't want one but acceded to White House wishes.

The fact that the route from Love Field to the Trade Mart went passed the Book Depository when it didn't need to is down to history. The only previous Presidential visit to Dallas was by President Roosevelt in 1936, so Kennedy's route to include Main Street followed tradition and precedence.

On edit - five members of the White House Secret Service detail gave evidence to the Warren Commission that Kennedy did not like any of the detail riding on the rear bumper. It is recorded that twice in 1963 he specifically asked that they refrain, the last in Tampa just four days before the fateful day in Dallas.

Headshot
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posted 07-29-2013 10:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Are there any photos of Kennedy and Cooper together on Nov. 21, 1963, or Cooper at either event?
An online search of the JFK Library photo archives give no hits for L. Gordon Cooper on Nov. 21, 1963. The few pictures from Brooks on that date do not include any of JFK and Cooper.

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-29-2013 11:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Getting back to Cooper's account of meeting President Kennedy, how much can we independently verify?
JFK had met with Gordon Cooper and Gus Grissom at the Cape on November 16 1963 as this NASA photo shows.

USAF Aerospace Medical Division HQ Office of Information News Release No. 171 dated November 8 1963 indicates that the President and other high ranking government and military figures were scheduled to arrive at Brooks AFB, San Antonio, TX at approx. 3:30pm on Thursday November 21st. The President was to be the honored guest and featured speaker at ceremonies dedicating $6.2 million worth of new buildings. There was to be an open house. After the dedication address, the President was scheduled to tour the new facilities, including observing a 42-day sealed altitude chamber test of Project Gemini and Apollo space cabin atmosphere.

USAF Aerospace Medical Division HQ Office of Information News Release No. 177 dated November 19 1963 revised the President's scheduled arrival time at Brooks AFB to 2:25pm Thursday November 21st.

Here is an excellent photo of JFK, Jackie, and Nellie Connally sitting together on the backseat of the limo on November 21 1963 in San Antonio, TX. Gordo could have sat where Nellie was seated in this photo. Later in downtown San Antonio this photo of the limo shows that the Connallys are seated in opposite positions to those they occupied on November 22 1963 in Dallas.

According to the JFK Presidential Library, on November 21 1963 JFK formally dedicated 6 new buildings of the USAF Aerospace Medical Division at Brooks AFB, TX. These included the AMD HQ Building, Bioastronautics-Biodynamics Building, Bionucleonics Laboratory, Aerospace Medical Library, Vivarium Support Facility, and Heating/Cooling Plant Extension.

At 4:52pm November 21 1963 Air Force One departed wheels-up out of Kelly Field, San Antonio, TX. At 5:37pm AF1 arrived wheels-down in Houston, TX. JFK and Jackie went to the International Suite of the Rice Hotel, Houston, TX before addressing a meeting of the League of United Latin American Citizens in the Grand Ballroom. JFK then attended the Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston TX at a banquet honoring Rep. Albert Thomas, who had been instrumental in bringing the future Johnson Space Center to Houston. More than 3,200 people attended the dinner - probably the largest seated dinner ever held in Texas at that time.

In Fort Worth on November 22 1963 photos from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram show JFK, Jackie, and John Connally sat together on the backseat of another vehicle in a motorcade. Seating positions were clearly subject to a certain degree of fluidity, although JFK turned down LBJ's request not to sit with Sen. Ralph Yarborough in the Dallas motorcade.

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-29-2013 04:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thinking about all this a little more, it is quite logical for Gordo Cooper to have been in attendance for the dedication ceremony of the new USAF Aerospace Medical Division HQ facility/complex at Brooks AFB TX on November 21 1963.

On that date there were only 2 Project Mercury astronauts who were USAF officers and who had spaceflight experience, viz Gus Grissom and Gordon Cooper. Deke Slayton was a Project Mercury astronaut but had recently resigned from the USAF to pursue his role with NASA, and had no spaceflight experience at that point.

None of the 1962 Group 2 or 1963 Group 3 USAF astronauts had flown in space and Project Gemini had not launched a manned mission.

Grissom had 15 minutes of sub-orbital spaceflight in July 1961 versus Cooper's 34 hours 20 minutes 22 orbits mission in May 1963. Cooper had been subject to extensive biomedical monitoring during the course of his long mission, and would be the obvious choice of USAF top brass to be present for the dedication ceremony of an aerospace medical facility supporting future manned spaceflight.

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-29-2013 11:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
On edit - five members of the White House Secret Service detail gave evidence to the Warren Commission that Kennedy did not like any of the detail riding on the rear bumper. It is recorded that twice in 1963 he specifically asked that they refrain, the last in Tampa just four days before the fateful day in Dallas.
You are referring in part to USSS Chief Rowley's letter of April 22 1964 and the agents' statements contained therein Commission Exhibit 1025. Rowley alludes, in the last line of the cover letter, to the fact that there is a difference between a President's views and the obligations of the USSS as regards protection. USSS WHD SAIC Behn and USSS WHD ASAIC Boring both indicate that they are authorised to override a President's requests if necessary in the agents' judgement to protect the President.

USSS Chief James Rowley testified the following on p.470 as detailed here:

"No President will tell the Secret Service what they can or cannot do.

Sometimes it might be as a political man or individual he might think this might not look good in a given situation. But that does not mean per se that he doesn't want you on there. And I don't think anyone with commonsense interprets it as such."

The obligation of the USSS to protect supercedes any Presidential request.

Now back to Gordo...

moorouge
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posted 07-30-2013 03:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh, my! You really can't be allowed to get away with this.

Mr. Rowley left the White House detail in 1961. Right at the beginning of his testimony to the Warren Commission he was asked what his responsibilities were. He replied that they were general and that, "The actual direct supervision would have been under the jurisdiction of Mr. Behn who was in charge of the White House detail."

Mr. Behn, in a written statement to the Commission said, "The policy of special agents covering the Presidential vehicle is flexible ...... but perhaps the dominant factor, the desires or instructions of the President."

Let's agree that Kennedy did issue instructions/request that agents did not ride on the rear of the vehicle, but that where the crowd was close and circumstances dictated they sometimes ignored this.

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-30-2013 08:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
Oh, my! You really can't be allowed to get away with this.
James Rowley was a highly experienced agent and Chief of the US Secret Service on November 22 1963, equivalent to today's Director of the USSS. The principal USSS Training Center is today named the James J. Rowley Training Center(JJRTC). He outranked USSS WHD SAIC Gerald Behn and was correct in what he testified to the Warren Commission. When it comes to protection, the President does not order the USSS around. The USSS will try to accommodate Presidential requests, but protection ultimately has primacy.

USSS WHD SAIC Behn, who was in Washington DC at the time of the assassination, also testified that:

"There is always an experienced agent riding in the front seat of the presidential vehicle, and there is an experienced agent either riding in the front seat of our follow-up car or standing on the front right running board. Either one or both of these agents have the authority, if it becomes necessary, to either motion or tell the agents in the follow-up car to take their positions around the presidential car at any time."
USSS SA Winston Lawson, the advance agent for the Dallas stop, testified on p.329 here that there were over 20,000 windows on that motorcade route. Special Assistant to the President Kenneth O'Donnell testified on p.456 here that in the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth on the morning of the assassination, the President himself had said the following:
"...if anybody really wanted to shoot the President of the United States, it was not a very difficult job - all one had to do was get a high building some day with a telescopic rifle, and there was nothing anybody could do to defend against such an attempt on the President's life."
The threat in Dealey Plaza from such a slow turn in front of tall buildings and elevated positions was real, and agents should have been on the rear of the limo to either deter and/or cover and evacuate.

History, tragically, proved that point.

Now back to Gordo!

moorouge
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posted 07-31-2013 04:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by YankeeClipper:
The threat in Dealey Plaza from such a slow turn in front of tall buildings and elevated positions was real, and agents should have been on the rear of the limo to either deter and/or cover and evacuate.
I agree. The agents should have been on the rear of the limo, but they weren't. Hindsight with 20/20 vision is a wonderful thing.

In your post on 28th you say, "I, for one, have never bought the idea of that alleged 'directive' from JFK.". However, despite there being evidence that there was a desire/instruction from Kennedy, you offer no reason why Hill/Ready weren't on the back of the Presidential limo carrying out their prime directive. If you don't believe there was such an instruction, are you suggesting that these two agents were derelict in their duties? This is an odd stance to take as it is on record that all the agents on the Presidential detail, with one exception, thought the world of Kennedy and would do anything for him.

Incidentally, you are correct in saying that agent Lawson was alarmed at the presence of high rise buildings on the turn into Dealey Plaza. However, it was not Secret Service policy in 1963 to search either buildings or windows overlooking a motorcade route due to lack of manpower and resources.

Another curious fact that emerged from the investigation is that although the Head of the FBI had a bullet-proof car, the Secret Service thought it unnecessary to equip the President with one.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-31-2013 07:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I appreciate that the topic of Kennedy's assassination is multifaceted, but I would ask we keep this thread focused on Gordon Cooper's recollection of meeting the President on Nov. 21, 1963.

kr4mula
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posted 07-31-2013 01:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looks like Gordo's memory was pretty good after all...

Here is the complete text of an article from the 21 November 1963 newspaper for the Aerospace Medical Dvision ("The Astro Medic,", page 1 inset):

Astronaut Cooper Attends Dedication

Astronaut Gordon Cooper is a guest of honor at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine, today.

The Air Force major's attendance at the dedication ceremonies was confirmed by the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. Dr. Charles A. Berry, chief of the center's medical operations office, is also attending.

Major Cooper won world-wide fame last May when he orbited the world 22 times. He is now co-ordinator of Astronaut Input with NASA's Project Gemini.

One caveat: since this was published the day of the visit, it could presumably be possible that Cooper had to pull out at the last minute and never actually made it. I was unfortunately unable to find any photographs (yet) that showed Cooper specifically. I'll post an update if I find one.

To address some of Robert's other questions:

This accompanied a larger article on Kennedy's dedication of the facilities. Given that this had time to make the front page of the base paper (which refers to the visit in future tense), Kennedy's visit could not have been much of a surprise to at least some of the base personnel, or at least to anyone associated with the dedication or hosting of VIPs.

The Kennedy article also mentions that the ceremonies were to be held at 1pm, leaving plenty of time for Cooper (and Kennedy) to get to Houston in time for dinner. This was a few hours earlier than the news releases (from a few days earlier) cited by YankeeClipper.

My guess is that Cooper may have slightly mixed up the time and place of his supposed conversation with Kennedy about riding in the limo. They may have talked at Brooks, but in the afternoon (not evening), or else they may have spoken that evening, but in Houston, not San Antonio.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-31-2013 01:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Excellent find and citation.

Assuming Cooper attended as planned, then I have to imagine there is a photo of him at the dedication, as well as a photo of him that day with Kennedy (if they are not one and the same). It may be sitting in a newspaper's archive as a never-published negative, but then I can't imagine, given the events of the next day, a reason why every photograph of Kennedy taken the day prior to his tragic death wouldn't have been released by now.

There's one other element of Cooper's story that should be able to be researched: the nature of the system tests that meant he needed to be at the Cape on Nov. 22, 1963.

moorouge
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posted 07-31-2013 02:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Don't know whether this is relevant. It is dated 16th November in the Gemini Chronology -
Flight Crew Support Division reported an agreement with Flight Operations Division on a flight profile and rendezvous evaluation experiment for the Gemini-Titan 4 mission. Objective of the experiment was to stimulate normal Agena/Gemini rendezvous and to repeat part of the maneuver using loss of signal/manual technique. Basically, the mission would use circular phasing and catch-up orbit as proposed by the Flight Crew Support Division. Exact fuel requirements and ground tracking requirement were under study by Flight Operations Division.
Would this involve an astronaut and would it have taken place in the time frame in question?

The only other testing mentioned was on the 22nd when the ballute parachutes were evaluated. This was not done at the Cape.

Fra Mauro
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posted 07-31-2013 05:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you read "Leap of Faith," then you know that Cooper could make a few factual errors.

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-31-2013 07:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looking again at the background context of JFK's visit to Texas in November 1963, here is the JFK Presidential Library version:
"By the fall of 1963, President John F. Kennedy and his political advisers were preparing for the next presidential campaign. Although he had not formally announced his candidacy, it was clear that President Kennedy was going to run and he seemed confident about his chances for re-election.

At the end of September, the president traveled west, speaking in nine different states in less than a week. The trip was meant to put a spotlight on natural resources and conservation efforts. But JFK also used it to sound out themes—such as education, national security, and world peace—for his run in 1964.

Campaigning in Texas

A month later, the president addressed Democratic gatherings in Boston and Philadelphia. Then, on November 12, he held the first important political planning session for the upcoming election year. At the meeting, JFK stressed the importance of winning Florida and Texas and talked about his plans to visit both states in the next two weeks. Mrs. Kennedy would accompany him on the swing through Texas, which would be her first extended public appearance since the loss of their baby, Patrick, in August. On November 21, the president and first lady departed on Air Force One for the two-day, five-city tour of Texas.

President Kennedy was aware that a feud among party leaders in Texas could jeopardize his chances of carrying the state in 1964, and one of his aims for the trip was to bring Democrats together. He also knew that a relatively small but vocal group of extremists was contributing to the political tensions in Texas and would likely make its presence felt — particularly in Dallas, where U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson had been physically attacked a month earlier after making a speech there. Nonetheless, JFK seemed to relish the prospect of leaving Washington, getting out among the people and into the political fray.

The first stop was San Antonio. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Governor John B. Connally, and Senator Ralph W. Yarborough led the welcoming party. They accompanied the president to Brooks Air Force Base for the dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center. Continuing on to Houston, he addressed a Latin American citizens' organization and spoke at a testimonial dinner for Congressman Albert Thomas before ending the day in Fort Worth."

Special Assistant to the President Kenneth O'Donnell testified to the Warren Commission that JFK was in Texas to campaign for '64. Examination of period news footage shows multiple mentions of this. Placards reading "JFK & LBJ in '64" and "Goldwater 1864 - Kennedy 1964" were being sold on the streets of Texas for 75c during the visit.

JFK's speech at Brooks AFB on November 21 1963 spoke of the New Frontier and the US place in history and how it was "a time for pathfinders and pioneers". On a political level, it was a defense of the continued US investment in space exploration and its benefits:

"There will be, as there always are, pressures in this country to do less in this area as in so many others, and temptations to do something else that is perhaps easier. But this research here must go on. This space effort must go on. The conquest of space must and will go ahead."
Gordon Cooper was a visible manifestation of US space success and his flight provided justification for continued effort in manned spaceflight. JFK could certainly have benefitted from the reflected glory of having Cooper with him in Dallas.

Especially so given the headlines of newspapers on the morning of November 22 1963 which focused on the Democratic split. JFK told O'Donnell that he wanted Senator Yarborough to ride in Vice-President Johnson's car in the Dallas motorcade and that no excuses would be accepted. O'Donnell then told campaign strategist Larry O'Brien that he must spell out the alternative for Yarborough - either he rode in Johnson's car or he walked.

So had Cooper accepted JFK's invitation, it is nearly certain he would not have replaced Senator Yarborough in the Vice-President's car, for political reasons. There was a clear need to present a unified front and distract attention from the split. It is possible that Cooper could have sat immediately beside JFK in the middle as was originally suggested, ensuring good visibility for the President and First Lady while allowing JFK to be seen side-by-side with a newly-minted space hero. Seating protocol may have been waived for political opportunism and positive press coverage.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that on the balance of probability Cooper's account is true. Gordo spoke to the President at the Cape on November 16 1963 about the Gemini capsule and part of the tour at Brooks AFB included a long-duration altitude chamber test for Project Gemini cabin atmosphere.

YankeeClipper
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posted 07-31-2013 08:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by kr4mula:
The Kennedy article also mentions that the ceremonies were to be held at 1pm
Just to clarify, the USAF AMD Office of Information sources that I quoted also indicated initial ceremonies starting around that time e.g. music. However, the scheduled arrival time for the actual Presidential movement to the base was listed as 2:25pm.
quote:
My guess is that Cooper may have slightly mixed up the time and place of his supposed conversation with Kennedy about riding in the limo. They may have talked at Brooks, but in the afternoon (not evening), or else they may have spoken that evening, but in Houston, not San Antonio.
Very possible.

Well done on finding a great source!

Lou Chinal
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posted 08-01-2013 07:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I never herd of the Gordon Cooper story before. Thanks for the info.

YankeeClipper
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posted 08-01-2013 07:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger announced the schedule for Texas at 4:29pm EST on Tuesday November 19 1963 at White House News Conference #1324.

A very detailed listing of the vehicles/personnel/order of the presidential motorcade through Dallas on November 22 1963 can be found here. (File ~7Mb)

YankeeClipper
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posted 08-01-2013 11:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Fra Mauro:
What systems test in November of 1963, with Mercury concluded and Gemini not yet ready to fly, would be so important as to to decline a Presidential request?
Project Gemini's greatest concern in November 1963 was whether the Titan II ICBM / Gemini Launch Vehicle could really be rated as a booster for manned spaceflight.

NASA and USAF personnel were focused on fixing the problems of thrust axis longitudinal oscillation/vibration during powered flight (POGO effect), combustion instability, and an aggregate series of smaller issues. POGO bouncing was a serious pilot safety issue as it compromised an astronaut's visual and cognitive performance. NASA stipulated the upper limit for pilot safety for POGO was +/-0.25g. Combustion instability meant that the booster engine was potentially dynamically unstable and could not be man-rated.

On November 1 1963, the launch of Titan II R&D Missile N-25 proved for the first time that the POGO problem may have had a solution. On November 15 1963, the day before JFK and Cooper discussed Project Gemini at the Cape, NASA and the USAF both issued planning documents related to fixing the problem. The launch of Titan II R&D Missile N-29 on December 12 1963 from LC-15 was to be a key test to provide further confirmation of the POGO fix and allow man-rating of the booster.

It is possible that as a USAF officer, NASA astronaut pilot, and co-ordinator for astronaut input into Project Gemini, Cooper had some liaison/oversight role in these mission critical R&D test flights. Cooper had previously been assigned the specialty of astronaut liaison with the developers of the Redstone booster during Project Mercury.

moorouge
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posted 08-02-2013 01:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to tie up some loose ends. The arrangements for Kennedy's Texas trip were made by Kenneth P. O'Donnell. His official title was 'appointments secretary', but according to Pierre Salinger he was "...the most powerful member of the presidential staff."

In testimony to the Warren Commission he was asked about the reasons for visiting Texas.

Arlen Specter: Would you outline the origin of that trip to Texas, please?

Kenneth O'Donnell: It came from a conversation between the President and Vice President Johnson, and myself. It concerned President Kennedy's desire, and President Johnson's desire that he came to Texas...

Arlen Specter: In a general way, what was the purpose of the President's trip to Texas in November of 1963?

Kenneth O'Donnell: Well, he hadn't conducted any political activities in Texas. There were great controversies existing. There was a party problem in Texas that the President and the Vice President felt he could be helpful, as both sides of the controversy were supporting President Kennedy, and they felt he could be a bridge between these two groups, and this would be helpful in the election of 1964. I think that is the major reason for the trip.

Perhaps in his documents there exists his schedule for the visit and whether there is any mention of a definite plan for Kennedy to meet Cooper.

YankeeClipper
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posted 08-02-2013 05:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
Just to tie up some loose ends.
The actual untruncated verbatim text reads as follows:
"Mr. SPECTER. Would you outline the origin of that trip to Texas, please?

Mr. O'DONNELL. The origin of the trip I would think came from a conversation between the President, then Vice President Johnson, and myself. It concerned President Kennedy's desire, and President Johnson's desire that he come to Texas and spend some time there, looking forward to the campaign of 1964, in which Texas would play a very vital role in President Kennedy's view."

JFK: The Final 24 Hours

cS members should keep an eye out mid-November 2013 for a 2 hour National Geographic Channel documentary on the final 24 hours of JFK's life.

Footage was recently shot at the former Brooks AFB and interviews conducted with Airman Philip Jameson and Dr. Billy Welch who were involved with the altitude chamber test that JFK viewed for 20-25mins. The documentary uses period photos/footage and may provide visual confirmation of Cooper's presence.

Former Brooks AFB historian Rudy Purificato might also provide useful information.

YankeeClipper
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posted 08-02-2013 10:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As a USAF flight surgeon and medical director for Project Gemini, it was not surprising that Dr. Charles A. Berry MD was to attend at Brooks AFB on November 21 1963.

He is 90 now and has an office in Houston - a brief phone call might confirm everything, especially if he attended with Cooper.

Robert, any thoughts on whether you could contact him? (I can send you the listed office number if you deem it appropriate.)

moorouge
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posted 08-04-2013 09:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An intriguing possibility to explain why Cooper might have been at Brooks AFB is his connection with space food. Cooper was the first to try 'freeze/dried' food on his Mercury flight and in 1963 the efforts to make the diet more palatable for the astronauts on long term missions were transferred from Wright-Pattison to Brooks.


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