The destruction of Camelot might have begun with the Bay of Pigs, when John F. Kennedy made a permanent enemy of Fidel Castro and infuriated his own Central Intelligence Agency.
But in fact, it begins on November 18, when Special Agent Winston G. Lawson of the Secret Service advance team, Forest V. Sorrels of the Secret Services’ Dallas office, and Dallas police chief Jesse Curry drive ten very carefully selected miles from Love Field to the Trade Mart. “Hell,” says Special Agent Sorrels, glancing up at the thousands of windows looking down on them, “we’d be sitting ducks.”
Nevertheless, the agents decide that this will be the presidential motorcade route.
Anytime the president of the United States drives through a crowded city, there is a careful balance between protecting his life and ensuring the spectacle of the chief executive intermingling with the American people. Security is the act of getting him through the crowds alive, which is difficult on those days when the bubble-top roof is not buckled onto the convertible. A perfect motorcade route is devoid of the high windows from which a sniper can poke a gun, offers alternative routes in case something goes wrong, features wide streets that keep crowds far back from the vehicle, and has few, if any, tight turns.
The Dallas motorcade route violates every one of these principles.
The process of turning the presidential vehicle forces William Greer, the Secret Service agent who most often serves as JFK’s driver, to slow the limousine down considerably. This makes the president an easier target for a marksman to hit. Secret Service protocol stipulates that whenever a motorcade must slow down for a turn, agents must do a security check of the entire intersection ahead of time. Something as simple as a ninety-degree turn, which the Dallas motorcade route features at the corner of Main and Houston, can cause Greer to step hard on the brakes. A sweeping 120-degree turn, such as the one at the corner of Houston and Elm, can slow Kennedy’s Lincoln down to just a few miles per hour.
(Killing Kennedy—The End of Camelot, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, pages 242-243)
A NOTE TO READERS
NOVEMBER 22, 1963
MINEOLA, NEW YORK
Most Americans born before 1953 remember exactly where they were when they heard the news that JFK had been assassinated. The days following that terrible Friday were filled with sadness and confusion. Why did it happen? Who really killed the president? What kind of country did we live in anyway?
The assassination of JFK was somewhat personal for me. My maternal grandmother was born Winifred Kennedy, and my Irish-Catholic family had deep emotional ties to the young president and his family. It felt as if someone in my own home had died violently. Like most kids on Long Island, I didn’t care much about national politics. but I vividly remember pictures of JFK displayed in the homes of my relatives. To them, he was a saint. To me, he was a distant figure who died in a terrible way, his brain splattered all over the trunk of a car. The vision of his wife, Jacqueline, crawling onto the back of the limo in order to retrieve the president’s shattered skull has stayed with me always.
It has been widely pointed out that the two men had much in common. In fact, the parallels are amazing.
♦ Lincoln was first elected in 1860; Kennedy in 1960.
♦ Andrew Johnson was born in 1808, Lyndon Johnson in 1908.
♦ The assassin Booth shot inside a theater and fled into a storage facility, while the assassin Oswald shot from a storage facility and fled into a theater.
Long Island, New York