Fifty years after the assassination...

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jbuck919
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Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:33 pm

It is 1915 and no one gives a thought except historically to Lincoln. The two more recently assassinated presidents (Garfield and McKinley) are similarly out of popular memory.

But we are stuck in the media age where we cannot avoid being collectively obsessive-compulsive about the assassination of JFK. For decades I've wanted this anniversary to go by with no mention of it in the news, and sometimes thought that the 50-year mark would be the end of it, but wait until next year and lots of luck if you're sick of rehashing the Kennedy assassination as though it happened yesterday. As my father once said of the San Francisco Giants, New Yorkers will consider them a New York team as long as Willie Mays is alive.

OK, rant over. So where were you when you heard the news? And yes I know I'm two days early. I was in my fourth-grade class when the teacher announced it, and we were dismissed early. When I got home, I found my mother occupying herself outside in ways strange for her to avoid thinking about it. Aside from the sense of loss, grown-ups at the time weren't sure this wasn't the prelude to WW III. It didn't help that she had just come back from her own mother's funeral.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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John F
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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by John F » Wed Nov 20, 2013 2:25 pm

jbuck919 wrote:It is 1915 and no one gives a thought except historically to Lincoln.
Is that really so? I'm curious. And if it is, do many people nowadays give much thought to Kennedy except historically? After all, everyone today under 50 was born after Kennedy died.

In 1963 I was working as an announcer and studio engineer at WBAI in New York City, a listener-sponsored station in the Pacifica group. On the 22nd I went to the Army enlistment station downtown for a physical exam - having received my draft notice, I was enlisting in order to choose my military occupational specialty and avoid becoming a rifleman in an infantry unit. That finished, I was heading uptown to WBAI where my announcing shift was to begin at 4pm. On the way I noticed groups of people looking in store windows, presumably at TV sets, but I didn't stop to see for myself. When I arrived at the station, I found out what had happened and caught up with the news between announcing breaks. The station manager, an odd fellow whom nobody thought well of, decided that we would play nothing but recordings of requiems - Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, Brahms, others too. Finally the SM called that off and we returned to our normal programming.
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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Nov 20, 2013 2:46 pm

John F wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:It is 1915 and no one gives a thought except historically to Lincoln.
Is that really so? I'm curious. And if it is, do many people nowadays give much thought to Kennedy except historically? After all, everyone today under 50 was born after Kennedy died.
I have to admit that I'm not sure, and there is this:


In 1963 I was working as an announcer and studio engineer at WBAI in New York City, a listener-sponsored station in the Pacifica group. On the 22nd I went to the Army enlistment station downtown for a physical exam - having received my draft notice, I was enlisting in order to choose my military occupational specialty and avoid becoming a rifleman in an infantry unit. That finished, I was heading uptown to WBAI where my announcing shift was to begin at 4pm. On the way I noticed groups of people looking in store windows, presumably at TV sets, but I didn't stop to see for myself. When I arrived at the station, I found out what had happened and caught up with the news between announcing breaks. The station manager, an odd fellow whom nobody thought well of, decided that we would play nothing but recordings of requiems - Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, Brahms, others too. Finally the SM called that off and we returned to our normal programming.
About to be drafted in 1963 when we weren't even at serious war--heaven help us. Actually, I had an unsafe lottery number in the last year of the draft and was saved only because Richard Nixon put an end to it.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by John F » Wed Nov 20, 2013 3:04 pm

After my basic and advanced individual Army training, I was assigned to a signal corps unit in Korea, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred occurred shortly before I arrived. All military units in Korea were put on alert, in case World War III was about to start. It didn't, and by the time I got there, the alert was off. Two years later, when I was stationed in Germany, I received reassignment orders to the 9th Infantry Division which was being activated in Kansas to be sent to Vietnam. The orders were canceled, I never found out how or why, and I finished my Army service never having heard a shot fired in anger. Five years after that, the draft was no more.
John Francis

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by lennygoran » Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:10 am

PBS Thirteen was loaded with JFK programs last week--I filled up my DVR--one showed the relationship between JFK and Walter Cronkite--a Nova special tried to scientifically show the single bullet theory was possible and that there wasn't a conspiracy--American Experience did a 4 hour show with great footage and interviews on JFK-a lot of the father Joe Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy looking quite angry at times. I was in Brooklyn College on my way to a conference with my English professor on some paper I had written--that was called off and we were all quite stunned by the news. Regards, Len

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by Ricordanza » Thu Nov 21, 2013 8:21 pm

jbuck919 wrote: So where were you when you heard the news?
I was in junior high school. The Assistant Principal, and disciplinarian for the school, was a stern and severe woman named Mrs. Zank. On November 22, 1963, I saw something remarkable--I saw Mrs. Zank cry. That's what made the biggest impression on me that day.

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by RebLem » Fri Nov 22, 2013 6:06 am

jbuck919 wrote:It is 1915 and no one gives a thought except historically to Lincoln. The two more recently assassinated presidents (Garfield and McKinley) are similarly out of popular memory.

But we are stuck in the media age where we cannot avoid being collectively obsessive-compulsive about the assassination of JFK. For decades I've wanted this anniversary to go by with no mention of it in the news, and sometimes thought that the 50-year mark would be the end of it, but wait until next year and lots of luck if you're sick of rehashing the Kennedy assassination as though it happened yesterday. As my father once said of the San Francisco Giants, New Yorkers will consider them a New York team as long as Willie Mays is alive.

OK, rant over. So where were you when you heard the news? And yes I know I'm two days early. I was in my fourth-grade class when the teacher announced it, and we were dismissed early. When I got home, I found my mother occupying herself outside in ways strange for her to avoid thinking about it. Aside from the sense of loss, grown-ups at the time weren't sure this wasn't the prelude to WW III. It didn't help that she had just come back from her own mother's funeral.
On the day of the assassination, I was in the student lounge in the student union building at NWMSC in Maryville, MO. I was sitting with a group of friends when I saw a group of people clustered around the television at the far end of the room. I went over to see what was going on. In Maryville at the time, CBS was the only station you could get without going on cable, and the student union wasn't on cable, but luckily, as we all know, CBS seemed to have had the best coverage that day. About a half hour later, I went to a history class, and Dr. Gaylor, our professor, came in and dismissed the class, saying we would all learn more that day by plunking ourselves in front of a TV than we would have in his class, so that is what I did for the rest of the day. I was simply stunned.

As for people not remembering much about the Lincoln assassination in 1915, perhaps that was because it was becoming evident that Wilson was the most racist of our post-civil war presidents, and it had long been true that an enormous amount of backtracking had gone on about the promise of the end of slavery. After 1963, however, the new civil rights revolution began to pick up steam, and it seems to us now that Kennedy had a more fruitful legacy that Lincoln seemed to have had in 1915. But do not denigrate the long term impact of the Lincoln presidency. He inspired Walt Whitman's anguished expression of grief, possibly his greatest poem, When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd and that inspired no less a composer than the newly emigrated Paul Hindemith to set it to music in the wake of WWII, the Holocaust, and the death of FDR.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by Cosima___J » Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:02 am

John (jbuck), I think it will be a long, long time before this nation stops remembering John F. Kennedy's assassination. As to Lincoln's assassination, there was no Zapruder film and countless photos of the event. This sad event in Dallas was immediately brought into every living room --- the handsome young President with his beautiful wife, a horrifying event that no doubt every adult alive at that time remembers forever. The country engaged in communal mourning. Even some less attractive aspects of Kennedy's life (like the womanizing) can not take away from the fond memories and the speculation of what might have been.

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by Steinway » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:37 pm

After all these 50 years, having read many books and articles on the subject of the events, I remain one those sceptics who firmly believe that Kennedy was not killed by Oswald alone and that other shooters were involved.

Am I alone in this thinking or do others on this forum feel the same way ??

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by RebLem » Fri Nov 22, 2013 2:47 pm

Steinway wrote:After all these 50 years, having read many books and articles on the subject of the events, I remain one those sceptics who firmly believe that Kennedy was not killed by Oswald alone and that other shooters were involved.

Am I alone in this thinking or do others on this forum feel the same way ??
I think Oswald acted alone. If I am wrong, I think the most likely conspiracy theory is the one that says the Chicago Mob was behind it. Not only was Bobby Kennedy going after the Mob, but JFK was having an affair with Sam Giancana's girlfriend.

I suggest you read Norman Mailer's biography of Oswald. In the concluding pages, Mailer says that when he began the book, he had felt the assasssination was probably the result of a conspiracy, but he hadn't been sure. By the time he finished it, though, he said, he felt that the assassination probably was not the result of a conspiracy, but he still wasn't sure about that, either.

I just had a horrible thought. If you think we are suffering from media overload on remembrances now, just think of all the 50 year anniversaries we have coming up in 2018--The King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations, the Tet offensive, the My Lai massacre, the crippling of George Wallace, the Democratic Convention in Chicago. The Tet Offensive and My Lai massacre and the Chicago convention, especially, are events the meaning and import of which is still disputed, and--its an election year! I don't know if I can survive it.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by John F » Fri Nov 22, 2013 3:46 pm

Steinway wrote:After all these 50 years, having read many books and articles on the subject of the events, I remain one those sceptics who firmly believe that Kennedy was not killed by Oswald alone and that other shooters were involved.

Am I alone in this thinking or do others on this forum feel the same way ??
You're certainly not alone - there are plenty of conspiracy theorists out there. How many there are in here, I've no idea. And whether there's any solid basis for their belief is another matter.

See, for example, the November 13 episode of NOVA in which forensic experts demonstrate that Oswald could indeed have done it alone, that everything in the Zapruder film can be explained by three bullets fired from behind the President by the same rifle, and that some theories to the contrary (such as the grassy knoll thing) are physically impossible. The web page is here:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/cold-case-jfk.html

I don't see a link to play it back, but maybe someone has uploaded it to YouTube.

There's really no need to believe in a conspiracy. We've seen time and again how one person on his own, sane or demented, can kill as many people as he wants to; all that's needed is opportunity and surprise. And as one person in the Nova show points out, a secret can't be kept indefinitely unless the people who know it are dead. It's been 50 years now and if there really had been a conspiracy, the secret would be out by now. It isn't, so there wasn't. (Sez I.)
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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:17 pm

RebLem wrote:
Steinway wrote:I just had a horrible thought. If you think we are suffering from media overload on remembrances now, just think of all the 50 year anniversaries we have coming up in 2018--The King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations, the Tet offensive, the My Lai massacre, the crippling of George Wallace, the Democratic Convention in Chicago. The Tet Offensive and My Lai massacre and the Chicago convention, especially, are events the meaning and import of which is still disputed, and--its an election year! I don't know if I can survive it.
It was different for the country as a whole, but personally and selfishly, I was too busy being 13 years old with a sense of personal security that largely turned out to be justified when all those things happened. Now as a man in late middle age I worry about everything that I can't change anyway, except by personal advocacy and my vote, and there are a bunch of real possibilities short of horror-filled specific events that could still drastically (and almost certainly negatively) affect my retirement and old age.

I do wonder, Rob, how much attention will be paid to most of those anniversaries. The MLK one, for sure. We still have a holiday in his name, and a large group of people who sensibly don't want what he stood for to leave the public consciousness. About the others, well, we'll see.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by John F » Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:53 pm

RebLem wrote:I just had a horrible thought. If you think we are suffering from media overload on remembrances now, just think of all the 50 year anniversaries we have coming up in 2018--The King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations, the Tet offensive, the My Lai massacre, the crippling of George Wallace, the Democratic Convention in Chicago
You left out the election of Richard Nixon. A terrible year. But as jbuck919 says, only the King assassination still reverberates today, and not in the same way as the Kennedy assassination. I'm sure there will be editorials in the major newspapers and documentaries on PBS about some of the events of 1968, but nothing like the JFK thing.
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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Nov 22, 2013 6:32 pm

An article about the survivors of the Marine honor guard. Except, as you will see, it is about much more.


The New York Times

November 21, 2013
Once at Kennedy’s Side, Now at One Another’s
By MICHAEL WINERIP

ALLEN, Tex. — In the early morning darkness of Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963, at approximately 04:30 hours, Tim Cheek, a 20-year-old Marine assigned to body bearer duty, was one of eight enlisted men to carry President John F. Kennedy’s coffin, first into the East Room of the White House, and then back out the next afternoon; up the steps to the Capitol Rotunda and then down the next morning; into St. Matthew’s Cathedral and, then, out to the horse-drawn caisson waiting in the street.

And finally, across the lawn at Arlington National Cemetery to the grave site.

There, after the prayers, Mr. Cheek and the other body bearers lifted the American flag from the coffin and folded it into a triangle that passed from his fellow Marine and friend, Jerry Diamond, at the rear left, to Mr. Cheek, at the front right, and a few people later, to Jacqueline Kennedy.

“I was in a trance,” said Mr. Cheek, 70, a retired insurance executive. “We were kids totally focused on doing our duty as well as we could.” During those four days, he said, his main thought was, “Don’t drop the casket.”

“Especially down the steep Rotunda stairs,” he said. “One falter, and that casket was gone.”

Only once could he recall feeling the significance of the moment. He was marching with the caisson. Thousands lined Pennsylvania Avenue, though what he remembers was the quiet.

“And then a woman yelled out Kennedy’s name,” he said. “A shiver went through me, and I thought, ‘That’s the president of the United States inside there.’ ”

On Friday, precisely 50 years after the president was assassinated, about half of the 60 men who served as Marine body bearers, stood death watch or marched with the color guard and drill team are gathering here, at a Courtyard Marriott in this Dallas suburb for their second, and probably final, reunion.

They are growing old. Mr. Diamond had hoped to attend the first reunion, three years ago, but he was not well and died in Stow, Ohio, on April 30, 2011, at age 67. Others are long dead. Chuck Finney, another body bearer, was shot down over Cambodia and not until a decade later, said his brother-in-law Ed McCloskey, a fellow Marine, was a piece of his elbow recovered and buried in Arlington.

Most of the nine interviewed were from poor or blue-collar families, and being chosen for such elite duty straight from Parris Island was their first step on the way to the middle class. Through the years, they rarely talked about it, but they never forgot about it either. An obituary in The Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown, Pa., for Mr. Diamond, a construction foreman, read like a résumé except for one sentence: “He was especially proud that he was a pallbearer for the late President John F. Kennedy.”

If, as they say, Americans of that generation remember exactly where they were when President Kennedy was shot, the former Marines remember exactly where the president’s remains were after he was shot. John Cunningham, who works in real estate in Denver, and Mr. McCloskey, a retired marketing director in Scaly Mountain, N.C., were among the dozen Marines to escort the ambulance up the White House driveway to the North Portico.

In the East Room, during a prayer service for the Kennedys, First Lt. Bill Lee of Allen, Tex., who was in command of the silent drill platoon, stood guard at the head of the coffin.

“You’re at attention looking straight ahead like a mannequin,” said Mr. Lee, a retired human resources director. “You leave no footprints. No one is watching you, but you’re part of history.”

Several at the reunion said they were too young to appreciate the historical significance. But, they said, in a few years, they understood that the country had changed for good as politics grew more divisive.

“I was an accidental participant at a turning point in history,” Mr. Cunningham said.

He went to Vietnam believing he was fighting for a worthy cause, but by 1970 he was taking part in an antiwar sit-in and in 1972 voted for George McGovern.

They were picked because they tested well and looked like quintessential Marines: at least six feet tall, with straight posture and narrow waists. Lamont Pittman says he was told that in his case, an additional consideration was that they needed a black man.

All benefited from upward mobility and prosperity during the second half of the 20th century. Bob DeBardelaben grew up in rural Alabama dirt poor: his father raised red worms and catfish for sale, his mother was in a state mental hospital for most of his childhood. When he graduated from Parris Island, his teeth were so bad he was held back from infantry training until a denture could be made and later needed to borrow money from his Marine buddies to buy a suit for his wedding.

But after his tour stateside, he attended Auburn University on the G.I. Bill, bought and ran several businesses, and now he is president of a multimillion-dollar Internet commerce company. For 49 years, he has been married to the same woman.

Twelve years ago, at age 60, Tom Griffin, whose father was a New York City police officer, retired to Florida from his job as president of an electronics company with 500 employees. Mr. Cheek worked 30 years for Allstate,retiring at 56. Mr. Pittman was a City University of New York administrator for 33 years.

The prosperity of the times bred an optimism that is not so prevalent today. For 11 years after his discharge, Mr. McCloskey taught a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends and influence people. He likes to say, “My blood type is B-positive, so I have no choice but to be positive.”

Typically, a Marine selected for the honor guard served for two years before moving to another assignment, but Mr. Pittman spent his entire four-year tour in Washington. He was told they could not find another black man to replace him. “It stopped them from sending me to Vietnam,” he said. “Racial prejudice saved my life.”

During the summer of 1963, they had practiced drilling with the other service branches in anticipation of former President Herbert Hoover’s death. As it turned out, Hoover lived another year, to age 90, and they had been practicing for a 46-year-old.

In the buses that carried them from one event to another, the Marines stood in the aisle so as not to wrinkle their pants. Lieutenant Lee, later wounded during a 17-month tour in Vietnam, brought a steam iron to the White House, so members of the death watch could press their trousers between the 30-minute shifts guarding the coffin.

The Marine contingent also provided security at presidential events and Camp David. There, its members saw the Kennedys close up. Mr. Cunningham went to Mass with them. Frank Reilly played touch football with them. Harry McClellan Moffett III, a retired banker who was right rifleman in the color guard at the funeral, recalled locking eyes with them.

And because Mrs. Kennedy did not want her children seeing guns at Camp David, all hid behind trees while guarding the family.

Lieutenant Lee, their superior officer, was 29 and sensed the historical significance as he stood by the coffin.

“You don’t want to get emotional,” he said, “but I had several reflections.”

The February before, during a reception at the National Gallery of Art, the Kennedys were supposed to take an elevator to greet their guests. But the elevator was not working, and when they stepped out, the lieutenant said, he was so close to Mrs. Kennedy that he could smell her perfume. Here is how he remembers what happened next:

“I’m in my mannequin face, and she said words to the effect, “Jack, let’s take the stairs.’ And he said, ‘We can wait.’ They go back and forth a few times, and then her tone changed just like any other wife. ‘Jack, people are waiting.’ ‘O.K.,’ he answers her and turning his head toward me, says, ‘Don’t worry — I make all the big decisions.’ ”

Lieutenant Lee worked at pushing aside such thoughts during the death watch.

“There’s nothing to do but stand and stare and get lost in your thoughts,” he said. “I don’t care how tough you are, he’s two to three feet away.”

The reunion on Friday is being held near Dallas but not because it is the site of the assassination. Mr. Lee is 79 and unable to travel, and his men cannot envision a reunion without him. “My wife’s not well,” he said on Thursday, “and my first duty is to her now.”

When they were 20, they imprinted on him the way ducklings do with their mother — that is, if the mother duck were a 6-foot-2 squared-away Marine lieutenant. Mr. Pittman, who was raised by his grandmother and served at a time when racism was common, said: “He was a father figure for us, a stern disciplinarian who talked a lot about what being a man was about. I was comforted by him.”

Mr. Lee was fair, Mr. Pittman said.

At the other reunion, a few held back when they saw Mr. Lee. “I was still a little scared of him,” Mr. Cunningham said.

As for Mr. Lee, he is looking forward to the reunion. “These were fine, fine young men,” he said. “They really did one hell of a job.”

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by lennygoran » Fri Nov 22, 2013 7:55 pm

Steinway wrote:
Am I alone in this thinking or do others on this forum feel the same way ??
That Nova show I mentioned made me think Oswald acted alone. Regards, Len

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by Auntie Lynn » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:28 pm

Hey, JFK was a thundering bore. The only interesting thing he ever did was bang Marilyn Monroe in the White House swimming pool...

Get over it...

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Re: Fifty years after the assassination...

Post by dulcinea » Mon Feb 24, 2014 9:30 pm

Get over it...[/quote]
I was a nine year old girl then; all I remember is that I was crazy with boredom because all the TV stations in PR went blank.
The Kennedy brothers are dead, and won't return until the time of the Resurrection of the Dead. Since I don't have the patience to wait that long I prefer to continue doing what I started in 1963: live my own life to leave my own mark on history, if not as POTUS then as something else.
As O'Neill puts it so well in MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA:
The dead! Why can't the dead die!
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

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