JFK Behind the Curtain, Part 1

I’m supposing that every Puffin of a certain age would remember where they were when the news broke in the afternoon of November 22nd 1963, America’s darkest Friday. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been gunned down on a Dallas street, & Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson driven swiftly back to the airport before being sworn in as President, with the blood stained widow of JFK at his side.

En route back to Washington on Air Force One, the military & security people accompanying the new President were asking the necessary initial questions  :

                                Was the death of JFK the first move in an international conspiracy ?   Was LBJ now the target ?

But it was now the man closest to the slain President who needed to put his grief on one side & swiftly move to conceal all evidence of JFKs’ secret life both from the nation, as well as from the new President, who would be installed in the Oval Office that evening…..

DJM, Going Postal
RFK (on the stump)
Robert F. Kennedy by Warren K. Leffler, 1964 (LOC) – Public Domain

When the news came of his brothers shooting, Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, the second most powerful man in Washington, was lunching at his office desk. He moved deftly & displayed the full swathe of his reputation for pragmatism & toughness: notifying & consoling family members, making arrangements both for the handling of the body & a full state funeral, answering legal queries from the new President, but his first call was to McGeorge Bundy, the dead Presidents security advisor who was told to immediately secure JFKs’ papers in the Oval Office. Bundy swiftly ordered the combinations on all locked files be changed, before LBJs’ people could being rummaging through them. Bobby Kennedy well understood that the public revelations of the materials contained in his brothers White House files would completely shatter both Jack Kennedy’s reputation as President, & his own as Attorney General. Having spent nearly three years as notional guardian of the nations laws, as his brothers operative in foreign crises, & as the personal watchdog for an older brother who revelled in personal excesses & recklessness, he truly knew where all the bodies were buried….

The two brothers had brazenly lied in their denials to newspapermen & the public about JFKs’ rumoured first marriage to a Palm Beach socialite, Durie Malcolm. This occurred in 1947, when Jack was a first term congressman. It had been a spur of the moment thing after a late night party, but on sober reflection both Jack & Durie repined. In those days, a Las Vegas quickie divorce was not an option for these two scions of “society”. The Kennedy family instead arranged for all papers to be removed from the Palm Beach Courthouse & the necessary palms greased. The wedding never happened…..

The presidents’ files would reveal that both Jack & Bobby were more than merely informed about CIA plotting the assassination of Fidel Castro, they were its strongest supporters. Castro had been marked to die after the disastrous & humiliating failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco in 1961. Files also dealt with three other foreign leaders who were murdered during the 1000 day Presidency of JFK, Lumumba (Congo), Trujillo (Dominican republic) & Diem (South Vietnam).

DJM, Going Postal
Jack & Nikkita have a little chat
Kennedy and Khrushchev in Vienna by Stanley Tretick, 1961 (NARA) – Public Domain

The world had been told that Kennedy had stood firm against Soviet aggression in the matter of the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, with Premier Khrushchev backing down from the brink of nuclear war. Little of this was true, as Bobby Kennedy well knew. With their political futures at stake, the brothers had negotiated through back diplomatic channels a last minute compromise with the Soviets. The real settlement – & the true importance of the missile crisis – remained a state secret for more than 25 years.

But there were more, many more, dark secrets for Bobby Kennedy to hide….

DJM, Going Postal
RFK, Hoover & JFK
President John F. Kennedy with Robert F. Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover by Cecil Stoughton (NARA) – Public Domain


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