Wednesday, 01 August 2012 21:50

Clint Hill, Mrs. Kennedy and Me

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k Hill coverUnlike The Kennedy Detail, Clint Hill has written (again, with Lisa McCubbin) a fine book. That said, it is best to take some of his pre-assassination “reenactments” of statements made by others with a huge grain of salt, while also noting–with interest–those assassination and post-assassination revelations and statements that do ring true and are of interest to all, writes Vince Palamara.

MRS. KENNEDY & ME: A Very Good Book with a Few pages of Trouble

I. Introduction: Bad precedent

I so wanted to dislike this book. As the leading civilian literary expert on the Secret Service, I had previously----and rightfully---lambasted Lisa McCubbin's prior effort entitled The Kennedy Detail for its rewriting of history, blaming JFK for his own death and putting words in the late president's mouth that he never once uttered, as verified by the prior accounts of numerous top agents and White House aides, many of whom WERE there in Dallas (unlike former agent Gerald Blaine). As previously stated, it was my 22-page letter to former agent Clint Hill that angered him and his best friend to whom I had also spoken to, the aforementioned Blaine, that directly led to the writing of The Kennedy Detail and, by extension, the need to write a follow-up tome, Mrs. Kennedy & Me (whenever a book is even a mild best-seller, which their first effort was, it is almost a guarantee that, if there is any gas left in the tank, so to speak, a further literary work will be forthcoming). In fact, both agents Blaine and Hill debated the merits of my research on television and, if that weren't enough, I was mentioned on pages 359-360 of The Kennedy Detail (without naming me, of course). One could argue several other pages refer to my work, directly or indirectly, but I digress from the matter at hand.

II. My initial review: honesty prevails

Simply put, Mrs. Kennedy & Me is excellent: a literary home run, second only to another brand new work, the outstanding 2012 book Within Arm's Length by former agent Dan Emmett, as attaining the mantle of being the best book on the Secret Service by a former agent ever to date (1865-2012 and counting). I have to say in all honesty: Mr. Hill and Ms. McCubbin have a lot to be proud of in this book. it is consistently everything The Kennedy Detail is not: truthful, honest, no axe to grind, not dry or boring, well written, and coming from the perspective of a brave and dedicated public servant who WAS truly there. (To be fair, even The Kennedy Detail,and certainly the documentary it was based on, had its moments, although my judgment is rightfully clouded by what I and others feel are the purposeful untruths and propaganda contained throughout, as well as the exasperating third-person narrative interwoven throughout the book, making it hard to pin down exactly WHO was responsible for specific passages. President Kennedy did NOT order the agents off his limousine in Tampa, in Dallas, or anywhere else, for that matter- SAIC Behn, ASAIC Boring, ATSAIC Godfrey, many of their colleagues, and several prominent White House aides said so).

Do I still have misgivings about some of the agents on the Kennedy detail? Sure; that will never change. Am I also an ardent admirer of the Secret Service? You bet: the agency has a whole lot to be proud of. Clint Hill at least TRIED to do something that fateful day in Dallas and carried much guilt and depression over the sad events of that time and place. That is a whole lot more than several of his colleagues can lay claim to.

That aside, Mrs. Kennedy & Me is highly recommended to everyone for its honesty and rich body of true, first-hand accounts of guarding First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Too bad this book wasn't even longer and The Kennedy Detail did not exist, but one cannot ask for everything.

III. On second thought

The assassination-related part of this book aside, I obviously quite liked this book- there are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. However, upon reflection, there are several items in the assassination-related section (and elsewhere) that should be duly noted. (Indeed, I later added a disclaimer to my online review noting this dissent). On pages 55-56, Hill talks about the benefits of Jackie Kennedy keeping a low profile during her trip to New York as beneficial to security: “The fewer people who know your intended destination or route, the better. A police escort would have just drawn attention to us, so we kept the motorcade to as few vehicles as possible.” Indeed, on yet another trip to New York in early 1963, this one involving both Jackie and JFK, Hill records Jackie as stating: “We want to keep it private…No police escorts, no motorcades, no official functions. We just want to enjoy the city like we used to.” However, this very same situation for President Kennedy in New York, the very same city, in mid-November 1963 was viewed not as a virtue but as a detriment to his safety and welfare by several writers after his assassination.[1] Today, these kinds of trips are known by the Secret Service as “OTR”s, or “off the records”, and they are quite effective, now as then, in their element of surprise from potential assassins. Indeed, Hill writes: “It was a real challenge for the Secret Service agents to keep these presidential movements private yet still maintain an adequate amount of protection, without police escorts or blocking the streets, but we managed.” That was their job and they did it well…until November 22, 1963.

In addition, this book vividly demonstrates that Jackie DID indeed travel with JFK on many trips other than the fateful Texas venture in November 1963: New York, Florida, Boston, Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada, Germany, etc.

Page 136 has an item of much interest to those contrasting the measures used in Dallas: “The lead vehicle in the motorcade was a press truck---an open flatbed truck with rails around the outside---filled with about a dozen photographers. This was typical when you expected large crowds along a motorcade route for a president, but I’d never seen it, prior to this trip [Pakistan], for a first lady (Hill’s emphasis).” Dallas Morning News reporter Tom Dillard testified to the Warren Commission:

“We lost our position at the airport. I understood we were to have been quite a bit closer. We were assigned as the prime photographic car which, as you probably know, normally a truck precedes the President on these things [motorcades] and certain representatives of the photographic press ride with the truck. In this case, as you know, we didn’t have any and this car that I was in was to take photographs which was of spot-news nature.”[2] (Emphasis added)

On page 202, there is a photo of the agents surrounding the presidential limousine at the Orange Bowl in Miami in December 1962: agents Gerald Blaine (of Kennedy Detail infamy), Ken Giannoules, Clint Hill, Paul Landis, Frank Yeager (uncredited), Ron Pontius (uncredited), and Bob Lilley (also uncredited). Hill writes: “I and the other agents jogged alongside the car, constantly scanning the crowd for any sign of disturbance or disruption, as we headed toward the waiting helicopter outside the arena.” On page 212, Hill says: “There would always be at least five or six Secret Service agents around the president, and trailing close behind the president’s limousine was the not so unobtrusive follow-up car.”

IV. Déjà vu All Over Again

Still, all things considered, pretty smooth sailing so far- a good book about Jackie Kennedy and Clint Hill; great human interest anecdotes and dialogue. However, the party ends briefly on pages 270-271, wherein Hill does his best Gerald Blaine “imitation” and seeks to rewrite a little history to suit his own ends. Hill states that it was November 20, 1963, when he saw ASAIC Floyd Boring (the planner of the Texas trip[3]) and, conveniently[4], fellow ASAIC Roy Kellerman (the agent nominally in charge of the Dallas trip) by the Secret Service office in the White House, as he correctly notes that SAIC Gerald Behn was on vacation at the time. It was here that Boring—with Kellerman strangely silent by his side---conveyed to Hill that JFK allegedly ordered the agents off the limousine in Tampa on 11/18/63, something this author is adamant, based on years of research and interviews with Boring, Behn, and many of their colleagues, never happened.

When asked if Hill was aware of what allegedly went down in Tampa, Hill states: “I didn’t recall anything out of the ordinary [on the radio].” Hill, “quoting” Boring (who passed away 2/1/08), writes: “(as Boring) We had a long motorcade in Tampa, and it was decided that we should keep two guys on the back of the car for the entire route---just for added precaution.” Hill further writes (as himself): “I nodded. That wasn’t all that unusual.” Then, in a little jumbled thought/ sentence, Hill (once again as Boring), adds: “So, we had Chuck Zboril and Don Lawton on the back of the car the ENTIRE way,” Floyd said. “But PARTWAY through the motorcade, in an area where the crowds had thinned, the president requested we remove the agents from the back of the car (emphasis added).” On page 271, Hill writes: “Really? I asked. I had NEVER heard the president ever question procedural recommendations by his Secret Service detail (emphasis added).”

Hill writes: “What was the reason?” Writing “as” Floyd Boring again (with, again, a strangely silent Roy Kellerman, assuming he was really there and this really took place as written): “He said now that we’re heading into the campaign, he doesn’t want it to look like we’re crowding him. And the word is [FROM WHOM?], from now on, you don’t get on the back of the car unless the situation absolutely warrants it.” “Okay,” I said. “Understood.” Nothing is in writing, Kellerman is silent, Behn is on vacation, and we are to just take Hill at his word that this 2012 reconstruction is the gospel.

Congressman Sam Gibbons, who actually rode a mere foot away in the car with JFK, wrote to me in a letter dated 1/15/04: ““I rode with Kennedy every time he rode. I heard no such order. As I remember it the agents rode on the rear bumper all the way. Kennedy was very happy during his visit to Tampa. Sam Gibbons.” Also, photographer Tony Zappone, then a 16-year-old witness to the motorcade in Tampa (one of whose photos for this motorcade was ironically used in The Kennedy Detail!), told me that the agents were “definitely on the back of the car for most of the day until they started back for MacDill AFB at the end of the day.” (Emphasis added) Win Lawson wrote to this reviewer on 1/12/04, before this book was even a thought, and said: “I do not know of any standing orders for the agents to stay off the back of the car. After all, foot holds and handholds were built into that particular vehicle... it never came to my attention as such.” (emphasis added). FLOYD BORING himself told me “[JFK] was a very easy-going guy ... he didn’t interfere with our actions at all.” In a later interview, Boring expounded further: “Well that’s not true. That’s not true. He was a very nice man; he never interfered with us at all.” If that weren’t enough, Boring also wrote the author: “He [JFK] was very cooperative with the Secret Service.”

As for ASAIC Floyd Boring, this reviewer has no doubt that Boring DID INDEED CONVEY the fraudulent notion that JFK had asked that the agents remove themselves from the limo between 11/18-11/19/63, but that the former agent was telling the TRUTH of the matter when he spoke to me years later. You see, Clint Hill wrote in his report:

I ... never personally was requested by President John F. Kennedy not to ride on the rear of the Presidential automobile. I did receive information passed verbally from the administrative offices of the White House Detail of the Secret Service to Agents assigned to that Detail that President Kennedy had made such requests. I do not know from whom I received this information ... No written instructions regarding this were ever distributed ... [I] received this information after the President’s return to Washington, D.C. This would have been between November 19, 1963 and November 21, 1963 [note the time frame!]. I do not know specifically who advised me of this request by the President. (emphasis added)

Mr. Hill’s undated report was presumably written in April 1964, as the other four reports submitted to the Warren Commission were written at that time.[5] Why Mr. Hill could not “remember” the specific name of the agent who gave him JFK’s alleged desires is very troubling. He revealed it on March 9, 1964, presumably before his report was written, in his (obviously pre-rehearsed) testimony under oath to the future Senator Arlen Specter, then a lawyer with the Warren Commission[6]:

Specter: Did you have any other occasion en route from Love Field to downtown Dallas to leave the follow-up car and mount that portion of the President’s car [rear portion of limousine]?

Hill: I did the same thing approximately four times.

Specter: What are the standard regulations and practices, if any, governing such an action on your part?

Hill: It is left to the agent’s discretion more or less to move to that particular position when he feels that there is a danger to the President: to place himself as close to the President or the First Lady as my case was, as possible, which I did.

Specter: Are those practices specified in any written documents of the Secret Service?

Hill: No, they are not.

Specter: Now, had there been any instruction or comment about your performance of that type of a duty with respect to anything President Kennedy himself had said in the period immediately preceding the trip to Texas?

Hill: Yes, sir; there was. The preceding Monday, the President was on a trip to Tampa, Florida, and he requested that the agents not ride on either of those two steps.

Specter: And to whom did the President make that request?

Hill: Assistant Special Agent in Charge Boring.

Specter: Was Assistant Special Agent in Charge Boring the individual in charge of that trip to Florida?

Hill: He was riding in the Presidential automobile on that trip in Florida, and I presume that he was. I was not along.

Specter: Well, on that occasion would he have been in a position comparable to that occupied by Special Agent Kellerman on this trip to Texas?

Hill: Yes sir; the same position.

Specter: And Special Agent Boring informed you of that instruction by President Kennedy?

Hill: Yes sir, he did.

Specter: Did he make it a point to inform other special agents of that same instruction?

Hill: I believe that he did, sir.

Specter: And, as a result of what President Kennedy said to him, did he instruct you to observe that Presidential admonition?

Hill: Yes, sir.

Specter: How, if at all, did that instruction of President Kennedy affect your action and—your action in safeguarding him on this trip to Dallas?

Hill: We did not ride on the rear portions of the automobile. I did on those four occasions because the motorcycles had to drop back and there was no protection on the left-hand side of the car. (Emphasis added throughout)

However, keeping in mind what Boring told this reviewer, the ARRB’s Doug Horne—by request of this author—interviewed Mr. Boring regarding this matter on 9/18/96. Horne wrote: “Mr. Boring was asked to read pages 136–137 of Clint Hill’s Warren Commission testimony, in which Clint Hill recounted that Floyd Boring had told him just days prior to the assassination that during the President’s Tampa trip on Monday, November 18, 1963, JFK had requested that agents not ride on the rear steps of the limousine, and that Boring had also so informed other agents of the White House detail, and that as a result, agents in Dallas (except Clint Hill, on brief occasions) did not ride on the rear steps of the limousine. Mr. Boring affirmed that he did make these statements to Clint Hill, but stated that he was not relaying a policy change, but rather simply telling an anecdote about the President’s kindness and consideration in Tampa in not wanting agents to have to ride on the rear of the Lincoln limousine when it was not necessary to do so because of a lack of crowds along the street.” (emphasis added)


Hill on limo
SS Agent Clint Hill rides on the rear of the Presidential
limousine during the Dallas motorcade, 11/22/1963.


This reviewer finds this admission startling, especially because the one agent who decided to ride on the rear of the limousine in Dallas anyway—and on at least four different occasions—was none other than Clint Hill himself.

Returning to Hill’s book, Hill writes on pages 276-277: “What was most useful, from the Secret Service standpoint, were the special handles on the trunk and the steps on the rear bumper area where two additional agents could ride, and have immediate access to the occupants, should the need arise.” Then, in an awkward sentence, Hill continues: “But, as I’d been told the day before, the president did not want us there, on the back of the car.” Lisa McCubbin was also the co-author of Gerald Blaine’s The Kennedy Detail : boy, does this stuff sound familiar---the mantra of JFK-is-to-blame.

V. Other items of interest

After noting that President Kennedy trusted Kellerman “completely” (page 274) and wrongly noting that the SS-100-X was in service since March 1961 (page 276; it was actually in service since June 1961, 3 months later), Hill totally gleans over the infamous drinking incident of 11/21-11/22/63 involving NINE agents of the Secret Service, including Clint Hill himself, Paul Landis, Glen Bennett, and Jack Ready! Interestingly, they were all from Shift Leader Emory Roberts’ particular shift. Significantly, none of the agents from the V.P. LBJ detail were involved in the drinking incident.[7]

Regarding the issue of the bubbletop, although Hill states (on page 284) that agent Lawson conveyed to Sam Kinney, the driver of the follow-up car, that the bubbletop was to be removed in Dallas, Sam told this reviewer on 10/19/92 and, again, on 3/4/94 and 4/15/94: “It was my fault the top was off [the limousine in Dallas]—I am the sole responsibility of that.”[8] In addition, Kinney’s oft-ignored report dated November 30, 1963 confirms this fact[9], as does the former agent’s recently-released February 26, 1978 HSCA interview:

“... SA Kinney indicated that he felt that his was the responsibility for making the final decision about whether to use the bubble-top.”[10]

Hill, in his zeal to show how “normal” it was for JFK not to use the bubbletop, makes an error, as well as many omissions- he writes:

“It was the same whether he was in Berlin, Dublin [wrong-JFK used the top on part of this trip, in bad AND good weather!], Honolulu, Tampa, San Antonio, or San Jose, Costa Rica.”

What Hill omits are the many times JFK used a PARTIAL top (just the front and back with the middle open) OR the FULL top (New York Spring 1963, several motorcades in D.C., Venezuela, and many other trips). [11]

On page 286, Hill states that Bill Greer, the driver of JFK’s car, was “a Catholic”, yet his own son Richard told me on two occasions that his father was a Methodist. (When asked, “What did your father think of JFK?”, Richard did not respond the first time. When this author asked him a second time, Greer responded: “Well, we’re Methodists … and JFK was Catholic.”)![12] In addition, Hill states that Greer “spoke with a bit of a brogue”, something not in evidence on his lengthy 1970 interview available on my You Tube Channel.[13]

VI. VERY interesting

On page 287, Hill describes the makeup of the follow-up car and writes: “Glen Bennett from the Protective Research Section, handling intelligence (emphasis added).” Oh, really? Thanks for the confirmation, Clint. Officially-speaking, he was NOT acting as an active PRS agent that day…well, at least according to your own colleagues who spoke to me.[14] For his part, former WHD agent J. Walter Coughlin, who assisted fellow agent Dennis R. Halterman on the advance for the San Antonio part of the Texas trip (November 21, 1963), wrote the author: “I can only add the following—I was not in Dallas so my knowledge is hearsay from good friends who were there." Glen Bennett was on all these trips [second New York, Florida, and Texas] not as a member of PRS but as a temporary shift agent in that so many of us (shift agents) were out on advance. "This I do know to be a fact and read nothing more into it.”

Furthermore, the author must have touched a nerve in Coughlin. Winston Lawson wrote the author:

I understand from my friend Walt Coughlin that you wondered why Glen Bennett from PRS was on the trip [note: the author did not tell Coughlin, who lives in Texas, about the author’s contact with Lawson, who lives in Virginia, regarding this or any other question]. Nothing sinister about it and had nothing to do with threats or intelligence. There were so many trips, MD and FL, just prior to TX and so many stops in TX that the small WH Detail was decimated supplying advance people. A number of temporarily assigned agents were on all 3 shifts in TX … I believe Walt had been on an advance before he went to his stop in TX.”

Clearly, we have a conflict: the written record, my research, and Clint Hill’s account versus Walt Coughlin’s and Win Lawson’s statements to myself.

Was PRS Agent Glen Bennett monitoring mortal threats to JFK’s life, made in the month of November, and was this covered up afterwards? Is this the reason for the conflicting accounts—and the timing—of Bennett’s participation in the second New York trip, the Florida trip, and the Texas trip?

Did Bennett ride in the follow-up car and participate on these trips for this purpose? I strongly believe this to be the case. Thanks again, Clint, for the confirmation.

VII. And another thing (or two)

On pages 288-289, Hill mentions that JFK looked back at him on two different occasions during the fateful Dallas motorcade--when Hill briefly rode on the rear of the car on Main St, as depicted in the photo on page 289-- yet did not say anything. JFK not saying anything speaks volumes, in and of itself. Mainly, that he did not care, one way or the other, if the agents were there doing their duty or not. But what is most troubling is the fact that no films or photos this author has ever seen reveal JFK allegedly turning to look at Hill in the first place! Hmmm…

Just to reiterate the point of SAIC Behn’s absence from the Texas trip and its importance further, Hill writes (on page 297): “Jerry Behn…was with the president all the time, just like I was with Mrs. Kennedy. They had a great relationship. The president loved him, trusted him…Jerry decided to take a week off…His first annual leave in three years.” Kind of convenient.

VIII. Another mantra: the back of the head

On pages 290, 291, 305, and 306, Clint Hill states firmly, as he has many times in the past[15], that the BACK of JFK’s head was gone, thus indicating that President Kennedy was shot from the front, as entrance wounds leave small holes, while exit wounds leave large holes. Page 290: “…blood, brain matter, and bone fragments exploded from the back of the president’s head. The president’s blood, parts of his skull, bits of his brain were splattered all over me---on my face, my clothes, in my hair.” Page 291: “His eyes were fixed, and I could see inside the back of his head. I could see inside the back of the president’s head.” Page 305: (at the autopsy) “the wound in the upper-right rear of the head.” Page 306: “It looked like somebody had flipped open the back of his head, stuck in an ice-cream scoop and removed a portion of the brain…”

IX. In the final analysis

Unlike The Kennedy Detail, Clint Hill has written (again, with Lisa McCubbin) a fine book. That said, it is best to take some of his pre-assassination “reenactments” of statements made by others (“faction”?) with a huge grain of salt, while also noting—with interest---those assassination and post-assassination revelations and statements that do ring true and are of interest to all.


It was recently announced that the first book Clint Hill was involved with, Lisa McCubbin’s and Gerald Blaine’s The Kennedy Detail, will be made into a movie, set for release in 2013, the 50th anniversary of the assassination.[16] The movie should be about Abe Bolden.  That is a great story and a truthful one. That said, Mark Lane’s movie, that will include former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden, is set to be released soon.[17] That should even out the playing field a little more. Lane’s movie with Bolden will hopefully fill in the blanks left by the Secret Service destruction of records.

According to Ch. 8 of the ARRB’s Final Report (1998):

Congress passed the JFK Act of 1992. One month later, the Secret Service began its compliance efforts. However, in January 1995, the Secret Service destroyed presidential protection survey reports for some of President Kennedy’s trips in the fall of 1963. The Review Board learned of the destruction approximately one week after the Secret Service destroyed them, when the Board was drafting its request for additional information. The Board believed that the Secret Service files on the President’s travel in the weeks preceding his murder would be relevant.

As the ARRB’s Doug Horne wrote in a memo dated April 16, 1996: “The ‘final decision’ to approve the Texas trip made ‘late Tuesday night’ indicates that decision came on September 24, 1963 … the Secret Service Protective Survey Reports … which were destroyed in 1995 commence with trip files starting on this same date: September 24, 1963.”

In addition, the ARRB’s Joan Zimmerman noted in a May 1, 1997 Memorandum To File:

“Thus far, the US Secret Service collection is in 6 gray archive boxes for documents, 7 large, flat gray boxes with newspapers and clippings, and 1 small box with a tape cassette … In Box 5 there are three folders marked “trip file”. All are empty.” The chairman of the ARRB, Judge Jack Tunheim, stated: “The Secret Service destroyed records after we were on the job and working. They claimed it was a mistake that it was just by the normal progression of records destruction.”[18]

More important are the Florida/Chicago Secret Service Advance reports that the Secret Service intentionally destroyed after being asked for them by the ARRB, and that, according to The Kennedy Detail, Gerald Blaine has copies of and preserved.[19] The largest number of known destroyed JFK documents for the U.S. Secret Service was implemented by James Mastrovito, publicly recorded in the ARRB Collection, Joan Zimmerman Correspondence File, Created 04/01/97 CALL REPORT/PUBLIC. USSS Records.

Mastrovito destroyed a vial containing a portion of JFK's brain, along with 5 or 6 file cabinets of material, according to the two page document.[20]



[2] 6 H 163. As the author presented at the COPA ’96 and JFK Lancer ’97 conferences, the press photographers frequently rode in a flatbed truck in front of the motorcade pro-cession [films courtesy JFK Library; see also John F. Kennedy: A Life in Pictures, pp. 178–180, 183, 231]. Photographer Tony Zappone confirmed to the author on December 18, 2003 that a flatbed truck was used for the photographers in Tampa, Florida, on November 18, 1963.

[3] See my review of “The Kennedy Detail”

[4] Ibid; Kellerman was conveniently absent from Blaine’s alleged 11/25/63 meeting

[6] 2 H 136-137

[9] 18 H 730

[10] RIF#180–10078–10493

[11] See the images on my blog and on my You Tube channel videos. See also

[15] Hill’s November 30, 1963 report: 18 H 740–5. WC testimony: 2 H 141, 143 (See also the 2004 National Geographic documentary, Inside the U.S. Secret Service). See also “The Kennedy Detail”, pages 216-217, 266+ media appearances

[18] CBS News, December 13, 1999.

[19] E-mail from researcher Bill Kelly 4/18/12

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 22:03
Vince Palamara

Vince Palamara is without a doubt the leading expert on the Secret Service.  His 20 years spent reviewing documents and interviewing agents assigned to the Kennedy detail culminated in his book, Survivor's Guilt.  He has made numerous media appearances, and his original research materials are now stored at NARA.  Vince has also written JFK: From Parkland to Bethesda, a compendium of the medical testimony. He is currently finishing a third book presenting a wider ranging look at the Secret Service under several administrations. Read more here.

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