The Kennedy Detail
JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence
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THE SECRET SERVICE. An elite team of men who share a single mission: to protect the president of the United States. On November 22, 1963, these men failed—and a country would never be the same. Now, for the first time, a member of JFK’s Secret Service detail reveals the inside story of the assassination, the weeks and days that led to it and its heartrending aftermath. This extraordinary book is a moving, intimate portrait of dedication, courage, and loss.
Drawing on the memories of his fellow agents, Jerry Blaine captures the energetic, crowd-loving young president, who banned agents from his car and often plunged into raucous crowds with little warning. He describes the careful planning that went into JFK’s Texas swing, the worries and concerns that agents, working long hours with little food or rest, had during the trip. And he describes the intensely private first lady making her first-ever political appearance with her husband, just months after losing a newborn baby.
Here are vivid scenes that could come only from inside the Kennedy detail: JFK’s last words to his tearful son when he left Washington for the last time; how a sudden change of weather led to the choice of the open-air convertible limousine that day; Mrs. Kennedy standing blood-soaked outside a Dallas hospital room; the sudden interruption of six-year-old Caroline’s long-anticipated sleepover with a friend at home; the exhausted team of agents immediately reacting to the president’s death with a shift to LBJ and other key governmental figures; the agents’ dismay at Jackie’s decision to walk openly from the White House to St. Matthew’s Cathedral at the state funeral.
Most of all, this is a look into the lives of men who devoted their entire beings to protecting the presidential family: the stress of the secrecy they kept, the emotional bonds that developed, the terrible impact on agents’ psyches and families, and their astonishment at the country’s obsession with far-fetched conspiracy theories and finger-pointing. A book fifty years in coming, The Kennedy Detail is a portrait of incredible camaraderie and incredible heartbreak—a true, must-read story of heroism in its most complex and human form.
A medic burst out of the trauma room, and instinctively Clint Hill took a step toward Mrs. Kennedy. “He’s still breathing,” the man said as he rushed past. Mrs. Kennedy stood up. “Do you mean he may live?” she asked.
No one answered.
Kellerman handed the phone back to Hill and rushed back into the trauma room.
“Clint, what happened?” Jerry Behn asked earnestly.
“Shots fired during the motorcade,” Clint said as he kept an eye on Mrs. Kennedy across the hall. “It all happened so fast. We were five minutes away from the Trade Mart. . . . The situation is critical. Jerry, prepare for the worst. . . .”
The operator cut into the line, “Attorney General Robert Kennedy wants to talk to Agent Hill.”
“What’s going on down there?!” Bobby Kennedy demanded.
“Shots fired during the motorcade,” Clint repeated. “The president is very seriously injured. They’re working on him now. Governor Connally was hit too.”
“Well, what do you mean, seriously injured? How serious?”
Clint swallowed hard. It was all he could do to keep it together. “It’s as bad as it can get.”
—From The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence
I found this to be a fascinating first hand account of the lives of the Secret Service detail and the Kennedy family. This is intimate account of their service and the tragedy of Dallas. One is immediately impressed with the type of person that is called to this type of duty and the daily sacrifice of their wives and children.
I was surprised how sensitive and thoughtful the President and the First Lady were to the agents. Reading about the guilt and anguish of the detail was quite revealing and tragic. Clint Hill comes across as an extraordinary officer who blame himself for something he had absolutely no control over. You finish the book feeling that we as a country have not honored the service of these men nearly enough. May this book help heal the wounds of that tragic day.
As a young adult I lived through the Kennedy assassination and its enduring aftermath including the crazy conspiracy theories. Blaine's book took me back to that time that I remember vividly.
If you are looking for conspiracies or insider information on the personal scandals of the president, this book is not for you. It is not there. However, if you want a deep look into the character of the Secret Service and the super-human demands put on them and the relationships with the president and Jacqueline, this book is a wonderful read. The Kennedy's were kind, respectful and appreciative of their family's protectors--not true of many other presidents. The feelings were mutual by the team that accepted they could give their lives protecting the first family.
Kennedy's death had a deep and profound effect on The White House detail that lasted all of their lives. In spite of the uncontrollable circumstances they blamed themselves for loosing the president and for years honorably kept the secret that Kennedy had ordered the agents to stay off the back of the limousine.
Well written. Very insightful. Very factual. And, very heart-wrenching.
The author and his partners do a fine job of putting you in their shoes on November 22, 1963 and especially in helping you understand the true chaos of events that day. Getting to that day can be a little tedious, but the bits of procedural detail help make the story come alive.
I don't doubt the authors intentions or valiant service to our country, but there is a slight tinge of 'defensiveness' to the narrative, perhaps created by the 3rd person form which removes the reader from the mind of the writer.
The Secret Service agents clearly did their job and we're in no way responsible for the assassination, and this book is a fitting closure to any indictment against them.