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The Advance

A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today—and in fact we have forgotten.

—JOHN F. KENNEDY

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 1963

At his home in Arlington, Virginia, Kennedy Detail Agent Winston G. “Win” Lawson rose early, packed his suitcase, and ate a quick breakfast. He’d organized his briefcase last night, but he checked it again to ensure he had everything he needed for the advance in Dallas. He sorted through the maps and press corps identification tags, and made sure he had an adequate supply of the multicolored lapel pins that would immediately identify authorized people to the Kennedy Detail agents.

Eve Dempsher had typed out a list of contacts in Dallas, and he’d mimeographed it. He stuck one copy in the briefcase and the other in his suitcase.

The last item in the briefcase was the White House Advance Manual. The manual was basically the bible for the Kennedy Detail advance agents. It provided detailed information on protocol, spotting and securing the presidential plane during a visit, checklists, emergency medical plans, media provisions, setting up arrivals and departures, motorcycle and motorcade configurations, securing venues, banquet measures, and preliminary and final advance report outlines. Every agent was issued a numbered manual after they’d assisted on an advance. The manual had been newly updated and even though Win knew every aspect by memory—he’d done countless advances in his two and a half years on the detail—he always carried it for reference.

Win and his wife, Barbara, had a five-year-old son named Jeff, and they’d just adopted a five-month-old baby girl named Andrea a month earlier. With the two kids in the backseat, Barbara drove Win to the White House and dropped him off at the Southwest Gate. Before he got out of the car, he gave Barbara a hug, a comforting smile, and a kiss.

“I’ll give you a call when I arrive,” he said.

“Okay. Good luck. I’ll miss you,” Barbara said. She wasn’t looking forward to him being gone, but she knew this trip was going to be just as hard on him. He’d really bonded with their new daughter and had been helpful with the feedings and diaper changes since they’d brought her home.

Win opened the back door, leaned in, kissed the baby on the forehead, and reached over to give Jeff a squeeze.

“Be good for your mommy while I’m gone, sport,” he said.

“I will, Daddy,” Jeff said as he opened his eyes wide. “I’m a big help with the baby.”

Win laughed. “That you are, son. I’ll be back soon.”

The day before, Win Lawson had checked PRS for threat suspects in Texas, specifically in the Dallas area, and had been pleasantly surprised to find that there weren’t any. Still, things could have changed overnight, so he made sure he had time to stop in one more time before his flight.

Because there were so many Kennedy Detail agents and political advance men heading to Texas for advances at the same time, Eve Dempsher had arranged an Air Force charter flight for all the advance teams. The plane would drop off Win Lawson in Dallas, Bill Duncan and Ned Hall in Fort Worth, Dennis Halterman in San Antonio, Bill Payne and Bob Burke in Austin, and finally, Ron Pontius in Houston.

The White House staff had assigned Jack Puterbaugh as the political advance man for President Kennedy’s trip, and on the flight to Dallas, Puterbaugh entertained Win with some background on Texas politics. The noise of the prop plane limited conversation but Jack spoke loudly enough to make sure he was heard.

“Texas politics is similar to working with nitroglycerin,” Jack explained to Win. “They’re all Democrats, but they range from extreme liberal to extreme right wing. When you shake them up they become volatile. The current split is so traumatic that many Democrats are threatening to switch to the Republican Party.”

Win had seen the political shift all through the South, but it was strange hearing it from a Democratic political advance man.

“Governor Connally is the leader of the conservative wing of Democrats and Senator Ralph Yarborough heads up the liberals and there is constant bickering. I’m probably going to get involved in some fence mending since Lyndon is going to be in Dallas and there’s no love lost between him and Yarborough. Yarborough feels the liberals were responsible for JFK winning Texas in the last election, and he wants to control the program in Dallas, but I know Connally won’t allow that. Should be interesting.”

Win was happy that Puterbaugh was going to be in Dallas to handle the squabbles. His job would be hard enough without having to charm warring politicians.

Jerry Blaine awoke to the bright early morning sun streaming through the hotel window. After an invigorating shower, he dressed quickly. As he looked in the mirror to make sure his tie was straight, he realized the feeling of unease that had crept over him last night had completely disappeared. Sure, the three-stop, twenty-eight-mile motorcade was probably going to go down on record as the longest ever for President Kennedy, but Blaine realized he was excited to take on the challenge.

The key to effective protection during the president’s visit depended almost entirely on how Blaine handled today’s meeting with Chief Mullins and his staff. The Secret Service wasn’t equipped to handle security for the huge crowds a presidential visit inevitably attracted; they needed the cooperation of the local police force. The local taxpayers paid the budgets of the police, fire, medical, and public services, and the president’s visit would be an imposition on resources. Blaine couldn’t demand support; he had to humbly request it. Having the right attitude from the beginning was essential to getting the resources he needed and would impact any future visit the president might pay to the city.

A big part of being a good White House Detail agent was the ability to motivate. You had to be able to establish immediate rapport with local law enforcement, public works officials, venue sponsors, and elected city and congressional representatives. The support of the local police was essential. They knew their jurisdiction inside and out. In one meeting with the chief of police you could find out where there were high areas of crime, what ethnic conflicts existed, and whether there were underlying issues that could present a potential danger. Local law enforcement understood chokepoints, knew which areas might present a problem of ambush, and knew the options if the Secret Service suddenly had to evacuate the president from any given point.

After a quick breakfast in which Yeager introduced Blaine to grits—a Southern staple that Blaine had never ventured into—the agents headed to the Tampa Police Department headquarters.

Chief J. P. Mullins had a reputation as an effective administrator and was well respected by his staff. He spoke softly but with an air of authority that you could tell came from years of duty on the streets. When Agents Blaine and Yeager walked into his office, he greeted them warmly.

After brief pleasantries, and a bit of banter about the best toppings for grits, Chief Mullins escorted Blaine and Yeager into the conference room, where three officers were seated around the table. The men stood up as the chief entered, and he introduced them as his three captains who would be coordinating the various aspects of security.

Blaine got down to business, but he was careful to keep his tone relaxed.

“We understand that while President Kennedy’s visit to Tampa is an exciting event for your city, it will also be rather disruptive. We really appreciate any assistance you can provide.”

“By all means,” Mullins said. “Just let us know what you need.”

Blaine began with a brief rundown of the president’s scheduled agenda and led gently into the motorcade, which would require a huge amount of resources in terms of planning hours, road blockages, and manpower.

“Let me spend a few minutes talking about the motorcade setup,” Blaine said. “There will be a lead car, which, if you’re open to it, Chief Mullins, is typically driven by the chief of police.”

Blaine looked at Mullins to gauge his reaction.

“Why, certainly,” Mullins said as he tried to contain a smile. Blaine hadn’t had a chief yet who’d declined the offer to lead a presidential motorcade through his city. It was an honor for the chief, of course, but what was most important to the Secret Service was that the driver directly in front of the president’s car knew the city inside and out. If there were an emergency that required a sudden evacuation, the chief would be able to navigate the roads ahead of the president’s driver and get him quickly to a safe location.

“Does the president use an armored car?” Mullins asked.

It was a common misconception that the president’s limousine was bulletproof. In fact, the car had been designed mostly for political show and exposure. The Secret Service working agents had very little input into the car’s features.

Designated “SS100X,” the 1961 midnight blue Lincoln Continental was modified by the Ford Motor Company and Hess & Eisenhardt, a custom automobile company. The stock four-door convertible was lengthened three and a half feet and had various configurations of removable tops. There was a hard top, a canvas roof panel, and a transparent plastic bubble top, all of which were stackable and could be stored in the trunk. None of the tops was bulletproof.

The car originally came with a privacy window between the driver and the rear of the limousine, but when the bubble top was installed, the air-conditioning couldn’t cool the backseat, which made it very uncomfortable. So the privacy window was removed and a metal roll bar was installed. Both the privacy window and the bar created a barrier between the Special Agent in Charge who sat in the front passenger seat and the president, making it impossible for the agent to react quickly if there were an emergency.

Attached to the back of the driver’s bench were two auxiliary jump seats, used primarily to reward political friends who could ride with the president during motorcades. Handgrips were cut out of the stainless steel roll bar so the president could stand and wave at the crowd while the car was moving. Alternatively, he had a hydraulic seat that allowed him to raise himself an additional ten inches, to be seen better by the crowd. And God forbid the president ever traveled in an open-top car at night: interior floodlights would illuminate him to the crowd. None of these political exposure features had the stamp of approval of the Secret Service.

In an attempt to add security features, two platform steps and hand bars were installed on the back of the car, which gave the agents ready access to the president, and so they could shield his back. Often the agents would be holding on with one hand and pushing away overzealous crowds with the other. There were also two retractable steps on both sides of the limousine, but neither Kennedy nor the Secret Service found them useful, since when they were extended they could injure the agents as they were running alongside and fending off the crowd. The whole point of the car was for political benefit—not protection, as most people might have imagined.

SS100X cost the Ford Motor Company two hundred thousand dollars to build, but the Secret Service didn’t have that kind of money in the budget. So Ford leased the car to the Secret Service for five hundred dollars a year. The Secret Service couldn’t afford to look a gift horse in the mouth.

“No,” Blaine answered simply. “The car is not armored.”

He went on to mention that not only would this be the longest motorcade ever traveled by President Kennedy; it would also be a record number of stops in one city. As Blaine looked around the room, he could almost see the chief and his staff puff up with pride.

“Agent Yeager and I drove to each of the venues last night, but you guys know this city far better than we do, so we could really use your help in determining the safest and most effective motorcade route.”

“No problem,” Mullins said. “We have a lot of experience handling parades. And between the police department and the sheriff’s office, we have about twenty bikes that can be used as escorts.”

Blaine bristled internally at the mention of the word parade. That was exactly what he didn’t want this to be. And the idea of twenty motorcycle escorts brought back a sudden flood of memories. While every police department operated somewhat differently, Blaine had seen one common thread through police departments all over the world: their motorcycle escorts were a tremendous source of pride. There was no better opportunity to bring them out in full force than when their city was being visited by a popular American president. But Blaine had seen over and over again how well-meaning police motorcyclists had inadvertently put the president’s life in danger.

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Agent Jerry Blaine and a German security agent ride on the back steps of SS100X in Berlin as the White Mice motorcycle team escorts the motorcade. (PHOTOGRAPH BY CECIL STOUGHTON, WHITE HOUSE, JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON)

Just six months earlier, Blaine had accompanied President Kennedy on a highly publicized tour of Europe that included stops in Ireland, Germany, and Italy. Two of the craziest and most dangerous motorcades occurred in Italy.

Overseas trips brought many challenges to the Secret Service, in large part because every country’s law enforcement agencies felt as if they could adequately protect the American president on their own. This required a lot of trade-off and compromise on the part of the advance agents. Art Godfrey—the agent who had learned to master the challenges with Sandy Garelick in New York City—had been given the advance assignment in Italy since he had fought there in World War II, and thus had some idea of the Italian mind-set. Of course, the last time he’d been on Italian soil his mission was to kill as many Italian soldiers as possible, but still the hope was that he could get further with negotiations than someone who’d never been to the country before. To Godfrey’s amazement the Italians agreed to nearly everything he proposed. They’d negotiated to have the two presidents ride in Kennedy’s limousine for the Rome motorcade, and in President Antonio Segni’s car in Naples. The Italians demanded that their security personnel be used throughout the visit—including a large motorcycle escort—so Godfrey consented, only under the condition that Kennedy’s Secret Service detail drove directly behind the presidential limousine with no impediments.

Air Force One landed in Rome and there was much pomp and circumstance for President Kennedy’s arrival. Honorary guards in silver helmets and plumes were in formation, and it seemed as if every man, woman, and child in the city had taken the day off to line the motorcade route from the airport to the Italian president’s residence. President Kennedy’s SS100X limousine had been shipped directly from Berlin and was lined up in the motorcade with the rest of the vehicles, as Art Godfrey had agreed. Presidents Kennedy and Segni climbed into the backseat of the limousine while SAIC Jerry Behn was crammed in the front seat between driver Bill Greer and Segni’s head of security.

Driver agent Hank Rybka drove the follow-up car, with Chief Rowley in the front passenger seat. Agent Roy Kellerman sat in the jump seats with JFK’s political aides Ken O’Donnell and Dave Powers. Agents Win Lawson and Paul Burns were posted on the running boards, while Agents Dave Grant and Jerry Blaine were alongside the presidential car. Grant and Blaine would jog next to the car unless the motorcade sped up to the point that they couldn’t keep up; then they’d fall back onto the running boards of the follow-up car.

Immediately after the procession began, an Italian security car pulled in front of the Kennedy Detail follow-up car and stopped. Twenty-six motorcycles ridden by Italian police seemed to come out of nowhere from both sides of the parade route. The motorcycles surrounded the presidents’ car, forcing Grant and Blaine to fall back to the follow-up car, which was now boxed in by two other Italian security cars.

Sitting in the lead car, ahead of the presidential limousine, Art Godfrey realized he had been double-crossed.

The Italian security car driver acted as if his car had stalled, but clearly it was a prearranged maneuver to allow the motorcycle squad prominent placement, thus thwarting the previously negotiated motorcade lineup.

Blaine had never heard Jim Rowley swear before, but a loud litany of profanities poured out of the usually unflappable chief’s mouth. Rowley’s face had turned beet red. He was furious. Finally Hank Rybka put the car in reverse, veered around the stalled Italian security car, and sped up to join the motorcade. But he couldn’t get between the presidential limousine and the throng of motorcycles.

When the procession arrived at Segni’s residence, Art Godfrey confronted the Italian head of security. He wasn’t about to let the Italians think their stunt had gone unnoticed. If Godfrey had had his M1 with him, the guy would have been running for the hills.

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President Kennedy swarmed by fans in Rome. Left to right: SA Bill Payne, SA Win Lawson, JFK, SA Jerry Blaine. (PHOTOGRAPH BY CECIL STOUGHTON, WHITE HOUSE, JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON)

Two days later, there was another motorcade through Naples, where the president would be leaving Italy. The crowds in Naples were estimated to be over a million strong.

Before the motorcade started, Chief Rowley huddled with Grant and Blaine.

“By God, if those bastards pull that stunt again, I want you two to jump on the trunk of the presidents’ car and ride there. Do not let the crowd overrun the car.”

As President Kennedy and President Segni walked toward the latter’s parade limousine, which Godfrey had consented to use on the trip through Naples, Chief Rowley was on the verge of exploding. Once again twenty-six motorcycles were poised to take their positions in the motorcade. Rowley had no objection to the fifteen motorcycles lined up in a spearhead formation directly behind the lead car, but off to the side, eleven more motorcycles were primed to move into the motorcade as soon as it got moving. The Italian follow-up car and the Secret Service follow-up car were parked directly behind the presidential limousine, but sure enough there was another Italian security car just like the one that had stalled out in Rome, waiting in the wings. Rowley had no doubt the eleven motorcycles had instructions to fall in between the presidential limousine and the follow-up cars.

“Grant, you and Blaine hit the trunk and stay there!” Chief Rowley shouted over the roar of the motorcycles.

Already headed that way, Dave Grant and Jerry Blaine received darting glances from the Italian motorcycle riders as they leapt aboard the trunk of the departing presidential limousine.

President Kennedy turned around and smiled with a wink to Grant and Blaine as the motorcade set out for Naples and the airport.

On the highway the coordinated motorcade was an impressive sight. The motorcycles were doing a good job of crowd control, and Grant and Blaine were feeling a little foolish sitting on the trunk.

President Segni had given Grant and Blaine some questionable looks throughout the procession, but finally he leaned over to President Kennedy and said, “Shall we tell them to get off the back of the car?”

President Kennedy said simply, “No, I want them there.”

When the motorcade hit the narrow streets of Naples, the size of the crowds multiplied. People were jammed alongside the streets, leaving little room for the procession to pass. Within the first few blocks of the downtown area, motorcycles started falling over as the crowd surged forward. The bikes forced the follow-up cars to come to a sudden stop and, as if on cue, the people swarmed around the presidential car, fervent to shake President Kennedy’s hand.

Grant and Blaine were scanning the crowd for weapons, but when the people started pressing on the car, they had to focus their attention on pushing the screaming fans away from the president. There were no handrails like they had on President Kennedy’s limousine, and they found themselves throwing people off the car while trying to stay aboard the rounded trunk. People were weaving in between the motorcycles and one by one the riders became engulfed by the crowd. At one point Blaine felt his sleeve rip and his watch fall to the ground as he shoved people away. The agents felt as if they were fighting for their own lives.

By the time the presidential car arrived at the airport, just one motorcycle officer was still aboard his bike. The others had been overtaken by the swarming crowd. Grant and Blaine looked as if they’d been in a massive brawl, with their ripped clothes and bruised arms.

When Rowley and the follow-up car finally caught up, Rowley looked over to Grant and Blaine and with a huge grin on his face, gave them two thumbs-up.

Meanwhile, Godfrey was fuming. He couldn’t wait to get out of the country. He turned to Rowley and said, “The Italians haven’t changed since the last time I was here. The only difference is, now we can’t shoot at ’em.”

The Naples memory was still fresh in Jerry Blaine’s mind as he directed his attention back to Chief Mullins and the Tampa officers.

“We appreciate that you have a number of good bike riders,” Blaine said, “but with a motorcade this long, we’re going to need them for intersection control. The Secret Service relies on the agents to respond to a person rushing the president’s car. What we’ve seen happen so many times is that if the motorcycle misses the opportunity to force back an individual charging toward the car, the officer has to dump his bike and respond. That of course is a hazard for the motorcade and precious time is lost as well. We don’t mind a spearhead formation or outriders, but we have a standard placement of motorcycles so they don’t interfere with the path from the follow-up car to the limousine.”

Blaine looked from one officer to the next, hoping he hadn’t offended them. Fortunately, they were all nodding in understanding.

Blaine continued: “We can cover all that in our next meeting. For now, what I’d really like help with is the motorcade route.”

Chief Mullins didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely. Why don’t you and Mr. Yeager take a drive with Captain Bowen, who’s going to be coordinating everything you need for the route in terms of manpower and traffic diversions.”

“Sounds great,” Blaine said. “You’ve been a big help. Just one more thing . . . Would it be possible for you to set up a meeting on Thursday so I can brief all the agencies who will be assisting?”

“Consider it done,” Mullins said.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 1963

After checking into the Sheraton Dallas hotel the night before, Win Lawson had taken a walk around the downtown area. There had been some disturbing incidents in Dallas recently, and Lawson wanted to get a feel for the city’s attitude. Just three weeks earlier, United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson was heckled as he gave a speech at the Adolphus Hotel on UN Day, and then was assaulted and spat on as he walked from the Dallas Memorial Auditorium to his waiting limousine. Tensions had been running high throughout the Southern states, as the divide between liberals and conservatives seemed to be growing wider all the time, mainly due to civil rights. President Kennedy had won 70 percent of the black vote in 1960, but by the summer of 1963, the lack of a civil rights bill had black leaders frustrated, and demonstrations were turning violent. At the end of August, more than two hundred thousand people—80 percent of whom were African-Americans—had marched on Washington, and when JFK met with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the White House, he promised to push Congress for a bill before the end of the year. But he knew as well as anybody that unless he gathered support, a civil rights bill could mean political suicide. He had to bolster support in key Southern states, and the two with the largest number of electoral votes were Florida and Texas.

In Dallas, it seemed to Win Lawson that the city had slowly but quietly been integrating blacks and whites. Schools and public places were mostly integrated, and even the upscale Neiman Marcus department store had hired a black hair stylist. But Forrest Sorrels, the Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office, had briefed him on some underlying issues that could potentially wreak havoc with the president’s visit.

ATSAIC Art Godfrey had approved the switch between Jerry Blaine and Dave Grant so that now Grant would be assisting Win Lawson on the advance.

But, because the agents were spread so thin, Lawson would be handling the Dallas advance on his own until Dave Grant arrived on the nineteenth to give him some last-minute help. With the president scheduled to arrive on Friday, November 22, Lawson knew he’d have to have the advance plans well in place before Grant arrived.

Usually one of the first items to get settled was the motorcade route, but there was still a major piece of the president’s visit to Dallas that was yet to be determined. After Air Force One landed at Love Field there would be a motorcade through downtown Dallas, ending up at a luncheon for 2,600 people, where President Kennedy would be the honored guest and speaker. What hadn’t been decided yet was where the luncheon would be held. Behn wanted Lawson to check out both options and report back.

The first stop of the advance was to the Dallas Secret Service office. Win Lawson and Jack Puterbaugh had set up a meeting with SAIC Sorrels. Sorrels was Texan through and through. He had been in the Secret Service since the 1930s and knew every person of importance in Dallas.

“Good morning, Forrest,” Win Lawson said with a genuine smile. He reached out to shake hands with Sorrels, who was wearing a western hat that mostly covered his thinning gray hair. “How have you been?”

Sorrels answered in his soft, steady Texas twang. “Well, you know how it is, Win, out here in the field. They keep giving us more and more cases to handle with the same amount of staff, so we’re at the point where every agent is investigating about a hundred and fifty cases at a time.”

“Yeah, I’d heard you guys were really strapped,” Lawson replied. “I know Chief Rowley has been trying to get Congress to approve a budget increase, but it’s politics as usual in Washington. You’d think when it came to protecting the president, they’d open up their purse strings a little.”

Sorrels laughed. “Damn politicians. While they’re bickering, we just keep doin’ what we’re doin’.”

Jack Puterbaugh and Win Lawson briefed Sorrels and another agent on the tentative schedule.

“Well, obviously the first thing we need to do is get a decision on where they’re going to have lunch,” Sorrels said. “You’ve got the Women’s Building at the fairgrounds and the Trade Mart, which is just off Stemmons Freeway, not far from here. I’ve got us appointments with some folks from the local host committee and they’re gonna take us through both facilities today. There are drawbacks to both places, but I’ll let you see for yourself.”

Lawson was pleased that Sorrels had already done some of the legwork. Moreover, he was impressed that Sorrels would be working directly with him on the advance. In many field offices, the job was shuffled off to an assistant.

“Oh, and the chief of the police department, Jesse Curry, has called me a couple times already,” Sorrels added. “He’s eager to meet with us as soon as we know the plan.”

“Okay, let’s get moving, then,” Lawson said as he picked up his briefcase and started heading for the door.

The Trade Mart was only five years old and was a modern structure with soaring ceilings. As he walked through the building, Win Lawson made notes as to what he saw were security issues. There were dozens of entrances into the building, plus a variety of ways to access the room that would hold the luncheon. The room was a sort of atrium that had catwalks and balconies on the second and third floors overlooking it. It would take a lot of manpower to secure every entrance and exit as well as the balconies.

As the group drove up to the Women’s Building at Fair Park, Win Lawson could see immediately that it had a completely different feel. First of all, it was enormous.

“This is where they have exhibits during the state fair,” Sorrels explained. “All kinds of handiwork and things like that. They tell me it’s got forty-five thousand square feet and I’m guessing you could seat five thousand people in here.”

“Yeah, but it’s not exactly the kind of place to bring the President of the United States,” Jack Puterbaugh noted. The building was old with low ceilings. All the piping and air-conditioning equipment that had been installed after the building was built was exposed. It was just plain ugly.

Lawson and Sorrels agreed.

“The security, however, would be a cinch,” Lawson noted. There were just two end openings to the building and there was actually an area where you could drive a car into the facility.

Meanwhile, in Tampa, Agents Blaine and Yeager had split up the duties of meeting with representatives from the four different venues where President Kennedy would stop. Blaine drove the motorcade route suggested by the police and made notes of what he saw as potential problem areas where they’d need extra security. He and Yeager had agreed to meet back at the hotel at 6:00 to regroup.

“Hey, Jer, Arnie gave me the name of a good Cuban restaurant not too far from here. Are you up for some local culture?”

“Sure, that sounds super,” Blaine said. “I just realized I didn’t have lunch.”

The restaurant turned out to be a popular hangout that served truly authentic Cuban fare. When Blaine and Yeager walked in, they heard nothing but Spanish being spoken. As a scantily dressed young lady with jet-black hair, hoop earrings, and a short skirt led them to their table, Blaine and Yeager noticed the other patrons glancing at them as they walked by. The two tall, blond-headed men in their gray suits looked completely out of place in the laid-back restaurant, where every other man was wearing a traditional Cuban-style white short-sleeved shirt and the ladies were in strappy sundresses.

Blaine didn’t recognize anything on the menu, so Yeager ordered for them. Lechon asado, roast suckling pig, for himself and vaca frita, shredded skirt steak marinated in garlic and lime juice, for Blaine.

“And bring plenty of rice and beans,” Yeager added.

The service was quick, the food was delicious, and laughter and conversation filled the air. As the agents ate, they surveyed the lively clientele, but didn’t overhear or see anything remotely hostile.

“Hey, Jer,” Frank said, “I keep meaning to ask you—Win Lawson told me to be sure and have you tell me about your Easter golfing experience with the Boss. He wouldn’t tell me a thing, just kept laughing and said, ‘You gotta hear it from Blaine.’”

Jerry broke into a grin and shook his head. It was Win’s favorite story.

“Well, it was Easter weekened 1961 and we were down in Palm Beach. President Kennedy decided to go golfing with his father and a couple of friends. It was the first time he’d played since becoming president. And there was a big deal made of it because he wouldn’t allow the press to come along. During the campaign, the Kennedy camp had routinely questioned the amount of golf Ike was playing when he should have been paying attention to more urgent issues, so President Kennedy didn’t want any publicity.

“So,” Jerry continued, “Win Lawson was with us on a three-week temporary assignment—before he became permanent—and since I was the senior agent, I had to instruct Win on how to conduct the surveillance on the golf course. As we’re walking down the fairway, I’m telling him, ‘You go out about two hundred to two hundred twenty-five yards, fade back into the rough, and keep an eye on the adjacent fairway to make sure there are no questionable people in the area.’

“Now, I had watched Ike play plenty of rounds of golf, and for some reason I guess I assumed that Kennedy would have the same tendency to hook left. So I told Win to take the left-hand side and I would cover the right.”

Yeager shook his head and chuckled.

“I had told Win to watch carefully when each of the golfers teed off, just in case you needed to take cover if the ball headed your way,” Blaine continued. “So, by protocol, the president teed off first. I watched him make contact with the ball and then I glanced over at Win to make sure he was in place, and I see him staring in my direction with his mouth wide open. The next thing I know, a golf ball in full flight hits me on the left side of my head. I immediately fell to my knees. The ground was spinning, but I was determined not to lose consciousness.”

Yeager was trying so hard not to laugh, but suddenly he couldn’t help himself. He could just picture it.

Jerry ignored Yeager’s laughter and continued. “So I feel the side of my head and there’s blood running down my face. By this time Win is standing over me asking if I’m okay. ‘What happened?’ I asked him.”

Yeager was cracking up. “So how did Win explain it?”

“He said it made a thwacking noise and bounced right straight in the air. The president took a mulligan.”

Blaine started laughing. “So I went to the hospital and had X-rays taken and everything was fine. Apparently my mother was right when she said I was thickheaded.”

“Oh my God, Jer. That’s a great story.”

“But wait,” Jerry said with a smile. “There’s more. So, the press got hold of this and there were some reports in the newspaper. As it turned out, Kennedy was scheduled to make a speech in front of the American Newspaper Publishers Association a couple of weeks later. He opened the speech by saying something like ‘I realize that your staff and photographers may be complaining that they don’t enjoy the same green privileges at the local golf courses that they once did. It is true that my predecessor did not object as I do to pictures of one’s golfing skill in action. But neither, on the other hand, did he ever bean a Secret Service man.’”

Yeager was in hysterics. “Just like him. I’m sure they loved it.”

“Oh yeah, and for weeks afterward, the president would seek me out on post at the White House. He’d have a senator friend or somebody with him and he’d come up to me and say, ‘Jerry, tell him how far out you were standing when I beaned you.’

“‘Mr. President,’ I’d say, ‘I was out three hundred yards and I assumed I was out of your range. You can really hit a golf ball.’ He loved it. I swear every time he saw me, he’d ask me the same question. ‘How far out were you standing when I beaned you?’”

Blaine and Yeager finished their meal, returned to the hotel, and made plans for the next day. They had the scheduled meeting with Chief Mullins and the various agencies that would be supplying security and emergency services. They also needed to get an update on Joseph Milteer—and the alleged plot to kill the president.

In Washington, Jerry Behn was sitting in his office when Win Lawson called from Dallas.

“Behn,” Jerry Behn answered into the receiver.

“Hello, Jerry. It’s Win. I wanted to give you an update on the two venues in Dallas.”

Win explained the pros and cons of each facility, adding that there were some catering issues with the Women’s Building, but he’d concluded that they could successfully secure either location.

“It’ll just be a matter as to how we route the motorcade,” Lawson said.

“Okay, thanks, Win,” Behn said. “From what you’re telling me, I’m guessing the White House is going to go with the Trade Mart, just because of the aesthetics. But hopefully I’ll have a decision from O’Donnell by tomorrow.”

Win Lawson was probably the most conscientious and thorough advance agent you could ask for. He’d proven that with the advance to Berlin, in June.

President Kennedy’s tour through Ireland, Italy, and Germany had been a logistical nightmare for the Secret Service, and prior to the trip, the biggest concern was Berlin, where the wall that divided the city into East and West had become a symbol of the division between democracy and communism. SAIC Behn had assigned the Berlin advance to Win Lawson in part because he thought Win’s precise, straightforward, and detail-oriented personality would mesh well with the German security people. Soviet premier Khrushchev had ordered the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop the flood of people leaving communist-controlled East Germany for the West, and President Kennedy was deeply disturbed by the photographs and stories he’d seen of people being killed as they tried to climb over the wall to freedom. A primary reason for his trip to Europe was to see the situation for himself.

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President Kennedy looking across to East Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate. Guards on the other side of the Berlin Wall carried their standard weapons, creating a security risk. (PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT KNUDSEN, WHITE HOUSE, JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON)

When Kennedy arrived in Berlin, it was clear that Win Lawson had done a brilliant job of working with the West German police to ensure the president’s safety. As SAIC Behn stood alongside President Kennedy atop a viewing platform that provided a look over the wall and into East Berlin, the sight of East German security guards just yards away with automatic weapons was unnerving, but never did he feel that the president was in imminent danger. The emotional impact of seeing how the people of Berlin were isolated from their friends and relatives on the other side of the strictly guarded concrete block wall was unforgettable. When a million people packed into Berlin’s Rudolph Wilde Platz on June 26, 1963, to hear the American president speak, the roar of the massive crowd was deafening. Many had tears in their eyes as President Kennedy proudly proclaimed that he’d stand alongside them in the fight for freedom, with one short German phrase: Ich bin ein Berliner—I am a Berliner. It turned out to be one of President Kennedy’s finest hours, and it wouldn’t have happened without Win Lawson.

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An estimated one million Berliners gather to hear President Kennedy speak on June 26, 1963. The crowd erupts when he proclaims “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT KNUDSEN, WHITE HOUSE, JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM, BOSTON)

Lawson wasn’t a risk taker, and Behn knew if there were any concerns in Dallas, Lawson wouldn’t hesitate to tell him.

President Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech on June 26, 1963, in West Berlin, West Germany. (2:23)
Source: CBS News

President Kennedy’s view of East Berlin over the Berlin Wall during the speech on June 26, 1963, in West Berlin. (1:59)
Source: CBS News

With his mind at ease about the venue issues, Behn turned to his bigger problem: where the heck was he going to come up with enough agents to provide adequate protection for the president on these trips to Florida and Texas?

With his most experienced agents out on advances, he’d have to call in some extra help from PRS and some of the field offices. Using temporary help on such high-profile trips wasn’t by any means ideal, but he just didn’t have enough bodies.