NOVEMBER 22, 1963 TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY, DALLAS 9:45 A.M.
Crowds of eager Dallas residents stand on the curb in front of the Texas
School Book Depository. The president won’t pass by for three
hours, but they’ve come early to get a good spot. Best of all, it
looks like the sun might come out. Maybe they’ll get a glimpse of
John F. Kennedy and Jackie after all.
Lee Harvey Oswald peers out a first-floor window of the depository
building, assessing the president’s route by where the crowds
stand. He can clearly see the corner of Elm and Houston, where John
Kennedy’s limousine will make a slow left turn. This is important
to Oswald. He’s selected a spot on the depository’s sixth
floor as his sniper’s roost. The floor is dimly lit by bare
60-watt lightbulbs and is currently under renovation, and thus empty.
Stacks of book boxes near the window overlooking Elm and Houston will
form a natural hiding place, allowing Oswald to poke his rifle outside
and sight the motorcade as it makes that deliberate turn. The marksman
in Lee Harvey Oswald knows that he’ll have time for two shots,
maybe even three if he works the bolt quickly enough.
But one should be all he needs.
■ ■ ■
Air Force One crabs into the wind as Colonel Jim Swindal eases her down
onto the runway at Dallas’s Love Field. John Kennedy is ecstatic.
Peering out the windows of his airplane, he sees that the weather has
turned sunny and warm and that yet another large Texas crowd is waiting
to greet him. “This trip is turning out to be terrific,” he
happily confides to Kenny O’Donnell. “Here we are in Dallas
and it looks like everything in Texas will turn out to be fine for
Police cars circle the field, and officers are even stationed on
rooftops. But these are the only ominous sights at the airport. For the
estimated welcoming party of two thousand are overjoyed to see Air Force
One touch down, marking the first time a president has visited Dallas
since 1948. Grown men stand on their tiptoes to see over the throngs in
front of them. Airport personnel leave their desks inside the terminal
and jostle into position near the chain-link fence separating the runway
from the parking lot. The U.S. Air Force C-130 carrying the
president’s armored limousine lands and opens its cargo ramp. The
bubble top remains on board the plane. The convertible top is completely
down. A local television newsman, who is covering the spectacle live on
air, enthusiastically reports that the bubble top is nowhere in evidence
and that people will be able to see the president and First Lady
“in the flesh.” The reporter also reminds his audience that
the president will be returning to Love Field between “2:15 and
2:30” to depart for Austin.
Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, await the president on the
tarmac, as they have on every leg of the Texas trip. The vice
president’s job is to stand at the bottom of the ramp and greet
the president. Johnson is not happy about this assignment, but he puts
on a good face as Jackie emerges from the rear door of the plane,
radiant in the pink Chanel suit with the matching pillbox hat. Two steps
behind, and seen in person for the first time by the people of Dallas,
comes John Kennedy.
“I can see his suntan from here!” the local TV reporter
The official plan is for JFK to head straight for his limousine to join
the motorcade, but instead he breaks off and heads into the crowd. Not
content with merely shaking a few hands, the president pushes deep into
the throng, dragging Jackie along with him. The two of them remain
surrounded by this wall of people for more than a full minute, much to
the crowd’s delight. Then the president and First Lady reemerge,
only to wade deep into another section of crowd.
“Boy, this is something,” enthuses the local reporter.
“This is a bonus for the people who have waited here!”
The president and First Lady shake hands for what seems like an eternity
to their very nervous Secret Service detail. “Kennedy is showing
he is not afraid,” Ronnie Dugger of the Texas Observer writes in
Finally, John and Jackie Kennedy make their way to the presidential
limousine. Awaiting them are Governor John Connally and his wife,
Nellie. There are three rows of seats in the vehicle. Up front is the
driver, fifty-four-year-old Bill Greer. To his right sits Roy Kellerman,
like Greer, a longtime Secret Service agent. Special Agent Kellerman has
served on the White House detail since the early days of World War II
and has protected presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and now
JFK sits in the backseat, on the right-hand side, patting his hair into
place after his foray into the crowd. Jackie sits to his left. The First
Lady was handed a bouquet of red roses upon landing in Dallas, and these
now rest on the seat between her and the president.
Governor Connally sits directly in front of the president, in the middle
row, known as jump seats. Connally takes off his ten-gallon hat so that
the crowds can see him. Nellie sits in front of Jackie and right behind
the driver, Special Agent Greer.
As the motorcade leaves Love Field at 11:55 a.m., the presidential
limousine—Secret Service code name SS-100-X—is the second
car in line, flanked on either side by four motorcycle escorts.
Up front is an advance car filled with local police and Secret Service,
among them Dallas police chief Jesse Curry and Secret Service special
agent Winston Lawson.
Behind John Kennedy’s vehicle is a follow-up convertible
code-named Halfback. Kennedy’s two main members of the Irish
Mafia, Dave Powers and Kenny O’Donnell, sit here, surrounded by
Secret Service agents heavily armed with handguns and automatic weapons.
Clint Hill, head of the First Lady’s Secret Service detail, stands
on the left running board of Halfback. Special agents Bill McIntyre,
John Ready, and Paul Landis also man the running boards.
Car four is a convertible limousine that has been rented locally for the
vice president. Even as the vehicles pull away from Love Field, it is
obvious that LBJ is angry and pouting. While every other politician in
the motorcade is waving to the crowds, he stares straight forward,
Bringing up the rear is car five, code-named Varsity and filled with a
Texas state policeman and four Secret Service agents.
Way up at the front of the motorcade, driving several car lengths in
front of SS-100-X, Dallas police chief Jesse Curry is committed to
making the president’s visit as incident-free as possible. The
fifty-year-old chief is a lifetime law enforcement officer. In addition
to working his way up through the ranks of the Dallas police, he has
augmented his knowledge by attending the FBI Academy. Curry has been
involved in almost every aspect of the planning for John Kennedy’s
visit and is dedicating 350 men—a full third of his force—to
lining the motorcade route, handling security for the president’s
airport arrival, and policing the crowd at the Trade Mart speech.
However, Curry has chosen not to position any men in the vicinity of
Dealey Plaza, thinking that the main crowd-control issues will take
place prior to that destination. Once the motorcade turns from Houston
Street and onto Elm, it goes under an overpass, turns right onto
Stemmons Freeway, and through a relatively uncrowded area to the Trade
Mart. Better to focus his officers on the busiest thoroughfares along
the route, rather than waste them in a place where few people will be
Curry has also ordered his men to face toward the street, rather than
toward the crowd, thinking it wouldn’t hurt for them to see the
man they’re protecting as a reward for the many long hours they
will be on their feet. This ignores the example of New York City, where
policemen stand facing away from the street, so they can better help the
Secret Service protect the president by scanning the city’s many
windows for signs of a sniper’s rifle.
But it doesn’t matter during the motorcade’s first easy
miles. There is so little to do and so few people to see that a bored
Jackie puts on her sunglasses and begins waving at billboards for fun.
The white-collar workers along Lemmon Avenue are few in number and
unexcited. They’d rather enjoy their lunch break from the IBM
■ ■ ■
At the exact same moment, it’s also lunchtime at the Texas School
Book Depository. Most of Lee Harvey Oswald’s coworkers have left
the building, hoping to get a glimpse of the president.
Just down the block, FBI special agent James Hosty has forgotten all
about investigating Lee Harvey Oswald and is just trying to make sure he
gets a look at his hero, President Kennedy.
Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t bring a lunch to work today. And he
doesn’t plan on eating. Instead, he moves a pile of boxes into
position on the grimy sixth floor of the depository building, fashioning
a well-concealed shooting nest.
At 12:24 p.m., nearly thirty minutes into the motorcade, the
president’s car passes Special Agent James Hosty on the corner of
Main Street and Field. The G-man gets his wish and sees Kennedy in the
flesh, before spinning back around and walking into the Alamo Grill for
At 12:28 the motorcade enters a seedy downtown neighborhood. Straight
ahead, the beautiful green grass of Dealey Plaza is clearly visible. The
Secret Service agents are stunned by the reception the president is now
receiving, with people everywhere cheering and applauding.
At 12:29 the motorcade makes the crucial sharp right-hand turn onto
Houston Street. From high above, in his sixth-floor sniper’s lair,
Lee Harvey Oswald sees John F. Kennedy in person for the first time. He
quickly sights the Mannlicher-Carcano, taking aim through his scope as
the motorcade skirts the edge of Dealey Plaza.
The crowds here are still large and enthusiastic, despite Chief
Curry’s prediction that they would have thinned by this point. The
people shout for Jackie and the president to look their way. As per
agreement, JFK waves at the people standing in front of buildings on the
right side of the road, while Jackie waves at those standing along
grassy Dealey Plaza, to their left. This ensures that no voter goes
without a wave.
The motorcade is just five minutes away from the Trade Mart, where
Kennedy will make his speech. Almost there.
Inside the presidential limousine, Nellie Connally stops waving long
enough to look over her right shoulder and smile at John Kennedy.
“You sure can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you, Mr.
Ironically, at that very moment, if JFK had looked up to the sixth floor
of the Texas School Book Depository, he would have seen a rifle barrel
sticking out of an open window, pointed directly at his head.
But Kennedy doesn’t look up.
Nor does the Secret Service.
It is 12:30 p.m. The time has come for Special Agent Bill Greer to steer
SS-100-X through the sweeping 120-degree left turn from Houston and onto
■ ■ ■
Most people live their lives as if the end were always years away. They
measure their days in love, laughter, accomplishment, and loss. There
are moments of sunshine and storm. There are schedules, phone calls,
careers, anxieties, joys, exotic trips, favorite foods, romance, shame,
and hunger. A person can be defined by clothing, the smell of his
breath, the way she combs her hair, the shape of his torso, or even the
company she keeps.
All over the world, children love their parents and yearn for love in
return. They revel in the touch of parental hands on their faces. And
even on the worst of days, each person has dreams about the
future—dreams that sometimes come true.
Such is life.
Yet life can end in less time than it takes to draw one breath.
Copyright © 2012 by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Excerpted from "Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot" by Bill O'Reilly. Copyright © 0 by Bill O'Reilly. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.