Fifty-five years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a brand new e-book by Helen O’Donnell,
reveals new particulars concerning the president’s loss of life, the shock of his widow, Jackie Kennedy, and the dramatic behind-the-scenes occasions as Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president aboard Air Drive One.
Helen is the daughter of Kenny O’Donnell, one in all JFK’s closest advisors. For this e-book, which focuses on O’Donnell’s relationship with LBJ, whom he suggested from 1963 to 1965, his daughter used uncommon interviews and diaries written by her father within the years after the assassination.
On Nov. 22, 1963, after JFK died at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, O’Donnell instructed LBJ he additionally feared for Johnson’s life. “Kenny instructed Johnson level clean that they didn’t know what the hell was occurring,” his daughter writes.
O’Donnell really useful that LBJ instantly return to Air Drive One to fly again to the White Home.
“We had been in disbelief,” O’Donnell defined years later. “We didn’t know on the time what was occurring and my job was to get the fallen president and his widow dwelling secure.”
However issues had been in chaos at Parkland Hospital. “Kenny knew that Jackie wouldn’t depart Dallas with out her husband,” O’Donnell’s daughter writes within the new e-book.
Frst, O’Donnell needed to cope with the Dallas medical expert, Dr. Earl Rose. “Based on state legislation, since this was a homicide, the president’s physique needed to stay in Dallas for an post-mortem,” Helen says. When Rose confronted her father and Jackie, he instructed them: “I’m in cost. He [JFK] now belongs to me.” In response, O’Donnell mentioned: “Like hell he does, and like hell you might be.”
With JFK’s physique in a casket, O’Donnell “ordered the Dallas police and the medical doctors to maneuver,” his daughter writes. “Get the hell out of the way in which. We’re leaving,” he instructed them.
Once they refused, Helen writes, “Kenny instructed them to go to hell and with Dave [Powers] (one other shut aide to JFK) on one aspect, Jackie behind him, and the Secret Service at his aspect, they plowed by means of the lads, sending a number of to the bottom.”
They positioned the casket in an ambulance, with Jackie seated at the back of the automobile, and O’Donnell grabbed the keys and drove to Love Discipline, chased by the Dallas police.
“For some time, Kenny thought that he, Jackie and Dave would possibly find yourself in Dallas jail,” Helen writes. “In any case, they’d damaged Texas legislation. [Kenny] had, within the legislation’s eyes, stolen Jack’s physique.”
In the meantime, Jackie “is falling aside at this stage,” O’Donnell recalled years later. “She is roofed in blood and brains. She is in shock, rambling and never making sense. She is apprehensive about her youngsters. And… as I instructed [JFK’s brother] Bobby later, I actually thought she was going to have a coronary heart assault proper in my arms.”
Frightened concerning the Dallas police, O’Donnell later defined what was going by means of his thoughts. “My concern is that they are going to shoot out the tires, board the airplane, weapons drawn, take off with the president’s physique in entrance of Jackie, who would have had a coronary heart assault. I’m the one within the flawed right here. Not the Dallas police, bear in mind.”
O’Donnell and Jackie boarded Air Drive One with the casket, and earlier than the wheels had been off the bottom, LBJ requested O’Donnell to get Jackie for the official swearing-in, which passed off onboard.
O’Donnell was shocked. He didn’t suppose Jackie, who was nonetheless sporting her blood-splattered garments, had the energy. He rigorously entered the again presidential cabin the place she was sitting. “The sight that greeted him was weird,” Helen writes. “She sat, staring on the mirror, with a clean expression, as she combed her hair.”
“My father requested Jackie if she needed to go ‘on the market,’ to the swearing in,” she provides. “She instructed him, ‘Sure. I feel I must. Jack would need me to. I owe that a lot to the nation.’”
As O’Donnell opened the door for Jackie, she stopped to ask him if she ought to change her garments. “My father checked out her,” Helen remembers. “Right here she is, he thought, coated in her husband’s blood and brains. However, he mentioned merely, ‘No, Mrs. Kennedy, you look high-quality.’ “
O’Donnell, nonetheless stuffed with concern that the Dallas police would arrive and order the casket off the airplane, stood close to Jackie as LBJ took the presidential oath earlier than the airplane took off.
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After they returned to their seats, nonetheless shocked, Powers poured them drinks and the three shared tales about JFK, amidst their tears.
As O’Donnell later mentioned, “There is no such thing as a textbook for this. We had been simply doing one of the best we might for Jack and Jackie.”
O’Donnell, who was overwhelmed with grief by the loss of life of JFK — and 5 years later, his brother, Bobby — died in 1977, at age 53.
“JFK and my father had been greatest pals,” Helen says. “He believed in Jack and Bobby Kennedy and every thing they stood for. He felt it was his job to avoid wasting Jack Kennedy and he felt that he had failed. And he by no means recovered from that.”