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Story ID:6549
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Period Piece
Location:Andrews Air Force Base Maryland USA
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I sat in the living room watching the news on TV. The President was traveling in a motorcade in Texas. I was a member of the security force that provided security to the White House aircraft fleet. Aircraft 26000, commonly called Air Force One, was in Texas with the President. The Vice President was from Texas and he was there too. I saw the car on the TV screen. The first lady was seated with him in the car. I saw the President suddenly slump in the seat. The TV announcer said the President had been shot.
I was scheduled to go on duty for the evening shift. I knew immediately we were all going to be called to work so I got up from my chair and headed for the bedroom to dress in to my uniform. As soon as I was ready, I shut off the TV and went to the car.

As soon as I arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, I went directly to Central Security Control and drew my weapon from the safe. I informed the com plotter I was ready for further orders. I was informed the men had been called in on alert status. I was asked to issue firearms as soon as they came in to the CSC.

After all coming in were armed and ready for assignment, I secured the weapons safe. Information had come that the President was dead. Vice President Johnson had been sworn in as President on the airplane and had ordered the plane to return to Andrews AFB. President Kennedy’s body had been loaded on the plane.

At the #1 parking spot in front of the terminal, a small crowd had already begun to gather. I and two other men were ordered to erect the press box and keep all news reporters inside the press box. They were not to be allowed to roam outside the area of the box.

The press box was an arrangement of galvanized pipes that had been welded together and casters mounted on the bottoms of them. We pushed them together in a “U” shape to form the press box. The casters had locks or brakes on them which were set to prevent them from moving around.

There were so many people gathering. We were unable to tell which were press. We were told anybody making notes or carrying a camera should be assumed to be press. A number of those I ordered to stay inside the press box that evening informed me in a disgruntled fashion that they were congressmen or senators.

Eventually Air Force One landed and entered the parking spot and shut down engines. The steps were driven up to the air plane. A fleet services truck was driven to the rear door. The casket containing the body of President Kennedy was loaded from the aircraft onto the fleet services truck. The truck pulled away from the plane and lowered the box. A navy ambulance from Bethesda Naval Hospital backed up to the fleet services truck. The casket was removed from the fleet services truck and loaded into the ambulance. Mrs. Kennedy had remained with the casket when it was removed from the plane. The fleet services truck was high off the ground and a Navy officer reached his hands up, took her waist, and lifted her to the ground.

The ambulance departed for Bethesda Hospital. President Johnson then deplaned and got aboard the chopper and flew to the White House. Slowly the crowd dispersed. We replaced the press box to the place it was normally stored inside the fence of the restricted area. The Presidential Flight Guards who had been traveling with the plane were relieved by SSgt Williams and me. When Fleet Services completed their work, the ground crew towed the plane to its usual berth inside hangar #6 and the doors were closed. Steps were put up to the front door. Ropes and stanchions were placed around the aircraft.

The ground crew completed their work for the night and went home. Williams and I were to secure the aircraft until relieved by the midnight shift. While I remained at the nose of the aircraft, Williams went aboard the aircraft to make a sweep and ensure there was no one left on the plane.

While on board the plane, Williams found, in the seat Mrs. Kennedy had occupied, a bouquet of flowers someone had handed to her when she boarded the aircraft in Texas. Williams removed them from the plane and offered to share them with me. My wife greatly admired Mrs. Kennedy and often asked me about her apparel when I saw her at work.

I accepted half the flowers. When I got off work that night, I took the flowers home and gave them to my wife. Three days later I found the flowers in the garbage. My wife explained they were all dead and no longer worth having. I explained to her that many others could have dried them and kept them as a keepsake. My wife was not one of those. I should have given them to someone of that frame of mind I suppose.


Photos of Aircraft 26000, Air force One of that day, parked in the hangar, and of the author guarding Air Force Two in the same hangar.


Please visit my website at: www.fredsstoryroom.com.