PHILADELPHIA — A long-lost version of the Air Force One recordings made in the immediate aftermath of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, with more than 30 minutes of additional material not in the official version in the government’s archives, has been found and is for sale.
There are incidents and code names described on the newly discovered two-hours-plus recording, which predates the shorter and newer recording currently housed in the National Archives outside Washington and the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Texas. The shorter recording had been thought to be the only extant version of the tape.
The asking price is $500,000 for the reel-to-reel tape, which is inside its original box with a typewritten label showing it was made by the White House Communications Agency for Army Gen. Chester “Ted” Clifton Jr.
It is titled “Radio Traffic involving AF-1 in flight from Dallas, Texas to Andrews AFB on November 22, 1963.”
“As Americans have looked to the history of the Kennedy assassination in search of answers, somewhere in an attic there existed a tape made years before the only known surviving version, of the conversations on Air Force One on that fateful day,” said Nathan Raab, vice president of the Raab Collection, a Philadelphia historic documents dealer that put the tape up for sale Tuesday.
Clifton, who died in 1991, had kept a collection of audio tapes, documents, photographs and video stemming from his years in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The Raab Collection, which is selling the tape and the rest of the archive, acquired the items at a public sale from Clifton’s heirs after the death of Clifton’s wife in 2009.
The recording consists of in-flight radio calls between the aircraft, the White House Situation Room, Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and a plane that was carrying Kennedy press secretary Pierre Salinger and six Cabinet members from Hawaii to Tokyo when the president was assassinated.
The Clifton tapes include additional debate about whether Kennedy’s body would be brought to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland or Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for autopsy and if first lady Jacqueline Kennedy would accompany the president’s body, as well as expanded discussions about arranging for ambulances and limousines to meet the plane.
No references to Kennedy nemesis Air ForceGen. Curtis LeMay occur in the shorter version, but the Clifton tape contains an urgent attempt by an aide to contact him. The aide, seeking to interrupt Air Force transmissions to reach LeMay, is heard saying the general “is in a C140. Last three numbers are 497. His code name is Grandson. And I want to talk to him.”
The whereabouts of LeMay, whose enmity for the president makes him a central figure for Kennedy assassination researchers, have long been disputed. The newly discovered recording can finally end the speculation and pinpoint his location immediately after the president’s assassination, Mr. Raab said.
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