Fifty-one years ago President Kennedy was assassinated. For many years the Secret Service have maintained their silence about that day. Their job was to protect the president, and they had failed. Their feelings of loss and failure had to be buried because they still had a job to do, they had to protect the new president. Since most of what happened in their job was confidential they couldn’t even talk to family members about their feelings.
There is much controversy concerning the assassination of John Kennedy. Was it conspiracy? Was there more than one shooter? Did Oswald even fire a shot? Just this week there is a show about a mafia hit man who confessed to shooting John Kennedy from the ‘grassy knoll’. These theories are briefly mentioned along with the belief that the Dallas police got the right guy, but the focus of this book is the Secret Service agents, the men who had to be “Worthy of Trust and Confidence”.
With the personal accounts of other agents, made possible because of the extensive records they were required to keep and most of the agents saved we learn many intimate details about the president, first lady and agents. The agents had to adjust to fit the new personality of the presidents. Eisenhower was a former military man who treated the Secret Service agents as if they were soldiers standing post. He didn’t take unnecessary risks and ran things with military precision. Kennedy was completely different. He was the youngest man elected president, he had a wife and young children. He was popular and loved interacting with people. Which caused many security headaches for the Secret Service.
These facts are all brought out in great detail in this book. Along with many personal details witnessed only by Secret Service agents such as Kennedy’s last words to his young son when leaving Washington and why the President and First Lady were in a convertible on the motorcade. Overall I was impressed at how the Agents balanced being considerate of people’s feelings while never losing sight of their responsibilities and maintaining their professionalism.
It also helps us to understand the great stress they were under, how they had to adjust instantly from protecting Kennedy to protecting Johnson. How they had to keep secret everything they witnessed while on the job, and how the agents had to work so closely as a team. Also the extreme feeling of guilt they carried with them after the assassination, even the agents who weren’t in the motorcade felt some sense of guilt.
If you are a conspiracy theorist you will probably not like this book, if you are interested in the life and death of JFK, or want to learn about the inner workings of the presidency and the secret service, this is the book for you.