November 22nd, 1963, I was living on Crowder Hill, some 16-miles south of Nashville, TN. I have a flashbulb memory of that Friday. All of us of a certain age do. The sun was shining and it was warm, just over 70°. I was 21 and my family needed some groceries. Around 1:30 pm I walked down Highway 100 to the country store.
Walking up on the porch, I could hear shouting and cheering thru the screen door. Several people were gathered around a small TV set. I got some milk and bread and went up to the counter.
One of the young women finally noticed me. She came over, rang up and bagged my food. She was flushed w/excitement when I asked what all the celebration was?
She replied, “Y’all ain’t heard? They shot that nigger-lover, son-of-a-bitch Kennedy!”
My immediate shock was her language. After 4-yrs in the South, I don’t recall ever hearing a female curse. The others responded w/equal glee. My whole attention focused on the TV, refusing to believe it.
I didn’t usually go to that store so we were strangers. They didn’t know that I was “that goddamned yankee-boy” who had married “Cookie,” the baby of the Crowder Clan. My civil rights feelings and activity was otherwise well-known, but tolerated as I was “family.”
I walked back home in a daze and turned on CBS News. I was sitting in front of it when Walter Cronkite announced at 2:32 pm, clearly showing the same feelings as my own, “The two priests who were with Kennedy say that he is dead of his bullet wounds. That seems to be about as close to official as we can get at this time.”
I experienced a form of psychotic break. I recall clearly having the sense of a universe and historical timeline torn asunder. I could literally feel it…hear it. Everything that was to be was gone. Whatever was to become, would never be… The world had changed forever.
For the next several days, as celebrations swirled outside of my home, I was in a form of shock and could only passively watch the events unfolding on TV. When I witnessed the real-time murder of Lee Harvey Oswald 2-days later, I recall my central feeling was that now we’ll never know why…
When I joined the Army in 1959 barely 17, I took Basic and AIT (radio school) in GA. I then volunteered for the 101st Airborne at Ft. Campbell, KY. Dwight David Eisenhower (Ike) was president when I went in and John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) when I came out.
During World War-II, Ike was a 5-star general and became Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. Jack Kennedy was a Lt. J.G. and commander of PT-109 in the Pacific. Kennedy survived the war to become a Congressman, Senator and President.
Having been born in the summer of ’42, I was only a baby when Jack’s boat was cut in half by a Jap destroyer and D-Day, June 6th, 1944 occurred. The 101st and 82nd jumped into Normandy in the pre-dawn hrs. Including the glider units, over 17,000 men participated. It was a bloodbath. By 30 June 5,493 men were killed or MIA.
As a young paratrooper in the 101st Airborne 15-yrs later, I was a member of the new STRAC unit, the Strategic Army Corp Pentomic military concept. Along w/the 82nd Airborne we were the designated first-strike forces to be deployed anywhere in the world upon instant notice.
The Pentomic concept involved 5-quick-strike combat brigades and their support units. We were also equipped w/the capacity for tactical nuclear weapons. There was a super-secret area of the base that we spoke about only as the “Bird-Cage,” where these weapons were stored in underground bunkers.
My job on a team of radio-relay, crypto operators was to provide secure communications between the battlefield and the Pentagon and White House.
When I joined the military for the last year-and-a-half of Ike’s presidency, we inherited the fruit of his entire Administration. There was the stalemate in Korea; US military support to France to regain their colonies in Indo-China; and a variety of other ops in Asia (Taiwan), Central & South America, Africa and the Middle East.
While Ike himself had a relatively modest stance on a number of these issues, his VP, Richard Nixon w/his control of the Committee of 40 (intel and corporatist officers) and the CIA, pretty much ruled the offense.
Civil rights had also come to the fore w/the US Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling on Brown v. Bd of Education. In ’57, Ike federalized the National Guard in Arkansas and sent in elements of the 101st Airborne to enforce the federal court’s order integrating Little Rock Central High School.
(Two interesting elements of that event included the fact that it was the first time that the federal gov’t had sent troops into the South since 1877, when the South had won back full political power after losing the Civil War militarily in 1865. They immediately instituted the Black Codes, Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan terror org.
(Also, the commander of the 101st forces sent to Little Rock was Major General Edwin Walker, who was later a target himself of an attempted assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald, according to the FBI, some 7-months prior to Oswald’s purported murder of Kennedy. Significance? ¿Quién sabe?)
After the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship in Cuba by Fidel Castro in ‘59, VP Nixon gave secret orders to the CIA to create training bases throughout the South to reinstall power to the gusanos (counter-revolutionary Cuban “worms”), Mafia and corporations whose unused land was distributed to Cuban farmers. Nixon expected he’d be elected president in 1960.
On January 20th, 1961, Jack Kennedy inherited all this and more. My initial 101st Division Commander was Major General Wm. C. Westmoreland, who wholeheartedly looked forward to jumping into Havana in support of the counter-revolution.
Unlike most of the rest of the Regular Army, the elite airborne was an all-volunteer force. The 101st was also comprised of a far greater mixture of racial/national elements; white, black, Native American, Cubans and other Hispanics, Hungarians, etc. (Jimi Hendrix joined the 101st in 1962.)
Many of us, including myself, had cheered Castro and his Robin Hood band when they made their revolution. The Argentinean Dr. Che Guevara (MD) was (and remains) an extraordinary revolutionary-guerilla figure.
Flipping our feelings to support Batista gusanos, the Mafia casino owners and Jack Frost sugar would not be quite so simple. Jumping into Havana would have started a war that few of us supported or had our hearts in…
In April of ’61, 3-months into Kennedy’s presidency, the pre-planned invasion of Cuba jumped off from Guatemala (where the White House and Justice Dept had banished the CIA and their gusano trainees from American soil). The 101st was put on full alert and we were literally poised w/our aircraft for instant 2-hr deployment…lock ‘n load.
In addition to over 1,400 paramilitaries of the counter-revolutionary Brigade 2506 and 8 CIA-supplied B-26 bombers, which attacked Cuban air fields on the night of 16 April, the main invasion landed at a beach named Playa Girón in the Bay of Pigs the next day. While JFK had nominally accepted its initial reality, he refused to commit any US forces to the enterprise.
(I later learned that his favorite general, Medal-of-Honor Marine David M. Shoup, had counseled Kennedy to NOT invade Cuba [nor Vietnam, for that matter]. JFK listened; reports since indicate that he had ordered the drawing down of Special Forces in Vietnam around the time of the Diem assassinations. They were countermanded by LBJ when he became president 3-wks later.)
Castro personally took command of the operation against the gusano forces. On 20 April, the invaders surrendered.
(As serendipity would have it, one of the Brigade 2506 gusano commanders would be a cellmate of mine in federal prison, 1991. He was also a chiropractor who had defrauded Medicare out of several $million. We had some interesting discussions…)
Kennedy was forced to negotiate the release of the 1,189 prisoners. Cuba released them in exchange for a promise of $53 million worth of food and medicine, of which the US reneged once the men were released. Castro, convinced that the US would launch more invasions, declared that Cuba was socialist and accepted aid from the Soviet Union.
According to biographer Richard Reeves, Kennedy was convinced that the invasion plan was a setup to make him look bad. He took responsibility for the failure, saying, “We got a big kick in the [ass] and we deserved it. But maybe we’ll learn something from it.”
Other related events to Ike and Kennedy were the results in 1947 of the Truman Administration’s reluctant support of the UN Partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish State. Truman preferred an Arab-Jewish federation; a binational state w/the Palestinians. The Zionist leadership in conflict with 3 of the surrounding Arab nations, launched a War of “Independence” in May of ’48, grabbing most of Palestine and expelling most of the Palestinians from their homes in this “now Israeli” territory.
The Egyptians took control of the Gaza Strip, Syria took the Golan, and Jordan took the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Every got a piece of the pie–for the moment–except the Palestinians themselves. Truman imposed an arms embargo against Israel.
With Ike in the White House, in 1956 the Israelis w/the aid of the Brits and France, invaded the Sinai, Suez and planned to invade Egypt. Ike opposed this and forced them to withdraw…they refused a complete withdrawal. On February 20th, 1957, Eisenhower went directly to the American people (Israel owned Congress…and still does). Ike explained that he was continuing Truman’s arms embargo and said:
“Should a nation which attacks and occupies foreign territory in the face of UN disapproval be allowed to impose conditions on its own withdrawal? If we agreed that armed attack can properly achieve the purposes of the assailant, then I fear we will have turned back the clock of international order…. I believe that in the interests of peace the UN has no choice but to exert pressure upon Israel to comply with the withdrawal resolutions.”
By 1963, JFK turned that around, agreeing to create a US-Israel military alliance and give Israel advanced military aid. Israel has since received $3+billion a yr in such aid as outright grants (free public $$).
However, Kennedy was adamant on opposing nuclear weapons to or by Israel and tried to enforce America’s non-proliferation policy. When the US discovered the existence of a nuclear plant at Dimona, Israel, Israel’s leader, Ben-Gurion met with Kennedy in New York and made the bald-faced lie claiming that Dimona was being developed to provide nuclear power for desalinization and other peaceful purposes.
When the US was allowed to inspect the site, an American science attaché at the embassy in Tel Aviv concluded that parts of the Dimona facility had been shut down temporarily to mislead American scientists when they visited. Since then, Israel has developed many nuclear bombs and deploys them throughout the Middle East on their submarines poised to attack—should they ever so decide.
Other JFK timeline related events included the Berlin Wall, Laos and Vietnam, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. After leaving the military and working more actively in the civil rights movement, the Kennedy Administration played a significant role in objective and moral support. Believe me, having the federal gov’t—as halfheartedly as it was—was all the difference to those of us working in the KKK/police South… I also served over a yr on one of the South’s most brutal chain-gangs.
And today? From where I sit, back in 1959-65 there were still the original 11-states of the former Confederacy. Today there are 32… Whatever rending of the fabric of the universe accomplished back on November 22nd, 1963, today the world is a lot more dangerous place and America is a lot less democratic…
Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD) November 2014…