The last witness: A Secret Service agent discusses JFK’s death after remaining silent

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The last witness: A Secret Service agent discusses JFK's death after remaining silent
On November 22, 1963, shortly after President John F. Kennedy was shot, Secret Service member Clint Hill boards the presidential limousine from the rear.

 

  • A series of poignant pictures from the devastating days after President John F. Kennedy’s death in Dallas in 1963 include 3-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s coffin in Washington, D.C., and Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office as the new president on Air Force One.
  • But one picture, taken just after Kennedy was shot, caught the interest of American media outlets nationwide. The president and first lady were seen being protected by a Secret Service member who sprang onto the back of the presidential vehicle.
  • The assassination’s 60th anniversary is on Wednesday, November 22. Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who attempted to rescue the president, is now 91 years old, and he is still coming to grips with his role.
  • Hill said to Radio Diaries, “I was known as just Clint Hill before Dallas.” Following that, I became recognized as the one who got into the president’s vehicle. It’s difficult to live with that six-second window in Dallas.“In February 1963, Hill visited the White House.

 

Hill in the White House in February 1963.

  • Hill found that working with first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1960 was much more affable than his prior assignments.
  • “Eisenhower, when he would refer to us agents, that was just, ‘Hey, agent!'” Hill thought back. He knew your first name when it came to Kennedy. Were you married? He knew. If you were a parent, he knew. After that, he would pause and converse with you. We so held him in the highest regard.”
  • Kennedy was in Dallas on the day of the assassination as part of a campaign tour for the 1964 election that was about to take place. Large crowds greeted the president and first lady at Dallas Love Field, the site of Air Force One’s landing. The procession continued into Dallas, drawing more and more spectators.
  • “By the time we got to Main [Street], the crowd was so large they could not be contained on the sidewalks,” Hill said. Individuals were leaning out of windows. They occupied building tops. Their position was on fire escapes. Any location where people could go to meet the First Lady and the President.

President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy arrive at Dallas Love Field on 22 Nov 1963.

  • Just behind the presidential limousine, Hill had been positioned on the running board of the follow-up vehicle. However, exhilaration quickly gave way to fear as the motorcade passed past Dealey Plaza and Hill heard a loud boom over his right shoulder.
  • Hill stated, “I didn’t think it was a gunshot at first.” “I mistook it for a firework or anything like. However, I realized it was abnormal when I watched the president’s response. He really put his hands up to his neck and began to fall to the left.”
  • Without waiting for anything, Hill sprang from the follow-up vehicle and onto the presidential limousine’s back. There was another gunfire as he boarded, hitting the president in the head. The first woman got inside the car after this picture and climbed atop the trunk to meet Hill, who helped her get back inside. As the presidential limousine raced toward the hospital, Hill covered himself with his body.
  • Hill remembered, “I thought this wound is not survivable.” “I didn’t think he had a chance.”
  • Hill was consumed by guilt in the wake of the incident. He writes about going with Jacqueline Kennedy—still sporting her bloodstained suit—to Johnson’s swearing-in on Air Force One in his book Five Days in November.
  • “As I look at her face, streaked with tears, her eyes so hollow and lifeless, a wave of guilt and shame washes over me,” Hill writes in the memoir. “How did I let this happen to her?”

The state funeral of President John F. Kennedy on 25 Nov 1963.

  • In the next years, the emotion persisted. After working with Jacqueline Kennedy until 1964, Hill served three additional presidents, although he continued to experience remorse after the killing.
  • Hill stated of the Secret Service, “We received no counseling at all.” “There was no PTSD in those days.”
  • As a result of his psychological condition after the killing, Hill continued to have health problems by 1975. After failing his yearly physical, he was informed that the Secret Service would have to retire him. Hill had 43 years old.
  • According to Hill, “it was all related to the Kennedy assassination.” “After that, in my Virginia house, I descended into a deep condition of depression. My daily diet consisted of two packs of smokes and one bottle of scotch. I slept in such manner.
  • Hill made an appearance on a 60 Minutes program the same year, 12 years after the killing, when Mike Wallace asked him about his opinions. After being questioned for the Warren Commission report in 1964, Hill had not discussed the event in public before. Although Hill felt he should have arrived sooner, Wallace honored him as a hero for saving Jacqueline Kennedy’s life.
  • “I would have succeeded if I had taken a different course,” Hill said in the interview. “It’s my fault.
  • On December 3, 1963, Hill stands for a picture. A commemorative pin that was given to him for his gallantry in attempting to defend the president and first lady during the Dallas assassination is worn on his lapel.

Hill poses for a photo on 03 Dec 1963. On his lapel he wears a spl pin that was presented to him for bravery in trying to protect the president and the first lady during the assassination in Dallas.

  • Hill continues to debate whether or not he is worthy of the title of hero in the modern day.
  • Number 23.”Over the years, a lot of agents have said they’re agents now because they saw what I did in 1963,” Hill said. “But I don’t take any comfort in being considered a hero.”
  • On the other hand, Hill has been more at ease discussing his experiences on the day of the assassination and his subsequent well-being. He and his spouse, Lisa McCubbin Hill, have written four novels on their experiences as Secret Service agents. This month marks the publishing of the book Five Days in November, which marks its 60th anniversary.
  • “People who have trouble with PTSD, which is what I have, the best thing they can do is find someone they trust and talk to them about what it is that’s bothering them,” Hill said. “The more they talk about it, the better they’re going to feel.”
  • Mycah Hazel and the Radio Diaries crew developed this tale. Listen to the Radio Diaries podcast for more tales from the show.

Published by : Reshraman

 

 

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