JFK’s assassination was shocking – but I couldn’t break down: Kennedy’s bodyguards Clint Hill and Paul Landis recall moment that plane carrying his body returned to Washington in 60th anniversary documentary
JFK’s bodyguard Clint Hill ‘couldn’t breakdown’ as he accompanied the President’s body back to Washington sitting alongside heartbroken Jackie Kennedy, it was been revealed in a documentary marking 60 years since the shocking killing.
Mr Hill, now 91, had been riding on the Secret Service car directly behind the President’s limousine, which had also been carrying John Connally and his wife Nellie.
After the motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository, Lee Oswald – who was hiding in a sixth-floor window – fired at the President. One shot hit him in the neck, whilst another – which was fatal – struck him in the head.
Now decades after Kennedy’s death, Mr Hill, who famously jumped onto a moving car to protect the First Lady when the shots were fired, recalls how he stoically continued working as usual in the days following the murder despite the shock he was feeling.
Speaking in One Day in America, a documentary by National Geographic airing tonight, he said: ‘On that flight between Dallas and DC there was time for grief – for anything – except continue to do the best job you could and that’s what I tried to do.
JFK’s bodyguard Clint Hill ‘couldn’t breakdown’ as he accompanied the President’s body back to Washington he has revealed in new National Geographic documentary, One Day in America
This colourised archival image shows secret service agent Paul Landis (far left) standing near President John F. Kennedy, as he arrives at Love Field in Dallas, November 22 1963
This colourised archival image shows officers and detectives from the Dallas PD observing a minute of silence for their slain colleague, J.D. Tippit, who was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, November 22 1963 in Dallas
‘Mrs Kennedy was in shock. She cried terribly, of course she was a brand new widow with two children. Now that’s all that was left of that family.
‘Bobby Kennedy came running all the way up the front steps of the aircraft and all the way through the aircraft to where Mrs Kennedy and the casket was situated in the back and he was tearful. It was shocking, it was emotional but I couldn’t break down.’
Meanwhile, former Secret Service agent Paul Landis, 88, also spoke of the profound impact being present at the President’s assignation had on him.
Mr Landis, who had been a young agent at the time assigned to protect First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy, said: ‘I just cried I think all the way home. I helped to unload the casket.
‘We were tired, we had put in a long day with a lot going on and I hadn’t handled a lot of it very well. I know now I was in shock.’
The new documentary features colourised footage, which shows Lee Harvey Oswald sitting in police custody and when he is shot while being transferred to the country jail.
Throughout the three-part series, local reporter Bill Mercer – who was to report that Oswald had been charged with the President’s murder – and Peggy Simpson, the only female Associated Press worker in Texas in 1963, are interviewed.
Both recall their shock at finding out that Oswold had been shot by night club owner Jack Ruby while in custody, with Mr Mercer claiming Jack had wanted to become a hero.
Killer Lee Harvey Oswald pictured after being arrested
Mr Hill (seen standing, wearing sun glasses) was riding on one of the running boards of the Secret Service car directly behind the President’s limousine, which was also carrying Texas governor John Connally and his wife Nellie
Mr Hill was famously seen scrambling to protect the President after the first shot was fired, but did not reach him in time
He said: ‘When I saw that Jack Ruby had shot Oswell, I was shocked. I was sorry that he had messed up like that, he had committed a grave error, one that you can’t eradicate. It’s going to go down in history.
‘Jack did what he did. He wanted to be somebody, everyone loved the president so everybody hated the man who had killed the president so now this was going to make Jack a hero.’
Ms Simpson added: ‘I was on the phone with bureau chiefs and I heard the cops say this is Jack Ruby and they say the cops know this guy, they say it’s Jack Ruby.
‘And he said “What? I drink in his bar, how can that be?” He was a known person, he wasn’t somebody that they expected to do any harm.’
The series has been made in official collaboration with The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas
The first episode airs tonight at 9pm on National Geographic.
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