Receiving Notification of President Kennedy’s Shooting: November 1963

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

On November 22, 1963, Secretary of State Dean Rusk was aboard a U.S. Air Force plane over the Pacific Ocean.  He was leading a delegation of Cabinet officials to Japan to meet with their Japanese counterparts.  Accompanying the Secretary of State were Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, Secretary of Commerce Luther Hodges, and Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz.  About an hour-and-a-half after a stop at Hickam Field in Hawaii for fuel, word came of the shooting of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.  The following near-contemporary document provide a matter-of-fact account of the events on board the aircraft.


Chronology of Event Aboard AF (VC-137) #86972

Secretary of State Rusk later described the somber mood on the airplane and concerns relating to the assassination in his memoir As I Saw It (1990).  Under Secretary of State George Ball gave his account in his The Past Has Another Pattern: Memoirs (1982).

Source: Chronology of Events Aboard AF (VC-137) #86972, undated, file “The White House,” Records of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs: Subject Files, 1961-1965 (NAID 624719), Entry A1-5226, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

One thought on “Receiving Notification of President Kennedy’s Shooting: November 1963

  1. When working on Coast Guard log books it was interesting to compare the variety of ways this news was handled. In most cases it was very matter-of-fact. A few were quite poignant.

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