Chapter 2: Inside Parkland Memorial Hospital
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Senator Ralph Yarborough’s Account of the AssassinationOn November 22, 1963 Senator Ralph Yarborough was in the Presidential motorcade that drove through Dallas. Yarborough road with Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and his wife Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson (aka, "Lady Bird"), two cars behind the Presidential limousine. In an interview years later, Yarborough described the following sequence of events right after the shots rang out:
|The Secret Service in the car in front of us [the car behind Kennedy’s car] kind of casually looked around, looked up at the back of them and were rather slow to react. We went under the overpass and as we came up on the other side, I could see then the President’s car. And there was [Clint] Hill whom I knew as a Secret Service man assigned to protect Mrs. Kennedy. He was lying across the back [of the car] to hang on with his arm over in there so he could hang on at that high speed. His face turned back towards us, just … agony; and beating with his hand [against the car] like a terrible thing had happened. I knew then that Kennedy’d been shot.And within several minutes, we came to Parkland Hospital and the Secret Service immediately jumped out the minute Johnson – they practically pulled him out and formed a cordate around him, four or five, and one of them said "Mr. President." I knew then Kennedy was dead.And I walked up to the car where Mrs. Kennedy was still there on the back seat, lying there with her head bowed over covering her husband’s head, his blood running down her leg and on her clothes, and twice saying, "They’ve murdered my husband. They’ve murdered my husband." It’s the most tragic sight of my life.|
(Senator Ralph Yarborough, The Men Who Killed Kennedy – The Coup d'état, N. Turner, 1988)Senator Yarborough’s heartbreaking reaction to President Kennedy’s death was described by NBC’s Chet Huntley during live coverage of the assassination. Huntley stated that "Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas, talking only a few minutes before to news men, collapsed in sobs as he told of witnessing the slaying of the president."
Dr. Charles Crenshaw’s Description of Bizarre EventsOn November 22, 1963, Dr. Charles A. Crenshaw was a thirty-year-old attending physician at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Years later Crenshaw wrote his recollections of pandemonium mixed with grief and naked aggression at the hospital where Kennedy was taken immediately after being shot. The following is an excerpt from Dr. Crenshaw’s book, JFK: Conspiracy of Silence (1992):
|Once we reached the bottom of the stairwell, we opened the door and rushed into the emergency room. There is always a commotion around trauma, but what I saw was sheer bedlam. As we flew by the nurses’ station, I yelled, "Which room?" A nurse with tears streaming down her face raised one finger.I looked to my left and saw a man in a suit running. To my amazement, another man in a suit jumped in his path and smashed a Thompson submachine gun across his chest and face. The first man’s eyes immediately turned glassy, and he fell against a gray tile wall, and slithered to the floor unconscious. When I heard that gun slam against his face, I just knew the man’s jaw was broken. Normally, I would have rushed over and treated the poor guy, but the president of the United States was waiting for me, and his condition was worse than broken bones. I was to learn later that the man with the gun was a Secret Service agent, and the one who had been hit was an FBI agent.|
(C. Crenshaw, et al, JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, 1992, p. 75)
|They [the Secret Service] told us to go into the trauma room and prepare the President to be moved. They had his head wrapped in sheets. At the time I didn’t know where he had been shot or what. We was all very sad. Everyone was chokin’ back tears.… The state authorities wanted to do an autopsy which is state law in the state of Texas, and the federal people wanted to take it back to Washington, DC. There was a lot of pushing, shoving, cursing. We would try to roll the casket out. Someone would grab it and try to roll it back towards the trauma room. This went on for quite a while. It was a push and shove type thing. Quite a bit of, like I say, obscene language. I had to hold onto the cross on the casket because of the friction where people was pulling it backwards and forwards. I was scared to death. I was really frightened.|
(The Men Who Killed Kennedy, N. Turner, 1988)
|As though on cue, a phalanx of guards poured into Trauma Room 1 just as the coffin was being rolled out. They looked like a swarm of locusts descending upon a cornfield. Without any discussion, they encircled the casket and began escorting the President's body down the hall toward the emergency room exit. A man in a suit, leading the group, holding a submachine gun, left little doubt in my mind who was in charge. That he wasn't smiling best describes the look on his face. Just outside Trauma Room 1, Jacqueline joined the escort and placed her hand on the coffin as she walked along beside it. I followed directly behind them.When the entourage had moved into the main hall, Dr. Earl Rose, chief of forensic pathology, confronted the men in suits. Roy Kellerman, the man leading the group, looked sternly at Dr. Rose and announced, "My friend, this is the body of the President of the United States, and we are going to take it back to Washington."|
Dr. Rose bristled and replied, "No, that's not the way things are. When there's a homicide, we must have an autopsy."
"He's the President. He's going with us," Kellerman barked, with increased intensity in his voice.
"The body stays," Dr. Rose said with equal poignancy.
Kellerman took an erect stance and brought his firearm into a ready position. The other men in suits followed course by draping their coattails behind the butts of their holstered pistols. How brave of these men, wearing their Brooks Brothers suits with icons of distinction (color-coded Secret Service buttons) pinned to their lapels, willing to shoot an unarmed doctor to secure a corpse.
"My friend, my name is Roy Kellerman. I am special agent in charge of the White House detail of the Secret Service. We are taking President Kennedy back to the capitol."
"You are not taking the body anywhere. There's a law here. We're going to enforce it."
Admiral George Burkley, White House Medical Officer, said, "Mrs. Kennedy is going to stay exactly where she is until the body is moved. We can't have that … he's the President of the United States."
"That doesn't matter," Dr. Rose replied rigidly. "You can't lose the chain of evidence."
For the second time that day, there was little doubt in my mind as to the significance of what was happening before me.
"Goddammit, get your ass out of the way before you get hurt," screamed another one of the men in suits. Another snapped, "We're taking the body, now."
Strange, I thought, this President is getting more protection dead than he did when he was alive.
Had Dr. Rose not stepped aside I'm sure that those thugs would have shot him. They would have killed me and anyone else who got in their way. Dr. Kemp Clark wanted to physically detain the coffin, but the men with guns acted like tough guys with specific orders. A period of twenty-seven years has neither erased the fear that I felt nor diminished the impression that that incident made upon me.They loaded the casket into the hearse, Jacqueline got into the backseat, placed her hand on top of the coffin, and bowed her head. As they drove off, I felt that a thirty-year-old surgeon had seen more than his share for one day.
(C. Crenshaw, et al, JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, 1992, pp. 118 - 120)
During NBC’s live coverage of the Kennedy assassination, Charles Murphy—a news man at WBAP-TV Dallas/Fort Worth—re-broadcast film footage of the motorcade, the confusion during the assassination, and the scene at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Murphy provided live commentary about the film as it was broadcast by NBC to the televisions of millions of Americans. The film showed a military officer entering the front of the hospital. Murphy identified him as "Major General [Chester V.] Clifton, the military aide." Again, what did General Clifton observe while inside the hospital?
Historians should take note of General Clifton’s name and his possible involvement in the coup d’état of 1963. The General was filmed walking into Parkland Hospital immediately after the assassination; he was also identified by television reporter Charles Murphy. Given the General’s cool demeanor and his apparent lack of command during a hostile confrontation between Parkland doctors and the Secret Service, the odds are quite high that General Clifton was an active participant in the conspiracy to murder President Kennedy.
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- WBAP-TV reporter Charles Murphy identified Major General Chester V. Clifton walking inside Parkland Memorial Hospital during NBC’s live coverage of the Kennedy assassination (As it Happens). Murphy stated that Clifton was a military aide to President Kennedy. The Kennedy Library also has a file on General Clifton stating that he was also a Defense Liaison Officer, which was a liaison between President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff; http://www.jfklibrary.org/fa_clifton_wh.html. A bio about General Clifton’s life—published on the Arlington National Cemetery website—stated that Clifton was a military aide to President Johnson as well as Kennedy. He died in 1991 at the age of 78 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery; http://www.arlingtoncemetery.com/cvclifton.htm