Air Force One tapes

The entire two hour and 22 minute recording has been made available by the U.S. National Archives and can be accessed on two websites.

U.S. Government Printing Office 

Wikimedia Commons

The U.S National Archives has released long-lost audio recordings of conversations that happened on Air Force One during the flight back to Washington, D.C., following the assassination of John F. Kennedy while he was president.

The tapes, which provide insight into what happened on the plane following the assassination in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963, contain more than 40 minutes of audio that was not included in tapes previously made public.

The plane was carrying the body of the president, his wife Jackie Kennedy, whose clothes were still stained with her husband’s blood, and Lyndon B. Johnson — who was sworn in as president on Air Force One at Love Field Airport only two hours after Kennedy was shot and killed.

The conversations were recorded by the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), which routed all phone and radio traffic, and include new code names and incidents; communications with another aircraft in the presidential fleet, en route to Tokyo; a private conversation with Jerry Behn, the head of the Secret Service; a phone call to Rose Kennedy, the president’s mother; and a discussion about what to do with the president's body.

"Everyone aboard Air Force One, with the exception of the body, would be choppered into the south ground. The body will be choppered to the Bethesda Naval Medical Centre," a voice on the tape says. 

'I wanted to tell you that we are grieving with you.' —U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, speaking to Rose Kennedy

Another replies, "The body is in a casket ... and will have to be taken by ambulance, not by chopper." And later on, instructions were given to also have a mortuary type ambulance stand by in case the helicopter did not work.

Johnson is heard on the tapes offering his condolences to Rose Kennedy.

"I wish to God there was something that I could do … and I wanted to tell you that we are grieving with you," Johnson told the dead president's mother.

Barely audible in the recording, she replies: "Thank you very much. Thank you very much. I know you loved Jack. And he loved you."

The tapes were discovered and donated by the Raab Collection, a dealer of autographs, historical documents and manuscripts.

"This is a particularly exciting find," said Nathan Raab, vice-president of the Raab Collection, in a release. "The discovery of these tapes will allow the public a more complete view of the chaotic circumstances following the assassination of President Kennedy. We are honoured to be part of that process."

A rare documents dealer had acquired the tapes from the estate sale of a Kennedy aide.