Allen Dulles and the making of the Warren Commission

Dan Hardway offers another gem of historic audio to our discussion of how Allen Dulles came to be named to the Warren Commission. He cites this phone call that President Johnson made to Allen Dulles on November 29, 1963, informing him he would be on the Commission.

Listen to the conversation here:

Hardway comments

This is one of the shortest calls that LBJ had to make to the potential members of the Commission,” Hardway writes. “Unlike others who were reluctant to serve, Dulles expressed no reluctance, the call only lasted approximately a minute and thirty or so seconds, but Johnson appears to try to repeat the arguments he made to others anyway. ”

In this call to Dulles, neither Dulles nor LBJ mention Robert Kennedy or his possible involvement in Dulles selection.
The conversation opens with LBJ apologetically advising Dulles, “I have some unpleasant news for you.”
“Yes,’ says Dulles.
“We are going to name very shortly a presidential commission made up of seven people … as a study group to go into this FBI report … in connection with the assassination of our beloved friend, and you’ve got to go on that for me,” Johnson says.
Dulles responds, “Because I can really serve you–”
“I know you can, I know you can,” LBJ interrupts, “not any doubt about it.  Just get ready now to go in there and do a good job.  America’s got to be united in this hour.”
At this point the tape becomes somewhat garbled. Dulles says something about his “previous job.”  LBJ’s response is garbled but he can be heard to say, “You always do a good job as I found out long ago.”
When LBJ hung up, Dulles was on the Warren Commission.

12 comments

  1. Paul Turner says:

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear the phone call. But wasn’t there a previous conversation between Hoover and LBJ, where Hoover asks LBJ for his(LBJ)reaction to having Dulles as a WC member?

  2. Jean Davison says:

    Here’s a transcript of this call:

    https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=893

    According to that as well as Max Holland’s transcript, Dulles’s response to Johnson’s statement “….you’ve got to go on that for me,” was not “Because I can really serve you–.” It was a question: “You think I can really serve you?”

    Dulles brought up his “previous job” to ask LBJ if it somehow disqualified him from this assignment. The two transcripts vary on a single word here.

    “Dulles: If I can be of any help…and you’ve considered the work {effect] of my previous work and my previous job?”

    Holland includes another Dulles comment at the very end: “If you’ve taken into account … I think of nothing else that would recuse me unless that other…the old job did.”

    Someone might argue that, rather than lobbying hard for the job, Dulles was offering LBJ a reason not to name him.

  3. anonymous says:

    “In this call to Dulles, neither Dulles nor LBJ mention Robert Kennedy ”

    Didn’t RFK called the WC , a work of fiction?… Allen Dulles asked British novelist to draw on her fertile imagination to come up with possible motives for Oswald:

    “British novelist Rebecca West. In March, Dulles wrote West, beseeching her to draw on her fertile imagination to come up with possible motives for Oswald’s crime. The commission was so baffled by the question that Warren even suggested leaving that part of the report blank.”

    http://whowhatwhy.org/2015/10/14/new-book-on-cia-master-plotter-dulles-sneak-peek-part-3/

  4. Lisa Pease says:

    I posted Dan’s full comment here, if you want to let readers see the rest of his response: http://realhistoryarchives.blogspot.com/2015/10/dan-hardway-rebuts-shenons-assertion.html

  5. BrotherBruce says:

    Sounds like the conversation Casey Stengel had with the NY Mets after he’d been kicked to the curb by the Yankees and was being pulled out of obscurity to coach the “Amazin’s”.
    I’ll do anything for you Lyndon. You know I headed up the CIA and still have a lot of loyal friends over there. Thank ya suh, Thank ya very much indeed. Yassuh Mr. Lyndon – I’ll do just what you need. You called the right man, suh. I know what’s going on here – you can count on me suh! Thank ya again suh. Don’t worry about a thing suh; And don’t fuhget to leave ya shoes outside your door at night – I’ll shine’em up good for ya Mr. Lyndon. I’m go-in ta do a good job for you Massah!
    “Yeah, I know you will Allen. Now shut your pie hole and just do it, you’re slobbering all over yourself and future historians will listen to this call and know how bogus it was for me to put a drooling, diabolical lap dog like you on my totally pre-ordained Commission”.
    Yassuh suh! thank ya. Don’t go – Let me kiss your behind a little mo befo you hang up. Don’t fuhget now, Ise the one almost got away with fooling that little playboy punk into starting WWIII. This gig will be a breeze. Thanks again Mistah Lyndon. Click

    • Steve Stirlen says:

      BrotherBruce,

      Amen! This lapdog could sit right next to the BIGGEST lapdog on the Warren Omission, Gerald “I will tell you whatever you want to hear to further my political career” Ford.

  6. Michael says:

    Interesting that the words “previous job that you did”!

    • JohnR says:

      Michael, don’t run off in the woods with that comment. Clearly he’s referring to his tenure as CIA Director. He might even be expressing concern for the optics of him being on a commissio0n investigating the murder of the man who fired him. In that regard, he was hardly alone.

  7. Thomas says:

    A fake conversation that makes the blood curl when he refers to “our beloved friend.” Would a conversation on such a topic really only last a minute and a half? Obviously for the taped record.

  8. David S. Lifton says:

    Some 22 years ago, I received a two-inch loosely bound copy of numerous telephone transcripts from the LBJ Library. A page at the front is dated “September 22, 1993” and explains that the transcripts were originally “typed in the White House and during the preparation of the President’s memoir,”The Vantage Point”). It was explained that “the staff made no effort to compare the transcripts word for word” and that “inaccuracies or matters of interpretation may exist in these transcripts.”

    Decades ago, I stuck a “Post-It note” on the LBJ/Allen Dulles conversation of November 29, 1963, and have written about it on the London Education Forum.

    I don’t know what the digital recording at the Miller Center show, but here is what struck me about this 1993 transcript that I was sent.

    POINT NUMBER ONE:

    After telling Dulles that he is calling because [I] have a little unpleasant news for you..” and after Dulles responds “Yes. . . “, LBJ continues that a seven person Presidential Commission is going to have to be formed “. . . as a study group to go into this FBI report. . . this Court of Inquiry and all the incidents in connection with the assassination of our beloved friend. . . and you’ve got to go on that for me.”

    DSL COMMENT: Has anyone focused (yet) on Johnson’s description of Kennedy’s death as “the assassination of our beloved friend. . .” –which, on the page at least, sounds rather sarcastic. I have not seen anyone addressing that point: how does it sound, on the recording?

    POINT NUMBER TWO:

    Dulles responds, “You think I can really serve you?” to which LBJ replies: “I know you can. . I know you can. . there’s not any doubt about it. . just get ready now to go in there and do a good job. . we’ve got to have. . America has got to be united in this hour. . ” (typed exactly as shown on the LBJ Library transcript).

    Dulles then replies: “I would like to be of any help. . and you’ve considered the work of my previous work (sic) and my previous job?

    Dulles is obviously alluding to his involvement in previous covert operations and very likely referring to plots to overthrow governments if not eliminate foreign leaders.

    Johnson replies: “I sure have. . and we want you to do it. . [so] that’s that.” (DSL Note: I added “so” in brackets].

    Note: Johnson uses we–presumably talking in the context it being the “royal ‘we'”.

    Dulles then replies: “Well, I’ll follow. . ”

    And that’s when Johnson says: “You always do what is best for your country. . I found that out about you a long time ago. Thank you very much.”

    DSL COMMENT: To what is Johnson referring to when he talks about something he “found out” about Dulles “a long time ago”?

    Then there are thankyou’s (back and forth) and LBJ concludes:

    “Thank you. . I’ll be talking to you, my friend.”

    Dulles then volunteers: “And I’ll keep this entirely quiet. . ”

    To which LBJ responds: “Please do. . please do. . because I haven’t cleared it but with one other man.”

    Dulles then responds: “I understand. . I’ll do. . .and am at your orders. . [means “at your service” -DSL]

    This brief but significant conversation has to be parsed carefully to squeeze out all its meaning.

    First of all: there’s no reason to believe that LBJ is calling Dulles because Robert Kennedy recommended Dulles; nor does the conversation sound like it resulted from Allen Dulles lobbying LBJ to be on the Commission. To the contrary, Dulles raises the issue of his “prior” work (“the work of my previous work and my previous job”) that would mitigate against his being suitable for this position. If this transcript can be relied upon, Dulles would prefer NOT to be on the Commission.

    Second: Johnson’s statement to Dulles, at the outset, referring to JFK’s murder as “the assassination of our beloved friend” just reeks with insincerity. It also makes clear that the speaker (Johnson) seems to know that Allen Dulles feels the same way about John Kennedy as he (Dulles) does: “our beloved friend”? Oh pleez!

    Third: Johnson’s language implies that he knows all about Dulles from some kind of prior work that LBJ seems to be alluding to (“I found that out about you a long time ago”).

    Fourth, and finally: Dulles volunteers that he will keep his appointment secret (“I’ll keep this entirely quiet”) to which Johnson immediately (and apparently thankfully) says: “Please do. . please do. . ” etc.

    This conversation suggests (to me) that neither Johnson nor Dulles particularly liked John Kennedy; and that the two of them had some prior dealings in the US Government, and so felt very comfortable with one another.

    I don’t know what the digital audio at the Miller Center sounds like; everything I am writing here is in response to how the words come off the page, on the original transcript sent to me by the Johnson Library back in the fall of 1993.

    DSL
    10/20/15 – 5:15 AM PDT
    Los Angeles, California

  9. Alan says:

    “America’s got to be united in this hour.”–Johnson

    United?, united because if they knew the genuine truth they’d take names and hold the real culprits accountable??

    IF Castro was responsible: it’s a no brainer the country would be united.

    IF the USSR was responsible: It’s a no brainer the country would be united.

    However, the only way the country could be potentially torn apart is those truly responsible would be exposed…talk about a full scale stampede.

    The plain simple truth doesn’t need 26 volumes

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