2013 JFK Facts scoop #3: the Air Force One tapes

On Oct. 19, I reported on the first public airing of restored and enhanced recordings of communciations to and from Air Force One on the afternoon of November 22, 1963. My story, “Enhanced Air Force One tapes capture a top general’s response to JFK’s murder,”  was soon picked up by other national news sites.

The story was one of three scoops scored by JFK Facts in 2013.

Here’s how the story spread.

In a post on October 27, I called the recordings, enhanced by JFK resarcher Bill Kelly and audio engineer Ed Primeau, “the most important piece of new JFK evidence of the past 5 years?”  On Nov. 7, I highlighted one of Primeau’s comments about the tapes.

My reporting caught the eye of Detroit Free Press reporter Julia Hinds who reported on the Air Force One tapes in her Nov. 10 story, “JFK’s last day: Rochester Hills audio experts care, tapes reveal info, hint at more.”

In that story, Kelly received full credit for his groundbreaking work and I was quoted about its significance.

From Hinds’ story:

“It’s not the tape itself. It’s what the tape tells us. And what the tape tells us is that there was a longer recording of the Air Force One communications on Nov. 22. That was never known before. What the tape tells us is there could be, somewhere, a recording of the reaction of the U.S. national security agencies to the president’s death,” said Morley, who’s written about the new recording for the site he moderates, JFKFacts.org.

“An original source tape with several more hours of content would be a big historical discovery. ‘It would be the record of the government’s response to the assassination itself,’ Morley said.”

A version of Hinds’ story also appeared in USA Today under the headline, “Echoes of history heard in JFK Air Force One tapes.”

A week later CNN’s Jake Tapper then picked up on the story in a November 15 report that focused on Primeau and failed to credit Kelly or JFK Facts.

Nonetheless, there is no dispute JFK Facts broke the Air Force One tapes story.

The complete Air Force One tape, if it still exists, is a historical document of prime importance. As I told Hinds, it would be the real-time record of the U.S. government’s response to JFK’s assassination. I suspect that the complete tape, if it is ever found, will shed new light on the U.S. miltiary and arrangements for JFK’s autopsy.


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  1. Bill Kelly says:

    Milteer is not mentioned on the existing tapes but could be on the unedited version though the origin of this story is the dubious National Enquirer.

    I would like to read the issues of Popular electronics that deals with these issues.


    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Please excuse my ignorance or ineptness on this. I read about Milteer years ago. I’ve seen the DP picture, and a few months ago read “From an Office Building with a High Power Rifle”. I guess I’m unaware of the National Enquirer bit. Are you saying his name could have been mentioned on the AF1 tapes? What might have been said about him? (Maybe just post a link…?)

    • Jordan says:


      You may have an easier time finding old PE mags. The ‘top-dog’ was Tom Kneitel who wrote for both but EI was allowed more leeway with content than PE. I had a large collection of both mags for years, but cleared them out a few years back…

      Here is a link to a later article from a 1985 Popular Communications magazine that he wrote :


  2. Bill Kelly says:

    Radio Swan was run by David A. Phillips and was based on the successful Guatamalan coup model that Phillips also ran. When Cuban students overran the small guano island, ala Dr. No, he welcomed them and gave them beer and they had a party and Cubans left happy.

  3. Bill Kelly says:

    That Bundy told AF1 there was no conspiracy from WHSR is quoted from unedited transcript TH White was permitted to read at White House, that is no longer available. William Manchester and Pierre Salinger also read and quote from a transcript of unedited tape that is not on the public record.

    Jackie didn’t talk herself but others carried out her instructions.

    Cuba has major ELINT listening post at Lourdes and Castro ordered them to tune in and other governments listened in and recorded it but wouldn’t ever admit it. We could ask, acknowledging that our military lost our copy.

    An indepth review of the tapes will be conducted after the new year

    RockwellCollins says they don’t have any tapes or transcripts, so there must be a remote storage facility somewhere – an audio tape graveyard of national security history.


  4. Jordan says:

    While this message is not directly on topic, it is somewhat related.
    During the late 50’s and early to mid 60’s, both Popular Electronics and Electronics Illustrated discussed on a regular basis, the goings-on of Radio Swan, and another CIA propaganda station located in Bluefields, Nicaragua whose name I don’t recall, among many others.

    In particular, Electronics Illustrated caused the CIA some grief with brash comments and broad conjecture on CIA “spook” broadcasting.

    • leslie sharp says:

      Undoubtedly you know that the utilization of radio for espionage and propaganda since the Cold War stems from RFE/RL. Radio Free (in this case) “Swan” was funded in huge part by private industry in the 1950’s under numerous umbrella organizations including the privatized American Security Council whose motto “Peace Through Strength” (coined by Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 1st Century AD) has been used to marshal the US war machine for decades. What is significant in your observation is the emphasis on what was going on in South America leading to Kennedy’s assassination. I think Jim diEugenio is making a sincere effort to bring our attention to Kennedy’s view of nationalism on the rise in the Third Word and certainly that would have included the Southern Hemisphere. “Swan” may have been serving the US/UK intelligence agenda, but was it promoting Kennedy’s new vision?

      • Jordan says:

        I believe that the “War for Men’s Minds” pre-dates WWI and II and likely even the U.S. Civil War.
        The premise that liberty, freedom and ‘goodness’ are at risk in any “nationalistic” pursuit is inherently disingenuous.

        WWII may have resulted in the surrender of the Axis, but the war in and of itself continues to this day.

        • leslie sharp says:

          In theory, as US citizens, we all have the responsibility for the government we elect and the propaganda that government disseminates.

          Funding of government propaganda by private industry is an anathema to democracy, and erodes America’s standing across continents. Edward Bernays’ efforts on behalf of United Fruit is but one historical example, but far more egregious is the involvement of major US corporations in the financing of RFE and RL. It is impossible to separate the intelligence community from corporate interests and vice versa. Why do so many high profile JFK researchers avoid the specifics of this collaboration?

  5. Bill Kelly says:

    Jeff is correct in that if he wasn’t at my Wecht conference presentation the AF 1 tapes story never would have been reported. He blogged about it within a few hours and his reports stimulated the other articles and continued interest in this important area of research,

    How the story plays out is also a lesson in media relations.

    Many thanks to Jeff and Rex and JFKFacts for taking this story to another level and consider we haven’t even begun to properly evaluate the tape yet to learn all that it contains. So there’s more to come.

  6. Kennedy63 says:

    It would seem reasonable that all communications between Air Force One and the White House Situation Room would be captured by the Signal Corps. It is amazing the ARRB did not push (or successfully push) to have Signal Corps records released, which could provide the full conversations from AFO. Does anyone know if ARRB covered this area?

  7. Melvin Fromme says:

    I suspect Fidel Castro’s people copied all radio traffic they could pick up in Cuba as well as other countries with the same capability. The Cuban government would naturally monitor radio traffic to give itself early warning should the US have decided to attack the island country after the US military went on high alert. This is especially so if Castro orchestrated the assassination & knew a response was likely.

    Perhaps someone in a position to interview Fidel can ask him about it.

  8. Jordan says:

    I would expect that all the relays were via HF radio link and that everything was linked through Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids Iowa, Rockwell Collins may be a source to check…

  9. GM says:

    Apologies if these are silly questions, but where would the full version tape likely have been stored? What happens to the Air Force One tapes? In addition, would what Jackie Kennedy have said on the plane have been picked up? Did people in general know what they said was being recorded or not?

    • Clarence Carlson says:

      From the context of the tapes I would think those most familiar with the communications system (i.e. the military personnel who used it frequently) would understand that everything spoken over a radio link could be received by anyone monitoring those frequencies and that the military comm centers taped everything. Hence the use of code names for various persons involved. As a long time ham operator I remember listening to the Air Force frequencies from time to time on an old short wave radio back in the day. As to what happened to the original tape: who knows? It may have disappeared into a national security black hole. The complete tape would be a real find, if it ever surfaces.

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Stored by the Air Force, CIA, or another Government entity. The tapes were of “communications between the Presidential plane and the rest of the Government.” They confirm General Curtis The Mad Bomber Lemay’s aide’s frantic search for him. He was hunting in Michigan per his family but picked up at a former military training facility in Canada.


      • Ronnie Wayne says:

        I believe his family also said something to the effect of this was the only time he ever left his aide behind.

  10. Nathaniel Heidenheimer says:

    Did this initial report mention the call from McGeorge Bundy to Air Force One asserting the lone nut narrative BEFORE even the Dallas police were making this claim?

    Is this version of Bundy making this call to both Air Force One and the Cabinet plane that was on the way to Japan disputed by other writers? If so where is this issue discussed?

  11. Jonathan says:

    Your 27 October post and Bill Kelly’s and Ed Primeau’s work are incredibly important. The full tape exists somewhere, I believe. If not, we’re being teased badly and for no apparent purpose.

    I agree completely: ” I suspect that the complete tape, if it is ever found, will shed new light on the U.S. miltiary and arrangements for JFK’s autopsy. “

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