Raven Rock and the presidential succession of 1963

JFK Jackie at Love Field

Dan Alcorn illuminates an underappreciated aspect of November 22, 1963. President Kennedy and his government had been preparing for a succession emergency for some time.

When President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, our nuclear weapons system would have needed urgently to know who was in command, and when word of the President’s death came, the system would immediately switch command to the Vice President, now the successor commander-in-chief. The swearing-in ceremony is a mere formality– power would have passed when word of the President’s death was first received. Standby authority for military officers to use nuclear weapons existed if the President or designated successor

Source: Raven Rock by author Garrett Graff Reviewed by Dan Alcorn, AARC Board member


  1. Dan Alcorn says:

    There are reports that LBJ was separated from the officer carrying the football. If this happened, according to Raven Rock standby orders empowered military officers to use nuclear weapons if unable to reach the Commander in Chief.

  2. Richard Sullins says:

    This is a fascinating study of how the system was designed to work and how it was challenged by the events in Dallas. Do I remember correctly that the officer carrying the “football” got separated from the group that was at Parkland and LBJ did not have the capability to order a nuclear strike for several critical minutes after the shits were fired?

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