The U.S. military on November 22: ‘The atmosphere around the Pentagon was so heated that day …’

JCS at JFK funeral

Gens. Maxwell Taylor and Curtis LeMay at the funeral of JFK, November 25, 1963 (Credit Abbie Rowe/JFK Library

In response to my query about Gen. Maxwell Taylor and the events of 1963, reader John writes:

“The story of Maxwell Taylor’s reaction to murder of JFK, and that of the military in general, is a subject rarely looked into by the JFK community, and is a topic worthy of greater research and study.

“From what sources I have, ( Primary- Larry Joe Hancock.), both Taylor and Secretary of Defense McNamara were in Washington at the Pentagon at the time of the shooting. Upon hearing the news, both took it upon themselves to immediately put all U.S. Nuclear strike forces on DEFCON 3. ( At the same time, the Commanders of the Pacific fleet and NATO unilaterally put their own forces on DEFCON 2.)

“In addition, Taylor directly ordered the entire Military District of Washington was put on alert, and special efforts were made to protect the security of the Kennedy family. The atmosphere around the Pentagon was so heated that day many even suspected that a coup was taking place. Communication problems prevented General Clifton, JFK’s military aide from getting through to the Pentagon. When he finally did, Clifton was assured by Taylor that all was under control. Subsequently, when the late President’s body arrived in Washington, the Pentagon made arrangements for the burial, and it was Taylor who marched at the head of the Joint Chiefs and military aides during the burial on 25 November.

“An interesting side note: Recently released documents from former Soviet Archives and the latest JFK document releases show that the Russians had also placed their own military on alert as well, and for pretty much the same reasons as Taylor did. 22 November, 1963 may have in fact witnessed next highest nuclear confrontation of the Cold War.”

“I hope this helps to answer your question.”

It does. Thanks. It makes me wonder, did Taylor ever give a first person account of that day?


  1. John F. Davies says:

    An observation.

    We all know the ancient Chinese proverb about a picture saying a thousand words. In the photograph, I have noticed something that particularly stands out- The look of unconcealed grief on the face of General Lemay. It appears that there was one moment when his famous iron visage dropped away.

    And hopefully this may dispel the stories of Curt Lemay being at the autopsy, gloating over JFK’s body.

  2. david t. krall says:

    In William Corsons’s excellent tome, “The Armeies of Ignorance” which I consider a “bookend to Fletchor Prouty’s “The Secret Team” Corson writes that shorlty after the JFK murder, that U.S. intelligence “lost track” of the top leaders of the Soviet Union for some time… it was later determined that for a short time that these leaders hid out, and beleived that what ever sector, e.g. a group “Pentagon Madmen” were powerful and crazy enough to kill a U.S. President, than they were just as crazy to start a world war..

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