Testimony Of Lawrence F. O'Brien

The testimony of Lawrence F. O'Brien was taken at 11 a.m., on May 26, 1964, at the White House Office, Washington, D.C., by Mr. Francis W. H. Adams, assistant counsel of the President's Commission.

Mr. ADAMS. Raise your right hand, please.
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you shall give in this deposition proceeding before the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I do.
Mr. ADAMS. Mr. O'Brien, the purpose of this deposition is to get from you your knowledge of the facts surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

I would like to start way back, if I may, at the point of the conception of the trip, the origin of the trip. How far back was that before November 22?
Mr. O'BRIEN. My recollection is the contemplation of the trip to Texas was back some, perhaps, months before the actual trip.
However, I should quickly add that many discussions took place about potential trips to all parts of the country at some future time, to some degree in the political context. The President, No. 1, enjoyed getting out to meet the people; and, secondly, over a period of time we had anticipated the President would travel rather extensively when the opportunity presented itself. But the difficulty in pinning anything like that down specifically in advance is the obvious difficulty of scheduling any travel by the President, because of the duties of the office and the obvious day to day changes in the problem.
Mr. ADAMS. But you, yourself, were concerned and involved in discussions looking towards this?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; Mr. O'Donnell was responsible for the handling of the specifics of trips. He would engage in discussions with the President and projections of possible trips of one sort or another. In his role as Appointments Secretary, of course, he was constantly discussing with the President invitation of all kinds that came across his desk.
The Vice President had expressed an interest for some time in a possible trip to Texas.
Mr. ADAMS. Had he expressed that interest to you?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't recall specifically. It became generally understood in our discussions that he was interested, the President was interested, Mr. O'Donnell was charged with the responsibility of maintaining a day to day relationship in this area.
Mr. ADAMS. At that time, what was your official title?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Special Assistant to the President for Congressional Relations.
Mr. ADAMS. Now--
Mr. O'BRIEN. A trip of this nature, as many trips within the United States would involve the inclusion of Members of Congress, appropriate members of the delegation, and what-have-you. So that would be pretty much my involvement in any arrangements for a trip of this nature.
Mr. ADAMS. To put it another way, you did not yourself have the responsibility for the specific planning?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Not at all.
Mr. ADAMS. And were you involved in making--in the discussions which led to the final decision about this Texas trip?
Mr. O'BRIEN. There were some discussions that involved me as to the specific stops on the trip, because there immediately you would have the matter of the congressional districts that would be involved in the stops, and matters of that nature.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you happen to know how it came to pass that Mrs. Kennedy went along on that trip?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I do not. I think Mr. O'Donnell would be the proper person to direct that to.
Mr. ADAMS. Did you have anything to do with the security or protection arrangements for the President?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No.
Mr. ADAMS. Neither on that trip nor at any time?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No.
Mr. ADAMS. This didn't come within your duties at all?
Mr. ADAMS. Now, is it fair to say that the substantial purpose of this trip was political?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would not say--in my belief it was not the substantial purpose. An invitation that had been extended by the Congressman Albert Thomas dinner committee, and I assume arrangements that were appropriate for that time for a dinner in Austin contributed to the decision on that particular time for this trip. This would be typical of the situation, as I recall it, where you knew there would be an occasion when the President would visit Texas.
He was interested in visiting Texas, as he was other sections of the country. And this sort of fell into line. It presented to some degree an opportunity to make the trip at that time.
He was particularly fond of Congressman Thomas. And he had had a close working relationship with him in the Congress.
I, of course, became very well acquainted with Congressman Thomas, because of my role representing the White House with the Congress. And I am sure that was a contributing factor. He was most interested in attending this dinner to honor him.
Mr. ADAMS. I suppose it would be fair to say that almost any activity of the President is in some measure political.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would say that is perhaps true.
But he had been interested, also, in having an opportunity to visit the Space Center particularly. And he had watched the development of the space activity in Texas with great interest.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, going back to the time that you left Washington on that trip, did you leave with the President?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I did.
Mr. ADAMS. From the White House?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I did.
Mr. ADAMS. By helicopter?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes.
Mr. ADAMS. And what was the time do you recall?
Mr. O'BRIEN. It was approximately forenoon, about 10:45, from the White House lawn, in the President's helicopter.
Mr. ADAMS. And where did you go in the helicopter?
Mr. O'BRIEN. We went to Andrews Field.
Mr. ADAMS. And did you go onboard Air Force I?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; I did.
Mr. ADAMS. And you went from there to Austin?
Mr. O'BRIEN. We went from there to San Antonio.
Mr. ADAMS. I am sorry. I misspoke myself. San Antonio?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes.
Mr. ADAMS. Arriving in San Antonio about when?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I think you would have to refer to the record on that.
Mr. ADAMS. Some time early afternoon? Some time in the afternoon of that day?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; I remember it was, weatherwise, an uneventful trip. The weather was fine. There is no reason to suggest we didn't arrive at pretty much the established time.

Mr. ADAMS. Then, just briefly, what happened in San Antonio?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Well, there was a motorcade in San Antonio to the Aerospace Center for a ceremony. And, as I recall, the ceremony was relatively brief. The President spoke briefly. And then he inspected the installation.
The overall elapsed time I don't recall--perhaps an hour or an hour and a half.
And then we proceeded back to the airport for the trip to Fort Worth.
Mr. ADAMS. What happened in Fort Worth?
Mr. O'BRIEN. In Fort Worth, as I recall, at the airport there was--from the airport into the hotel in Fort Worth, it was rather a lengthy trip. It also involved crowds at various stops.
The hour--I am sorry I cannot recall the hour of arrival--but it was, as we say, an offbeat hour. It was rather surprising to have the interest shown crowdwise as we went in. It delayed the motorcade into the hotel and outside of the hotel there was a large crowd of people.
Mr. ADAMS. What was the reaction of that crowd? Was that a friendly group?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would describe it as friendly; yes.
Mr. ADAMS. Then what happened next, after you arrived at the hotel?
Mr. O'BRIEN. The President and his party checked into the hotel for the night. I do not recall any other official activity.
Mr. ADAMS. And what happened next?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Well, the following morning the President arose early to attend a breakfast. As I recall, it was a civic breakfast, sponsored by the local civic group or groups.

Mr. ADAMS. Did Mrs. Kennedy attend that, also, as you recall?
Mr. O'BRIEN. She arrived at the breakfast, as I recall, following the President. The President spoke at the breakfast, and received gifts, and Mrs. Kennedy received a gift. I recall one of the gifts to the President was a Stetson. I recall that he did not try it on, but he appreciated receiving it.
Following the breakfast, he then spoke to a large crowd in front of the hotel, in the parking area opposite the hotel. There had been indications of bad weather. There was some rain, and then the rain became intermittent.
Upon completing his speech in the parking area, he returned upstairs to await the normal departure time.
When that time arrived, I went downstairs ahead of the President and Mrs. Kennedy, and the Secret Service were determining whether or not they would have the top up or down on the car, because there was still an occasional drop of rain. However, a few minutes elapsed, and it appeared the weather would stay good for the drive to the airport. So he left, to the best of my recollection--I feel sure of this--in an open car to the airport from the hotel.
Mr. ADAMS. While we are on that subject, just to digress for a moment, what was his attitude toward riding in open cars?
Mr. O'BRIEN. It was certainly his preference. He had always expressed a view that in our democracy a President should, whenever possible, be exposed to the people. And I think, also, he felt the people should be exposed to him. He always wanted to have the closest possible contact with people. And in that context his preference certainly at all times was an open car.
Mr. ADAMS. And these preferences were expressed to you personally?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Not in the context of this particular situation.
Mr. ADAMS. No; I mean through the years.
Mr. O'BRIEN. But certainly we were totally aware of his desires in that area. And this had, of course, been his position not only in the United States but in trips outside the country.
Mr. ADAMS. Did he have--did he ever happen to express any particular view to you about motorcades, in terms of security?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I cannot recall any discussion I had with him in that regard.
Mr. ADAMS. Generally speaking, what was his position as expressed to you about security?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I cannot recall any specific conversation in that area. There may have been. But certainly it was not of sufficient substance to be of any importance.
Mr. ADAMS. More specifically, did you ever discuss with him the possibility of assassination?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I did not.
Mr. ADAMS. Did you ever discuss it with Mrs. Kennedy?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I did not.
Mr. ADAMS. Well, I took you off the track there. We will come back to Fort Worth, now, if we may.
When we left we were discussing his concluding his talk and going out to the airport in Fort Worth.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; there were, as I recall it, some bands en route. There was a great deal of excitement, enthusiasm. The weather had cleared. And it was a thoroughly pleasant trip out to the airport. The President obviously enjoyed it.
When we arrived at Air Force I, he commented that that certainly had been a very interesting and pleasant morning.
Mr. ADAMS. And you went with him on Air Force I?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is correct.
Mr. ADAMS. To Dallas--arriving late in the morning?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would estimate our arrival time at Dallas perhaps around 11:45. I know that we anticipated the motorcade through the streets of Dallas at the noon hour.
Mr. ADAMS. Did you yourself have anything to do with the planning of that motorcade?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I did not.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you-----
Mr. O'BRIEN. With the exception of insuring the inclusion in the motorcade of the Members of Congress and Senator Yarborough, that they be properly handled so that they would be included in open cars in the motorcade.
Mr. ADAMS. And it was part of your responsibility to see that--what cars they got into and all those arrangements?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would not say specifically that. They would have their car assignments. But for the most part, it was, if anything went wrong in the arrangements at some point, I would then be able to have a staff man correct it. So I would keep a close eye on the congressional people traveling with the President on a trip of that nature to be sure that they were well taken care of.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you know when the information about the precise route was released to the press?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I do not.
Mr. ADAMS. Was there any thought--I withdraw that one, and ask you this: Do you know how it came about that Dallas was chosen as one of the cities to visit?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't recall specifically, except that the size of the city, the concentration of population, would make it an obvious stop in Texas, if you were going to be in the State for 2 or 2 1/2 days. It is rather an obvious decision, that the Dallas area would be one of the stops.
Mr. ADAMS. As far as you know, there was never any consideration given to omitting Dallas?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I do not recall any.
Mr. ADAMS. Well, we are back now at Love Field. Would you tell us what happened there, as far as you observed it?
Mr. O'BRIEN. The President moved over to the fence, where a large crowd had gathered and shook the hands of several in the crowd, as the motorcade was awaiting his departure. All those in the motorcade proceeded to get into their cars. There was the usual amount of minor confusion--people hustling around to locate their car number, and I stood watching the President engaged in this activity, until he had gotten into his car, and a quick observation indicated to me that all those traveling with us had gotten into their cars.
I came very close, however, to being left at Love Field, because I delayed a little longer than I normally would, observing the scene, and, consequently, I had to make a little dash, myself, to hop into a car, to insure that I would travel into town.

Mr. ADAMS. When the President was greeting people along the fence there, was he accompanied by Mrs. Kennedy?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is my recollection.
Mr. ADAMS. And do you recall at that time what the Vice President and Mrs. Johnson were doing?
Mr. O'BRIEN. They were engaged in the same activity, as I recall it.
Mr. ADAMS. I think you said this was a large crowd.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; it appeared to be a large crowd. The difficulty in judging a crowd from the ground at an airport is obvious. But as we came down the steps of the plane, looking out over the crowd. I had the impression that it was a large crowd for an airport stop, considering the fact the President was about to travel through the heart of the city.
Mr. ADAMS. Was it a friendly crowd?
Mr. O'BRIEN. It appeared to be friendly.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, getting to the motorcade, what was its organization, as you recall it, in terms of what cars at what places?
Mr. O'BRIEN. As I recall it, following the usual police grouping in the front and sides, the President's car, Secret Service car, the Vice President's car, additional Secret Service car, wire service cars--I would think there probably were two---the VIP cars followed, and then following those cars, which was rather a long line of them, as I recall, were, I believe, one or two buses containing the press, traveling press.
Mr. ADAMS. When you refer to the VIP cars, those would include the Congressmen and the other gentlemen you referred to before?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is right, Senator Yarborough was in the car with the Vice President and Mrs. Johnson. The members of the congressional delegation traveling with us at that point were then in open cars--I would think there were perhaps four open cars to accommodate them.
Mr. ADAMS. Which one were you in?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I was in one of those open cars--specifically, I don't remember the order of the car, but I remember the passengers I joined. And as I pointed out, this was rather a quick hop into the car that I made at that point. Congressman Mahon was in the front seat with the driver. Congressman Rogers of Texas, now Judge Homer Thornberry of Texas, and me in the back seat.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you know who the driver was?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I do not.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, would you say that between you and the Vice President's followup car, there was more than one open car? As I get it--to put it another way to perhaps refresh your recollection--there was the Vice President's car, then there was a followup car behind that, and then came, as you have recalled, the open cars, in which you were seated in one of them.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, were you in the one directly behind the Vice President's followup car, or farther back?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I do not believe I was in the first VIP car, because, as I stated when I looked around and the motorcade started to move slightly, I moved toward a car handy to me. I would think that I was in the second or conceivably third open car, because, at that time, we had approximately 10 or 12 members of the Texas congressional delegation, and obviously we, therefore, had perhaps four open cars. I don't recall that I was in the first one--it was the second or third. I was not in the last one, either.
Mr. ADAMS. Were you assigned to a particular car, or would you just have taken any that would happen to be available?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I am sure I was assigned to a particular car. As a rule, I would be assigned to the first VIP car--VIP meaning as a rule, again, a congressional delegation. And in this instance, I don't recall the actual car assignment. And it was not unusual for me to not adhere strictly to the assignment.
Mr. ADAMS. And as the motorcade left Love Field--let me withdraw that and put it this way: You were seated in the back?
Mr. O'BRIEN. On the right back.
Mr. ADAMS. On the right-hand side?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is correct.
Mr. ADAMS. From where you were seated in that car, as you proceeded toward the city, could you see the President in his car?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Only occasionally. There were occasions when you could not see him. Other times, depending on the turns in the road, and what-have-you, you would get a view of him. And there were times when he was upright in the car, and you could spot him.
But, generally speaking, I would say that I was concentrating on crowd attitude and size for the most part, going in toward the city.
Mr. ADAMS. From what you could see of the President's car, where was he seated?
On the right-hand side or the left-hand side?
Mr. O'BRIEN. As I looked toward the car, he was seated on the right, with Governor Connally seated directly in front of him.
Mr. ADAMS. That is right. And Mrs. Connally
Mr. O'BRIEN. Mrs. Connally on the jump seat in front of Mrs. Kennedy.
Mr. ADAMS. As the motorcade proceeded, could you at all times see the Vice President's car?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; similarly, the photographers and others would often times block the view. The view of the President's car and the Vice President's car from where I was seated during the motorcade into and through the downtown Dallas was not a clear view. There was an obstructed view for the most part.
Mr. ADAMS. As you recall it, what were the seating arrangements in the Vice President's car?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I know that Senator Yarborough, Mrs. Johnson, and the Vice President were seated in the rear of the car, and my recollection is that again the Vice President was on the right, Mrs. Johnson in the middle, Senator Yarborough on the left.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, as you went on in town, tell me about the crowds, if you would.
Mr. O'BRIEN. The crowds were large, unusually large for an extremely long--mileagewise---long trip into the city. I was impressed with the size of the crowd. The comment in our car, however, was that the crowd was rather reserved. As a matter of fact, Congressman Rogers, who, as I told you, was on the left rear, commented and called out from time to time in a jocular vein, "Hello", "Howdy", and suggested to them that they ought to smile and look perky, which we felt they were not doing during the course of the trip from the airport to the outskirts of the business area.
Mr. ADAMS. Up to that point, I suppose it was chiefly residential areas that you passed through?
Mr. O'BRIEN. It seemed to be residential, and a great deal of small industry. The crowd looked to me to be middle to upper class business type to a great extent.
Mr. ADAMS. Did you know the city of Dallas yourself?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I did not.
Mr. ADAMS. Had you been there before?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I had not.
Mr. ADAMS. Then as you got into the city, what was the nature of the crowds?
Mr. O'BRIEN. There was a tremendous change in crowd attitude, which, again, we commented on in the car. It seemed as though it occurred suddenly, but yet nevertheless in retrospect it did grow as you approached the business center. Then you found yourself going down a road, on both sides high buildings, confetti, the crowds out in the street, allowing just a narrow lane for the motorcade. And I would have to describe that crowd as enthusiastic. In fact, perhaps I should say wildly enthusiastic.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you remember any special incidents of any kind on the way into town?
Mr. O'BRIEN. On rare occasion you saw a Goldwater sign, or some sign of that nature, conservative sign, I guess, but not many. It was not an unusual situation, as I recall.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you remember the motorcade stopping at anytime?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I recall the motorcade stopping, and it seems to me it was for the purpose of the President greeting some school children. However, I am not clear in my mind. I do recall a slowdown or an actual stopping on at least one occasion, and perhaps more than one occasion, between the airport and downtown Dallas. And I should add that those in the car in which I rode, to a man, commented on the great enthusiasm of the crowds in downtown area. I think they were making reference to it particularly because there was somehow or other--we all concluded this was a comparison that could be made with the crowds we had just gone by.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you recall the motorcade passing down Main Street in Dallas?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; I do.
Mr. ADAMS. And then do you recall it turning off Main Street?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; I do.
Mr. ADAMS. And then around onto Elm Street? You might not remember the names.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't recall the name of the street. But I recall distinctly a right turn.
Mr. ADAMS. And then another swerving turn?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is right.
Mr. ADAMS. At that point, were there a lot of buildings or only a few?
Mr. O'BRIEN. It seemed that when we made the turn off the Main Street, that the crowds petered out. It was a very normal termination of a parade route. And we just felt that while there were people on the streets, it was not the massive crowd that we had just passed over several blocks. And I believe that my reaction was this is about the end of the parade route, and we were about to just sort of settle back. There were people still on the street, but you could see that this route was--this parade route was about to terminate.
Mr. ADAMS. And as you came around those turns, did you hear any shots fired?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; I did.
Mr. ADAMS. Would you tell me as best you can whether at that time you could see the President's car?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I could not.
Mr. ADAMS. Was that because your car had not turned the corner yet?
Mr. O'BRIEN. As I recall, our car was about to make that turn, and it would seem to me, therefore, the President's car was in the process of making the left turn. I would think that approximately the time he was swinging on this curving left, we were swinging out of Main Street right. We heard the shots very clearly.
Mr. ADAMS. How many shots did you hear?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Three.
Mr. ADAMS. Can you estimate for me the time interval between the first and the last shot?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't believe I can estimate the timing, but I can tell you about an exchange that took place in the car, from the first shot through the third shot.
Mr. ADAMS. Please do.
Mr. O'BRIEN. The first shot was fired. I just didn't conclude it was rifle fire. I was completely unsure. And I must have almost immediately said to the driver--I directed the question to him, for some unknown reason--"What was that?" The driver replied, "I do not know. They must be giving him a 21-gun salute." By the time the driver had concluded that sentence, we did not hear explosion No. 4. And it was apparent to us that No. 1 was not a 21-gun salute. I believe everyone in the car concluded it wasn't, in any event, because it just was not that kind of a sound. And we just had no idea of what had occurred at that moment.
Mr. ADAMS. Could you tell me your best recollection as to where the sounds appeared to come from?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I didn't have any idea specifically on the location of the sounds, and I do not recall that anyone in the car did.
Mr. ADAMS. Is it your recollection that these sounds were evenly spaced?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is my impression. As I say, I apparently immediately engaged the driver in conversation after the first shot which forces me to conclude that there had to be a time between the first and second and third shots--because I simply-- describing the exchange of my question and his answer, and his answer, I must say, probably was completed after the third shot. But he had started his answer to the question at about or just before the third shot.
Mr. ADAMS. Well, one way of getting at the time interval of all three shots, I suppose, would be your recollection that it all was encompassed in the time it took you to ask the question and the driver to answer.
Mr. O'BRIEN. At least in the time that it took me to ask the question and the driver to initiate the answer, but perhaps not complete it.
Mr. ADAMS. Then would it be fair to say it was a very small number of seconds?
Mr. O'BRIEN. It certainly would be. And I think the driver completed his answer--for 1 or 2 seconds all of us in the car were awaiting the fourth explosion, if I can term it that, which did not occur, and there was dead silence in the car.
Mr. ADAMS. Then do you remember anything that anyone said immediately following the dead silence?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I do not recall. I recall that just prior to this, which indicates to me that perhaps we had turned that corner before the shots, Judge Thornberry pointed to a building and said that that was where his offices had been located at one time, either in military service or in government service, and pointing over in the direction of the building. We were turning the corner--and that took place before the shots.
Mr. ADAMS. You don't happen to know the name of that building?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't recall. But he mentioned it in the term that he had been stationed in that building. Now, it could have been either a military activity or in government agency activity.
Mr. ADAMS. How did the knowledge come to you that the President had been shot?
Mr. O'BRIEN. We noted, as the cars continued to move after the third shot, and there was a great deal of movement on both sides in front of us, scurrying in various directions.

Mr. ADAMS. Scurrying by whom?
Mr. O'BRIEN. People on the street--the crowds had thinned out. There were people along the road.
Mr. ADAMS. We didn't specifically cover this, but was there a motorcycle escort?
Mr. O'BRIEN. For the motorcade?
Mr. ADAMS. Yes; around the President's car.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes.
Mr. ADAMS. Did that motorcycle escort extend as far back as your car?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; it did not.
Mr. ADAMS. I interrupted you there. You were telling me how this knowledge came to you, that something serious had happened.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't think even up to that point, as the motorcade started to move out in front of us, as each car seemed to move out from great speed, we were at all aware of--certainly we had no idea of the specific nature of the occurrence. And we just were, I think you would have to describe, very confused. I remember particularly a Negro man with a youngster in his arms running up the slope of the lawn.
Mr. ADAMS. On which side of the car?
Mr. O'BRIEN. On the right. And that was typical of all kinds of movement, as we tried to determine what had occurred, and we just didn't know.
Mr. ADAMS. Did you have any radio communication in your car with the front cars?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; we did not. At that point, a photographer--we started to move a little more rapidly. Our driver intended to follow the motorcade and move out. The motorcade moved out with great speed in front of us. And a photographer jumped on the trunk of our car--it was a convertible--holding onto the edge of the seat, and pounding his fist on the trunk, and obviously in a most excited state. We did not get anything coherent from him. I do not think we really attempted to, because at that point, as he hung onto our car, obviously to try and keep up with the motorcade himself, our car moved out with great speed.
The driver lost sight of the car in front of him in a matter of two or three minutes. He had no idea where the motorcade was headed. And they, therefore, proceeded to take us directly along the highway, passed the trade mart, which was to be the location of the President's stop and speech following the parade route.
We pulled up in front of the motorcade, slowed down, and someone called out, "He has been shot, he is draped over the back seat." And at that point the driver concluded that perhaps his destination should be the nearest hospital. And he started to move out with great speed toward this hospital. And as we came closer to it, it became obvious that that was our destination, because then you saw the cars, the motorcycle police, and what-have-you. As we arrived at the hospital, there was a great deal of commotion at the front.
Mr. ADAMS. I think you misspoke yourself. You said you pulled up in front of the motorcade. I think perhaps you meant to say you pulled up in front of the trade mart.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Trade mart--I am sorry.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, just to make it perfectly clear, did you see the President or Governor Connally at the moment that they were shot?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I did not.
Mr. ADAMS. How long would you think it took you to go from the point where you heard the shots to the hospital?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would say overall it could approach 15 minutes.
Mr. ADAMS. And what was your estimate of the rate of speed of your car?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would say 60 to 70 miles an hour.
Mr. ADAMS. When you arrived at the hospital, what did you do?
Mr. O'BRIEN. When I arrived at the hospital, two of the Congressmen that had been in the motorcade, obviously, therefore, in a car ahead of my car, because they had arrived, came over to the car as we pulled up, and asked me to follow them immediately. There was a large crowd--I will correct that--there were many people in front of the entrance to the hospital, and the entrance was being guarded by police.
Congressman Thomas and Congressman Brooks went up to the officers at the door and said, "This is a Special Assistant to the President. Let him in." So he immediately opened the doors, and I went through, with the two Congressmen, who asked a hospital attendant inside the corridor the direction in which to go. There was a little confusion in the corridor as to direction, and we headed at first in the wrong direction, and were again rerouted. And in a matter, however, of a couple of minutes from the entrance of the hospital, arrived behind these swinging doors with glass panels, and my first--I saw to my right sitting--yes--sitting in a chair, and to my left, in this corridor sitting in a similar chair--to my right Mrs. Kennedy, to my left Mrs. Connally.
Mr. ADAMS. You didn't go in through the emergency entrance, then? You went through----
Mr. O'BRIEN. Apparently not. I am not sure of the entrance. But I just don't know. I assume that was not the emergency entrance.
Mr. ADAMS. And you said that Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Connally were sitting there more or less together?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No. They were sitting--obviously chairs had been placed outside the door in each instance one door to the left as you walked through these swinging doors with the glass panels--one door to the left that was closed, one door to the right that was closed. And outside of the door--this was a fairly wide corridor that ran down perhaps through three rooms on each side, these first two rooms right and left, the President had been placed in the emergency room to the right and Governor Connally in the emergency room to the left. Both doors were closed at that moment.
Mr. ADAMS. Was there anyone with Mrs. Kennedy at the time?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Mr. Powers and Mr. O'Donnell were standing there.
Mr. ADAMS. Were you accompanied all the way up to this point by the two Congressmen you mentioned before?
Mr. O'BRIEN. The two Congressmen did not go through the doors with me. They left me at some point several feet from the doors, when it was determined that I was being taken to the right location.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, at that point, you knew that--from the Congressmen and from others, that the President had been shot?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is correct.
Mr. ADAMS. Then did you go up to Mrs. Kennedy or Mrs. Connally, or what did you do then?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I immediately engaged Mr. O'Donnell and Mr. Powers in conversation.
Mr. ADAMS. Can you recall that conversation?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Neither Mr. Powers or Mr. O'Donnell had a clear idea of the situation at the moment, but Mr. O'Donnell certainly gave me a positive indication that there was little or no chance.
Mr. ADAMS. Did you have any conversation with Mrs. Kennedy at that point?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I did not have any conversation other than attempting to comfort her, asking her if there was anything we could do---brief moments of that nature. But conversation was extremely limited.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you know where the Vice President was at that time?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I did not see the Vice President in the hospital. I was given to understand by Mr. O'Donnell he was down the corridor--again, if I did an about face, headed across in the other direction--that he was in a room across the hall.
Mr. ADAMS. How long did you stay there?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Until the President was taken from the hospital.
Mr. ADAMS. You stayed there with Mrs. Kennedy?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is right.
Mr. ADAMS. During that whole time?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is right. During that period General McHugh at one point, Malcolm Kilduff from the press staff from time to time came in and out, Mrs. Lincoln, Dr. Burkley came in and out from time to time.
Mr. ADAMS. Was Dr. Burkley also in the emergency room?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't recall.
Mr. ADAMS. Now----
Mr. O'BRIEN. As we stood there, they moved equipment, heavy emergency equipment into the emergency room, and there was a great deal of what you would just envision--scurrying around of nurses and doctors, a great deal of activity.
Mr. ADAMS. Did you go into the emergency room yourself?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I did not.
Mr. ADAMS. Taking it from the point that you arrived there in the corridor where Mrs. Kennedy was seated, how long a time passed before it came to your knowledge that the President was dead?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I cannot recall the length of time I had with specific knowledge. My impression is I had perhaps at the outset in the first seconds or minutes, I had some doubt this had occurred.
I think perhaps what happened is that it penetrated, without a specific statement by anyone. I just had to conclude this had occurred, and it became obvious. At that point, however, Mr. Powers, Mr. O'Donnell, and I were not at all sure that this had penetrated with Mrs. Kennedy for a few minutes.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you remember anything about a priest?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; I do. I recall that Mr. O'Donnell told me that he had asked the staff, or it might have been a Secret Service man, or hospital staff person--in any event--someone to immediately secure a priest. There was no priest on the premises. And he had assumed perhaps a priest was en route, because by that time the knowledge that something serious had occurred certainly had become known through police radio and what-have-you.
But the priest arrived in a relatively short time. I don't know the specific time. But it didn't seem to be an awful long time. And, as a matter of fact, my recollection is that a second priest arrived, and then a third priest.
Mr. ADAMS. And you don't know who they were?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I do not.
Mr. ADAMS. During this interval, between the time that you arrived where Mrs. Kennedy was seated and the time it was officially determined that the President was dead, do you recall any conversation with Mrs. Kennedy?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No conversation other than, "Is there anything we can do for you?" Or a conversation of that nature in very brief and occasional sentences--no conversation as such.

Mr. ADAMS. Did Mr. Powers stay with you all that time?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; he did.
Mr. ADAMS. Mr. O'Donnell?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes.
Mr. ADAMS. Did there come a time when Mr. O'Donnell left?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Mr. O'Donnell, at one point we discussed the situation--and Mr. O'Donnell at one point determined that he should cross the corridor and advise the Vice President of what the situation appeared to be at that moment. And as I recall, it was the conclusion that this was an extremely serious matter, we hadn't any formal advice or official advice on the situation, but the seriousness of it should be imparted to the Vice President.
He left briefly for that purpose, I assume, and returned to the position where we had been standing.
Mr. ADAMS. How did it come officially to your notice that the President was dead?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Again, I just don't know- It was a matter of standing for what seemed to be an interminable period of time I have no idea the specific time and, again, I cannot recall a specific instance when an announcement was made. It was more just finally having what gradually became obvious penetrate with you, it was, that it was an actuality.
Mr. ADAMS. How was the fact conveyed to Mrs. Kennedy. Do you remember that?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't remember a specific conversation by anyone with her. People came to her, hospital staff people, doctors from time to time that would lean down and whisper to her. I don't know whether at one of those occasions this was specifically stated. I think, again, perhaps it was just gradually we all came to a conclusion.
Mr. ADAMS. Well, at any rate, after the fact was--had, as you well put it, had penetrated, what happened next, as far as you know?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Our concern, in our discussions--Mr. O'Donnell and I discussed what should be done. Our major concern was that obviously you just could not leave Mrs. Kennedy sitting in this chair, drenched in blood. Something certainly had to take place.
In that context, we felt steps should be taken to remove the President from the hospital. And someone, either Mr. Powers or Mr. O'Donnell, had suggested at one point during the several minutes, that Mrs. Kennedy might want to retire to a room a couple of doors down the corridor. Our attempt to bring this about was not successful, because she started to walk and then turned around and said, "I want to stay with him." And she went back to the chair.
Mr. O'Donnell, at a point in these proceedings, issued the directions to the Secret Service to secure a coffin. As I recall it, the coffin arrived in a very reasonable time. Whoever handled those arrangements certainly did it--carried out his responsibility well, because. again, time had a way of going on, and it is hard to determine a matter of minutes. But the coffin arrived, in any event, and was wheeled into the room.
Mr. ADAMS. Did Mr. O'Donnell leave at this point--did he leave Mrs. Kennedy and go somewhere else, do you recall?
Mr. O'BRIEN. He, as I recall, again, went to the room in which the Vice President was waiting, to tell him specifically that the President had died, and to discuss with him the steps to move the Vice President out of the hospital and to the airport and on to Washington.
Mr. ADAMS. Did Mr. O'Donnell come back and tell you about that discussion?
Mr. O'BRIEN. He came back and told me that he had advised the President, and he had had a discussion with the President. And I don't remember any of the details of it.
Mr. ADAMS. That covered two basic points--that President Kennedy's body was to be removed from the hospital forthwith, and the other was that the Vice President was to return to Washington?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is right.
Mr. ADAMS. What were the reasons that led to the decision, if you know, that the Vice President would return to Washington?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I believe it was in the context of the death of the President, what steps, if any, were necessary for the Vice President to assume the responsibility of the office forthwith, and our great concern about the situation in which Mrs. Kennedy was being left in this corridor, without any plan for taking care of her. So I think the basic idea was to leave the hospital.
Mr. ADAMS. Was there any discussion as to whether there might or might not be some general conspiracy?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Not with me.
Mr. ADAMS. Now--
Mr. O'BRIEN. I must add, however, that during the course of this, that none of us had any knowledge of actually what had occurred. And I am sure that some of us gave thought to what might still occur. We just had no idea. And we felt that certainly the first step was the protection of the new President and the taking care of Mrs. Kennedy as best we could. We tried to give some clarity of thoughts to the steps that were necessary.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, you discussed these problems with Mr. O'Donnell and Mr. Powers, I suppose.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes.
Mr. ADAMS. And anyone else?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't believe so.
Mr. ADAMS. I will take you back to the point where the coffin arrived. What happened then?
Mr. O'BRIEN. The coffin was wheeled into the emergency room. At that point, a man arrived on the scene who, I assume, was the coroner, or someone representing the coroner's office. I do not know his name. And he stated that the President could not be taken from the hospital.
Mr. ADAMS. Was this in Mrs. Kennedy's presence?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I recall this conversation took place just outside those swinging doors with the glass panels. And I would--I believe, therefore, that she did not hear this conversation.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, at the time the coffin was wheeled into the emergency room, what did Mrs. Kennedy do? Did she enter at that time, or at any time, so far as you recall?
Mr. O'BRIEN. My recollection is that she did enter the room, but I don't recall it was at that time, and I am not sure what specific time.
Mr. ADAMS. Well, going back to this official who said the body could not be removed--you were present at that time with Mr. O'Donnell and Mr. Powers?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes.
Mr. ADAMS. And what happened with respect to that discussion?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Well, Dr. Burkley, the President's physician, entered into that discussion. And as I recall he and this official went into a little room just outside these doors and carried on further discussion that seemed to involve members of the hospital staff and others. And the discussion went on for a period of several minutes. Burkley---Dr. Burkley was quite exercised. It was apparent that this fellow was not going to---he was going to be adamant in his position. And very soon another official arrived on the scene that was described to me as a judge.
Mr. ADAMS. Does the name Brown refresh your recollection?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't know as I heard his name. But he was then described, as the judge--a judge, and the indication was that he, therefore, was in a higher position of authority than the other official that had been carrying on this discussion with Dr. Burkley.
He was equally adamant. The reference was made, either specifically by him or by someone in the official group, that this had to be treated as just another homicide, and that no other--no special considerations could be given to the problem. That, of course, increased our concern about Mrs. Kennedy, who said she would not leave her husband, and that we could envision Mrs. Kennedy in that state in the hospital for hours or even longer. So, therefore, it was our determination that the President should be taken from the hospital.
Mr. ADAMS. This was the determination of you, Mr. O'Donnell, and Dr. Burkley?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is right.
Mr. ADAMS. Then what happened?
Mr. O'BRIEN. The casket was brought out from the emergency room, wheeled out through these two folding doors. And the members of the Secret Service gathered around it. They had made a determination on their own as to the exit. An ambulance was waiting. Preparations had been made by the Secret Service to accomplish this. And we all--Mr. O'Donnell, Mr. Powers and I, General McHugh, and two or three members of the Secret Service proceeded to push the coffin down this corridor.
My recollection is that objections were still being raised by some or all officials. My recollection is also that we paid little heed to it.
Mr. ADAMS. These were vigorous objections, I gather.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would say they were. And the only very minor problem that occurred in reaching the exit was that the priest who was third in point of arrival was still present. The other two priests had departed after expressing their condolences to Mrs. Kennedy. But this priest was standing in the corridor and was rather insistent that he formalize some prayers at that point. And I suggested to him that he step aside. Our concern still was whether or not there was going to be an effective block put in our way.
Mr. ADAMS. And who accompanied Mrs. Kennedy at that time?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I believe in the grouping behind the casket that at one time Mr. O'Donnell, another time me, and another time perhaps Mr. Powers--but among us we escorted her along.

Mr. ADAMS. Then when you finally got the casket out through this corridor, and got it into the ambulance, how did you go to the airport?
Mr. O'BRIEN. In a car that was parked alongside the ambulance. The driver in the car--Mrs. Kennedy went into the ambulance. And Mr. O'Donnell, Mr. Powers, and I went into the back seat of this car.
Mr. ADAMS. Was this a police car?
Mr. O'BRIEN. It was an official car of some sort.
Mr. ADAMS. At that time do you know whether or not the Vice President had left the hospital?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I do not know.
Mr. ADAMS. Had he arrived at Love Field by the time you got out there?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes.
Mr. ADAMS. And what happened when you arrived at Love Field?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Well, again the Secret Service and those of us in the official party that had arrived at the field--I guess specifically again the three of us-- helped to move the coffin up the steps of the plane. It was a difficult job because the steps, of course, were the normal set of stairs for a plane, and, therefore, it was too narrow to accomplish this without some difficulty. But it was brought onto the plane.
At that point I noticed that seats to the left of the door had been removed, leaving a floor space in the plane to place the coffin. We placed the coffin on the floor. Then I looked up, and the President and Mrs. Johnson were at the corridor that would go into the compartment from that area of the plane.
Mrs. Kennedy came aboard and was seated in the remaining two seats at a table to the left in the rear compartment, and Mrs. Johnson and the President went over to her.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you know how it came to pass that the President was sworn in at that time?
Mr. O'BRIEN. The President and Mrs. Johnson, after a brief discussion with Mrs. Kennedy, went into the Presidential compartment--I guess that is the best way to describe that section of the plane this would be where the President's chair and desk are located. He asked Mr. O'Donnell to join him.
During the course of these few minutes, it was my understanding that we were going to immediately depart. There was some confusion for a couple of minutes about departure. I was not privy to that. And the President asked the two of us to sit with him, at which point he said that he was awaiting a judge who was en route to swear him in--that he had secured the advice of the Attorney General, which, as I understood it, was a preference in his view to have a swearing in ceremony immediately. And that this would be accomplished within a matter of minutes.
So while we awaited the arrival of the judge, the President, Mr. O'Donnell and I, joined by Mrs. Johnson, after a couple of minutes, sat at this table with the four seats, and just discussed the fact that the departure would take place immediately following the swearing in ceremony. And during that period we briefly discussed the first step of the President to insure continuity, and either just before the swearing-in or immediately following it, the President discussed with Mr. O'Donnell and me his desire that we stay, as he put it, shoulder to shoulder with him.
The judge arrived----
Mr. ADAMS. During that interval, who was staying with Mrs. Kennedy?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Mrs. Kennedy had at that point gone into the restroom adjacent to the bedroom in the compartment.
The judge arrived in minutes. And it was suggested that those in the---I guess the best way to describe it--the front of the plane, those who could move into the compartment, including those representing the press, a single photographer was brought aboard. The wording of the oath was available. The judge took her position. The President said that he certainly wanted Mrs. Kennedy with him at this moment. I went to the bedroom. The door to the adjoining rest-room was closed. I went out and asked Mrs. Lincoln if she would see if Mrs. Kennedy was available. She went in and came out with Mrs. Kennedy, and she took her place to the President's left, Mrs. Johnson to the President's right, the others grouped around. I stood behind the judge, and just as the judge was to start the ceremony, a member of the crew handed me a small Bible in a white box. I took the Bible from the box, interrupted the judge just momentarily, and handed her the Bible. She completed the ceremony.
Then everyone immediately settled down. The judge departed from the plane, the photographer from the plane. Everyone settled down, and we took off without further delay.
Mr. ADAMS. As a matter of detail, do you happen to know what happened to the Bible?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I do not know.
Mr. ADAMS. The plane then departed immediately?
Mr. O'BRIEN. That is correct.
Mr. ADAMS. And----
Mr. O'BRIEN. Mr. O'Donnell and I went to the rear compartment where we joined Mr. Powers and General McHugh. Mrs. Kennedy was seated in one of the two chairs. Mr. O'Donnell took the other chair. The three of us stood. The plane took off. And we remained with Mrs. Kennedy for the duration of the trip to Washington.
We consulted, or were consulted by General Clifton and Mr. Moyers on two or three occasions during the trip, on arrangements for the President's activity upon arrival here in Washington. One suggestion was made that we---that they call in for a meeting of the White House staff. But that was discarded as impractical at this point. Arrangements were made, however, which Mr. Moyers checked with me, on the calling of the bipartisan leaders to a meeting with the president, and arrangements were put in effect for the President to meet the Under Secretary of State in the absence of the Secretary and other officials here.
Mr. ADAMS. How did it come about that the remains of President Kennedy were taken to the naval hospital?
Mr. O'BRIEN. It was my understanding that the President would be taken to a hospital. I don't recall any discussion of the reason specifically other than my assumption that the autopsy would take place at one of the military hospitals in Washington. And obviously there were two to select from, and the President being an ex-Navy man, it seemed just sort of normal to suggest Bethesda.
Mr. ADAMS. And you remained with Mrs. Kennedy during the entire trip?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes; I did.
Mr. ADAMS. What was her condition?
Mr. O'BRIEN. She conversed a great deal with us. The one impression left with me from the entire trip and conversations with Mrs. Kennedy during the trip, participated in by all of us, was her great concern for us, really-her feeling that we had, as she put it, been with him at the beginning and we were with him at the end. We were all bereft. And I am afraid that the four of us who felt that we should be of some comfort to her were inadequate to the job in the sense that it was difficult for us to come up with anything that made much sense by way of being helpful.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you remember any other general subjects of discussion as you made the trip up?
Mr. O'BRIEN. No; I do not.
Mr. ADAMS. What happened when you arrived?
Mr. O'BRIEN. A lift was placed at the rear door of the plane. The honor guard came up the front steps, through the plane, to the back compartment. We concluded that we would take the body off the plane.
Mr. ADAMS. You say "we." You mean Mr. Powers, Mr. O'Donnell, and yourself?
Mr. O'BRIEN. General McHugh. And so we proceeded to do just that. We took the--lifted the coffin, with the help of the crew people, and placed it on the lift, and it was taken from there.
We---the three of us---four of us--McHugh was with us--got into a car. The Attorney General and Mrs. Kennedy went into the ambulance, if that is what it was. And we followed in a car directly behind that, went out to Bethesda Naval Hospital.
Mr. ADAMS. What did you do when you arrived there?
Mr. O'BRIEN. We went immediately to an upper floor of the hospital, where we joined members of the President's family. General McHugh went elsewhere. And we then spent several hours in these rooms on, I don't know what floor of the hospital.
Mr. ADAMS. When you referred to the President's family, what particular members were there?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Well, Mrs. Stephen Smith was there.
Mr. ADAMS. Mrs. Attorney General Kennedy?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes. I don't recall all the members of the family. The Attorney General--and there were there was an occasional person that came and went during the night. But that was basically the group.
We had coffee and received reports from time to time from General McHugh as to the length of time it would take for the trip from Bethesda to the White House. And the hours went on and on, until the early hours of the morning perhaps 4 a.m.
Mr. ADAMS. And then what did you do?
Mr. O'BRIEN. We came to the White House, at which point several of the White House staff, Mr. Shriver, were awaiting the arrival of the President. He was placed in the East Room. A brief prayer was given, and terminated the evening.
Mr. ADAMS. I would like to ask you to go back again and give me recollections of the President's views about the nature of the protection should be afforded him, or what his attitude was towards security.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I cannot recall any specific conversation I had with the in this area. All I can say is that the President at all times was most interested in close contact with his fellow Americans, and in that sense he was quick to move to a fence that separated him from the people, he was quick to move towards people. He certainly moved quite freely. But I do not recall ever having a conversation or being present during the course of a conversation when the specific protective measures were discussed or what his views were relative to them.
Mr. ADAMS. Other than what you have said here, do you have any knowledge at all about the person who did the shooting, whoever it might be?
Mr. O'BRIEN. None whatsoever.
Mr. ADAMS. Do you have any other thing I have not covered that you would like to put in this record?
Mr. O'BRIEN. I don't believe so. I believe that to the best of my recollection I have tried to carefully review all aspects of the matter, from departure from the lawn of the White House to arrival back at the White House. And I cannot call anything to mind now that I might have overlooked.
Mr. ADAMS. Now, finally, it is a custom in this Commission to make transcripts available to the witnesses if they want to read them before signing them, or if you would like you can waive that. That is entirely up to you.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I would like to have the transcript.
Mr. ADAMS. Then we will send it along in the next few days, and when you have an opportunity to consider it, if you will just send it back to the Commission we would appreciate it.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I certainly will.
Mr. ADAMS. That closes this deposition.