THE SECRET SERVICE. An elite team of men who share a single mission: to protect the president of the United States. On November 22, 1963, these men failed—and a country would never be the same. Now, for the first time, a member of JFK’s Secret Service detail reveals the inside story of the assassination, the weeks and days that led to it and its heartrending aftermath. This extraordinary book is a moving, intimate portrait of dedication, courage, and loss.
Drawing on the memories of his fellow agents, Jerry Blaine captures the energetic, crowd-loving young president, who banned agents from his car and often plunged into raucous crowds with little warning. He describes the careful planning that went into JFK’s Texas swing, the worries and concerns that agents, working long hours with little food or rest, had during the trip. And he describes the intensely private first lady making her first-ever political appearance with her husband, just months after losing a newborn baby.
Here are vivid scenes that could come only from inside the Kennedy detail: JFK’s last words to his tearful son when he left Washington for the last time; how a sudden change of weather led to the choice of the open-air convertible limousine that day; Mrs. Kennedy standing blood-soaked outside a Dallas hospital room; the sudden interruption of six-year-old Caroline’s long-anticipated sleepover with a friend at home; the exhausted team of agents immediately reacting to the president’s death with a shift to LBJ and other key governmental figures; the agents’ dismay at Jackie’s decision to walk openly from the White House to St. Matthew’s Cathedral at the state funeral.
Most of all, this is a look into the lives of men who devoted their entire beings to protecting the presidential family: the stress of the secrecy they kept, the emotional bonds that developed, the terrible impact on agents’ psyches and families, and their astonishment at the country’s obsession with far-fetched conspiracy theories and finger-pointing. A book fifty years in coming, The Kennedy Detail is a portrait of incredible camaraderie and incredible heartbreak—a true, must-read story of heroism in its most complex and human form.
Why the President Should Read This Book
Perhaps it’s best to explain what this book is not. As Jacob Hornberger puts it, “For almost 50 years, people have debated the Kennedy assassination. Some claim that the Warren Commission got it right – that Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a lone-nut assassin. Others contend that Kennedy was killed as part of a conspiracy.” This book does not tell us whether it was one or the other.
What this book is, and the reason it belongs on this list, is in part the biographical nature of the text, that is, the personal and political lives of the Kennedy family from the point of view of the Secret Service agents assigned to protect them. Of perhaps primary interest (at least to a President) would be gaining a better understanding of the security situation a President lives with, 24/7, and the stresses placed upon those assigned to protect his life, as well as the life of his family.
For the rest of us, it’s more the biographical nature of the book that is interesting. And if you’re into conspiracy theories, you’ll also find the book interesting in that it gives new information from Secret Service agents, which you can believe or disbelieve, but either way it’s fodder for more controversy, and if that’s your thing, then more power to ya.