Dal­las’s dark day lives again

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

JFK: The Lost Tapes takes tele­vi­sion view­ers back to Novem­ber 22, 1963. In late 2011, the Philadel­phia-based Raab Col­lec­tion dis­cov­ered a pair of quar­ter-inch open-reel au­dio­tapes that had be­longed to Ma­jor Gen­eral Chester ‘‘Ted’’ Clifton Jr, the se­nior mil­i­tary ad­viser to Pres­i­dents John F. Kennedy and Lyn­don John­son.

Clifton, ac­cord­ing to Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery, where he is buried, ‘‘made ar­range­ments with the White House to deal with mil­i­tary and na­tional se­cu­rity af­fairs af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion’’.

He also had se­cured tapes com­pris­ing 2.5 hours of in-flight ra­dio traf­fic trans­mis­sions among Air Force One, the White House Sit­u­a­tion Room and An­drews Air Force Base. A copy of th­ese was given to the Na­tional Archives last year and form the ba­sis for this tele­cast – along with ra­dio re­ports and po­lice dis­patches.

One of the most in­ter­est­ing parts of The Lost Tapes has to do with the lost tapes – in-the-mo­ment au­dio snap­shots of peo­ple un­der great stress re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion, even when they had pre­cious lit­tle to go on. Th­ese tapes form only a small part of the pro­gram, leav­ing view­ers the im­pres­sion that per­haps only rou­tine busi­ness took place. The US archives have posted all 2.5 hours on their web­site.

There is some­thing oddly com­fort­ing in the rou­tine they con­vey, how­ever: The head of gov­ern­ment has been top­pled, but pi­lots still have to cal­cu­late head­ings to get the plane back to An­drews Air Force Base.

The other tapes of that day re­veal a con­sid­er­able de­gree of pro­fes­sion­al­ism on the ground, too. Hell has bro­ken loose, but ra­dio re­porters can still find one last dime in their pocket to plug into a pay phone that mirac­u­lously ap­pears out of the hu­man chaos.

Po­lice dis­patches, too, are pre­cise and to the point. Words, and emo­tions, are not wasted. Some­thing ter­ri­ble has hap­pened at Dealey Plaza – send backup.

Nor were they given to spec­u­la­tion in those early mo­ments. When some­one at the Dal­las Trade Mart – where Kennedy was sched­uled to speak – asks the Dal­las po­lice chief, Jesse Curry, if the pres­i­dent might still keep his en­gage­ment, Curry says: ‘‘Very doubt­ful. Very doubt­ful.’’ The tapes of­fer the fleet­ing il­lu­sion that the long-ago mo­ment is as fresh and im­me­di­ate as yes­ter­day.

JFK: The Lost Tapes: Thurs­days 7.30pm; re­plays, var­i­ous days/times, Dis­cov­ery.

John F. Kennedy and wife Jac­que­line just be­fore the as­sas­si­na­tion in Dal­las

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.