Secret Service agents Dale Wunderlich & Jim Jeffries
Ex-Secret Service agent talks at Rotary Club about JFK assassination
By Scott Rochat
LONGMONT — No grassy knolls. No mob conspiracies. Just one man, one
rifle and three shots.
That was and is the conclusion of Dale Wunderlich, a retired Secret
Service agent who helped investigate the death of President John F.
Kennedy as part of the Warren Commission. Wunderlich spoke about the
assassination Thursday at the Twin Peaks Rotary Club.
“There’s a lot of theories about what happened,” said Wunderlich, who
lives in Parker. “At some point, you have to wonder — if it had been a
conspiracy, do any of you really believe that anyone in Washington can
keep a secret for 46 years?”
Wunderlich helped protect five presidents, from Kennedy through Jimmy
Carter. On Nov. 22, 1963, he looked after Kennedy during a rally in
Fort Worth, Texas, but was off duty when the president went on to
Wunderlich was at the airport when he heard the motorcade had been
shot at. An early report said a Secret Service agent had been hit, and
Wunderlich hurried back.
As he arrived, he realized that all the agents were accounted for.
“Who got killed?” he asked agent Roy Kellerman.
“The president,” Kellerman said.
The sight of Kennedy’s body, face down in the hospital, is still
engraved on Wunderlich’s mind. So is the funeral ceremony, when even
the agents themselves were in mourning.
“I had such tears in my eyes that I couldn’t see anything,” Wunderlich
said. “If someone had wanted to kill President (Lyndon) Johnson, that
would have been the best time to do it. Everyone had tears in their
eyes. No one could see.”
Since then, he said, there have been a lot of stories and myths about
the assassination. Among them:
The Secret Service was drunk. Not true, Wunderlich said. Several
agents did go to a place called the Cellar Bar the night before, but
despite the name, the Cellar didn’t sell liquor. “We had sandwiches
and near-beer,” he said.
There was a fourth shot. Not likely, Wunderlich said. Researchers at
California Polytechnic State University analyzed the Zapruder film — a
home movie that captured the assassination — a few years back, he
said, and concluded the sound of the “fourth shot” was actually a
police Harley-Davidson backfiring.
Oswald couldn’t have shot so fast, so accurately. The range wasn’t
very far, especially for the rifle used, Wunderlich said — 192 feet
for the closest shot and 292 feet for the longest one. Moreover, he
said, Lee Harvey Oswald had spent hours practicing rapid-fire shots.
Fast enough to fire three shots in 8.5 seconds? As a test, Wunderlich
said, investigators sent a truck filled with hay bales down the street
at the same speed while the FBI armorer and the Secret Service armorer
took shots at it. In 8.5 seconds, each put five shots in the kill
Oswald was trying to kill Texas Gov. John Connally. That may never be
known, Wunderlich said. He said Oswald is believed to have had a
grudge against Connally, who as secretary of the Navy wouldn’t change
his “hardship” discharge to an “honorable” one. The field of fire
would have allowed a good shot at Connally, who was wounded by a
bullet that clipped Kennedy’s shoulder first. And Kennedy may not have
even been in the sights when the second shot was fired — his head was
in his wife’s lap after the first shot hit; the second hit his head as
she pulled him up.
“Sam Donaldson is the biggest supporter of this theory,” Wunderlich
said. “I love to watch people’s eyes when I describe it. It’s another
thing that could be logical.”
Jack Ruby, who shot Oswald, was on the mob payroll. Actually,
Wunderlich said, Ruby was a big admirer of Jacqueline Kennedy and
closed himself in his club after the Kennedy assassination, drinking
heavily. He knew several police officers and had a permit to carry a
gun because he frequently carried bank deposits with him.
He was on his way with a deposit and had made up a slip to put $20 in
an employee’s account when he saw the crowd of media around the police
station. After finding out it was Oswald on his way to be arraigned,
Wunderlich said, Ruby worked his way close and shot Oswald — a gun in
one hand and a bank bag in the other.
“If you plan to kill someone, are you going to be prepared to also
make a deposit?” Wunderlich asked. “I think it was a spur-of-the-
To this day, he said, America remains fascinated with the case,
conspiracy or no.
“Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see something related to Kennedy,”
Wunderlich said. “It’s a topic I don’t think will ever go away.”
Tribute: James Gordon Jeffries protected presidents as Secret Service
By RUTH BAUM BIGUS
Special to The Star
Associated Press file photo
Secret Service agent James Gordon Jeffries was the personal bodyguard
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“Jeff” Jeffries, 83, a Kansas City, Kan., native most recently of
When and how he died: Jan. 18, of pneumonia. He had suffered a stroke
more than 10 years ago.
An active beginning: Known as Jeff to some family members and Jimmie
by others, the boy born in Kansas City, Kan., in 1925 led an
adventurous life. He attended Argentine High School until he moved in
his sophomore year with his mother, Mildred Hamilton, to Washington.
Jeffries enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943 and served in World War
II. After leaving the service, Jeffries attended Benjamin Franklin
University, which later merged with George Washington University.
Jeffries went to work for the embezzlement division of the U.S.
Treasury Department and thus began a long career in the federal
Presidential proximity: Jeffries then worked for the Secret Service,
serving presidents from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon. He traveled
extensively with them but did find time to marry Thelma Thompson in
1955. They had no children.
Jeffries seldom spoke about his Secret Service experiences.
“Jeff was the consummate Secret Service agent: He never shared much,”
said niece Beth Hanna of Iowa, who helped care for her uncle in his
“He was very secretive about what he did,” said nephew Dave Horseman
of Kansas City. “He did have Christmas cards on the wall from various
presidents (he served), and he hunted with (Dwight) Eisenhower.”
When John Kennedy was elected president, Jeffries was assigned to be
Jacqueline Kennedy’s personal bodyguard.
Hanna recently found a letter that the first lady had written to her
Uncle Jeff in April 1962, just after he was assigned to another
“The letter said, ‘I will miss you so much. … I will never meet anyone
who has been as loyal and faithful as you, patient and understanding
with me, so sweet and kind with my children. … The President is as
grateful as I am for all you did to make easy my adjustment to being
guarded all the time. I will always remember you. My deepest
appreciation and affection and all good wishes. Your friend,
Jacqueline Kennedy.’ ”
Other interests: In 1972, Jeffries retired from the Secret Service on
disability from an injury aggravated by the performance of his duties.
He sold real estate in Northern Virginia and pursued other interests.
He enjoyed spending time at the couple’s cabin at Lake Anna, Va., as
well as fishing and playing tennis.
“His ideal home would have been where he could have gone out the front
door and play tennis and out the back door to fish,” Horseman said.
In the mid-1990s, Jeffries and his wife moved back to the Kansas City
area. As the years passed, they developed health problems. Hanna moved
her aunt and uncle to Hiawatha Care Center near her home in west-
central Iowa so she could help care for them. Thelma died in 2005.
“I had a relationship that was very dear with my uncle,” Hanna said.
“My aunt and uncle were incredibly unassuming and humble about their
Survivors include: Four sisters, two brothers, several nieces and
The last word: “Family and friends were very important to him,” Beth
Hanna of her uncle. “He never acted as though what he did was
COMMENT FROM A READER RE: WUNDERLICH—
Tim Fleming said…
Wunderlich is a liar. He gave a presentation a few months ago to some evangelical group in California. There was a news article in the local paper about it, and I responded to some of Wunderlich’s claims. Here, verbatim, is what I wrote:
Wunderlich is either the most gullible dupe breathing on the planet, or he is an out-and-out liar.
Let’s address his disinformation point-by-point. There were no Secret Service agents at Parkland Hospital blubbering about JFK getting killed. They, instead, were busy breaking Texas law by forcibly removing the body from the custody of Dr. Rose, Dallas coroner, at gunpoint. By Texas law, the autopsy was supposed to be performed there at Parkland that day; no way the Secret Service was going to let that happen. Besides, according to Abraham Bolden, a SS Agent who quit the presidential detail despite being handpicked by JFK, the Secret Service hated Kennedy. The other agents often joked that if Kennedy were ever shot at, they would get out of the way. In fact, they did exactly that. Newsreel footage taken at Love Field clearly shows Emory Roberts, agent in charge of the Dallas detail, ordering Henry Rybka off the side of the president’s limousine as it leaves Love Field, thus stripping JFK of protection from the front right of the vehicle. In Dealey Plaza, Roberts ordered his agents to stand down as the first shots were fired. Agent Bill Greer, the driver slowed the limo to a stop so that the head shot could hit its mark easily. Only then, after looking back twice at JFK to make sure he was mortally hit, did he speed up. Greer lied about this to the Warren Commission even though the Zapruder film and other photos clearly show what Greer had done.
Jack Ruby not affiliated with the Mafia? [In his speech, Wunderlich made this claim.] Pardon me, as I try to stop laughing. Just two facts for you here–when Santos Trafficante, head of the Florida Mafia, was jailed in Havana after Castro took over, Jack Ruby visited him in jail several times. If Ruby is not Mafia, explain this. Moreover, Ruby knew Oswald. That was the testimony of many witnesses, including Marita Lorenz. Lorenz made this assertion under oath in the Florida civil trial of E. Howard Hunt (CIA) for libel. The jury in that case found that Hunt and the CIA were involved in the assassination.
According to several witnesses, the night before the assassination Secret Service agents were provided free liquor by Pat Kirkwood, owner of The Cellar in Dallas. [Wunderlich claimed that no agents were drinking the night before the assassination.] Many agents partied until 4 am, and so were useless as protection in the motorcade the next day. It was well known in Dallas that Kirkwood was associated with the head of the Dallas Mafia, Joe Civella. Civella visited Ruby in jail after he killed Oswald.
It is now well-known that many in Washington expressed, publicly and privately, doubt about the Warren Commission findings. [Wunderlich claimed that no one in Washington has ever disputed the Warren REport findings.] These included Robert Kennedy, Russell Long, Hale Boggs, LBJ, Allard Lowenstein (who was gunned down himself) and the entire House Select Committee on Assassinations which stated that JFK was probably murdered as the result of a conspiracy. And the whole purpose of the CIA is to keep secrets forever. The whole point of a covert operation is to, ostensibly, cover up the truth of it for the rest of time.
Many of the witnesses in Dealey Plaza heard more than three shots…and a rifle shot is clearly distinguishable from a motorcycle backfire on any audio graph that is honestly and competently performed. And it is ludicrous to believe that one magic bullet could have inflicted all the damage caused to JFK and Connally, and then emerge pristine on a hospital stretcher. Wunderlich misses the irony of his claim that Oswald might have been aiming at Connally. That would make Oswald a really bad marksman, then, because he hit the wrong guy. Oh, but wait, Oswald, according to the Warren Commission, had to be an expert marksman to get off all those shots and hit somebody in six seconds.
One more thing, how did Wunderlich get from Love Field to Parkland Hospital so quickly? [Wunderlich claimed he was at Love Field when he heard of the shooting.] The president was shot at 12:30 pm, arrived at Parkland at 12:40 pm, and was pronounced dead at 1 pm. No doctor worked on him after that. I’ve been to Dallas many times, and the drive from Love Field to Parkland, even with no traffic, cannot be made in under 25minutes. Presumably Wunderlich did not hear of the assassination before it occurred, so I’m guessing he did not know of it before 12:45. Did he fly to Parkland Hospital by flapping his arms? And no one turned over the body so that it was lying face down[Wunderlich claimed he saw JFK face down in the ER.]. [Note here: I’ve read nearly every word ever written on the JFK assassination, and I recall no one–doctors, nurses, SS agents, anyone–ever saying that JFK was turned face down. Not even the funeral home attendant, Aubrey Rike, did that.]
I’m sure the evangelicals, blissfully unaware, lapped up Wunderlich’s whoppers without so much as a softball question. Allen Dulles, David Atlee Phillips, Charles Cabell, and Dick Bissell always counted on the compliant and the uncritical to keep their secrets safe forever.