(updated) President Kennedy: the bubble top and all security issues dissected 1961-1963

President Kennedy: the bubble top and all security issues dissected 1961-1963

click on images to enlarge

First things first: it is important to remember that President Kennedy did not have hundreds of motorcades during his 1000 or so days in office- it was a finite number (from the JFK Library):

When the President visited military bases or traveled in motorcades in Washington, D.C., there was hardly any overt protection noticeable, such as motorcycles flanking the car, agents on or near the rear of the limousine, or a full bubbletop, unless during certain weather conditions, with a few notable exceptions when a display of force was demonstrated. This was because the Secret Service and the President were on very friendly, well-traveled grounds. On military bases, our troops, in conjunction with the Secret Service, provide the best-case scenario for protection. In the Capital, the Secret Service checks all the buildings along the route, and armed guards are posted along the path the President’s car will take. In addition, manholes are checked and sealed. For example, during JFK’s Inaugural Parade held on 1/20/61, “A complete survey of all buildings, water mains, sewers and underground conduits and other facilities along the parade route [was] made prior to the departure of the President from the White House to the Capitol.”

It should also be noted that when JFK was a candidate for the Presidency in 1960 the Secret Service did not protect candidates. Sadly, this did not become policy until immediately after the murder of his brother Robert. For his part, V.P. Nixon already had Secret Service protection on the campaign trail in 1960. That said, Senator Kennedy’s motorcades were often surrounded by many motorcycles and press photographers:

JFK and LBJ together in Dallas (on Main Street) 9/11/60! The next time they would ride together in a motorcade: 11/22/63, Dallas!

Sunday 30th June, 1963. Forest Row, East Sussex. Visiting Harold Macmillan

Ireland, June 1963-Agent Bert De Freese on rear of limo; partial bubbletop; good motorcycle formation; press photographers flatbed truck in front of limo:

From my third book The Not-So-Secret Service: Death threats preceded JFK’s 1963 Ireland visit: “Police, newspaper received warnings months before president’s killing. “The documents indicated that 6,404 police officers were on duty throughout Ireland the night Kennedy arrived, of whom 2,690 lined the U.S. president’s route from Dublin airport to the Phoenix Park mansion of Irish President Eamon de Valera. “Costigan wrote that, although the death threats were considered likely to be hoaxes, his officers would use binoculars to monitor rooftops along the route of the presidential motorcade. He said some police would carry firearms, an exceptional measure in a country with a largely unarmed police force, to engage any would-be sniper. “A rifle as well as Thompson guns and revolvers were carried for use against a possible sniper,” Costigan wrote in a post-Kennedy visit memorandum released Friday

Milwaukee, WI May 12 1962:

9/27/62 West Virginia:

Philadelphia 1961:


Philadelphia, PA trip 10/30/63

Washington, D.C. 9/6/63—MILITARY AIDE, ASAIC BORING, military lining street:

Washington, D.C. 3/27/63–MILITARY AIDE, SAIC BEHN, military lining street, essentially THREE follow-up cars:

12/15/62 NY:

12/21/61 Bermuda:

10/6/62 St. Paul, MN:


Atlantic Fleet April 1962:

9/5/63 Washington, D.C.

10/20/62 Chicago, IL (possibly cold or rainy):

9/24/63 Madison, WI:

Battery Park, NY 5/23/63:

6/5/62 Washington, D.C.:

Bogota, Columbia 12/17/61:

Caracas, Venezuela 12/16/61:


San Juan, Puerto Rico 12/15/61:

Washington, D.C. 3/20/62:

Washington, D.C. 9/19/61:

New York, NY 11/8/63:

Washington, D.C. 7/11/61:

Washington, D.C. 2/20/63:

Washington, D.C. 4/11/62 (JFK and Jackie in different bubbletop vehicles):

11/22/63 at Parkland- too late:


North Carolina, 10/12/61:

Washington, D.C. 6/15/61-debut:

Arlington, VA 6/12/62 (this one doesn’t “count”- drizzle):

JFK using the Ike bubbletop at the very start 1/20/61:

California, 3/23/62:

New York, 5/19/62:

Germany, 6/26/63- Many flanking motorcycles in a wedge formation; SAIC Behn on trip; military aide in front seat; agents in good number near limo; bubbletop at times; military lining street; live television feed; PHOTOGRAPHERS IN FRONT OF LIMO; buildings guarded:

Duluth, MN 9/25/63 (this one doesn’t “count” because it was raining at night):

HOWEVER- regarding the same Duluth, MN trip: Researcher Chad Carlson wrote to me regarding this very same trip: “I am friends with a man here who was in charge of JFK’s trip to Duluth, MN here in September of 1963. I ask him a lot about JFK. He got to talk oneon-one with the President for 30 minutes before he made his rounds and speeches. His name is Larry Yetka, former Minnesota Supreme Court justice. Larry said that he wondered what [Mafia boss] Sam Giancana of Chicago was up to on 11-22-63. I told him that I had been watching the motorcade in Dallas on 11-22-63 and told him it looked very “lax.” He said, “Yes it was.” So I asked him how was security in Duluth in Sept.1963? He said, “Tight as hell-men were on the rooftops even.” See also (from renowned JFK historian Mark Henderson):

Billings, MT September 1963:

Building rooftops were guarded—This was confirmed by researcher Deb Galentine’s assistant police chief father who worked on the security for this trip, as conveyed to the author on 2/17/14. Deb further wrote: “Weeks before JFK’s arrival, my father, who would be in charge of the local police protection, met with Billings’ leaders and some of President Kennedy’s advance people. JFK’s planners wanted the fastest, safest routes possible. They desired routes with no tall buildings and hoped to avoid Billings’ Rimrocks as well. The Rimrocks, a natural sandstone formation riddled with caves, paths, and ledges and dotted with pine trees and shrubs, unevenly jut about 500 feet above the city of Billings. Avoiding them would be impossible since Billings’ airport lies perched atop them. Three separate routes were available from the airport to the President’s venue, and the planners decided to use the one that provided the safest and fastest passage away from the Rimrocks.”

New Mexico, 12/7/62:

Washington, D.C. 1961:

UNKNOWN (shown on DVD JFK: The Final Hours):

See also:


New York 9/20/63:


Boston, MA 4/20/63:

Washington, D.C. 3/8/61:

New York 5/30/61:

New York 1/19/62:

New York 5/29/62:

Mexico 6/29/62-7/1/62- Many flanking motorcycles in a wedge formation; SAIC Behn on trip; military aide in front seat; agents in good number near limo; bubbletop at times; military lining street; live television feed; PHOTOGRAPHERS IN FRONT OF LIMO; buildings guarded:

Florida 1962:

South Dakota, 8/17/62:

Washington, D.C. 10/10/62:

Washington, D.C. 12/11/62:

Washington, D.C. 9/8/63 (doesn’t count-raining):

Washington, D.C. (doesn’t count-raining):

10/20/62 Washington, D.C. (doesn’t count-raining):

11/8/63 New York, NY:

Look at THIS amazing photo! SAIC Gerald Behn and fellow agent Sam Kinney placing the bubble top ON the car while President Kennedy and guest are sitting inside! Secret Service agent Stu Stout watches:

Charleston, West Virginia, 6/20/63 (doesn’t count-raining):

See also:


Buildings WERE regularly guarded during the FDR, Truman, Ike and (yes) the JFK era before the assassination but NOT in Dallas:


1957-era security for President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth…if only JFK and Jackie would have received this kind of protection 6 years later:

Also Ike era:

San Diego, CA 6/6/63-countless Marines lined on each side of the street 5-6 feet apart FACING THE CROWD, SAIC Behn on the trip (riding in the front seat) and TWO FLATBED TRUCKS TAKING STILL PHOTOS, MOTION PICTURES, AND A LIVE TELEVISION FEED! Building rooftops were also guarded:


Philadelphia, PA 10/62-arrows point our 4 cyclists on each wheel PLUS row of motorcycles near follow-up car, police lining street and facing crowd:

Seattle 11/16/61—buildings were guarded; police mingled within crowds; military lined street; press photographers close by; agents by limo; SAIC Gerald Behn in front passenger seat:

Buffalo, NY 10/14/62:

Indianapolis, IN 10/13/62-Secret Service agents, Dick Johnsen, Ron Pontius, Bob Lilley, and Frank Yeager, surround car:

Springfield, IL 10/19/62:

Chicago, IL 3/23/63—Col. George J. McNally, White House Signal Corps and former Secret Service agent, wrote in his book: “But during the Chicago visit [3/23/63], the motorcade was slowed to the pace of a mounted Black Horse Troop, and the police got a warning of Puerto Rican snipers. Helicopters searched the roofs along the way, and no incidents occurred.” [A Million Miles of Presidents, p. 204] Agent Don Lawton rode on the rear of the limousine and six motorcycles bracketed the vehicle:

Nashville, TN 5/18/63—SAIC of the Nashville office (and former JFK WHD agent) Paul Doster told the Nashville Banner on 5/18/63 that “a complete check of the entire motorcade route” was done for JFK’s trip to Nashville. In addition, Doster stated, “Other [police] officers were assigned atop the municipal terminal and other buildings along the route. These men took their posts at 8 a.m. and remained at their rooftop stations until the president and his party passed.” A helicopter was used on the route, as well:

[note: this is the later edition of the newspaper quoted above]

UPDATE: The 2013 book from the Nashville Tennessean JFK IN NASHVILLE provides the corroboration/ text in question and more:

Canada 1961:

New Orleans 1962:

Cleveland, OH 10/19/62:

Pittsburgh, PA 10/13/62:

Washington, D.C. April 1961-Police on the roof of building overlooking a JFK motorcade, while both police and military lined the streets, common security measures used before Dallas, yet only a small number of police lined the streets in Dallas, did not face the crowd, with no military lining the streets and no men guarding rooftops:

10/1/63— THE VIEW FROM THE PRESS PHOTOGRAPHERS FLATBED TRUCK IN FRONT; 2 follow-up cars; military and police line street; SAIC Behn and military aide:

Hawaii 6/9/63–press photographers in front of limo, as usual, and press bus not far behind; agents surround limousine:

Florida trip 11/16-11/18/63 (Palm Beach, Cape Canaveral, Miami, Tampa):


From my third book The Not-So-Secret Service: Bob Hoelscher worked for the Miami-Dade Police Department for 50 years and was a counter-sniper and observer on the terrace deck of the airport hotel on November 18, 1963, the day Kennedy arrived in Miami. He guarded almost every VIP that came through Dade County from Kennedy to Clinton and started the tactical special weapons team, later known as SWAT, in 1970. Documents reveal a bomb threat against JFK in Miami just days before his death. Hoelscher told CBSMiami.com that he knew of potential threats to the president ahead of his November visit. “I was told that information had been developed that the Cubans might start a protest at an unknown location and they might make an attempt on the life of the President if there was sufficient distraction,” Hoelscher said. “I was told to keep this information to myself, watch the periphery and look for anything unusual.” While Hoelscher and some others in the police department knew, it was strictly on a “need to know” basis. “The information about the death threat was not shared with the rank and file out of fear that the media would find out,” Hoelscher said

VARIOUS Washington, D.C. motorcades + Chicago, IL 1961-1962—press/ photographers in front of and close by JFK’s limo:

Vienna (above photo), June 1961:

Rome, 7/2/63—close press/photographers (including live tv), SAIC Behn, agents on limo, massive motorcycles, etc.:

Amherst, MA 10/26/63-military aide in pilot car AND JFK’s limo, Dr Burkley close by, wire service/ press/ photographers close by:

Pueblo, CO 8/17/62:

Paris, France April 1961:

Travel Of John Fitzgerald Kennedy In Paris. Place de l’Etoile, à l’ Arc de triomphe, rue de Rivoli, . (Photo by Maurice Jarnoux/Paris Match via Getty Images)

Travel Of John Fitzgerald Kennedy In Paris. Place de l’Etoile, à l’ Arc de triomphe, rue de Rivoli, . (Photo by Maurice Jarnoux/Paris Match via Getty Images)

Foule sur la place de la Concorde lors de la visite officielle du président américain de John Fitzgerald Kennedy à Paris, en juin 1961, France. (Photo by KEYSTONE-FRANCE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)


Costa Rica, March 1963:

North Dakota 9/25/63:

Agents Blaine, Giannoules, Hill, Landis and Pontius surround JFK and Jackie in the limo, Orange Bowl, FL December 1962:

9/26/61 on the way to La Guardia Airport:

6/8/63 Los Angeles, CA:

Worchester, MA 1961:

Boston, MA 5/29/61:


9/28/63 Las Vegas, NV:

9/26/63 Great Falls, MT:

9/12/62 Houston, TX:



JFK London 1962:

The SECRET SERVICE was boss of the President and his security, NOT the other way around!

The 1963 (pre-assassination) UK VERSION of former JFK Secret Service Chief U.E. Baughman’s 1962 book SECRET SERVICE CHIEF. FIRST EDITION HARDCOVER PUBLISHED BY HEINEMANN, LONDON, 1963:

So much for the president’s “order” that never happened: Clint Hill on the rear of the limo on Main Street. He did not ride on the rear of the car from the latter portion of Main Street onward:

As Hill himself even admitted:


See also:


Congressman Sam Gibbons, WHO RODE A FOOT AWAY FROM KENNEDY IN THE BACK OF THE LIMOUSINE, debunks the whole JFK-ordered-the-agents-off-the-limo garbage: “I rode with Kennedy every time he rode. I heard no such order. As I remember it the agents rode on the rear bumper all the way. Kennedy was very happy during his visit to Tampa. Sam Gibbons.”


DALLAS TIMES HERALD 11/22/63 BEFORE the assassination happened

11/21/63: more motorcycles were to have been beside JFK’s limo in Dallas:

11/21/63, Houston, TX- THE DAY BEFORE—phenomenal motorcycle formation, good speed of car, press/ photographers/ Cecil Stoughton near JFK.:

11/21/63-THE DAY BEFORE—11/21/63, San Antonio, TX: view from motion picture taken from police helicopter! Other photo- PRS Agent Glen Bennett [see chapter 2 of my first book] is riding in the front passenger seat of the follow-up car, the spot traditionally reserved for the Shift Leader! I knew he rode the follow-up car in NY, FL and TX and this was mostly hushed up afterwards (and, with regard to Dallas, the INTENTIONS behind his placement there), but this is a new one on me. Other arrows- police lining street, good motorcycle formation, agent Don Lawton looks upward to scan buildings, Shift Leader Roberts BETWEEN Bennett and the driver, Kinney. Roofs of multi-story buildings guarded, helicopter used along route, FORTY (40) members of military intelligence unit guarded route

Fort Worth, TX 11/22/63 (BEFORE the assassination):

–text: FORT WORTH PRESS 11/22/63 morning edition: Fort Worth advance agent Bill Duncan…but look at the headline below: “16 GOOFS ARE CHECKED OUT BY SECRET SERVICE GUARDING JFK” (image via Ebay- it’s already gone, so luckily I saved it)

“A Secret Service man said today 16 persons were “checked out” here last night by agents guarding President Kennedy’s life.

“The public doesn’t know it,” the agent said, “but we checked out 16 goofs.” The agent described them as “goofs.” “But if they could have gotten close enough they could have harmed the President.”

The agent, who asked not to be quoted by name, declined to elaborate. He would not say whether any of the persons investigated were carrying arms.

Police officers said they know a no persons arrested and jailed last night by SS men.

THE SECRET Service men protected President Kennedy and his wife and Vice President Lyndon Johnson during their reception at Carswell Air Force Base and during their overnight stay at Hotel Texas.

Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and federal men roped off Eighth St outside Hotel Texas as the President arrived.

“Everything went smoothly,” Police St. S. B. Pruitt, one of dozens of city officers who spent the night at the hotel, said. “We didn’t have any trouble at all.”

REPORTERS were not allowed in the corridor of the eighth floor where the President and Mrs. Kennedy slept.

SS men and police kept the halls cleared of everybody except those wearing “special badges.”

Policemen were stationed on the seventh and ninth floor stairs to keep anybody from going to the floor with the President.

One SS man was stationed outside Vice President and Mrs. Johnson’s 13th floor suite.

City firemen stood in the halls on the seventh, eighth and ninth floors and in the hotel kitchens. It was the first time that many of the firemen could remember that such a precaution had been made to protect visiting dignitaries.

“But we don’t have the President visit us very often,” one fireman said.”

From Donovan’s pre-11/22/63 book:

About vincepalamara

Vincent Palamara was born in Pittsburgh and graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in Sociology. Although not even born when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Vince brings fresh eyes to an old case. In fact, Vince would go on to study the largely overlooked actions - and inactions - of the United States Secret Service in unprecedented detail, as well as achieving a world's record in the process, having interviewed and corresponded with over 80 former agents (the House Select Committee on Assassinations had the old record of 46 with a 6 million dollar budget and subpoena power from Congress), not to mention many surviving family members, White House aides, and even quite a few Parkland and Bethesda medical witnesses for a corresponding project. The result was Survivor's Guilt: The Secret Service & The Failure To Protect President Kennedy. Vince is also the author of the books JFK: From Parkland To Bethesda, The Not-So-Secret Service, Who's Who in the Secret Service, and Honest Answers about the Murder of President John F. Kennedy: A New Look at the JFK Assassination. All told, Vince has been favorably mentioned in over 140 JFK and Secret Service related books to date (including two whole chapters in Murder in Dealey Plaza, The Secret Service: The Hidden History Of An Enigmatic Agency by Philip Melanson, and the Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board, among many others), often at length, in the bibliographies, and in the Secret Service - and even medical evidence - areas of these works. Vince has appeared on the History Channel's THE MEN WHO KILLED KENNEDY (VHS and DVD), C-SPAN, Newsmax TV, A COUP IN CAMELOT (DVD/BLU RAY), KING KILL '63, THE MAN BEHIND THE SUIT (DVD), National Geographic's JFK: THE FINAL HOURS (including on DVD), PCN, BPTV, local cable access television, YouTube, radio, newspapers, print journals, at national conferences, and all over the internet. Also, Vince's original research materials, or copies of said materials, are stored in the National Archives (by request under Deed Of Gift by the ARRB), the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Harvard University, the Assassination Archives and Research Center, and the Dallas Public Library. Vince Palamara has become known (as he was dubbed by the History Channel in 2003) "the Secret Service expert." As former JFK Secret Service agent Joe Paolella proclaimed: "You seem to know a lot about the Secret Service, maybe even more than I do!" Agent Dan Emmett calls Vince a Secret Service expert in his new book.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s