13 Jun 2016

Clint Hill: Protecting Presidents

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 3:07 pm on 13 June 2016
Nicole Alphand (wife of the French ambassador) interprets for Mrs. de Gaulle and President Kennedy as Mrs.
Kennedy charms President de Gaulle using her fluency in French during
the trip to Paris. 1961.

Nicole Alphand (wife of the French ambassador) interprets for Mrs. de Gaulle and President Kennedy as Mrs. Kennedy charms President de Gaulle using her fluency in French during the trip to Paris. 1961. Photo: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum/Boston

Clint Hill was the secret service agent charged with protecting Jackie Kennedy, and was there on that fateful day her husband, President John F Kennedy was assasinated in Dallas.

He details his 17 years protecting the most powerful people in the world in his book Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford.

Keeping a watchful eye as President
and Mrs. Kennedy exit St. Francis
Xavier Church in Hyannis Port.

Keeping a watchful eye as President and Mrs. Kennedy exit St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis Port. Photo: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum/Boston

Clint explains what he saw on the day President Kennedy was assasinated:

"We were travelling in the motorcade and we were travelling down Elm st. in Dallas and we went by a building called the Texas School Book Depository.

I was in a left-hand car, the car immediately behind the Presidential vehicle and I was in the forward position on the left-hand side and I was scanning an area to my left that was a grassy area. There were some people there, not a great number and I was also scanning an area called a triple underpass. We had to go underneath a railroad bridge to get to a highway.

All of a sudden I heard an explosive noise over my right shoulder.

I did not immediately recognise it as a gunshot. I thought at first it might have been a fire cracker. I started to turn toward the noise and in so doing my eyes passed the back of the Presidential vehicle, which was immediately in front of us, and I saw the President’s reaction.

I saw him grab at his throat and he started to fall to his left, I realised that it had to have been a gunshot and I jumped from my position in the car and ran towards the Presidential vehicle in an attempt to get on top of the back of the car to form a shield there, to protect both the President and Mrs Kennedy, but just before I got to the presidential car, the third shot rang out.

That shot hit the president in the head. President Kennedy then started to fall to his left. I got up on the back of the car, and Mrs Kennedy came out of her seat, up onto the trunk. She was trying to retrieve some of the material that had erupted out of the president’s head from the gunshot wound and then I grabbed a hold of her and put her in the back seat again and when I did that, the president’s body fell farther to its left and his head was in her lap and the right side of his face was up, I could see that his eyes were fixed.

There was a hole in the skull and I could see that most of the brain area had gone from that area. I assumed that there was a fatal wound.

I turned and gave a thumbs down to the follow up car to indicate that this was a very devastating situation we were in and I screamed at the driver to get us to the hospital."