The Arrival of JFK’s Body at Bethesda Naval Hospital — What I Saw

jacqueline kennedy onassis, jackie kennedy, john f kennedy, jfk, NYC_1960, parade

The Arrival of JFK’s Body at Bethesda Naval Hospital — What I Saw

There’s some confusion regarding the arrival of JFK’s body at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and many conflicting accounts of the event.

On the night JFK’s body arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital, I was living with my parents in Rockville, Maryland.

My dad heard, on television, that JFK’s body was being flown from Andrews AFB to Bethesda Naval Hospital by helicopter. After hearing this, my dad drove to Bethesda Naval Hospital to watch the helicopter arrive, taking me and my mom with him.


In front of Bethesda Naval Hospital, I remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders.

We were in the midst of a group people standing — waiting — in the darkness, and in silence.

I remember the loud noise of a helicopter approaching, and I watched as it noisily landed, not far from where we stood.

It seemed to me, in the darkness, that flames were coming from its engines.

A battleship grey ambulance was waiting near the helicopter and, from my perch high atop my dad’s shoulders, I watched as men rolled a gurney, upon which lay a body, covered by a white sheet, from the helicopter to the open rear door of the ambulance.

I remember people crying, sobbing, but I didn’t know why.

Someone, probably my dad, said it was President Kennedy.

My mom and dad remember seeing Jackie Kennedy there too — still wearing her blood stained dress — but I don’t remember seeing her.

I only remember seeing the body covered by a white sheet. JFK’s body.

As I said, there’s a lot of confusion about the arrival of JFK’s body at Bethesda Naval Hospital. There are many theories, witnesses, and claims regarding how and when JFK’s body arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and whether or not Jackie had been (somehow) separated from his body.

All I know is what I saw: JFK’s body arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital via helicopter, on a gurney, covered by a white sheet.

And my mom and dad told me they saw Jackie there too, that night, along with his body.


Jackie Kennedy at Andrews AFB

Jackie Kennedy at Andrews AFB

Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy

“Given a choice between the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., and the Army’s Walter Reed Hospital, Mrs. Kennedy chose the hospital in Bethesda for the autopsy because the President had served in the Navy. Mrs. Kennedy and the Attorney General, with three Secret Service agents, accompanied President Kennedy’s body on the 45-minute automobile trip from Andrews AFB to the Hospital.”

Source: Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy – Chapter 2: The Assassination – Return to Washington, D.C. –

VIDEO – More Evidence That JFK’s Body Was Tampered With After The Assassination –

The AF1 Tapes and Subsequent Events at Andrews AFB on November 22, 1963

“Everything in this essay is grounded around one basic, undeniable fact: that the heavy, bronze, reddish-brown ceremonial casket from Dallas, in which JFK’s body was taken aboard AF1 at Love Field in Dallas, was empty when the public saw it unloaded from Air Force One on live television shortly after 6:04 PM on November 22, 1963, and placed into a light gray Navy ambulance.  We know this is so because President Kennedy’s body arrived at the Bethesda morgue twenty minutes BEFORE the motorcade from Andrews AFB, transporting the Dallas casket in a light gray Navy Pontiac ambulance, arrived at the front of the Navy hospital.  If the timeline that supports the above conclusion can be trusted, then the only conclusion possible is that JFK’s body had been removed from the Dallas casket onboard the airplane, prior to the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews, and somehow spirited to Bethesda Naval Hospital before the Andrews motorcade arrived.  It is essential that the reader review the basic facts proving that the body’s chain-of-custody was broken enroute the autopsy, before we move on to the principal topic of this essay, which is “What do the AF1 tapes reveal about what was intended that night; what actually transpired; and how did those events deviate from what had been planned, and why?”…

“How did JFK’s body arrive at Bethesda Naval Hospital before the motorcade from Andrews AFB?

“The short answer is, “by helicopter.” Specifically, by a helicopter that landed at the Bethesda Naval Hospital complex’s Officer’s Club parking lot. JFK’s body was transferred from that helicopter to a Hearse (a black Cadillac mortuary ambulance), placed inside a shipping casket, and delivered to the morgue loading dock less than five minutes later, at 6:35 PM, when USMC Sergeant Boyajian dutifully recorded the time of arrival of the casket in his notes.  He committed his notes to a typed report three and one half days later, a copy of which he provided to the ARRB staff in 1997 after I established contact with him.  How I reached these conclusions, and the crucial role of the AF1 tapes (and other evidence) played in reaching these conclusions, is detailed below…

“Paul O’Connor was interviewed extensively by David Lifton on film in 1980 for his short documentary Best Evidence, and subsequently again by Lifton, a few years later, on video for a TV journalism news show. He was also interviewed extensively by Nigel Turner for his multi-part documentary, The Men Who Killed Kennedy.  Although he is now deceasedthe reader has ample opportunities to assess Paul O’Connor’s credibility.  I find him very credible.  His story about the shipping casket never wavered, and his account of a group of Navy corpsmen bringing in the shipping casket dovetails perfectly with Dennis David’s account.  His memory of one helicopter landing on the north side of the Bethesda Hospital, at the helipad, concurs with Manchester, who records in his book that the H-21 helicopter carrying the Joint Service Casket Team from Andrews landed at that site, out in front of the main building.”

Source: The AF1 Tapes and Subsequent Events at Andrews AFB on November 22, 1963 –

The ongoing Kennedy casket mystery

“A few hours later, the plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C. The casket was removed from the plane and placed into an automobile in which the deceased president’s wife Jacqueline was riding. The automobile slowly made its way to Bethesda Naval Hospital. It arrived in the front of the hospital at 6:55 p.m. and the casket was officially carried into the morgue at 8:00 p.m. (after another unofficial secret entry into the morgue at 7:17 p.m.) In the meantime, Mrs. Kennedy was escorted into the hospital to a VIP waiting lounge.”

Source: The ongoing Kennedy casket mystery –

What happened to JFK’s body? A cover-up “on the fly”

“But what is most important to understand,” Horne continued, “is that a tug-of-war was taking place during the flight from Dallas to Washington over where JFK’s autopsy would be conducted, and how his body would be transported. Onboard the airplane, three persons were lobbying, and lobbying hard, for JFK’s autopsy to be at Walter Reed Hospital (the Army site) in D.C.:  Roy Kellerman, Admiral Burkley (the President’s military physician), and General Ted Clifton.  All three of these people wanted ground transport–an ambulance–to take JFK’s body to Walter Reed. Opposing them was Jerry Behn at “Crown,” who not only said the autopsy was to be at Bethesda Naval Hospital, but that it would go by helicopter. The tapes reveal that those onboard the aircraft seemingly lost the battle to go to Walter Reed, and that Gerald Behn prevailed. Clifton then cautioned him to have a mortuary style ambulance available in case the Dallas casket was too heavy for the helicopter. Throughout the flight there was a coordinated effort, begun by Jerry Behn at the White House and reinforced by Clifton on the airplane, to separate Jackie Kennedy from JFK’s body as soon as the aircraft landed, and to send her and all other passengers to the South Lawn of the White House, while the body went alone to the autopsy site.”

Source: What happened to JFK’s body? A cover-up “on the fly” –

Burial At Sea: The Odyssey of JFK’s Original Casket

“When Air Force One arrived at Andrews Air Force Base after dark on November 22, 1963, Bobby Kennedy rushed on to the plane and directly to Jackie to comfort his sister-in-law, blowing past President Johnson and snubbing LBJ as the new President attempted to offer his condolences to JFK’s devastated brother.  The dead President’s aides and Secret Service detail rebuffed a military casket team who arrived to remove the President’s coffin from the plane.  Instead they formed a personal honor guard and handled Kennedy’s casket themselves, awkwardly placing it on to a catering lift and lowering it to the ground so that they could place it in a waiting hearse.  Jackie and Bobby climbed into the back of the hearse with JFK’s casket and drove straight to Bethesda as President Johnson made a statement for the millions of Americans watching the arrival ceremony on live television.”

Source: Burial At Sea: The Odyssey of JFK’s Original Casket

The State of the Medical Evidence in the JFK Assassination

“[Small aside – Lipsey was an aide to General Wehle, Commanding General of the Military District of Washington. According to Lipsey, Lipsey and Wehle flew by helicopter from Andrews Air Force base to Bethesda with JFK’s body. At least that’s my reading of what he’s saying.]

“Here’s the relevant passage, from MD 87:

“Lipsey mentioned that he and Wehle then flew by helicopter to Bethesda and took JFK into the back of Bethesda.”

Source: The State of the Medical Evidence in the JFK Assassination –

New Medical Evidence in the JFK Assassination

“Author David Lifton interviewed Navy personnel who told stories which suggested that JFK’s body was secretly diverted and flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital by helicopter…”

Source: New Medical Evidence in the JFK Assassination –

US Navy ambulance from Bethesda Naval Hospital used to transport JFK's body

US Navy ambulance from Bethesda Naval Hospital used to transport JFK’s body

See: The 1963 Pontiac ambulance that transported JFK’s body after the assassination –

Interview with Jim Douglass recorded in early 2000 while researching his current book: “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters


About ajmacdonaldjr

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25 Responses to The Arrival of JFK’s Body at Bethesda Naval Hospital — What I Saw

  1. Sorell L. Schwartz says:

    I was one of the two junior duty officers at the National Naval Medical Center on the night of November 22, 1963, tasked with meeting the ambulance coming from Andrews and escorting Mrs. Kennedy into the hospital and the casket to the morgue. The casket did not arrive by helicopter.
    We thought it might after arrival at Andrews, and I was initially prepared to receive the helicopter (a duty officer had to be present at a helicopter landing). But the casket came over land. I gave an interview in 2008 to “the Story.” (See

    Sorell L. Schwartz

    • Alex says:

      Lieutenant Samuel Bird’s after action report stated the casket was delivered to the morgue’s ante room by the joint services casket team at 8:00pm on November 22, 1963. Secret Service reports confirmed the ambulance carrying the ornate Dallas casket from Andrews AFB had arrived at Bethesda at 6:55pm which meant 65 minutes had elapsed between the arrival and delivery times. When it arrived I understand base security was within ten feet of the ambulance then remained close behind and to the side from Mrs Kennedy as she walked to the front door of the hospital. Inside the hospital CPO Dennis David acting as Chief of the day for the Medical School observed from a second floor window an ambulance leave the front of the hospital minutes after he had seen Mrs Kennedy enter the hospital then take an elevator up to the 17th floor. Major General Philip C Wehle Commanding General of the Military District of Washington who had been waiting in his staff car at the front of the hospital for the ambulance to arrive from Andrews AFB revealed in an interview that an ambulance left the front of the hospital after two men in white smocks signaled it to move out. Members of the joint services casket team had arrived from the landing pad at the front of the hospital riding in the cargo bed of a base security pickup truck before the ambulance from Andrews AFB had arrived. Members of the team informed David Lifton the truck followed the ambulance which would have been the one Wehle had seen signaled to leave. The time then would have been no later than 7:00pm which would have accounted for 5 minutes.

      During the interview on November 21, 2008 with now retired radio host Dick Gordon it was stated the truck went direct to the morgue but the ambulance had not followed. Before the truck returned to the front I understand an empty ambulance 100 yards away had been inspected on foot after which the truck drove past the ER where some staff were outside and a nurse was asked if the body had been delivered there. The ambulance was at the front when the truck returned. there. The trip to the morgue then back to the front would have taken no more than 15 minutes. I understand the truck slowly drove past the ambulance at the front which then followed the truck to the morgue. When the ambulance reached the morgue a rope line was set up to control spectators before the casket was removed from the ambulance. The trip back to the morgue and the setting up of the rope line would have taken no more than another 15 minutes. The casket would have been delivered to the ante room within another 5 minutes. The total minutes that could be accounted for was 40 minutes. That left at least 20 unaccounted for minutes. It is unlikely the encounter with Mrs McNamara would account for any of that time because it was mentioned to Gordon that had occurred after the crowd had all left the front of the hospital which indicates it was much later that night. It is known she and her husband had driven to the hospital at 7:30pm then she waited outside while he went to see Mrs Kennedy. He decided to stay so he returned immediately to tell his wife to leave and to remind her to pick up their son then he went back to be with Mrs Kennedy. The only other time she could have been seen was if she returned later that night to pick up her husband. Even if the encounter had occurred between 6:55pm and 8:00pm it would have only accounted for the 90 seconds mentioned.

      Members of the joint services casket team which had arrived on the helicopter told David Lifton they had followed an ambulance from the landing pad to the front of the hospital then when the one arrived from Andrews AFB stated there were two ambulances at the front. Major General Wehle also stated in an interview there were two ambulances at the front until one was signaled to leave. None of those military men were ordered to testify. Perhaps the missing minutes were explained by members of the joint services casket team who told author David Lifton their truck chased an ambulance for 15 minutes after they left the front of the hospital before they lost it then returned to the morgue. The team then made several trips to the front then to the back looking for an ambulance before they finally found it on their third trip to the front. That would account for the missing 20 minutes. Perhaps base security’s involvement with the truck started after the truck went to the front the second time but when it returned to the rear the ambulance was not there. It was on the third trip to the front that the joint services casket team riding the cargo bed of the security pickup truck found the ambulance they were looking for. That ambulance then followed the truck to the rear and the casket delivery was completed at 8:00pm. Perhaps a few insignificant details were forgotten. It had been a hectic night like no other.

      The only thing about November 22, 1963 that still puzzles me is the following. One member of the joint services team told David Lifton that another member of the team rode in an ambulance for a while. That other member confirmed that he had but would not discuss anything with Lifton. Surely it would be too ridiculous to think he played the part of a body covered in a sheet on a gurney being taken off of the helicopter at the landing pad to give nearby witnesses the impression the President’s body arrived on that helicopter before it was transferred to the waiting ambulance which then led the pickup truck carrying the other members of the joint services casket team to the front of the hospital. There it became the ambulance which Major General Wehle and CPO Dennis David saw leave after Mrs Kennedy had entered into the hospital then according to joint services casket team members the pickup truck followed that ambulance. The trip from the landing pad to the front of the hospital would have been the only time such a ridiculous thing could have happened.

  2. Thanks for the link. I was at Bethesda Naval Hospital on the evening of November 22, 1963. After the helicopter landed, there was no casket taken off the helicopter. I saw a body on a gurney with a sheet over it transferred from the helicopter to the waiting ambulance, which then took the body to the hospital. I never saw a casket, I saw a body with a sheet over it. There are witnesses to the helicopter landing that night, including me.

    • Sorell L Schwartz says:

      I don’t doubt that you saw a helicopter bringing in a “body” but I doubt it was JFK; in fact, I doubt it was a dead body. It was common for patients to be transferred by helicopter to Bethesda Naval, particularly if they were battle casualties that arrived in the U.S. through Andrews AFB. Such patients would be on a gurney covered by a sheet. Not then and not now are dead bodies transferred in anything less than a body bag, but usually in a casket. According to Jim Humes (who I knew at Bethesda), the JFK autopsy prosector, JFK’s body was wrapped in sheets inside the casket.

    • Anonymous says:

      I had recently sent a message for you on Facebook.

  3. Well, I’ll tell you what I saw…

    I saw a helicopter land that night, and I saw a body covered with a sheet transferred from the helicopter to the Navy ambulance. A body covered completely with a sheet. A dead body.

    Only one dead body arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital that night, and it was JFK’s.

    I saw many helicopters land at Bethesda Naval Hospital throughout the Vietnam War. Injured soldiers were transferred from the helicopters to waiting Navy ambulances, and none of the injured were covered completely with sheets, as dead bodies are, because all of them were still alive.

    My mom and dad saw Jackie with JFK’s body at the helipad that night.

    Why do people insist on covering up this truth? What’s the big deal?

    I know what I saw, and so do others who saw the same thing.

    • Lanny says:

      By your own description, on November 22, 1963, you were young enough to be “sitting on my dad’s shoulders.” Mr. Schwartz was a junior duty officer attending to some extremely weighty official duties with regards to affecting security for arrival and subsequent moving of the President’s body to the morgue.

      You take umbrage at his suggestion of alternate interpretations as to what you saw, yet you do not hesitate to disparage his own observations and working knowledge of Bethesda Medical Center, including lecturing him on the precise number of dead bodies received at the hospital on the evening of November 22, 1963 – a piece of information he was far more likely to have than you given that he was stationed there.

      People who argue the Kennedy assassination have no problem citing their favorite witnesses and what those witnesses saw, as have you. What is almost always missing is a reliable gauge by which we can judge the credibility of those witnesses or their advocates.

      Permit me to give you just such a gauge. Former ARRB staffer Doug Horne knows full well that his oft-referenced testimonies of X-ray technician Ed Reed, morgue technician Paul O’Conner, and photography assistant Floyd Riebe are either unconfirmed or specifically contradicted by their respective working partners (x-ray tech Jerrol Custer, morgue tech James Jenkins and photographer John Stringer) with regard to either the casket type, use of a body bag and/or both – not to mention other autopsy witnesses (most notably FBI agents Sibert and O’Neil) who undercut the body theft evidence with their own testimony to ARRB or HSCA.

      What you and other eager conspiracy theorists should be asking is why Horne never acknowledges or addresses these contradictory testimonies (that he himself helped collect in his ARRB position) when spreading his body-snatching, casket switching fantasies.

      Why do you think that is?

      • I know what I saw. My parents saw the same thing. So did other people who were there. It’s as simple as that. We weren’t “conspiracy theorists” on the night of November 22, 1963. We simply saw what we saw. Why the Warren Commission (and others have) lied about it is another story.


        I don’t think Doug Horne’s motivation (for his position) is to sell books, which is apparently your reasoning. This technique of mentioning a “profit motive” was originally mentioned in a cia memo; Specifically, in April 1967, the CIA wrote a dispatch which coined the term “conspiracy theories” … and recommended methods for discrediting such theories.

    • Anonymous says:

      When the cortège passed by my first-floor apartment with windows looking out on Wisconsin Avenue, going and coming from Bethesda, you could definitely see Jackie and Bobby seated in the center of the ambulance, and behind them was a casket. There was sufficient ambient light to see inside the ambulance.

      President Kennedy’s remains were in a casket when it left Andrews. I find it difficult to believe that the Office of the president or the man who occupied that office would have been so disrespected by our government as to transfer him covered only by a sheet.

  4. Larry says:

    The autopsy, by law, should have been performed in Dallas, Tx. They had exclusive jurisdiction. The body was evidence. Killing the President in 1963 was not a federal crime.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Your story would never stand up in court. Unless you looked under the sheet, you don’t really know who was under there. Your “truth” is full of holes.

    • Anonymous is a skeptic… or a cynic. I think it would depends upon how many dead bodies the hospital records indicate it had received that evening. If the hospital recorded one (1) the court could safely assume the one (1) I saw arrive via helicopter was JFK’s, as could a grand jury. It’s odd, to me, why this has been covered up with disinformation.

  6. Preston Newe says:

    To understand what the disinformation is all about will require visiting 2 websites & reading the topic & comments starting here:

    The 13th comment will invite you here:

    Notice how Pat Speer tries to hijack the topic at JFKfacts & steer it away from the AF-1 Tapes & the C-130 pilots & load crew that flew JFK’s death car from Love Field to Andres AFB 22 Nov 1963.
    That C-130 crew has never been interviewed & is not included in Doug Horne’s analysis. The suspicion JFK’s ambushed body was on the C-130 & medical procedures took place to eliminate evidence JFK was the victim of a crossfire cannot be eliminated until the C-130 crew reflects what occurred on their aircraft. Horne’s analysis overlooks AF-1 pilot (Swindal) was in the cockpit when the alleged removal of JFK from his casket to the rear cargo bay took place (something the pilot would have been aware of in the cockpit). The C-130 appears more likely as a means to transport JFK’s body out of Dallas for its early arrival at Bethesda.

    This indicates an inside job that disinformation agents (like Speer) are tirelessly trying to confuse the issue in the public’s perception of the factual events that occurred 22 Nov 1963 after President Kennedy was ambushed & murdered, why the AF-1 tapes have been edited, why the C-130 crew has never been interviewed and make sense of it 50 years later.

    • Lanny says:

      In his official report dated 11/22/63, Secret Service agent Sam Kinney describes his actions in loading the Presidential limousine onto the C-130 aircraft and accompanying it back to Washington, D. C. According to Kinney, “The plane departed Love Field at 3:35 pm. We arrived AAFB, MD at 8:05 pm.”

      8:05 p.m. is almost the exact time when the President’s autopsy officially started. Depending on which other witnesses you believe, the President’s body was carried into the morgue at 8 p.m. by the military honor guard, was extracted from the Dallas casket at 7:17 p.m. which had been received off Air Force One at Andrews AFB just after 6 p.m. or arrived as early as 6:35 p.m. when it was allegedly carried in by Dennis David and his crew of enlisted men.

      The President’s body could not have been on the C-130. How could you possibly not know this?

    • Anonymous says:

      JFK was transported from Dallas onboard Air Force One soon after LBJ took his Oath of Office.

  7. cj says:

    thank you. i’m not ever going to be sure what happened but JFK is dead and we as a country lost our great president that day. i was young and cried all day over it. if onlyone bdy arrived it would then be reasonable to think it would have been him.

  8. Mark Atwe says:

    Everything you’ve written about concerning events following SAM 26000 landed at the then Andrews Air Force Base, is bullshit. That event, though a long time ago, is still more recent than you think, and trust me lots and lots of people directly or indirectly associated and connected to that historic event are still alive and recollect those 4 days as if it happened yesterday. You weren’t there and I suspect you weren’t alive at that time. Your going on supposition and disinformation; if you are not a an eyewitness, you are spreading “fake news,” which makes you a LIAR.

    • Mark Atwe says:

      Amen, brother. So many people trying to capitalize on that poor souls death. Congress should pass a law that any unsubstantiated information tampering designed to sell books or alter public perception for financial or publicity gain, and where claims cannot be supported, proceedes go to the Kennedy estate. Remove the profit margin and watch how these assassination conspiracy trolls disappear.

    • Mark Atwell says:

      Amen, brother. So many people trying to capitalize on that poor souls death. Congress should pass a law that any unsubstantiated information tampering designed to sell books or alter public perception for financial or publicity gain, and where claims cannot be supported, proceedes go to the Kennedy estate. Remove the profit margin and watch how these assassination conspiracy trolls disappear.

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  11. Gene Briles says:

    The one thing a remember most about that was my brother and I going home from school and as I walked into the house,there was my mom standing in front of the tv crying and ironing . I was 8 years old and even when to the capital to pay or last respects on a very cold night. I would think that would stand out more , but no it’s my mom ironing in front of the tv .

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