I was there

April 20th, 2021 by Ken

It’s rare when one person has personal involvement in an historical event.  It’s even rarer when that same person has been involved in three historical events, which continue to interest historians today.  Well, that person was me.  And while I had no significant impact on any of the outcome of those events I was there.

The events I’m speaking of were the Civil Rights struggle, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  For 15 months in 1962 and 1963 I was involved in all three of those events.

It was September 1962.  I was serving with the 101st Airborne in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  When James Meredith tried to enroll as the first black student at the University of Mississippi, my unit was called up to assist Federal Marshalls in their efforts.  We caravanned from Kentucky in Deuce and a Halves being harassed by cars and trucks full of young white men, not much older than us, who weaved in and out of the caravan trying to cause accidents.  In one case, a fire bomb was thrown into one of the trucks.

We drove through Oxford and out the other side.  My unit set up a camp just outside of town.  Then, all of the black soldiers were separated out from the white troops.  The white soldiers were sent out to perform various guard and escort duties, while the black troops stayed behind to keep the camp in order.  We stayed about a week, when most of us left.

A short couple of weeks passed, and in October 1962 we were again called up during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We took a troop train from  Kentucky to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida where we waited to make a jump into Cuba.  At one point, we were on the runway, planes were starting their engines, when we were called back.

As a young man, I really wanted to jump into Cuba and “kill me some Cubans” as a thoughtless young man might utter.  I was disappointed that President Kennedy had called off the invasion.  But, this event led to my involvement in the assassination.

In December 1962, I re-enlisted and was stationed at Fort Lewis just a few short miles from my home in Tumwater.  My birthday is on November 22 and in November 1963, I had asked for and received a three-day leave.  On the 21st, I sat around the barracks waiting until the clock struck midnight so I could go on leave.  During a conversation with some of the guys, the subject of Cuba came up.  Someone said something about how well the president had handled the whole event.  I spouted out, still remembering my disappointment in not taking part in the invasion and said, “That sonofabitch ought to be shot.”

That night I left for Tumwater.  The next day, like many others, my family and I were gathered around our television set watching the events of the assassination unfold, where my sister said.  There’s someone at the door and they want to talk with you.  I came to the door and saw two men in black suits.  One of them said to me, “We heard you made a threat on the president’s life and we just wanted to confirm where you are.”   I answered that I’d been here all night.  They thanked me and left.   I found out later than nearly 10,000 people were investigated in the government’s effort to determine what had happened.

That is my involvements in a 15 month period with those historical events.  This is the first time I’ve put it all down.

Posted in History

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