“The boss got hit.” Those were the words following a knock on his door that told Gerald Blaine what had happened in Dallas. At the time, Blaine was a special agent with the Secret Service and was resting in a hotel room in Austin. He was one of 16 of the 40 agents in “The Kennedy Detail” sent ahead in advance of the President’s arrival. Austin was to be the next stop after Dallas in a series of stops that began in Florida then proceeded to San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, and Dallas.
The President’s trip had gone smoothly, even in Florida where tensions were high (with the Cuban population there) in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was in the 28-mile long motorcade in Florida that JFK had ordered the agents off the back of his open-top limousine. Campaigning season was in full swing and the President wanted to be closer to the people (voters). The agents understood that same order would stand in Texas.
The first half of the program depicts the agents protecting President Eisenhower and the transition to the Kennedy administration. Close and lasting relationships between the agents and their charges developed quickly. The First Family learned the names of the agents and treated them like family. Most of the agents were from small towns and middle class economic backgrounds and were charmed by the Kennedy family and impressed by their wealth and all its accoutrements.
With the death of the Kennedy’s infant son, Patrick, the agents experienced the loss like family and as they described, “a heaviness hung over the First Family”. It would get worse.
Almost a dozen former agents appear in the broadcast giving first hand accounts and their opinions about their jobs and “That Day”. Clint Hill, the agent assigned to the First Lady’s detail gets the most air time. He was the agent (shown here) who jumped onto the back of the limousine and shielded the President and Mrs. Kennedy from any further shots that may have been fired.
Regardless of personal politics, viewers will be moved by this emotional program. Not only was the President murdered that day, our country was attacked. In 1963 many felt the same way as other generations had on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2000.
Footage of the agents expressing their thoughts and feelings reveal their humanity and their emotions of not only losing a friend, but coming to grips with what they believed as a failure in their duty.
The Discovery Channel premiered a two-hour special on Thursday, December 2, 2010 based on Blaine’s book, The Kennedy Detail. It is scheduled to repeat on December 3 and no doubt will eventually be available on DVD.