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Thread: The Whiskey Incident

  1. Default The Whiskey Incident


    An obscure, long-forgotten incident that took place during an earlier motorcade could shed some light on how Kennedy might have reacted to what happened in Dallas. His words in response to the previous assault were ones he might have felt or uttered if he somehow could have come through Dealey Plaza alive.
    This October 23, 1960 incident in downtown Milwaukee, which I learned about while going through microfilm of old newspapers during my research for this book, occurred late in the presidential campaign when Kennedy visited my home town. I don’t know why I had something better to do that Sunday evening, but it was a "school night” and I was thirteen years old and in my final year of Catholic grade school, so I was not there as a witness. Both of the major local papers, the Journal and the Sentinel, covered the incident in detail. This day was Kennedy’s only visit to Wisconsin in the general election campaign, a whirlwind thirteen-hour trip to four cities to give speeches televised throughout the state and to raise funds in smaller, private groups. His concluding speech at the large Milwaukee Arena would be a paid political broadcast on two local TV stations. Riding in an open convertible, the presidential candidate was making a slow-moving progress through heavy crowds to give his speech at the place where I would later hear him speak as president and exchange greetings with him for the last time as he walked toward the limousine in which he would be murdered.
    On the Sunday evening of the campaign event in October 1960, Kennedy was riding in the front passenger seat of a rented convertible. Sitting in the back were his sister Eunice Shriver, Congressman Clement J. Zablocki, and, between them, William J. Feldstein, chairman of arrangements for the rally. The driver was a police detective, August Knueppel. After a rally at the airport, Kennedy had the top of the convertible raised because of the autumn chill, but he changed his mind on the way downtown and had it lowered because of the enthusiastic crowds, estimated at between thirty and forty thousand people.
    The Journal reported that Kennedy’s aides had asked the Milwaukee police not to interfere with the crowds so the candidate could shake hands and sign autographs. But that backfired. Many people were pressing dangerously in on the motorcade in the jammed downtown area along the city’s major thoroughfare, Wisconsin Avenue. Teenaged girls running alongside Kennedy’s car were screaming, some crying hysterically, and throngs of others were stretching out their hands to the candidate. Not wanting to risk pulling anyone toward the car, he touched the hands gingerly “using an up and down chopping motion,” all the time wearing “a small, fixed smile,” the press reported.
    As the candidate’s car edged to the corner of East Wisconsin Avenue and North Water Street, a crowd of about fifty Nixon supporters were among those waiting. Many were holding glasses of liquor, as if they’d come from a cocktail party. Some were chanting “We want Nixon!,” and some chanted obscenities as the rival candidate’s convertible drove slowly past. This location was just blocks from the spot where former president Theodore Roosevelt had been shot while campaigning in October 1912 but survived the bullet in his chest. At the time Roosevelt was shot he was getting into his car, en route to his speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium, much as Kennedy was doing forty-eight years later while heading to the Auditorium and Arena.
    Suddenly someone in the crowd that night in 1960 reached into the car preceding Kennedy’s and grabbed the Western-style hat of the Milwaukee County Sheriff, Clemens F. Michalski, flinging it into the air. An unidentified man standing with a blonde woman stepped forward and hurled a heavy Old Fashioned glass filled with
    whiskey at Kennedy’s head. “My God,” exclaimed Congressman Zablocki, “who’s throwing whiskey at us?” One of eighteen police officers nearby tried to jump into the fray, but the police were unable to stop the crowd as it spiraled out of control.
    “Then, wham,” recalled William Feldstein, “the glass came.” It hit the campaign worker in his head, causing swelling that lasted until the following day. “Kennedy was very incensed. He turned and asked me, ‘Are you all right?’ Then he turned to his sister and said: ‘Can you imagine anything like that?’”
    The windshield was splashed with booze, most of it landing on the driver, who responded with professional sang-froid, “It was cheap whiskey.” Kennedy was splashed too. He wiped his face and, reaching across the width of the car, handed back the glass to the man who had thrown it. Witnesses said Kennedy remained calm, but he said to his unknown assailant,
    "Here’s your glass, sir. You’re not fit to be an American."

  2. Default


    I was struck by one of the photos in the montage that was repeated throughout the video. I've read a ton of books and web sites on the assassination and have never seen this photo before. It was apparently taken from a position very close to the driver's side of the limousine, closer than any other photo or film I have ever seen of the assassination, and facing towards the rear of the vehicle. It shows Kennedy slumped over while JBK climbs over the trunk and Clint Hill races towards the rear of the limo. Is this photo included in your book and do you know the origin?


  3. Default

    That photo to which you refer of Jackie trying to leave
    the limousine I did not supply. It is not from the actual event. It is from the shooting
    of some film dramatization of the assassination.

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