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«NOVEMBER 22, 1963 (Friday) 12:00 AM (Nov. 22, 1963) Nine Secret Service agents drinking at Pat Kirkwood’s bar the “Cellar Door” in Fort Worth, ...»

-- [ Page 99 ] --

It’s expected to take up to three days. The arbitrators have 30 days after the hearing concludes to decide how much the government must pay the Zapruder family for the half-minute of history captured on 8 mm film. Since July, copies of the film have been on sale for $20 at video stores nationwide. So far, 130,000 videos and digital video discs have been sold, said Natalie Olinger, a spokeswoman for MPI Home Video, a video production company in Orland Park, Ill. The Zapruder family will retain the film’s copyright. This dispute is over the original Zapruder film stored in a 25-degree room at the National Archives in College Park, Md. Government appraisers say Kennedy memorabilia sells for thousands of dollars, not the millions that LMH Co. is demanding from the U.S. government. In 1996, the Sotheby’s auction house in New York sold 1,200 items from the estate of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The most expensive piece

-- an antique French desk where President Kennedy signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty -- sold for $1.4 million. The entire collection garnered about $34 million, the government appraisers said. ``When compared to those results, LMH’s demand of $30 million for the Zapruder film, an item President Kennedy never touched, is staggering,’’ the government wrote in a brief. Many historically significant films exist, including the 1934 assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia as well as assassination attempts on Presidents Reagan and Ford. Yet the government argues that no appraiser documented a sale of the original film of any of these images. ``Films are desirable for their content, not as relics or icons,’’ the government says. Appraisers for the Zapruder family, however, see the film as a historic document or artwork that should be valued with the likes of van Gogh’s ``Sunflowers,’’ which sold for nearly $40 million in 1987, or Warhol’s ``Orange Marilyn’’ silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe, which sold for $17.3 million last year.

May 29, 1999 WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bronze casket used to carry President Kennedy’s body from Dallas to Washington is in a watery grave -- 9,000 feet down in the Atlantic Ocean, according to assassination documents. Materials to be released Tuesday at the National Archives will show that in early 1965 the casket was dropped from a military plane into an area where unstable and outdated weapons and ammunition are dumped, Kermit Hall, a member of the now-defunct Assassination Records Review Board, told The Associated Press. “The documents that will be released show it was dropped off the Maryland-Delaware border in 9,000 feet of water,’’ Hall said Friday night. ``There’s actually a map in the documents that pinpoints the coordinates where it was dropped.’’ The revelation

-- on the eve of what would have been President Kennedy’s 82nd birthday today -- that the casket was sunk resolves a lingering mystery about its whereabouts. But it also fuels speculation among assassination researchers that it was discarded to hide foul play. `The coffin is evidence just like the body is evidence,’’ said David Lifton, who wrote a book about medical evidence in the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination. ``You don’t destroy evidence.’’ What happened to the bronze casket has been a lingering question over the past three decades.

Last year a document released by the archives showed that a General Services Administration truck picked up the coffin on March 19,

1964. In its effort to ferret assassination-related documents and information from various government agencies, the review panel asked the GSA where the casket was. The agency said in the summer of 1998 that it didn’t know. The documents from GSA and the Justice and Defense departments being released next week, however, describe the disposition in detail, Hall said. ``Essentially what was going on was an effort to make sure the casket didn’t turn into a historic relic for the marketplace,’’ he said. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a mahogany coffin that had been purchased in Washington to replace the bronze one, which was missing a handle and had been damaged. In September 1965, former Texas Rep. Earle Cabell wrote to then-Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach recommending that the bronze casket be discarded so it could never become a relic. “It is an extremely handsome, expensive, all-bronze, silk-lined casket, and fortunately, and properly, was paid for by the General Services Administration, and presently is in the possession of GSA,’’ Cabell wrote. ``This item has... value for the morbidly curious. And I believe that I am correct in stating that this morbid curiosity is that which we all seek to stop.’’ Katzenbach said in an interview Friday that he doesn’t recall details about the disposition of the casket.

If anyone had asked him if it should be disposed of, ``I’d have said that’s a good idea,’’ he said. Lifton thinks there might have been a darker motive. In conducting his research, Lifton talked with witnesses who said Kennedy’s body arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital in a gray metal shipping casket, not the bronze one obtained in Dallas. That the bronze casket was dumped in the ocean -- after the Warren Commission issued its report in 1964 -- makes him wonder what clues it might have yielded to investigators. “If it had been an ongoing murder investigation, this would be obstruction of justice,’’ Lifton said. Douglas Horne, who was the chief analyst for military records at the congressionally created review board, speculated that the bronze casket was destroyed to end the two-coffin controversy. ``I think the way to get rid of the problem is you get rid of the casket. You throw it out of an airplane,’’ said Horne.





June 1, 1999 WASHINGTON (AP) -- Loaded with 240 pounds of sand and drilled with holes so it would stay on the ocean floor, the coffin that carried John F. Kennedy’s body from Dallas to Washington was dumped at sea in 1966 under orders of the Kennedy family. Documents released Tuesday by the National Archives showed that despite concerns over whether the casket should be destroyed, the government honored the Kennedy family wishes and took pains to ensure that the casket would remain in a watery grave. The Defense Department even sought the advice of a submarine officer with special training in hydraulics to devise a way to airdrop the coffin at sea. Kennedy, assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a mahogany coffin obtained in Washington. The first coffin, made of bronze and lined with brushed satin, had been purchased from Dallas undertaker Vernon O’Neal to take the body to Washington. It was replaced because it was damaged. Its whereabouts had long been a mystery.

And Kennedy assassination researchers consider the coffin evidence that should not have been destroyed. Documents show that the casket was in the basement of the National Archives building in downtown Washington in February 1966 when Robert Kennedy, then a U.S. senator from New York, called the General Services Administration, which oversees government property, and asked for it to be released to the military for destruction. ``I think it belongs to the family and we can get rid of it any way we want to,’’ Kennedy told Lawson Knott, GSA administrator, according to a memo recounting the conversation. ``What I would like to have done is take it to sea,’’ Kennedy told Knott. ``I don’t think anybody will be upset about the fact that we disposed of it.’’ Kennedy family spokeswoman Melody Miller said Tuesday that destroying the casket was appropriate and ``in keeping with the tradition of President Kennedy’s naval service and his love of the sea.’’ To ensure that the coffin would sink, three 80 pound bags of sand were put inside, metal banding tape was wrapped around it and it was placed inside a pine box that was also wrapped in metal tape, documents said. Numerous holes were drilled in both the casket and the box ``to ensure that no air pockets would develop,’’ according to a memo written by John Steadman, special assistant in the office of the Secretary of Defense. One last precaution was taken: To keep the 660-pound load from shattering when it hit the water, two parachutes were attached to it. On Feb. 18, 1966, an Air Force van picked up the casket and transported it to Andrews Air Force Base, where it was loaded onto a C-130 airplane, the documents said. The plane took off at 8:38 a.m. and flew over a calm ocean to a point approximately 131 nautical miles off the Maryland-Delaware coast. The drop point -- in 9,000 feet of water beyond the continental shelf -- was chosen because it was away from regularly traveled air and shipping lines in an explosives dumping area. The pilot descended to 500 feet and at 10 a.m., the plane’s tail hatch was opened and the load was pushed out. “The entire rigged load remained intact and sank sharply, clearly and immediately after the soft impact,’’ wrote Steadman, who was on the plane. Leaving nothing to chance, the plane circled the drop point for 20 minutes ``to ensure that nothing returned to the surface.’’ Knott had cautioned Kennedy that destroying the coffin might ``raise loads of questions’’ in light of an upcoming book about the assassination. It was unclear whether the casket was covered by a law that mandated that certain items of evidence related to the Kennedy assassination be preserved.

The Justice Department would have to authorize release of the casket, Knott told Kennedy, who had been attorney general before he entered the Senate in 1965. Kennedy was adamant and said he would call his successor as attorney general, Nicholas Katzenbach. Eight days later, Katzenbach wrote Knott and said the casket had no evidentiary value and didn’t need to be preserved. “As long as the casket remains... there is always the possibility that it could be misused or misappropriated,’’ he added. Documents show that O’Neal, the Dallas undertaker, wanted to get the casket back and display it in his funeral home. Author David Lifton believes the government was wrong to dump it.``We are dealing with evidence,’’ said Lifton, whose 1981 book detailed medical evidence in the Kennedy assassination.

June 20, 1999 Cologne, Germany (12:22 p.m. EDT ) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin came to Sunday’s private meeting with President Bill Clinton bearing a single gift - a report on declassified Russian information relating to the assassination of President Kennedy. Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser, termed the report a “very interesting gift.” But he refused to speculate on whether it contained any new information on the Kennedy assassination, saying it was in Russian and U.S. officials had not reviewed it. The documents will “be reviewed carefully and all interesting elements will be made public,” Berger told reporters traveling with Clinton to the economic summit in Cologne. Berger said the document was the result of Yeltsin’s order several years ago for various Russian agencies to review all of their material related to Kennedy, covering military, civilian and private archives. In 1991, Russia’s intelligence agency declassified its files on Lee Harvey Oswald, the man the Warren Commission report identified as the gunman who killed Kennedy as he was riding in a motorcade in Dallas in 1963. In 1992, the files were shipped to Minsk, the Belorussian capital, so that Belorussian officials could review them. Oswald lived in Minsk in the early 1960s. The Izvestia newspaper reported in 1992 that the reformist Russian intelligence chief Vadim Bakatin wanted to release the files but was blocked by veteran spies who feared disclosure of their names and tactics.



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