Cold War (1953-64)

“The Day President Kennedy Died”

Memory from: Cdr. Robert E. Adams and LCdr. Porter E. May

Setting the Scene

There are points in history that are so defining that everyone remembers where they were or what they were doing when they learned the news. For the World War II generation, that moment was the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the 80s generation, it was the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. These days, everyone can tell you exactly what they were doing when the World Trade Center towers fell on September 11, 2001. Cdr. Robert E. Adams and LCdr. Porter E. May recall the moments surrounding one of the definitive points in history for their generation: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The Recollection

An assassin shot President John F. Kennedy about 12:30 p.m. on November 22, 1963, as the President’s open car and motorcade passed through the streets of Dallas, Texas. The President was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead about half an hour later. At the same hour and date, the USS KIDD’s commanding officer, Cdr. Robert E. Adams, and her executive officer, LCdr. Porter E. May, were conducting a routine material inspection of the ship. The ship was moored starboard side to Pier 4, Berth Southwest at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, according to the ship’s smooth deck log. Cdr. Adams: As I recall, I was passing the radio shack, with the inspection well in progress, when someone there called out that the word had just come in that the President “had been shot at and hit.” We were obviously considerably shocked at the news but continued the inspection, receiving periodic updates. When the information came through that the President had died, I had a message sent to all ships in port to fly colors at half-staff. That was under the authority of the Division Commander, Captain Earl Greer, USNR, who was SOPA [Senior Officer Present Afloat] flying his pennant on the KIDD. Then I called him by phone and reported what I had done.”.

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