Former US secret service agent Clint Hill recalls how he tried in vain to protect JFK
‘What I saw was the president in the back seat of the car. He moved to his left and I recognised that something was wrong’
Former US secret service agent Clint Hill places a wreath at the JFK tribute yesterday in Fort Worth, Texas. Photograph: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Former US secret service agent Clint Hill recalled to a hushed audience the moments he tried in vain to protect then US president John F Kennedy from an assassin. His clarity was as if the event had just taken place.
“All of a sudden over my right shoulder I heard this explosion. I didn’t recognise it as a rifle shot,” he said in a public interview at the Newseum in Washington DC to mark the 50th anniversary of the killing.
“What I saw was the president in the back seat of the car. He moved to his left and I recognised that something was wrong.”
A second shot sounded as Hill jumped off the follow-up car, while the third fatal shot rang out as Hill approached the president’s car.
“Because he had a back brace on, he couldn’t move forward. The only direction he could go was left. He went left to Mrs Kennedy so when the third shot rang out and hit him, it hit him in the back of the head and exploded out the right-rear upper part of the skull,” Hill said.
As Hill climbed on to the rear bumper of the presidential limo, the driver accelerated and Jackie Kennedy climbed up on the trunk.
“She was trying to grab some of that material that came out of the president’s head. She was trying to put it back. She didn’t even realise I was there,” he said.
“I got a hold of her and put her in the back seat. When I did that, the president’s body fell to his left. The right side of his face was up. I could see that his eyes were fixed.”
Hill gave the thumbs down sign to his fellow agents behind in the follow-up car.
As the car sped to Parkland hospital, he recalled Mrs Kennedy crying out: “Jack, Jack, what have they done?” and “Jack, Jack, I love you, Jack!”
At the hospital, Hill could not convince her to let go of Kennedy’s body. She did not want anyone to see him in that state, he said.
“So I took off my suit coat and I covered his head and back,” he said. “As soon as I did that she let go.”