Article by NEWSWEEK Ewan Thomas

In Washington, in the early afternoon of Nov 22, 1963, the phones went dead. Cars swerved, ignored red light’s, honked angrily. In a taxicab, Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan anxiously watched people ‘leaving the city as fast as they could. There was the sense, 'he later recalled,' that something awful had happened, and something more awful might happen. Moynihan reached for his billfold, which contained a map of roads leading to the cave in West Virginia where sub cabinet officials were supposed to meet in the event of a nuclear attack. He put away the billfold. The traffic was so snarled he couldn't get there. At 35,000 feet over the Pacific, senior officials in the Kennedy administration wept.

A ‘half dozen’ of them, most of the top officials on the President’s cabinet, were on their way to a meeting in Japan. Trapped in an airplane half an ocean away from the mainland United States, several feared that the President's death was the opening blow of a plot. Summoned to the front of the plane, Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon assumed that a thermonuclear device had exploded over an American city. Over the plane's public-address system, Secretary of State Dean Rusk prayed, ‘MAY GOD HELP OUR COUNTRY.’ ...

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