The Day President Kennedy Reviewed the Troops
by Darr King (63-64)
From the May 15, 2006 Newsletter

Yesterday, I started thinking about this date, November 22...but in 1963.  Actually I was thinking about a time just prior to that date.  The time of JFK's visit to Berlin when he spoke those words..."Ich bin ein Berliner!"  What came to mind...almost as if it were yesterday...was the day he visited the Berlin Brigade.  The Army put together a huge display of troops, armament, vehicles, et be strung along that big boulevard near the brigade headquarters.  They (the Army) had extended a token invitation for the Air Force to muster a formation to participate.  Those of us who were "volunteered" to make up the formation practiced ONE afternoon on the little stretch of roadway outside the Silver Wings.  I think the flight formation consisted of a simple 4 X 8...a flight commander and guide.  Since we (I can only come up with one other name...Richard E. faithful roomy) were jeeps, we had the honor of comprising the flight.  I think the flight commander was a VERY new lieutenant...both in rank and tenure.  The next day after our one day of practice, we boarded a bus and off we went to the other side of town.  I have no idea what the Army units looked like...'cause when we arrived we were off-loaded at the very end of about a mile or so of Army formations.  So here we are...milling around on the sidewalk adjacent to the boulevard where we were to form-up.  We could barely hear the band, speeches, unit recognition, etc.  Have no idea if the Air Force was mentioned...and I doubt it was.  Seemed like we were "milling" for quite a while.  Suddenly, the new LT stepped onto the street and starting motioning for us to get in formation.  He was so excited I recall he couldn't speak...he frantically started waving his arms and pointing to the area we were to form.  We did...he took his position...was able to call us to attention.  Then he said..."Don't anybody move!"  I'll never forget that command.  We stood motionless for at least an hour.  Well...almost motionless!  We were first term airmen...we were never motionless.  (Well, okay...maybe after a night at the Caz maybe we were motionless! O:}  Anyway, the whole thing seemed a joke.  But what happened next was far from a joke.  ‘Course we couldn't see a thing to our left...only another formation...Army dudes, of course.  Then the, cars, motorcycles, more cars, more motorcycles...seemed to be whizzing by.  Then several walking dudes in suits and sunglasses.  Then "THE LIMO"...and it stopped in front of our formation.  RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR FORMATION!  The LT froze...even more than he already was.  I was in the second squad...third or forth rank.  President John F. Kennedy rose from the back seat of the limo...the suits and sunglasses swarmed around the car and our flight.  JFK exited the limo and walked around the front and up to the LT.  Salutes were exchanged...they spoke a few words...JFK walked to the first rank of airman in the first squad.  Extended his hand and spoke a few words.  He walked down the length of the first squad shaking hands with and speaking to each airman.  As he passed the 3rd rank airman, I could see JFK looking into the flight.  We made eye contact...for a nano second.  But that was enough for me.  My heart got so big I lost the first two buttons on my blouse.  JFK was at least six foot six...arms hung darn near to his knees...hands were like a fielder's glove.  He was one of the biggest men I'd ever seen.  Almost as big as my granddaddy!  He continued down the first squad to the end.  Stood at the corner of the flight and looked us over.  The rest of the flight personnel lost the first two buttons on THEIR blouses.  He walked around the back of the back in...stood and looked over the flight once more.  Sat down and was gone.  The Army was stunned!  So were we...but we were grinning like a bunch of Cheshire cats.  We were the ONLY formation at which he stopped.  After we got back on the bus...the LT told us what JFK had said to him.  He said he was "impressed to see the Air Force so proudly represented!"  Or words to that affect.  On the way back to Tempelhof...we were very quiet.  The significance of that moment in time...that brief encounter...didn't come to me until well into my career.  I remember and will always cherish the one "nano second" of eye contact with John F. Kennedy.  The Air Force and the 6912th provided that memory for me.  It's one of my most memorable of my 26 years, 1 month, and 5 days.

© 2006, The Berlin Island Association

For a picture verifying the Motorcycles, Suits in Shades and The Limo, click here.  Courtesy Tom Shaw (60-63).
To view a Berlin traffic control notice for JFK's visit, click here.  Courtesy Tom Emdy (63-64).

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