November 22, 1963. Even sooner than President Kennedy’s near-lifeless physique was away from the presidential limousine at Parkland Hospital, United Press Worldwide’s preliminary research that “three images have been fired at President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade within the current day” was racing all through teletype machines nationwide. Holding a transistor radio to his ear, one among the many many tens of hundreds of thousands of People who monitored the breaking data was Vernon B. Oneal, a Dallas funeral director whose enterprise moreover included an ambulance service.
At roughly 12:46 CST, solely sixteen minutes after JFK was shot, and 47 minutes sooner than Assistant White House Secretary Malcolm Kilduff formally launched the President’s lack of life to the world, Oneal’s cellphone rang. It was Secret Service agent Clint Hill calling from Parkland Hospital, advising Oneal to choose his best casket and transport it to the hospital “as shortly as doable.”
“Is it for the President?” Oneal requested.
“Certain,” Hill replied, “it is for the President of the US.”
Grasping the urgency of Hill’s directive, Oneal bolted into his showroom and chosen his signature model, an eight hundred pound secure bronze casket named the “Brittania”. Manufactured by the Elgin Casket Agency, it was double-walled and will very nicely be hermetically sealed. Match for a president or king, Oneal’s worth was $three,995.
As his profession dictated, Vernon Oneal was able to discreetly comfort and assist the bereaved Kennedy family in every technique doable. At Parkland, he whispered phrases of sympathy to Jacqueline Kennedy. He and two of his associates have been then assisted by nurses in fastidiously wrapping JFK’s stays in quite a lot of sheets and plastic, hoping the blood and thoughts matter nonetheless seeping from the big wound throughout the President’s head would not stain the casket’s plush satin shirring.
Sooner than departing Parkland Oneal dutifully stood by Mrs. Kennedy and the casket as a result of the late President’s White House aides and Secret Service brokers endured an unpleasant shouting match with an space official named Dr. Earl Rose, who insisted that JFK’s physique ought to, by laws, be held for autopsy in Dallas County. Oneal had every correct to think about that his corporations would proceed to be required all one of the best ways to President Kennedy’s burial web site, and he wanted Mrs. Kennedy to be assured of his loyalty and respect; the full scope of his establishment’s corporations have been at her solicitation, and the particular person was determined to go to any avail, whether or not or not the funeral be held in Washington or Massachusetts, to satisfy her every need.
Then, immediately, Oneal’s hopes have been dashed. The Secret Service brokers and JFK’s most loyal aides had no sooner brushed Dr. Rose aside when the casket containing the assassinated President was precipitously loaded into the rear of his Cadillac hearse, the equivalent automobile he and his personnel used to ship the bronze coffin to Parkland Hospital. It had been Oneal’s intention to drive Kennedy’s physique on to his funeral residence for embalming and the scheduling of funeral preparations, nevertheless the Secret Service commandeered the hearse and an agent urged him to look at in a single different vehicle, neglecting to tell Oneal that their true trip spot was Air Strain One at Love Self-discipline airport.
Along with a police bike escort, three vehicles began pulling out of Parkland’s service road: Oneal’s hearse, a vehicle full of Secret Service brokers and JFK’s aides, and the ultimate carrying Oneal and two of his employees. The funeral director sensed one factor vital was amiss when he observed his hearse flip left throughout the route of the airport comparatively than correct to his mortuary. Brokers throughout the second automobile radioed their counterparts at Love Self-discipline, instructing them to permit “the first two vehicles solely” previous the airport fence near Air Strain One. Definitely not would Oneal and his employees, or each different automobile, be allowed to enter the realm near the presidential jet.
Optimistic enough, brokers let the first two vehicles cross by the use of a fence inside view of the airplane, nevertheless halted Oneal’s sedan. The undertaker was furious, and justifiably so. The martyred President was inside his casket and his coach, every supposedly positive for his funeral residence. The brokers ignored his protests, leaving Dallas regulation enforcement officers to ensure the beleaguered businessman that the hearse may be returned to him the second Air Strain One took flight. Vernon Oneal felt like a spare tire. The USA authorities had used him to the extent their main requirements have been glad – later dumping him on the gate.
Possibly the ultimate phrase insult to Vernon Oneal involved value of the coffin itself. He repeatedly despatched a $three,900 bill to Jacqueline Kennedy for virtually a 12 months nevertheless she under no circumstances replied. Lastly, fourteen months after JFK’s assassination, in January 1965, the federal authorities paid him a sum of $three,160. Nevertheless by then Oneal was residing a public relations nightmare; his makes an try to collect value from Mrs. Kennedy have been broadly printed and his mortuary suffered an agonizing 50 % drop in enterprise.
Apparently, Oneal’s casket was not used throughout the interment of John Fitzgerald Kennedy at Arlington Nationwide Cemetery. Its handles and finish have been damaged at Love Self-discipline as a result of the Secret Service brokers hurriedly struggled to maneuver by the use of Air Strain One’s slim doorway. In addition to, blood from Kennedy’s head wound did ooze by the use of the protective sheets and plastic, ruining the casket’s satin inside. The failings have been well-known earlier to the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, resulting in JFK’s closest aides choosing out a model new, dearer casket at Gawler Funeral Home in Washington’s Georgetown district, being a additional stunning occasion comprised of five-hundred-year-old African mahogany. Gawler moreover prepared the late President’s physique for burial following an autopsy at Bethesda.
For a couple of years the whereabouts of the Oneal casket remained a closely-guarded secret. Understandably, the Kennedy family didn’t want the artifact to fall into the fallacious arms and alter right into a grotesque sideshow relic. It was in the end disclosed that, in 1966, the casket was purposely loaded aboard a C-130 Air Strain transport airplane and unceremoniously deposited into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, under no circumstances to be seen as soon as extra.