BOOK REVIEW:

THAT DAY IN DALLAS:
THREE PHOTOGRAPHERS
CAPTURE ON FILM THE DAY
PRESIDENT KENNEDY DIED


AUTHOR: RICHARD B. TRASK









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A SUPERB RESOURCE FOR MANY RARE PHOTOS RELATED
TO PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S ASSASSINATION


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Richard B. Trask's 1998 publication "That Day In Dallas: Three Photographers Capture On Film The Day President Kennedy Died" represents a follow-up volume (or kind of a 'sequel') to Mr. Trask's earlier and outstanding 640-page
book "Pictures Of The Pain", which came out in 1994 and featured many previously-unpublished photographs of the
events surrounding President John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination.

The paperback edition of "That Day In Dallas" contains 136 pages of pictures and text on high-quality paper. It's a much shorter volume than "Pictures Of The Pain", to be sure -- but in some ways I treasure "That Day" even more than the larger "Pain" book, in that most of the photos contained within "That Day" are larger in size than what can be found in "POTP", and therefore, via this larger-print format, the pictures can be studied in greater detail. Plus, the clarity of virtually all of the more than 110 photographs published in this book is pristine. These pictures, all printed in black-and-white, are clear as the proverbial bell.

[EDIT -- A new color edition of the book was released in 2013. Here's a link.]

What author Richard Trask has done in "That Day In Dallas" is to center the book's attention on three individual photographers who each took a series of dramatic (and ultimately historic) pictures "that day in Dallas" ("that day", of course, being Friday, November 22, 1963, the day of JFK's assassination).

The three cameramen chosen for this book's subject matter are:

1. Cecil Stoughton (the official White House photographer);

2. James "Ike" Altgens (a photographer for the Associated Press); and

3. Jim Murray (a local Dallas free-lance photographer).

Among these three photographers, Jim Altgens was the one who was the closest (physically-speaking) to President Kennedy when gunshots filled the air in sunny Dealey Plaza that Friday at 12:30 PM. Altgens was just a few feet from JFK's limousine when the President was fatally struck in the head by the rifle fire.

Unfortunately for Mr. Altgens, however, even though he had his eye to his camera's viewfinder the instant that fatal blow to JFK occurred, the veteran AP news photog was unable to squeeze his camera's shutter to capture what may well have been the most important picture he would have ever snapped in his life.

Quoting text from this book (page 66) -- "Speaking of the event over two decades later, Altgens's memory was still vivid of the horror of the moment and the later criticism by some. [Altgens said:] "The big showdown came at the time JFK received the shot to the head. I had pre-focused, had my hand on the trigger, but when JFK's head exploded, sending substance in my direction, I virtually became paralyzed. This was such a shock to me that I never did press the trigger on the camera"."

Mr. Altgens did, however, capture on film two of the most widely-seen still photographs of the assassination .... one of them being his famous shot of the limousine on Elm Street just seconds before the fatal bullet struck the President; and the other assassination-sequence photo being a view of the limo just after the fatal rifle shot, showing Secret Service Agent Clint Hill climbing onto the trunk of the President's Lincoln convertible as he helped Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy back into her seat after she had climbed onto the trunk just after her husband was hit by the fatal bullet:






The pre-head shot motorcade picture snapped by Altgens is undoubtedly one of the most-studied still pictures taken that day in Dealey Plaza, and one that has sparked quite a lot of controversy among conspiracy theorists. This book (in its softcover version) publishes that black-and-white photo in its full, uncropped form on page #64.

The main controversy that has surrounded that James Altgens photo centers on the image of a man seen standing in the doorway of the Texas School Book Depository Building (in the background of the photo). Many people examining the picture have claimed that the "Doorway Man" is Lee Harvey Oswald (the man who was ultimately charged with killing President Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Depository Building).



Obviously, Oswald couldn't be in two places at one time, both in the doorway and on the sixth floor firing a rifle. The controversy was put to rest when the "Oswald look-alike" in the doorway was determined (without a shred of a doubt) to be Depository employee Billy N. Lovelady. Lovelady testified later to the Warren Commission that it was he (Lovelady) who was standing in the doorway watching the President pass by the building.

But, to this day, many conspiracy theorists just can't seem to let go of the idea that "Doorway Man" might still have been Lee Oswald (despite Lovelady's own admission that it was definitely Lovelady himself in the photo).



Besides the "Lovelady/Doorway" issue, some conspiracists (bent on seeing assassins in every nook and cranny of every photograph taken that day) also claim to see somebody with a rifle on the fire escape of the Dal-Tex Building in the far background of the Altgens photo.

Many other fascinating details can be spotted within that crystal-clear Altgens image of the limo on Elm Street. (Things that are actually there, that is; not unsupportable paranoiac accounts of would-be "killers" with rifles in the Dal-Tex.)

Mr. Altgens captured on film a monumental, and heartbreaking, moment in history ... an image that has been frozen for all time via the $157 Nikkorex-F 35mm camera that Altgens took with him to Dealey Plaza on 11/22/63.

A JFK assassination buff could probably spend hours gazing at the full-sized version of that Altgens photo on page 64 of this publication, while poring over the information that can be found within that remarkable image. .... Oftentimes that Altgens pic is severely cropped (sometimes in order to blow up the background showing Doorway Man/Lovelady), but the version in "That Day" gives us the whole photo, from edge to edge, which shows (on the far right) the clapping hands of eyewitness Charles Brehm, along with the visible shadows in the street of Brehm and two other witnesses, Jean Hill and Mary Moorman.

This incredible picture also gives us a partial view of the President, the First Lady, and Governor Connally in the limousine at a point which equates to approximately Frame #255 of the infamous color home movie taken by Abraham Zapruder, who was almost directly across Elm Street from Jim Altgens' location during the assassination. The President and Governor Connally had been hit by a rifle bullet less than two seconds before Altgens snapped his picture.

JFK can easily be seen in the Altgens pic (seem in zoomed form below), through the limo's windshield glass and just behind the car's rearview mirror. The President is reacting to having just been hit by Lee Harvey Oswald's second of three gunshots. The President's left arm, hand, and white shirt cuff are fully visible in the photograph, plus Mrs. Kennedy's gloved hand is also in view as she attempts to help her husband by grabbing his left arm. Governor Connally, who had just been shot through the back, chest, and wrist, can be seen in full left profile as he reacts to his near-fatal wounds:



The smiling crowd along Elm Street, as seen via that picture, has not yet had time enough to fully comprehend what was happening in the President's car. Some non-victim reactions are visible in the photo, however -- as two Secret Service Agents (Paul Landis and John Ready) on the running board of the "Queen Mary" Secret Service follow-up vehicle are seen looking over their right shoulders toward the Depository Building (the direction from which they heard gunshots). One of the motorcycle officers in the motorcade (James Chaney) is looking directly into the back seat of the limousine.

Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, his wife 'Lady Bird', and Senator Ralph Yarborough can also be seen in the Altgens picture, riding two cars behind JFK in another Lincoln convertible.

Behind LBJ's car is the Vice-President's Secret Service follow-up car, a white four-door Mercury sedan, just having made its turn from Houston Street onto Elm. The left rear door of this SS sedan is ajar, which has led some people to think that something "unusual" or "conspiratorial" was occurring within the motorcade as a result of this "open door".

However, that same open car door can be seen in other motorcade photos snapped that day, including one printed in this volume, on page 31 [this one]. It was standard Secret Service procedure to leave a door ajar to allow for quick exit from the vehicle in case of trouble. (That rule would not apply to the President's Secret Service car, however, since it was equipped with running boards.)

"That Day In Dallas" is a great place to find many seldom-seen November 22nd photographs, including several shots taken by Cecil Stoughton outside and inside the Hotel Texas on the misty morning of 11/22/63, with the large pics that grace pages 20 and 21 being two excellent such examples.

The photo on page 21, which depicts JFK, Jackie Kennedy, and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast on the morning of 11/22/63, is shown below (although it's in black-and-white in Richard Trask's book):



Some of my other favorite photos in this book include the following.....

Page 26 -- An overview photo of the President's arrival at Love Field in Dallas shortly after JFK and Jackie had stepped off of Air Force One. This Stoughton pic was snapped from the front hatch of the Boeing 707 serving as "Air Force One" (SAM 2-6000).

Page 46 -- This Stoughton photo shows a rarely-published view of Air Force One's cramped and witness-packed stateroom just prior to Lyndon Johnson being sworn in as the 36th U.S. President.

Page 82 (bottom) -- A photo by Jim Murray, taken just a few minutes after JFK was shot, which depicts a crowd of people gathered along the dirt road (known as the "Elm Street Extension") that runs right in front of the Book Depository. The west face of the Depository is visible, as well as a portion of the front (south) side of the TSBD.

Page 93 -- Just ten minutes after the assassination, Jim Murray began taking a series of pictures from the south side of Elm Street and further south across from Commerce Street. Each of the photos in this series shows the Book Depository in the background, and the large "Hertz Rent-A-Car" sign atop the Depository. The picture on page 93 gives a wider overview of the post-assassination scene in Dealey Plaza and shows the "temperature" reading on the Hertz sign (66 degrees). Also visible are a number of cars on Elm Street, proceeding across the pavement where (just minutes earlier) President Kennedy had been fatally wounded. (I've often wondered WHY in the world the street wasn't immediately blocked off to regular traffic by police; but it wasn't.)

Page 94 -- Another terrific post-shooting still snapshot taken by Jim Murray (shown below) -- this one featuring the front entrance and all seven floors on the southeast side of the Texas School Book Depository, including the half-open "Sniper's Nest" window, out of which a rifle had been aimed at the President a very short time before. The book carton that the assassin used as a "rifle rest" can be seen in this photo:



Page 95 -- A very rare full-sized version of a photo (snapped by Murray) showing teenaged eyewitness Amos Euins sitting in the back seat of a police car in front of the Book Depository.

Page 101 -- Another offering from Mr. Murray's busy camera: a fabulous "pose" here (the picture below), showing a Dallas policeman standing in front of the Depository, shotgun at the ready, looking toward the upper floors of the building from where shots had been fired at the President. The entire front facade of the TSBD is visible in this photo, which was taken at a sharp angle to the front of the building:



SUMMING UP:

Any library of published materials pertaining to the events of President Kennedy's assassination is most definitely incomplete if "That Day In Dallas" by Richard B. Trask isn't part of such a collection.

David Von Pein
February 2006


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