Jul 4

In Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Richard Goedkoop’s series on President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Gettysburg, we showed in six parts the visit that the President, his family and some friends took on Sunday March 31, 1963. This is one of the most famous photographs from the Kennedy visit to Gettysburg. The Kennedy party has arrived on Oak Hill and are looking at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial (Peace Light). In the front seat from left to right are Caroline Kennedy (head visible behind the front windshield), Colonel Jacob Sheads, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy (hand and hair visible behind the President), President John F. Kennedy, Sally Fay, Under Secretary of the Navy Paul Fay Jr., and Anita Fay. Look at the two trees in the background above the windshield. Between them is visible the monument to the 9th New York Cavalry Regiment on Buford Avenue. The Peace Light Inn is on the right. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

Thanks to Mrs. Deborah Deitch Mason we are able to show you a brief video clip of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on March 31, 1963. This may have been one of the moments when Mrs. Kennedy received the idea for President Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

See Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Richard Goedkoop’s series on the Kennedy visit to Gettysburg here.

See Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Rich Kohr’s Arlington series where he talks about Jack Valenti’s involvement with the Eternal Light Peace Memorial and the Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery here.

This map shows some views associated with the post. The video was taken at the white star with the number 1 at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on North Confederate Avenue. The red star is the Gettysburg Airport where the President’s helicopter flew the party back to Camp David. This map was created facing north at approximately 8:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Video #1 shows President John F. Kennedy driving the vehicle to Oak Hill and his party looking at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial. At the end of the video, he is turned around and is driving back towards the camera. This is sixteen seconds of footage that has not been seen by the general public. This video, shown at full speed, was shot by Betty J. Ridinger Deitch and is courtesy of Mrs. Deborah Deitch Mason. It was taken facing southwest to southeast at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

Let’s take a moment and discover how the video was shot. Druid C. Deitch was a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide at the time President Kennedy visited Gettysburg. He lived along the Mummasburg Road in the area where Oak Hill becomes Oak Ridge. This view was taken facing south at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Everyone who has looked at this wayside exhibit on Oak Hill has seen his house. This view was taken facing south at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

His house is on the left, above the vehicle. The house is also briefly viewed in the John F. Kennedy video at the Peace Light. This view was taken facing south at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

The house is no longer standing. Druid Deitch’s daughter, Mrs. Deborah Deitch Mason e-mailed us: “My Dad sold the house to the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association in the early 1990s and [it then ended up] in the hands the Park Service, I believe, who donated it to the Gburg Fire Dept to use for a practice ‘burn’ and fire drill.” This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Here’s where the house was located on the north side of the Mummasburg Road (behind the camera position). Mrs. Deborah Deitch Mason e-mailed us: “On March 31, 1963, (I was 7 yrs old but remember it well) my Dad was giving tours on the battlefield and called our house to notify my Mom about the Kennedy visit and told us to get up to the Peace Light with the movie camera fast…I believe that my father just heard that Kennedy was on the field (probably from other guides – his twin brother, David Deitch, was a guide too), I don’t remember him saying he had encountered him himself.” This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Mrs. Deborah Deitch Mason cont…: “We went running up the field.” In another e-mail Mrs. Mason described their movement to the Peace Light as “the mad rush to get up the field to the Peace Light.” This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Here’s the approximate area where the Kennedy party stopped to view the Eternal Light Peace Memorial. Mrs. Betty Deitch and her daughter, Deborah, were standing approximately in the position of the camera. Mrs. Deborah Deitch Mason cont…: “The Kennedy party arrived, with JFK driving the car, and my Mom shot some brief film footage and was warned by a Secret Service agent to not get any closer.” This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Let’s look again at this video that shows an earlier time in America when a President of the United States could drive around a public area without a top on the car. A time in America when an American citizen could walk up and be very close to the President with her movie camera until she was warned not to get any closer. To us, any closer and she would have been in the car with them. This time we’ll slow down the video and show it at half the speed it was originally filmed. This video was shot by Betty J. Ridinger Deitch and is courtesy of Mrs. Deborah Deitch Mason. It was taken facing southwest to southeast at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

The first frame of the film shows President Kennedy driving and looking to his left, not at the Peace Light which would be to his front left. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

So what might President Kennedy have been looking at to the left of the Peace Light (part of which is visible in the right background)? This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

There are some cannon on the hill. But this was the end of the tour and President Kennedy has already seen plenty of artillery pieces. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

He had seen plenty of smoothbores such as the cannon representing the King William (Virginia) Artillery. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

President Kennedy had not yet seen the cannon on top of the hill belonging to Hardaway’s Alabama Artillery. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

These are the British made Whitworths which had a much longer range than other rifled artillery pieces on the field. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Frame #83 of the film shows Colonel Sheads in the front right of the vehicle pointing to the flame on the top of the Peace Light. Anita Fay in the back seat is looking. Red Fay in back right is looking. Sally Fay is looking out the back of the vehicle. Mrs. Kennedy, to the left of Colonel Sheads is not yet looking at the Peace Light. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

Here’s the view that the Kennedy would have had of the Peace Light from their vehicle. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Here’s the flame on top of the Peace Light Monument. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Frame #177 of the film shows President Kennedy looking at the Peace Light Monument/Eternal Flame, and Colonel Sheads explaining something about the monument to him. Sally Fay is looking at the monument. Mrs. Kennedy, to the left of Colonel Sheads is not yet looking at the Peace Light and seemds to be distracted by Caroline Kennedy, who is in her lap. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

Frames #186-216 of the film shows President Kennedy talking directly to Colonel Sheads across Mrs. Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy, as far as we can tell, has not yet looked at the monument while the car was parked. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

Frames #219-302 of the film shows Mrs. Kennedy looking at the Peace Light/Eternal Flame while President Kennedy and Colonel Sheads are still talking. She has not said anything, she is looking as they are talking. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

Frames #305-336 of the film shows Mrs. Kennedy looking and talking directly to the President who is looking at her and Colonel Sheads. Is part of these 16 seconds at the Peace Light Monument the time when the seeds were planted for President Kennedy’s Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery? This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

Let’s look at this video for the final time. It is running this time at one fourth of the speed at which it was filmed. This video was shot by Betty J. Ridinger Deitch and is courtesy of Mrs. Deborah Deitch Mason. It was taken facing southwest to southeast at approximately 1:20 PM on Sunday, March 31, 1963.

There is some type of interruption to the filming (possibly the Secret Service Agent warning them to not get closer) and the Kennedy’s drive away. Then they come speeding back, driving in the opposite direction. What happened? This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

They drove up to the right side of North Confederate Avenue, to where the gray car is parked (all the cars parked on the right side of the avenue at that time), turned around and came back. Colonel Sheads had a “dry run” with the Secret Service the day before, and this was their “escape plan” from the masses. In the next couple of pictures as we show you where they turned around, we will quote from an article from the Gettysburg Times of April 1, 1963: This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

“At the Peace Memorial, the President did not stop other than to swerve into the parking area south of the memorial. He then backed,…” This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

“…turned the car around…” This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

“…and ‘bucking’ traffic…” This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

(Editor’s Note: Mrs. Kennedy had another chance to see the Peace Light as they made their getaway).” This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

“…drove to the Mummasburg Road… (all pre-arranged the day before by the Secret Service)…” (Editor’s Note: The tree near the center of the picture is on the other (south) side of the Mummasburg Road. The Kennedy party drove away from left to right, went around the curve on the right to the Mummasburg Road). This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

“…turned right and sped off to the airport where he and his party boarded a helicopter and flew to Camp David. The motorcade of tourists was caught by surprise and the presidential party ‘shook them off’ in an easy fashion. Kennedy was gone before they realized what was happening.” This is a view of the Mummasburg Road after the Kennedy’s would have taken a right on the road from North Confederate Avenue. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Colonel Sheads would later say that Mrs. Kennedy got the idea for President Kennedy’s Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery from Eternal Light Peace Memorial at Gettysburg. She questioned him about it according to Colonel Sheads. If she didn’t have a lot of time to do it at the monument, she certainly had a couple of minutes on the drive to the airport. This is the Mummasburg Road. Herr’s Ridge is the rise of ground in the distance. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

229 days after the visit to Gettysburg, Mrs. Kennedy would light an eternal flame on her husband’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. The Kennedy party would have taken a left here onto Herr’s Ridge Road. This view was taken facing northwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

They would have driven approximately a mile on Herr’s Ridge Road… This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

…until they reached Herr’s Tavern at the intersection of Herr’s Ridge Road and U.S. 30 (Chambersburg Pike). They would have taken a right here. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

After driving down the west side of Herr’s Ridge, the airport was on the left (south) side of the Chambersburg Pike. Here they boarded their helicopter and flew back to Camp David. This view was taken facing southwest at approximately 3:00 PM on Thursday, June 30, 2011.

President Kennedy must have liked his Gettysburg visit so much, that he visited Antietam National Battlefield the next weekend, on April 7, 1963. Mrs. Kennedy and the children stayed at Camp David. President Kennedy was accompanied by his brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, Joan Kennedy, and a couple of other friends and associates. Their guide was the acting superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield. The Presidential party flew to Antietam and back to Camp David by helicopter. This is Burnside’s Bridge (Lower Bridge or Rohrbach’s Bridge) at Antietam National Battlefield. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 3:00 PM on Sunday, March 5, 2011.


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