October 1, 1962
Belt 4F7, Telephone Conversation between Attorney General Kennedy and General Creighton Abrams
  1. What is the purpose of the Attorney General's call to General Abrams?
  2. How much of a delay does there seem to be in getting troops to Oxford?
  3. What is the Attorney General's response to the delay?

Questions for further discussion:

  1. How does this situation differ from the deployment of troops in wartime?
  2. Why wouldn't the President have ordered federal troops to Oxford sooner?
  3. What are the potential risks to the Kennedy administration in sending in troops?

audio recording of phone conversation

Abrams: Mr. Geoghegan reports to me that there are [more] than enough trucks at the strip, with a hundred and eighty men in the helicopters.

RFK: You got a hundred and eighty men? Where, where are the rest of them?

Abrams: Moving on the road.

RFK: The, when will they be there?

Abrams: Uh, 'bout two hours and three quarters. That would be, uh, quarter of three in the morning our time.

RFK: Quarter of five our time? How, how, how many, how many of them are there?

Speaker?: [Off the phone in the room.] Quarter of five.

RFK: How many of them are there?

Abrams: Uh, the, uh, five hundred.

RFK: And when do the rest of...

Abrams: Behind that, behind that's another battalion, with a, marching right behind them, of six hundred and eighty.

RFK: They're MPs?

Abrams: MPs.

RFK: What was the delay in getting them out of Memphis?

Abrams: They, uh, this , uh, I don't know the details of it, uh, Mr. Kennedy. They, uh, this is the best response they could make, apparently, under the circumstances.

RFK: Well, who's in charge of that?

Abrams: Each, uh, each of those battalions have a, has a battalion commander, and, uh, the, uh, the, uh, both battalions are under the command of General Billingslea. Uh, they had a meeting over here this afternoon, which I did not attend. But they had a meeting in which they discussed all these plans.

[Unintelligible conversation in the background in the room.]

RFK: Well, didn't they say that they could get off with, and down there within an hour?

Abrams: Yes, they, uh, they, uh, expected a much more rapid response than has occurred. I know General Billingslea did.

RFK: What happened then?

Abrams: I don't know.

RFK: Is somebody gonna find out?

Abrams: Yes, sir.

RFK: [Lets his breath out.] What about the battle group?

Abrams: Uh, we have gotten a hold of the battle group and, uh, have diverted them. We got a hold of them at [Selmer?]...

RFK: When will they be down there?

Abrams:... Tennessee. I don't have a new, uh, estimate on that, sir. We've, uh, it's only been within the last fifteen or twenty minutes that we got a hold of 'em, and it hasn't been recast. But, uh, I can get it very shortly.

RFK: Yeah. Will you call me back at the White House?

Speaker?: [Words unintelligible.]

RFK: Okay. Thank you, General. [Continued on Belt 4G.]