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Robert McNamara on picking the spot where John, Bobby, and now Ted Kennedy will be buried

The cinematic view of Boston behind the speakers tonight at the Kennedy Library -- which we glimpsed earlier today at somewhat closer distance -- reminded us of an anecdote that the great Boston documentarian Erroll Morris made sure his subject told in The Fog of War, his feature-length portrait of Robert McNamara. In it, McNamara describes -- in tears, his voice cracking -- how the final resting place of John F. Kennedy was chosen.

I was in my office in the Pentagon, when the telephone rang and it was Bobby. The President had been shot in Dallas. Perhaps 45 minutes later, Bobby called again and said the President was dead. Jackie would like me to come out to the hospital. We took the body to the White House at whatever it was, 4 AM.

I called the superintendent of Arlington Cemetery. And he and I walked over those grounds. They're hauntingly beautiful grounds ? white crosses all in a row. And finally I thought I'd found the exact spot, the most beautiful spot in the cemetery. I called Jackie at the White House and asked her to come out there, and she immediately accepted. And that's where the President is buried today.

A park service ranger came up to me and said that he had escorted President Kennedy on a tour of those grounds a few weeks before. And Kennedy said, "That was the most beautiful spot in Washington." That's where he's buried.

Robert Kennedy was later buried next door (see map above), and this is also where Teddy will be headed tomorrow afternoon.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009  |  Sign In  |  Register
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