Bay area man met Kennedy a day before Dallas - WFLA News Channel 8

Bay area man met Kennedy a day before Dallas

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Philip "Flip" Jameson Philip "Flip" Jameson
As a 17-year-old airman, Philip "Flip" Jameson was called on by his commanders in the United States Air Force to participate in a top secret experiment. Jameson was a recent graduate of the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg and the assignment was pretty interesting for him in 1963.

In fact, it would pave the way for other men with interested in aeronautical research who would follow him. Jameson was tasked with staying for 42 days in a pressurized container, breathing 100 percent oxygen. That may sound simple now, but in 1963 it wasn't known what the long term health impact would be. The information was vital for the U.S. Government to plan space exploration.

Jameson's was assigned to Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for the duration of the experiment. His contact with anyone on the outside was very limited. He was under quarantine for his entire stay in the pressurized facility.

On Nov. 21, 1963 Jameson and the other airman in the experiment received word they might get a VIP visitor. There was no confirmation, but they got new clothing and orders to "be on their best behavior."

At that time, President John F. Kennedy needed votes in the south. Kennedy had not filed for reelection, but it was no secret that if he did run, he would need votes in Florida and in Texas. Kennedy traveled to Tampa on Nov. 18, 1963.

He then planned a trip through Texas. One of his stops was to Brooks Air Force Base, when Kennedy would dedicate the School of Aerospace Medicine. During his visit, Kennedy was asked if he would like to visit the men involved in the top secret experiment that was part of the space program.

Kennedy was running behind schedule that day, but he indicated he would like to find out more about the experiment.

Fifty years later, "Flip" Jameson still recalls hearing the words, "He's here!" From behind a glass widow, Jameson looked out and could see a group of dignitaries and generals walk into the room. He quickly went from isolation to being the center of attention.

Jameson says, "We heard, he's here and you see him coming around the corner and it's oh my God, this is the President."

Newsreel cameras rolled, flash bulbs went off and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy walked up to the glass separating Jameson and the other men in the experiment from the rest of the world. The President put on a set of headphones.

The headphones would allow him to have a conversation with the men on the inside of the experiment. "He was asking us all kinds of interesting questions for him. And of course we just wanted to stay and talk, no matter how long it took," said Jameson.

The conversation would last about thirty minutes.

Jameson recalls Kennedy being friendly and personable and he vividly recalls one remarkable sentence.

"And then he said, thank you very much and he, just before he left he said that we were the model of ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for the country. And that was pretty overwhelming," said Jameson.

In the days leading up to the 50th Anniversary of the President's death, those words have been played over and over again from Kennedy's inauguration speech.

Related: coverage of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Jameson doesn't have to rely on a recording, President Kennedy said the words, in person, to him. Less than 24 hours later, while driving through Dallas, the President would be killed.

"Flip" was watching TV in the pressurized chamber.

The thrilling moments of visiting with the President were just a day old and Jameson watched as news interrupted his programming. He watched in disbelief as the announcer said the President had been shot and then later as it was announced the President was dead.

Now 50 years later as he talked about the events of those 24 hours, tears welled up in his eyes. Many people of a certain age can recall where they were the moment they heard that President Kennedy was killed.

"Flip" Jameson knows where he was, what he was doing, and exactly what he'd been doing in the 24 hours before the President was murdered. Jameson is now part of a documentary on the last 24 hours of the President's life.

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