US president John F. Kennedy was the subject of three separate death threats during the US president's visit to Ireland in 1963, newly declassified police documents indicate.
The letters, released yesterday by the Irish Justice Department, said police received two anonymous telephone warnings in the weeks before the arrival of the US' first Irish Catholic president. A third threat went to the newsroom of the Irish Independent newspaper.
Kennedy's June 26-29 visit went ahead amid universally adoring crowds in Dublin, Cork, Galway and his family homestead in County Wexford, southeast Ireland, and it was trouble-free.
He was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, five months later.
One threat claimed a sniper would target Kennedy as his motorcade traveled from Dublin Airport to the residence of the Irish president at the start of his visit. The second warned a bomb at Shannon Airport in southwest Ireland would detonate as Air Force One was about to depart.
The threat phoned to the newspaper indicated that Kennedy would be attacked at Dublin Airport, although the method wasn't specified.
A 43-year-old letter declassified yesterday detailed police security concerns -- and also reflected officials' desire to impress both US visitors and onlookers in Britain.
In the letter, Commissioner Daniel Costigan, the commander of Ireland's national police force in 1963, described the Kennedy tour as "the most important visit to this country since the establishment of the state, with worldwide publicity. British journalists are likely to be ready to criticize any fault in arrangements."
"While any attempt on the life of the President is most unlikely, we cannot overlook the possibility of some lunatic, fanatical, Communist, Puerto Rican or some other such like person coming here to try to assassinate the President," Costigan wrote.
The documents indicated that 6,404 police officers were on duty the night Kennedy arrived, and 2,690 lined the US president's route from Dublin airport to the Phoenix Park mansion of former Irish president Eamon de Valera.
Costigan wrote that, although the death threats were considered likely to be hoaxes, his officers would use binoculars to monitor rooftops along the route of the presidential motorcade.
He said an unspecified number of police would be armed with handguns, rifles and submachine guns -- an exceptional measure in a country with a largely unarmed police force -- to engage any would-be sniper.
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