Jackie Kennedy asked for Irish cadets to be part of JFK funeral, files show

President Kennedy’s widow made the call less than 24 hours after her husband’s assassination in Dallas

Jackie Kennedy personally requested the presence of Irish cadets at her husband president John F Kennedy’s funeral.

Mrs Kennedy made a call to the Irish ambassador to the United States in the early hours of November 23rd, 1963, requesting that the cadets be present at Arlington Cemetery.

The formal request came from the US ambassador in Dublin, but State papers reveal that it was Jackie Kennedy who had the presence of mind to ask for them less than 24 hours after her husband was assassinated in Dallas.

The Defence Forces 37th Cadet Class played a prominent part in the funeral procession at Arlington National Cemetery. President Kennedy had witnessed them perform a drill at the Garden of Remembrance during his visit to Ireland in June 1963 and described it as the finest honour guard he had ever seen.


Mrs Kennedy’s phone call was confirmed in a letter from Pádraig de Paor, an official in the Irish Embassy in Washington, to Aidan Mulloy, an official who worked in the Department of External Affairs (now the Department of Foreign Affairs).

The letter, written in 1965, refers to Dr Thomas Joseph (TJ) Kiernan, the ambassador at the time of Kennedy’s assassination.

“Mrs Kennedy telephoned him in the early morning hours asking they [the cadets] should be sent out to the funeral.

“It is doubtless correct that the formal approach requesting the participation of the Cadets was made by the US ambassador in Dublin.

“The Department should, however, be aware of Mrs Kennedy’s direct telephone call to Dr Kiernan. If this is not already recorded on the file in headquarters, perhaps you would consider suggesting that it would be well to ask Dr Kiernan for a note on the point. It is after all of considerable historic interest.”

The request was conveyed from the US ambassador to Ireland Matthew McCloskey to then taoiseach Seán Lemass on the evening of November 23rd and he immediately assented to it.

Speed was of the essence, and the necessity for individual passports was dispensed in consultation with the American embassy. “The necessity for inoculation was dealt with in the same way,” the memo from the Department of External Affairs added.

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