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Bobby Branche recalls opportunity to meet JFK

Published 9:51am Friday, November 22, 2013

HUNTERDALE—An assassin’s bullet 50 years ago kept Bobby Branche from performing a direct service for his commander in chief, President John F. Kennedy.

Bobby Branche, left, who was a Marine in the early to mid-1960s, is greeted by Gen. Wallace Greene, commandant for Marines around the world. Branche was among four Marines picked to guard President John F. Kennedy's helicopter, Marine 1 in 1963. But the assassination prevented Branche from carrying out that duty. -- SUBMITTED
Bobby Branche, left, who was a Marine in the early to mid-1960s, is greeted by Gen. Wallace Greene, commandant for Marines around the world. Branche was among four Marines picked to guard President John F. Kennedy’s helicopter, Marine 1 in 1963. But the assassination prevented Branche from carrying out that duty. — SUBMITTED

Branche, a native of Southampton County, was a member of the Marine Corps stationed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard Base on Nov. 22, 1963, when he got the news of Kennedy’s death in Dallas, Texas.

“I was walking across the parade field and escorting someone off the base,” Branche recalled about the day. “Someone came out and told him what had been reported.

“It was a total shock,” he continued. “It took a while to sink in.”

Originally, the president was scheduled to visit Philadelphia two weeks later and attend the Army-Navy football game.

“I’m pretty sure Navy won,” he said, and added that Roger Staubach was playing then.

Branch was to be one of four Marines tapped to guard Marine 1, which is the president’s helicopter.

He added they would have been face-to-face with him on arrival, and might have even gotten a chance to speak to Kennedy. Branche said the president was known to directly address those who served him.

The honor to serve Kennedy came through his commandant, Gen. Wallace Greene, who was the leader of Marines throughout the world then. Branche said he had personally served Greene’s escort on numerous occasions.

“I perked up at the thought of performing a duty for the president,” said Branche. “No one had any bad remarks to say about him. He was just well respected.”

A mourning tribute was later performed at the base.

Asked for thoughts about the theories of who else might have been responsible for the assassination other than Lee Harvey Oswald, Branche said he was not in a position to comment.

After his active service ended in 1966, Branche, 70, returned to his native Southampton County, and soon began work for Union Camp Corp., where he served in general maintenance.

Although now affiliated with farming, but not active, Branche lives with his wife, Judi, in Hunterdale.

On Friday, in honor of the former president, he plans to watch some of the special programs about Kennedy and that historic day.

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