Feb. 22, 1974, The Hijacking (assassination attempt)


A Study Guide of Jan 22, 1974 assassination attempt of President Richard Nixon:

The Cast of Characters:

Nixon: (would-be-target)

Nixon files a Message to the Congress "Annual Report of the National Endowment of the Humanities".

Nixon was actually in the Executive Mansion at the hour of Byck's would-be assassination, hunkered down in mid-Watergate.

Samuel Joseph Byck: (would-be-assassin)

Tried to commandeer an airliner to dive it into the White House. Mr. Byck wanted to kill President Nixon.

Samuel Byck (1930-1974) -- Born into an economically distressed family in Philadelphia, Byck dropped out of high school and served two years in the U.S. Army, (at the age of 24) Byck  was  trained in firearms and explosives. He was honorably discharged later in 1956. He married and had four children, but could not hold a job and failed in several businesses, including selling tires. Byck spent two months in a psychiatric hospital to be treated for depression and began to blame his problems on a government conspiracy to keep the poor man down. He became an outspoken critic of President Nixon.

The Plan:
"Operation Pandora's Box"

Use a commercial jet airliner as a flying bomb - fly it into the White House and kill the President. It was decided by the assassin that the root of the corruption in the western world began in the Washington DC power seat. He made some tape recordings, describing his plan. “Allow me to introduce myself – my name is Sam Byck. I intend to…gain entrance to the cockpit of a commercial airplane. I intend to instruct the pilot to fly the plan to the target area. I intend to shoot the pilot and fly the plane into the Executive Mansion (White House).


Just before 7:15 a.m. on February 22, 1974, the 44-year-old Philadelphian cut a sudden, vicious swath through Baltimore-Washington International Airport, pulling a .38-caliber revolver, Byck goes through line, shooting an airport security guard in the back (George Neal Ramsburg, 24), and, before stunned onlookers, leaping over the security check and boarding a DC-9 Delta Airlines Flight 523 destined for Atlanta. He storms the planes cockpit and shoots the copilot. He commands the pilot to take off immediately, Byck then wounded another after being informed they couldn't depart without removing the wheel blocks; in desperation Byck became frustrated, he grabbed a nearby passenger and shouted at her to 'fly the plane.' Meanwhile, a policeman who heard the shots in the airport runs to the plane in pursuit. He sees Byck through the plane’s window and shoots several times, mortally wounding Byck. As authorities moved in, he put the revolver to his head and pulled the trigger. Under his body was found a briefcase gasoline bomb.


Byck left a tape recording in his car about an insane murder plot called "Operation Pandora's Box". Byck said his aim was to hijack the plane and force it to fly to Washington near the White House. He would then kill the pilots and steer the plane into the White House incinerating President Richard Nixon, whom he blamed for his business failures, it is one of the most chilling things that you could possibly hear because this man was obviously insane, but sounded so calm and rational. Nixon resigned a few months later..

The Investigation & It's Learning's:

In the investigation that followed this pathetic incident, it was discovered that Samuel Byck had been making himself known to the Secret Service since 1972, after making threats against then-President Nixon's life and was questioned by the Secret Service in October 1972 for threatening Nixon's life (he claimed he had been joking). He'd also been sending bizarre, rambling tapes to such public figures as Jonas Salk, Senator Abraham Ribicoff, his idol, Leonard Bernstein, and Jack Anderson. Byck spent two months in a psychiatric hospital to be treated for depression and began to blame his problems on a government conspiracy to keep the poor man down. He became an outspoken critic of President Nixon  If only he had possessed the patience to wait until the plane was already in the air, things would have gone a lot differently.

Apparently, it was after this episode that a bunker was built in the bowels of the White House, and there were unconfirmed reports that anti-aircraft missiles were placed on the roof of the White House. (I continue to hope they are there.)

9/11 (use airplanes as bombs)

The argument that we had no idea that the hijackers could use the airplanes as bombs is pure bull -- Again, that was in 1974. Our government had about 27 years to learn the lesson of Mr. Byck's aborted attempt to hijack a plane and crash it into the White House. But, when the hijackings on 9/11 took place, all we heard from the government was how "unthinkable" this was. It is amazing that the mainstream media did not pick up on the Byck attempted hijacking in the attempt to place blame on the government for not anticipating the 9/11 use of airliners as weapons. In fact President Bush was briefed about the Byck attempt to use aircraft-missiles prior to 9/11 when questioned if Tom' Clancy's book plot could actually be of a concern. History has a way of repeating it's self, perhaps the president should pay more attention to our past. Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of the CIA's counterterrorism operations, says that by the mid-1990s, there was sufficient evidence of terrorists "thinking of flying planes into buildings" that the Common Strategy clearly needed revision. Even before that, there had been cases of people planning to use commercial aircraft as weapons. Troubled Passage, the fifth volume of the FAA's self-published history, describes two such hijackings. and this incident was forgotten in the rush of history, but there is a chilling footnote. Think of this, Byck was going to use an airliner as a weapon of mass murder, this was 27 years before September 11, 2001. I must confess I hadn't thought of this until others pointed it out. In fact there is going to be a movie released the coming year called The Assassination Of Richard Nixon starring Sean Penn as Samuel Byck.


All I want for Christmas is my constitutional right to publicly petition my government for a redress of grievances.
—Samuel J. Byck

Other "Attempts":
Robert K. Preston (February 1974). On February 17, 1974, Robert Preston, a private in the Army, stole an Army helicopter from Fort Meade, Maryland, and flew It to the White House Complex. He passed over the Executive Mansion and then returned to the south grounds, where he hovered for about 6 minutes and touched down briefly approximately 150 feet from the West Wing. Members of the EPS did not know who was piloting the aircraft and were not aware that it had been stolen from Fort Meade. They made no attempt to shoot down the helicopter. Preston left the area of the White House and flew the helicopter back toward Fort Meade. He was chased by two Maryland State Police helicopters, one of which he forced down through his erratic maneuvers. Preston then returned to the White House Complex. As he lowered himself to bout 30 feet above the south grounds, EPS officers barraged the helicopter with shotgun and submachine gunfire. Preston immediately set the riddled aircraft down. He was injured slightly.

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