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FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Here Comes The White Convertible'

Portrait of Libby Brice
Matt Couch
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WUNC

Libby Brice was 20 years old in 1961 when she got a job on post as a secretary for the Criminal Investigation Division, one of only three women in the unit."I would take statements in shorthand from people they were interviewing, or had arrested, then I would go type it up on my old manual typewriter, 12 copies with carbon paper between them," she recalled.

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President John F. Kennedy arrived at Fort Bragg on October 12, 1961, to meet with Brigadier General William Yarborough. It was on this trip that Kennedy famously approved the green beret as the official headgear of the Special Forces.

In between parades and demonstrations, the three women in Brice's office concocted a plan to get the president's attention. They found an isolated spot along his route and lined up like a human stoplight.

"Shirtwaist dresses were very popular at that time," she said. "And we just happened by accident to have a red one, yellow one, and a green one."

They stood at the edge of the road awaiting the president, who came into view riding atop the backseat of a white convertible.

"He saw us and he had the driver stop," said Brice. "He looked at us and started laughing so hard, slapping his leg, that we thought he was going to fall off. Then he waved us good-bye. We made eye contact with the President a couple years before he died. Just caught him by surprise. He enjoyed it, and we did too."

Following Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Special Forces soldiers in their signature green berets formed part of the honor guard at his funeral, at the request of the Kennedy family. 

The Ft. Bragg Stories series is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email fortbraggstories@wunc.org.

President John F. Kennedy visits 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on October 12, 1961. In front car: Lieutenant General Thomas J.H. Trapnell, Commander of Third United States Army; President Kennedy; Secret Service Agent Gerald “Jerry
Credit Cecil Stoughton / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
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John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
President John F. Kennedy visits 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on October 12, 1961. In front car: Lieutenant General Thomas J.H. Trapnell, Commander of Third United States Army; President Kennedy; Secret Service Agent Gerald “Jerry” Behn (front seat, left side).

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.
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