I Need Help!"

Posted 3/08/05

By John H. Steele

As the Watergate political scandal was reaching epic proportions, on June 10, 1974, President Nixon embarked on a tour of the Middle East to shore up his uncertain political status. TWA and PanAm provided the press charters, but for reasons unknown, the White House insisted that airline security personnel reinforce the security normally provided on such press charters, namely the Secret Service and Military. .

PanAm designated their Director of Security to accompany the flight, and TWA was required do the same -- Dick Bennett, Manager of Security at MKC accompanied me.  On board the press charters were such prominent media people as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Connie Chung, John Chancellor and a host of others.

On the morning of June 10 at 8:30, our TWA flight departed Andrews Air Force Base enroute to Salzberg , Austria where Nixon was to spend two days recovering from jet lag prior to departing for Cairo , the first leg of his six-nation trek.

On the morning of June 12, we were scheduled to depart from Salzberg thirty minutes after the departure of PanAm which left precisely on schedule. Our 707 was on the tarmac, engines starting with the boarding steps in place, waiting for a last minute passenger -- Chancellor. Suddenly, a local taxi appeared on the tarmac, stopping near the steps. Chancellor jumped out, baggage in hand, and said something to the effect, "I need help!” Bennett and I heard his plea, and ran down the steps, grabbed his baggage and rushed him onto the plane.

The entire aircraft was in a First Class configuration and we pushed him into an aisle seat near the front. He heaved a big sigh of relief and the first words out of his mouth were "I need a martini.” 

 His wish was granted forthwith, with much applause from the crew and everyone else on the trip. But apparently neither of us two TWA security honchos ever got appropriate “clearance” to learn the reason for his near-desperate planeside arrival!

 John Steele (1967-1987) served in a variety of TWA posts in NYC and other stations involving corporate Security.

 John Steele served as TWA’s Director of Security at NYC for the period l967-l987.