Letters: Nixing Erasures on Nixon Tapes

I was pleased to read that a UW historian, Stanley Kutler, had forced the release of the Nixon tapes [“Seven Wonders,” Winter 2010]. During the 1970s, I worked with an audio engineer named Harold Hill who had been assigned to the White House during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

He had to record every public speech the president made. When President Johnson was planning a trip to Australia, Harold realized that he would need portable, battery-powered recorders, so he ordered some Niagara machines. As always, there were budget restrictions, so he was required to get Uher recorders, which were about half the price. When they arrived, Harold removed the erase mechanism so that someone could not accidentally erase something the president had said. Later, the Niagara recorders were delivered to the White House, and Harold stored the old Uher recorders in a closet.

After President Nixon decided he wanted all his discussions recorded, Harold’s successor, with whom Harold maintained contact, decided to install these Uher recorders in various parts of the White House. When Congress sought tapes at the time they were investigating the Nixon coverup, the media announced that Rose Mary Woods had “accidentally” erased part of the recording when she was using one of the Uher recorders to transcribe from the tapes. Any erasure from those tapes had to have been done deliberately on some other tape recorder, as the White House Uher recorders could not erase.

Philip Minter PhD’60 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Published in the Spring 2011 issue

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