Henry Kulbaski who Ordered Copter Over White House Downed in 1974 dies at 74

Henry Kulbaski, 74; Ordered Copter Over White House Downed

By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 14, 2007; Page B06

Henry S. Kulbaski, 74, a uniformed Secret Service agent who played the accordion on the South Lawn for President John F. Kennedy and ordered an errant aircraft shot down over the White House in 1974, died of cancer June 17 at Geisinger Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Mr. Kulbaski was watch commander in the White House Executive Office control center in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 17, 1974, when he received word from the Maryland State Police that an army helicopter had been stolen from Fort Meade and was being chased into restricted air space near the White House.

As the purloined UH1B Huey helicopter circled the Washington Monument, Mr. Kulbaski watched and waited. President Richard M. Nixon and his family were away, and at 1 a.m. Mr. Kulbaski was having difficulty reaching his superiors.

"When no one answered, I knew I had to make the decision myself," he told the Citizen's Voice in Wilkes-Barre in 1994.

The copter buzzed the White House and resumed circling the monument. If it came back, Mr. Kulbaski told the protective service agents on duty, be prepared to shoot it down.

About 20 minutes later, the copter headed again toward the White House, and Mr. Kulbaski gave the order. The copter "landed in a blaze of gunfire on the south lawn of the White House," according to a 1974 article in The Washington Post.

The pilot, who had taken the state police on an erratic 50-mile journey through Maryland and into Washington, suffered superficial pellet wounds and was taken into custody.

Nixon later congratulated Mr. Kulbaski for issuing the order to down the helicopter.

Mr. Kulbaski, an accomplished accordion player who specialized in polkas, was asked by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy to play at White House parties for the president, which he did.

However, when President Lyndon B. Johnson asked him to play his accordion at a reception in honor of his daughter Lynda Bird's wedding to Charles S. Robb, he declined. Mr. Kulbaski was concerned that he did not have sufficient time to master the song "The Yellow Rose of Texas," said his nephew, Frank Kulbaski.

During his 20-year career, Mr. Kulbaski spent much of his time at the White House managing tours and was frequently called on by members of Congress to provide tours for family members and important constituents. He also gave VIP tours to many Hollywood luminaries.

In a 1967 Parade magazine piece, Jack Anderson wrote about Mr. Kulbaski encountering a 4-year-old on one of his tours who was the first to respond to the question of who was the nation's 13th president. (It was Millard Fillmore.) Mr. Kulbaski, who questioned the boy further, was amazed at his knowledge of all 36 presidents and arranged for him to meet President Johnson, his nephew said.

Mr. Kulbaski was born in Ashley, Pa., and after graduating from high school at 17, he sought to join the Navy, but his parents refused to sign the required consent form for minors. Eager to enlist, he persuaded the owner of the embroidery factory where he worked to sign the form. He was accepted for service and stationed in Hawaii, where he primarily repaired helicopter rotors.

After four years in the Navy, Mr. Kulbaski moved to Buffalo, where worked for the Bell Aircraft Corp., helping to assemble the Bell X-1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier.

He later moved to Washington and briefly worked in the D.C. police department. In 1958, he joined the Secret Service's Uniformed Division. His service spanned six presidents, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Jimmy Carter, before he retired as a lieutenant in 1978 and returned to Ashley.

Survivors include his longtime companion, Shirley Carey of Ashley; a sister; and a brother.

Yes. Quite Provacative.

How quickly was it shot down after the order?

And by what?