Tag Archives: Nixon

National Security on the Night Shift, June 17, 1972

Forty-eight years ago this evening, Watergate Office Building security guard Frank Wills changed American history for the better by doing his job well.

Here’s the log that he and then the next officer, on the day shift, kept.  It shows Wills’s discovery that two doors on Basement level 2 had been wedged open, and that a door on B3 and another door were unlocked.  It also shows that Wills called the District of Columbia police, who investigated and confirmed that a door had been taped open.

Here is my rough transcription of the handwritten log—Mr. Wills was not a perfect speller, but his log entries were solid, generally recording what he did and found on that momentous night shift:

[Handwritten entries by Watergate Security Officer Frank Wills:]


Wills on duty 12:00

Left                 Return             B2 Level Stuffed With

12:05               12:20 AM        Paper Both Doars

also one Doan on

B3 level was open

The other was stuff

with paper and the

Doar annex outside

Off office bldg. was


12:30 AM        1:00 AM          Cut all lights out

In hall

1:47 AM          1:55 AM          Call police found

tape In Doare Call

Police two make

A inspection on the

Inspection Police 25

Sir Sgt Jackson made

out RePort

5:22 AM          6:20 AM          Secured all B1-B2-B3


6:25 AM          6:30 AM          unlock trash doar.

6:30 AM          7:05 AM          Levels B1 B2 B3 Secured

7:30 AM          Levels B1 B2 B3 Secured

[Handwritten entries by a second person:]

8:00 AM                                  Made reliev + men informed

about the Break in   Check floors + return

Back to Desk – 8 55 (AM)

[Resumed handwritten entries by Officer Wills:]

8:00                 9:00                 officer came back

Two invesgiate Return

Two lobby.  Wills off Duty

Two invesgiating officers

Carl Schaffler, Sgt. Paul


The D.C. police investigated inside the Watergate building, found five burglars in the offices of the Democratic National Committee, and arrested them.

Those burglars, in turned out, were working for President Richard M. Nixon—investigations established that his White House, his administration, and his reelection campaign had committed many serious crimes.

On August 8, 1974, President Nixon resigned from office.

A week later, Frank Willis appeared on a television show and told his story.

Thank you, sir, for your example.

Nixon on the Jukebox (August 8, 1974)


Growing up, I had the good fortune to live with my family for long summer stretches in Ephraim, Wisconsin.  It’s a small, beautiful town on Green Bay, and in the summer it’s a resort/vacation spot.  A heart of local commerce is Wilson’s restaurant and ice cream parlor.

In 1974, having just turned thirteen, I worked at Wilson’s as a busboy.  The shifts were 4-midnight.  The pay was minimum wage.  The place was busy and fun.  At the end of each night, the perks included, always, free ice cream sundaes and sometimes, just across the road, moonlight swimming.

This is my memory of Thursday, August 8, 1974.  The White House had announced that President Nixon would be addressing the nation that evening.  The papers, filled with news of Watergate, the “smoking gun” tape,  the collapse of congressional support for the President, and his certain impeachment, reported that he would be announcing his decision to resign.

I was at Wilson’s, either working or just hanging out.  It had, in one side of the restaurant, a jukebox that played constantly.  At this appointed hour, however, someone unplugged it.  Someone produced a television, balanced it with care on the rounded glass top of the jukebox, and turned on a network.  The room, and the rest of the crowded restaurant, fell silent.

The President came on and spoke.  He announced, decisively, tragically, correctly and not very briefly, that he would be resigning at noon the next day.

In Wilson’s at least, that was it.  The crowd absorbed it, then began to murmur and disperse.  The TV disappeared.   The noise, including the jukebox, picked up.  People started eating, ordering, talking and laughing.  The sound, including from the jukebox, rose.

The first song that played was that summer’s standard (because it had been a big hit two years earlier):  Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (and here’s a great video version).  In that surreal moment of major flight and crash, it seemed to fit.