The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

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The Fourteen Minute Gap

The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

What really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963? Was this the covert overthrowing of an American Government in the midst of civil right unrest and cold war unease and the Vietnam war on the horizon? John F. Kennedy's brutal and public assassination has always horrified us, and provided endless controversy. It's close to 50 years and yet the search for the truth still goes on. Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone - the 'lone nut with a rifle' theory or was there a conspiracy to kill Kennedy? If so, who were the conspirators?

Kennedy was an iconic figure, very popular, a gifted inspirational speaker and a great communicator. He offered the US nation great hope. He confronted the issues that still divided America, racism and civil rights. He was the most powerful man in the most powerful country in the world. But there was a horde of dark enemies that surrounded Kennedy and therefore many candidates that could have carried out the assassination such as;

  • Castro - since it was obvious to the whole world at that time that the Kennedy's hated Castro
  • Communist Russia - the cold war was at a critical stage
  • FBI - Hover, the head of the FBI at the time hated the Kennedy's
  • Anti-Castro Cubans - they had become disillusioned with the Kennedy's for their failure to overthrow Castro
  • Mafia - The Kennedy's were on an unprecedented legal crusade to crush the mob and organised crime in the US
  • Racists - The Klu Klux Clan and their many allies in America's deep south hated the Kennedy's because of their stance on racism and civil rights
  • CIA - Kennedy had let them down in 'The Bay of Pigs"

So the Kennedy administration had many enemies and the Kennedy assassination had many motives.

Lee Harvey Oswald
By all accounts Lee Harvey Oswald grew up a lonely child, needing attention but not getting it. He was constantly told by his mother that he was a burden to her. He learned at an early age that he wasn't wanted. He and his mother moved constantly. He had few if any friends. He developed an interest in communism at an early age. By the age of 16 he had dropped out of school and was calling himself a Marxist - which many claim was probably an attention seeking ploy. Despite his outspoken views on communism he joined the US Marine Corps in 1956 when he was 17 - just to get away from his mother. In the Marine Corps he began to learn Russian, and praised the new leader, Castro, and his administration in Cuba - once again trying to attract attention by standing out in the crowd.

He reached the grade of 'sharpshooter' in the Marine Corps. This meant he was competent enough to fire rapidly and accurately at targets up to 200 yards away (we should qualify this and say he was competent in 1959 during his marine career). He was discharged from the marines and travelled to Moscow in 1959 where he intended to defect on the grounds of his dislike for capitalism and racial discrimination (just like JFK!). He was allowed stay in Russia despite the fact that the Russian government saw him as a misfit. He married a Russian woman and eventually grew fed up of Russia and decided to go back to the US with his wife.

Oswald had by now spent much of his time trying to be a revolutionary, trying to be important, trying to leave a mark on the world, trying to change the world. It was at this stage that he must have decided to kill Edwin Walker - an avid anti-communist and segregationist - and make a mark on the world. He spent a month planning to kill him. Luckily for Walker the bullet was deflected and he suffered only minor injuries.

Oswald's life up to this stage was just a series of disappointments. He had boring jobs. He had barely been able to support his wife and children. He had problems at work. He had problems at home. He couldn't live out his dreams. He wanted to help the Cuban revolution. But the Cuban consulate in Mexico city rebuffed him. He went to the Soviet embassy and asked to return to Russia. He was turned down by them also. When he returned to Dallas in October 1963, he had no job and no prospects. On October 16th he got a job in the schoolbook depositary. On the 19th November the route of the Kennedy motorcade was published in the local papers. Was this the moment he decided to assassinate Kennedy and leave his mark on the world?

Jack Ruby
Jack Ruby grew up in Chicago. It was well known that he was not 'playing with the full deck'. He had no connections to the mob in Chicago, as they would have nothing to do with him. He did have connections with small-time criminals. He was only on the fringes of the underworld.

He was hysterical after Kennedy's assassination. He closed his Dallas night club. He loved Kennedy. He idolised Kennedy. Kennedy was his God. Oswald was smiling when Ruby saw him in the Dallas jail. He decided to take justice into his own hands and pulled his gun (which he was well known to carry). Afterwards he said "I'm a hero, I did it for the people of America, this man killed my president". Ruby thought he would be a hero for this deed, thought he would just get a slap on the wrist, that people all over the world would want to shake his hand. Ruby died of cancer in January 1967

The evidence against Oswald

The Warren Commission was set up in 1964 to investigate the events of Dealey Plaza the previous November and concluded;

  1. Ballistic tests show that the bullets that killed President Kennedy could only have come from Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle
  2. His palm print was on the rifle
  3. His prints were on boxes at the 'sniper's nest' in the Texas School Book Depositary (TSBD) where Oswald worked
  4. Oswald was a former marine sharpshooter. His records show that he was a proficient marksman, being consistently accurate while shooting rapidly at targets 200 yards distant. The third shot at Kennedy, the fatal shot, was an 88 yard shot and was well within his range. In total, the 3 shots fired took 8.3 seconds, which was well within Oswald's capability.

Other Evidence against Oswald

The Zapruder film, possibly the most analysed frames of film in history, is a 26-second disturbing visual record of one of the darkest moments in history. Without it, it would be almost impossible to prove what really happened at Dealey Plaza. It is the only film that caught the shootings from start to finish. Zapruder stood on a four and a half foot high pedestal at one of the best vantage points in Dealey Plaza.

Dale Myers, a computer animator has created a precise computer simulation of the Zapruder film which revealed detailed analysis of the events of that infamous day. He constructed a geometrically accurate representation in 3-D of Dealey Plaza and the surrounding landmarks including the grassy knoll and the TSBD as they were in 1963. His 3-D computer software allowed him animate the movements of Kennedy and Connolly over the Zapruder film frame by frame. So we could for the first time leave Zapruder's strategic position and see the events from any angle, each one an accurate representation of the events of that day.

At about frame 160 in the Zapruder's film the 1st shot is fired but missed. John Connolly heard the shot and later identified it as a rifle shot. We can clearly see him turn his head to his right as he later testified that he though the shot came from behind him. (However it is possible that Oswald's view from the sixth floor was blocked by a tree at the time of the first shot, so did it come from him?)

Frame 223 - 2nd shot - hit Kennedy, passed through him and then hit Connolly - the so called 'magic bullet'. But why was it called a 'magic bullet'. Its path was straightforward and it can be clearly demonstrated that the same bullet hit both men, when you look at the seating and body position of Kennedy and Connolly in the car, Connolly's seat was 6 inches inwards and 3 inches lower than Kennedy's seat. The line of sight form the sixth floor of the TSBD to the entry and exit wounds on Kennedy and Connolly are entirely consistent with a shot from the sixth floor window which was where 3 shell casings were later found along with the rifle belonging to Lee Harvey Oswald.

The final shot hit Kennedy on the head and caused the head to initially move forward about 2.3 inches between frames 312 and 313, (one eighteenth of a second between frames), which indicates that at the precise moment of impact, the all important point, the head goes forward so the bullet came from behind Kennedy. This is followed by the backward movement of the head which is slower and therefore more distinctive in real-time viewing. This was a recoil from the head exploding. Sadly the bells tolled for JFK at that moment.

Was there a fourth shot from the grassy knoll? There is no definitive evidence from ear witnesses or eye witnesses that a second shooter was at the grassy knoll. The injuries on Kennedy and Connolly are consistent with two shots striking Kennedy, the first of which went through him and struck Connolly, coming from behind and over their right shoulders. While we can't rule out the possibility of a second shooter at the grassy knoll who might have fired and missed, there is no evidence to support it and therefore there is no reason to rule it in either. A tiny minority of witnesses claimed they heard more than 3 shots.

If there was a shot from the grassy knoll (which some people assumed to be the 3rd and fatal shot) then there should have been an exit wound on the left hand side of Kennedy's skull. This was not the case. Autopsy results showed no fragments in the left hemisphere or no evidence of an exit wound (though there is much debate over the autopsy results).

Does two assassins necessarily imply a conspiracy? Oswald may have met a like-minded individual, with similar competence with a rifle. This person could have been on the grassy knoll, and could have fired a shot. But this doesn't imply a conspiracy in the sense that the public generally refer to.

The 'Warren Commission' was the US Government's official investigation into the assassination of Kennedy. It concluded in 1964 that Oswald fired 3 shots and was the lone assassin. But was the Warren commission itself part of the same alleged conspiracy? Did the Warren Report take liberties?

  • If there was a conspiracy why would Oswald be silenced so publicly? Doesn't that itself suggest a conspiracy - the very thing the alleged conspirators were trying to hide? Maybe, if there was a conspiracy, Jack Ruby wasn't involved.

  • Why wait 48 hours to silence Oswald - wasn't that plenty of time for Oswald to have revealed all to the authorities - if there was anything to reveal? Again, maybe Ruby wasn't involved. And maybe Oswald wasn't involved or didn't know enough to implicate the conspirators.

  • Why would the conspirators eliminate one suspect, Oswald, and simultaneously hand over another suspect, Ruby, to the authorities? (Again, Ruby not involved?)

  • Ruby was the last person in the world that you would involve in a conspiracy, that's according to his friends and work associates. He could not be entrusted with any responsibility and he just talked too much so keeping secrets was not one of his strengths. He was unbalanced, unpredictable, volatile and a highly emotional character.

  • After the assassination, Zapruder returned to his office and locked his camera in a small safe. It was no secret that he had filmed the assassination. He was visited by the secret service some time later and he promised them a copy of the film when he was able to get it copied. He appeared on live television later that day when he announced to the public that he had filmed the assassination. It took some time to get copies made. None of this seems consistent with a conspiracy by the powers that be. They would realise that the film existed and had ample opportunity to destroy it, and not run the risk that it might provide evidence of a conspiracy.

So is that it? Case closed, Q.E.D. Mmmm... Not quite. There are just one or two problems with the Warren report. In fact many many people today believe that the case against Oswald is not as airtight as the Warren Report would have you believe but is flawed throughout and that the available evidence would ensure that he would be acquitted if brought to trial and would uncover a conspiracy to frame him. Lee Harvey Oswald could perhaps be described as a 'dead man walking' in November 1963. He may have been killed by the conspirators anyway whether he was one of them or not, if Jack Ruby didn't get to him first.

And like 'Swiss navy' or 'virtual reality', using the words 'lone-gunman' and 'Oswald' in the same sentence has become a type of oxymoron and now sounds ridiculous.

In fact the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded in the mid 1970s that "Kennedy was probably killed as a result of a conspiracy". Subsequent to these findings serious questions have been asked about the CIA's obstruction to that inquiry raising major concerns as to what exactly was being covered-up and who was ultimately behind the cover-up.