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The events that occurred on November 22, 1963 have invoked more intrigue than any other assassination of the twentieth century. Fortunately, because of the advances in technology, the assassination of President Kennedy was recorded in film both with motion and still photography. These graphic souvenirs have been the subject of much research and inquiry. More time has gone into investigating the two minutes surrounding the firing of the fatal shots than any other time period (Arnold, 1997). The assassination of arguably one of the greatest presidents of the United States was seen by hundreds of eyewitness spectators who all qualified as first-person witnesses. The debate that encompasses the assassination includes the dispute whether President Kennedy was the victim of an assassination conspiracy. As one examines the contradictions, eyewitness accounts, and support evidence, various the conclusions may be reached, the main notion that Lee Harvey Oswald may have not been solely responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but acted simultaneously with other unknown conspirators.
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On Nov. 22, 1963 President Kennedy and his wife were in Dallas, Texas trying to strengthen his political campaign for his upcoming election. While in his motorcade, President Kennedy was fatally shot from a sixth floor warehouse window. As the shots were being fired, a member of the Secret Service jumped on the back of the car and dove on top of the president, shielding him (Groden, 1993). During the shooting, Governor Connally suffered injuries to his right side. Although the Governor was badly wounded, he survived. At 1:00 p.m. President Kennedy was pronounced dead at the Parkland Hospital. Later that afternoon aboard Air Force One, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States of America (Groden, 1993).
As President Kennedy’s motorcade turned left onto Elm Street a series of gunshots rang out. Kennedy was struck twice and Governor Connally was struck once. The public was outraged that President Kennedy was murdered and wanted an explanation. President Lyndon B. Johnson set up the Warren Commission, lead by Earl Warren, to head investigation. The Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin in the murder of John F. Kennedy. According to the official report from the Warren Commission all three shots came from the sixth story of the Texas School Book Depository (Kallen, 2003). Thus, the Commission surmised that Oswald had been completely responsible.
Lee Harvey Oswald was claimed as the sole assassin of President Kennedy. Oswald had been very disgruntled with the government ever since he had been discharged from the United States Marine Corps. Following his discharge, he moved to the Soviet Union attempting to acquire citizenship and after being denied citizenship, he returned to the United States (Newman, 1995). The year Oswald shot and killed President Kennedy, he moved to Dallas, Texas where he plotted the assassination of the president with numerous co-conspirators (Newman, 1995).
The angle of the bullets caused a lot of controversy. After the assassination, the first official autopsy on the human body took place on President Kennedy. There were two autopsies on President Kennedy, one in Bethesda Naval Hospital, and another in Parkland Hospital in Dallas. In Bethesda, the doctors said that the bullets had entered President Kennedy’s body in this upper portion of the neck, and emerged out of the neck about 2 centimeters above his bow tie (Kallen, 2003). However, the doctors at Parkland
Hospital said that the back wounds were lower, and had different modes of entry. Parkland doctors found that the bullets entered about 2 centimeters above the President’s bow tie, and emerged out of his lower back, about 14 centimeters below the entering wound (Kallen, 2003). With that trajectory, the gunman would have to have been situated well above the President, an impossible shot. The Warren Commission completely ignored these findings and did not make mention of them in the official report (Kallen, 2003).
The Warren Commission also ignored the opinions of experts as well as eyewitness accounts and the sounds coming from police radios. The latter of these proofs were the recordings captured on the radio traffic of the Dallas Police Department. These radios were in the possession of police officers who were positioned close to the motorcade and adjacent to a railroad yard and a grassy knoll. The first two gunshots could be heard faintly in the distance while the third was noticeably louder and presumably fired closer to where the officers were stationed (Prouty, 1992). The recordings were analyzed by experts and a joint conclusion was made. In December of 1963, two of the expert investigators, Mark Weiss and Ernest Aschkenasy, testified before the House Assassination Committee. In their conclusion Professor Weiss stated that “with the probability of ninety-five percent or better” the third shot came from the grassy knoll (Arnold, 1997).
Furthermore, several innocent bystanders also confirmed that gunfire came from the grassy knoll. These witnesses included six railroad workers who confirmed reports of smoke being seen in the area surrounding the grassy knoll immediately after the shooting stopped (Prouty, 1992). Additionally, several onlookers heard the sharp crack of a rifle report behind them as they observed the President’s motorcade (Prouty, 1992). Perhaps the most compelling account is the description given by Senator Ralph Yarborough who rode in the motorcade a few cars behind President Kennedy’s limousine. The Senator stated that after driving by the grassy knoll “you could smell [gun] powder on our car nearly all the way to Parkland Hospital” (Prouty, 1992).
The common link between the assassination of President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald was Jack Ruby, the man who killed Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Department Headquarters. Many people questioned why Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Was this a cover up to keep him from talking about his part in this tragedy? Ruby was a nightclub owner and a local strongman with strong ties to organized crime (Lindopy, 1992). His associates included Joseph Campisi, a top-ranked Dallas Mafia member and Carlos Marcello, the head of the New Orleans crime family (Arnold, 1997). According to eyewitness accounts and swore affidavits, Ruby met with these men and other Mafia members in several meetings in the period of time leading up to the assassination of President Kennedy (Arnold, 1997). Also, numerous phone calls including long-distance calls were placed between Ruby and his Mafia associates before the assassination (Arnold, 1997). In fact Ruby was so involved with organized crime that he was referred to as “one of our boys” by the Mafia leadership (Prouty, 1992).
When the United States House of Representatives issued their final report in the spring of 1964, they reported that the “logical and probable inference” of the assassination of President Kennedy was that the President was killed “as the result of a conspiracy” (Prouty, 1992). This conclusion was in direct disagreement with the Warren Commission’s presumption of Oswald as the lone gunman. There is strong evidence to suggest that the Mafia ordered the death of President Kennedy as a penalty for meddling with the affairs of organized crime. Jack Ruby was simply used as a pawn by murdering the only suspect.
By 1963, the Kennedy administration had become much evolved and somewhat successful in its attempts to prosecute the Mafia. This was evident though the Justice Department’s triumph in sending several Mafia leaders to prison and dismantling its control over some parts of its realm including illegal gambling and loan sharking (Lindopy, 1992). President Kennedy’s brother, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, was the Attorney General of the United States and largely responsible for these Federal indictments and prosecutions. Bobby Kennedy could have overlooked the destruction of organized crime but instead chose to target the Mafia from the highest levels of its organization (Lindopy, 1992).
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Additionally, the Mafia had set a precedent of killing or removing from power those opposed to their agenda. Examples of this treachery include the assassination of Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther and UAW-AFL President John Kilpatrick (Lindopy, 1992). Each of these men was murdered for opposing the Mafia’s plans or speaking out against them. Thus the stage may have been set for the assassination of President Kennedy.
The second major theory surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy involves the United States’ primary spy network, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). During the Second World War the Central Intelligence Agency possessed much power. Their policy and decision making affected nearly every aspect of the war from key military offences to the decree to drop the atomic bomb on Japan (Newman, 1995). After the War, the CIA continued planning governmental strategies and exercised great power until the failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s Cuban government at the Bay of Pigs. Deeply angered by this CIA disaster, President Kennedy and his advisors decided that Allen Dulles, the Director of the CIA, and other top level staff must go (Prouty, 1992). In fact, President Kennedy was so angered by the botched maneuver that he vowed “to shatter the CIA into a thousand pieces” (Prouty, 1992). In November of 1961, President Kennedy fired Director Dulles and his top aides throwing the CIA into a state of semi-disarray (Prouty, 1992).
Furthermore, President Kennedy was determined to remove all United States military personnel from Vietnam, effectively ending U.S. involvement in Asia. This move worried the CIA in addition to several large companies providing armaments for the war effort (Newman, 1995). The CIA felt that while the ending of the war may have economic implications, the main fault of this idea was that it would leave American interests vulnerable having no visible military presence in the Far East (Prouty, 1992). The CIA was resolute to reverse the President’s plan no matter what the cost (Newman, 1995). In August through October of 1962, the CIA met with the President and his advisors to attempt to change his intentions in Vietnam. When President Kennedy refused to negotiate with the intelligence community the stage was set for his assassination (Newman, 1992).
After Kennedy’s assassination and despite the overwhelming evidence of multiple shooters, the news reports spoke only of Oswald as the lone assassin. This lack of information to the public was the brainchild of the CIA in its attempt to cover-up the facts (Newman, 1992). This craftily constructed plot was carefully monitored by skilled agents who could control certain key facets of the bureaucracy, the Warren Commission and the news media (Prouty, 1992). This activity caused J. Lee Rankin, the commission’s general counsel to say,
“Part of our difficulty in regard to the assassination in that they have decided that it is Oswald who committed the assassination. They have decided that no one else was involved” (Prouty, 1992).
Perhaps the most compelling evidence for the CIA’s involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy was the quick reversal of Kennedy’s policies by Lyndon B. Johnson, the man who followed John F. Kennedy in the Presidency. Whether for political reasons or for self-preservation, President Johnson both supported the Warren Commission’s findings and reversed the course of Kennedy’s Vietnam policy (Newman, 1005). Perhaps Johnson too, feared for his life and would not oppose the effective power of the CIA (Prouty, 1992). In any case, a strong argument exists to support the theory that the CIA was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.
There is no serious question that Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy and Governor Connally. Oswald took a rifle to work, claiming the long package contained curtain rods (Semple, 2003). There was no eyewitness to him shooting the rifle from inside the building, though a witness saw him from the street and gave a rough description to the police. The rifle was found hidden on the sixth floor. It was the same gun Oswald had ordered through the mail and it had Oswald’s fingerprints on it (Kallen, 2003). The bullets causing the wound to President Kennedy and Governor Connally were matched to this gun. Boxes used to make the “sniper’s lair” had Oswald’s prints on them as well (Aynesworth, 2003). Oswald fled the scene and later shot a police officer who had stopped him for routine questioning. While in detention, he told numerous easily-discoverable lies to police interrogators (Aynesworth, 2003).
For many countries around the world, November 22, 1963 is just another date on the calendar. But for America, it represents one of the darkest days in the history of this still very young nation. It represented the end of America’s innocence. It forced America to wake up, rub its virgin eyes and experience the world for what it really is: a cold, harsh reality that we were not ready to deal with. There is no question that Lee Harvey Oswald was directly involved in the shootings of President Kennedy and Governor Connally. But overwhelming evidence and contradictions support the theory that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was much more then just a lone attack, giving way to one of the greatest conspiracies ever imagined and changing America forever.
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