This is an informative report about one of America’s greatest tragedies, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Numerous historians have called it the crime of the century. According to most history textbooks, Lee Harvey Oswald was Kennedy’s assassin even though he never stood trial for this crime. The evidence presented in this report leads to the conclusion that this assassination was not the work of a lone assassin but rather a group of individuals who engaged in an ongoing conspiracy to cover up this crime and make Oswald the sole individual involved in the assassination.
This topic is important to every American citizen because it sheds light on the death of one of our most popular presidents. The limitations of this report will be to stay away from facts about John F. Kennedy that do not directly relate to the assassination. Also, there are many theories which have credibility and seem quite unbelievable. The scope of my report will be to specifically discuss information about the origin, trajectory and number of bullets. This will include the grassy knoll and single-bullet theories. Also, a large number of facts in this case were taken from witnesses’ testimonies and reactions. In addition, events surrounding Lee Harvey Oswald’s life leading up to the assassination, such as the possibility of him being a communist, scapegoat or a lone assassin. Finally, references will be made as to the findings of the Warren Commission and the 1978 House Select Committee On Assassinations throughout this report and information about Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit who was murdered in Dallas the same day as the assassination.
In 1963 John F. Kennedy was facing re-election and he had lost voters in both the South and Southwest. Kennedy’s worst political problem was factionalism within the Texas Democratic Party. I He was advised by Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson and Texas Governor John Connally that a two-day trip to four Texas cities would be of political benefit. Thus, a motorcade through downtown Dallas was planned.
On November 22, 1963, the presidential motorcade, consisting of twenty-one vehicles, turned left on Elm Street and headed slowly towards Stemmons Freeway. In the first car was the President and his wife, along with Governor Connally, his wife, and two Secret Servicemen. At 12:30 p.m. shots rang out. Within forty-five minutes, President Kennedy and a Dallas police officer were dead and Governor Connally was wounded. Later that day Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and charged with murdering the president. 3 On November 25, 1963, a shocked nation watched as Oswald was murdered by Dallas resident Jack Ruby as he was being transferred from Dallas police headquarters to the Dallas County jail.
Two days after the assassination the legislative branch of the government felt they should conduct hearings to determine the facts surrounding the assassination. In Texas, authorities claimed primary jurisdiction in the case and felt there should be a Dallas County grand jury investigation or a special court of inquiry before a state magistrate.4 However, President Lyndon B. Johnson decided to appoint a non-partisan commission to investigate the assassination. On November 29, 1963 the Warren Commission was formed and the chairman was Chief Justice Earl Warren. Also on the Warren Commission were Senator Richard B. Russell, Senator John Sherman Cooper, Representative Hal Boggs, Representative Gerald R. Ford, John J. McCloy, Allen W. Dulles, J. Lee Rankin, and a staff of fourteen lawyers. 5
During the investigation, 552 witnesses were questioned and hundreds of pictures were examined. The Warren Commission came to the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin and no conspiracy existed. However, to this day many experts have contradicted the Warren Commission’s report through witnesses’ testimonies and an abundance of evidence.
The most widely used piece of evidence was a film of the assassination taken by Dallas businessman Abraham Zapruder. As the president’s car was headed down Elm Street, Zapruder started filming and locked his 8-millimeter Bell and Howell home movie camera on the President until the car went under the underpass for a total of 22 seconds. Zapruderts camera operated at a speed of 18.3 frames per second. 6 Using that timing factor and studying reactions of individuals in each frame, much can be determined about the bullets.
According to the Warren Commission, three shots were fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. One of the first two bullets missed and went wild and hit a bystander, James Tague, causing a superficial face wound. The other bullet from the first two shots hit President Kennedy in the back of the base of the neck to the right of the spine and exited from the front of his neck causing a non-fatal injury. This same bullet hit Governor Connally in the right shoulder, passed through his body, his wrist and then lodged in his thigh.
This is known as the single-bullet theory. The third bullet entered the back of President Kennedy’s head and caused a massive loss of skull and brain matter. This was the fatal bullet.
There were two bullet fragments found in the car which matched the rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository. Another bullet was found on Connally’s stretcher at Parkland in pristine condition. This virtually undamaged bullet is the same bullet the Warren Commission contends went through Kennedy and Connally.
However, the Warren Commission’s findings have been widely disputed. As recently as July 1997 Former President Gerald R. Ford was accused of altering a key detail while he was on the Warren Commission. 7 Autopsy photos of Kennedy’s body clearly show that the wound from the second bullet was not at the back of the neck but about three and one-half inches below the neck. This is very important because it changes the trajectory of the second bullet. The wound in the front of the neck was distorted due to a tracheotomy performed on Kennedy in an attempt to save his life. A more complex scenario arises when questioning the neck wound as that of entrance or exit.
The weapon found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository was a bolt-action, clip-fed 6.5 mm model 91/38 Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, manufactured in Italy in 1940. 8 This rifle was tested by weapons experts and it was found that the minimum firing speed was 2.3 seconds. Looking back at Zapruder’s film, it is known that President Kennedy first reacts at frame Z225 and the fatal head shot is frame Z313. This means that the entire shooting took 4.8 seconds. 9 It was possible for this rifle to shoot all three bullets but you have to believe the single bullet theory to pinpoint one assassin.
The only way to disprove the single-bullet theory is to study the bullet trajectory and the alignment of President Kennedy and Governor Connally. As Kennedy was reacting to his first wound, Connally is seen turning to the right and still holding his hat in his right hand. Connally showed no signs of being shot until frame Z236038. This was ten frames or 0.7 seconds after President Kennedy had reached for his throat. 10 The Warren Commission claims that Governor Connally had a delayed reaction. This would mean that Connally experienced a bullet passing through his right shoulder, his right wrist, stopping in his thigh and then turned for almost one second before reacting. This would also mean that he managed to hold onto his hat after a bullet ripped through his wrist. After reviewing the films and consulting with his physicians, Governor Connally agreed that a bullet violently striking bones in his body would have caused an immediate reaction. As far as Kennedy and Connally’s alignment, the bullet exiting President Kennedy’s throat wound have had to make a right and then a left angle turn in mid-air before striking Governor Connally. ll Determining the exact flight of this bullet has not been proven to date.
One aspect that no one can argue is the fact that if four shots were fired then there had to have been a second assassin. Few people deny that at least one assassin fired shots from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. The Warren Commission relied greatly on witnesses’ testimonies. However, they discounted many of the witnesses who heard shots coming from the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza. In fact, out of seventy-five witnesses who heard shots, thirty-nine of these witnesses said that a shot came from the grassy knoll. 12 The witnesses included peace officers and secret service agents who should be considered reliable witnesses.
Two men that ran behind the grassy knoll a few minutes after the shots confronted two other men who flashed badges and said that they were Secret Service agents. However, not one secret service agent has ever admitted even going behind the grassy knoll until twenty to twenty-five minutes after the assassination. 13 Lee Bowers was working in the railyard tower behind the grassy knoll during the assassination and he stated seeing two cars and three men behind the knoll and witnessed their quick departure immediately following the shooting. He is the only eyewitness to see activity behind the grassy knoll.
As recently as 1978, experts have tried to determine whether or not a shot had come from the grassy knoll by the use of acoustical testing. The only clear recording of the assassination was taken by the Dallas Police Department. A police officer riding a motorcycle directly behind the President’s car had his radio on. The Dallas Police Department had a policy of recording all radio transmissions. Three distinct pop sounds and one undetermined sound can be heard. Using today’s technology, all four rounds were found to be gunshots, one coming from a different location than the other three. Also, a re-creation of the shooting was performed with high-powered acoustical equipment. After comparing these tests with other recordings of the assassination, it was proved that three shots came from the Texas School Book Depository and the final shot came from the grassy knoll. 14 Detractors from this theory will point out that the recording could have come from other radios turned on. That could contradict the direction bullets came from, but not that four bullet sounds are heard.
Notwithstanding the witnesses’ testimonies, much can be determined about the grassy knoll through physical evidence. A motorcycle escort, Bobby Hargis, was riding to the left rear of the President’s car. At the instant of the fatal shot, he was sprayed with blood and debris. Studying the Zapruder film, frame Z313 shows President Kennedy’s head exploding in a bright red color. The President’s head was thrown violently back in frames Z313 through Z321, which is about one-half second. 15 There are numerous theories as to this head movement. One possibility is a sudden acceleration of the car, but the evidence proved that the car did not accelerate until three seconds after the fatal head shot. 16 Another possibility was that of a neuromuscular reaction to major damage inflicted to nerve centers in the President’s brain. This was dispelled because the President’s body would have been stiff and straight, but in contrast, it was very limp. The Warren Commission concluded the head snap was a result of the “jet effect. 17 In other words, his head imploded causing twice as much backward energy as the force of the incoming bullet. A theory widely disputed due to the fact that his entire body went in the exact opposite direction of the grassy knoll. One photograph taken across the street from the grassy 1<1011 shows an image of a man in the knoll but it is very vague.
There are different opinions over whether the wound on the right side of the President’s head is one of entrance or exit. When President Kennedy’s body arrived at Parkland Memorial Hospital, two doctors agreed that there was a large hole in the right front side of the President’s head. They also agreed that this was an entrance wound. It was immediately decided that the President’s body would be flown to Bethesda Naval Hospital for autopsy. Four doctors were assigned to the case headed by Commander James J. Humes. Humes had never performed an autopsy before. 18 They also noticed a large hole on the right front side of the President’s head as well as a small entrance wound on the right rear of his head. Their findings of the head wound were much different than that of the doctors at Parkland.
A well-known authority on the Kennedy assassination, David Lifton, has devoted fifteen years to a book, Best Evidence, about what happened to President Kennedy’s body from the time of the fatal shot to the autopsy in Bethesda. His thesis is that government conspirators kidnapped the President’s body from Air Force One and surgically altered it to ensure that the lone assassin theory would be intact. Many witnesses have stated that the President’s body was in a different coffin in Bethesda from that which left Dallas’ Love Field. 19 Although this theory has never been proven, his book does provide several valid points. There has still been no unanimous decision between all the doctors involved about all the different wounds in the President’s body. It has been concluded that the autopsy photos due not confirm any wounds as entrance or exit wounds and therefore cannot conclude from which direction the bullets came.20
Whether Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone assassin or a scapegoat, his personality and background fit the description of a lone nut assassin. He was obsessed with certain aspects of government, trained in military tactics and associated with a strange cast of characters. Oswald was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1939. Coming from a broken home, he spent much of his childhood in orphanages and relatives’ homes. At seventeen years old he joined the Marine Corps. 21 During his three years as a radar operator in the Marines, Oswald learned to speak Russian. After his discharge, Oswald went to Russia and gave up his American citizenship.
Oswald stayed in Russia for two and one-half years, but little is known of his life in Russia. There has been speculation that he was involved with the KGB or CIA while in Russia. Oswald married a Russian woman named Marina. In 1962, the Oswald’s moved to Fort Worth, Texas and then eventually ended up in New Orleans. 22 While in New Orleans, Oswald was involved in several Marxist activities. Oswald organized the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee. “23 There are numerous reports of Oswald having contacts with members of the CIA, FBI and the Cuban government.
In the early 1960’s President Kennedy and the CIA were rumored to be involved in the assassination attempts on Fidel Castro and other Cuban government officials. It is believed that Oswald assassinated President Kennedy in retaliation for the Cuban assassination attempts. One theory is that the Cuban government wanted someone that was expendable to assassinate President Kennedy. Oswald may have believed that by carrying out the assassination and fleeing to Cuba he would be regarded as a hero by the Cuban government and possibly Russian officials. Another theory is that the Mafia may have played a part in President Kennedy’s assassination. President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, were hated by the Mafia because of the Kennedy administration’s war against organized crime.24 This theory was developed from two events. One was the Kennedy administration’s surveillance of Mafia leaders. Second, Jack Ruby had several ties with the Mafia and may have murdered Oswald to keep him from informing officials of a conspiracy.
There have been over sixty theories as to why President Kennedy was assassinated. However, the above two are the only theories that have credibility as to Oswald’s involvement. The fact that Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in President Kennedy’s assassination is rarely disputed, and Oswald was most likely the assassin in the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.
On November 16, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was hired to work in the Texas School Book Depository as a schoolbook order filler, an unlikely position for someone who had been involved military intelligence. On the day of the assassination, Oswald was seen by several people carrying a long package into the Texas School Book Depository which Oswald later claimed were curtain rods. 25 That day went on like most days with the exception of most employees taking an extended lunch break to see the Presidential motorcade as it went down Elm Street. No one knows where Oswald at the exact moment of the shooting.
About forty-five seconds after the assassination, Oswald was seen on the second floor by his supervisor and a police officer and he appeared calm and unaware of what had happened. He then walked out of the front door and headed down Elm Street. Oswald got on a bus whose route would take him to his rooming house in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Because of the congestion in Dealey Plaza, Oswald exited the bus and took a cab to his rooming house. About 1 p.m. Oswald was seen leaving his rooming house, by housekeeper Earlene Roberts, after a police patrol car stopped in front of the house and honked its horn. He was then seen waiting at a bus stop, but his mode of travel to Tenth and Patton Streets is unknown although he most likely walked this distance. About fourteen minutes after the assassination, the Dallas police dispatcher ordered all downtown patrol cars to Dealey Plaza, except for car ten. Car ten, assigned to Officer J.D. Tippit, was told to patrol the South Oak Cliff area. At approximately 1: 15 p.m., Officer Tippit confronted a man on the comer of Tenth and Patton Streets that fit the description of a suspect in the President’s assassination.” The man shot Officer Tippet then discarded some shells and fled the scene. Nine eyewitnesses, after viewing police lineups and photographs, testified that Lee Harvey Oswald was the man they saw fleeing the scene. Of the two witnesses that saw the actual shooting, only one, Helen Louise Markham, identified Oswald as the man who shot Officer Tippit. A few witnesses have claimed that there were two men near Tippit but their testimonies lack credibility.
At 1 p.m., news came over the radio that a police officer had been shot at the corner of Tenth and Patton Street. A few minutes later, witnesses told police they saw a man running down the street and then go into the Texas Theater. Police went into the theater with one of the witnesses where there were several empty seats. The witness identified the suspect and a struggle ensued. The suspect was arrested and identified as Lee Harvey Oswald. The police also confiscated a revolver he was carrying. The bullets in Officer Tippit were later matched to this revolver. Several hours later, Oswald was formally charged with the murder of Officer J. D. Tippit.28
Near midnight on November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was given a press conference at Dallas police headquarters, where a photo of Jack Ruby, pretending to be a reporter, was taken. Oswald was asked about his involvement with a Cuban political committee and Ruby corrected the reporter saying, “That’s the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.” An indication that Ruby knew Oswald before the assassination. During the press conference, Oswald denied killing President Kennedy or Officer Tippit. Oswald claimed, “I’m just a patsy. I didn’t kill anyone.” At that time he also asked for an attorney to step forward and represent him. Sunday, November 25, 1963, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry decided that Oswald should be moved to the Dallas County Jail because of threats on Oswald’s life. That morning, millions of people were watching Oswald’s transfer on television live. As police were escorting Oswald to a car in the basement, a man in the crowd moved forward and shot Oswald. Oswald died two hours later. The man who shot Oswald, Jack Ruby, was a local Dallas nightclub owner who stated that his motive for killing Oswald was to save Jackie Kennedy the ordeal of a trial. Ruby was later convicted for the murder of Oswald.
In December 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations produced a findings report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The committee’s findings were almost identical to that of the Warren Commission, except for one item. The committee said there was the possibility that a second assassin fired a shot from the grassy knoll. The committee reached this new possibility with the use of acoustical technology. Although the committee still needed to pursue many unanswered questions, they had to end their investigation due to a predetermined deadline. In both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the powers that be ordered there evidence locked away from public viewing for several years.
Within three years after the assassination eighteen witnesses had died, thirteen from unnatural causes. All witnesses whose testimony was important to the assassination. 29 This startling fact has opened many people’s eyes toward a conspiracy. Hundreds of people have been called “students of the JKF assassination.” The majority of these people contend that the government has tried to “cover up” Kennedy’s assassination. The fact that John F. Kennedy was assassinated can never be changed. However, as long as any doubt exists in any investigation, Americans will always search for the truth.
An element existed in 1963 that wanted President Kennedy out of the picture. Lee Harvey Oswald may have been set up to take the fall but surely seemed guilty as a gunman and a conspirator. Several powerful members of government felt it best for the general public not to know the truth in the assassination and did what they thought was best for national security. Jack Ruby was involved to the extent of silencing Oswald and other witnesses were eliminated as well. The autopsy was performed by doctors with no experience in this field and arrived at a conclusion that varies greatly with other physical evidence. The Warren Commission’s job was to find Oswald guilty as a lone assassin and never spent time looking at other leads or hearing testimony that contradicted their theory. The House Select Committee on Assassinations was on the right track but never finished due to time and money constraints. Only a new panel with no political agenda will be able to solve this crime.
- Maxwell, William E. and others. Texas Politics Today. St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1990,
- Belin, David W. Final Disclosure. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1988, p. 1.
- Ewell, James, Hugh Aynesworth and John Rutledge, “President’s Murder Charged to
Oswald,” Dallas Morning News, 23 November 1963, Sec. 1, p. 1.
- Final Disclosure, p. 12.
- Baskin, Robert, “President Names Board To Probe JFK’s Slaying,” Dallas Morning News, 23
November 1963, Sec. 1, p. 1.
- Marrs, Jim. Crossfire. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1989, p.65.
- Delgado, Berta, “Ford Altered Key Detail in JFK Slaying Report,” Dallas Morning News, 3 July 1997, 33A.
- Kurtz, Michael L. Crime of the Century. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press,
- Kurtz, p.31.
- Kurtz, p.58.
- Kurtz, p.o.
- Kurtz, p.42.
- Kurtz, p.44.
- The Sixth Floor Museum, Dallas, TX, 1997, Selected audio recordings and framed text.
- Lifton, David S. Best Evidence. New York: Dell Publishing, 1980, p.40.
- Lifton, p. 170.
- Kurtz, p. 16.
- Kurtz, p. 16.
- Lifton, p.389.
- House Select Committee on Assassinations, Investigation ofthe Assassination ofPresident
John F. Kennedy, Louis Stokes, Ohio, Chairman, 95th Congress, 1978, Vol. 1, p.23.
- Kurtz, p.23.
- Kurtz, p.23.
- Scott, Liz,”Lee Harvey Oswald’s New Orleans Years,” New Orleans Magazine, November,
1995, p. 11.
- Final Disclosure, p.210.
- Final Disclosure, p.64.
- Kurtz, p. 133.
- Belin, David W. November 22, 1963, You Are the Jury.. New York: The New York Times
Book co., 1973,p.38.
- Kurtz, p. 16.
- Marrs, p.555.
Maxwell, William E. and others. Texas Politics Today. St. Paul: West Publishing Co., 1990,
Belin, David W. Final Disclosure. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1988, p. 1.
Ewell, James, Hugh Aynesworth and John Rutledge, “President’s Murder Charged to
Oswald,” Dallas Morning News, 23 November 1963, Sec. 1, p. 1.
Baskin, Robert, “President Names Board To Probe JFK’s Slaying,” Dallas Morning News, 23
November 1963, Sec. l, p. 1.
Marrs, Jim. Crossfire. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1989, p.65.
Delgado, Berta, “Ford Altered Key Detail in JFK Slaying Report,” Dallas Morning News, 3 July 1997, 33A.
Kurtz, Michael L. Crime of the Century, Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1982, p.4.
The Sixth Floor Museum, Dallas, TX, 1997, Selected audio recordings and framed text.
Lifton, David S. Best Evidence. New York: Dell Publishing, 1980, p.40.
House Select Committee on Assassinations, Investigation ofthe Assassination ofPresident John F. Kennedy, Louis Stokes, Ohio, Chairman, 95th Congress, 1978, Vol. 1, p.23. Scott, Liz,”Lee Harvey Oswald’s New Orleans Years,” New Orleans Magazine, November, 1995, p. 11.
Belin, David W. November 22, 1963, You Are the Jury. New York: The New York Times
Book co., 1973,p.38.