|Name_______________ JFK Assassination Notes
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With the New Frontier, Kennedy hoped to wipe out poverty, to lift American eyes to the stars, and to provide international aid to needy countries.
With these lofty ideals in mind, he persuaded Congress to pass a wide range of his social and economic proposals. Kennedy signed into legislation a number of antipoverty bills including ones that increased Social Security benefits, unemployment benefits, and the minimum wage, built low income housing, supplied Food Stamps to poor Americans, and expanded the distribution of school milk and lunch programs. Additionally, JFK convinced Congress to invest more funds in defense, in space exploration, and in continuation of the national highway system started under President Eisenhower. This spending created jobs and stimulated economic growth. Although his more revolutionary proposals to provide funds for elementary and secondary schools, Medicare, and wilderness protection failed in Congress, these ideas would become part of LBJ’s legislative agenda, namely the Great Society.
On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy urged Congress to achieve the goal of a moon expedition. His speech provided the spark; NASA and American industry worked feverishly to produce the necessary technology.
1962-John Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth.
1965-American spacecraft carried two men at a time into orbit.
1968-America launched three men into orbit aboard a spacecraft called
1969-Three Americans land on the moon on July 20 aboard Apollo 11.
The Presidential Commission on the Status of Women created by Kennedy in December 1961 called for federal action against gender discrimination and established the right of women to equally paid employment. Kennedy issued an executive order ending gender discrimination in the federal civil service, and in 1963 signed the Equal Pay Act for women. The Commission proved to be the impetus for the creation of similar groups on the state level and inspired many women to work together to promote their interests.
Although Kennedy promoted civil rights in his inauguration speech, he appeared cautious about the movement, which disappointed many African Americans. Kennedy, however, appointed 40 African Americans to high positions in the federal government and allowed the Justice Department, run by his brother Robert, to support actively the civil rights movement. Additionally, he created the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity to stop the federal bureaucracy from discriminating against African Americans. Finally, on June 19, 1963, Kennedy introduced a civil rights bill in Congress which was eventually signed by President Johnson on July 2, 1964 and became the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Some scholars believed that the greatest single problem JFK faced was how to deal with the aggressive power of the Communist bloc. Unlike his predecessor Eisenhower, Kennedy seemed to retreat from a willingness to use nuclear weapons against foreign threats (brinkmanship); rather, he adopted a flexible response in foreign affairs. This meant that JFK opted to support a build-up of conventional weapons and forces and to wage guerilla warfare in limited conflicts.
In March 1961, President Kennedy proposed the Alliance for Progress, a program designed to improve relations between the U.S. and Latin America. The program involved a series of cooperative aid projects with Latin American governments in order to create a “free and prosperous” Latin America that would be less inclined to support Communist-inspired revolutions. Over a 10-year period, the U.S. promised $20 billion to help Latin America to set up better schools, housing, health care, and more equitable land distribution. The results were mixed; some countries experience real reform; rulers in other countries kept the money to maintain their power.
The Peace Corps was another program designed to fight poverty in less developed nations by sending young Americans there to perform humanitarian services. After three months of intense training, volunteers (typically college educated) spent two years working in countries that requested assistance. The three goals of the Peace Corps were to provide technical assistance, to help people outside the U.S. understand American culture, and to help Americans understand the cultures of other countries. Between 1961 and 2013, more than 210,000 Americans joined the Peace Corps and served in 139 countries; they worked in governments, schools, non-profit organizations, agriculture, and environmental areas.
A Communist revolution in 1959 overthrew the corrupt regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencia Batista; the new government in Cuba immediately established strong ties with the Soviet Union. Fearing the Soviets would use Cuba (located ninety miles off the coast of the United States) as a base to spread revolution throughout the Western Hemisphere, President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to train and to arm secretly Cuban exiles to invade the island, hoping to spark a popular revolution. With recommendations from his advisors, Kennedy opted to continue the plan; the invasion at the Bay of Pigs (located on the south coast) of Cuba was set for April 17, 1961. On the ill-advised day, Kennedy, however, withdrew promised American air support for the Cuban exiles, intending to keep American involvement a secret. Fidel Castro, the Communist leader of Cuba, easily defeated the rebel forces; most were captured or killed. And, the defeat of the Cuban rebels clearly showed direct involvement of the United States in a plan to overthrow the Castro regime. To many, President Kennedy appeared weak and indecisive. JFK learned a difficult lesson from this foreign affairs fiasco; he would use the lessons gained from this experience to help him in the next ordeals he would face; namely, the construction of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Still smarting from the Bay of Pigs disaster, Kennedy faced another foreign policy challenge in June 1961 when he met with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, Austria. The topic of the summit was East Germany; Khrushchev wanted to stop the flow of Germans pouring out of Communist East Germany into West Berlin. He demanded that the Western powers (France, Britain, and the United States) recognize the legitimacy of East Germany and cede Berlin entirely to East Germany since it lay completely within the boundaries of East Germany. Kennedy refused Khrushchev’s demand, asserted his commitment to West Berlin, and ordered a substantial increase in American intercontinental missile forces, added five new army divisions, and increased American air power and military reserves. In August 1961, Khrushchev retaliated by building the wall through Berlin which essentially sealed off the Soviet sector. Anyone attempting escape from the East into West Berlin would be shot by guards posted along the wall. Kennedy, however, did not want to challenge the Soviet Union’s building of the Berlin Wall directly, but he definitely sent a clear message to the Soviets when he, albeit, reluctantly resumed testing nuclear weapons in early 1962. On June 26, 1963, Kennedy himself visited West Berlin and gave his famous speech, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a Berliner”) to adoring residents of the city—in other words, JFK told them he supported them in their quest for freedom and felt their pain of separation from their fellow countrymen. Despite Kennedy’s efforts, the Berlin Wall stood for almost thirty years as a painful symbol of Cold War tensions.
Confrontation with the Soviets would continue, but this time it was JFK who refused to back down from Soviet aggression. On October 22, 1962, Kennedy announced on television that American spy planes took pictures of long-range missiles that the Soviets had placed in Cuba. (Since Cuba is only ninety miles from the United States, the missiles posed a real threat to the United States.) In response, Kennedy ordered a naval blockade to stop the Soviets from delivering more missiles to Cuba and demanded that they dismantle existing missile sites in Cuba. Instead, Soviet ships headed toward the blockade and Americans braced for war. Kennedy and Khrushchev negotiated secretly; the Soviets offered to remove the missiles from Cuba if the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba and to remove American missiles from Turkey near the Soviet border. The two leaders reached the deal on October 28, both countries abided by their promises, and most importantly, nuclear was avoided. The impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis was substantial:
1. The world was brought closer to nuclear war than any time since WWII.
2. August 1963-Each side worked toward lessening tensions by
negotiating a treaty to ban nuclear testing in the atmosphere (a first
step toward arms reduction since the beginning of the Cold War).
In October 1964, Khrushchev fell from power because the Cuban Missile Crisis was viewed by the Soviets as a humiliating retreat.
The Soviets, realizing the inferiority of their weapons compared to
American weapons, began an arms buildup over the next two decades.
The U.S. began a buildup of arms in response to the Soviets actions in the 1980s.
Vietnam—Kennedy continued the nation’s policy of support for South Vietnam when he took office in 1961. Like his presidential predecessors, Kennedy understood that this Southeast Asian country was extremely important in the battle against communism. (North Vietnam, a communist nation, appeared to threaten South Vietnam, a non-communist nation.) Kennedy dramatically increased military aid and sent more advisors to Vietnam. From 1961 to 1963, the number of American military personnel in South Vietnam jumped from about 2,000 to about 15,000.
Slide 10: The John Neely Bryan Cabin (This cabin is a replica of the original Bryan home which was destroyed by flooding in the late 1800s.)
John Neely Bryan (1810-1877) was the first citizen of Dallas, who donated the land for the Old Red Courthouse. Bryan served as a postmaster, storeowner, and a ferry operator in Dallas. He chaired a citizens’ meeting that pushed the Houston and Texas Central Railway for completion through Dallas. The railroad essentially transformed Dallas into a transportation hub and brought tremendous growth to the small town status of nineteenth century Dallas.
Slide 11: This monument to JFK is also located in the West End District of downtown Dallas near the place of President’s assassination. Architect Philip Johnson designed the monument which was completed in 1970.
The Old Red Courthouse, built in 1891, is located in the West End District. Today, the structure is known as the Old Red Museum and serves not only as a museum but also as an events center.
Slide 13: Even though the design of the monument is a “cenotaph” or an open tomb, the structure symbolizes the freedom of JFK’s spirit. It is a square, roofless room, 30 feet high by 50 feet wide with two narrow openings facing north and south.
Slide 19: Dealey Plaza is a Dallas city park named for George Bannerman Dealey (1859-1946) who was an early publisher of The Daily Morning News. He was also a civic leader who campaigned for the revitalization of this area of Dallas.
An aerial view of Dealey Plaza.
This route and other decisions on this fateful day undermined security. A perfect route avoids high windows from which a sniper can easily stick a gun. Such a route should also avoid few, if any, right or sharp turns; they are too time consuming. A perfect route also provides alternative routes in case something goes wrong. This route violated all these basic principles of security.
Additionally, JFK opted not to use the bubble-top for the limousine. The day was beautiful, and he wanted to engage the crowds. JFK also did not like Secret Service agents standing on the running boards of the car because they blocked the crowd’s view of him. Often, like this day, they rode in the car behind that of JFK’s. (Secret service agents normally stood on the running boards so that they could shield the president and study the landscape, looking for gunmen.)
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Slides 39, 40, and 41: Officer J. D. Tippit (September 18, 1924-November 22, 1963)
Tippit served during World War II from 1944-1946 where he was a member of the 513th Parachute Division. During the war, he fought at the Battle of the Bulge and participated in Operation Varsity. Tippit earned the Bronze Star and the WWII Victory Medal for service to his country.
Tippit was an eleven year veteran of the Dallas police force when he confronted Lee Harvey Oswald during his escape. He was working a normal patrol area in Oak Cliff, a residential area in Dallas when he received a call about fifteen minutes after the President’s assassination with Oswald’s description.
Tippit was driving slowly eastward on 10th Street when he pulled along side of a man who was walking on the sidewalk and resembled the description of LHO. Oswald approached the vehicle and apparently exchanged words with Tippit. Tippit opened the car door and walked toward the front of the car. Oswald drew a hand gun and shot Tippit three times in the chest and then walked over to his body and fired a fourth shot directly into his right temple, fatally wounding Officer Tippit. Tippit’s murder occurred about forty-five minutes after the assassination of JFK.
Oswald’s original arrest was for Tippit’s murder; later he would be booked with JFK’s murder.
Officer Tippit was a married father of three young children at the time of his death.
His funeral services were held on November 25, 1963 at Berkley Hills Baptist Church; his funeral occurred in the same day as those of Kennedy and Oswald. More than fifteen hundred mourners attended the funeral service.
This memorial to Officer J.D. Tippet unveiled on November 20, 2012 at the corner where the shooting occurred (10th and Patton Streets).
In January 1964, Tippet was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor from the Police Hall of Fame, the Police Medal of Honor, the Police Cross, and the Citizens’ Traffic Commission Award for Heroism.
Attorney General RFK and President LBJ phoned Officer Tippit’s widow to express their condolecences. Jackie Kennedy wrote Mrs. Tippit a letter expressing her sorrow for the bond they now shared. The nation moved by the plight of the Tippit family sent them donations amounting to $647, 579 (or 4.5 million dollars by today’s standards.) Abraham Zapruder who filmed the assassination sold his film to Life magazine
for $25,000 (or $176,660 by today’s standards) and donated the entire amount to the Tippit family.
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Lee Harvey Oswald had lived at twenty-two different addresses and attended twelve different schools including a reform institution in New York City by the time he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Oswald experienced poverty in his youth; his mother worked menial jobs to support the family. Although his mother remarried, she quickly divorced, and Oswald essentially grew up fatherless. Although Oswald showed above average intelligence, he was often a marginal student. He was frequently truant. Additionally, Oswald was a poor speller and writer, indicating that he may have been dyslexic. Yet, he read voraciously; he considered himself an intellectual though he had dropped out of high school. As early as 1953, the psychiatrist at the New York reformatory institution wrote that Oswald was immersed in a “vivid fantasy life, turning around the topics of omnipotence and power, through which Oswald tries to compensate for his present shortcomings and frustrations.” The psychiatrist also stated that Oswald had “a personality pattern disturbance with schizoid’s features and passive-aggressive tendencies”. Oswald’s fellow marines teased him often because he frequently pontificated about the glories of Communism. They nicknamed him “Oswaldskovich”. He could not have won many friends in the service since this was the time of the Cold War where United States and the Soviet Union were bitter enemies.
His defection to the Soviet Union was met with little fanfare by both the Americans and the Soviets. The Soviets showed little interest in a twenty-old American with no serious connections. He had hoped to be sent to Moscow University for study; instead he was sent to work in a factory. The drudgery of the work and his rudimentary knowledge of the Russian language added to his isolation. Oswald turned his back on Communism, finding the system little better than capitalism. Upon returning to the United States, he emphatically labeled himself a Marxist because Communism was a corruption of Marxist ideals.
Oswald and Marina fought bitterly mostly because of his seeming inability to hold a job and to provide a decent lifestyle for his growing family; he beat her.
In the summer of 1963, while in New Orleans, he read several books a week including a biography of Chairman Mao, James Bond novels, a biography of JFK entitled Portrait of a President by William Manchester, and JFK’s own book, Profiles in Courage. Were the JFK books the sparks that drove Oswald to commit the murder of a president? Did he think that assassinating the president would be the act of “courage” which would break the cycle of his anonymity and depression and bring him the notoriety that had so far eluded him?
In Oswald’s mind, Cuba was the ideal Marxist nation; the “true” Communist revolution had occurred on the island nation.
Slide 53: The iconic photograph of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald was taken by Bob Jackson on Sunday, November 24, 1963.
Jackson was a photographer for the Dallas Times Herald; he subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize for the photograph that clearly shows Ruby shooting Oswald and Oswald grimacing in pain.
The main in the cowboy hat is Jim Laevelle, a Dallas police detective who was handcuffed to Oswald. He tried unsuccessfully to jerk Oswald behind him.
The bullet entered Oswald’s lower left chest; Oswald was rushed unconscious to Parkland Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:07 P.M. An autopsy revealed that Oswald died of a hemorrhage secondary to a gunshot wound to the chest.
Millions of television viewers watched Oswald’s murder on television that day.
Slide 54: This nondescript grave site is located at Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Burial Park in Fort Worth, Texas. There are no historical references, and cemetery officials will not give directions to the grave site.
Oswald’s funeral was held on the same day and time of JFK’s funeral (Monday, November 25, 1963). Oswald’s family knew that most people would be glued to their television sets, watching Kennedy’s state funeral. This way, the family would avoid potential funeral crashers. Besides Oswald’s mother, wife, two young daughters, and his older brother, very few people attended his funeral.
Slide 55: Jack Ruby, originally from Chicago, Illinois, was a nightclub operator in Dallas. He purportedly changed his birth name of Jacob Leon Rubenstein to Jack Leon Ruby because he believed that his Jewish background would alienate potential customers at his nightclubs. According to one of his brothers, Jack Ruby killed Oswald to save Mrs. Kennedy the heartache of a trial. He supposedly was totally distraught by the assassination and later claimed he was not part of any conspiracy.
A Dallas jury found Ruby guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. Ruby appealed his conviction for the murder of Oswald and won a right to a new trial. He, however, died in prison before the new trial could be set. Ruby received medical treatment at Parkland Memorial Hospital but nonetheless died there of a pulmonary embolism secondary to lung cancer three years after JFK’s death.
Ruby’s funeral was conducted by a rabbi and done in accordance with Jewish ritual. This was Ruby’s request. The private funeral held on January 1, 1967 was attended only by family members and a few close friends.
His resting place is at Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois; he is buried next to his parents.
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