It was a crisp, beautiful day in the city of Dallas, Texas on November 22nd, 1963. Every apple pie, baseball-loving American grew eager as the arrival of President John F. Kennedy made its way through the city. With the intentions of touring through the country in order to advertise his next political campaign as the “Man of the 60s,” President Kennedy paraded through Dallas via motorcade with his wife Jackie, Texas Governor George Connally, and wife Nellie Connally. Moments after the president stated the words, “No, you certainly can’t,” in reply to Connally’s statement, “You certainly can’t say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome, Mr. President,” several guns were shot, lodging a bullet in Kennedy’s brain, killing him instantly. With the cookie-cutter American Dream and 1950s and 60s love for America, it was no argument that this day in history would change the country forever. However, the assassination led to a great deal of controversy as to who shot the president. Although a man by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald was declared as the murderer, many conspiracy theories have emerged— Kennedy’s assassination has been linked to different forms of government, organizations, mobs, and suspects with the help of theorists who have invested their time in investigating the traumatic event that occurred nearly 50 years ago. Although it is nearly impossible to conclude an official and exact statement as to what happened, many Americans support their opinions well. Personally, I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald committed the murder, possibly with the help of an outside organization or the government.
The events following Kennedy’s head shot can be read in William Rubinstein’s article, “Oswald Shoots JFK”:
According to the Warren Report, at 12:30pm on November 22nd, 1963, Oswald fired three shots from an upstairs window in that building at President Kennedy, riding by in an open limousine, seriously wounding both him and Texas Governor John Connally (riding in the same car) with the second shot and killing Kennedy with the third. Oswald then fled from the Depository, returned to his boarding house and, at about l:14pm, shot and killed Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit, who had stopped Oswald as he was walking down the street. At 1:51pm Oswald was arrested in a nearby movie theatre and charged with killing Tippit; he was later charged with the assassination of the President, (1).
With this information in mind, it is obvious that there is a lot to discuss when looking at the situation. A Huffington Post article entitled JFK Conspiracy Theory Still Believed By Majority Of Americans, But Fewer Than Before brings statistics into the situation: “In 2003, a resounding 75 percent of Americans were convinced that JFK was targeted by a conspiracy that went well beyond Oswald. But ten years later, in an Associated Press poll conducted in April, only 59 percent believed the same thing,” (1). Although the statistics have decreased since then, the majority still includes Americans believing there was outside involvement in the murder.
Many questionable decisions made on the 22nd of November cause suspicion, making it plausible that Oswald was not the only man involved with this murder. For instance, the motorcade in which JFK was riding in had a last minute change of route. According to John McAdams in Changed Motorcade Route in Dallas?, Kennedy’s driver switched routes to a different plan other than the original: “John Kennedy's motorcade through Dallas, which was to go directly down Main Street and onto the Stemmons Freeway, was changed at the last minute to turn of Houston Street, and then Elm Street,” (1). If Kennedy’s route had stuck to the original plan, the motorcade would have never found its way to Elm Street, where the president was hit.
This map can be found in Jim Garrison’s book, On the Trail of the Assassins, which demonstrates the “originally planned” parade route, and the “revised” parade route:
It is evident that the change of plans directly brought the president within contact of the assassin; if the original plan had followed through, JFK might have survived the parade.
Many conspiracy theorists also contradict the “Single-Bullet Theory,” otherwise known as the “Magic Bullet Theory.” This includes the Warren Commission’s conclusion that the first non-fatal shot through the president and the governor was done with one single bullet. According to David Reitzes’ article, JFK Conspiracy Theories at 50, the Single-Bullet Theory, FBI and Secret Servant agents investigated the theory: “Arlen Specter and others serving with the Warren Commission were initially skeptical of the hypothesis, but a reconstruction of the shooting by agents of the FBI and Secret Service in Dealey Plaza affirmed its plausibility. With slight qualification, the commission endorsed the theory,” (1). However, theorists claim that this shot is considered impossible due to the unlikelihood of the angle which hit Kennedy. In the Mary Ferrall Foundation article, Single Bullet Theory, the author claims that the shot is implausible:
The Parkland doctors believed the neck wound to be an entrance, not an exit. Further, the location of Kennedy's back wound - as measured by the shirt and jacket holes, medical witnesses, autopsy photos, and other evidence - is too low for a shot fired from the 6th floor of the TSBD to have exited the neck wound where it did. The Warren Commission misrepresented the back wound location in drawings. (1)
To contradict this aforementioned argument, one must take a look at JFK’s medical background: specifically his back and spinal cord. Kennedy suffered from back issues and underwent surgery before and during his presidency, causing him to wear a back brace. Dr. Kenneth Salyer, Parkland Hospital doctor on duty during Kennedy’s assassination, explains to CBS News what the non-fatal and fatal shots brought to Kennedy and Connally, which was described in the Yahoo! News article Doctor: Back brace may have cost JFK his life: "‘The first shot that hit him went through the soft tissue of the back of his shoulder and exited through his trachea,’ Salyer told CBS News. ‘That same bullet went through [Texas Gov.] John Connally's chest, through his right hand and into his thigh and knocked him completely down in the car,’” (Hart 1). With this information, Salyer goes into greater detail about Kennedy’s physical position: “‘He's still upright as a target because he has the brace on, which makes it possible for Lee Harvey Oswald to hit him with a second shot,’ Salyer told CBS News. ‘I think that would not have happened if he had gone down like John Connally did,’" (Hart 1). Indeed, Kennedy’s forced upward position may have cost him his life… and the exited wound of the trachea makes it plausible that the shot could have made its way into Connally’s chest, into his hand, followed by his thigh.
It is also safe to assume that the Single-Bullet Theory is an acceptable speculation due to the raised seat in the back of the motorcade. According to Fred Kaplan’s article John F. Kennedy's murder: the how is clear, only the why remains, the motorcade’s raised seat supports the Warren Commission’s conclusion: “The back seat, where JFK rode, was three inches higher than the front seat, where Connally rode. Once that adjustment was made, the line from Oswald’s rifle to Kennedy’s upper back to Connally’s ribcage and wrist appeared absolutely straight. There was no need for a magic bullet,” (1). With this evidence, it is clear that the theory is indeed accurate, giving reassurance to those supporting this idea. These principles make it believable that Oswald physically committed the crime alone, due to its possibility.
Many say that the shot is impossible, but Jay Busbee contradicts this argument in his Yahoo! News article entitled Ten facts you don’t know about the JFK assassination:
Plenty of shooters recreated Oswald’s shot. One of the more pervasive myths surrounding the JFK assassination was the idea that no other shooter could replicate Oswald’s feat of shooting three times in 6.75 seconds. So another shooter must have been involved, right? Not necessarily. The Warren Commission reported that one marksman was able to pull off the feat in 4.6 seconds, and a later CBS investigation showed that 11 marksmen averaged 5.6 seconds. Also, Oswald’s shot was, for a trained shooter, relatively easy. Oswald and other military marksmen are trained to shoot anywhere from 200 to 500 yards. Kennedy was 88 yards from Oswald at his farthest point, and 59 yards away at the time of the last shot. (1).
This information helps me believe that the Warren Commission was correct in the sense that Oswald was the lone assassinator.
A deeper examination of the man accused of this murder helps gain reality of the situation: Oswald is a valid suspect and capable of committing this crime— his childhood truancy bought him trouble with the law, and forced him to speak to a psychiatrist. In Renatus Hartogs’ psychiatric report, it is proclaimed that Oswald’s personality categorizes as troublesome:
Lee has to be seen as an emotionally, quite disturbed youngster who suffers under the impact of really existing emotional isolation and deprivation; lack of affection, absence of family life and rejection by a self-involved and conflicted mother…we arrive therefore at the recommendation that he should be placed on probation under the condition that he seek help and guidance through contact with a child guidance clinic, where he should be treated preferably by a male psychiatrist who could substitute, to a certain degree at least, for the lack of father figure, (1).
This report helps investigators of the murder gain a sense of Oswald’s childhood and emotional stability, or therefore, lack of— ergo, to conclude that Oswald was emotionally capable of committing the murder of JFK is plausible.
Indeed, these claims do support the idea that Oswald was the murderer; however, there is more evidence behind this argument. Taking a look at Oswald’s history with the Marine Corps and the Soviet Union can also link to his strange tendencies. Gerald Posner’s book, Case Closed, reveals details about Oswald’s time spent in the Marine Corps— Oswald accidentally shot himself in the elbow with an unauthorized .22 handgun, and later fought a sergeant who he thought was responsible for his punishment… both incidents had him court-martialed. Also, Oswald was later punished for inexplicably firing a rifle into the jungle of the Philippines while on sentry duty, (Posner 28). With these alleged crimes, Oswald strikes a certain “shadiness” about him, with his history of crime.
In 1959, Oswald defected to the Soviet Union in a time of crucial anti-communism found throughout America. Oswald’s diary found within Volume XVI of the Warren Commission Hearings indicates that he decided to become a citizen of the Soviet Union whilst claiming to become a communist (94). Rob Lowe, actor in the 2013 TV movie adaptation on Bill O’Reilly’s book entitled Killing Kennedy, notices a fascination correlation between Oswald’s defection and Kennedy’s campaign in Gerri Miller’s MNN article Rob Lowe on JFK: 'I've read every conspiracy theory book known to man': “‘Take Oswald and Kennedy both at 1960 at the exact same moment in time, and Oswald is defecting to the Soviet Union, and Kennedy is announcing he’s running for president. They couldn’t be more disparate… You can’t imagine that they would ever even meet, let alone affect each other’s lives the way they did,’” (1). Lowe’s observation on the time period makes the coincidence very realistic in terms of their opposing views, which leads to a possible resentment found in Oswald for Kennedy.
Although Oswald’s childhood tendencies, lack of loyalty for the country, and military charges all point to his capability of being the murderer, the attempted assassination of U.S. general Edwin Walker is also convincing. According to The Assassin in the Warren Commission report, in March of 1963, Oswald purchased both a rifle and a revolver (118-119). The Government Archives regarding the Warren Commission Report indicates that on April 10th, 1963, Oswald fired shots at Walker through a window located 100 feet away from his desk, where Walker was sitting. The shots only wounded Walker’s arm, as the assassination attempt did not kill him, (184-195). Obviously, it is evident that if Oswald happened to be willing to kill one man, one can assume that he would kill another: the president.
Suspicious activity in the New Orleans also leads one to believe that an outside organization may have been linked to the assassination of Kennedy. Although Oswald can be considered the lone gunman of the physical killing of JFK, questionable activity found in the city between various suspects makes this outside organization accusation plausible. Volume 25 of the Warren Commission Hearings includes an FBI report of the investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald's activities for Fair Play for Cuba Committee— a communistic pro-Castro organization— in New Orleans, where Oswald would pass out leaflets promoting the organization. The House Select Committee on Assassinations Appendix to Hearing’s 544 Camp Street and Related Events states that Oswald stamped “544 Camp Street” on one of the leaflets. In Jim Marrs’ Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, the address housed the anti-communistic group the Cuban Revolution Organization— in the same building around the corner was a private detective agency for FBI agent Guy Banister. Banister’s former secretary, Delphine Roberts, told Anthony Summers information on the two, making a connection. This information can be read on the McAdams Delphine text: “Roberts said that Oswald had come to 544 Camp Street and she interviewed him to become "one of Banister's agents," that he maintained an office on the floor above them, and that he often visited privately with Banister,” (1). The witness makes a point to uncover shady details of the correlation between the two.
The Appendix to Hearings before the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives reveals an interesting event on the date of the assassination; evidently, Banister and a man named Jack Martin were at a bar next door to the 544 Camp Street office. On the walk back, Banister accused Martin of stealing some files, and started shooting Martin with his revolver. Martin cried out “What are you going to do — kill me like you all did Kennedy?” (Volume X, 130). This accusation stirred controversy and began pointing fingers.
This brings up the one and only trial involved with the Kennedy assassination: The Trial of Clay Shaw. New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, prosecuted a businessman named Clay Shaw for engaging in a conspiracy theory for the murder of JFK with the help of Oswald, Banister, a man named Dave Ferrie, and others. Although the trial only lasted less than an hour before claiming Shaw as innocent, the evidence that Garrison supported suggests an outside organization helping Oswald commit the murder. At the trial, witnesses testified that in Clinton, Louisiana, Oswald, Shaw, and Ferrie met up two months prior of the assassination; a separate meet up involved Clay Shaw and Oswald talking while Shaw handed money to Oswald on a seawall along Lake Pontchartrain was witnessed by Vernon Bundy— all according to Clay Shaw and the JFK Assassination, (1). This suspicious meet up can help conclude that they were involved in the plot. According to the McAdams website, Andrew Sciambra interviewed another witness named Perry Russo, who testified that Oswald, Shaw, and Ferrie met up in Ferrie’s apartment in September of 1963. Apparently the three discussed the assassination of JFK, along with a “triangulation of crossfire” and a need for an alibi, (Sciambra Memo 1). Each of these claims demonstrates some sort of interaction between these figures, forcing myself to believe that someone had to be involved with this assassination with the help of Oswald.
With all of this overwhelming information, it is easy for one to get caught up in the conspiracy theories which exist throughout the United States of America. Unfortunately, Oswald never received a trial, which fails to give the American people valuable information on the incident. According to Celinda Hawkins article, FLASHBACK: Letters show Ruby praised for Oswald Murder, a man named Jack Ruby killed Oswald before a trial could occur: “Two days after Kennedy was killed, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, who was arrested for the murder of the president, as he was being transported to the Dallas Jail,” (1). Although many Americans see this as a heroic act, I truly wish that Oswald could have lived through the trial in order to reveal more information on the entire murder. Who knows where the stand on the incident would be if a trial had occurred?
In conclusion, there is no “black” or “white” answer for the question that has been haunting Americans for 50 years: who killed John F. Kennedy? My personal take on the situation includes Oswald being the assassinator due to his accuracy with the Single-Bullet Theory and the evidence brought by the Warren Commission. However, an outside organization must have been involved, in my opinion. With a revised motorcade route, along with suspicious involvement with the FBI and other figures, it is easy for me to believe that somebody else helped Oswald. However, we will not be sure for a long time— the deity that JFK has become will still hold a place in America’s heart until solid, proven information is released.
"AARC Public Digital Library - Warren Commission Hearings, Volume XVI, Pg." AARC Public Digital Library - Warren Commission Hearings, Volume XVI, Pg. Warren Commission Hearings, Volume XVI, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013..
Busbee, Jay. "Ten Facts You Don't Know about the JFK Assassination."Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. .
"Clay Shaw and The JFK Assassination."Clay Shaw and The JFK Assassination. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. .
Hart, Jay. "Doctor: Back Brace May Have Cost JFK His Life."Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. .