John Fitzgerald Kennedy is well-known as an American politician and the President whose assassination led to the biggest controversies in the US history of the XX century. It took place at 12:30 on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas (Report of the President’s Commission 48-49). The president was shot by two bullets while traveling in his open-topped car. He was taken to hospital and was pronounced dead at 13:00 (Twyman 18). Although the investigation process consisted of several independent investigations led by different commissions, they did not manage to come up with a common conclusion regarding this incident. Due to the lack of photo and video materials, the investigation engaged a great number of witnesses, who played the core role in numerous inquiries. The investigation came up with various versions of the assassination, which was one of the biggest in US history. Since the conclusions are highly doubtful and poorly reasoned, there is still plenty of room for various conspiracy theories and speculations.
March of Events and Controversies
John Kennedy lost his previous election in Dallas. Therefore, a motorcade in this city was aimed at proving the president’s popularity in spite of the election defeat. The organizers planned that Kennedy would appear to people in the way he could greet the crowd while following the traditional parade route in Dallas. After that, according to the schedule, he was to meet city officials during the lunch. The president’s car was heading north at the speed of about 11 miles per hour (Report of the President’s Commission 3, 49). After several shots rang, the president’s hands moved to his neck. According to the report, a bullet entered the back, traveled downward and exited from the front of the neck (Report of the President’s Commission 3). Before the shooting started, Governor Connally was facing the crowd. Then suddenly Connally felt a blow on his back, which was a bullet. It traveled through his chest, exited below his right nipple, passed through his right wrist and wounded his left thigh. Immediately after that, another bullet struck President Kennedy in the rear of his head, causing a fatal wound. The President fell to the left (Report of the President’s Commission 3). According to the subsequent report introduced by the Warren Commission, “three shots, including one that missed, Lee Harvey Oswald had single-handedly altered the course of history” (Aguilar and Thompson). Therefore, according to this single-bullet theory (it was called magic-bullet theory by its critics), both Kennedy and Connally were struck with a single bullet. The very statement itself is dubious as logically it seems to be very unlikely. According to the same report, the bullet survived the damage and, moreover, was completely intact. What is more, it was found not on the spot of the tragedy but at the hospital where the victims were treated, thus bringing further controversies. According to the Warren Commission, the bullet traveled through numerous layers of skin, flesh, bones, and clothes without any damage to itself (Report of the President’s Commission 3). But it is still more arguable that the bullet was found on a hospital stretcher (Twyman 80). Undoubtedly, such a sequence of dubious facts arose numerous questions. The interval between the shots has been thoroughly studied as it was necessary to establish the times of the shots for a deeper understanding of the whole matter (Mason 3). There were a lot of witnesses at the spot who heard gunshots coming from behind a wooden picket fence on a grassy knoll along the street. All the shots occurred in about 6 seconds (Twyman 19). The entire sequence of shots was almost perfectly fired by an amateur photographer Abraham Zapruder, whose camera subsequently appeared to be the main witness to the assassination of the President. Apart from that, there is conflicting evidence of the interval between the shots. Most of the witnesses stated that there were three shots in total, but the second and the third shots were closer together (Mason 8-10). One of the witnesses stated the following: Yes, I heard one. Then there was a little bit of time, and then there were two real fast bullets together. When the first one hit, well, the President turned from the waving to the people, and he grabbed his throat, and he kind of slumped forward. (Mason 8)
Most people witnessed the same, stating there were three shots, with the second and the third fired one right after another. Nevertheless, some people witnessed that the shots were equally spaced (Mason 12). There were a few witnesses who recalled the reverse pattern of the shots, but their statements were not taken into account (Mason 16). The evidence about the number of shots and the interval between them played an important role in the Warren Commission report and subsequent tests regarding the assassination. The House Select Committee on Assassinations, another commission to investigate the President’s death, and the Warren Commission both relied on Zapruder film (Mason 3). Apparently, the members of the Warren Commission realized the significance of the witnesses’ evidence since it was mentioned in their report. By contrast, witnesses’ reports were completely ignored by the HSCA. Having based its investigation mainly on Zapruder film, they reached a conclusion that there were four audible shots, three of which were made from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and one of them came from the “grassy knoll” and missed the motorcade. This conclusion was solely based on scientific conclusions and disregarded the witnesses (Mason 4). Nevertheless, this conclusion leads to another witness, a railroad signalman working in a nearby watchtower. According to the evidence he provided, about half an hour before the shooting (Twyman 19), he saw two cars drive into the park in a restricted area behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll; one of the men in the cars was talking into a hand-held microphone. The third car entered the area a few minutes before the shooting, and the railroad signalman saw two men standing near the picket fence just before the shots. As the gunfire erupted, he saw a flash of light or smoke at the spot the two men were standing (Twyman 19). Moreover, according to the Italian Mannlicher-Carcano rifle tests, it has been found to be completely impossible even for an expert rifleman to fire all the shots in 19 seconds (Shipman). During the experiment, no one was able to reload and fire three times quickly enough. In regard to this test one can recall the foregoing evidence of the ear-witnesses, when most of them stated that the interval between the second and the third shots was very small, this one may come to a logical conclusion that if there was only one assassin, he would need more or less equal intervals of time to make three quick shots. Moreover, one person is very unlikely to shoot three times in only 19 seconds. Such discrepancy between the intervals leads to more controversies. Additionally, another test was done. Two large pieces of meat served as shooting-marks to conduct a test of the simulation the path of the so-called magic bullet. Unlike the one from the hospital, the tested bullet was deformed. According to another Italian test (Shipman), the bullet fired from only 80 yards away would have emerged intact from Kennedy’s head. And according to the Warren Commission, it was disintegrated (Twyman 80). Thus, one can conclude that the bullet was fired from a more distant position (Shipman). Such findings fuel numerous conspiracy theories and contradict the official results of the Warren Commission. On the other hand, they have something in common with the HSCA report, according to which Oswald, the main suspect of the assassination, was unlikely to act on his own. Furthermore, there are no proofs that Oswald was on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building at the time (Twyman 21). Also, his fingerprints were not found on the gun. However, immediately after the shots, several witnesses reported to the police that they saw a rifle being fired from the southeast corner window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository (Report of the President’s Commission 5). After one and half minutes after the shooting, Lee Harvey Oswald was found by the police on the second floor of the nearby building but he was immediately identified as the manager and was allowed to go. The first description of the suspect roughly resembled Oswald, and at about 1:50 pm he was captured by the police (Twyman 20). He subsequently insisted he didn’t kill the President and looked surprised at the accusation of the assassination. He also muttered there was a plot against him. On November 24, 1963, Oswald was a deadly shot while he was being transferred to the country jail (Twyman 21). He was killed by Jack Ruby who had numerous connections with the mafia (Twyman 21). He was reportedly devastated by the assassination of Kennedy and wanted revenge (O’Reilly and Dugard 518).
Motives to Assassinate Kennedy
The Warren report shows no clear evidence about Oswald’s motives but provides a detailed explanation of his psychological portrait. Thus, it concludes about Oswald’s deep-rooted resentment towards all authority, his inability to enter into meaningful relationships with people and a continuous pattern of rejecting his environment in favor of new surroundings. According to the report, he was trying to find his place in history and had some capacity for violence. As a devoted communist, he developed a new interpretation of this ideology. He also expressed antagonism toward the United States and disenchantment with the Soviet Union. Therefore, according to the Warren Commission report, a combination of such features could have been a good motive for killing the US President (Report of the President’s Commission 22-23). As there is no clear evidence about Oswald’s motives, there are numerous conspiracy theories about the organizers of the assassination. To conceive a sophisticated plan of killing the US President, there must have been some serious organization involved. No group without enormous resources and capability could have organized and conducted it successfully. The list of people who could advantage from the death of John Kennedy is very long though. Among them stands Carlos Marcello, a mafia chief in New Orleans who pursuit a vendetta against Bobby Kennedy (Twyman 38). He also had a connection with Oswald, whose uncle was a Marcello lieutenant. Another personal figure is Edgar Hoover, as John Kennedy wanted to dismiss him from his lifetime position as the head of the FBI. There were rumors that Edgar Hoover would be fired soon after Kennedy’s election. Hoover was compromised by the mafia, accepting free rent, tips, and investments from them. Lyndon Johnson may be another suspect of the President’s assassination, as he was believed to have corrupt connections to the mafia and felt personal resentment towards Kennedy. Another suspect is CIA as Kennedy had fired a lot of its officials and vowed to “blow the CIA to smithereens” (Twyman 38). Among his foreign rivals were Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev. John and Robert Kennedy were involved in a plan to destroy Castro (Twyman 39). There were numerous attempts of his assassination, but all of them failed. Another plan was to overthrow Castro within Cuba. Kennedy and the Soviet leader were rivals because of the Cuban missile crisis, which was believed to be the beginning of the end of Khrushchev’s career. Nevertheless, to conduct such assassination both Cuban and Soviet leaders needed to control the CIA, which was impossible (Twyman 39-40). Therefore, all these versions have no valid proofs.
In view of the Warren Commission Report, which is regarded to be the main investigation document of the case and the apparent discrepancy between it and the facts based on the evidence obtained from numerous witnesses and tests, the conclusion of the Warren Commission appears to be highly controversial. On the one hand, it is based on some evidence. On the other hand, there are neither Oswald’s fingerprints on the rifle nor any proof of his presence on the sixth floor of the building. Moreover, according to the tests, it was technically unable for him to shoot three times in a short period of time. Therefore, there are solid grounds to suppose that the assassination was a result of a conspiracy.
The motives of the assassination are also unknown. Even though it is obvious that one person is very unlikely to plan the assassination of the US President, there are no proofs of possible companions. Furthermore, the motives of Oswald provided by the Warren Commission are lacking solid ground, and the motives of others possibly involved people are unknown. Moreover, as he had never admitted his guilt and was killed soon, questions outnumber answers. As a result, in spite of the numerous investigations, the truth about John Kennedy’s assassination remains hidden.