November 22, 1963 was a day no American will ever forget. Most people remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. At precisely 12:30 P.M. [Central Standard Time], the 35th president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.
Constituted by Lyndon B Johnson, and led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Warren Commission was assembled to investigate the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This commission was conceived “in recognition of the right of people everywhere to full and truthful knowledge concerning these events.” This statement has been challenged by many over the past 40 years. The commission’s relatively short investigation and controversial evidence have left much room for doubt among the American people.
The Warren Commission arrived at twelve distinct conclusions after investigating the case. Among the most controversial are conclusion numbers one, two, three, four and ten. Conclusions one and four state that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin, firing shots from the sixth-floor window at the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository. These conclusions were based on witnesses, many of whom happened to disappear shortly after interviewed; evidence and pictures from an autopsy performed on the president, which were never disclosed to the public; and Oswald’s background information, which conveniently “fit the mold”. Another questionable conclusion in the Warren Report is conclusion number two; “the weight of the evidence indicates that there were three shots fired,” was left completely unexplained, with no supporting evidence. Conclusion three states that of the three supposed shots fired, one wounded both Texas Governor, John Connally and President Kennedy.
However, it also states that Governor Connally’s statements leave room for doubt as to which bullet hit him. Although these conclusions leave questions unanswered, the most debated conclusion of the Warren Report is number ten. “In its entire investigation, the Commission has found no evidence of conspiracy, subversion, or disloyalty to the U.S. Government by a Federal, State, or local official.” Similar to conclusion number two, there is no supporting documentation under this claim. Under all but three conclusions in the Warren Report supporting evidence is provided immediately following. It is ironic that two of these three have proven to be the most controversial.
Although these investigators were considered the best, they were not able to completely rule out the possibility of alternative scenarios for the assassination. Were they simply being too cautious, or was it something more that kept them from a verdict that did not create any doubt for the American public?
“The weight of the evidence indicates that there were three shots fired.” Among the numerous conclusions by forth by the Warren Commission, this has been most easily disputed. According to the Dallas Times Herald, (afternoon edition, November 22, 1963) “Witnesses said six or seven shots were fired.” Most would not find this number of shots excessive. Between the President and Governor Connally, there were nearly ten significant wounds discovered.
According to the Warren Commission, “one shot passed through the president’s neck and then most probably passed through the Governor’s body, a subsequent shot penetrated the presidents head, no other shot struck any part of the automobile…one shot probably missed the car and it’s occupants.” It seems incredible that only three shots, with only two reaching their targets, could have caused such damage.
The “magic bullet theory”, described by the Warren Commission, explains how a single bullet could have passed through both Kennedy and Connally. This theory creates significant doubt as to its validity. The panel arrived at the conclusion that there was a single bullet that entered the upper right back of Kennedy, emerged from the front of his neck and subsequently caused all Governor Connally’s wounds. Governor Connally was not only wounded in the left thigh, but below the armpit, and the radius bone in his right wrist was completely shattered. The bullet that supposedly did this was found completely intact, with no dents or lesions. A test bullet [of the same type as the “magic bullet”] was fired into a wrist bone of a cadaver, simply to see how it would be affected. The bullet’s head was completely smashed.
Obviously, no ordinary bullet could perform tasks even close to this, thus the “magic bullet”. This depiction in itself simply sounds outrageous. According to Lt. Colonel Pierre Finck, one of the doctors who performed the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, the Warren Commission’s explanation is “impossible…for the reason that there are more grains of metal still in Governor Connally’s wrist than there are missing from that bullet. That bullet could not have done it.” Why then, would the government’s committee lie and make up an unlikely story about the number of shots fired? There appears to be only one explanation for this; there was something to hide.
The magic bullet theory is not the only questionable finding in the Warren Report. Directly following the shooting, President Kennedy was taken to the closest hospital, Parkland Hospital, where the President was examined, treated, and “cleaned up” before transport to Bethesda. While “investigating” the assassination, the Warren Commission ordered an autopsy to be performed at Bethesda Naval Hospital, in order to determine the nature of the president’s wounds. Bethesda Naval Hospital’s Mission Statement reads as follows. To conduct research, development, tests and evaluations to enhance the health, safety, and readiness of Navy and Marine Corps personnel in the effective performance of peacetime and contingency missions, and to perform such other functions or tasks as may be directed by higher authority.
Some believe Kennedy’s body was tampered with during its transport from one hospital to the other. At Parkland Hospital in Dallas, a tracheotomy was performed by a highly skilled surgeon, Malcolm Perry, M.D., in an attempt to save the President’s life. Numerous witnesses have testified that his incision was neatly made across a small bullet hole just to the right of the trachea. However, if one were to see a photo of the throat wound at Bethesda, it would look rather large and jagged, not clean and neat as witnesses from Parkland Hospital have testified it to have been. According to the Warren Report, “…the doctors concluded that the bullet exited from the front portion of the President’s neck that had been cut away by the tracheotomy.” What happened between Parkland and Bethesda is not discussed in the Warren Report.
While reviewing the reported findings of both Parkland’s and Bethesda’s examination of the President’s body, one will find significant differences. Regarding President Kennedy’s head wound, the dissimilarities between the two reports are astounding. At Parkland Hospital, the large defect in the President’s head was measured approximately 2-3/4 inches, and the bullet was reported to have exited from the back of the head. Parkland believed the bullet had a front-to-back trajectory. Bethesda’s measurement of the large defect in the President’s head was 5-1/8 inches, and the bullet was reported to have exited from the top right portion of the head, therefore having a back-to-front trajectory. Which hospital’s report should be believed; the hospital that received the body directly after the assassination, or the one who received the body nearly 24 hours after the murder? Could there have been a “higher authority” involved as alluded to in Bethesda’s Mission Statement, documented above?
According to the Warren Commission, “The shots which killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired by [only] Lee Harvey Oswald.” The inconsistencies between the two medical examiner reports indicate it would be nearly impossible for one person to have fired all the shots. The trajectory of the bullets striking President Kennedy and Governor Connally could very well have originated from two separate locations. One man cannot fire the same rifle from two separate locations.
As mentioned earlier, Bethesda Naval Hospital’s doctors observed the trajectory of President Kennedy’s head wound from back to front. They also observed Kennedy’s wound to the throat as an exit wound. They claimed that the bullet entered directly above the shoulder. Parkland, on the other hand, indicated that the wound entered the throat, front-to-back. These different observations seem inconsistent. Where did the bullets enter, exit and come from? How many bullets were fired? These questions make it difficult to believe that there was just one assassin.
From the time the first shot was fired until the last, the Warren Commission and many other scientists have concluded that 5.6 seconds had elapsed. If the Warren Report is accurate, Lee Harvey Oswald would have had to fire three rounds in that time. Not only would he have had to be one of the quickest, but Oswald also had to have been remarkably accurate as well. To be able to hit President Kennedy in the back of the head, while in a moving vehicle turning a curve is an extraordinary task. Not to mention the fact he was supposedly six stories high and not a trained sniper. Shooting a sniper rifle is not easy.
When setting up a shot, the weather, time of day and temperature must be taken into consideration; the gun should then be adjusted as needed. According to reports, the rifle identified as the murder weapon was found to have a defective scope [eyepiece used to aim] and a worn-down barrel [which is crucial in firing a sniper rifle correctly and accurately]. The description of the defective weapon, the trajectory inconsistencies and Oswald’s average rifle skills create substantial doubt that the scenario described by the Warren Commission is accurate.
Did Oswald really work alone, as reported by the Warren Commission? Was it possible for a lone man to assassinate the president? These thoughts have plagued both investigators and the American public for nearly 40 years. Oswald’s past seemingly fit the pattern of someone who would attempt such an act. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, two months after the death of his father. As a child, he was often in trouble and according to a psychiatrist, emotionally disturbed. In 1956, Oswald dropped out of school at the age of 17 and joined the United States Marine Corps.
For the next three years, Oswald served in several different areas of the military. In 1959, at his own request, he was discharged from the Marines. Nearly one later, Oswald travelled to Moscow. In Moscow, he tried to renounce his citizenship of the United States, apparently upset with his government. In February of 1961, Oswald wrote a letter to the U.S. Embassy asking permission to return to the United States. Two months later, he travelled to Minsk where he met his future wife, Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova.
They were wed April 30, 1961. In May of 1962, Oswald and Marina immigrated to Forth Worth, Texas. They lived in three different locations before finally settling in Dallas in October of 1962, with help from a Russian-speaking couple, the Demohrenshildts. In March of 1963, Oswald ordered the rifle supposedly used to assassinate the President of the United States. Oswald then travelled to New Orleans and stayed there for approximately four months.
On September 25, 1963, Oswald made a mysterious trip to Mexico City. He met his wife in Dallas ten days later. In October of 1963, Oswald was hired to work at the Texas School Book Depository. One month later, on November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of assassinating the President from the sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository.
Oswald’s connections to George DeMohrenshildt and his wife Jeanne were described as “the people closest to Lee Harvey Oswald and Marina just before the assassination.” A rather unusual match, the DeMohrenshidlts were of the wealthiest class [and close personal friends of Jackie Kennedy’s parents], while the Oswalds were relatively poor newcomers to Dallas. George was an accomplished soldier who fought with a group of anti-communist Russians [alongside the Nazis] against the Soviet Army. In 1990, many CIA memos were disclosed as a result of the Freedom of Information Act.
These memos confirm that George continued to work for the Agency well into the 1960s. Years after the assassination, on March 29, 1977, George DeMohrenshidlt revealed information concerning the assassination of President Kennedy. Specific documents have yet to be released to the public. That very same day, George was found dead, from a bullet wound to the head. DeMohrenshildt’s death was determined to be a suicide. Was this yet another coincidence, or could another party be involved?
Numerous theories have attempted to connect Lee Harvey Oswald with the CIA. Many books have been written yet most evidence remains circumstantial in nature. The DeMohrenshildts, Oswald’s Russian trip, his New Orleans visits and Cuban involvement all connect the Agency to Oswald, yet definitive proof so far eludes investigators. In 1992, with the passing of the JFK Records Act, [a law that required the government to release all available information concerning the assassination] a memo was disclosed to the public describing a special CIA “operational interest” in the summer of 1960. This memo proves to be circumstantial as both the author and recipient’s names have been blackened out. The memo was written on the 25th of November, 1963, just three days after the assassination.
It is written to someone (the recipient’s name has been blackened) concerning Lee Harvey Oswald. The memo says that someone, (name has been blackened) “had at one time an OI [Operational Interest] in Oswald.” It is not surprising that it is difficult to prove these allegations and refute the “lone assassin theory” with the undercover and secretive nature of the very powerful CIA and military establishment.
There are immeasurable amounts of evidence supporting the hypothesis that the government played a significant role in the assassination. In my opinion, Henry Gonzalez, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Assassinations put it best when he said, “Strong organized forces have combined to stop the inquiry at any cost.” Many theories have implicated the CIA in the planning and/or involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Kennedy never felt he had the control he needed over the CIA and the defence department. Conflicts between Kennedy and the Agency have been documented regarding issues concerning military action in Cuba and Vietnam, Cold War activities and the CIA’s power. These conflicts created a strained and adversarial relationship between the President and the Agency. Kennedy relayed to a trusted colleague, “When I am reelected, I am going to break that agency into a thousand pieces.”
Concerning Vietnam, Kennedy was determined to bring home the American soldiers fighting in Vietnam. He was directly opposed to escalation, and felt it was “their war… and it is their people and their government who have to win or lose this struggle.” The CIA and military felt the exact opposite. They felt it was imperative that they escalate their involvement. In their minds, escalation was the only strategic path to take. Kennedy and the CIA spent many hours arguing over the best course of action.
The situation in Cuba is another example in which the CIA and Kennedy have their differences. Shortly after he was elected president in 1961, Kennedy faced a challenging problem regarding Cuba. On January 1, 1959, the Cuban Batista government was overthrown. Thousands fled the island and migrated to Florida. The CIA had big plans for these exiles and this situation.
Castro’s actions in Cuba, particularly the signing of a trade agreement with the Soviet Union and his seizure of American property caused grave concern by Eisenhower and the CIA. The CIA’s desired plan to overthrow the communist threat so close to U.S. borders was finally going to be put into action. By June of 1960, a Cuban exile force was preparing to land on the coast of Cuba. “The three hundred man operation had grown to a three-thousand-man invasion.”
The final plans for the invasion were approved by President Kennedy at 1:45 PM Sunday, April 16. Just a day earlier, the first attack on Castro was made. Four exile-driven planes were sent into Cuba in an attempt to destroy Castro’s small combat air force. After the attack, three of Castro’s seven fighting aircraft still remained intact. In a second attack, the remaining planes were to be destroyed by a dawn airstrike. The Cuban exile force was to then land on Cuba’s coast and establish control over the island. According to the CIA’s hypothesis, this display of power would inspire an uprising against Castro among the Cuban people. If everything went as planned, they concluded that Castro would have no other choice but to surrender, in order to save his life.
On April 17, McGeorge Bundy, Kennedy’s special assistant for national security affairs called off the critical airstrike. This surprising cancellation caused the whole invasion to fall apart. The three planes that were supposed to be destroyed as a result of the cancelled air strike shot down 16 American planes, sank supply ships [later to be used for the exiles] and continually pounded the beach with gunfire. Kennedy failed to send air cover for the invaders. Nearly all of the 1,400 invaders were captured or killed within the next two days. Needless to say, the invasion was a disaster. Kennedy accepted full blame for the failure.
Ironically, Allen Dulles, director of the CIA, was not present in Washington when the airstrike was called off. Nevertheless, the CIA would never truly forgive Kennedy for this incident.
During the early 1960s, the average American citizen invested their full trust in their government. Kennedy, the good looking, confident, young man elected to the office of President in 1961, created among many a common feeling of optimism. Making promises to improve the quality of living throughout the country, Kennedy became instantly popular.
Life was good for the average American. The events of November 22, 1963, dramatically altered the political and social landscape of America. Everyone looked to the Warren Commission, assembled by the government, for answers. Lee Harvey Oswald was identified as the lone assassin. People accepted that. The idea that the government may somehow be involved seemed outrageous; people could not acknowledge this. Some would not let themselves believe it. The government working against itself? It’s simply not thinkable.
Over time, people have come to doubt the absolute truth presented in the form of the Warren Report. Doubt has arisen due to many investigations, articles, books and movies that raise questions regarding alternative theories. Some believed Oswald was a “patsy” or a CIA operative, is set up to do the dirty work of the United States government.
Throughout the Warren Report and numerous other books published on the assassination of President Kennedy, there are many phrases and theories that include the words possibility, probably, and perhaps, expressing uncertainty. Unfortunately, no matter how many witnesses testify or how much new evidence is found, it is unlikely that we will ever know the complete truth behind this American tragedy. Too many possible cover-ups and probable theories have shifted the evidence, expressing uncertainty. Historians and investigators may spend another forty years trying to figure out the truth.
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