Who Killed John F. Kennedy?
On 22 November 1963, President John F. Kennedy and his wife were in the back seat of an open car moving slowly through the middle of a large crowd. Governor John Connally and his wife were sitting in front. The limousine used by President Kennedy in Dallas was a convertible with a detachable, rigid plastic "bubble" top. The decision not to use a bubble top on the President's limousine was made by White House staff aides just minutes before the motorcade got underway. The Secret Service believed that it was very doubtful that any President would ride regularly in a vehicle with a fixed top, even though transparent. The bubble top was neither bulletproof nor bullet resistant.
Abraham Zapruder was standing on a concrete abutment on the grassy knoll, just beyond the Stemmons Freeway sign, aiming his 8 millimeter camera at the motorcade. It is now generally accepted that, at 12.30 PM, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from the sixth floor of the Depository. The first carbine bullet missed the group altogether. The second hit Kennedy in the neck and then struck Governor Connally. The third bullet struck the back of the President's head. The rearward movement of the President's head seen in the Zapruder film would not be fundamentally inconsistent with a bullet striking from the rear. Kennedy was pronounced dead 30 minutes after his injury. Two days later, in the busiest part of a Dallas police station, a nightclub owner, Jack Ruby, shot Oswald in the chest and he died during an exploratory operation.
After JFK's assassination, the United States government wanted to reassure the public that there was no plot, no Cuban attack. The number one goal throughout the upper levels of the government was to convince the public that it was the work of a lone gunman. Earl Warren, Lyndon B. Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, and others were not covering up a plot to kill JFK, but if there were such a plot, they were not eager to discover it. Hoover wanted to keep his job, and President Lyndon Johnson was under tremendous time pressure, facing an election in less than a year.
The scientific evidence available to the 1979 Select Committee on Assassinations indicated that it was probable that more than one person was involved in the President's murder. Accoustic analysis indicated that there were too many shots - four - spaced too closely together, for Lee Harvey Oswald to have fired all of them, and that one of the shots came from the grassy knoll, not the Texas School Book Depository. A dispatch tape contained sounds from a microphone in Dealey Plaza with a stuck transmitting switch. The timing, number and location of the shooters, as shown on the tape, were corroborated or independently substantiated in whole or in part by other scientific or physical evidence -- the Zapruder film, findings of the forensic pathology and firearms panels, neutron activation analysis and trajectory analysis.
The acoustical analysis indicated both the first and second impulse patterns were shots from the vicinity of Texas School Book Depository, but that there were only 1.66 seconds between these impulses. Tests performed for the Warren Commission that found that the average minimum firing time between shots was 2.3 seconds, based on an assumption that Oswald used the telescopic sight on the rifle. But given the distance and angle from the sixth floor window to the location of the President's limousine, it would have been easier to use the open iron sights. It found that it was possible for two shots to be fired within 1.66 seconds with Mannlicher-Carcano rifle using the open iron sights. The third and fourth shots were only seven-tenths of a second apart.
Three cartridge cases were found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Only two bullets struck the President and the Governor, and each was fired from the rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and owned by Oswald. There was considerable witness testimony, as well as a large body of critical literature, that had indicated the grassy knoll as a source of gunshots. Photographic evidence did not confirm or preclude the presence of a gunman firing at the President from behind the stockade fence on the grassy knoll. The shot from the grassy knoll missed President Kennedy.
In their book Ultimate Sacrifice, authors Waldron and Hartmann reported on an interview with JFK's "Irish Mafia" sidekick Dave Powers, who was riding 10 feet behind Kennedy's limousine in Dallas. Powers, who spoke to the authors before his death in 1998, told them he clearly saw at least two shots from the grassy knoll in front of the motorcade. He said he felt they were "riding into an ambush", and that he was pressured to change his story by the Warren Commission.
Press photographs of three "tramps" apprehended by the Dallas police near Dealey Plaza shortly after the assassination were analyzed and compared with photographs of a number of persons, including E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, Thomas Vallee, Daniel Carswell, and Fred Lee Chrisman, each of whom had been alleged by critics to be linked to the assassination. only Fred Lee Chrisman was found to have facial measurements consistent with any of the tramps. Another conspiratorial theory that implied there was an extensive and sophisticated conspiracy rested on the allegation that the photographs of Oswald in his backyard holding a rifle were composites.
On June 17, 1972, five men employed by the Committee to Re-elect the President (later known as CREEP) were arrested while breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel to plant listening devices in the phones and steal campaign strategy documents. Two former White House aides working for CREEP, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, were also arrested. Liddy was a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, and Hunt was the Central Intelligence Agency agent responsible for planning the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. The seven Watergate burglars were indicted on September 15, 1972. In November 1972, President Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern in a landslide.
In his autobiography, The Ends of Power (1978), H. R. Haldeman argues that there was a connection between Watergate and the assassination of JFK. "I was puzzled when he (Nixon) told me, 'Tell Ehrlichman this whole group of Cubans is tied to the Bay, of Pigs.' After a pause I said, 'The Bay of Pigs? What does that have to do with this?' But Nixon merely said, 'Ehrlichman will know what I mean,' and dropped the subject."
The Select Committee on Assassinations of the US House of Representatives concluded, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the Soviet government, the Cuban government, anti-Castro Cuban groups, and the national syndicate of organized crime were not involved in the assassination. Further, the committee found that the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Central Intelligence Agency were not involved in the assassination. Based on the evidence available to it, the committee could not preclude the possibility that individual members of anti-Castro Cuban groups or the national syndicate of organized crime were involved in the assassination.
The Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC  believed, "on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The Committee is unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy." The Select Committee "... found that the scientific acoustical evidence established a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John f. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence did not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President, but it did negate some specific conspiracy allegations."
It is impossible to prove to an absolute certainty the existence of a negative. Motive is, of course, an integral element of any murder. Its significance is readily apparent in an examination of criminal trials, where the absence of convincing evidence of motive will often lead to an acquittal. Such evidence is not, at least legally, a necessary element of the prosecutor's proof. The question of motive is intertwined in the issue of conspiracy. Several different, yet complementary, motives, if established, could be consistent with a single assassin theory. The more complicated a plot becomes, the less likely it will work. Those who rationally set out to kill a king, it may be argued, first design a plot that will work. The Oswald plot did in fact work, for nearly 50 years, but one must ask whether it would have looked workable 50 years ago. Occam's razor: The simplest explanation is usually the right one.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|