An American Tragedy – Jfk Essay, Research Paper
JFK: An American Tragedy
On November 22nd, 1963, while being driven through the streets of Dallas, Texas, in his open car, President John F. Kennedy was shot dead, allegedly by the lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, the youngest person ever to be elected President, the first Roman Catholic, and the first to be born in the 20th century. Kennedy s achievements were limited because he was assassinated before he completed his third year as President. Nevertheless, his influence was worldwide, and his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis may have prevented the United States from entering into another world war. The world had not only lost a common man, but a great leader of men. The debate of conspiracy to assassinate the President has led to many questions about that day in Dealey Plaza: Didn t everyone hear the shots from the Grassy Knoll? What about the Tague wounding? Who was the Umbrella Man ? Was the rifle recovered really a Mauser? Does acoustic evidence show a shot from the Grassy Knoll? And of course, how could Kennedy s head go back and to the left back and to the left back and to the left ?
President and Mrs. Kennedy arrived in Dallas at 11:40 am on Friday, November 22. The couple had been in San Antonio, the first leg of a two-day trip through the state, where they met with Vice-president Johnson and Texas Governor Connally. The Texas trip was planned in hopes of reviving the President s popularity in Texas after it was hurt during the election of 1960. Until midmorning, cloudy skies had threatened to cancel the motorcade-style parade that was planned for the day. The motorcade would travel from Love Field, where the President s plane had landed, through Dallas on a previously publicized route to the Trade Mart where a luncheon in honor of the President had been planned (The Warren Commission, 2). The motorcade consisted of the president s car, followed by a car designated the Presidential follow-up which carried secret service members. The vice president s car was behind that. Following the vice president s car was another follow-up car and several cars and buses with dignitaries and press representatives. The motorcade followed its designated route, first passing through a residential area of Dallas, and then making its way through the middle of the downtown area. The parade traveled west on Main Street and then made a right on Houston. The motorcade went one block and then made a left-turn on Elm. On the corner of Elm and Houston was the large, ominous Texas School Book Depository, where the fatal shots were later accused of being fired. When the President s car turned west on Elm and crossed the Depository, three shots were fired at the motorcade. The President was struck by a bullet that entered at the base of his neck, just right of his spine and exited under the lower left portion of the knot in the President s tie. A second bullet struck Kennedy in the rear base of his head, causing the fatal wound. Texas Governor Connally, who was sitting directly in front of Kennedy, was also hit, supposedly with the same bullet that hit Kennedy the first shot. The bullet hit the Governor on the extreme right side of his back, just below the armpit. The bullet exited below his left nipple and hit him again on the left wrist. Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman, who was driving, saw that the President had been hit and was directed to get the President to a hospital immediately. Parkland Memorial Hospital was the closest hospital, just four miles away. Awaiting doctors met the presidential car and immediately began an attempt to resuscitate the dying President. At 1:00 P.M., just thirty minutes after the President had been shot, Kennedy s heart had stopped and was pronounced dead. Vice president Johnson left Parkland Hospital after being notified of the President s death and traveled back to the Presidential plane at Love Field under close guard. Mrs. Kennedy and the President s body followed and boarded the plane shortly after Johnson. At 2:38 P.M., with the plane on its way back to Washington D.C., Lyndon B. Johnson created an investigation commission to evaluate all the facts and circumstances surrounding the assassination and the subsequent killing of the alleged assassin and to report its findings to him, (Warren Commission Foreword). Forty-five minutes after the shooting, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested on charges of murdering police officer J.D. Tippit. After hours of interrogation where he had no lawyer and standard police procedure was violated, Oswald was accused of assassinating John F. Kennedy. However, on November 24, 1963, while being transported to the state prison, Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby in front of hundreds of journalists and cameras ( The JFK Assassination Homepage ).
Chief Justice Earl Warren headed the commission that consisted of six other members including two senators and two representatives, one of which was future President Gerald Ford. After 299 days of investigations that included a recreation of the event in Dallas, interviews with witnesses from the parade, gathering of rooms full of evidence, the commission was ready to present their report to the President. The report was submitted to President Johnson on September 24, 1964 (Posner 56). The commission concluded that Oswald, acting alone, used the Italian Mannlicher-Carchano rifle that was found, and shot Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Schoolbook Depository. It also concluded that Oswald had murdered police officer J.D. Tippit. However, what witnesses claim to have seen is a completely different story. Supposedly, witnesses heard shots fired from the Grassy Knoll and saw a cloud of smoke as well. Even before the motorcade arrived people claim to have seen men with rifles in downtown Dallas and there are unexplained reports of encounters with secret service men in Dealey Plaza. Then of course, there is the Tague wounding. James Tague, while standing near the Triple Underpass ahead of the motorcade, was wounded by a passing bullet. Considering that the first shot wounded Kennedy s throat, the second, Connally s back, and the third was the fatal headshot, there must have been a fourth shot. Hence the magic bullet theory that was created by the Warren Commission, perhaps as a cover up. This bullet was supposed to cause the seven wounds of Kennedy and Connally. The magic bullet theory began the long list of conspiracy theories that are believed today ( The JFK Assassination Homepage ).
One of the theories in circulation today is that of the Umbrella Man. In the Zapruder film, there can be seen a man with an open umbrella on a sunny, cloudless day. Some explanations provided for this are, in all truth, very possible. One explanation states that the two men with guns, known as the dark-complected man and the umbrella man , served as signals for the hidden gunmen. This theory implies that a coordinated firing of gunshots, maybe with the help of radiomen, killed Kennedy. The two men were closest to Kennedy and perhaps gave signals that told Kennedy wasn t fatally shot yet and more shots were needed. Gary Shaw threw a twist in the theory by pointing out that through the planning of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA promised umbrella air protection for the invaders. Kennedy had refused to authorize this kind of protection; therefore the umbrella was a sign of who was responsible for the assassination ( The Kennedy Assassination ).
To add to the suspicion of conspiracy, many witnesses died soon after the Kennedy assassination. Eighteen material witnesses died of various strange reasons, including gunfire, automobile accidents, suicide, and natural causes. In November of 1963, the same month of the assassination, Karyn Kupicinet was murdered. She was a TV host s daughter who was overheard telling of Kennedy s death prior to November 22, 1963. Jack Zangretti, who expressed foreknowledge of Jack Ruby shooting Oswald, was a gunshot victim in December 1963. Gary Underhill was a CIA agent who claimed that the agency was involved. He apparently committed suicide by a shot to the head. Rose Cheramie knew of the assassination in advance and supposedly told of riding to Dallas with Cubans was a victim of a hit and run in September 1965. These are only a few of the many unexplained deaths that surround the Kennedy assassination (The JFK Assassination Homepage ).
Whether the assassination of John F. Kennedy was a conspiracy or just coincidence we may never know. The JFK Assassination Records Act of 1992 has resulted in the release of thousands of pages of assassination files and related documents since 1993. There has been talk of releasing files that have never been seen before in years to come, however, the chances of that proving any conspiracy are slim to none. A five-member civilian review board, lead by federal judge John Tunheim, has ordered the release of more documents. The board continues to work towards the disclosure of all documents that the FBI, CIA, NSA, and other governmental agencies have succeeded in keeping secret ( Why We Need ). Forty years of doctoring and changing files to fit the story of the Warren Commission will most likely prove nothing more than we know today. The story of John F. Kennedy and his assassin (or assassins) may never be told to keep the integrity of the United States government in tact, and that very well may be a good thing. Why should we even bother with finding the truth of November 22, 1963? We should bother because of the undiminished centrality of November 22, 1963 in the American imagination. In 1964, seventy-six percent of the American people had confidence in the government. Since then, that statistic has declined to an amazing nineteen percent in part because of the doubt the Kennedy conspiracy has created ( Why We Need ). However, the assumptions made by people today, looking back, will always be a problem as the continuing search for the truth about John F. Kennedy carries on.
1. The John F. Kennedy Assassination Homepage. www.informatik.uni-rostock.de/kennedy/body.html 11 April 2001.
2. The Kennedy Assassination. www.mcadams.posc.mu.edu/home.htm 11 April 2001.
3. Why We Need the Real History of the Kennedy Assassination. Jefferson Morley. Washington Post: 22 April 2001.
4. Posner, Gerald. Case Closed. Random House: New York, 1993.
5. Summer, Anthony. Conspiracy. McGraw-Hill: New York, 1980.
6. The Warren Commission. Report of the President s Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. United States Government Printing Office: Washington, 1964.