November the 22nd 1963 is a date that will never be forgotten, it is a date that is etched in the minds of those old enough to remember what took place on that fateful Friday. The assassination of President John F Kennedy will reach its 50 year anniversary this week.
There are many words associated with the JFK assassination but “conspiracy” it seems will forever be at the forefront of them. In a recent poll 61% of American’s still believe that person(s) other than Lee Harvey Oswald were involved in the assasination of Kennedy, although interestingly this is the lowest percentage polled in nearly 50 years.
Either people feel that that after all this time the truth would have emerged if there was a truth to be told or a large percentage who believed in a conspiracy back than are no longer alive or simply did not take part in the poll. It would perhaps be more telling if the poll was divided by age. People who were born after the event or too young to remember it may have a different view to those who will never forget where they were when Kennedy was killed.
From the infamous Grassy Knoll to the much maligned Warren Commission we recount the facts and theories from that infamous day in history.
The Lone Gunman: The theory that a lone gunman (Oswald) acted alone in shooting the president is the one that still wrangles most with the public. Many believe, including the relevant firearm experts, that Oswald would not have been able to fire 3 shots in the time frame given (which varies slightly between 5-10 seconds) using the rifle recovered from the book depository. Another reason to not support the ‘Lone Gunman’ theory is that footage appears to show Kennedy falling backwards after the third shot indicating he was shot from the front and not Oswald’s position behind. It was also revealed that a number of witnesses could smell gunpowder at street level that could not have come from as far away as the book depositary.
The Grassy Knoll: No JFK conspiracy theory would be complete without the inclusion of the most famous grass verge in the world, ‘The Grassy Knoll’. Many believe that this is where the second shooter was located and footage shows a number of members of the public running towards and up the grassy knoll as it was believed that they heard a shot from this direction. It is possible that people where running up here in an attempt to reach safety and away from flying bullets.
Inside the Car: Some early theories claimed that one of the shots fired came from within the car that JFK was riding in. There are two main reasons for this, firstly you can see that the driver turns around to face Kennedy before the third shot is fired and some believed that the driver was the second gunman. Secondly and perhaps more telling was the reaction of Jackie Kennedy who can clearly be seen trying to get out of the back of the car before a secret service agent intervenes.
Lee Harvey Oswald: Oswald was not actually arrested for murdering the president but for the shooting of a police officer, J.D Tippit which occurred 45 minutes after Kennedy was shot. Oswald was later charged with the murder of JFK but thanks to Jack Ruby he was never trialled for the crime, Oswald denied both shooting Kennedy and Tippit in front of television camera’s. Despite some, albeit small elements of doubt surrounding Oswald’s involvement the percentage of people who believe that Oswald did not shoot the president is perhaps surprisingly small.
The Magic Bullet Theory: The theory that the second shot fired from the book depositary could hit Kennedy in the back of the neck before entering Governor John Connally’s chest, wrist and left thigh has often been refuted as impossible again leading people to support the possibility of a second gunman. However some key information regarding the positioning of Connally in the car goes a long way to supporting the magic or single bullet theory. Connally was seated lower down and around 6 inches to the left of Kennedy making the course of the bullet a much more likely scenario than first thought. A recent study, using the restored and enhanced ‘Zapruder’ footage (see below) has also pointed to the time frame between a bullet hitting Kennedy and one hitting Connally being too close together to have come from the same gun unless of course it was the same bullet, this to some supports the second gunman theory.
The Zapruder Film: It is thought that 4 ‘home video’s’ were taken of the president’s motorcade from Elm Street and then onto Dealey Plaza just before and during the shooting. The most famous and most used of these 8mm films was the one taken by Dallas dressmaker, Abraham Zapruder who captured the fateful images of the shooting. Originally the Zapruder film threw up more conspiracy theories such as the driver being the shooter (see Inside The Car above). The images were grainy and unclear but have recently been restored and enhanced into high definition images. Since then the Zapruder film has gone some way into refuting the driver being a shooter and the second gunman theory due to the timescale between the first and third shots seemingly being longer than first thought, giving Oswald enough time to get the 3 shots off.
The Lost Bullet and the 3 Shell Casings: The first shot fired from the book depositary missed Kennedy altogether and was never recovered from the scene, which in itself is some what of a mystery. What happened to it has never really been answered or investigated. The Warren Commission did not concern itself with this bullet as it had no consequence and was considered un-important. One of the main reasons for many theories and conclusions in the shooting come from the 3 shell casings found just inside the 6th floor window of the book depositary where Oswald allegedly fired from. It is believed that only 2 of the shell casings were ‘spent and that the one that was located considerably further away from the other two was just a shell used to keep the chamber clear from debris and not an actual bullet.
The Secret Service: Many believe that the ‘Secret Service’ who were assigned to protect the President and who occupied the car directly behind that of Kennedy were in some way responsible for the death of Kennedy by either allowing it to take place, assisting in it taking place or that a member of the secret service was a second or perhaps even both shooters. A recent investigation lead by Australian Detective Colin McLaren claims that a secret service agent by the name of George Hickey accidently shot the president whilst attempting to return fire towards the book depositary. McLaren uses a rarely seen photo to support his theory whilst making a documentary called JFK: The Smoking Gun. That photo can be seen here http://media.philly.com/images/jfk-hickey-with-rifle.jpg . The actions of secret service at both Parkland Hospital in Dallas and the Bethesda Naval Hospital strongly hint at a cover up of some kind. (for more see ‘JFK’S Brain’ below).
JFK’S Brain: One mystery that still remains is why was the brain of Kennedy removed and what happened to it? It is believed that secret service agents requested the removal of JFK’s brain after the autopsy was performed at the request of his brother Robert Kennedy. One theory is that because the fatal bullet fragments lodged in the brain of Kennedy came from a secret service agent’s gun and not Oswald’s rifle that the brain would need to be removed and hidden or destroyed in order to conceal this alarming piece of evidence. Another theory states that Robert Kennedy did in fact request the brain to be removed in order to hide certain illnesses that his brother had.
Jack Ruby: Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on November the 24th, outside the Dallas Police Headquarters, an event which was captured on live television. Suspicions still reign over how Ruby was able to enter the building that was currently guarding the man who had allegedly shot the president 2 days earlier. Ruby had managed to enter the Police HQ and gain access to the basement whilst carrying a loaded gun. Ruby apparently had ‘friends’ within the Dallas Police force as they were regular visitors to his nightclub. The photographer who snapped the moment that Ruby fired the shot claimed he did not see one speck of blood on Oswald or anywhere around the area of the shooting. Ruby was later convicted with the murder of Oswald and was sentenced to death although this was overturned on appeal. A new trail date was in the process of being set when Ruby became ill and died from the effects of lung cancer.
The Warren Commission/ Report: Put together buy new president Lyndon Johnson the Warren Commission was set up in an attempt to fully investigate the assassination of Kennedy and was led by Chief Justice Earl Warren despite the objection of several major officials who felt it would provide more questions than answers. The Commission’s findings stated in its final 889 page report have seen more people challenge than support its outcomes, such as the lone gunman theory. The Commission was also criticised for not calling key witnesses to the shootings and is believed by some to be either knowingly or unwittingly part of the conspiracy.