The Kennedy Controversy
November 22, 1963, is a day that will forever live in the minds of those who lived that day, and fascinate younger generations to follow. On this date in history one of Americas most prestigious, well-known and respected presidents was shot and killed by an assassins bullet. This single act sent shock waves that paralyzed the country and other nations. Eyes were turned to the United States as everyone held his or her collective breath wondering what was going to happen next. Ike Pappas, a reporter for WNEW in New York, remembers being sent on assignment to Dallas, Texas, to cover the assassination events as they unfolded. Pappas describes his trip:
I ran downstairs, hailed a cab, gave the guy twenty dollars, and took then the most fantastic ride, one of the most fantastic taxi rides ever because if you will recall New York City was in a state of shock with the rest of the world, and the bridges were jammed. The telephonesyou could not make a callyou could not get out of the city, and I just kept giving this guy twenty dollar bills saying, Get there, man, anyway you can. We went over backyards, through laundry, piles of laundries, rushing out to the airport (119).
The government even shutdown all transportation and even closed the Mexican Border (Pappas 120). John Fitzgerald Kennedy, to many, seemed invincible because of his youth and aura of self-confidence (Ward 15). However, even the president knew how vulnerable he was. The night before that infamous day Kennedy was quoted as saying, If anyone wants to shoot a president it is not a very difficult job. All one has to do is get on a high building and a telescope rifle and there is nothing anyone can do (Restin 40). Americas fascination with John F. Kennedys sudden death has led to many theories as to who really killed John Kennedy.
Soon after the chaos from the assassination settled, the nation began to demand answers. On November 29, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson, who was sworn in an hour and a half after Kennedy was pronounced dead, formed a special committee led by Chief Justice Earl Warren to make a thorough investigation into the assassination and report its findings. This report became known as the Warren Commission (The AssassinationAs the Plot Unfolds 71). The Commission defined the indisputable facts of the case. These facts are that the Presidents car was about to go under an over pass when the first shot was fired. In all there were three shots fired in a matter of seconds. Of the three shots only two found their target. The first bullet to find its target hit the president and Texas Governor John Connelly. The second bullet that hit, struck the president in the back of the head. This was said to be the fatal shot (Warren Commission X). James Restin Jr. described this shot as a water filled balloon spraying everyone in the car with a fine mist of the presidents intelligence (41). The Warren Commission also named Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin of the president. Oswald was a Marine Corps officer for three years before being undesirably discharged. After his discharge Oswald defected to the Soviet Union only to find out he wanted to come back to the United States. Upon his return to the United States Oswald made no secret of his Communist ties and support for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro (The AssassinationAs the Plot Unfolds). The commission came to its conclusions after establishing a match between the bullets that hit the president and Oswalds rifle. Furthermore, fibers of Oswalds clothes were found on the rifle butt (The AssassinationAs the Plot Unfolds 68-70). Fifteen years after the Warren Commission published its findings, the House Assassinations Committee published its results from an exhaustive two year reinvestigation. The committee found that there was a 95 percent probability of a conspiracy to kill the president. This conclusion was derived at after scientifically examining the acoustics of a police recording made of the motorcade. However, shortly after the committee reversed its findings after further examination of the film (Magnuson 44).Discrepancies in eyewitness accounts and other pieces of information have led people to question who shot Kennedy, from where, and if there were any influences by outside organizations that remain the subjects of many conspiracy writers.
One theory that has received much attention is one that believes the mafia arranged the murder of the president and the silencing of Oswald by Jack Ruby. A New Orleans restaurant owner who was allegedly associated with known mobster leader Carlos Marcello over heard one of his employees saying, There is a price on the Presidents head. Somebody will kill Kennedy when he comes down south (Magnuson 42). This theory is also fueled by alleged sightings of Oswald and one of Marcellos associates talking in a bar, taking money under the table, and seeing Oswald traveling with Marcellos men three months before the assassination took place (Magnuson 43). Why would the Mafia want to kill John Kennedy? Many theorists believe it was because of Kennedys war on organized crime. Furthermore Kennedy was on the Senate Rackets Committee, which was responsible for deporting known mobsters and pursing them legally. Oswald was believed to be the mafias fall guy (Magnuson 43).
Another popular theory is one that believes that Oswald was not the lone gunman. In fact, many believe there was a second and possibly a third gunman who fired at the president from the grassy knolw. Furthermore, investigation by University of Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakely have produced twenty people who claimed they heard shots from the grassy knoll (Shenon 21). One individual in particular claims to have witnessed the entire grassy knoll shooting from the over pass which the motorcade was about to pass under. Ed Hoffmans story has been disputed for years. On that infamous day Ed had parked on the overpass to observe the motorcade, when he noticed two suspicious characters behind the fence on the grassy knoll. These characters became known as the businessman and the railroad man due to their clothing. What Ed witness was the businessman taking aim at the president from behind the fence and then after shooting giving the gun to the railroad man to take apart. Both men, Hoffman says, took off for the railroad tracks never to be seen again (Sloan 11).
The day of November 22, 1963, will forever remain in history as one of this nations defining moments. It is one of few memories that people can remember exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. Americans fascination with the death of our thirty-fifth president has led to over 2,000 volumes of books written on the subject (Ward 15). Due to the discreprencies between eyewitness accounts and federal investigations many conspiracy theories have been developed sparking disputes over who really killed John Kennedy. When Lee Harvey Oswald was killed only forty-eight hours after the president, with him went any opportunity to hear his side of the murder. Quite possible Americans will never really know for sure who killed John F. Kennedy.