Also read: New Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination
I have spent most of my life, and certainly all of my adulthood, believing that the Kennedy assassination was perpetrated by multiple gunmen, all acting as part of a larger conspiracy. This belief was reinforced into absolute certainty by Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK,” which seemed to prove outright that Lee Harvey Oswald could not have been acting alone. Indeed, that film made such an impact on our popular culture, it would seem most people today have perspectives on the assassination colored by that movie – even those who never saw it – because the ideas presented in the film seeped into and saturated society-at-large. This is evidenced by an ABC News poll in 2004 showing that 70% of Americans still believe there was a broad conspiracy surrounding the assassination, against only 22% believing that Oswald acted alone. 68% believe there was an official government cover-up. Additionally, 51% are convinced there were multiple gunmen in the plaza that day, and – perhaps most amazing of all – 7% think Oswald was not involved at all!
But does the available evidence support these contentions? After a lifetime of casual historical interest in this subject, I have recently delved deeply into the facts of the case. As a result, I have changed my opinions entirely: I am now utterly convinced that Oswald was, in fact, acting alone.
In case anyone does not know much about the facts and theories of the Kennedy assassination, I will provide a brief overview.
Kennedy was shot on Friday, November 22nd, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. In the car that day were two secret service agents – one driving and one in the front passenger seat – Kennedy and his wife in the backseat, and Texas Governor John Connolly and his wife in two jump seats between the secret service agents and the Kennedys. Connolly was sitting right in front of Kennedy, and both were on the right side of the car. The motorcade was passing through an area of downtown Dallas called Dealey Plaza, which housed, among other things, the Texas School Book Depository. It was from the 6th floor window that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy. Oswald had been an employee at the Depository.
Dealey Plaza. The Texas School Book Depository is the large building
at the top center. The people on the sidewalk are standing at the base
of the "grassy knoll," right at the spot where Kennedy was shot.
Warren Commission photograph taken from Oswald's nest, looking
out toward where Kennedy was shot. Oswald had used the boxes in the
foreground to steady his weapon.
The Warren Commission – the government committee slated to investigate the assassination – determined that Oswald had acted alone and not part of a conspiracy, and that he had fired three shots. The first, they contended, had missed, but had likely ricocheted off a nearby curb and manhole, causing a piece of concrete to fly and wound a bystander. The second hit Kennedy in the back and passed through him to wound Connolly in the chest, wrist, and thigh. The third hit Kennedy in the head, and was the killing shot. There are a number of videos and photographs of the assassination, but the most notable is one taken from the nearby “grassy knoll” by Abraham Zapruder, which shows in close detail the moment of the assassination. The grassy knoll was situated on the right side of Kennedy’s vehicle.
Oswald was arrested only hours after the murder, and was charged not only with Kennedy’s murder, but also the murder of a Dallas policeman named J.D. Tippit who had stopped to question him on the street. He was held and interrogated for two days, and while being taken out through the basement of police headquarters for transfer to the county jail on Sunday, November 24th, he was shot and killed by a man in the crowd named Jack Ruby. Because television crews were there, his murder was broadcast live on national television.
There are a number of conspiracy theories that people have postulated in regards to Kennedy’s assassination, ranging from involvement by Lyndon Johnson, to involvement by the FBI, CIA, and the Federal Reserve. These, however, are born primarily of people’s creative imagination, and have no basis in evidence whatsoever. In my opinion, the theories that warrant legitimate investigation are the Mafia conspiracy theory, and the Soviet/Cuban/KGB conspiracy theory.
THE MAFIA CONSPIRACY
This theory suggests that the Mafia was behind Kennedy’s murder and that they used Jack Ruby – a man with known Mafia connections – to silence Lee Harvey Oswald. The Mafia’s motivation is apparent: the Kennedy administration had dramatically stepped up action against mob bosses. Prior to that time, the Mafia had managed to largely escape prosecution, but under Kennedy, all that changed. As Attorney General, Kennedy’s own brother, Robert, was given the task of ending organized crime. Under the Kennedy administration, Mafia prosecutions increased by an astounding 1200% over the Eisenhower administration that had preceded it. As Tony Soprano might have said, the Mafia had good reasons for wanting to whack JFK.
As mentioned above, a key aspect of this theory was Jack Ruby’s shocking murder of Lee Harvey Oswald two days after the assassination.
Jack Ruby was a prominent Dallas nightclub owner with known connections to the Mafia.
Jack Ruby with some of his dancers.
According to personal accounts from people who knew and worked with him, he had a vicious and violent temper – a temper that could be set off in an instant. One moment, he could be laughing with a patron, and the next he could be grabbing the guy by the collar and throwing him out the door. He was a classic Type-A personality and was widely known to carry a concealed weapon. Significantly, he was also very patriotic, absolutely loved Kennedy, and was distraught to the point of crying when the assassination occurred. In the Warren Commission interviews, Ruby broke down in tears on at least one occasion when discussing the disrespectful way Kennedy had been killed: “Here is a man that fought in every battle, went to every country, and had to come back to his own country to be shot in the back.”
In a recent interview on a Kennedy assassination documentary, one of Ruby’s former dancers testified that on the day of the assassination, Ruby was extremely upset, talking over and over again about “those poor kids” (referring to Kennedy’s children), and saying that if he got the chance, he was going to “kill the son of a bitch” who had done this to the president he loved.
Because Ruby’s nightclub was a popular spot for local Dallas cops, Ruby was quite well-known by the Dallas police, and despite his Mafia ties, he apparently had a good reputation among them. For this reason, he had easy access to police headquarters when Oswald was paraded through. Photographs show that he was present when Oswald was brought through headquarters the first time following his arrest. If Ruby were being paid by the Mafia to silence Oswald, one would have to wonder why he failed to do it right then. Otherwise he might have missed his only chance.
Ruby was evidently so distraught by the assassination that he closed his nightclub all weekend. According to friends and employees, he spent most of the weekend mourning and brooding in his house. On Sunday morning, one of his dancers called to ask if he would wire her some money so she could pay her rent. He agreed, leaving his house sometime in the late morning, and taking one of his dogs with him in the car. If you planned on heading out to whack a possible squealer in front of every police officer in Dallas, would you take your dog with you?
Ruby proceeded to the local telegraph office, where he wired $25 to his employee, recorded on a slip stamped with the time of 11:17 a.m. Conveniently, police headquarters was right around the corner.
Ruby left the telegraph office and headed over to headquarters, presumably to see what he could find out about the ongoing investigation. Oswald had been interrogated that morning and was supposed to have been transferred around 10:00 a.m. However, the interrogation lasted longer than expected (something Ruby could not possibly have known), and afterward, Oswald asked if he could go change clothes prior to being transferred by car to the county jail. For this reason, and as fate would have it, he was brought through the basement of police headquarters at 11:21 a.m., about one minute after Jack Ruby walked up to the gathering of reporters.
If you have ever seen the famous photograph of the moment of Oswald’s murder, you probably are familiar with the police detective – named Jim Leavelle – in the white suit and white Stetson who was handcuffed to Oswald’s right arm, escorting him. He is still alive and has recently been interviewed about the events of that morning.
As the pair came through the door, Leavelle said that he joked with Oswald about someone shooting him. (Paraphrasing): “If someone decides to shoot you,” Leavelle told Oswald, “I hope they’re as good a shot as you are.” The implication, of course, was that Leavelle hoped he did not accidentally get shot himself. Leavelle said that Oswald chuckled at this. It was at that very moment, while Oswald was chuckling at the joke, that Ruby first saw him.
Oswald's murder. Detective Jim Leavelle is at left.
From here, you can connect the dots of the evidence. Ruby, distraught over the murder of a beloved president, widely known to be a gun carrier, and widely known to have an explosive and violent temper, grew enraged at seeing Oswald – the murderer of the president – laughing. He, of course, could not have known why Oswald was laughing. To him it would simply have appeared that Oswald had murdered Kennedy and did not have a care in the world about it. For this reason, Ruby pulled his gun, stepped forward, and shot Oswald in a moment of blind rage.
Ruby, of course, spent the rest of his life in jail, and insisted to his dying day that he had not been paid by anyone to kill Oswald. In interviews with the Warren Commission, Ruby stated that he had seen a newspaper article on that Sunday morning suggesting that Kennedy’s wife would have to attend the trial of Oswald. This upset him, as he felt it was adding insult to injury for Mrs. Kennedy. He went on to say: “…I got so carried away…No one else requested me to do anything. I never spoke to anyone about attempting to do anything. No subversive organization gave me any idea. No underworld person made any effort to contact me. It all happened that Sunday morning.” Later in the same testimony, Ruby said: “…I just was carried away emotionally…I had the gun in my right hip pocket, and impulsively, if that is the correct word here, I saw him [Oswald], and that is all I can say. And I didn’t care what happened to me.”
Was he lying to the Commission? I will answer that question with another question: What reason could Ruby have had – incarcerated for life as he was and facing the death penalty – to stay silent, if indeed he had been paid? Even his rabbi, with whom he spoke many times in confidence, testified that Ruby insisted, even in private consultations with a trusted religious advisor, that he acted completely on his own.
With these things in mind, one must ask several other questions. If Ruby was being paid to silence Oswald, who was being paid to silence Ruby? The very idea seems ridiculous. It would create an unending series of necessary “whacks” in order to silence each successive assassin. Furthermore, if Ruby was being paid to kill Oswald, why would he do it in such a way as to ensure beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was going to get caught? If you were being paid to assassinate somebody, would you do it in the middle of police headquarters, with dozens of law enforcement officers all around you, as well as cameras and reporters? To suggest that Ruby premeditated this murder, in this fashion, would be to say that Ruby was willing to give up all his success, all his fortune, and, in fact, his entire life, in order to silence Oswald. Such a suggestion, of course, is patently ridiculous. No Mafia organization could have given him sufficient motivation to do what he did.
All things considered, it seems evident that Ruby acted in a moment of blind rage based on circumstances that could not have been predicted, and that the murder was not in any way a premeditated “hit” purchased by some larger conspiring organization. Ruby’s own brother, who is still alive, has testified to the same thing. Jack Ruby killed Oswald in a moment of fury, because he hated the man who had murdered his beloved president and he wanted to keep Mrs. Kennedy from having to endure Oswald’s trial.
THE MAFIA CONNECTION DEBUNKED
With Jack Ruby’s personal motives quite clear, the Mafia connection already begins to wilt. But the case against the Mafia goes even farther than that. In the mid-1970’s, the Kennedy assassination was investigated by a Congressional committee, due to popular demand for answers. This board ultimately determined that a second shooter was probable, and that a conspiracy seemed likely. Robert Blakey, chief counsel and staff director of the committee, testified that he personally felt the Mafia was probably involved.
This belief, however, is suspect considering that the committee’s own Mafia expert – brought in to investigate possible Mafia ties – said there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any Mafia connections! This expert has said in recent interviews that he investigated every known Mafia boss who was in business at the time of the assassination, and could find no evidence of any connection to any of their groups. Furthermore, this expert stated that in all the years since the assassination, with all the countless Mafioso who have been paid to turn state’s evidence and testify against their leaders for various crimes, there has never been any connection to anything relating to Kennedy’s assassination.
The conclusion is clear – there is simply no reliable evidence to suggest the Mafia had anything to do with Jack Ruby’s murder of Oswald, or with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
THE SOVIET CONNECTION
Communism, and specifically the Communist overthrow of Cuba in 1959, was one of the Achilles’ heals of the Kennedy administration. It was widely suspected (and later known) that the CIA was attempting to infiltrate Cuba and assassinate Castro. The U.S. had secretly masterminded the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, where Cuban insurgents had attempted to overthrow Castro, and the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred just a year later, when the Soviet Union aimed missiles in Cuba toward the United States. At one point, several months before the assassination, Castro had even been quoted as saying that anyone who would attempt to assassinate him should be fearful for his own life instead. Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s vice-president and the man who became president upon Kennedy’s death, apparently believed this theory himself. On a tape recording made at some point during his presidency, Johnson was heard to say: “Kennedy was trying to kill Castro. Castro got him first.”
The problem with such an argument is this: masterminding Kennedy’s assassination would have been political suicide for Castro, and despite his many failings, one positive thing that can be said of Castro is that he was a savvy and shrewd politician. It seems unlikely he would have jeopardized his power by arranging the assassination of the United States president.
But that is subjective. What evidence can be found to support a connection between Communism, Castro, and Kennedy’s death?
The answer is none.
Like the Mafia connection, there is simply no reliable evidence to suggest any involvement by Castro or the KGB. The “evidence” of Castro’s involvement is purely speculative and circumstantial. The expert slated by Congress in the 1970’s to investigate this avenue met personally with Castro, interviewed ex-KGB officers, and investigated pro-Soviet groups in Mexico City – a place where Oswald had visited just a month or two before the assassination, apparently attempting to defect to Cuba – and he found no evidence of any connection to any of these groups.
Additionally, the KGB agent who worked Oswald’s case when he immigrated to the Soviet Union in the early 1960’s is still alive and has recently been interviewed. This man, who is still, to this day, living in the U.S. under an assumed name, testified that the KGB had believed Oswald to be crazy, and would never have chosen him as an assassin. In fact, the KGB initially rejected Oswald’s request to immigrate, but only later changed its mind. The KGB, in fact, had suspected Oswald – a former Marine who had learned Russian in the Marine Corps – of working for the U.S.
Additionally, as with the Mafia connection, in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union, with the release of millions of secret documents, and with the stories and anecdotes of former KGB agents and other Soviet insiders, there has never been a single shred of evidence come to light suggesting any tie with the Soviet Union or Cuba to Kennedy’s murder.
THE HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON ASSASSINATIONS
As mentioned earlier, popular demand led to the formation of a government committee to re-open the Kennedy investigation in the 1970’s. The HSCA, as it came to be known, investigated not only the assassination of Kennedy, but also Martin Luther King, Jr. They spent four years looking into all the various conspiracy theories, viewing the films, analyzing evidence, and taking interviews. In 1978, they were just a few weeks away from issuing a report that more or less vindicated the original government report by the Warren Commission suggesting that Oswald acted alone. None of their investigations found evidence of any connection to Cuba, the KGB, the Mafia, the CIA, or the FBI. However, at the last minute, a new piece of evidence came into the picture which changed their assessment of a lone gunman entirely.
THE DICTABELT RECORDING
Much less known than the various video films of Kennedy on the day of the assassination was an audio recording made by a policeman’s motorcycle Dictabelt during the assassination. The Dictabelt was simply a recording device used by police officers in the days before dashboard-mounted video cameras. The audio feed from an officer’s Dictabelt went directly to police headquarters, where it was recorded.
At the time of the HSCA’s report, new scientific analyses by prominent audiologists from the City University of New York had suggested that this little known recording proved that four shots were fired in Dealey Plaza that day, not three as the Warren Commission had stated. It is an established fact that only three cartridges were found in Oswald’s nest, and forensic tests on his rifle corroborated that it had only been fired three times. So where did this fourth shot come from? The recording in question had been triggered inadvertently by a police officer just two minutes before the murder, and according to these scientists, it provided acoustic evidence that three shots were fired from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository, and one shot was fired from the direction of the now infamous “grassy knoll” in front of Kennedy’s car. The audiologists said the probability, based on the recording, of a fourth shot from the grassy knoll was “95%.”
The key to the analysis, however, was an assertion that the recording had come from the motorcycle of Officer H.B. McClain, and that McClain had been in Dealey Plaza, turning the corner from Houston Street to Elm Street right in front of the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the shots. McClain, however, said that he had, in fact, been a block away at the time of the shots, and therefore could not have been in the right spot to make the analysis work.
Despite this, the committee was convinced by the scientific analysis of the audio recording. They changed their report, and while they ruled out any conspiracies involving the KGB, Soviet Union, organized crime, and a number of others, their report suggested that there were four shots, not three, and that the fourth shot came from the grassy knoll, but missed. They agreed, then, that Oswald’s shots alone had killed Kennedy and wounded Governor Connolly. However, the presence of a second shooter implied a conspiracy, so while they ruled out all the traditional conspiracy theories, they argued that Oswald was not working alone.
It is important to keep in mind that despite this new assertion that there had been multiple shooters, including one on the grassy knoll, 99 out of the 104 “ear witnesses” to the direction of the gunfire testified that the shots they heard all came from one spot. Over half of those witnesses marked that one spot as the Texas School Book Depository, including both Governor and Mrs. Connolly, and both secret service agents in Kennedy’s car. Only five ear witnesses testified to hearing gunshots coming from two locations, as asserted by the Dictabelt scientists.
Of the few people who were on the grassy knoll at the time of the assassination, none testified to hearing shots from that area, and none testified to seeing anyone fleeing from the area. In fact, the only three ear witnesses on the grassy knoll all agreed that the shots they heard came from the Texas School Book Depository – and they would have been in the best position to determine if a shot had come from right behind them. Abraham Zapruder and his secretary Marilyn Sitzman were standing on a retaining wall on the grassy knoll, filming the motorcade as it passed. Sitzman was one of those who testified about gunshots, and she summed it up best: “The blast of a high-powered rifle [from the grassy knoll] would have blown me off that wall.”
Finally, even though there was some discrepancy as to the direction of the shots, it was nearly universally agreed by all ear witnesses that only three shots were fired. A total of 178 people testified to hearing gunshots that day (of those, only the aforementioned 104 testified about the direction). Of the 178 ear witnesses, 132 reported exactly three shots, and another 24 reported hearing only one or two shots. That means 88% of the ear witnesses agreed that no more than three shots were fired. Of the remaining 22 testimonies, nearly half could not identify how many shots they heard. Only 6 of the 178 ear witnesses – less than 4% – claimed to have heard four shots.
THE DICTABELT RECORDING DEBUNKED
In recent years, new analyses of the recording, as well as a complete computer simulation of the assassination, has satisfactorily put to rest the evidence from the Dictabelt recording.
A review by the National Academy of Sciences in 1982 was the first analysis to cast doubt on the HSCA’s findings. Their conclusion was based on the fact that the words “Hold everything secure” can be heard on the tape right at the same time that the supposed gunshots were being fired. Those words, however, were known to have been uttered by Dallas Sheriff Bill Decker over 2-way radio about a minute after the assassination had occurred. Thus, the sounds that the audiologists interpreted as gunshots could not have been gunshots because they occurred a minute too late.
Later analyses by various groups have found that the methods used by the HSCA’s scientists were fundamentally flawed for a variety of technical reasons, relating mostly to impulse patterns.
Finally, new computer simulations show that H.B. McClain was, in fact, not at the corner of Houston and Elm, as the HSCA’s experts said. Dale Myers, a computer animator, spent over ten years analyzing the various videos and photographs of the assassination, and programming his findings, frame-by-frame, into a complete computer simulation. This simulation allows the viewer to see the assassination, all of Dealey Plaza, and all of the people and vehicles that were in Dealey Plaza that day, from any angle. His work was broadcast on a 2003 ABC News documentary on the assassination, which he later won an Emmy for.
Using this simulation, H.B. McClain’s position at the moment of the assassination can be accurately determined. As such, the simulation shows McClain to be exactly where he testified he had been – one block away from the Texas School Book Depository, at the intersection of Houston Street and Main Street. This means that he was not in the area where the HSCA’s experts said he needed to be for the analysis to be accurate.
Dealey Plaza, annotated. McClain was at the corner of Houston and Main
when the shots were fired, too far away for his Dictabelt to have recorded
During the 1978 investigation, Mark Weiss – one of the committee’s audiologists – was asked if the location of McClain’s vehicle was vital to the analysis. He responded as follows: “It is an essential component of it because if you do not put the motorcycle in the place that it is…you do not get a good, tight pattern that compares very well with the observed impulses on the police tape recording.”
The conclusion seems clear: the one piece of evidence given by the HSCA to support a theory of multiple gunmen has been proven unreliable. In the end, it is most likely that the Dictabelt recording, in fact, originated from a police officer who was not even in Dealey Plaza, and the “impulse” patterns heard on the recording were not gunshots at all.
“JFK” AND THE MAGIC BULLET
If the HSCA’s multiple gunmen conclusion in 1978 was not enough to encourage conspiracy theorists, Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie “JFK” certainly worked wonders on fueling their theories surrounding Kennedy’s murder. Stone admitted to using “dramatic license” in the film, but upon investigation, this seems a dreadful understatement.
First, the characterization is misleading. The main character, played by Kevin Costner, is based on a New Orleans district attorney named Jim Garrison, who decided on his own to investigate the assassination in the late 1960’s. He eventually arresting a local businessman named Clay Shaw and charging him with conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy. Shaw was played by Tommy Lee Jones in the film.
In the movie, Jim Garrison is depicted as a hero. He is the great American lawyer refusing to bow to an obvious government cover-up, and he is a loveable, warm family man, intent on bringing the truth to light.
Unfortunately, the reality was apparently quite different. Co-workers and acquaintances knew Jim Garrison as controlling, manipulative, obsessive, cruel, and narrow-minded. Garrison had been relieved of active duty in the National Guard in the 1950’s with one doctor stating that he had “severe and disabling psychoneuroses” and was considered totally incapacitated for military service and “moderately incapacitated in civilian adaptability.” Additionally, he had a reputation for arresting people first and asking questions later; critics pointed to the fact that suspects he arrested frequently had their charges dropped and were later released. He also had a tendency to make public statements against groups of people (the state legislature, for instance) without any supporting evidence. He was unanimously censured by the state legislature of Louisiana in the 1960’s for suggesting they were all taking bribes. He also suggested the state parole board was taking bribes, and once arrested nine police officers for police brutality, but was forced to release them two weeks later with practically no evidence. He was personally charged and convicted of misdemeanor criminal defamation in 1963 when he falsely accused a panel of judges of racketeering and conspiring against him after a dispute over his budget.
This paints a picture of an obsessively paranoid lawyer with delusions of his own power; a man who was not afraid to step far outside the boundaries of the law to make a case. This could not have been more strongly illustrated in his arrest of Clay Shaw. Shaw was a businessman in New Orleans, and Garrison found a witness – a man with a checkered past who was a known drug user – who claimed to have seen Shaw in a meeting with Oswald and several others, discussing killing Kennedy. The man’s story was not consistent, however, and this inconsistent story from an unreliable witness was practically the only evidence Garrison had against Shaw. It took the jury exactly 54 minutes to acquit him.
Other lies abound in the movie, most notably the famous argument about the “Magic Bullet.” This theory, pushed into the public consciousness by the movie, argues that for Kennedy and Connolly to have been struck by the same bullet – as the Warren Commission and the lone gunman theorists suggest – the bullet would have needed to change direction several times in midair. The famous scene has Kevin Costner showing how the bullet would have veered to the left, then to the right, then downward, then upward, etc.
Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison explaining the Magic
The point of this argument was that Connolly and Kennedy were wounded by separate bullets, coming from two different directions – thus, two gunmen.
The Magic Bullet theory seemed so well-argued in the movie that most people accepted it outright. It was made even more amenable by the fact that Connolly himself, along with his wife, had insisted that the bullet that struck him was different than the bullets that struck Kennedy. The Connolly’s agreed that only three shots were fired, and that Oswald was acting alone, but they insisted that the first shot hit Kennedy, the second hit Connolly, and the third hit Kennedy again. An Associated Press photographer, Ike Altgens, who captured the moment of Kennedy’s first wound in a famous still image, claimed that he snapped his picture at the moment he heard the first shot. He claimed, however, to have heard only two shots, with the second shot being the one that hit Kennedy in the head. It would seem clear to me that he simply did not hear the actual first shot.
Altgens' photograph, which he says was taken just after the first shot,
but before any subsequent shots. Note that the crowd has no idea anything
has happened yet. Kennedy is behind the rear-view mirror, clutching his
throat, with Jaqueline's white-gloved hand on his arm. Connolly (turned
sideways) is also already reacting to being hit. The man in the front
passenger seat is glancing in the rear-view mirror. Note the motorcycle
officer looking over his shoulder, having clearly heard the shots.
Regardless, the Emmy-winning computer simulation mentioned earlier proves that not only is the Magic Bullet theory a lot of hocus pocus, but that the Connollys’ and Altgens' recollection of events is simply not accurate.
THE MAGIC BULLET THEORY DEBUNKED
A careful, frame-by-frame viewing of the Zapruder film shows that Connolly and Kennedy both reacted in almost the same instant to being shot.
Zapruder Film, the instant after the second shot was fired. Note that
Connolly has already reacted to being hit, clearly by the same bullet
that struck Kennedy.
A moment later. This frame from the Zapruder film was
made at approximately the same instant that the Altgens
photograph, shown above, was snapped. Notice that Mrs.
Kennedy's face is not yet revealing any surprise or fear,
but Govenor Connolly is already reacting in pain to the
Connolly testified that he heard the first shot, and recognized it immediately as a shot from a high-powered rifle (many other ear witnesses mistook the first shot for a firecracker). He testified that he was looking to his left when he heard the first shot, then immediately turned to his right, to the direction from where he heard the shot originate. He believed Kennedy had been hit by this shot, though he admitted that he could not see Kennedy at this point. As he turned to his right, he heard the second shot, and immediately realized he was hit. His wife testified that she heard the first shot, saw Kennedy react, then heard the second shot and saw her husband react, at which point she pulled him into her lap and did not look back at Kennedy again.
Zapruder film, about a second before the fatal head shot. Everything
has happened so fast that the driver (head turned) is just noticing that
something is wrong.
As noted above, the Zapruder film, while bearing out the testimony of Governor Connolly in regards to his movements and reactions, does not bear out the testimony of his wife. Mrs. Connolly said Kennedy reacted to the first shot by grabbing his throat, then the second shot hit her husband and he reacted. The film proves this was not the case. In the film, you can see Connolly looking to his left just seconds before the first shot, then the first shot presumably occurs and he turns very quickly to his right. As of this moment, Kennedy is still waving and has clearly not been hit yet. So the first shot would appear, in fact, to have missed. A second or two later, as Connolly is still turning to his right and apparently trying to see if Kennedy is okay, Kennedy suddenly reaches up with balled fists towards his throat. At that same instant, Connolly seems to react, and a screen shot from the Zapruder film, enhanced by modern technology, seems to show a ballooning in his shirt in the exact spot where the bullet was known to have exited Connolly’s chest. All this supports a single bullet theory.
The final destruction of the Magic Bullet theory comes when all of this is put into the computer simulation. The Magic Bullet theory was based on the belief that the trajectory could not have been right for the bullet to pass cleanly through Kennedy and into Connolly, and that some of Connolly’s wounds, therefore, must have come from a different shooter. In “JFK,” when Kevin Costner is showing all the twists and turns the bullet would have needed to take, he gets three important facts wrong.
A diagram of the Magic Bullet Theory as presented in "JFK."
First, in the movie’s reenactment, Connolly was seated directly in front of Kennedy. In fact, the jump seat Connolly was in was six inches off center from Kennedy’s seat, meaning that Connolly was six inches toward Kennedy’s left, not directly in front of him. Furthermore, the jump seat was lower than the seat Kennedy was in, so while the movie reenactment had Connolly and Kennedy sitting at the same height, Connolly was in reality three inches below Kennedy. Finally, and most importantly, the movie reenactment had Connolly facing forward with his shoulders square at the moment of impact. The Zapruder film, and Connolly’s own testimony, prove that Connolly was in fact turned to his right, not sitting with his back to Kennedy, at the time of the wounding shot.
Programming all these facts into the computer simulation allows the viewer to follow the trajectory of the bullet from gun to target. Taking into account the aim of the rifle, the distance and power of the rifle, the exact location of the car, the exact location of the men within the car, and the exact body positions of the men at the moment of impact, and programming all these things into the computer so that the event can be viewed from any angle, it becomes apparent that, in fact, a single bullet would have had a clear and straight path to cause the wounds found in Kennedy and Connolly.
Computer simulation of the second shot. Note the position
Connolly is in when the shot hits, giving a perfect trajectory,
and ruining any Magic Bullet theories.
Yes, the bullet would have passed through several layers of clothing as well as lots of skin, tissue, and bone, but a bullet fired from the kind of gun Oswald was shooting could very easily have passed through all those things. It was not a pop gun he was shooting, but a high-powered rifle, and from a relatively short distance.
With the Dictabelt recording and Magic Bullet theory adequately debunked, and adding in the ear witness accounts regarding the number and direction of gunshots, the evidence for a second gunman in Dealey Plaza that day is essentially nonexistent.
LEE HARVEY OSWALD
We have taken a long look at all the weaknesses in the various conspiracy theories and popular depictions of Kennedy’s assassination. Now it is important to look at the one figure we know was involved, and see if the evidence suggests that he might have been capable of hatching and pulling off the assassination on his own.
Oswald was born in New Orleans in 1939. According to people who knew him, including his own brother who is still alive, Oswald was a very troubled and mentally disturbed individual. His natural father died two months before he was born, and his mother was described as emotionally volatile and domineering. The family moved around a lot, and Oswald had lived in twenty-two different homes and attended twelve different schools by the time he was eighteen. He also spent over a year in an orphanage when his mother was unable to care for the kids. He was known as a loner, was described as someone who had delusions of his own immortal importance in the world, and seemed frustrated that the world did not seem to recognize his magnitude.
At fourteen, after a series of problems at a school he attended in New York City, including an incident where he threatened his stepbrother’s wife with a knife, a psychiatrist noted that he had a vivid fantasy life and tried to compensate for his own shortcomings and personal frustrations with ideas of his own omnipotence and power. He was diagnosed as being passive-aggressive and having schizoid tendencies. Further psychiatric intervention was recommended, but his mother decided around that same time to move back to New Orleans, and the counseling was never completed.
Oswald dropped out of school in the 9th grade, and by the age of sixteen had become an ardent Marxist and Socialist. Despite this, he wanted to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and join the Marine Corps – he idolized his older brother, and he likely thought the Marine Corps would be a free ticket to get out from underneath his mother’s tyrannical rule.
He joined the Marines at age seventeen and was trained as a sharpshooter. Despite the assertion in “JFK” that Oswald was only an “average” shot, this is simply not the case. Those who knew him during his tenure with the Marines described him as an excellent sharpshooter, and this is further evidenced by the existing records of his scores during target practice. Those records show that he routinely reached scores as high as 48 out of 50 and 49 out of 50 on long range rifle shooting – that is, from 200 yards. By way of comparison, the distance from his nest in the Texas School Book Depository to Kennedy’s car was less than 100 yards. Additionally, while in the Marine Corps, he qualified in separate tests first as a marksman, and then as a sharpshooter.
Despite this, his feelings of ostracism only deepened in the Marine Corps. Because of his small stature, he had a hard time garnering any respect, and his increasingly outspoken views on Socialism caused his fellow corpsmen to nickname him “Oswaldskovich.” For various offenses he was court-martialed twice, was demoted in rank, and even spent time in the brig.
In 1959, he was discharged from the Marines, went home for three days, and then immediately left the United States planning to immigrate to Russia. He had begun learning Russian while in the Marine Corps, and when he arrived in Moscow saying he wanted to denounce his citizenship in the U.S. and become a Russian, it caused somewhat of a stir, publicly. He was interviewed by Russian news outlets, and the KGB had a file on him. They initially feared he might be an American spy. After recognizing that he was mentally unstable, had a bad record, and would serve no real use to the Soviet Union, his request for citizenship was denied. Distraught at having to return to America, he made a superficial suicide attempt, but it was enough for Russian authorities to keep him around longer, under psychiatric evaluation. Eventually, although the KGB investigators advised against it, the Soviets allowed him to stay.
He was sent to Minsk, where he lived and worked for the next three years or so.
Lee Harvey Oswald as he looked during his
stay in the Soviet Union.
He married a Russian woman named Marina Prusakova, and they had a child together.
Oswald's wife, Marina.
However, he eventually grew disillusioned with life in the Soviet Union, and finally returned to the United States in the summer of 1962. This actually gained him a small amount of national attention at the time, as he was a former Marine who had defected to the Soviet Union and then returned home. His brother and mother were living in Dallas at the time, so he moved there with his Russian wife and young son.
Friends of the couple (who were mostly Russian immigrants) noted that Oswald was known to abuse his wife, and they frequently tried to talk her into leaving him. In July of 1962, about a month after returning from Russia, Oswald got a job with a welding company, but quit after three months. In October he began working for a typesetting firm. His time there was noted by conflict with other employees and marked inefficiency. He also appears to have used the company machines to produce fake identification papers for himself, using the alias “Alek James Hidell.” In April of 1963, after six months with the typesetting firm, he was terminated.
AN ASSASSINATION “TRIAL-RUN”
Just one day before his termination, the series of photographs that have become famous as the “backyard photos” were taken by Oswald’s wife in the backyard of their home.
One of the "backyard photos." Marxist newspapers
are in Oswald's hand, and the revolver he later used
to murder J.D. Tippet with is at his side.
The photographs show Oswald posing with a new rifle, which he was clearly proud to have purchased. He had bought it through a mail-order company in Chicago, using his alias, and had it mailed to his Dallas post office box.
Oswald's mail order rifle.
In some of the pictures, Oswald is seen to be holding a pair of Marxist newspapers. He is also wearing a pistol in a hip holster. On one of the photographs, the caption “Hunter of fascists – ha ha ha!!” is written on the back in Russian.
These photographs (and particularly the anti-fascist caption) are important not only because they show Oswald holding the rifle that he eventually used to assassinate Kennedy with, but also because ten days later, on April 10, 1963, Oswald appears to have made his first legitimate attempt at assassinating someone.
Edwin Walker was a former U.S. army general who had been relieved of his duties by the Kennedy administration because he was found passing out right-wing literature to his soldiers.
General Edwin Walker
He was an outspoken anti-Communist and segregationist, and had taken an active role in resistance to the integration of the University of Mississippi in 1962. He had been arrested for his role in that action, but the charges were dropped – an event that caused front page news. Walker had also run for the governor’s seat of Texas – a seat won by John Connolly. According to Oswald’s wife in the interviews with the Warren Commission, Oswald had considered Walker to be the leader of a “fascist organization.”
Seven days after Walker gave a speech wherein he called for the U.S. to “liquidate the scourge that has descended upon the island of Cuba,” Oswald purchased his mail-order rifle.
At some point in March of 1963, Oswald “staked out” Walker’s home, going so far as to take pictures of it – pictures that were later found among his belongings. These photographs, incidentally, were taken with the same camera that took the “backyard photos” of Oswald with his rifle. The Warren Commission also discovered that he left a note to his wife in Russian giving her a set of instructions to follow if he should be arrested or otherwise disappear.
Oswald carried out the attempt on April 10th, but failed. His bullet struck the window frame and was deflected, hitting Walker – who was sitting at his desk – in the arm. At the time, the attempted murder was an unsolved case and the police had no suspects. Oswald’s involvement was not discovered until after his own death later that year, when the note to his wife, and the pictures of Walker’s house, were discovered. At that time, his wife admitted that Oswald had told her about his involvement, but only after the attempt.
OSWALD IN NEW ORLEANS AND MEXICO CITY
Shortly after his failed assassination attempt on Walker, Oswald left Dallas for New Orleans, and got another job, this time as a machinery worker with a coffee maker manufacturing company. He was fired, again, from this job after only a short time, for inefficiency. While in New Orleans with his wife, and apparently incapable of being content no matter where he went, he began discussing the possibility of going back to the Soviet Union.
Around this same time, Oswald got involved with a pro-Castro organization, and set up his own New Orleans chapter – membership one. He spent time passing out literature and fliers with his alias (“A.J. Hidell”) listed as chapter president.
In August, Oswald was arrested after an altercation with an anti-Castro group who confronted him while he was passing out literature. He was arrested and spent a day in jail.
Mug shot of Oswald following his arrest in New Orleans.
The incident gained him some notoriety, however, and he was interviewed by a local journalist, and later was featured in a series of radio “debates” with some of the anti-Castro faction he had originally been arrested with.
It was during this time in New Orleans that attorney Jim Garrison of “JFK” fame later linked Oswald to Clay Shaw and several other alleged “conspirators.” However, as already illustrated, the testimonies linking Oswald with these people were inconsistent and uncorroborated, and none of the witnesses who testified to these things ever told the Warren Commission during the initial investigation.
In September of 1963, Oswald sent his wife back to Dallas, but instead of going with her, he traveled to Mexico City. According to witnesses on his bus, he openly admitted that he was hoping to travel to Cuba by way of Mexico. Once in Mexico City, he visited the Cuban embassy, asking for permission to travel to Havana, telling them he wanted to visit Cuba before returning to the Soviet Union. The Cuban embassy in Mexico City was not forthcoming, however, and Oswald went back to Dallas on October 3rd.
THE WINDS OF BLIND FATE
After getting back to Dallas, Oswald found yet another job, this time at the Texas School Book Depository, filling book orders. During this time, Oswald was living in Dallas in a rooming house, and his wife was living with friends in nearby Irving, Texas. In late October, his wife gave birth to their second child. By this time, the FBI had already begun to take notice of Oswald and his wife, and actually visited the home where his wife was staying on two separate occasions in early November of 1963.
As the winds of fate would have it, the Dallas newspaper carried a story on November 16th, 1963, saying that President Kennedy would be coming through downtown Dallas on November 22nd. On November 19th, the entire route of the president’s motorcade was mapped out in the newspaper, revealing that the motorcade would be driving right past the Texas School Book Depository.
On November 21st, Oswald asked a co-worker to give him a ride to Irving, telling the co-worker he needed to pick up some curtain rods from his wife’s home. He left $170 for his wife, along with his wedding ring, and returned with the co-worker to Dallas, toting a long paper bag. He took this paper bag with him to work on the morning of November 22nd. The last confirmed citing any co-worker had of him on that fateful day was about thirty-five minutes prior to the assassination, on the sixth floor.
After the assassination, Oswald quickly fled his nest, leaving the gun behind, and was next seen on the 2nd floor lunch area with a bottle of Coke in his hand. There, he was confronted by a police officer, but was allowed to pass because his supervisor assured the officer that he was an employee. Oswald immediately left the building, which was perhaps unfortunate for him, because he proved to be the only employee missing during a headcount a short time later. Bulletins were immediately put out around the city with his description. After leaving the building, he went back to his rooming house, where he changed clothes and left in a hurry.
He was next seen about a mile away, when he was confronted by police officer J.D. Tippit, who apparently recognized his description and pulled his squad car up to the sidewalk to question him. As Tippit got out of his car, Oswald shot and killed him with the revolver he had been wearing in the “backyard photos.” A number of people witnessed the murder. Oswald fled the scene, and ducked into a nearby movie theater, where his suspicious manner was immediately noticed. Police were called, and Oswald was arrested after a scuffle inside the theater.
Possibly the only color photo ever taken of Oswald during his
life. This was taken at police headquarters on November 23rd,
1963. Note the scratch on his head and the black eye from his
scuffle with police in the Texas Theater.
The seat Oswald was sitting in when he was arrested at the Texas Theater.
I have strayed a bit in giving details of Oswald’s actions prior to and after the assassination, but the overall picture that one gets when looking at Oswald’s life is that of a highly-disturbed neurotic with delusions of his own importance in world history. In fact, this picture fits perfectly with the common image of any assassin – someone who believes that they will gain the notoriety they deserve if they can only succeed in killing someone powerful and famous. One is reminded of John Hinckley who attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan, believing it would impress his favorite actress (Jodie Foster) enough that she would fall in love with him.
Oswald was a troubled youth. He was diagnosed as a teenager as having schizoid tendencies. He had problems in school. He could not hold down a job and was routinely fired for poor performance and aggressive behavior. In the Marines, he lost his rank due to his emotional problems and spent time in the brig. He was known to abuse his wife physically and emotionally. He was a loner and a drifter. He was an avowed Marxist and immigrated to Russia, but then later became disillusioned with the U.S.S.R., and returned to the States. Yet within a year, he was already making plans to go back to Russia. While it is uncertain exactly when Oswald first began having ideations about assassinating someone powerful, it is clear that he had picked a target by the early part of 1963. He purchased the gun he needed to do the job, staked out the spot, and then carried out the attempt. He failed, but he had crossed a psychological line.
After more trouble with the law, and more disillusionment throughout 1963 for Oswald, the winds of fate blew the President of the United States in an open-air car right past the building where this attempted murderer and trained sharpshooter just happened to have gotten a job a month earlier. If someone – for instance, during his time in New Orleans or Mexico City – had been conspiring with Oswald to assassinate the president, they could not possibly have foreseen such a circumstance. What are the chances that Oswald and others would conspire to kill the president, and then voila, a month later, the president just happens to drive right past the place where Oswald worked in downtown Dallas? The chances against such a coincidence are astronomically low.
It seems clear that Oswald, upon learning that the president – unbelievably – was going to be driving right past his place of employment, saw the opportunity to pull off what he had failed to pull of with General Edwin Walker. After a lifetime of disappointment and disillusionment, what else was going to give him the fame and notoriety that he so clearly felt he deserved?
Oswald had the personality, the means, and the motive to assassinate Kennedy. The vast majority of ear witnesses heard three or fewer shots, and more than half of those people said the shots came solely from the Texas School Book Depository, including two employees who were on the 5th floor right beneath Oswald. Three cartridges were found in Oswald’s nest, and the gun was shown to have fired only three shots. No one on the grassy knoll heard any shots, or saw any fleeing gunmen, in that vicinity. New computer simulations prove that all the wounds suffered by the occupants of Kennedy’s car could have legitimately come from the Texas School Book Depository, effectively destroying the Magic Bullet theory. Those same models show that there was enough time in between shots for a marksman to legitimately cock and re-fire the rifle three times. Conspiracy theories tying in the Mafia, Jack Ruby, Cuba, and the KGB have no basis in fact and cannot be supported by any reliable evidence, despite years of trying. Dictabelt evidence suggesting four shots were fired has been proven unreliable and inaccurate.
Taken together with everything else, it seems abundantly clear that the original Warren Commission investigation was right all along – there was one gunman, it was Lee Harvey Oswald, he was shooting from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, he fired three shots, the first shot almost certainly missed, but likely ricocheted to cause injury to a bystander, the second shot hit Kennedy, passed through him, and hit Connolly, and the third shot hit Kennedy in the head and killed him. There is simply no other reliable evidence to suggest any other scenario.
The case, in my book, is closed.
* I have intentionally omitted references in this article because this format is not conducive to footnotes. However, to ensure that I do not step on any virtual toes, let me state that the following includes all of my sources for the information I espoused in this article:
1) My own personal knowledge of the subject, based on years of casual reading, television viewing, and studying on the topic;
2) A 2003 ABC News documentary (replayed on The History Channel) arguing for a lone gunman, and including interviews with numerous people associated with the case, as well as all the computer simulations and Dictabelt evidence that I mentioned;
3) The Warren Commission Reports, as published on www.history-matters.com; and
4) Wikipedia; I also cite by reference any of the sources cited on Wikipedia’s numerous entries on the subject.