President Kennedy was fatally wounded by gunfire while being driven across Dealey Plaza, in Dallas, Texas, in an open limousine. His tour was part of Texas’s public tour, co-organized with a view to his possible re-election in the 1964 United States (US) presidential election. Lee Harvey Oswald, suspected of the murder, was shot two days later in Dallas by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. Oswald later died in the hospital.
Kennedy was the fourth US president to be assassinated and the eighth to die while in office. Two official investigations concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, who worked at the Texas School Book Depository located on Dealey Plaza, was the killer.
According to the Warren Commission’s investigation, an investigative committee of dignitaries set up by President Johnson, Oswald acted alone and was not a conspiracy. According to the House of Representatives’ Commission of Inquiry (HSCA) investigation, there was at least one other shooter. However, that conclusion is based solely on acoustic evidence. The acoustic analysis of the HSCA is now widely regarded as flawed, and the conclusion of the HSCA is false. The Kennedy assassination is still the subject of speculation and has fueled many conspiracy theories.
At 12:30 CST, the open limo in which President Kennedy traveled drove toward the textbook warehouse, then slowly turned 120 degrees toward the warehouse. The distance was 20 meters. When the limo passed the warehouse, several shots were fired at Kennedy from six to nine seconds. After Kennedy was hit for the first time, he grabbed his neck with both hands while his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, grabbed his upper body. Another shot hit the president in the head. The president was immediately transferred to Parkland Memorial Hospital.
During the shooting, there were no bodyguards on the limousine’s running boards. The average speed of the car was about 18 km per hour. Several witnesses stated that the car slowed down during the shooting.
The Warren Commission concluded that one person fired three shots. One-shot missed the limo. One bullet hit Kennedy and also injured Governor John Connally, who was sitting in front of the president. Another shot caused Kennedy’s fatal head wound.
Amateur film footage of spectator Abraham Zapruder shows that the president’s head was hit back by that shot, which indicates a gunner at the front of the vehicle: a bullet fired from behind and from above would have hit the president’s head forward and down. However, a shot to the head usually results in the head being knocked back, as the back muscles contract after losing control by the brain.
Hitting the head forward never happens because the penetrating bullet’s mass is too small to move ahead. Several bystanders claimed to have heard gunshots from the bushes northwest of Dealey Plaza, which would mean at least another shooter was active.
However, the number of bystanders who pointed to the School Book Department as the place where the shots came from is much greater: some 85% of the witnesses pointed to the School Book Department, only 10% to the thicket. Ultrasounds are probably responsible for this 10% of the testimonials.
At 12:55 p.m. Kennedy was pronounced dead in hospital by doctors, and at 1:00 p.m., Kennedy was officially declared dead.
His remains were brought aboard the presidential plane around 2:00 pm. At 2:38 pm, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States aboard Air Force One. Then the plane took off for Washington.
The inquest was performed at the United States Navy National Medical Center in Bethesda. After this, Kennedy’s body was prepared for burial and taken to the White House, where it lay in the East Room for 24 hours. Kennedy was buried the next day.
Representatives from more than 90 countries, including the Soviet Union, attended the ceremony.
Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald was initially arrested (at 2:35 PM CST) for appearing to match the description of the murderer of police officer J.D. Tippit. This was in the Texas Theater movie theater in Dallas.
He resisted his arrest and beat a police officer before being taken away in handcuffs. It was only later that he was also questioned about the Kennedy assassination after reporters told him they suspected him.
It is striking that the conversations with Oswald, against the applicable rules, were not recorded by the police. He was not granted an official charge or trial before a judge: on November 24, 1963, at 11:21 am CST, Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down in the Dallas Police Department by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. Ruby rushed towards Oswald and then shot him in the stomach.
Oswald doubled over and fell seriously injured to the ground. This happened right in front of the rotating television cameras, which would record his transfer to the regional prison. The time of Oswald’s death was set at 1:07 PM CST.
How exactly the armed Jack Ruby entered the police station is still a matter of debate. Some claim that Ruby entered through the garage entrance, but others say this was not possible, as police officers guarded that entrance.
Still, others claim that Ruby was let in by agents: Ruby had connections within the police force, with members regularly attending his nightclub. It has been established that Ruby appears on recordings in the police station and during press conferences.
Jack Ruby was financially grounded at the time of the murder and had been forced to put his nightclub ‘The Carousel’ up for sale. Ruby stated that he shot Oswald to save Kennedy’s widow from a trial.
Evidence Against Lee Harvey Oswald
The burden of proof against Oswald is enormous, with a total of 52 proofs for Oswald’s guilt. Dallas police found an improvised sniper’s nest on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.
A wall of stacked book boxes had been built by the window so that anyone behind this wall was not visible from the inside. Dallas police found a palm print of Oswald on one of the boxes.
Elsewhere in the building, two officers found a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Forensics revealed that the butt of the rifle also contained Oswald’s palm print. According to the Warren Commission, before Oswald’s murder, the firearm was under the cover name A.J. Hidell, ordered from a mail-order company.
Inquiries with the colleague who drove Oswald to work revealed that Oswald claimed to have brought curtain rods to work in a brown paper bag. According to the Warren Commission, the weapon would have been in this bag.
During a search, the police found photographs showing Oswald holding the rifle in his right hand and two left-wing newspapers in his left.
Oswald’s wife, Marina Oswald (née Prusakova), stated that she took the photos in their home’s backyard. They are therefore known as “the backyard photos.”
The Investigation by the Warren Commission
Shortly after the murder, Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, formed a committee to investigate the attack. The committee was headed by Earl Warren, the United States’ highest judge.
In 1964 the committee presented its final report. The conclusion was simple: Lee Harvey Oswald had shot Kennedy. The report is undoubtedly the most in-depth and best-conducted murder investigation ever, conducted with an unprecedented budget and legal power. Still, this research has been controversial for conspiracy theorists for several reasons.
The committee was certainly not made up of Kennedy sympathizers. Also, the commission was formed only by Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director. Johnson and Hoover wanted to prevent ideas that the government had to form an investigation committee from being further developed.
Unlike the Warren Commission, Johnson and Hoover would not have influenced the commission’s composition in that case. According to critics, the research leaves many questions unanswered. Fifty years later, many Americans attach little value to the Warren Commission’s judgment. However, the government maintains this judgment.
The Investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations
An official investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which was tasked with investigating the Kennedy and Martin Luther King murders between 1976 and 1979, concluded that four bullets had been fired and that there were likely others besides Oswald’s.
This is in direct contradiction to the official Warren Commission report. However, the conclusion is partly based on sound material that was later interpreted in different ways. This committee further found that it could not identify the other shooter(s).
The US government is ignoring the investigation by the HSCA and the evidence presented during the investigation in favor of the earlier report released by the Warren Commission.
The Investigation by Jim Garrison
In 1966 and 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison began a cold case investigation into President Kennedy’s assassination that resulted in Clay Shaw’s charges.
The jury acquitted Shaw after a short consultation. This lawsuit was based on a plot in which both former Cubans and the CIA played an important role in the Kennedy assassination. Garrison’s case was made into a film by Oliver Stone in 1991, like JFK.
Stones’ portrayal of events is controversial. Because Clay Shaw passed away shortly after the trial, Garrison’s trial was never resolved due to libel and abuse of rights.
The Investigation by the Assassination Records Review Board
A direct result of the dust that stirred up Stone’s film JFK is the adoption of the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act by Congress in 1992, which meant that many previously sealed records were no longer classified.
The Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) was created to inventory and publish these records. Between 1994 and the dissolution of the ARRB in the autumn of 1998, several million pages of files were made public.
Although the ARRB did not re-investigate the murder, testimonies were taken in public hearings where necessary (and possible) if such statements clarified the files.