Assassination of John F. Kennedy (page 2)

President Kennedy declared dead in the emergency room

The staff at Parkland Hospital's Trauma Room 1 who treated President Kennedy observed that his condition was "moribund", meaning that he had no chance of survival upon arriving at the hospital. Dr. George Burkley,[68] the President's personal physician, stated that a gunshot wound to the skull was the cause of death. Dr. Burkley signed President Kennedy's death certificate.[69]

Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as U.S. President aboard Air Force One in Dallas.

At 1:00 p.m., CST (19:00 UTC), after all heart activity had ceased and after Father Oscar Huber[70] had administered the last rites, the President was pronounced dead. "We never had any hope of saving his life," one doctor said.[71] Father Huber[70] told The New York Times that the President was already dead by the time he arrived at the hospital, and he had to draw back a sheet covering the President's face to administer the sacrament of Extreme Unction. President Kennedy's death was officially announced by White House Acting Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff at 1:33 p.m. CST (19:33 UTC).[72][73] Kilduff was acting press secretary on the trip because Pierre Salinger was traveling to Japan with half the Cabinet, including Secretary of State Dean Rusk.[74][75][76] Governor Connally, meanwhile, was taken to emergency surgery, where he underwent two operations that day.

A few minutes after 2:00 p.m. CST (20:00 UTC), President Kennedy's body was placed in a casket and taken from Parkland Hospital and driven to Air Force One. The casket was then loaded aboard the airplane through the rear door, where it remained at the rear of the passenger compartment, in place of a removed row of seats. The body was removed before a forensic examination could be conducted by the Dallas County Coroner, who had jurisdiction. At that time, it was not a federal offense to kill the President of the United States,[77] although it was a federal crime to conspire to injure a federal officer while he was acting in the line of duty.[78][79] Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, who became President upon President Kennedy's death,[80] and had been riding two cars behind President Kennedy in the motorcade, refused to leave for Washington without President Kennedy and his widow.

At 2:38 p.m. CST (20:38 UTC), Vice-President Johnson took the oath of office on board Air Force One just before it departed from Love Field, with Jacqueline Kennedy at his side.


Drawn replication of a photograph depicting the posterior head wound of President Kennedy

The autopsy was performed, beginning at about 8 p.m. and ending at about midnight EST at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. The choice of autopsy hospital in the Washington, D.C. area was made at the request of Mrs. Kennedy, on the basis that John F. Kennedy had been a naval officer.[81]


The state funeral took place in Washington, DC during the three days that followed the assassination.[82]

The body of President Kennedy was brought back to Washington, D.C. and placed in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours.[83][84] On the Sunday after the assassination, his coffin was carried on a horse-drawn caisson to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state.[85] Throughout the day and night, hundreds of thousands lined up to view the guarded casket.[86] Representatives from over 90 countries attended the state funeral on Monday, November 25.[87] After the Requiem Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, the late President was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Recordings of the assassination

Dealey Plaza, with Elm Street on the right and the underpass in the middle
Looking southeast, with the pergola and knoll behind the photographer: the X on the street marks the approximate position of President Kennedy in the limousine at the moment he and Governor Connally were allegedly nearly simultaneously shot (photo taken in July 2006)

No radio or television stations broadcast the assassination live because the area through which the motorcade was traveling was not considered important enough for a live broadcast. Most media crews were not even with the motorcade but were waiting instead at the Dallas Trade Mart in anticipation of President Kennedy's arrival. Those members of the media who were with the motorcade were riding at the rear of the procession.

The Dallas police were recording their radio transmissions over two channels. A frequency designated as Channel One was used for routine police communications. A second channel, designated Channel Two, was an auxiliary channel, which was dedicated to the President's motorcade. Up until the time of the assassination, most of the broadcasts on this channel consisted of Police Chief Jesse Curry's announcements of the location of the motorcade as it wound through the streets of Dallas.

President Kennedy's last seconds traveling through Dealey Plaza were recorded on silent 8 mm film for the 26.6 seconds before, during, and immediately following the assassination. This famous film footage was taken by garment manufacturer and amateur cameraman Abraham Zapruder, in what became known as the Zapruder film. Frame enlargements from the Zapruder film were published by Life magazine shortly after the assassination. The footage was first shown publicly as a film at the trial of Clay Shaw in 1969, and on television in 1975.[88] According to the Guinness Book of World Records, an arbitration panel ordered the U.S. government to pay $615,384 per second of film to Zapruder's heirs for giving the film to the National Archives. The complete film, which lasts for 26 seconds, was valued at $16 million.[89]

Zapruder was not the only person who photographed at least part of the assassination; a total of 32 photographers were in Dealey Plaza. Amateur movies taken by Orville Nix, Marie Muchmore (shown on television in New York on November 26, 1963),[90][91][92] and photographer Charles Bronson captured the fatal shot, although at a greater distance than Zapruder. Other motion picture films were taken in Dealey Plaza at or around the time of the shooting by Robert Hughes, F. Mark Bell, Elsie Dorman, John Martin Jr., Patsy Paschall, Tina Towner, James Underwood, Dave Wiegman, Mal Couch, Thomas Atkins, and an unknown woman in a blue dress on the south side of Elm Street.[93] Still photos were taken by Phillip Willis, Mary Moorman, Hugh W. Betzner Jr., Wilma Bond, Robert Croft, and many others. The lone professional photographer in Dealey Plaza who was not in the press cars was Ike Altgens, photo editor for the Associated Press in Dallas.

An unidentified woman, nicknamed the Babushka Lady by researchers, might have been filming the Presidential motorcade during the assassination. She was seen apparently doing so on film and in photographs taken by the others.

Previously unknown color footage filmed on the assassination day by George Jefferies was released on February 19, 2007 by the Sixth Floor Museum, Dallas, Texas.[94][95] The film does not include depiction of the actual shooting, having been taken roughly 90 seconds beforehand and a couple of blocks away. The only detail relevant to the investigation of the assassination is a clear view of President Kennedy's bunched suit jacket, just below the collar, which has led to different calculations about how low in the back President Kennedy was first shot (see discussion above).

Official investigations

Dallas Police

After arresting Oswald and collecting physical evidence at the crime scenes, the Dallas Police held Oswald at the police headquarters for interrogation. Oswald was questioned all afternoon about both the Tippit shooting and the assassination of the President. He was questioned intermittently for approximately 12 hours between 2:30 p.m., on November 22, and 11 a.m., on November 24.[96] Throughout this interrogation Oswald denied any involvement with either the assassination of President Kennedy or the murder of Patrolman Tippit.[96] Captain Fritz of the homicide and robbery bureau did most of the questioning, keeping only rudimentary notes.[97][98] Days later, he wrote a report of the interrogation from notes he made afterwards.[97] There were no stenographic or tape recordings. Representatives of other law enforcement agencies were also present, including the FBI and the Secret Service, and occasionally participated in the questioning.[99] Several of the FBI agents present wrote contemporaneous reports of the interrogation.[100]

During the evening of November 22, the Dallas Police Department performed paraffin tests on Oswald's hands and right cheek in an apparent effort to determine, by means of a scientific test, whether Oswald had recently fired a weapon.[99] The results were positive for the hands and negative for the right cheek.[99] Because of the unreliability of these tests, the Warren Commission did not rely on the results of the test in making their findings.[99]

Oswald provided little information during his questioning. When confronted with evidence which he could not explain he resorted to statements which were found to be false.[99][101] Dallas authorities were not able to complete their investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy because of interruptions from the FBI and the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby.[citation needed]

FBI investigation

The FBI was the first authority to complete an investigation. On November 24, 1963, just hours after Oswald was fatally shot, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said that he wanted "something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin."[102] On December 9, 1963, only 17 days after the assassination, the FBI report was issued and given to the Warren Commission. Then, the FBI stayed on as the primary investigating authority for the commission.

The FBI stated that only three bullets were fired during the Kennedy assassination; the Warren Commission agreed with the FBI investigation that only three shots were fired but disagreed with the FBI report on which shots hit Kennedy and which hit Governor Connally. The FBI report claimed that the first shot hit President Kennedy, the second shot hit Governor Connally, and the third shot hit President Kennedy in the head, killing him. In contrast, the Warren Commission concluded that one of the three shots missed, one of the shots hit President Kennedy and then struck Governor Connally, and a third shot struck President Kennedy in the head, killing him.

Criticism of FBI

The FBI's murder investigation was reviewed by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979. The congressional Committee concluded:

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation adequately investigated Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the assassination and properly evaluated the evidence it possessed to assess his potential to endanger the public safety in a national emergency.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a thorough and professional investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the President.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation was deficient in its sharing of information with other agencies and departments.[103]

Criticism of Secret Service

Sgt. Davis, of the Dallas Police Department, believed he had prepared stringent security precautions, in an attempt to prevent demonstrations like those marking the Adlai Stevenson visit from happening again. The previous month, Stevenson, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, was assaulted by an anti-UN demonstrator. But Winston Lawson of the Secret Service, who was in charge of the planning, told the Dallas Police not to assign its usual squad of experienced homicide detectives to follow immediately behind the President's car. This police protection was routine for both visiting presidents and for motorcades of other visiting dignitaries. Police Chief Jesse Curry later testified that had his men been in place, they might have been able to stop the assassin before he fired a second shot, because they carried submachine guns and rifles.[104]

An investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1979 concluded that "the Secret Service was deficient in the performance of its duties."[105] The HSCA stated:

  • That President Kennedy had not received adequate protection in Dallas.
  • That the Secret Service possessed information that was not properly analyzed, investigated, or used by the Secret Service in connection with the President's trip to Dallas.
  • That the Secret Service agents in the motorcade were inadequately prepared to protect the President from a sniper.[106]

The HSCA specifically noted:

No actions were taken by the agent in the right front seat of the Presidential limousine [ Roy Kellerman ] to cover the President with his body, although it would have been consistent with Secret Service procedure for him to have done so. The primary function of the agent was to remain at all times in close proximity to the President in the event of such emergencies.[107]

Warren Commission

The Warren Commission presents its report to President Johnson

The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, was established on November 29, 1963, by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the assassination.[108] Its 888-page final report was presented to President Johnson on September 24, 1964,[109] and made public three days later.[110] It concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the killing of President Kennedy and the wounding of Texas Governor John Connally,[111] and that Jack Ruby also acted alone in the murder of Oswald.[112] The Commission's findings have since proven controversial and been both challenged and supported by later studies.

The Commission took its unofficial name—the Warren Commission—from its chairman, Chief Justice Earl Warren. According to published transcripts of Johnson's presidential phone conversations, some major officials were opposed to forming such a commission, and several commission members took part only with extreme reluctance.[113] One of their chief reservations was that a commission would ultimately create more controversy than consensus, and those fears proved valid.[113] The Commissions were printed off at Doubleday book publishing company located in Smithsburg, Maryland.[114]

Ramsey Clark Panel

In 1968, a panel of four medical experts appointed by Attorney General Ramsey Clark met in Washington, D.C. to examine various photographs, X-ray films, documents, and other evidence pertaining to the death of President Kennedy. The Clark Panel determined that President Kennedy was struck by two bullets fired from above and behind him, one of which traversed the base of the neck on the right side without striking bone and the other of which entered the skull from behind and destroyed its upper right side.[115]

Rockefeller Commission

The United States President's Commission on CIA activities within the United States was set up under President Gerald Ford in 1975 to investigate the activities of the CIA within the United States. The commission was led by Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller, and is sometimes referred to as the Rockefeller Commission.

Part of the commission's work dealt with the Kennedy assassination, specifically the head snap as seen in the Zapruder film (first shown to the general public in 1975), and the possible presence of E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis in Dallas.[116] The commission concluded that neither Hunt nor Sturgis were in Dallas at the time of the assassination.[117]

Church Committee

Church Committee is the common term referring to the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Senator Frank Church, to investigate the illegal intelligence gathering by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after the Watergate incident. It also investigated the CIA and FBI conduct relating to the JFK assassination.

Their report concluded that the investigation on the assassination by FBI and CIA were fundamentally deficient and the facts which have greatly affected the investigation had not been forwarded to the Warren Commission by the agencies. It also found that the FBI, the agency with primary responsibility on the matter, was ordered by Director Hoover and pressured by unnamed higher government officials to conclude its investigation quickly.[118] The report hinted that there was a possibility that senior officials in both agencies made conscious decisions not to disclose potentially important information.[119]

United States House Select Committee on Assassinations

As a result of increasing public pressure caused partly by the finding of the Church Committee, the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was established in 1976 to investigate the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.. and the shooting of Governor George Wallace. The committee was both controversial and divided amongst themselves. The first chairman, Thomas N. Downing of Virginia retired in January 1977 and was replaced by Henry B. Gonzalez on February 2, 1977. Gonzalez sought to replace Chief Counsel Richard Sprague. Eventually both Gonzalez and Sprague resigned and Louis Stokes became the new chairman. G. Robert Blakey was then appointed Chief Counsel and his deputy Robert K. Tanenbaum resigned soon afterwards.

The Committee investigated until 1978, and in 1979 issued its final report, concluding that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The Committee concluded that previous investigations properly investigated Oswald's responsibility but did not adequately investigate the possibility of a conspiracy, and that the Warren Commission presented its conclusions too definitively. The Committee also found that the FBI and CIA were deficient in sharing information. Furthermore the Secret Service did not properly analyze information it possessed prior to the assassination and was inadequately prepared to protect the President.

Although the HSCA concluded that President Kennedy was "probably" assassinated as the result of a conspiracy it did not offer the name of any person or group it thought had conspired with Oswald. Instead the HSCA listed several organizations that it did not think were involved, including the governments of the Soviet Union and Cuba, organized crime groups and anti-Castro groups, but noted that it could not rule out the involvement of any individuals of these groups.

Four of the twelve committee members wrote dissenting opinions.[120] Chris Dodd did not think that Oswald fired all three shots from the depository and wanted more investigation into the matter. Three other members did not think there was a second shooter or a conspiracy. According to Robert W. Edgar the committee was swayed at the last minute by the introduction of acoustic analysis of a Dictabelt recording of radio transmissions made by the Dallas Police Department. Prior to that a draft of the committee's report said "the available scientific evidence is insufficient to find that there was a conspiracy." The final report said: "Scientifically, the existence of the second gunman was established only by the acoustical study, but its basic validity was corroborated or independently substantiated by the various other scientific projects."[121] Three dissenters, Edgar, Devine and Sawyer, were not convinced by the Dictabelt analysis. Subsequent examinations of the recording by the National Academy of Sciences, by the FBI, and by the Justice Department disputed the Dictabelt evidence, and in turn the NAS's analysis was contested by Donald Thomas, see Dictabelt evidence relating to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The HSCA made several accusations of deficiency against the Secret Service, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the CIA and the Warren Commission.[103] The accusations encompassed organizational failures, miscommunication, and a desire to keep certain parts of their operations secret. Furthermore, the Warren Commission expected these agencies to be forthcoming with any information that would aid their investigation. But the FBI and CIA only saw it as their duty to respond to specific requests for information from the commission. The HSCA found the FBI and CIA were deficient in performing even that limited role.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations was conducted mostly in secret. They issued a public report but much of its evidence was sealed for 50 years under Congressional rules.[122] In 1992, Congress passed legislation to collect and open up all the evidence relating to Kennedy's death, and created the Assassination Records Review Board to further that goal.

Sealing of assassination records

All of the Warren Commission's records were submitted to the National Archives in 1964. The unpublished portion of those records was initially sealed for 75 years (to 2039) under a general National Archives policy that applied to all federal investigations by the executive branch of government,[123] a period "intended to serve as protection for innocent persons who could otherwise be damaged because of their relationship with participants in the case.”[124] The 75-year rule no longer exists, supplanted by the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 and the JFK Records Act of 1992. By 1992, 98% of the Warren Commission records had been released to the public.[125] Six years later, at the conclusion of the Assassination Records Review Board's work, all Warren Commission records, except those records that contained tax return information, were available to the public with only minor redactions.[126] The remaining Kennedy assassination related documents are scheduled to be released to the public by 2017, twenty-five years after the passage of the JFK Records Act. The Kennedy autopsy photographs and X-rays were never part of the Warren Commission records and were deeded separately to the National Archives by the Kennedy family in 1966 under restricted conditions.[127]

Several pieces of evidence and documentation are described to have been lost, cleaned, or missing from the original chain of evidence (e.g., limousine cleaned out on November 24,[128] Connally's clothing cleaned and pressed,[129] Oswald's military intelligence file destroyed in 1973,[130] Connally's Stetson hat and shirt sleeve gold cufflink missing).

Jackie Kennedy's blood-splattered pink and navy Chanel suit that she wore on the day of the assassination is in climate controlled storage in the National Archives. Jackie wore the suit for the remainder of the day, stating "I want them to see what they have done to Jack"[131] when asked aboard Air Force One to change into another outfit. Not included in the National Archives are the white gloves and pink pillbox hat she was wearing.[132]

Assassination Records Review Board

The Assassination Records Review Board was not commissioned to make any findings or conclusions. Its purpose was to release documents to the public in order to allow the public to draw its own conclusions. From 1992 until 1998, the Assassination Records Review Board gathered and unsealed about 60,000 documents, consisting of over 4 million pages.[133][134] All remaining documents are to be released by 2017.

Conspiracy theories

A handbill circulated on November 21, 1963 in Dallas, one day before the assassination of John F. Kennedy

From the day of the assassination, many Americans suspected that a conspiracy, and not a lone gunman, was responsible for President Kennedy's death. Polls taken that day through November 27, 1963 by Gallup showed 52 percent believing "some group or element" was behind the assassination.[135]

Before the Warren Commission issued its report which concluded Oswald acted alone, several books had already been published suggesting a conspiracy was behind the assassination.[136] Within a few months of the assassination, lawyer Mark Lane, who had been hired by Oswald’s mother Marguerite to represent Oswald’s interests before the Warren Commission, had formed his Citizens' Committee of Inquiry on the assassination and was speaking in the United States and Europe in early 1964, challenging the work of the Warren Commission, even before it had published its findings.[137]

Upon the publication of the Warren Report in September, 1964, only a minority 31.6 percent of Americans rejected the conclusion that Oswald had acted alone, with 55.5 percent accepting the Report's conclusion.[138] But since then, public opinion has consistently shown majorities, often large majorities, believing a conspiracy had been in place.[139] In 1966, Lane's Rush to Judgment was published, spending six months on The New York Times best-seller list.[140] The book accused the Warren Commission of "being biased towards its conclusions before the facts were known,"[141] and cited evidence found within the 26 volumes of the Warren Report and in his interviews with witnesses which seemed to suggest bullets coming from multiple directions striking the president and hence a conspiracy. The Freedom of Information Act was also passed that year, which had the effect of permitting researchers greater access to once-secret government files, particularly those connected to the Warren Commission.[142].

Many researchers were now investigating the assassination, most of whom believed the Warren Report was at best inaccurate and at worst a lie. In July 1966, in commenting on Edward Jay Epstein's book Inquest, which focused on the inner workings of the Warren Commission, Richard N. Goodwin became the first of Kennedy’s inner circle to publicly call for a review of the Warren Report.[143] That November, former assistant to the president and Pulitzer-prize winning author Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. called on Congress to initiate a new inquiry.[144] That same month, Life magazine called for a new investigation as did The Saturday Evening Post the following January. The New York Times, in an editorial dated November 25, 1966, did not call for a re-investigation, but said that the Warren Commission and its staff should address "the many puzzling questions that have been raised... There are enough solid doubts of thoughtful persons."

In 1967, Six Seconds in Dallas by Josiah Thompson was published. The book was the first to focus on many technical aspects not previously discussed by other authors, such as firearms, bullet trajectories, medical and photographic evidence. Thompson, who was a consultant to Life magazine, had unique access to a first-generation print of the Zapruder film and was the first to suggest that President Kennedy was struck by two near-simultaneous bullets to the head, one from the rear, the other from the right front.[144]

That March, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison announced he would prosecute local businessman Clay Shaw for the murder of President Kennedy, and, galvanized, many Warren Commission critics descended on New Orleans.[145] Public interest in the trial was high, with a Harris poll that May showing nearly two of three Americans saying they were following the investigation. The same poll indicated 66 per cent believed there was a conspiracy, compared to 44 percent who believed that in a Harris poll done in February.[146]

Garrison was also notable for being among the first to assert that there were two conspiracies: The first conspiracy being the one which engineered the assassination of the president; the second conspiracy being the deliberate cover-up by the Warren Commission to hide the true facts of the assassination.[147]

Shaw was acquitted in March, 1969, and the conspiracy movement was dealt a blow as Garrison’s trial was widely seen as a debacle, with many researchers denouncing Garrison as a fraud and megalomaniac.[145] Further, as conspiracy theorist Robert Anson put it, because of Garrison, "bills in Congress asking for a new investigation were quietly shelved."[148] Nevertheless, the trial opened new avenues of investigations for the movement, particularly with previously unexplored New Orleans connections and links of others to Oswald.[145]

The year 1973 saw the release of the film Executive Action starring Burt Lancaster, the first Hollywood depiction of events surrounding the assassination.[149] In the film, three gunmen shoot President Kennedy in a conspiracy led by right-wing elements and military/industrial interests. That year also saw the formation of the Assassination Information Bureau. The influential group spoke to ever-growing audiences at hundreds of colleges throughout the United States, urging a reopening of the investigation, and was ultimately instrumental in the realization of that goal in 1977.[149]

In March 1975, Good Night America broadcast, for the first time, the Zapruder film, with an audience of millions watching.[149] Almost immediately, with the film showing a backward snap of President Kennedy’s head, indicating to many a shot from the right front and hence a conspiracy, there were new demands for a re-investigation. The findings of the Rockefeller Commission that year and the Church Committee the next year added impetus to calls for a new inquiry, which was realized by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) from 1977 to 1979. That investigation concluded President Kennedy "was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."[6]

While the HSCA’s conclusion was welcomed by many in the conspiracy community, the HSCA’s inability to name any players in the conspiracy they identified, and their actions in sealing much of their documentation, left many in the community frustrated.[149]

Numerous books, television shows and articles continued to appear. Writing in 2007, Vincent Bugliosi said, "close to one thousand books" had been published on the subject of the assassination,[150] of which "over 95 percent" were pro-conspiracy.[151] Some notable books to 1990 were Anthony Summer’s "Conspiracy," David Lifton's best-selling Best Evidence, both published in 1980, and Henry Hurt’s Reasonable Doubt in 1985. They remain prominent in the conspiracy community to this day.[152] The Summer and Hurt books recite many of the prominent conspiracy theories to that time, while Lifton argues that President Kennedy’s wounds were altered before the autopsy to frame Oswald. Jim Marrs published Crossfire in 1989, the same year High Treason, by Robert J. Groden and Harrison Livingstone was published. The latter book argued the autopsy photos were altered to give the appearance that wounds were caused by shots from a single gunman.

By the late 80s, interest in the subject among the general public was waning.[152] One theory for this from writer Pete Hamill was that by 1988, "an entire generation had come to maturity with no memory at all of the Kennedy years."[153] In 1991, Oliver Stone's film JFK introduced the subject – and many of the attendant conspiracy theories – to a new generation of Americans. The sudden renewed interest in the assassination led to the passage by Congress of the JFK Records Act in 1992.[152] The Act created the Assassination Records Review Board to implement the Act’s mandate to release all sealed documents related to the assassination. Thousands of documents were released between 1994 and 1998, providing new material for researchers.

To date, there is no consensus on who, among many players, may have been involved in a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Those often mentioned as being part of a conspiracy include Jack Ruby, organized crime as an organization or organized crime individuals, the CIA, the FBI, the Secret Service, the KGB, right-wing groups or right-wing individuals, President Lyndon Johnson, pro- or anti-Castro Cubans, the military and/or industrial groups allied with the military.

Reaction to the assassination

The assassination evoked stunned reactions worldwide. Before the President's death was announced, the first hour after the shooting was a time of great confusion. Taking place during the Cold War, it was at first unclear whether the shooting might be part of a larger attack upon the U.S., and whether Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, who had been riding two cars behind in the motorcade, was safe.

The news shocked the nation. Men and women wept openly. People gathered in department stores to watch the television coverage, while others prayed. Traffic in some areas came to a halt as the news spread from car to car.[154] Schools across the U.S. dismissed their students early.[155] Anger against Texas and Texans was reported from some individuals. Various Cleveland Browns fans, for example, carried signs at the next Sunday's home game against the Dallas Cowboys decrying the city of Dallas as having "killed the President."[156][157]

The event left a lasting impression on many Americans. As with the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor before it and the September 11, 2001 attacks after it, asking "Where were you when you heard about President Kennedy's assassination" would become a common topic of discussion.[158][159][160]

Artifacts, museums and locations today

The plane serving as Air Force One is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio where tours of the aircraft are offered including the rear of the aircraft where President Kennedy's casket was placed and the location where First Lady Mrs. Kennedy stood in her blood stained pink dress while Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President. The 1961 Lincoln Continental limousine is at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.[161]

Equipment from the trauma room at Parkland Memorial Hospital where President Kennedy was pronounced dead, including a gurney, was purchased by the federal government from the hospital in 1973 and stored by the National Archives at an underground facility in Lenexa, Kansas. The First Lady's pink suit, the autopsy report and X-rays are stored in the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland and access is controlled by a representative of the Kennedy family. The rifle used by Oswald, his diary, bullet fragments, and the windshield of Kennedy's limousine are also stored by the Archives.[161] The Lincoln Catafalque, which President Kennedy's coffin rested on while he lay in state in the Capitol, is on display at the United States Capitol Visitor Center.[162]

The three acre park within Dealey Plaza, the buildings facing it, the overpass, and a portion of the adjacent railyard including the railroad switching tower were designated part of the Dealey Plaza Historic District by the National Park Service on October 12, 1993. Much of the area is accessible to visitors including the park and grassy knoll. Though still an active city street, the spot where the presidential limousine was located at the time of the shooting is approximately marked with an X on the street.[163] The Texas School Book Depository now draws over 325,000 visitors each year to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza operated by the Dallas County Historical Foundation. There is a re-creation of the sniper’s nest on the sixth floor of the building.[164]

Some items were intentionally destroyed by the U.S. government at the direction of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy such as the casket used to transport President Kennedy's body aboard Air Force One from Dallas to Washington which was dropped by the Air Force into the sea as "its public display would be extremely offensive and contrary to public policy."[165] Other items such as the hat worn by Jack Ruby the day he shot Lee Harvey Oswald and the toe tag on Oswald's corpse are in the hands of private collectors and have sold for tens of thousands of dollars at auctions.[161]

Jack Ruby's gun, owned by his brother Earl Ruby, was sold by the Herman Darvick Autograph Auctions in New York City on December 26, 1991, for $220,000.[166]

Author:Bling King
Published:Mar 23rd 2013
Modified:Mar 23rd 2013

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