While riding in a motorcade in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963, The 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed. This Assassination was one of the most shocking and tragic events in the history of this country.
When President Kennedy died, much of the world grieved. The words of West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt’s reflected the sense of loss:” A flame went out for all those who had hoped for a just peace and a better world.” A shocked Country felt the loss of a promising leader very deeply.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the forth victim of an assassination of a president. He was preceded by Abraham Lincoln (1865), James A. Garfield (1881), and William McKinley (1901).
There were three attempted assassinations of a president of the United States preceding President Kennedy’s death. Andrew Jackson (January 30, 1835), Franklin D. Roosevelt (February 15), and Harry S. Truman (November 1, 1950).
Senator John F. Kennedy was nominated by the Democratic Party in 1960 for Presidential Candidate. In his acceptance speech, he put emphasis on the challenges of the 1960’s. He further declared, “we stand today on the edge of a ‘New Frontier’.” This phrase later became attached to his program. President Kennedy pledged, “I am not promising action in the first 100 days alone. I am promising you 1,000 days of exacting Presidential leadership.” Mr. Kennedy defeated his republican opponent, “Richard M. Nixon” by a slim margin of a little over 118 thousand votes out of the almost 69 million votes that were cast in that election. He was the first Roman Catholic, and the youngest man to ever be elected president at the age of 43.
President John F. Kennedy stood in front of a nation that had elected him president in 1961, on a cold January morning and spoke these words:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Some of President Kennedy’s staff was not supportive of his trip to Texas, even though there were some obvious political reasons to make the trip. At the time the state of Texas was not exactly fond of the President. There were around 34 threats on the president’s life received by the Secret Service between 1960 and 1961. Many people considered Dallas a violent and hysterical city. There were a few governmental figures that had been physically assaulted in Dallas. Byron Skelton wrote a letter to then Attorney General Robert Kennedy about his concerns for President Kennedy’s safety. Mr. Skelton urged Robert Kennedy to discourage his brother from going to Dallas.
Mr. Kennedy was to visit four other cities including San Antonio, Houston, Austin and Fort Worth. He feared that ignoring Dallas would harm his image in Texas.
The Dallas papers were the first to announce the President’s plans for a trip to their city. Governor Connaly announced the schedule of President Kennedy’s trip to Dallas on November 1st. President Kennedy was scheduled to address a group of business leaders in Dallas at a luncheon at the Trade Mart on November 22. He decided he was going to make the trip into the city in a motorcade. He liked motorcades because they allowed for the opportunity to be close to the people along the route. The motorcade was to follow the normal Dallas parade route. The final schedule to take the route through Dealey in down town Dallas was decided on November 15.
The secret service had not found any potential threat to the presidents well being in Dallas, therefore; an extensive investigation was not performed. A week before the trip, derogatory posters and flyers were posted in Dallas. Some of these articles carried a picture of the President and had the caption, “Wanted for Treason.” Against a suggestion that the presidents Dallas parade route not be made public, his staff urged the papers to print it, and they did so on the 18th and 19th of November.
On the morning of November 22, one of the President’s first plans was to contact the lady who had made the accommodations for himself and the First Lady had occupied the night before at Fort Worth’s Texas Hotel. The Kennedy’s were very impressed with the special efforts put forth by the people of Fort Worth. That morning was rainy. The President addressed the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. Later that morning, after a query from Dallas, President Kennedy stated that if the weather was clear, he did not want the protective bubble used on the presidential limousine.
At approximately 11:20 a.m. the president and his entourage left for Dallas. As Air force 1 was airborne, the President looked out the window and said, “Our luck is holding. It looks as if we’ll get sunshine.” A marvelous, 68-degree day was the backdrop for the President and Mrs. Kennedy’s arrival in Dallas. A bouquet of roses was presented to the First Lady, and then the couple attended a reception held in their honor by the community leaders of Dallas. For a few minutes the President and Mrs. Kennedy walked along the security Barrier greeting people, then joined Governor and Mrs. Connally in the presidential limousine. In the Presidential limousine were two Secret Service Agents, President and Mrs. Kennedy, and the Connally’s. Following the Presidential limousine was two cars that carried Dallas Police, including Chief Jesse Curry, and more members of the Secret Service. Another car followed these two vehicles carrying even more secret service agents and members of the Whitehouse staff. To the rear of them was a car carrying the Vice President and Mrs. Johnson, and other vehicles carrying members of congress, other political dignitaries, and reporters.
The conclusion that was come to by the President’s commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, stated that the President was struck by two bullets. According to their report, the shots were fired from behind and above him.
The findings of the Commission were based primarily on the Testimony of the Doctors in Maryland who had performed the autopsy, and the ones who treated the President at the Hospital in Dallas.
Neither the Warren Commission nor the Doctors who had treated the President and the ones who had done the autopsy took advantage of the X-rays and Photos taken during the autopsy. The Commission was concerned that releasing the X-rays and Photos to the public would be an invasion of the Kennedy’s privacy. In their decision to rely totally on the opinions of the Doctor’s testimony, they excluded the possibility of using a review of the evidence by independent medical experts to see if they agreed with the Doctors who had done the autopsy, and the Doctors that had treated the president in Maryland.
In resolving the question if there was more than one assassin, a determination of the number and locations of the wounds was critical. There has been a lot of skepticism toward the commission’s findings due to the secrecy of the proceedings of the autopsy. Since the Navy Doctor in charge of the autopsy that was performed in Maryland had destroyed his notes, and the Warren Commission decided to give up the opportunity to examine the X-Rays and Photographs, and had also permitted anyone else to examine them, there was a lot of expressed concern that authorities were less than candid about the results of the examination.
A film taken by Abraham Zapruder, an amateur movie photographer of the Presidents motorcade at the time of the assassination shows that the President’s head was thrown backward as the front part of the President’s skull appeared to explode. This suggested to the critics of the findings of the Warren Commission that there was a bullet that had entered the president’s head from in front of him, and reinforced the skepticism toward the commission’s findings. It has been argued that such a bullet was fired by a gunman located on a grassy knoll located to the right and to the front of where the moving limousine was located at the moment of the fatal shot.
Since the investigation into Kennedy’s assassination ended, two other government panels have submitted the X-rays and photographs taken during the autopsy to independent medical experts. Both groups concluded the same thing that the president was struck by two bullets from behind. Neither panel published the X-rays and photographs nor did they explain their source for its conclusions in a public hearing. Neither was able to relieve the doubts that have continued over the years about the nature and location of the wounds to the President.
The committee believed given the evidence presented to them, that the Assassination of John F. Kennedy was likely the result of a conspiracy. However, the committee was unable to identify the second gunman, or the extent of said conspiracy.
Findings by The Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/warren-commission-report/index.html