Kennedy Assassination

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New York Times for November 23, 1963.

The Kennedy Assassination occurred on November 22, 1963 in downtown Dallas, Texas when, on a speaking trip to a trade center, President John F. Kennedy was fatally hit by gunfire from the sixth floor window of a nearby building. The accused assassin - Lee Harvey Oswald - would himself be shot dead just days later, leading to a series of conspiracy theories involving the Mafia, Fidel Castro, or the Soviet Union as prime suspects despite evidence pointing to Oswald acting alone.

History

Kennedy was in Texas to mend political fences and hopefully carry the conservative-leaning state in the next election, something which he was barely able to do in 1960. After a brief stop in Fort Worth, Kennedy - aboard Air Force One - landed at Love Field in Dallas at 11:40 A.M. Air Force Two, carrying Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, had landed a few minutes before. Making up the entourage was Texas governor John Connally, United States Senator Ralph Yarborough, their wives and others, with their destination the Dallas Trade Mart, where the president was scheduled to give an address to civic leaders. The planned motorcade route had earlier been placed in the Dallas newspapers to allow the public to see.

Kennedy was in the back seat of a specially modified 1961 Lincoln Continental; to his left sat Jackie, his wife. On jump seats immediately in front were seated Governor and Mrs. Connally. Behind them in the motorcade was a 1955 Cadillac carrying eight armed Secret Service agents, with orders to hurry to Kennedy's car should anything happen. The motorcade was also joined by Dallas police officers, who had stationed additional officers at key points to aid in security, especially at Deally Plaza where the motorcade had to slow down considerably due to tight turns from Main on to Houston, and from Houston to Elm.

At 12:30 P.M. the presidential limo turned the corner onto Elm Street, below an imposing brick structure named the Texas School Book Depository. Several hundred people, many armed with cameras, waved at the motorcade as it passed by. One rifle shot rang out, hitting the pavement. A second shot hit Kennedy in the back, exiting through his throat and hitting Connally. A third shot hit Kennedy in the back of the head; seeing this, a Secret Service agent would jump from the follow-up car and push Mrs. Kennedy back into her seat just as the limo increased speed to Parkland Hospital. Television would play its part as well, as ordinary people conducting their lives would be jolted into the drama. [1][2][3]

At 12:37 P.M. the limo arrived at Parkland; the president and the governor were taken to emergency rooms. Connally was evaluated, stabilized, and taken to surgery. A tracheotomy was done on Kennedy, in effect enlarging the exit wound made by the first bullet to hit him. The head wound was another matter, as the top right of his skull was literally blown away and the attending surgeons realized the only thing that could be done was to call in a priest. At 12:49 P.M. Fathers Oscar Huber and James Thompson of the Dallas Diocese had arrived; Huber gave the last rites as the others prayed. Only after this was completed did Johnson - now the 36th President - allow the terrible news to be broadcast to the public by a shaken Malcom Kilduff, Kennedy's press secretary:

"President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1 p.m. Central Standard Time today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain. I have no other details of the assassination."[4]

The whole assassination was filmed by Abraham Zapruder, a Dallas-based women's clothier who initially filmed the motorcade because he was excited about the arrival of President Kennedy, but this soon turned to horror when he caught the assassination on film. The Zapruder film is the most complete film of the assassination, and was studied by the Warren Commission during their research.

Lyndon Johnson, as well as the Secret Service, were concerned about security as thoughts of a conspiracy began to circulate; the Secret Service wanted Johnson to leave for the safety of Air Force One, which he did, with the body of the slain president and Mrs. Kennedy joining him less than an hour later. Still, the plane did not take off for Washington until a Texas judge had been brought aboard to do a proper swearing-in of the new president.

It was while he was onboard the plane at Love Field that he was told of the apprehension of a young man who fitted the description of the suspect in the assassination.

Lee Harvey Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald was born October 18, 1939 in New Orleans, Louisiana. His childhood included a bad stepfather, constant moving, and poor grades in the schools he was in when not being truant. He came across a pamphlet about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the spies who sold atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, and soon became enamored in communism. He served in the Marine Corps from 1956 until 1960, earning "sharpshooter" proficiency with the M-1 rifle, and a court-martial for instigating a fight. Much of his free time was spent reading about Marxism, communism, the revolutionaries who were involved with it, and the Russian language. Nine days after he left the Marines on a hardship discharge, he was in Helsinki, Finland, about the cross into the Soviet Union and renounce his American citizenship.

References

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