November 22, 1963 is a day in history still ingrained in many Americans hearts. This day changed the country and led to widespread grief. The JFK assassination is one of the most controversial topics in twentieth century American history. I learned at a young age that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK, case closed. However, after taking on college class on the topic I was able to look deeper into the assassination facts and opinions and think critically about the issue. There are many age-old conspiracy theories looking at the evidence against the fact that Oswald did it alone or that Oswald was involved at all. These conspiracy theories, albeit none are proven yet are are important to the American psych and still relevant today, more than 50 years after the assassination. This article will include the undisputed facts related the assassination and force you to ask questions about what really happened to JFK and what that means for the United States.
What happened on November 22, 1963?
JFK was a very popular president in 1963. He started his campaign for reelection at the end of his first term for the 1964 election. Although he was blamed for the Bay of Pigs failure, he successfully saved the United States from nuclear destruction throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK, Jackie and his family were adored by the American people. On November 22, 1963 John F. Kennedy’s motorcade went throughout the streets of Dallas as part of his reelection campaign.
On this motorcade were beloved John and Jackie Kennedy and Governor John Connally of Texas and his wife Nellie. As you can see in the below picture, JFK was in the right back seat with Jackie to his left. Governor Connally was right in front of him with Nellie to his left. As the motorcade includingJFK and his convertible reached Dealey Plaza, the chaos began. Dealey Plaza is the intersection of a few streets including Houston Street, Main Street, Commerce Street, and Elm Street. Elm Street is the street JFK’s motorcade traveled. On the right of Elm Street lay the grassy knoll and the Texas School Book Depository. The grassy knoll is the hill inside Dealey Plaza to the right of the motorcade that is referred to a lot throughout the assassination research. The Texas School Book Depository is the building Oswald worked. It was alleged that Oswald shot 3 times from the 6th floor of the Depository. The second picture below shows the motorcade path through Dealey Plaza.
Several gunshots were fired as the motorcade approached Dealey Plaza and it is unclear how many gunshots were fired or exactly what direction they came from. Witness reports heard between 2 and 6 shots. Many believed there were 3 or 4 shots. The witness reports included hearing shots from the front, back, and the Texas School Book Depository. Shots from the Texas School Book Depository were fired from behind of JFK meaning they would have to hit him in the back. Shots from the grassy knoll could have been from the side or the front of him. 3 bullets hit JFK. It is believed he was hit in the back, neck, and the head. The shot to the head was the fatal shot. Governor Connally was also hit in the back by the bullet, which exited through his right chest. Governor Connally survived.
Abraham Zapruder, a civilian watching the motorcade, filmed JFK and his motorcade. That film is often referred to as the Zapruder film. This tape shows JFK’s death and how Jackie jumps out of the convertible hysterically to do something about the tragedy. The tape is the piece of evidence that shows where JFK’s body moved after he was shot. This tape was not released to the public until 1976.
JFK was fatally shot in the head, and he was brought to Parkland hospital right after the shooting. He was pronounced dead within a half an hour. The doctors at Parkland Hospital began the autopsy on JFK, however his cabinet wanted the body to be brought back to Washington so the autopsy to be conducted there. Kenny O’Donnell and other JFK staffers took the body to Air Force 1 to fly it back to Washington. Technically, this was against Texas law because the state had the jurisdiction to do the autopsy in Dallas.
Lyndon B. Johnson was JFK’s Vice President. Throughout JFK’s first term Johnson was basically shut out of his meetings and policy decisions. This was somewhat due to the fact that Bobby Kennedy, JFK’s brother and Attorney General, hated Johnson and did not want him involved in the president’s work. However, when JFK was pronounced dead, he was in line for the presidency, not Bobby. For the first time in history, the Vice President boarded Air Force 1 instead of Air Force 2. Johnson quickly found a judge and was sworn into presidency on the flight back to Washington. Jackie was right by Johnson’s side as he took the oath of presidency. The famous picture is below.
The body was taken back to Washington and the autopsy was conducted fully in Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Maryland. Some of the autopsy was already conducted in Dallas though. There are major discrepancies between the autopsy conclusions in Bethesda and Parkland Hospital. These discrepancies include the bullet placement and whether some wounds were entrance of exit wounds. Some of the autopsy documents from Parkland Hospital were burned. Also, incredibly startling, part of JFK’s head went missing for good so no one will be able to do any more research on that.
Shortly After Kennedy was shot
Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested on the same day Kennedy was shot. Oswald was originally arrested for the murder of J.D. Tippit, a police officer. Oswald was a marine who had defected to the USSR and then come back to Dallas. He had spent time before the assassination both in New Orleans and Mexico City. These trips were carefully researched and pertain to the conspiracy theories. Once Oswald came back from the USSR with his new wife Marina, the FBI and CIA kept close tabs on him. His arrest was based on the fact that he shot the President from the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, where he worked. A rifle with Oswald’s fingerprints and 3 empty bullet shells were found on the sixth floor. Important to note is that this was an extremely cheap rifle. A picture of Oswald circulated to arrest him, and Oswald look likes were arrested too on that day. Oswald was originally arrested for the murder of J.D. Tippit, a police officer, and the police determined after this that he was responsible for the death of Kennedy too. Oswald denied that he killed JFK and Officer Tippit thoroughly and famously said, “I’m just a patsy.” Throughout some hours of interrogation Oswald was not given any legal counsel.
Jack Ruby owned a nightclub in Dallas called the Carousel Club. He served in the military throughout World War II. He was involved in illegal underworld mafia activities. Important to note is that Ruby had very close connections to the Dallas police. They frequented his nightclub, and many were his friends. He was able to come into the police station because he was close with the police. On November 24, 2 days after Kennedy was shot, Jack Ruby shot Oswald in the Dallas Police Station. He was jailed in Dallas, not Washington and was convicted of killing Oswald. In 1967, he died of cancer. I’m sure many of you have seen the famous photograph below. When Ruby shot Oswald it was the first time a live shooting was publicly televised.
Right after the assassination, the American people were terrified. No one knew what caused this great American tragedy and there was belief it could be a foreign conspiracy and there was more devastation to come. This was the first time since 1901 (William McKinley) that a president was shot. The American people were in a panic mode with extreme grief over the beloved, late president. Johnson wanted to calm the American people by giving them an answer to the grief. Johnson quickly formed the Warren Commission and included: Chief Justice Warren, Allen Dulles, Senator John Cooper, Congressman Hale Boggs, Senator Richard Russell, John McCloy, J. Lee Rankin, and Congressman Gerald Ford. A year later the Warren Commission publicly released their report. They concluded that Oswald was a lone assassin. The made the assassination look simple, all wrapped up with a bow on it. One of main their pieces of evidence for their report was the single-bullet theory.
The single-bullet theory is one of the most controversial parts of the Warren Report and the assassination all together. This theory is the idea that a bullet went through Kennedy’s neck and went on to hit Governor Connally in the ribs. Important to note here is that throughout his whole life Connally strongly believed a different bullet hit him. The Warren Report mainly included analysis of the life of Oswald and many of his life details. The Warren Report included a lot more about Oswald’s biography than it did about the assassination.
The two pictures below show the two theories regarding the single-bullet theory or the magic-bullet theory. The first picture is a diagram in which the single-bullet theory looks plausible considering the trajectory of the bullet. The second picture below is the evidence for many conspiracy theorists and the idea of a second shooter. It shows that in the way the two men were sitting the bullet would have had to pause and change directions based on the way the two men were sitting. The single-bullet theory quells the idea that there must have been a second shooter because if two separate bullets hit Kennedy and Connally that proves there were more bullets. Theorists today are still arguing over this theory and whether it was possible. This is one of the most widely discussed and controversial parts of the JFK assassination, and today there are no clear answers whether there was a single bullet that hit both of the men or not.However, it is an plausible assumption that the Warren Commission could have wanted to use the single-bullet as a way to prove that there was only one shooter. The Warren Commission would have motive to do this because from the start their job was to produce an answer for the country. That answer was that Oswald was a lone assassin.
The Warren Report had clear faults based on the fact that it was one-sided and did not include any evidence to the contrary of their claim, even though that evidence existed. The faulty Warren Report makes a cause for conspiracy theories. The House Select Committee on Assassins was another governmental committee with the aim of investigating the assassination. It was created in 1976 to investigate both the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. This was mainly brought about because when the Zapruder film aired in 1976. (Abraham Zapruder filmed it on that day, but it was not public until 1976). Kennedy did not react the correct way if a bullet was shot from the rear of the Texas School Book Depository. The House Committee presented a much more in depth investigation than the Warren Report.
Overall, the House Committee concluded that the Kennedy assassination was probably a result of a conspiracy based mainly on the acoustics and ballistics evidence of the bullets. This report showed the faults of the Warren Report. The committee came up with the conclusion that the conspiracy did not involve any government agency, communist or anti-communist group. They said specifically it was not organized crime altogether, but members of organized crime could have been involved. They looked deeply into the relationships between Carlos Marcello, Santos Trafficante, and Jimmy Hoffa and the assassination. They concluded that these men had the “motive, means, and opportunity” to kill the president. They also shined light on the flaws of the Warren Report.
Conspiracy theories about the assassination are more prominent today than they were right after the death of the president. This is due to a variety of reasons. To start, the Watergate Scandal led to a massive distrust in government throughout the country. Thus, people started to distrust the Warren Report and the government in relation to the assassination. Conspiracies about the assassination have grown in prominence ever since.
Another reason for this is Oliver Stones JFK which came out in 1991. This is a fictional movie, which displays the theories of district attorney Jim Garrisons investigation. It shows a complex conspiracy theory with Vice President Johnson running the whole operation. Although this movie was fictional, it fueled conspiracy theories throughout the country. The movie also helped fuel many documents to be declassified by the government due to its publicity among other factors. It helped the passing of the JFK Records Act in 1972. This act said that documents related to the assassination will be released in 25 years, which is 2017. Thus, in about a year more documents will be released to possibly reveal more information on this topic.
Now lets get to the theories
There are many reasons for the widespread belief of conspiracy theories on this topic. There were witness reports that they heard shots from the front, the back and the grassy knoll, which did not add up to Oswald shooting Kennedy from solely Texas School Book Depository. Another reason is that there was evidence that Oswald was a communist as he ledthe Fair Play for Cuba Committee in Dallas. The mere fact that Oswald was shot and silenced by Jack Ruby is startling. There are cover-ups and misrepresentation of information on this topic. For starters, the fact that JFK’s brain is missing from the corpse rises huge questions. So does the fact that Allen Dulles, the man JFK fired from the CIA, was one of the main workers on the Warren Commission.
The CIA did it
To start off, the Kennedy’s did not have a lack of enemies. The CIA went head to head with Kennedy when he did not allow more troops to go into Cuba to help the Bay of Pigs invasion. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a complete failure, and the CIA did not appreciate Kennedy’s liberal and peacekeeping tactics. This was during the Cold War after all, and the CIA wanted to be militant. Important to note about the CIA theory is that the CIA uses extremely secretive tactics for employees meaning it is difficult to find connections to the CIA. Both the CIA and the person involved will continually deny it.
As discussedabout above, JFK fired him from the head of the CIA after the Bay of Pigs failure. Even though he went head to head with JFK, he led the Warren Commissions investigation to find out who assassinated JFK. Seems a bit fishy, right?
DeMohrenschildt had connections with the CIA and was Oswalds mentor in Dallas. He killed himself before the House Committee on Assassins was set to hear his testimony.
He was the man briefly put on trial for Jim Garrisons investigation of the assassination. He had contacts with Oswald in New Orleans, and it was later found out he had connections with the CIA, even though he lied about that on trial.
E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis
Heard these names before? Witness Marita Lorenz placed these two men in Dallas on the day of the assassination. These men both had connections to the CIA and were later involved in the Watergate Scandal under Nixon. Hunt confessed to being a bench-warmer in the JFK assassination on his deathbed. Some have speculated that these two men were part of the three tramps. The three tramps were 3 homeless looking men arrested for JFK’s murder on 11/22/63 in Dallas, but then quickly released. This picture of them circulated decades after the assassination. Sturgis is allegedly the 2nd tramp while Hunt is possibly the 3rd. There are ideas that Charles Harrelson (father of actor Woody Harrelson and convicted felon) could have been the 1st tramp.
Cord and Mary Meyer
Cord Meyer had connections to the CIA. It was speculated that Mary Meyer was one of JFKs mistresses. Mary Meyer was brutally shot. It has been speculated that James Angleton, another member of the CIA, broke into her house and stole her diary.
The Mafia did it
The mafia HATED the Kenned’ys. Bobby Kennedy and JFK went after organized crime like no other. The mafia was rooting for Nixon to win in 1960 because they had more favorable connections with him. The House Committee Report on Assassinations said that some individuals of the mafia had the means, motive, and opportunity to kill JFK. Also, keep in mind that the mafia could have been working with the CIA. This would not be the first time this happened either. The mafia was in cahoots with the CIA for to assassinate Fidel Castro on many failed attempts. This theory gained more credence after the country found out after the plots to kill Fidel Castro.
He had connections to the mafia andowned a nightclub called The Carousel in Dallas. There are witness reports of people watching Oswald meeting with members of the mafia before the assassination. He also had close connections to the Dallas police, who were often in his nightclub involved themselves in illegal activities such as prostitution.
He was the Tamp amafia boss. He was involved in plots to kill Castro with others such as Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana. There is a witness report from Jose Aleman of Trafficante saying that Kennedy is going to be hit.
He was the mob boss of Chicago. He was reported saying to another inmate, “Yeah, I had the son of a bitch killed (referring to Kennedy). I’m glad I did. I’m sorry I couldn’t have done it myself.”
The FBI/ J. Edgar Hoover did it
Hoover was a militant leader of the FBI who did not agree with some of the liberal policies of JFK. Hoover particularly did not see eye to eye with Bobby Kennedy (a lot of people didn’t). Also related to this theory is that Oswald visited the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City to apply for a Cuban Visa. This was because he had been denied a visa in the Cuban Embassy in the United States. There is little documentation of his visit to the embassy, even though there is documentation of the visits of other citizens. There are also ideas that an impersonator went to the embassy. It is possible the FBI was behind that.
Agent Hosty kept tabs on Oswald once he returned from the USSR. Oswald wrote a note to the FBI to stop assaulting his wife, Marina. Hosty later burned this note.
Banister had connections to the FBI, and Oswald met with him in New Orleans before the assassination. Banister claimed that Oswald was a right-winger rather than a communist.
The Communists did it Cuba/ USSR
Many see the communist connections Oswald had to both the USSR and Cuba. He defected to the USSR after he served as a marine, and then came back to the US. He was head of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Belowis a picture of him holding the rifle and 2 communist newspapers. He tried to visit Cuba through the Cuban embassy in the US and Mexico City, but had trouble getting a Visa.
Johnson did it
It is unclear whether Kennedy would have kept Johnson on the ticket in 1964, which gave him motive to kill the President. Oliver Stone’s JFK pins Johnson at the head of the whole operation. So does E. Howard Hunts deathbed confession. This theory has not taken as much prominence over the CIA/ mafia theories though. There is not as much evidence found to this theory. Johnson definitely had the motive to do it though. He was a Vice President with little role in the Kennedy administration because he had a terrible relationship with Bobby Kennedy who shut him out of most of the operations. Also, it is unclear whether Johnson would have been taken off the presidential ticket in 1964.
The extreme right-wing did it
Some thought that Oswald was a communist; others thought he was a right-wing extremist. Oswald could have been a right-winger. This is because he had connections to David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, and Guy Banister, 3 right-wing men, in New Orleans at 544 Camp Street. Guy Banister said in a Playboy article that Oswald was actually an right-wing politically, even though many believe he was a Marxist. Also, one right-wing extremist, Joseph Milteer, recorded predicting the assassination two weeks before it would occur. Right-wingers and fascists alike hated Kennedy. There is some evidence that it could have been a right-wing conspiracy, and many of the people involved in this could be linked to the other theories as well.
This is just the beginning of the different conspiracy theories ideas. There are many fully-formed ideas, connections, and evidence that support these different theories. These include more witness testimonies and other pieces of evidence. None of these theories have yet be proven truth beyond a reasonable doubt in a court.
Some strange conspiracies have come up too that are laughable. These theories have little to no information to back them up. They have formed out of connections researchers have found, or just the fact that some people may want to start a scandal. Some researchers have tried to back up that former Nazis played a role. Others have tried to relate Rafael Cruz (Ted Cruz’s) to the assassination. They claim he was there in Dallas on the day Kennedy was shot. Donald Trump linked Rafael Cruz in 2016 to the assassination as well. The Rafael Cruz theory seems to be more about political beliefs and scandals than any factual information.