These Latest Documents on JFK’s Assassination Separate Fact From Fiction
Shortly after noon on the fateful day of 22nd November 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated while on a motorcade ride through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. It was one of the most shocking and notorious events of the 20th century that changed the landscape of American politics forever.
Several conspiracy theories have muddled the waters since, but thankfully, the latest information from the unredacted records released by the National Archives helps us separate fact from fiction.
The Fateful Day for the Kennedys
As the 35th President of the United States, JFK set out on a presidential motorcade on that fateful day in November. His gorgeous wife, Jaqueline Kennedy, accompanied him, and the first couple was joined by Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie.
At half past noon, what was later confirmed to be a single bullet took the life of the President and injured the Governor. Amid the commotion on the street, the motorcade rushed them to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where JFK was pronounced d$$d about half an hour post-shooting.
Who Was the Culprit?
It took a little over an hour from when the shot was fired for the Dallas Police Department to track down the man who pulled the trigger. Lee Harvey Oswald was immediately charged with the double mu$$ers of JFK and the local policeman J.D. Tippit.
Oswald was an employee of the Texas Book Depository at the Dealey Plaza and a former marine. Two days later, he was fatally shot by Jack Ruby, a club owner who passed away due to terminal illness in prison four years later while awaiting trial for the mu$$er.
The Early Life of the Assassin
Further investigation into Oswald’s background revealed some exciting details. He was no ordinary civilian; the man who dared to assassinate the President of the United States in broad daylight was a disgruntled former marine who was also a communist sympathizer.
The waters swirling around the event just got murkier when more of his dubious backstory came to light. This probably added to the conspiracy theories about who wanted the President gone and who had the wherewithal to stage such a political coup?
The Russian Connection
As more strange details poured in about Oswald, the authorities dug deeper until something blew a hole into the Warren Commission’s theory of him acting as a lone gunman. After being honorably discharged from active duty in the marine corps, he defected to the Soviet Union in 1959.
He married a Russian woman Marina and set up a house together in Minsk until 1962, when they moved to the United States with their daughter. The couple settled down in Dallas, Texas, where they welcomed their second child.
More About the Man Who Pulled the Trigger
That’s not all; going back to his early childhood, the signs of a troubled child were already there. At 12, Oswald was held in juvenile detention for truancy, where a psychiatrist diagnosed him as emotionally disturbed due to the absence of family life.
After repeatedly avoiding education, he joined the marines at 17. Troubles followed there as well, as he got court-martialed twice during his tenure. His life story and track record as a miscreant gave weight to the theory of a lone assassin acting on impulse.
The Assassin’s End
Unfortunately for the investigators who wanted to get to the bottom of his motives, Oswald was in police custody for less than 48 hours before he met his demise in a shocking way similar to his assassination of the President. This time he fell victim to the bullet shot by the Dallas club owner Jack Ruby with the cameras trained on him.
Until he passed away due to health issues in 1967, Ruby insisted he acted out of grief due to the assassination of his beloved President JFK.
The Mystery Behind the Assassination
The dramatic events that followed JFK’s assassination fueled further speculations about the conspiracies surrounding his demise. Who wanted him gone? Which domestic or international factions commissioned the daylight mu$$er of the influential American President?
When President Lyndon B Johnson took over the reign from the late President, he wanted a commission to thoroughly investigate the assassination and present its findings. The Warren Commission was formed for this purpose, and even though its report was controversial, it shed light on many crucial factors.
The Warren Commission Ruling
By the end of November, a President’s Commission known as the Warren Commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the matter at length. The investigation that lasted ten months included over 25,000 interviews and chasing after thousands of investigative leads.
After thoroughly studying all the evidence and the material related to the late President’s assassination, the Commission concluded that both Oswald and his ki$$er Ruby acted alone without the instigation or involvement of any third party. Despite the ruling, the event has consistently drawn speculations to the contrary.
The HSCA Report
Even though they largely agreed with the Warren Commission findings that proposed the single-bullet theory, the US House of Select Committee on Assassinations, or HSCA, in its 1979 report, stated the high probability of Kennedy’s assassination being a result of a global conspiracy.
The Commission failed to cast suspicion on individuals or groups that may have been involved. Still, they excluded the probable involvement of the Soviet Union or the government of Cuba based on available evidence. The US Justice Department refuted the possibility of conspiracies, but speculations of alternative scenarios still continue.
Discredited Acoustic Analysis
The HSCA based its final findings that clearly stated the possibility of conspiracies surrounding the assassination of the President on a critical piece of evidence – the dictabelt recording. A motorcycle policeman’s radio microphone stuck in the open position happened to record the entire assassination.
This recording was presented as crucial evidence based on which the HSCA concluded the presence of a conspiracy to assassinate the American President. Still, the acoustic analysis was discredited when the committee failed to prove that the recording occurred in the Dealey Plaza.
A Single Shooter Theory
Let’s get to the crux of the matter relating to the hundreds of conspiracy theories that stain the events surrounding JFK’s assassination. Did the assassin Lee Harvey Oswald act of his own accord? Everything about his personality, from how he had led his life until then, points to his ability to act alone.
Yet, did he? This has been the most gnawing thought on the investigators’ minds through the years. His Russian connections only added to the confusion. There were also rumors that the CIA had been in touch with him, which the agency repeatedly denied.
The Magic Bullet Theory
Most of the conspiracy theories surrounding JFK’s assassination were born out of what came to be called the “magic bullet.” It was used to deride the conclusions of the Warren Commission that expressly stated that a single bullet had taken the President’s life and wounded the Texas Governor, Connally.
According to the findings based on experts’ persuasive evidence, the high-velocity bullet shot from the sixth-floor window of the book depository building pierced through the President and struck the Governor. It was later found on the gurney that carried Connally.
The Zapruder Film
The primary basis for the single-bullet theory was the Commission’s study of the Zapruder film, the only known camera that had captured the entire assassination sequence. While the running speed of the camera was determined to be 18.3 frames per second, the presumed mu$$er weapon needed at least 42 frames or 2.3 seconds to be fired twice.
Interestingly, this observation resulted in a divide among the members of the Commission. Some believed there could have been only one bullet that struck the President and the Governor, while others strongly felt there were more shooters.
Different Eye Witness Accounts
The Warren Commission conducted their meeting behind closed doors, but the proceedings weren’t kept a secret. Several differing eyewitness accounts poured in from the members who witnessed the assassination. Some were sure they heard shots fired from the grassy knoll right in front of the Presidential limousine.
A motion-picture film shot by an amateur photographer Orville Nix further added to the confusion when it seemed to hint at the image of a gunman lying on the knoll nearby. This was later disproved after analyzing the film.
The Suspicious Badge Man
The supposed second sniper earned the nickname of the “Badge Man” thanks to him wearing what some suspect was a policeman’s uniform with a gleaming badge on the shirt. Mary Moorman, a photographer and a witness to the assassination, had captured the image of this badge man on the grassy knoll.
Even though his presence or identity was never confirmed, this man became the center of most conspiracy theories. While some thought it to be a sniper, others strongly suspected it to be an optical distortion from a nearby object.
Signaling With an Umbrella?
Over the decades, every little speck on each photograph taken of the assassination has given rise to in-depth investigation, analysis, and conspiracy theories. Anything that could add weight to the larger ploy behind the shocking demise of JFK was welcome.
Jim Garrison, who was a firm believer in a huge conspiracy that led to the untimely demise of the President, noticed a random man in the crowd opening his umbrella. He soon concluded that the gesture might have been a signal to his co-conspirators.
A District Attorney's Investigation
This report stemmed from over a decade-long speculation about the many conspiracy theories doing the rounds since Jim Garrison, the New Orleans District Attorney, launched an in-depth investigation in 1966 into the President’s assassination. It was highly publicized, sparking the interest of the general public.
Garrison stated there was a massive conspiracy behind the propagation of the single-bullet theory, putting a dent into the earlier claim that Oswald had acted alone. The DA had acted on the many tip-offs from Jack Martin, who cast suspicion on David Ferrie being involved in the assassination.
The Trial of Clay Shaw
David Ferrie was a former pilot with Eastern Airlines who wasn’t directly involved in the assassination to warrant an arrest. Further investigations revealed that he might have been heard planning to assassinate the President with someone later identified as Clay Shaw.
By the time it came to the notice of Garrison, Ferrie had already passed away in February 1967. Within a week, on 1st March, he arrested the New Orleans businessman on charges of conspiring with Oswald, Ferrie, and others to assassinate the President.
Found Not Guilty
Shaw was an accomplished businessman, playwright, and director of the International Trade Mart. He enjoyed a good reputation in New Orleans until he was pulled up as a suspect in the assassination of the most prominent political figure in the world.
Shaw stood trial in 1969, becoming the only person to have ever been brought to trial for the case. Two years from the exact date he was arrested, the jury acquitted him in less than an hour of the proceedings. They expressly pronounced him not guilty of the assassination of JFK.
The CIA Connections
In the late 70s, nearly two years after Clay Shaw was acquitted, former CIA director Richard Helms testified under oath to having known the businessman for a while. He shocked everyone by revealing that he had once been a part-time intelligence contact in the CIA’s Domestic Contact Service for officers stationed abroad.
This was published in the 2001 edition of an academic journal, Studies in Intelligence. He was doing it on a non-clandestine basis, and his status did not represent an actual agency relationship.
The Many Misinformations
The Clay Shaw association with the agency might have perpetuated Jim Garrison’s suspicions of his involvement. In 1967, the latter had expressly stated that he believed in the conspiracy theories involving the Russians and the CIA based on solid evidence.
This was probably one of them, as mentioned in the Studies in Intelligence, in which Max Holland argues that the misinformation regarding Shaw’s collaboration with CIA front companies was spread by none other than the Russian agencies. Still, Garrison did not realize it to be a perpetuated lie until later.
The Movie JFK
Jim Garrison’s highly publicized investigation into the assassination of the US President was best represented in the movie JFK. Written and directed by Oliver Stone, who had also made a documentary on the same topic, the film had Kevin Costner playing the pivotal character of the New Orleans DA.
The actor brought to life the intense and persistent study of the events surrounding the assassination by Garrison. It was released in 1991 to good reception by the general public. Amidst generally favorable reviews, there were some heavy criticisms.
Were the CIA Involved?
This has been one of the most urgent questions that have been posed since the investigations of the assassination went underway. Did the agency want the President gone? Kennedy did look “too weak” on communism when he mishandled the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba.
The late President aimed this attack to unsuccessfully oust the Fidel Castro government. It eventually soured the relationship between the US, Russia, and Cuba. Right from the get-go, many military aides disapproved of his plans but kept mum.
Aiding Regime Changes
Under Kennedy’s leadership, the Cuba incident wasn’t a one-off case. The US Intelligence Agency has played a crucial role in regime changes in other countries. It has a spotty record of directly or indirectly instigating the switch in ruling governments in various nations such as the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.
At the time of JFK’s assassination, the CIA was a young corporation with only 16 years of service. Was it capable of plotting the death of the country’s President?
The Newly Released Documents
In December 2022, the National Archives released 13,173 documents detailing new information on the assassination. This is the first time all the agencies responsible for the withheld documents came together to review each redacted information before releasing it to the public.
According to the experts who have read the documents, most of them are over-classified details by the intelligence agencies. Some are simply trivia that doesn’t sway the argument one way or the other in terms of whether Oswald acted alone or as part of a conspiracy theory.
The JFK Assassination Records Collection
The John F Kennedy Assassination Records Collection was set up in 1992 by the National Archives. It holds over five million pages of information and investigative reports about the President’s untimely demise. Most of the pages have been in the public domain for everyone to access and read since the late ’90s.
Almost 97 percent of the collection is available for public perusal with the newly released files. This proposal to disclose everything to the general public was in motion for several years.
The Highlights of the Documents
Unfortunately, for those looking for information that would further fuel the conspiracy theories involving Cubans, Russians, and the CIA, the newly released information would be a disappointment. It had no evidence to support any of those speculations.
Instead, the papers made it clear that Oswald had visited Mexico City to apply for his Visa and not to receive assassination orders from the CIA or to forge a new life in Cuba. Like the Warren Commission concluded decades ago, he most likely acted alone.
Facts Vs. Fiction
Most of the theories were spearheaded by Jim Garrison or the Warren Commission. The former had gone berserk at different points casting doubts on the CIA personnel, the extreme right-wing activists, and even the Cuban exiles for JFK’s assassinations.
Despite the thorough investigations conducted by several intelligence agencies and commissions, there has always been a thin line separating the facts and the fiction. The latest documents help separate the two, effectively negating most conspiracy theories and alternative scenarios that have been in motion since the assassination.
Even though the trove of de-redacted documents essentially debunks the conspiracy theories, it has once again generated new interest among the public about the assassination of one of the most prominent political figures in the world.
Every release of new information from the agencies such as the FBI, the CIA, and other equally essential government agencies has sustained the interest of conspiracy theorists for several decades. This time will be no different. We may not have to wait long before fresh speculations about the most talked-about event of the 20th century once again gain momentum.