American Tragedy: The Kennedy Assassination Essay, Research Paper
Where were you November 22, 1963? Any and every American old enough to mourn, to feel sorrow remember where they were and what they were doing when they received the news that President John F. Kennedy had been murdered. My mother was only three and she remembers the day. She was in the living room of her childhood home when a weeping neighbor called my Grandmother and broke the news. The telephone call was the beginning of a chain reaction that sent the entire house into uncontrollable sobbing. The event had that effect on the entire nation. Men and women, Democrats and Republicans, adults and children mourned the loss of their fallen leader.
President Johnson, the Warren Commission, and every fascinated watcher-on in the world would closely scrutinize that day and the following events. The facts of the day are still hotly contested even now. Politicians have made their careers on the case. Conspiracy theorists have had a field day writing books, accusing anyone and everyone of planing the assassination. This paper?s purpose is to inform you on the known facts of the event, including the reason for President Kennedy?s visit, the parade through down-town Dallas, and the emergency trip to the hospital. The Warren Commission?s report to the President will be summarized and many conspiracy theories will be established.
President and Mrs. Kennedy arrived in Dallas at 11:40AM CST on Friday, November 22, 1963. The couple had been in San Antonio, the first leg of a two day trip through the state, where they met with Vice-president Johnson and Texas Governor Connally. The Texas trip was planned in hopes of reviving the President?s popularity in Texas after it was hurt during the election of 1960. Until midmorning, cloudy skies had threatened to cancel the motorcade-style parade that was planned for the day. The motorcade would travel from Love Field, where the President?s plane had landed, through Dallas on a previously publicized route to the Trade Mart where a luncheon in honor of the President had been planned, (The Warren Commission, pg. 2). The motorcade consisted of the president?s car, followed by a car designate the ?Presidential follow-up? which carried secret service members. Behind that was another open roofed car carrying Vice-president Lyndon Johnson and Texas Governor Connally and their wives. Following the vice-president?s car was another follow-up car and several cars and buses with dignitaries and press representatives.
The motorcade followed its designated route, first passing through a residential area of Dallas, and then making its way through the middle of the downtown area. The parade traveled west on Main Street and then made a right on Houston. The motorcade went one block and then made a left-turn on Elm. On the corner of Elm and Houston was the large, ominous Texas School Book Depository, where the fatal shots were later accused of being fired from. When the President?s car turned west on Elm and crossed the Depository, three shots were fired at the motorcade. The President was struck by a bullet that entered at the base of his neck, just right of his spine and exited under the lower left portion of the knot in the President?s tie. A second bullet struck Kennedy in the rear base of his head, causing the fatal wound. Texas Governor Connally, riding two cars behind the President, was also hit. The bullet hit the Governor on the extreme right side of his back, just below the armpit. The bullet exited below his left nipple and hit him again on the left wrist. Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman saw that the President had been hit and instructed the driver to get the President to a hospital immediately. Parlkand Memorial Hospital was the closest hospital, just 4 miles away.
Awaiting Doctors met the presidential car and immediately began an attempt to resuscitate the dying President. At 1:00PM, just 30 minutes after the President had been shot, Kennedy?s heart had stopped and was pronounced dead. Vice-president Johnson left Parkland Hospital after being notified of the President?s death and traveled back to the Presidential Plane at Love Field under close guard. Mrs. Kennedy and the President?s body followed and boarded the plane shortly after Johnson. At 2:38PM, with the plane on it?s way back to Washington, DC, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States.
On November 29, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson created an investigation commission to ?evaluate all the facts and circumstances surrounding the assassination and the subsequent killing of the alleged assassin and to report its findings to him,? (Warren Commission Foreword). Chief Justice Earl Warren headed the commission that consisted of six other members including two senators and two representatives, one of which was future President Gerald Ford. After 299 days of investigation that included a recreation of the event in Dallas, interviews with witnesses from the parade, gathering of rooms full of evidence, the commission was ready to present their report to the President. The 880-page report was submitted to President Johnson on September 24, 1964. The commission concluded that the three shots that killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired from the Texas School Board Depository. It also concluded that the bullet that pierced the throat of the President hit and wounded the Governor, as well. The report implies that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin based on the fact that he was seen carrying the rifle into the Texas School Book Depository and the rifle used to kill Kennedy was owned by Oswald. Also, the shots were fired from a window where Oswald had been seen standing in at the time of the murder.
Two months before the birth of Lee Harvey Oswald, his father, a collector of insurance premiums, died, leaving a heavy financial burden on the rest of the family. His mother, Marguerite, was forced to enter the work force. She came to the conclusion to put Lee Harvey, his brother Robert and their half brother, John Pic in orphanage homes. Marguerite later removed Lee Harvey from the home and the two relocated to Dallas when he was around 4 years old. She also withdrew Robert and John in anticipation of her upcoming marriage to Edwin Ekdahl, which took place in May 1945. Lee Harvey became very attached to his stepfather but, in the summer of 1948, her mother divorced Ekdahl, causing great grief for Lee Harvey.
When Lee Harvey Oswald was 13, he and his mother moved to New York City to live with John Pic, who was stationed there with the Coast Guard. Although he had no prior history of truancy or bad behavior, Lee Harvey became a very threatening problem for the ad hoc family. It had been reported that he had struck his mother on at least one occasion and had threatened John Pic?s wife with a knife. Lee Harvey spent time in Youth House, a home for young men where he went through psychiatric observation, (Case Closed, pg. 11). Three years after leaving New York and one year after a failed attempt to join, Lee Harvey was enlisted in the Marines at age 17. He spent time in Japan before leaving the Marines in 1959. He had shown a great interest in Russia and in particular, Marxism. He immediately defected to Russia after leaving the Marines. His high hopes and great interest for and in Russia were extinguished approximately three years after arriving there. He returned to Texas where he lived until his death at the hands of Jack Ruby in 1963.
It didn?t take two days for conspiracy theorists to start rearing their ugly heads after the death of President Kennedy. Once the public heard of Oswald, the only man accused in the case, was in possession of Communistic propaganda, it immediately assumed that the Soviet Union was responsible the assassination, (Conspiracy pg. 141). Fingers were pointed at Cuba, the American Government, and a great deal many other political entities in an attempt to find the truly guilty. They couldn?t believe that Oswald was alone in his attempts. There had to be another person, another group who hired Oswald to assassinate the beloved figure. But, no one could come to a conclusion without reasonable doubt as to who it was. To this day, some people believe there was a conspiracy surrounding the murder. The trajectories of the bullets were also called into question. But, no one ever came to a consistent conclusion as it pertained to a conspiracy. It is in my opinion that the assassination was what it was. Sometimes, an assassination is just an assassination, in my opinion.
For many countries around the world, November 22, 1963 is just another date on the calendar. It has little meaning and it passes by with little thought of the past. But for America, it represents one of the darkest days in the history of this still very young nation. It represented the end of America?s innocence. No longer were we the children of naivet?. It forced the country to wake up, rub its virgin eyes and experience the world for what it really is: a cold, harsh reality that we were not ready to deal with. America only had a few years to spend with President Kennedy while he was in the spotlight. There was a love-hate relationship between the American people and President Kennedy. We loved to see him and hated to see him go.
1. The Warren Commission ?Report of the President?s Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy? US Government Printing Office Washington 1964
2. Posner, Gerald ?Case Closed? Random House New York 1993
3. Summer, Anthony ?Conspiracy? McGraw-Hill New York 1980