, Research Paper
On November 22, 1963 John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. President Kennedy rode in the back of an open top limousine through the downtown area of Dallas. Thousands of people lined the designated route of the planned motorcade, hoping to catch a glimpse of their President. As the motorcade slowed to its end, traveling through Dealy Plaza, shots resonated through the city, and through the hearts of the American public, ultimately killing the beloved JFK. Immediately, secret service men rushed the President to Parkland Hospital, desperately hoping to save his life. The doctors? efforts were futile; within an hour, the President was proclaimed dead.
A great deal of controversy surrounds the case. A government appointed investigation team, the Warren Commission, published their conclusions in a book called The Warren Report. Their conclusions remain the American Government?s official stance on the case. Today, there are as many critics of The Warren Report as there are believers.
The witnesses and their testimonies who participated in the motorcade provide compelling evidence towards theories that do not all support the Warren Report?s conclusions. The author Gerald Posner who wrote Case Closed, a book that supports the Warren Report?s theories, prints conclusions that are also found to be questionable after strictly reviewing the testimonies of the involved parties from the motorcade.
At 11:40am C.S.T., Air Force One landed at Dallas Love Field Airport. The vice-president?s plane, Air Force Two, arrived about five minutes earlier. A sizable, but controllable crowd gathered to welcome the President and wave him off as the motorcade began its trip through Dallas. The motorcade traveled at about 25-30 mph as it proceeded to the pre-arranged route. As the motorcade entered the downtown area of Dallas, the crowds began to thicken and the motorcade slowed down. There were no reported irregularities as the motorcade made its way through the crowded downtown streets, except for two short stops in which the President requested. One, to shake a little girl?s hand, and the other to briefly greet a nun, leading a group of children. Everything was going accordingly as they headed west on Main towards Dealy Plaza. At Houston, the motorcade turned right and headed north towards Elm St.
Several vehicles, beginning with a large group of Dallas Police Department motorcycles preceded the President?s car. They traveled several minutes ahead of him. Behind the motorcycles came a pilot car. Several members of the Dallas Police Department manned it. Their job was to check for signs of unusual activity, or anything that could be considered threatening to the President. Following the pilot car was another small group of six motorcycles. They served to control the crowd back and away from the presidential limousine.
Next came the lead car, which was meant to carefully scan the areas of possible trouble next to and around the motorcade route. It was an unmarked DPD police car, driven by the Dallas Chief of police, Jesse Curry (Crossfire 9). Secret Service agents Forest Sorrels and Winston Lawson as well as Dallas County Sheriff J.E. ?Bill? Decker rode the same car, which led approximately four or five car lengths ahead of the President?s limousine, a 1961 custom made, Lincoln convertible (Crossfire 9).
Special Agent William Greer drove, and to his right sat Special Agent Roy Kellerman (Crossfire 9). There were two collapsible seats just behind the driver and passenger where Texas Governor John Connally and his wife sat. Governor Connally sat on the passenger side with Mrs. Connally sitting next to him on the driver side of the car. Behind them sat President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. President Kennedy sat on the passenger side of the car behind Governor Connally while his wife sat on the driver side of the car behind Mrs. Connally.
Behind the Presidential Limousine drove the follow up car. It held ten people. That day, all but one was a secret service agent. The Vice Presidential car followed next, carrying Lyndon Johnson, his wife, and Senator Ralph Yarborough (Crossfire 10). Eleven vehicles carrying local dignitaries, press, photographers, and White House staff trailed behind them (Crossfire 9-10).
As the Presidential limousine made the hard left turn onto Elm, the motorcade slowed almost stagnant (Case Closed 232). A few yards following the stunted speed, the limousine accelerated to about 10-12 mph once the street straightened out. The time was exactly 12:30pm C.S.T. (Case Closed 232) This was established after the assassination by the testimonies of four witnesses to the Warren Commission investigation (WR48-49). Mrs. Connally and Mrs. Kennedy were waiving to crowds on left side of the car while Governor Connally and President Kennedy waived to the crowds on the right side of the car.
The car was traveling at about 10-12 mph when the first shot rang out (WR49). Many members of the motorcade disregarded the notion that the noise actually shot from a gun. Instead, they assumed, and later testified, that the loud bang was that of a firecracker pop or a motorcycle backfiring. Though, Governor Connally and Forest Sorrels believed from the start that it was indeed a gunshot (WC IV 129)(WC VII 332). The sound was loud, and attracted the attention of most of the motorcade. Many participants looked around for the source of the sound.
Agent Kellerman thought that the sound came from his right side (WC II 61). Mrs. Connally also thought the shot came from her right (WC IV 146). Agent Sorrels, at the time of the shooting, believed that the sound he heard projected from his right, or in front of him, by the overpass (Conspiracy23). Later, in his testimony to the Warren Commission, Agent Sorrels attested that the shots had come from behind him and to the right (Conspiracy23). At the time of the shooting, to the right of the motorcade was the grassy knoll and to the back right was the book depository. Mr. Connally and Agent O?Donnell believe that the first shot came from behind them and to their right (WC IV 129)(WC VII 440).
Immediately after the first shot rang out, Agent Kellerman heard a voice from behind him that he believed to be President Kennedy saying ?My God, I am hit?. Agent Kellerman then turned around to face the President (WC II 61). When he did, he saw the President gripping his neck with his hands, wearing a confused look on his face. He then turned back around and reported to the driver, Agent Greer, ?Let?s get out of here; we are hit? (WC II 61). Mrs. Connally, right after the first shot, also turned around to look at the President. She additionally saw the President?s hands cuffed around his neck (WC IV 146). Though, neither one saw any blood. Governor Connally, at the same time, began to turn around to his right, attempting to see if the President had been shot. He couldn?t, so he began to turn around to his left, but before he could get all the way around, he was struck in the back by a bullet (WC IV 129).
Agent Kellerman heard a total of three to four shots (WC II 129). The first one, a short pause, then the second, third, and possibly fourth, cluttered and falling on top of each other. He described the last shots as being a ?double bang-bang? (WC II 129). Mrs. Connally, on the other hand, affirmed that she only heard three shots. She heard the same short pause after the first shot and then the second and third shots right after the other (WC IV 146). Mr. Connally doesn?t recall the second shot but heard the first and third. He described them as being rifle shots (WC IV 129). Due to the rapidity of the shots, his first impression at the scene was that there were either multiple gunmen or a lone gunman with an automatic rifle (Conspiracy 19). Agent Sorrels also believes that the second and third shots were fired very close together (WC VII 332). At least closer than the first and second shots. Several other witnesses in the motorcade also believed that the last two shots came almost one on top of the other.
According to the Warren Report, it was the third shot that hit President Kennedy in the back of the head. Agent Hill heard the first shot but disregarded it as a firecracker popping (WC II 132). Once he realized that it was a gunshot he ran from the follow-up car to the back of the presidential limousine. He did not hear the second shot but as he attempted to climb onto the back bumper of the limousine he heard what he thought was a second shot and then a popping sound (WC II 132). He then looked up and realized that President Kennedy had been shot in the head (WC II 132).
Mrs. Kennedy after the third shot climbed onto the trunk of the limousine to retrieve a piece of the President?s skull. Agent Hill on his second attempt to climb aboard the limousine helped push Mrs. Kennedy back into her seat. It was at this point that the motorcade began to accelerate on their way to Parkland hospital.
The information gathered from the participants in the motorcade presented a series of inconsistencies. The Warren Report as well as the author of Case Closed, Gerald Posner, concluded that a lone gunman assassinated the President. From the testimonies of the witnesses in the motorcade, several of their conclusions could be seen as inaccurate or incorrectly inferred.
For example, Posner in his book Case Closed concludes that the first shot hit not only President Kennedy but also Governor Connally (Case Closed 326). Governor Connally?s testimony to the Warren Commission contrasts this conclusion. His testimony says that after the first shot, which he at the time believed to be a rifle report, came from over his right shoulder. He turned around to the right to see the origin of the shot. Simultaneously, he tried to turn even farther around to see the condition of the President. He could not get a view of the President turned in this direction so he began to turn around to his left. Before he could turn around far enough for view, he reported that he was hit in the back, and began to hunch over. Although he did not hear a second shot, most would assume that he was truly hit by the second fired shot. Gerald Posner dismisses much of the Governor?s testimony in his book. How could Governor Connally not feel the bullet hit him or the wounds he sustained from the bullet until a couple seconds at least after he had supposedly been shot? It was plausible that he did not here the second shot and only the first and third because the second shot would have struck him before the sound of the bullet reached his ears. In Mrs. Connally?s testimony to the Warren Commission, who sat right next to Governor Connally?s on his left, said that the first shot fired hit President Kennedy in the neck (WC IV 146). The second bullet she says hit her husband because it was then that he slouched over and she pulled him into her lap. If Mr. and Mrs. Connally were accurate, the determination of a fourth shot would be undeniable. This is because it has been established that presumably the second of the three total bullets that were fired missed and hit a curb next to the underpass on Elm. The first bullet fired was inarguably the bullet that hit President Kennedy in the neck and the third shot is undisputedly the shot that hit President Kennedy in the head. So it would seem that Posner is missing a fourth shot. This might be able to be explained by the large number of witnesses who say that the second and third shots that they heard were extremely close together. Agent Kellerman testified that he heard the second and third shots as a ?double bang-bang? (WC II 61). Mrs. Connally testified that the second and third shot were closer together than the first and second shot (WC IV 146). Agent Greer also believes that he heard the third shot just after the second (WC II 112). Agent Sorrels testified to the same thing (WC VII 332). A shot heard right after the other, within a second or even a second and a half concludes that there was a second gunman. After a series of tests, the FBI concluded that it takes a minimum of 2.3 seconds to recycle the chamber of Oswald?s bolt action rifle (JFK MOVIE). This means that the second and third shots had to be at least 2.3 seconds apart without aiming but just loading the weapon. This leaves a reasonable doubt to whether the Warren Commission and Posner?s conclusions are really accurate.
Another doubt in Posner?s conclusions presented itself through the testimony of several witnesses in the motorcade who say they heard shots from the right rather than from behind them and to the right. Gerald Posner concludes that all three shots had to have come from the book depository building only. Contradictively, Mrs. Connally testified that her impression of where the shots came from was to the right of the car (WC IV 146). At the time the shots were fired, the grassy knoll area would have been to the right of the car implying a second gunman. David F. Powers, who sat two cars behind the presidential limousine, attested that he thought the shots came from his right and possible from over by the underpass (WC VII 472). Dallas County sheriff Bill Decker believed that the shots came from possibly the knoll area or behind it in the railroad yards because he immediately radioed ?Notify station five to move all available men out of my department back into the railroad yards? (Conspiracy 24). Sheriff Bill Decker sat in the back seat of the lead car and was only one car ahead of President Kennedy. Although there are witnesses who believe the shots came from over their head and to their right (area of book depository), there are too many witnesses who testify otherwise to just ignore their opinions.
After reviewing the testimonies of the witnesses involved in the motorcade, I believe this aspect of the case must be left open to argument. Many Americans rightly demand the simple truths to what happened that November day in Dealy Plaza; but this is not possible. There are to many ?holes? presented by witness testimony that keep the answers buried. For now this case cannot be closed. Until more evidence is uncovered, the American public will wait in agony to hear the true story of what happened on November 22, 1963 when The President of the United States was gunned down in cold blood while visiting Dallas.
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Posner, Gerald (1993). Case Closed. New York: Anchor Books.
Summers, Anthony (1989). Conspiracy. New York: Paragon House.
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