The John Kennedy Assassination

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, destined to be the first and to date only Roman Catholic President of the United States, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, at 3 p.m. May 29, 1917.

His father Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. was a controversial millionaire (known for unsavory business practices) and political figure, who after being appointed American Ambassador to Great Britain by President Roosevelt in 1938 promptly became a proponent of appeasement. During the Second World War he argued voraciously against American aid being given to the British, before finally imploding his political career with an infamous statement to the Boston Globe “Democracy is finished in England. It may be here.”

Jack’s mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, was the eldest child of a prominent Boston family who after marrying Joseph, October 7, 1914, gave birth to what became known as the Kennedy clan, nine children fated for lives of controversy, tragedy and greatness.

Originally it was the first born, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., who was to be groomed for America’s highest political office, a position which due to his gaffes the senior Kennedy could never attain. Unfortunately Joseph, Jr. died while taking part in a secret mission during World War Two and the family turned to the second eldest sibling, Jack.

No shrinking violet Jack rose to the occasion, a war hero in his own right he entered the political arena with gusto, his background, rugged good looks and family connections insuring success. First as a congressman then as a senator Kennedy climbed the ladder.

On September 12, 1953, Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and then on January 20, 1961, with his wife at his side and Lyndon Baines Johnson as his Vice President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States of America. His term in office was to be cut tragically short, however, when on November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time he was shot in Dallas, Texas, ostensibly by a clerk at the Texas School Book Depository named Lee Harvey Oswald. Thirty minutes later the political leader of the most powerful nation on Earth was pronounce dead and the controversy began.

That Presidents make enemies is a given and JFK was no exception:

The Bay of Pigs Invasion was launched April 17, 1961, what followed was a fiasco of monumental proportions.

The plan, a legacy of the Eisenhower administration, entailed the training and arming of 1500 Cuban expatriates by the Central Intelligence Agency. The hope was that after landing in Cuba they would form a nucleus around which the Cuban people would rally and overthrow the communist regime of Fidel Castro.

Unfortunately a combination of factors would eventually lead to failure:

Cuban Intelligence, aware of the impending incursion, imprisoned or killed a number of native counter-insurgents thus nullifying any help they might have given the expatriates.

Against the CIA's advice Kennedy changed the landing site from close to the Escambray Mountains, where in the event of a military reversal guerrilla warfare would have been possible, to the swamps surrounding the Bay of Pigs (Bahia de Cochinos).

An almost total lack of American naval and air support
(Kennedy wanted to give the impression that the invasion had been planned and was being carried out solely by the expatriates.) was the final nail in the coffin making failure inevitable and after some initial success, surrounded by heavily armed Cuban troops and running low on ammunition, the exile ground troops of Brigade 2506 surrendered. Losses of a 114 dead expatriates and thousands of dead and missing Cuban regulars/militia grim testimony to the battle's ferocity.

It was almost two years before over 1100 imprisoned survivors were finally exchanged for 53 million dollars worth of goods, food and medicine. The veterans addressed, following their return, by a chastened American President at a "welcome back" ceremony the Orange Bowl, Palm Beach, Florida.

On October 16, 1962, Kennedy was shown high altitude photographs of a Russian ballistic missile site under construction in Cuba, because of its proximity to the American mainland the threat was obvious. The president was seemingly in a no win situation his options limited, attack and face possible nuclear retaliation by the Soviet Union or live with a Sword of Damocles aimed at the nation’s heart. Kennedy chose a third option, a naval blockade of the island nation. The Russians blinked, negotiation followed and a resolution was reached. The Soviet Union promised to remove their missiles from Cuba, and the United States, after promising to never again participate in an invasion (of Cuba), quietly removed their missiles from Turkey.

Kennedy laid the foundations for what would eventually become full scale American involvement in Vietnam and assisted in the overthrow of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem.

It was a direct jab at both communism and its major sponsor the Soviet Union, when Kennedy while on a visit to West Berlin, alluded to the Berlin Wall in his famous “I am a Berliner” speech (“Ich bin ein Berliner”) with the statement “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put up a wall to keep our people in.”

Civil rights and an end to the inequalities that were a result of state-sanctioned racial discrimination were a prime concern of the Kennedy administration. In the early 1960s, segregation, especially in the south, was a fact of life encompassing almost all public places and in spite of a Supreme Court ruling many public schools were ignoring new laws demanding racial integration. Resistance to change by many southern whites was rampant up to and including the highest levels of state government. (Alabama Governor George Wallace was forced to step aside by federal marshals after attempting to block the enrollment of two black students at the University of Alabama.) In an effort to deal with the chaotic disharmony, created by racial issues, and heal a divided nation, Kennedy proposed legislation to outlaw segregation in public places and insure equal opportunity for all, legislation which, after his death, would become known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Powerful men or women and their agendas, social, religious, economic and political shape world events, enemies are a natural by-product. The machinations of Kennedy’s public life, both foreign and domestic, produced a long list of those that wished him harm; the question is how many had both the motivation and wherewithal to orchestrate his assassination?

The Warren Commission (the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy) was established by order of Lyndon Baines Johnson on November 22, 1963. The information gathered included thousands of exhibits along with the testimony of 552 witnesses and was published in an 888 page report followed by volumes of supporting documents. It’s conclusion, three bullets were fired, two struck the President and the gunman Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

For his part Oswald claimed he was an innocent patsy and while in the process of being transferred to the Dallas County Jail was himself murdered by Jack Ruby a Nightclub owner with links to the Mafia and other elements of organized crime.

Already suffering from lung cancer Ruby died on January 3, 1967, of a pulmonary embolism. In a declaration given just prior to his death he declared that he alone was responsible for Oswald’s murder.

After 15 years of widespread criticism, plus public, media and government pressure the House of Representatives established a committee to re-evaluate the evidence. Formally known as the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations it sought to finally lay to rest the questions of who was involved, how and why.

The HSCA eventually concluded that:

Oswald killed Kennedy firing three shots two of which hit the President the last being decisive.

A fourth shot was fired from the area known as the grassy knoll but failed to hit its intended target.

The assassination was part of a conspiracy.

Neither the governments of Cuba or the Soviet Union were involved.

Anti-Castro groups as a whole were not involved but individual members may have been.

Organized crime as a group was not involved but individual members may have been

While government agencies such as the FBI, the CIA or the Secret Service were not involved in a deliberately subversive way, deficiencies in both job performance and the protection afforded the President were obvious and unacceptable. It did not rule out the possibility of individual involvement within these organisations.

Many conspiracy theorists are still not convinced and offer the following:

Khrushchev humiliated by Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crises, used Oswald a Soviet resident for several years to even the score possibly with KGB operatives in support.

Though possible it’s not very probable for a number of reasons:

Indications are that the Soviet leader actually liked Kennedy and considered dealing with him to be infinitely more preferable than a more hard line successor such as Johnson.

Kennedy had given Khrushchev an out during the Cuban Missile Crises by agreeing to remove American missiles from Turkey thereby allowing the Soviet leader to save face.

Oswald was extremely unstable (he attempted suicide a few days after arriving in Russia) and was also, according to recently released KGB dossiers, a second rate marksman.

Proof of any involvement by the Soviet Union in the murder of an American President would be considered an Act of War and might easily have triggered a nuclear response.

Three vagrants were questioned by police at a train depot shortly after the assassination and according to records were identified as three drifters named Harold Doyle, John Gedney and Gus Abrams. Based on what is admittedly shaky evidence (mainly provided by Lois Gibson a police artist) some believe that two of these “three tramps” were none other than Watergate burglars Frank Sturgis and Everette Howard Hunt, others identified as possibilities were Charles Harrelson (father of Woody Harrelson the actor) and Chauncey Holt.

Harrelson, who did assassinate a U.S. District Judge with a high powered rifle, did make a claim to being Kennedy’s killer, a claim he afterwards recanted. It was later proved that he was in a public restaurant in a different city at the time of the murder.  

Holt claimed he was a double agent for the CIA and the Mafia in Dallas to provide fake Secret Service identification to persons unknown. According to witnesses a great many persons claimed to be members of the Secret Service that day

Sturgis implicated in the Watergate break-in and involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion, was accused by Marita Lorenz an agent for both the CIA and FBI of being along with Oswald and others a member of an organization called Group 40, whose raison d’etre was allegedly nothing less than the murder of both Castro and Kennedy.

E. Howard Hunt was a CIA agent involved with both the Bay of Pigs and Watergate (for which he spent time in jail) and in 1961 a leaked CIA memorandum implicated both him and Sturgis in JFK’s murder. Years later Hunt struck back with a deathbed confession both taped and written, alleging government involvement in the assassination at the highest levels up to and including Lyndon B. Johnson.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was Vice President during the Kennedy administration, but it was a role of little consequence and only modest influence; real power was held tight to the vest by JFK and his brother Robert (“Bobbie”) the Attorney General. This all changed when within two hours of the assassination Johnson became President.  

The smoking gun for those who would believe Johnson a prime conspirator comes from a 2002 interview between author Robert Gaylon Ross and LBJ’s alleged Mistress Madeleine Duncan Brown.

In the interview Brown stated that Johnson, upon emerging from a meeting the evening before Kennedy’s murder, a meeting purportedly comprised of powerful politicians and millionaire businessmen as well as CIA, FBI and Mafia kingpins, took her by the arm and told her “After tomorrow those goddam Kennedys will never embarrass me again. That’s no threat, that’s a promise.”

During the 1950s Jimmy Hoffa was head of the Teamsters Union and heavily involved with the Mafia. As part of the US government’s war on organized crime John Kennedy, then a junior senator, served on the Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field his brother Robert as chief counsel. The brothers charged the teamster boss with corruption and misappropriation of pension funds and although not convicted Hoffa became their mortal enemy.

Upon becoming President, John, with Robert as Attorney General, renewed his attacks on Hoffa, again charging him with misappropriation. A jury trial resulted in acquittal but was overturned, and in 1964, after Kennedy’s assassination, a second trial found Hoffa guilty this time of misappropration and jury tampering.

Hoffa was finally imprisoned in 1967 only to be released with a full pardon in 1971 courtesy of Richard Nixon, the President having allegedly received campaign funds from teamsters conditional on Hoffa’s release.

Hoffa disappeared in 1975 and was declared legally dead in 1983. His body has never been found.

J. Edgar Hoover was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for almost 50 years (1925-1972), his longevity and the power his position afforded, placed him on a level with and often intimidated the presidents nominally his superiors who came and went with the fickle dictates of politics.

For whatever his reasons, Hoover, prior to the Kennedy’s short term in power rarely acknowledged the Mafia, the FBI seemingly adopting a hands off policy to what should have been their mortal enemies (some have argued that Mafia kingpins were blackmailing Hoover over his sexual orientation, others that their was an uneasy truce between the two organisations). The Kennedy’s war on organized crime upset the applecart so to speak and added the Director to their growing list of enemies.

In an effort to insure that no bureaucrat will ever again wield such power over elected officials, the tenure of present day FBI directors is limited by law to a single term of 10 years.

Robert Kennedy first heard of his brother’s assassination when the phone rang at his Virginia home and the voice of J. Edgar Hoover informed him bluntly and purportedly with relish “The president has been shot.”

In the uncertain time immediately following JFK’s death, Bobbie used his waning power as Attorney General to try and get a grip on the situation. As federal marshals assumed responsibility for his and his families personal security (the more traditional security providers, FBI, Treasury Department and Secret Service were no longer trusted), distraught but determined, the brother of a slain president manned the phones putting together a snapshot of what had happened.

His conclusion, a shadowy group drawn from the Mafia along with CIA operatives and militant Cuban refugees originally gathered together to kill Castro had turned rogue. His brother’s assassination was a revenge killing motivated by the Bay of Pigs fiasco. From that moment his primary goal was to find and bring to justice his brothers killers and to do that he needed the full power of the presidency.

At about 12:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination was wounded by 24 year old Palestinian Sirhan Bishara Sirhan [1] in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. He died the following day in the emergency room of LA’s The Good Samaritan Hospital.

[1] The posibility of a second gunman has never been ruled out. In his 1983 memoir "Coroner,"  Dr.Thomas Noguchi, Los Angeles County Chief Medical Officer/Coroner at Robert Kennedy's autopsy, pointed out that he never officially ruled that Sirhan fired the fatal shot.

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