There have been books, films, plays, and podcasts about it. It is the single most debated event in American history. Who shot JFK?
Everyone alive on November 22, 1963, remembers where they were when they heard that John F. Kennedy had been shot.
The 46-year-old 35th president of the United States was just two years into his term when he visited Dallas, Texas to attempt to mend relations between warring factions of the Texas Democratic Party. He was supposed to head from Dallas Love Field to Dallas Market Center for a political event in an open-top limousine for a motorcade that would demonstrate his political support. The pathway through Dallas would lead through Dealey Plaza. The motorcade would include a white Ford carrying members of law enforcement; a 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible carrying driver Agent Bill Greer, Special Agent In Charge Roy Kellerman, Texas Governor John Connally, Connally’s wife Nellie, President Kennedy, and Jackie. The third car contained a number of agents and aides.
JFK’s limo entered Dealy Plaza at 12:30 PM local time. The car made the turn from Houston Street onto Elm, passing the Texas Book Depository. By calculations, it was moving just 11 mph. At that point, three shots were fired from an open window on the sixth floor of the depository by Lee Harvey Oswald. The first shot missed entirely, bouncing off the pavement. The second shot entered JFK’s upper back, bounced into his neck, and then exited his throat just beneath the larynx. He grabbed for his neck — or appeared to, because the actual physical response is called Thorburn’s position, in which the hands come up in front of the chin and are locked in place — leaned forward and to the left. Jackie reached around him. The same bullet then bounced forward and hit Governor Connally in the back, blew away some of his right fifth rib, and then exited his chest. The bullet then bounced into his arm and shattered his right radius bone, then bounced into his leg, where it embedded.
The third shot from Oswald hit JFK in the back of the head and fragmented through his skull. Jackie began climbing onto the back of the car, perhaps to pick up a piece of JFK’s skull. Governor Connally and his wife later reported Jackie saying, “They have killed my husband. I have his brains in my hand.”
After the assassination, Oswald went missing at the depository. Police broadcasted his description on the radio, and he was spotted by a police officer, JD Tippit, who called him over. The officer got out of his car, upon which Oswald shot the police officer four times. Oswald ducked into a theater without paying, and the theater’s ticket clerk called the police. Oswald was arrested inside the theater. He was charged with two murders.
That Sunday, two days after the assassination, as Oswald was being taken from city jail to county lockup, he was shot dead by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, live on national television. Ruby said that he had done it thanks to his loyalty to JFK.
The assassination of JFK has spawned an enormous number of conspiracy theories. Many rely on patently false information. Others are completely speculative. More life was given to these conspiracy theories thanks to a report from the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979, which found that JFK might have been killed as the result of a conspiracy, rejecting the findings of the so-called Warren Commission. That committee report relied on bad acoustical data in the main. Nonetheless, today, polls show that most Americans believe that Oswald did not act alone.
The Physical Evidence
Let’s begin with the most easily debunked claims: the claims of what physically happened during the shooting.
The shots that hit Kennedy and Connally were fired from behind, from the Texas Book Depository. They were not fired from the so-called grassy knoll, an area rising in front of the limousine.
Police found the rifle belonging to Oswald – an Italian Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle—on the sixth floor of the Depository. The rifle was present in prior photos of Oswald. He had bought the rifle in March. Physical evidence – palm print and coat fibers – matched Oswald. The bullets recovered at the scene matched Oswald’s gun.
The assassination was famously captured by Abraham Zapruder; the film became the most famous in American history. It lasted 26.6 seconds and was silent. Later, the film would feature in Oliver Stone’s extraordinarily dishonest propaganda piece, JFK – particularly the famous “back and to the left” scene, in which attorney Jim Garrison insists that there must have been a shooter in front of the limousine because JFK’s headshot throws him “back and to the left.” Physics explains just why JFK’s head snapped in this direction: First, for a split second, JFK’s head does launch forward; after the bullet exits JFK’s head, his head snaps back. This is due to the so-called recoil effect, as explained by Dr. Nicholas Nalli, Senior Research Scientist at IMSG, Inc. Author Gerald Posner says, “It’s almost a jet effect. As that propels out his head, it has much more force than the force of the bullet moving in, and it shoots him in the opposite direction. It shoots out to the right front and left, violently.”
Then there is the question of the so-called “magic bullet” – the bullet that struck JFK and then traveled through Governor Connally. In 2004, the Discovery channel aired an episode of “Unsolved History” in which they attempted to duplicate the shot, and found that the bullet traveled precisely the path suggested by the single-bullet theory.
What about the theory that Oswald could not have shot JFK because it would have been an extraordinary feat of marksmanship to get off three shots in the amount of time allotted for it? Oswald joined the Marines and qualified as a sharpshooter with a rifle range score of 212. In 1959, when he was nearly done with the Marines, he still shot a 191 and qualified as a marksman, meaning he could hit a ten inch target eight times out of ten from 200 yards away. He was actually just 81 meters (89 yards) from JFK when he shot him.
Oswald Did It
Any theory that exonerates Oswald is nonsense. Oswald clearly fired the killer shots, and he had all the motive in the world for doing so. Oswald never knew his father, his mother was apparently a raging narcissist, and he was dragged around 21 different homes in his first 17 years of life. According to author Gerald Posner, Oswald punched and tried to stab his mother, even though he slept in her bed until he was almost 11. He threatened his brother and sister-in-law with a knife, and was sent at 13 for a psychiatric examination. He became interested in Marxism as a teenager, joined the Marines at 17, and was court-martialed and found guilty two times. He apparently had a breakdown while serving in the Marines, “weeping and firing shots into the night while on guard duty.”
He decided he would defect to the Soviet Union, and went to the country on a tourist visa. But it turns out he was useless to the Soviets, and he even had to engage in a suicide attempt to keep himself from being expelled from the country. He got married to a woman named Marina Prusakova in the Soviet Union, but became disenchanted with the Soviet way of life. In 1962, he came back to the United States with his wife and daughter. He was a wife-beater and a friendless loner. Upon returning to the United States, he tried to assassinate a general named Edwin Walker, created something called the Fair Play for Cuba Committee – which had only himself as a member – and talked openly about hijacking a plane and forcing it to land in Cuba. In September 1963, he traveled to Mexico City, tried to get a visa to enter Cuba, all while brandishing a revolver. He was too crazy even for the Cubans and Soviets, and they rejected his entry attempt. One officer in the foreign intelligence division of the KGB, who interviewed Oswald, said, “We decided we could not take Oswald seriously. His nervousness, . . . his rambling and even nonsensical speech at times, his avoidance of answering specific questions and the shifts from strong agitation to depression gave us reason to believe that his mental state was unstable or that, at the very least, he suffered from a serious nervous disorder.”
Oswald went back to Texas, where a neighbor secured him a job at the Texas Book Depository. The rest was history.
One of the going theories about the JFK assassination is that JFK was assassinated by the mafia thanks to their anger at Bobby Kennedy for going after the mob after the mob worked so hard to get JFK elected in 1960. The connective thread here is the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby, who did indeed have mob ties because he was the owner of a strip club. But Ruby was himself a somewhat deranged person. He wanted to be a hero, was convinced that he would be forestalling an anti-Jewish backlash by killing Oswald even though Oswald wasn’t Jewish, and was distraught over JFK’s killing.
There was only one real conspiracy involved in the killing of JFK: the conspiracy by those surrounding JFK to turn his death into more than an assassination at the hands of a deranged communist. No less a source than Jackie said as much. She later lamented, “He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights. It had to be some silly little communist.” The media thus created a narrative – familiar to conservatives today, who have been branded terrorists and traitors – that JFK had died because of right-wing opposition. New York Times columnist James Reston wrote a piece in which he stated, “From the beginning to the end of his administration, he was trying to tamp down the violence of the extremists from the right.” Chief Justice Earl Warren said, “It is not too much to hope that the martyrdom of our beloved president might even soften the hearts of those who would themselves recoil from assassination, but who do not shrink from spreading the venom which kindles thoughts of it in others.” Reston said that LBJ’s main worry after the assassination is that Oswald’s communism “may lead in some places to another communist hunt that will divide the country and complicate the new President’s relations with Moscow.”
Oswald shot JFK. He did it alone. But the myth that JFK, a handsome young president, the king of Camelot, had died thanks to America’s grave sins, lived on. And it metastasized for an entire generation who took out JFK’s murder not on the communist who had committed it, but on the country at large.
This piece is adapted from an episode of Ben’s series, Debunked, available exclusively to Daily Wire Members.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.