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Friday, Nov. 23, 2007 at 10:02 AM
President John F. Kennedy was shot to death during a midday motorcade in Dallas, Texas. It was a tragedy that shook the nation and the world.
by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace
The presidential party had arrived at Love Field under a clearing sky. Kennedy took time to shake hands with the spectators gathered at the airport to greet him; the crowd seemed amiable and receptive to the President, who was apprehensive about this visit to Texas.
The Secret Service had been lining up the automobiles for the upcoming parade through the streets of the city. Each car was tagged with a small square of paper bearing a number which indicated the planned position of that particular car in the motorcade. Kennedy was to ride in the open 1961 Lincoln Continental limousine marked with the number "7." But the limousine was placed 2nd in line, due apparently to a mix-up.
When the parade started, the Lincoln (sans bubble-top because of Kennedy's own request to leave it off if the weather was nice) was preceded by a 1963 Ford sedan bearing Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry and other local officials. Directly behind the presidential limousine was the Secret Service's follow-up car a 1959 Cadillac. Although the press vehicle (usually directly in front of the President's car to facilitate photographing the President) was numbered "6," it was lined up last (14th) in the motorcade. For this reason the photographers in that vehicle were unable to photograph any footage of the assassination that was about to occur--footage that would have been of great evidential value.
The parade proceeded from Love Field through the central part of Dallas. The entourage was approaching the end of its ride to the World Trade Center, where Kennedy was to speak that day.
As the 8,000-lb. presidential vehicle lumbered off of Houston Street, making a left turn onto Elm Street, it nearly had to stop completely in negotiating the turn. The motorcade was now in Dealy Plaza.
Mr. Abraham Zapruder was stationed on Elm Street, perched atop a block of granite some 72' from the middle of the street. He was holding his 8-millimeter Bell & Howell movie camera which was set on "telephoto" to film the President as he rode by. This film became the single most important piece of evidence in the case of the assassination of President Kennedy, as Zapruder was the only one of several photographers to capture the incident from an angle clearly showing Kennedy. He had test-shot a few frames of his secretary in his office. She was now bracing him so that he would not fall from his vantage point on the piece of stone.
First Zapruder filmed 2 motorcycles as they rolled down the street to clear the way for the President's parade. He knew that Kennedy's car would approach him at any moment. From the instant the driver of Kennedy's car, Will Greer, slowed to make the turn into Elm Street, until it disappeared beneath an overpass at the end of the street, Zapruder filmed the car.
Zapruder film was purchased immediately after the assassination for a large amount of money by Life magazine,but was never released in its full form by that corporation. In 1975, Life returned the film to the Zapruder family. The only copies that exist officially were made for the Secret Service and the FBI. These 2 government copies are locked in the National Archives until the year 2039 by virtue of Johnson's Executive Order 11130. However, in 1967 New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison accused a Mr. Clay Shaw of being a part of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy and the FBI copy was supoenaed as evidence for the ensuing trial. At that time, Garrison obtained the film, copied it, and thus became the source of the film for the many researchers and investigators who now have copies. The film is of even more importance when it is studied in the context of the official report regarding the assassination, the Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, also called the Warren Commission because its chairman was Chief Justice Earl Warren of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Zapruder's camera was running as the President's limousine approached him. Kennedy can be seen waving to the crowd with his right hand. Then he briefly disappears from camera view, as his vehicle moves farther down the street behind a freeway1 sign when he emerges from behind the sign in the Zapruder film, his hands arc rising, fists clenched, in front of his neck, his elbows pointing to the other side of the street. At this moment, he has already been shot once. The 1st bullet entered the President's back approximately 5½" below his collar line.
Another shot is now fired, and the Warren Commission has contended that this 2nd bullet went wild, striking the curb near a spectator named James T. Tague. That bullet sprayed Tague's foot and cheek with chips of concrete from the curb and with fragments of lead.
The Warren Commission also stated that a 3rd bullet was fired, striking Kennedy in the head and killing him. The majority of witnesses agreed that the last shot fired hit Kennedy in the head, although there was much dispute as to the direction from which that bullet came.
It has been the position of the commission that one man, Lee Harvey Oswald, was stationed at the eastern most window on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building, which is located on Elm Street. It has also been the official government opinion that Oswald acted alone in murdering John F. Kennedy and that there was no conspiracy of any kind behind the crime. A rifle was found on the 6th floor of the building. This 6.5-mm bolt-action, c1ip fed, 1938 Mannlicher-Carcano belonged to Oswald. Keeping in mind the Warren Commission's hypothesis that the 2nd shot went astray near Tague, and that the last bullet was the fatal shot striking the head, only one bullet is left as the cause of all other gunshot damage. Only 3 shots at most could have been fired using this rifle in the 5.6 seconds that elapsed from the last possible moment that Kennedy could have received the 1st wound (when he emerges, hit, from behind the sign in the Zapruder film), to the easily recognizable moment of the last fatal shot to the head (Kennedy reacts violently in the film at the moment of impact).
Sitting directly in front of the President in the Lincoln limousine was Gov. John B. Connally of Texas. He was sitting in one jump seat and his wife, Nellie, was in the jump seat next to him, directly in front of Mrs. Kennedy. Governor Connally was hit in the back, the bullet exiting from the right side of his chest, transiting his right wrist, and lodging in his left thigh. If the Commission is right about the number of bullets, the same bullet that struck Connally must have struck Kennedy 1st. That is to say, the bullet that hit Kennedy in the back would have had to exit from his body and gone on to strike Connally.
If Oswald was firing from the 6th floor of the building, the angle of trajectory would be 17 degrees, 43 minutes, 30 seconds, in a downward direction. That bullet entered Kennedy's back, 5½" from his collar line--yet the only wound on the President's body, in addition the wound in his head and the entry wound his back, was a small slit in his throat. The Warren Commission theorized that this slit was caused by the exit of the bullet that entered Kennedy's back and continued on to hit Governor Conally. But since this bullet struck no bone in the President's body which might have deflected it's angle of trajectory but exited in an upward direction, it seems very apparent that the single bullet theory of the Warren Commission is a geometric impossibility.
This fact, coupled with the time element involved, suggests there was more than one gunman in Dealey Plaza that fateful day. The time lapse was determined by a frame-by-frame analysis of the Zapruder film. When Kennedy emerged from behind the sign in the film, he had already been shot. This is frame #225. When he disappeared in the film, at frame #207, he was waving to the crowd naturally. He could not have been hit at any time prior to moving behind the the sign. John Connally testified that he heard the shot that hit Kennedy, turned around and looked over his right shoulder, and was then hit by a subsequent bullet. His testimony is substantiated by the Zapruder film, which shows him looking over his shoulder and then, before he can look over the other shoulder (as he claimed he was attempting to do), his is shot at a point no sooner than frame #235. Zapruder's camera operated at 18.3 frames per second. The 10 frames between the latest point Kennedy could have been hit (frame #225) and the earliest point Connally is struck (frame #235), represents a time value of .546488 seconds—just over a half second. A bullet fired from the Oswald weapon and passing through the neck of John Kennedy, as the Warren Commission claimed that this one did, would move at a speed of 1.772' to 1.779' per second according to the Warren Report and the FBI expert's testimony. Since it is impossible that a bullet virtually waited in midair for that half second, simple mathematics casts substantial doubt on the Commission's conclusion that one bullet caused all 7 wounds in Kennedy and Connally.
Special Agent Robert A. Frazier of the FBI testified as a firearms expert be fore the Warren Commission. He stated that the bolt action of the ancient Italian rifle took at least 2.3 seconds according to tests run by expert riflemen. Therefore, it is impossible that the weapon was fired twice within the half-second time slot. This means there is no possibility that Kennedy was hit by an earlier Oswald bullet at the moment of his disappearance behind the freeway sign and that a later shot hit Connally, because the time lapse between frames #207 (Kennedy's disappearance) and #235 Connally's reaction is only 1.5 seconds and 2.3 seconds would have been needed to fire 2 shots.
After the 1st shot, the President was leaning forward slightly, his wife aware that he'd been the victim of a bullet. She had moved closer to him and was looking at his face when a bullet struck the President in the head, exploding in a pink-red glow of blood, brain matter and skull fragments. Terrified, Mrs. Kennedy then climbed from the seat of the limousine onto the trunk but was stopped there by Secret Service Agent Clinton J. Hill. Hill pushed Mrs. Kennedy back into the seat and shielded her body with his own as the Lincoln roared off.
None of this escaped the watchful eye of Zapruder's camera, making the Zapruder film an invaluable piece of hard evidence worthy of note in the event of conflicting conclusions by member of the Warren Commission.
It is a Newtonian law of motion that when an object is struck by a missile, that object will move in the same direction as that taken by the missile. This means that if Kennedy were hit by a gunman (presumably Oswald) situated in a window 280· behind him, his head would move forward from he impact of the bullet. The Zapruder film clearly depicts the President's head snapping BACKWARD with great violence. Applying the scientific laws governing the situation there can be no doubt that Kennedy is reacting to a bullet fired from a position in front of the limousine. This is strong evidence that the lone assassin theory of the Commission is fallacious.
It is interesting to note that a certain area in front of the limousine at the time the fatal shot was fired was an excellent vantage point for a gunman. It is referred to by Dallas residents as the grassy knoll. At the top of this knoll, there is a wooden fence. There is a very small space between the top of that fence and the lowest foliage on the trees whic line the inside of this fence. The knoll provides a spot where a gunman would be hidden from sight.
Two police officers who flanked the presidential limousine on motorcycles, Billy Martin and Robert Hargis, were so sure that the fatal shot had come from the knoll that they went directly up the embankment and peered over the fence. They saw a police officer there and, thinking the area covered; the pair left to orders on what to do next. Minutes later pictures were taken of an officer—or a man dressed as an officer leaving the grassy area. His uniform was unlike those worn by the Dallas Police Force. His weaponry and specifics also differed sharply from those officers in Dealey Plaza that day, indicating that this man was not an officer at all. This has yet to be fully investigated.
Witness Richard Carr was one of the closest observers of the fatal shot. Carr indicated that the shot came over his right shoulder or from the grassy knoll area. His testimony at the Clay Shaw proceeding in 1969 included the following exchange:
Q: As a result of the conversations with the FBI, what did you do?
A: I done as I was instructed, I shut my mouth.
Q: Were you called to testify before the Warren Commission?
A: No, sir.
It seems that the investigatory work in this case not only failed to meet the generally accepted standards for the gathering of truth, but it also served to stifle a full disclosure. These points of evidence seem to emphasize grave inconsistencies in the official government account of the events of November 22, 1963. If, in fact, there was more than one gunman shooting at the President, as the evidence seems to indicate, there is a question as to why the plentiful clues were ignored by the Warren Commission. One member of the Commission wrote an article for Life magazine and also book which supported the conclusions of the Warren Report-the lone-assassin Single-bullet theory. This man is today the President of the U.S., Gerald R. Ford.
In determining the motives of the assassin and those of the Warren Commission which failed to deal with the available evidence in depth, an obligation that it had to the American people--we are faced with problems. If we begin by suspecting that someone had a possible interest in having the President dead in 1963, we will find ourselves dealing with far too many people. And obviously no person or group of persons will ever admit an antipathy for the man in the face of a major investigation: de mortuis nil nisi bonum (of the dead say nothing but good). Yet investigation must come about if the facts of this case are ever to be made public. And the American people have the right to a full disclosure of this situation in which it is possible that someone murdered a President of the U.S. and got away with it.
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