John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the thirty-fifth President of the United States of America in 1960 after a very close race
with Republican favourite Richard Nixon. Kennedy only won by about one fifth of one percent of the popular vote, and if it
hadn't been for reputed bully-boy tactics and vote-rigging by Mafia figures like Chicago boss Sam Giancana and Trade Union
organiser Jimmy Hoffa it's entirely likely that Nixon would have won. The reason the Mob chose to intervene was because Kennedy's
father, millionaire businessman Joseph Kennedy, had sworn to Giancana that a Kennedy administration would be favourable to
Mafia interests. The promise was extorted under pressure, as Kennedy senior had seen a price put on his head by New York Mob
boss Frank Costello, and Giancana had only agreed to persuade Costello to call it off on condition that the Kennedys never
refuse him any favours in future.
Far from being the Mob's 'man' in the White House however, JFK appointed his brother Bobby the new Attorney General and
together they publicly forced the chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, to his deep embarrassment
and annoyance, to stop wasting valuable resources chasing phantom Communists. Thus the Government began a furious and long-overdue
campaign against organised crime across the USA. Joe Kennedy assured Giancana that it was all for show, but Mob-men were not
convinced, and with good reason - Bobby Kennedy was soon closing in on a number of key underworld figures like Giancana, Hoffa,
and African-born New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello, whom he briefly managed to have deported to Guatemala.
About a year before JFK was elected, Fidel Castro successfully overthrew the Batista regime to form a new Socialist state
in Cuba. The Mob were appalled, as it destroyed their gambling and whoring monopoly in the country that Batista and his allies
had granted them in return for a large slice of the profits.
The Central Intelligence Agency was also unhappy, simply because its ruling heads didn't like the idea of a Socialist
state off the coast of America. Knowing that an overt invasion of Cuba was not an option with the Soviet Union monitoring
the situation so closely, the CIA chief, Allen Dulles, decided in 1961 on a strategy of stealth and manipulation. Using contacts
in the Mafia, including Giancana and Florida boss Santo Trafficante, he decided to build a small army from the Cuban upper
class that had been exiled by Castro and had maintained close ties to the Mob since arriving in the USA. The idea was that
Trafficante and Marcello would organise an exile army to invade Cuba through the Bay of Pigs (one of the chief gun-runners
for this operation was one Jacob Rubenstein, AKA Jack Ruby), while the CIA sneaked Giancana and his men into Havana where
they would take out Castro. In return, Giancana and his allies would get back their gambling racket in Cuba, plus a one-off
bounty payment of $150,000.
JFK decided he was happy enough with the idea of getting rid of Castro, and with the strategy for doing it, but it put
himself and Bobby in an awkward position; they could hardly keep pursuing the Mob when the Mob were sorting out their political
quandaries with their tiny neighbour for them.
The attack on the Bay of Pigs, in hindsight, was always sure to fail. The army that the Mafia was able to build for the
CIA was only fifteen hundred strong, and there was no way that they could achieve anything against Castro's forces without
support from the US air force, and, although he had agreed to provide it in principle, JFK was unwilling to commit to it without
being sure that the ground attack was going well; catch-22. So when the initial attack failed, Kennedy stalled. A secondary
attack saw the insurgents backed up against the bay, heavily outnumbered. The CIA made another urgent request for air support.
The President refused again, and the insurgency caved in.
Inevitably news of the fiasco got out into the world media, and the USA was humiliated. JFK chose, not altogether fairly,
to lay the blame entirely at the door of the CIA, and announced that he was going to reform it from top-to-bottom - which
was a policy he'd clearly had in mind from before he became President, but only now did he have the excuse to go for it. Allen
Dulles himself was one of a number of Agency executives who resigned from positions of authority before Kennedy could fire
them. The rest of the CIA seethed collectively.
So did Sam Giancana. He'd been made to look ridiculous in front of the Mob and his Cuban allies by guaranteeing them
air support that never materialised. He felt that JFK had double-crossed him. And after everything Giancana had done to help
him into power, that was a dangerous betrayal.
At this time, Trafficante, with his ongoing Cuban connections, was able to keep stringing the CIA along by promising
that he was working on other ways of getting rid of Castro. He wasn't really of course, but it was enough for the CIA and
the FBI not to risk upsetting him too much. But Giancana, Marcello and Hoffa were now under more threat from the FBI than
ever. Bobby Kennedy even had Hoover start a program of twenty-four hour surveillance on Giancana, who responded by trying
to have the Government indicted in court for violation of privacy. He failed of course.
To add to the frustration of the CIA and the Armed Forces, JFK was getting ready to withdraw from Vietnam before a full-scale
war could begin. If the withdrawal became reality, the USA would cease to be on a serious war footing anywhere in the world,
which would make it far more difficult for the Intelligence Agencies and the Military to justify a continued high level of
funding. It also threatened a number of arms manufacturing firms, like General Dynamics and Bell, with bankruptcy, as their
entire financial future was dependent on the expected war. He was further aiming to abolish obsolete tax laws that gave preferential
treatment to companies in the oil industry, which would mean that oil barons like Clint Murchison and Haroldson Hunt, who
earned over twenty million dollars a year each, would finally be forced to pay a far higher proportion of income tax. Murchison
and Hunt - who also had links of their own to the CIA - were incensed. These men had provided a lot of funding for figures
in high office over the years, including for J. Edgar Hoover and his old friend, the vice-President, Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Johnson, at this point, was in trouble of his own. Despite the mutual hatred between himself and the Kennedys, JFK had
only hesitated briefly before appointing him his running mate for the 1960 election. But in office Johnson had proved desperately
ineffective - one could almost say he'd appeared reluctant - at helping drive through the ambitious Kennedy program of legislation
for tax and service reform. With JFK's patience with him running thin, at the worst possible time Johnson was suddenly called
before the Senate Rules Committee. A minor closed-doors controversy had broken out over what appeared to be an extortion and
bribery racket dating back to 1957, at the heart of which was Johnson himself. The Kennedys still hadn't gone public about
it, but if Johnson was found guilty, not only was his career over but he was also set to face a jail term.
This was all happening early in 1963. The Kennedy boys had angered people near the top of the CIA, the FBI, the Army,
the Mafia, Commerce, and even in the Democrat Party itself. In short, some of the most powerful figures in the country were
all unhappy with the Kennedy Administration. And of course it goes without saying that almost the entire Republican Party
already hated them. (Richard Nixon had been so disillusioned by his narrow and controversial defeat in the election that in
1962 he'd decided to retire from politics, a decision he later reversed.)
Giancana let it be known in Mob circles that he wanted the Kennedys dead for their grand-scale betrayal. This seems -
perhaps inadvertently, perhaps coincidentally - to have set in motion an enormous chain reaction of tacit agreement. A few
weeks later, Jimmy Hoffa revealed to his lawyer, Frank Ragano, that he was on the brink of being sent down by Bobby Kennedy.
He needed allies in the Mob to find some way of getting the Attorney General's office off his back, if necessary by killing
Ragano headed for New Orleans where he met up with Trafficante and Marcello. Marcello was also right on the brink of
being taken to court, and investigations into Trafficante's drug-smuggling activities had resumed. Ragano told the two Mob
bosses what Hoffa was proposing. "You won't believe this, gentlemen, but [Hoffa] says we should take out Kennedy."
Marcello and Trafficante merely looked at each other, not batting an eyelid. The idea was not new to them.
In fact, only a few days earlier Marcello had already discussed with his own henchmen the idea of assassinating Bobby
Kennedy, and had been told that such a killing would be futile. JFK would simply appoint a new Attorney General, and with
the struggle now all the more personal over the death of his beloved brother, he'd be doubly determined to bring the Mob down,
perhaps even be prepared to appoint a nastier Attorney General. At that point Marcello had asked, "Well okay, what about
if we take out the President himself?" The answer was, he would almost certainly be succeeded by Lyndon Johnson, who
famously hated RFK and didn't want to work with him for a minute longer than necessary. He also wasn't nearly as interested
in stopping organised crime. As such, if JFK were to die, RFK's future as Attorney General would probably be measured in weeks,
and the pressure the law had been exerting on the Mob for the previous few years would evaporate.
Knowing as he did that Giancana had already declared his desire to see JFK dead, Marcello, who'd hated the Kennedys since
his brief deportation, had taken the idea seriously. Now he knew that other allies like Trafficante and Hoffa were in agreement
This is where background info gives way to theory.
The problem for the Mafia was that while it probably had the physical resources to go after JFK - numbers from their
own ranks and from the Cuban exiles who would still have been sore about the Kennedys letting them down at the Bay of Pigs
- it lacked the logistical intelligence to know soon enough in advance when the best opportunity would emerge. But, being
the Mafia, it was never easy to tell where the network ended and the CIA began. There were plenty of allies inside the Agency
that could help... and with the nature of so many of JFK's recent policies, they would probably be very willing to help as
The first point of approach would logically have been those key figures who had been blamed by JFK after the Cuba fiasco,
ex-Directors like Allen Dulles and Charles Cabell. There were probably plenty of others still inside the CIA who would have
wanted the Kennedys out of the way as well before they could complete his plans to break the CIA up into smaller agencies.
But, given the nature of the Agency, while they would have been eager to help, they'd also have wanted to control the
outcome of such a conspiracy - including who would succeed JFK. It seems beyond doubt that the CIA would have wanted their
man in the White House, and for numerous reasons there was an obvious candidate. Lyndon Johnson, who was strongly anti-Communist
and not very anti-Mafia, who had ambitions to reach the White House, and who was desperate to see the hated Kennedys removed
before they could prosecute him over the extortion case, would famously tell senior figures in the CIA and the Armed Forces
before the next Presidential election in 1964, "You get me elected and I'll give you your damned war!" So he was
clearly in cahoots with them later. It's therefore perfectably conceivable that he was in 1963 as well. Perhaps, if the conspirators
got the Kennedys out of the way and him into the White House, Johnson would run the ensuing enquiries into the assassination
in such a way as to make the truth unattainable, and then embark on the war in Vietnam that the military, the intelligence
services, and the arms manufacturers so desperately wanted.
Of course, to enforce a cover-up on that scale would have required help from the FBI. Fortunately, Johnson was an old
friend of Hoover, who had headed an investigation that cleared him of alleged vote-rigging in state elections in 1948. It
stands to reason he could be counted on to help again in 1963, especially if a Johnson Government would give Hoover a chance
to return his attention to the 'Communist menace', on which he had such a frenzied fixation.
That Autumn a dispute broke out in Texas between two local factions inside the Democrat Party, possibly a staged one.
Genuine or not, it gave Johnson an excuse to invite JFK to Dallas to mediate and sort the argument out in person. Kennedy
agreed, as he saw it as a good opportunity to get out amongst the people, as well as giving himself and wife Jackie a rare
public appearance after the recent death of their infant son. Johnson suggested they do an open-top car ride through the city.
The responsibility of organising the motorcade through Dallas was of course the job of the FBI and the Secret Service,
but the exact route through the city was to be drawn up by the Mayor's office. The Mayor's name was Charles Dulles. He was
the brother of Allen Dulles, the deposed chairman of the CIA. JFK would ride through the streets of Dallas with his wife.
In the seats in front of them would sit the Governor of Texas, John Connally and his wife Nellie. In the front seats there
would be two Secret Service agents. (Lyndon Johnson would also be in the motorcade, but he would be transported in a different
So the Mafia at last had the set-up they wanted, and with advanced warning. Now they needed to decide how to do the hit.
This wasn't likely to be a natural approach for them, their usual modus operandi was to murder people up close and personal,
usually in plain sight of the wider public, to show that no matter who you are and what the situation may be, you don't screw
around with the Mafia. But this was not a normal situation. They were working directly with various others, and they were
working to assassinate the Head of State of the most powerful country on Earth.
In all probability, Giancana and Trafficante called in representatives of the Cuban exiles to make the assassination,
perhaps at the request of the CIA who would have wanted to make sure that the killers were as hard to connect to the conspirators
as possible. But at the same time, the best way of covering up a crime is of course to draw attention away from the criminals
altogether. So the other thing they needed was a patsy, a scapegoat.
A man from New Orleans (Carlos Marcello's town) by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald had grown up a Marxist, and, after an
undistinguished career in the US marines, in 1959 he defected from the USA to the Soviet Union. While he was in Russia though,
he apparently became so disillusioned with the Soviet way of life that in 1962 he fled back to the USA with his new wife,
Marina Prusakova. Mysteriously, on his return to the USA Oswald was not arrested by the CIA or the FBI, despite his treachery.
No explanation for this has ever been put forward.
In 1963, Marina moved to Dallas while her husband was in Mexico, visiting the Cuban embassy, apparently trying to get
permission to visit Havana. His application was turned down and after trying to get a visa to return to the Soviet Union,
in October he arrived in Dallas where Marina was living with a woman called Ruth Paine. Oswald rented a room nearby and, with
Paine's help, he found a job at the Texas School Book Depository on Dealey Plaza.
Some people say that the Mafia couldn't have been responsible for the murder, at least not acting without help from elsewhere.
I agree with that, but many of the ones who say this are among the same people who believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely
responsible. If the Mafia couldn't have done the assassination by themselves - and they couldn't - how could Oswald?
Whether or not Oswald was just a usable patsy, a willing conspirator, or even an infiltrator trying to scupper the conspiracy
is impossible to say. But it's clear that a number of different impostors in the weeks leading up to the assassination were
in Texas claiming, very loudly, to be Oswald. What they wanted is again unclear, but by their behaviour none of them could
be said to have done any good for his reputation. Perhaps that was deliberate, an attempt to make him look as disreputable
as possible. Who knows?
We do know that Oswald was definitely in the Texas Book Depository at 12:31pm on November 22nd 1963, but was the fact
that his gun was also there that day proof that he committed the crime? Not conclusively, as there are peculiarities in that
suggestion; especially the fact that he was seen in the second floor lunchroom sixty seconds before and ninety seconds after
the assassination, and he was not seen galloping up or down the stairs by any of the other people on them (and he couldn't
have used the elevators because they had broken down).
So it appears perfectly possible that Oswald was just there to do his usual day's work. Someone in the building wasn't
though. Someone definitely fired at least two shots from the window of a storage room on the sixth floor. Could it have been
Oswald, or a CIA agent, or a Mafioso, or even a Cuban exile? Probably the latter in fact, but whoever it was he certainly
wasn't acting alone. At least one of the shots that hit John F. Kennedy as he rode down Elm Street must have come from behind
a picket fence on the grassy knoll that runs along the roadside.
Why does that appear to be so?
Well partly because many eyewitnesses who were there that day, including several Dallas police officers, swear blind
that they heard at least one shot coming from that direction. Others say they saw smoke coming from there. Acoustics evidence,
albeit disputed, suggests that at least one shot came from a different direction to the ones that came from the Depository.
And the refire delay between a number of the shots was simply too short for anyone but the most skilled gunman - which Oswald
probably wasn't - to achieve with that model of rifle, and even then only barely.
It is certain that at least one man was on the grassy knoll at the moment that the President was fired on. A police officer
ran up the knoll when he heard a shot coming from that direction, and he found standing by the fence a man whom he tried to
arrest. But the man claimed he was a Secret Service agent and showed some ID that appeared to prove it, and so the officer
let him go. And yet later it was discovered that the Secret Service had not assigned any of its agents to Dealey Plaza that
day. Moments later the 'agent' was gone, and no one since has ever found out who he really was or where he went...
The position where JFK was fired upon is also telling. From the sixth floor window of the Book Depository, the easiest
target position on the route taken through Dealey Plaza by the motorcade would have been while the car was travelling along
Houston Street along the east edge of the Plaza. There was a long, consistent and very easy firing line, with a close-range,
growing target as the car approached the Depository. Instead however, the gunman waited until the car had turned off Houston
and onto Elm Street, a retreating target that, thanks to the cover of trees and foliage, wouldn't become available again until
it was around two hundred and forty yards away - around three times further than the optimum target point on Houston Street.
There is no logical reason whatsoever why a gunman acting alone would have waited until that moment to open fire. But
he might have waited that long if other gunmen were posted at other points on the Plaza, in order to catch JFK in a deadly
crossfire. From examining maps and photographs of the Plaza, it is quite clear that the optimum point for such a crossfire
would indeed have been on Elm Street, around halfway between the Book Depository and the Triple Underpass and almost directly
in front of the grassy knoll. The exact spot, in other words, where John F. Kennedy was sitting in the car when his brains
were blown out. (Indeed it's quite feasible to suggest, though much less likely, that there was a third sniper at the window
of the County Records Office, the 'Old Red' Courthouse or even the County Jail. From any of these positions it would still
have been a very clear firing line to the spot where Kennedy was fired on.)
Then of course there are the thermodynamic oddities in the movements of one of the bullets, which would have had to happen
to validate what would one day become known as the 'Magic Bullet' theory, but we'll come to that later.
Also the most lethal wound to JFK was the so-called 'head-shot'. Film footage captured by an onlooker, Abraham Zapruder,
of the injury being inflicted shows that Kennedy's head jerked back and to the left at the instant the bullet struck him.
Immediately afterwards, Jackie was famously seen scrambling over the back of the car trying, it transpired later, to retrieve
a piece of her husband's head that had been blasted off and had landed on the trunk. But the piece of the head that flew off
could only have been part of the exit wound, and for that piece to have flown backwards meant it must have come from the back
of Kennedy's head (this was confirmed later by the doctor Jackie gave the fragment to at the hospital). Moreover, the injury
to the back of Kennedy's head was low down, the one on the front of his head was high up. The path of a bullet from behind
between the two wounds would therefore have to have traveled on an upward trajectory, not downward, and yet the sixth floor
of the Book Depository was of course well above Kennedy's head-height.
All of which would indicate that JFK must have been shot at from an angle near to the way he was facing. Therefore the
shot couldn't possibly have come from the Book Depository. But it could well have come from the knoll. This possibility is
further emphasised by the later discovery that another fragment of JFK's skull bone was found on the roadside to the left
of where the car was when he was shot.
But above all, the indication in the Plaza that rings loudest and most vehemently that there was Government involvement
in the assassination is the route that the motorcade followed through Dealey Plaza. Why did the car turn off Houston Street
and onto Elm Street? Such a sharp turning - in excess of one hundred and twenty degrees - required the car to slow down to
not much faster than stationery, a sitting duck. For that matter, why did the car head along Houston Street at all? It would
have been perfectly feasible, more direct, and far safer, for the car to stay on Main Street all the way through the Plaza
to the underpass. Someone must have deliberately arranged for such a preposterously vulnerable, zigzag route to be taken instead,
and as I say, the Mayor of Dallas and the chief of the FBI, who would have been instrumental in deciding the route, both hated
Whatever the case, the course of US history changed at the moment when John F. Kennedy had his head blown open. He was
rushed to the Parkland Hospital, and although he was still alive when he arrived the injuries inflicted on him were too severe
for him to survive much longer. After initial frantic attempts by doctors to keep him alive, it was clear that there was no
hope. The back of the President's skull had been blown wide open, and a wide tract of the severely damaged brain was exposed.
And an earlier bullet, which might well have been fired from the Book Depository, had pierced its way through Kennedy's throat
and tore his respiratory diaphragm, which meant it would be impossible for him ever to breathe again. He was declared dead
at around 1pm.
There were a lot of suspicious goings-on in the aftermath of the attack though, from various branches of the emergency
services on the day, and then for months afterwards by the Government. Staying with Parkland Hospital for a moment, both the
doctors and the security forces behaved in questionable ways. The doctors, probably out of shock rather than wilful negligence,
failed to follow several standard procedures in a case of premature death. For instance, no-one took preliminary sketches
of the President's injuries. More suspiciously, the hospital's regular log-photographer started taking his routine pictures
of the body, as was his job in all such cases, when FBI agents intercepted him, confiscated his camera, opened it and exposed
the film, rendering it useless, and then chucked him out.
Most doubtful of all, within moments of John F. Kennedy being pronounced dead, the FBI agents confiscated the corpse,
to the consternation of the doctors, then carted it to the airport and flew it back to Washington. No one explained why it
was necessary to return the corpse to the capital so soon, or why the autopsy couldn't be carried out in Dallas.
In all, the President, alive and dead, had been in Dallas rather less than three hours.
The FBI also confiscated the car and clothes the President had been riding in when he was shot, reasonably enough. But
then for some reason they had the car cleaned and repaired, wiping up all the blood and repairing bullet damage to the windscreen.
And then, most bizarrely of all, they found it necessary to have the President's suit dry-cleaned. All of this was done before
the car or the clothes could be examined by detectives.
The police and the FBI were also following odd procedures back in Dealey Plaza, but so, for a supposed murderer on the
run, was Lee Harvey Oswald. Having returned to the second floor after "opening fire", he was confronted briefly
by a policeman, who let him go when he realised that Oswald was an employee at the Depository. Knowing that police were already
in the building, a murderer would have been well-advised to run outside, preferably via the back door, which was less likely
to be covered and was also far nearer to Oswald's position.
Instead, Oswald stopped off to buy himself a cool, refreshing bottle of Coca Cola (it was a very hot day after all),
and then strolled across to the other end of the second floor and down the stairs to the front exit. He sauntered out into
the wide open, ignored by policemen, and headed for home.
Bizarrely it wasn't until fully ten minutes after the shooting that the police actually got round to sealing off the
Book Depository. No one has ever explained why, but it was no wonder that Oswald, and anyone else who might have been a sniper
for that matter, were long gone by the time their exit routes from the building were closed off.
Considering, as mentioned above, no Secret Service agents had been assigned to Dealey that day, there was an incredible
number of them all over the Plaza in the aftermath of the shots, questioning some people, arresting others, and warning most
of the rest to keep their mouths shut. Not one of the people claiming to be agents at that point have ever been identified
or traced, nor has any explanation been forthcoming about why they all just happened to be on-hand at the moment the President
was shot, and without being assigned there.
Within the Book Depository the police soon found the window the shots had been fired from, hidden from internal view
by boxes that had been strategically placed by the gunman beforehand. Next to the window they discovered a rifle belonging
to Lee Harvey Oswald, and a few shotgun shells scattered on the floor. Idiotically, several detectives picked up the rifle
with their bare hands, destroying any chance of a reliable forensic investigation. There is no doubt that the rifle belonged
to Oswald, but his guilt would have been put in severe doubt if anyone else's fingerprints were found on it. And of course
there now were, but unfortunately they belonged to members of the Dallas Police Department.
It should be noted that the only print that was ever found on the rifle was a handprint of Oswald's that appears to pre-date
the assassination by some years and was so ground in that it was probably impossible to wipe it off. This leads us to the
question as to why Oswald, assuming he was the murderer, would bother wiping the rest of his fingerprints off the rifle when
he had a perfectly reasonable explanation for having them on it from a time long beforehand, and when there was a print on
it that couldn't be removed (although he may not have been aware of that). Certainly pausing to wipe the rifle clean would
have taken yet more of the precious few seconds he had to return to the second floor.
There were more peculiarities over the next couple of hours before Oswald's arrest, indicating from his behaviour that
he was not a man who had just committed a murder, and from the behaviour of the police that they were ready for him in a way
they couldn't have been without some kind of set-up. (They arrested him for being in a cinema without a ticket - how did they
know it was the same guy who was wanted for murder? They clearly must have known or why did they bother sending thirty officers
to apprehend a fare-hopper?) He was accused of a second murder, that of a police officer called Tippit, which happened just
an hour or so after the shootings at Dealey Plaza. For Oswald to have murdered Tippit and been at home over a mile away just
six minutes earlier - which he definitely was - and gotten to the cinema another mile off in time to avoid paying for a ticket
just a few minutes later, requires a feat of athleticism, stamina and fitness that an Olympic medal winner would be proud
When it came to the autopsy of President Kennedy back in Washington, more bewildering, and highly suspicious, breaches
of procedure ensued. X-rays were taken of JFK's ruined head, and yet, on re-examination years later, the images all appeared
to have been falsified. The brain was removed from the body and put into cold storage. Some time later it was discovered that
it had disappeared. (Some people inevitably joke that this is why some of the dodgy X-rays show the head had no brain in it.)
The final autopsy report started by going through entirely non-medical details of the case, insisting from the word go that
it was an assessment of a death caused by shooting by a gunman from the Texas Book Depository. Although there's no doubt that
it can help in co-ordination with other evidence, how a medical examination on its own can possibly determine the exact point
in the space-time continuum that a gunshot is fired from is something of a mystery.
But most shocking of all was who performed the autopsy. In the case of a murder by gunshot wound, specialists in the
field of ballistic injuries are supposed to be called in to investigate and perform all post mortem assessments. Other doctors
are rarely skilled or experienced enough to be able to make such investigations dependably. And yet here, when it involved
the assassination of the Head of State, the autopsy was performed by a group of doctors whose field of expertise was viral
medicine! They had almost no experience of treating or assessing gunshot injuries at all. (Years later, vast swathes of original
documentary evidence from the examination have apparently gone missing. And of what has survived, an awful lot of it is only
in photocopied form.)
Inevitably, J. Edgar Hoover was quick to denounce the murder of the President as a vile Communist conspiracy, probably
done on Castro's behalf as revenge for the attack on Cuba. The apparent involvement of a lifelong Marxist like Lee Harvey
Oswald seemed all the proof the wider public needed of that. Indeed, back in Dallas, Oswald was charged with not just the
murder of the President, but with the murder of the President as part of an International Communist conspiracy. Rather a loud
verbal assumption in there, one might think. Whatever the case, Oswald denied that he'd committed the murder.
After a night in the police cells, Oswald was about to be transferred to the county jail. Under direct instructions from
Washington, the Dallas police marched Oswald out through the basement of headquarters and in and among a large pack of journalists.
From the crowd, a man armed with a pistol ran up and, in full view of live TV cameras, shot Oswald through the stomach. Oswald
died within minutes. The gunman was arrested on the spot. He was later identified as the owner of the Carousel strip joint
in Dallas, Jack Ruby - one of the men the Mafia had used as a gun-runner in Cuba. He publicly claimed he was trying to spare
the President's widow the horror of having to testify at Oswald's trial. Records however show that early in 1963 Ruby had
run into severe debts with the syndicate. An eyewitness called Seth Kantor also claimed to have seen Ruby at the Parkland
Hospital around an hour after the President was shot.
Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the USA's thirty-sixth President two days after the assassination. The first public thing
he did was, naturally enough, to order a full enquiry into the murder. Behind the scenes he ordered a few other things, including
reversing JFK's policy of withdrawal from Vietnam. One day before the murder, the first plane of returning soldiers took off
from South Vietnam for the USA. Just three days after the murder, the Army announced that there had been a 're-assessment',
and that for the foreseeable future no further American soldiers would be coming home. Fast policy-decisions from a President
who had only been in office for a day.
Johnson asked Earl Warren, the moderate Republican Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to head up the enquiry into JFK's
death. Warren declined, but then Johnson appears to have blackmailed him into accepting the role, perhaps even to massage
the findings. In a recording of a later phone conversation with Robert Russell - another man to sit on the enquiry - Johnson
was heard to boast, "Warren told me he wouldn't do it under any circumstances... I called him and ordered him down here
and [he] told me no twice and I just pulled out what Hoover told me about a little incident in Mexico City... And he started
crying and said, well I won't turn you down... I'll do whatever you say."
Also appointed to the 'Warren Commission' were Gerald Ford, Thomas McCloy, John Cooper, Thomas Boggs and... well, well,
well, Allen Dulles. They examined and deliberated the evidence for eleven months and here were their findings; -
(1) The shots that killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired from the sixth floor window at the
southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository.
(2) The weight of the evidence indicated that there were three shots fired in total.
(3) Although it was not necessary to any essential findings of the Commission to determine exactly which shot hit Governor
Connally, there was very persuasive evidence from the experts to indicate that the same bullet that pierced the President's
throat also caused Governor Connally's injuries. Governor Connally's testimony and certain other factors did give rise to
some difference of opinion about this but there was no question in the mind of any member of the Commission that all the shots
that caused the President's and Governor Connally's wounds were fired from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book
(4) The shots that killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald.
(5) Oswald killed Dallas Police Patrolman J. D. Tippit less than one hour after the assassination.
(6) Within 80 minutes of the assassination and 35 minutes of the Tippit killing, Oswald resisted arrest at the theatre
by attempting to shoot another Dallas police officer.
(7) The Commission found no evidence that either Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby was part of any conspiracy, domestic
or foreign, to assassinate the President.
(8) In its entire investigation the Commission found no evidence of conspiracy, subversion, or disloyalty to the US Government
by any Federal, State, or local official.
(9) On the basis of the evidence before the Commission, it concluded that Oswald acted alone.
At first glance it all looks straightforward, if disputable, but on closer inspection the Warren Commission's findings
are in some ways the US answer to the Munich Agreement of 1938 i.e. a grand political joke. Where Neville Chamberlain held
a flap of paper over his head and declared 'Peace In Our Time', Earl Warren and Allen Dulles wrote out a dossier and declared
a 'Magic Bullet'. CE399, to give the bullet its correct classification, was the projectile that sliced its way through JFK's
throat. It was also the bullet that hit Governor Connally in the back, the right wrist, and the left thigh.
To take points (1), (3) and (4)...
The reasoning went something like this; as Lee Harvey Oswald clearly could not have fired his bolt-action rifle fast
enough to wound Kennedy and Connally with separate shots in the given time, the Warren Commission argued that he probably
missed with his first shot, and then a single bullet must have hit Kennedy in the back of the neck and exited from his throat
just below the larynx. The bullet continued its journey, entering Connally's back and exiting from his chest. It then went
completely through his right wrist, before jamming in his left thigh.
Now the rifle that was used was a heavy-duty Mannlicher-Carcano, a medium-velocity weapon that can kill four people standing
in a line with one shot, so it's perfectly credible that Kennedy and Connally were both injured by the same bullet. But the
combination of wounds that were found on Kennedy and Connally makes it doubtful.
For one thing, the damage to Kennedy's head and throat doesn't appear to be consistent with shots from a medium-velocity
rifle; they'd need a far higher speed than the two thousand feet per second rate of a Mannlicher-Carcano. Also, analysis by
doctors showed that there was no wound on the back of Kennedy's neck. The nearest bullet-hole was high on his back, just below
the shoulders, close enough perhaps for it to have been diverted through the front of his throat, but only if it had struck
a bone on the way. No damage to the bones in Kennedy's back, chest or neck was found.
The entry wound on Connally's back wasn't a puncture-type of bullet-hole, but a deep gouge. This is actually consistent
with the path of a heavy bullet that has already cut through a solid object - it will start to 'tumble' or 'climb' after exiting
the object. So Connally's involvement is fine up to that point. But after the bullet exited the front of the chest, for it
to lance through Connally's wrist and lodge into his thigh it would have to have done something that doesn't seem entirely
possible without some other factor.
For one thing, looking at the Zapruder film - which admittedly is very blurred and offers only an obstructed view anyway
- the angle that Connally was facing seems to suggest that his right hand was resting against the inside edge of the car door.
Therefore, the bullet would have to have swerved outwards to strike his wrist. Having done that it seems highly unlikely that
it could have swerved back inwards to hit his thigh.
Also, analysis of the bullet when it was found at Parkland Hospital (a suspicious matter in itself that we'll come to
in a moment) showed it to have no blood on it, no scratches from any impacts, and no scorch-markings on it. For it to have
been fired from the barrel of a shotgun at over two thousand feet per second, to have inflicted seven distinct wounds through
solid bones and flesh, and to have spent a long while lodged inside a man's thigh, how could it not have any significant marks,
or a single drop of blood, on it? When fragments of the bullet that had hit Connally were removed from his wrist, the weight
of them was greater than the weight of matter missing from the bullet found at Parkland.
Where the bullet was found also raises a few eyebrows. It was on the stretcher that Connally had been lying on for some
half an hour since arriving at the hospital, and the only explanation anyone could offer was that it must have 'fallen out'
of the wound in his thigh. This suggestion is dubious in the extreme given how deep the wound was and given, once again, the
absence of blood - although if the bullet they found on the stretcher was planted, it does beg the question where the real
bullet went. But the fact that Jack Ruby was in the hospital just before the 'magic bullet' materialised could add 2 to 2
What's harder to fathom is why Ruby, or anyone else, would bother planting a bullet. Granted it may have been to disguise
the wound being inflicted by ammunition from a different type of rifle, but for it to be worth the effort Ruby would have
had to have known in advance somehow that the real bullet was missing. How could he have known that? The only possible answer
I can think of is that someone was trying to conceal that Kennedy and Connally were struck by two different bullets. That
is very easy to believe, certainly something worth investigating at least. But the Warren Commission appears not to have bothered.
There's also a problem with insisting that Oswald fired all three shots, because only two spent shell casings were ever
found on the sixth floor of the Book Depository. There was a third bullet found there, but it was a live round.
Now to address point (2), the overwhelming weight of evidence in fact shows that there couldn't have been just three
shots. Recordings from the moment of the murder show that there were at least four shots, probably five, and possibly even
six or seven. Numerous eyewitnesses also claimed that they heard shots from different directions, and none of the few who
managed to count them could remember less than four.
Examining the facts mentioned earlier, point (5) sounds like a wild guess, especially given the astonishing mixture of
physical fitness and non-urgency it required from Oswald to be true.
Point (6) seems okay up until the point about Oswald drawing a gun, which sounds like melodramatic propaganda designed
to make him look psychopathic. It is true that he threw a punch at one officer when he was cornered, which certainly counts
as resisting arrest, but there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Oswald drew a gun.
Points (7) and (8) are essentially what this whole essay tries to answer, but to say there was no indication at all of
a conspiracy shows the biggest inherent flaw in the enquiry's conduct, namely that it was overlooking an awful lot of factors.
The business about unassigned Secret Service agents being at Dealey Plaza, including one on the grassy knoll itself, and then
disappearing as quickly as they materialised, is just one example of Government forces doing something they shouldn't have
been right at the scene of the crime.
Equally disturbing was a wide scale breakdown of electronic communication for about an hour round the time of the assassination.
There was a lot of distortion around Dallas on the intermediate-range police frequencies, and contact between most of Washington's
security services and the rest of the country was down until after 1pm. No explanation for this was ever looked for by the
enquiry, or offered by anyone else involved.
Various other eyewitness testimonies received no mention in the enquiry either. That and the conclusions of the report
suggest that they weren't even assessed.
As for point (9), this also leads us back to the overlooked evidence, which indicates strongly that there was a second
gunman on the grassy knoll. If Oswald was acting alone, it must have been an almighty coincidence that someone else tried
to kill the President at exactly the same spot of a fifteen-mile journey...
It can be seen that in the aftermath of the killing, almost all of JFK's enemies benefited. As we've already seen, the
Vietnam War changed from an unlikelihood to a certainty, to the great pleasure of the CIA, the Armed Forces, and arms manufacturers
alike. The investigation into Lyndon Johnson's extortion scam was abandoned and he was now able to enjoy the unexpected honour
of four years at the White House. As Marcello's men had calculated, Bobby Kennedy was gone from the office of Attorney General
within four months of his brother's death, and, just as Mafia men like Sam Giancana and Jimmy Hoffa had hoped, the FBI's operations
against organised crime spiralled downwards - by 1967, arrests for Mob-related crimes were down by seventy-five per cent,
while police interference in the affairs of Hoffa, Marcello, Trafficante, Giancana, and numerous others had evaporated completely.
Johnson reassigned the resources to combating the 'Communist menace', using the war against North Vietnam as an excuse. J.
Edgar Hoover must have smiled about that. The tax reforms that JFK had planned for the oil industry also never happened, to
the pleasure of the Texan barons... and, by extension, those politicians they funded. Of course Marcello and the Cuban exiles
would have been happy enough just with Kennedy's death in itself - their hatred of him alone would have been enough to guarantee
Hardly any of the likely conspirators outlived JFK for very long. Allen Dulles (1969), Lyndon Johnson (1973), J. Edgar
Hoover (1972) and Jack Ruby (1967) were all dead within ten years. Then, in the mid-70's the US Government appointed former
Foreign Relations adviser Frank Church to head up a new committee to investigate alleged corruption in the Government's intelligence
services. This 'Select Committee into Intelligence Activities' was commissioned to investigate the deaths of a number of key
figures in US politics. After it addressed the JFK assassination from 1975 to 1979, its findings were very different. It concluded
that there were at least two gunmen involved in the plot, and that at least four shots had been fired in the assassination.
Sam Giancana and Jimmy Hoffa were subpoenaed to appear before the committee, but both died in mysterious circumstances before
they could be interrogated - in Hoffa's case he disappeared and his body was never found. Marcello by this time was too senile
to be called up. The only one of the likely Mafia conspirators to survive in good health beyond the committee was Santo Trafficante,
and in fact, for some reason he was never called up by the committee. It looks likely that he arranged to have Giancana and
Hoffa murdered, perhaps to keep them silenced over the Kennedy assassination.
One other Mafia agent who might have been involved in the assassination was Johnny Roselli, and he was to appear before
the committee in 1976. He was warned by a friend that Trafficante had taken a contract out on his head, and a few weeks later
Roselli's garrotted and dismembered corpse was found in an oil drum. But before he died he gave an interview to the Washington
Post. In it he was quoted as saying that Jack Ruby had been put up by the Mafia to kill Lee Harvey Oswald to keep him from
revealing "information that might lead to them." What the information might have been about is not clear, but given
what the committee had called him up to discuss, there's a temptingly obvious guess.
The committee also obtained a copy of an FBI wire tap on Santo Trafficante, taken shortly after Roselli died. On the
tape, Trafficante was heard to say, "Now only two people know who killed Kennedy and they ain't talking." Trafficante,
who appears to have been the last surviving conspirator, didn't die until 1987. Frank Ragano claims that Trafficante, on his
death bed, told him, "That Bobby made life miserable for me and my friends... Carlos (Marcello) screwed up, killing John.
We should have killed Bobby." The confession that Ragano puts in Trafficante's mouth seems questionable for two reasons.
Firstly, the murder of JFK did lead to Bobby's decline from office as planned, so it's hard to see how the Mafia lost out
by targeting the President. Secondly, Bobby eventually was killed in 1968 as he was running for the White House. He was murdered
by another man with close links to the CIA, and in a Mob-run hotel. So it seems likely that the same conspirators did kill
Bobby K anyway. Having said that, Trafficante was dying of a brain tumour when he was supposedly making his confession, so
he may not even have been able to remember the order of events by then.
The chances of the above analysis being very accurate are of course quite low - not least because the number of conspirators
implicated in it is dizzyingly high, far too many for the truth not to have leaked before now - but the broad idea of it is
likely to be true; it is almost inconceivable that there wasn't some kind of conspiracy.
One last point needs to be made; oddly, although they flatly contradict each other, both the Warren Report and the Select
Committee Investigation are accepted by the US Government as the official explanation of the murder. Many politicians in the
USA (mostly right-wing politicians, it should be noted) express great exasperation that conspiracy theories surrounding this
crime are forever rearing their heads. This is one quest for the truth that never seems to die down or even to tire. Those
who insist there was no conspiracy and that Oswald acted alone are forever calling out for what they call - to quote that
most American of Americanisms - 'closure'. Might it be proper to suggest that so long as the US Government endorses any explanation
that allows for a conspiracy - indeed so long as its attitude is schizophroenic enough to accept two mutually exclusive explanations
- it is inviting skepticism on itself and its own practises? If the US Government truly wants 'closure' on this subject, it
has to go back and look again, and this time find an answer that not only fits the facts, but also one that fits itself.