Texas, The Plains States

Single Gun Theory: Visiting the Kennedy Assassination Site

JFK motorcade, an image at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas

A visit to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas gets you thinking about the Kennedy assassination, one of the most fascinating events in American history.  Who did it, and why?

In the parking lot of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, freelance tour guides wrangle tourists onto the grassy knoll and make wild claims about the Kennedy assassination. “51 people saw two gunmen shoot the president from this spot!”

The obvious question: “And none of them went to the police?”

“Some did, but their testimony was suppressed. Others were intimidated into silence. At least one was killed.”

On the wooden palisade fence that tops the knoll, the graffiti artists have scrawled their opinions, one reads: “About this spot. Bang! Bang!”
Really?  People still believe this?  After all these years?
Some people just will not get with the program.

Texas School Book Depository, where the shot that killed Kennedy was fired

From the Sixth Floor corner window of the Texas School Book Depository came the shot that changed the nation.

If You Want to Run with the Crowd

The Kennedy assassination is one of the most fascinating events in American history. The national consensus of opinion changes from generation to generation. Right after the event, as we rode the last waves of post-World War II optimism, we were willing to believe what they were telling us, that a single gunman was responsible.

But as the upbeat attitude of the late 1950’s and early 60’s gave way to the cynicism of the 70’s, conspiracy theories abounded. In the early 80’s a new investigation released findings that supported a conspiracy. But by the late 80’s we were growing weary of all the cynicism, eager to the return to a more positive view of the nation and ourselves, and by the late 90’s that evidence was refuted.

View from the sixth floor window where Oswald shot Kennedy.

This is the view from the Sixth Floor window. This is the angle Oswald had. He surely shot JFK from here. But was he alone?

Today, the prevailing opinion is that a single gunman killed Kennedy. If you want to run with the crowd, this is what you believe. Stephen King, in his 2011 bestseller, 11/22/63, revisits the controversy in fiction and comes to the same conclusion, stating, “It is very, very difficult for a reasonable person to believe otherwise.” Yet as you explore the exhibits in the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas you are reminded of all the bizarre anomalies that surround the assassination, and you can’t help but wonder.


A Pristine Bullet, Mysterious Recordings, and Swapped Photos

Among the oddities is “the pristine bullet”, the bullet that allegedly killed the president and struck Texas governor John Connelly, a bullet which would have had to pass through 15 layers of clothing, 7 layers of skin, and approximately 15 inches of tissue, struck a necktie knot, removed 4 inches of rib, and shattered a radius bone, yet somehow came to rest on the gurney of the wounded Connelly intact, neither blunted or dented.

Frame from the Zabruder film showing Kennedy being shot.

This frame from the Zabruder film shows the bullet slamming into Kennedy’s head. Question: Is that the back of his head, or the front? (Click any picture to enlarge).

The Warren Commission, tasked with getting to the bottom of the assassination back in 1964, insisted that this fatal bullet was one of three fired from Oswald’s gun, which were the only shots fired.  But there is ample evidence suggesting otherwise.
There is acoustical evidence of shots fired from the grassy knoll, as well as the testimony of three credible eyewitnesses who reported hearing shots fired from that area. (A good deal fewer than the 51 eyewitnesses claimed by the conspiracy freaks, but how many do you need really?)
What’s more, the location of the fatal wound is in dispute.  The Warren Commission concluded that the bullet struck Kennedy above the right shoulder and passed through his neck, a trajectory that aligns with Oswald’s perch.  But Robert McClelland, a doctor at Parkland Hospital where the autopsy was performed, testified that the back part of Kennedy’s head was blown out, with tissue missing, a finding consistent with an exit wound, suggesting that the fatal bullet was fired from the front, in the direction of the grassy knoll.

Kennedy autopsy photo showing wound at the back of the head.

According to analysts, there is a “95% chance” that the autopsy photos of Kennedy’s fatal wound have been switched.

In the 1990’s the Assassination Records Review Board’s chief analyst for military records said he was “95% certain” that the autopsy photos in the National Archives, the ones showing the wound at the back of the neck, had been switched.
Everywhere you look, there are suspicious anomalies.  And then there are the weird coincidences.

A Friend of the Family

Here’s one for you. Lee Harvey Oswald, by all accounts a nobody, a loser with few friends and absolutely zero influence, was a palling around, in the days leading up to the assassination, with George de Mohrenschildt, a wealthy Russian ex-pat. Who is George de Mohrenschildt, you ask. Well, among other things, a close friend of the Bouvier family.  So close, in fact, that he used to bounce a 3-year old Jackie on his knee.  That’s right, that Jackie, the one who grew up to become first lady, wife of JFK.
Mohrenschildt eventually cracked up and committed suicide, but before he did, he managed to confess that he had been directed by a CIA operative to meet with Oswald in the days before the assassination.  Then, according to a government led investigation, he succumbed to despair and shot himself – less than 48 hours after his explosive confession.

Lee Harvey Oswald

In this famous picture of Oswald holding the murder weapon he is seen holding up a newspaper, which fixes him in place and time, a peculiar thing for an aspiring assassin to do.

Oswald himself claimed he had been nothing more than a patsy. It was one of the few things he was able to say before he was gunned down a little more than 48 hours after the assassination by a disgruntled nightclub owner named Jack Ruby.

Improbable Deaths

Ruby was not expecting what he got. Thinking he would get off with a relatively light charge of “murder without malice”, Ruby instead had the book thrown at him and was convicted of first degree murder and given the death penalty.  No long after, imprisoned and desperate, Ruby told reporters, “Everything pertaining to what’s happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts of what occurred.”  In a later interview with psychiatrist Werner Teuter, he said, “I was framed to kill Oswald.”  Ruby died in prison of cancer. He claimed his enemies, who were trying to silence him, had injected him with cancer cells. He died a mere three years after killing Oswald, taking his secrets with him.
Untimely deaths cluster around the Kennedy assassination, so many that the House Select Committee on Assassinations set out in 1978 to investigate what they called the “statistically improbable number” of deaths of people associated with the event.

Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald.

Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruby later told a pyschiatrist, “I was framed to kill Oswald.”

Among those who perished within a few years of the assassination were Lee Bowers, one of the eyewitnesses who testified he heard shots coming from the grassy knoll; he died in a car crash.  Then there was John Garrett Underhill, a former CIA agent who expressed his conviction that Kennedy had been killed by a small clique in the CIA, killed by a gunshot wound to the head, death ruled a suicide.  Finally, there was Rose Cherami, a stripper in Jack Ruby’s club who tried to warn authorities, in advance of the assassination, that Kennedy was about to be killed. She was struck by a car, supposedly while hitchhiking.

Strange Coincidences and Questionable Evidence

All of this is explored and detailed at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. Housed on the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository in the same place where Oswald fired his fateful shots, the museum is surprisingly frank and balanced in laying out the history and controversy of the assassination.
Arranged in roughly chronological order, beginning with the rise of Kennedy as a candidate, his election to the presidency, his early days in office, proceeding through the politics of the time and into the events leading up to the moment when the President’s motorcade entered Dealey Plaza, the museum incorporates a fascinating combination of photos, video, artifacts and static exhibits to paint a comprehensive picture of the assassination and its aftermath.  It draws no conclusions of its own but leaves it up to each visitor to draw his own conclusions.

Sixth Floor Museum, the corner where Oswald shot Kennedy.

At the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, a museum goer ponders the glassed off corner where Lee Harvey Oswald hid among stacks of boxes to shoot the president.

And after 50 years of digging and speculating by a legion of assiduous investigators, the ascendant conclusion is that Oswald did it all by himself.  No conspiracy.  Case closed.
I am just cynical enough to believe otherwise.

The Turning Point

Given the strange coincidences, the lost and tampered with evidence, the suppressed and strangled testimony, to arrive unequivocally at the conclusion that a single nitwit loser, acting alone, assassinated JFK is a little like saying that nobody on Wall Street was responsible for the financial shenanigans that led to the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression.

The pristine bullet explored at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas.

The pristine bullet. The Sixth Floor Museum doesn’t shy away from examining controversial aspects of the assassination.

Wow, that’s amazing.  And they wonder why the vast majority of the American people have lost faith in government.
From a historical perspective, what’s interesting about the Kennedy assassination is that it stands as the pivotal moment in history when the American people went from trusting their government to suspecting it of things dark and shady.  Most historians mark that moment as Watergate, but Watergate was just the confirmation of a gathering cynicism that started when the Warren Commission released its dubious findings.


Kennedy’s Bitterest Enemies

Cuban exiles captured at the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Kennedy’s refusal to provide air support resulted in the killing and capture of Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs.

So who did pull the strings on the Kennedy assassination?  Conspiracy theories offer up everyone from the Soviets to LBJ, but the most plausible hypothesis is that the CIA, working in concert with anti-Castro Cubans and the mob, offed the president.
The reasons are manifest.  First, Kennedy made bitter enemies of anti-Castro Cubans and the CIA when he refused to provide air support to bail out the botched Bay of Pigs invasion.  Kennedy was never wholeheartedly behind the invasion, having inherited it from the previous administration, so when it went sour, he was not about to call in air strikes, which would’ve led to an all out war with Cuba and most likely, by extension, the Soviets, thereby kicking off World War III.

View from the grassy knoll at the Kennedy assassination site in Dallas.

View from the grassy knoll. The second car is approximately where Kennedy was when the shots were fired.

Kennedy was having none of it, so the anti-Castro invasion force was killed and captured, giving a black eye to the CIA, who had advocated for the invasion, and to the anti-Castro Cuban community in South Florida, who despised Kennedy for betraying them.
Second, the Kennedy administration was in hot water with the mob, who had supported JFK’s run for the presidency, just as they had supported his father, Joe Kennedy, throughout his rise to power.  Joe Kennedy was a bootlegger.  The Kennedy fortune was made on the basis of illegal activities, specifically on the smuggling and distribution of alcohol during prohibition.  The Kennedys were tight with the mob, and the mob went to the mat for Kennedy during the election, bringing in the labor vote for JFK and tipping the  election in his favor.
So how did he repay them?  By declaring an all out war against organized crime.

Dealey Plaza reflecting pool and Texas School Book Depository in background.

Dealey Plaza today, a quiet place to stop and contemplate what happened here, and what it means.

In the CIA and the mafia, Kennedy had made enemies of the people most capable of committing murder and covering it up.  Then came November 22nd, 1963.
A shot rang out in Dallas and America became a different country, a country forever divided between people who want desperately to believe that these kinds of things don’t happen, and people like me, who fear a powerful, influential elite only too willing to destroy the hopes and dreams of the nation to suit their own self-serving agendas, an elite emboldened by the public’s willingness to bury their heads in the sand.
The Sixth Floor Museum is worth a visit if for no other reason than it makes you stop and think.
Then again, maybe it doesn’t, because doing so might be just a little too scary.
But, really?

Check it out…

Sixth Floor Museum in DallasThe Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

411 Elm Street
Dallas, TX  75202

Previous stop on the odyssey: Deckers, CO //
Next stop on the odyssey:  Abilene, KS

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About the author:  Malcolm Logan is a freelance writer who specializes in US travel and US history, designing driving tours, seeking out interesting destinations and exploring US adventure travel.  He can be reached at malcolm.logan@rcn.com
Image Credits:
Kennedy motorcade, Public Domain; Former Texas School Book Depository, Malcolm Logan; View from the sixth floor window, Malcolm Logan; Fatal shot, Public Domain;  Kennedy autopsy photo, Public Domain; Lee Harvey Oswald, Public Domain;  Jack Ruby Killing Lee Harvey Oswald, Public Domain; Sixth Floor Museum display, Malcolm Logan; Pristine bullet, Public Domain; Captured Cubans at the Bay of Pigs, Public Domain; View from the grassy knoll, Malcolm Logan; Dealey Plaza, Malcolm Logan