The Kennedy Assassination: The Mystery We Don’t Want Solved
This week’s release of records relating to the John F. Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, likely won’t settle the ongoing debate.
The National Archives and Records Administration released some 2,800 records about the Kennedy assassination this week.
For those who still wonder about what really happened on that terrible day in Dallas, Texas, the event should have been reason to celebrate. But the release of documents was marred by the fact that President Donald Trump agreed to hold back approximately 30,000 more at the urging of national security officials.
What we seem to know now that we didn’t know before — or what we seem to understand a bit more than we did before — is that the Soviet Union was surprised and concerned about Kennedy’s death, and that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was frustrated by the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald before a possible confession could have been obtained from him.
Even more interesting was that in addition to the USSR’s apparent surprise over the developments in Texas was the apparent concern inside the Communist Party that Kennedy’s death might be part of a larger right-wing coup to take over the U.S. government.
ABC News reported the release contained a memo from Hoover illustrating his “urgent desire” to have “something issued so that we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean Hoover thought Oswald wasn’t the real assassin; it simply indicates Hoover was concerned about having decades of debate over a possible conspiracy, which is what we ended up with anyway.
At this distance — next month marks 54 years since the killing — if a released document made a case of definitive evidence that Oswald fired all of the shots, even if the files included film showing him doing the shooting, there are people who just wouldn’t accept the fact that Oswald acted alone.
Maybe he didn’t.
But there’s been no definitive proof that he didn’t, despite a lot of speculation on both sides of that argument.
I’m an assassination buff of sorts; in my case, I’m most interested in media coverage of the event, since the Kennedy assassination served as the birth of breaking news on television.
For some reason, on that particular day, the nation just seemed to instinctively switch on their television sets instead of their radios to learn what was happening, and they sat in front of their TVs mesmerized for the next four days as they learned one president had been killed, another had been sworn in, the president’s presumed killer was gunned down and the murdered president was laid to rest.
The coverage, by today’s standards, was primitive at best. But still, it was the most technically-sophisticated coverage that could be mustered in 1963, and as such, it serves as a fascinating record of how newsgathering was done back then.
Looking back on that coverage and the conspiracy theories that have persisted for more than five decades, Dan Rather had an interesting take a few years ago on the search for the “real” truth in Kennedy’s killing. Rather explained that all of the journalists who covered Kennedy’s death knew that breaking the story of a real conspiracy would have been the story of their careers. For that reason alone, all of those journalists pursued leads that would confirm a conspiracy. But they just didn’t find it.
Maybe such evidence was hidden very, very well. But it seems that if that were the case, by now, it would have surfaced, and it wouldn’t need to come from boxes of sealed documents in the National Archives.
Just the other day, I saw a clip on YouTube featuring an interview of a sniper who examined several locations around Dealey Plaza where a second gunman could have been positioned to accomplish what Oswald was said to have accomplished on his own. The sniper said the “most likely” place for a second gunman would have been the famous “grassy knoll.”
But they didn’t rule out that Oswald acted alone; they merely suggested that if there were a second gunman, that would have been the most likely place. Meanwhile, journalist Robert MacNeil, who worked for NBC News at the time, ran with police toward the fence at the grassy knoll where people seemed to think they’d heard gunfire coming, yet said there was no gunman in sight.
In the years since the initial conspiracy theories began popping up, forensic science has demonstrated that the motion of Kennedy’s head during the fatal wound was consistent with a shot from behind and that the position of Texas Gov. John Connally (who was seated in a jump seat in front of Kennedy) eliminated the possibility of a so-called “magic bullet” that would have had to randomly zig-zag in mid-air: when adjusting models to allow for Connally’s true position in the vehicle, there was suddenly no zig-zagging required.
But conspiracy theories are more fun for a lot of people, and they’re not about to get provable facts — or their lack thereof — to get in their way.
There’s no telling what’s in those remaining 30,000 files. But I doubt it’d matter.