President Kennedy was murdered at an ideal site for an ambush in Dallas.
On Nov. 22, 1963, the president's open-roof limousine was moving slowly on Elm Street toward a spot now marked by a "+," and shown here framed between the fence's pickets.
This eighth installment of our "JFK Murder Readers Guide" series portrays the scene from a perspective you may find novel. It is based on photos I took while attending conferences and ceremonies timed for the shooting's 50th anniversary last week.
The picket fence was at the right front as the president's limo proceeded toward the end of its ceremonial motorcade through downtown streets.
I measured 40 paces, a little more than 100 feet, from the picket fence to the spot of one of the wounds, reported as the first neck wound.
That distance is shorter than 80 meters to the sixth floor of the red-brick Texas Book Depository building at the rear of my photo at right. Another, fatal shot closer to the camera hit the president in his head.
A white "+" is faintly visible on the roadway just at the front of the light-colored car in the center lane of the photo at right.
The white marks are unofficial designations that reappear despite the ongoing efforts of the City of Dallas, most recently during the 50th anniversary commemoration, to remove markings apparently left by JFK supporters. The city also sought to ensure that no ticket-holders to the ceremony visibly supported any view but the Warren Commission's. News reports -- here for example -- hint at the censorship policy but seemed reluctant to describe it in blunt terms.
It is difficult to appreciate the city's effort to keep the pavement clean without recalling the drama of Act V of MacBeth. "Out, damned spot!" cried Lady MacBeth in Shakespeare's portrayal of official anguish over blood-letting.
The Warren Commission and its defenders insist that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in shooting the president. They say he fired three shots from a cheap, bolt-action Italian rifle during a 8.3-second period using as a vantage point the square, far-right window on the sixth floor of the book warehouse. The warehouse, or "depository," is the lighter-colored red brick building at the center of the photo at right.
Yet more than half of the witnesses at the scene reported gunfire from the car's front or side at Dealey Plaza. Witnesses reporting at least one shot from the front included Texas Gov. John Connally. He was a World War II combat veteran used to gunfire, and was wounded in the Dallas shooting while riding with the president.
He and others reported gunfire from the slope (the "Grassy Knoll") at the left of my photo at right.
I shot the photos from a railroad overpass, another possible sniper site in front of the limo's route.
In the photo at right, the picket fence is just to the left of the trees and thus outside the view.
Justice Integrity Project Readers Guide To JFK Assassination
* Denotes major articles in this Readers Guide series
At right is a photo by this editor in Dallas showing Dealey Plaza. The Texas Book Depository Building where Oswald worked is behind the row of trees. The car in the center lane is near the location of President Kennedy's limo at the time of his fatal shooting.
- Project Launches JFK Assassination Readers' Guide, Oct. 16, 2013.
- Project Provides JFK Readers Guide To New Books, Videos , Oct. 26, 2013. This is a list of new books and films in 2013.
- Project Lists JFK Assassination Reports, Archives, Videos, Events, Nov. 2, 2013. Leading video, events and archives from the last 50 years. *
- Disputes Erupt Over NY Times, New Yorker, Washington Post Reviews of JFK Murder, Nov. 7, 2013. *
- Self-Censorship In JFK TV Treatments Duplicates Corporate Print Media's Apathy, Cowardice, Nov. 7, 2013.
- 'Puppetry' Hardback Launched Nov. 19 at DC Author Forum on ‘White House Mysteries & Media,' Nov. 19, 2013.
- Major Media Stick With Oswald 'Lone Gunman' JFK Theory, Nov. 27, 2013. Self-censorship.
- JFK Murder Scene Trapped Its Victim In Kill Zone, Nov. 30, 2013.
- JFK Murder, The CIA, and 8 Things Every American Should Know, Dec. 9, 2013. The CIA implicated itself in the cover-up, according to experts who have spoken out. *
- JFK Murder Prompts Expert Reader Reactions, Dec. 19, 2013. Reactions to our Dec. 9 column.
- Have Spy Agencies Co-Opted Presidents and the Press? Dec. 23, 2013. *
- Don't Be Fooled By 'Conspiracy Theory' Smears, May 26, 2014. *
- Experts To Reveal Secrets of JFK Murder, Cover-up at Sept. 26-28 DC Forum , Sept. 5, 2014.
- Washington Post Still Selling Warren Report 50 Years Later, Sept. 22, 2014. *
- JFK Experts To Explode Myths, Sign Books In DC Sept. 26-28, Sept. 24, 2014.
- Former Cuban Militant Leader Claims CIA Meeting With Oswald Before JFK Killing, Sept. 27, 2014. *
- JFK Readers Guide: Assassination Books, Reports, Oct. 15, 2014. *
- Former U.S. House JFK Murder Prober Alleges CIA ‘Lied,’ Seeks Hidden Records, Oct. 18, 2014. *
- The JFK Murder 'Cover-up' Still Matters -- As Does C-SPAN's Coverage, Nov. 11, 2014. *
- JFK, Nov. 22 and the Continuing Cover-Up, Nov. 24, 2014. *
- JFK Assassination Readers Guide To 2013-14 Events, Nov. 28, 2014. *
- CIA, Empowered by JFK Murder Cover-up, Blocks Senate Torture Report, Dec. 1, 2014. *
- Nearly Too Late, Public Learns of Bill Moyers’ Conflicts Over PBS, LBJ, Jan. 2, 2014.
- Why Bill O'Reilly's Lie About JFK's Murder Might Matter To You, March 17, 2015.
Related News Coverage
Washington Post, Five myths about John F. Kennedy, Larry J. Sabato, Nov. 13, 2013. Larry J. Sabato, left, is director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. His latest book is “The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy.” Myth: Fifty years later, we know everything we’ll ever know about Kennedy’s assassination. Even a half-century later, we don’t have the complete story. This is because many government documents remain classified and hidden. Reputable groups and individuals have estimated that there are 1,171 unreleased CIA documents concerning Nov. 22, 1963. The Center for Effective Government has even claimed that there may be more than 1 million unseen CIA records related to Kennedy’s assassination. No one can close the book on this subject without examining them. The Assassination Records Collection Act, signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, requires that all remaining documents about the Kennedy assassination be released by Oct. 26, 2017. The next president will rule on any requests from the CIA and other agencies that materials be withheld or redacted after 2017. Under the law, the president can do so only if there is “identifiable harm to military, defense, intelligence operations, or conduct of foreign relations, and the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
Boston Globe, Troves of files on JFK assassination remain secret, Bryan Bender, Nov. 25, 2013. As the nation marks the anniversary of JFK’s murder, there is a new push, including lawsuits filed under the Freedom of Information Act, to shake loose these and other classified materials that may shed light on one of the most unsettled debates of modern history: Was the murder of the nation’s 35th president the work of a lone assassin or a conspiracy, and did elements of the US government know about it, or cover it up, or knowingly destroy evidence to prevent other dirty laundry from being aired? “A lot of questions remain,” said John R. Tunheim, a federal judge in Minnesota who chaired the Assassination Records Review Board, which oversaw the review and disclosure of some five million records related to the JFK assassination in the 1990s. “We only put a few pieces of the puzzle together. Lots of the jigsaw is missing.” The National Archives and Records Administration, which is tasked with working with the agencies that originally generated the files, reports that some 1,100 distinct documents that Tunheim and his team did not have access to remain shielded from public view. At right is the bullet said by the Warren Commission to have killed President Kennedy and then wounded Texas Gov. John Connally before being found on a stretcher at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.
Boston Globe, Robert F. Kennedy saw conspiracy in JFK’s assassination, Bryan Bender and Neil Swidey, Nov. 24, 2013. In the five years between his brother’s murder and his own assassination in 1968, Bobby Kennedy voiced public support for the findings of the Warren Commission, namely that a pathetic, attention-seeking gunman had alone been responsible for the murder of President Kennedy. Privately, though, Bobby was dismissive of the commission, seeing it, in the words of his former press secretary, as a public relations tool aimed at placating a rattled populace. When the chairman of the commission, Chief Justice Earl Warren, personally wrote to the attorney general, asking for any information to suggest that a “domestic or foreign conspiracy” was behind his brother’s assassination, Bobby scrawled a note to an aide, asking, “What do I do?” Then, after stalling for two months, he sent along a legalistic reply saying there was nothing in the Justice Department files to suggest a conspiracy. He made no mention of the hunches that appeared to be rattling around in his own mind. Boston Globe, Photos of Robert F. Kennedy.
Daily Beast, Dallas Lays Elaborate but Dignified Plans to Celebrate Assassination Anniversary, Helen Anders, Nov. 22, 2013. Still smarting from being tagged the ‘city of hate’ 50 years ago, Dallas plans to observe the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination with as much dignity as possible.Thus, although it will take place just a few yards from the spot where John F. Kennedy was shot in the head and killed on Nov. 22, 1963, the city’s official memorial is likely to contain not a word about the assassination. Instead, Rawlings will speak about Kennedy’s presidency on Nov. 22 at Dealey Plaza to about 5,000 people—local officials, media, financial contributors to the event, and about 3,700 individuals who won tickets through a lottery and have been vetted by the Dallas Police Department. Historian David McCullough will read from Kennedy’s speeches, and the U.S. Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club will sing in what Rawlings characterizes as “a serious, respectful, less-is-more ceremony.” There will be prayers, a moment of silence, bagpipes and a military flyover.
Quinlan, Casey J. and Brian K. Edwards. Beyond the Fence Line: The Eyewitness Account of Ed Hoffman and the Murder of President John F. Kennedy. JFK Lancer Productions, 2008. Publisher's summary: Forty-five years ago, on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Deaf witness Ed Hoffman saw the man who fired the fatal shot that killed the President—and it was not Lee Harvey Oswald. His eyewitness account destroys the government’s version of a lone gunman shooting from the Texas School Book Depository.
Boston Review, Exit Strategy: In 1963, JFK ordered a complete withdrawal from Vietnam, James K. Galbraith, Nov. 22, 2013. Forty years have passed since November 22, 1963, yet painful mysteries remain. What, at the moment of his death, was John F. Kennedy's policy toward Vietnam? It's one of the big questions, alternately evaded and disputed over four decades of historical writing. It bears on Kennedy's reputation, of course, though not in an unambiguous way. And today, larger issues are at stake as the United States faces another indefinite military commitment that might have been avoided and that, perhaps, also cannot be won. The story of Vietnam in 1963 illustrates for us the struggle with policy failure. More deeply, appreciating those distant events tests our capacity as a country to look the reality of our own history in the eye.
Rolling Stone, John F. Kennedy's Vision of Peace, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Nov. 20, 2013. On the 50th anniversary of JFK's death, his nephew recalls the fallen president's attempts to halt the war machine, Today it's fashionable to view the quagmire of Vietnam as a continuum beginning under Eisenhower and steadily escalating through the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. But JFK was wary of the conflict from the outset and determined to end U.S. involvement at the time of his death. In JFK's first months in office, the Pentagon asked him to deploy ground troops into Vietnam. JFK agreed to send another 500 advisers, under the assumption that South Vietnam had a large army and would be able to defend itself against communist aggression. He refused to send ground troops but would eventually commit 16,500 advisers – fewer troops than he sent to Mississippi to integrate Ole Miss – who were technically forbidden from engaging in combat missions. He told New York Times columnist Arthur Krock in 1961 that the United States should not involve itself "in civil disturbances created by guerrillas." On November 24th, 1963, two days after JFK died, Lyndon Johnson met with South Vietnam Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, whom JFK had been on the verge of firing. LBJ told Lodge, "I am not going to lose Vietnam. I am not going to be the president who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went." Over the next decade, nearly 3 million Americans, including many of my friends, would enter the paddies of Vietnam, and 58,000, including my cousin George Skakel, would never return. Dulles, fired by JFK after the Bay of Pigs, returned to public service when LBJ appointed him to the Warren Commission, where he systematically concealed the agency's involvement in various assassination schemes and its ties to organized crime. To a young writer, he revealed his continued resentment against JFK: "That little Kennedy . . . he thought he was a god."
The Real News Network, Vietnam and the Legacy of the JFK Presidency, Paul Jay, Nov. 22, 2013. November 22 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. We’re going to take a look at the significance of his presidency, his accomplishments, and/or lack thereof. Joining us to kick off our discussion about Kennedy is Peter Kuznick. He’s a professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. He’s cowriter of the ten-part Showtime series called Untold History of the United States with Oliver Stone.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
New York Times, Photographers Protest White House Restrictions, Mark Landler, Nov. 21, 2013. A mutiny has erupted among photographers who cover President Obama over what they say is the White House’s increasing practice of excluding them from events involving the president and then releasing its own photos or video. A complaint has been filed with the press secretary, Jay Carney, over the increasing practice of excluding press photographers from events. On Thursday (Nov. 21), the White House Correspondents’ Association and 37 news organizations submitted a letter to the press secretary, Jay Carney, protesting what photographers said amounted to the establishment of the White House’s own Soviet-style news service, which gets privileged access to Mr. Obama at the expense of journalists who cover the president. The letter cited seven recent examples of newsworthy events from which photographers were banned, including a session in the Oval Office at which Malala Yousafzai, at right, a young Pakistani human rights campaigner, spoke with Mr. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughter Malia. Administration officials have said these were private meetings. But in all of the cases, a White House photographer recorded the event and posted the pictures on Flickr or other social media sites.
Atlantic, The Secret Story of How the NSA Began, Conor Friedersdorf, Nov. 27 2013. Congress was surprised to find that a federal intelligence agency they'd scarcely heard of was bigger and more powerful than one that they'd created. In 1982, James Bamford published The Puzzle Palace, an unprecedented journalistic look at the National Security Agency. This is an opportune moment to revisit it. Current readers can't help but be struck by its portents of things to come. As well, the sudden interest in the NSA following the Edward Snowden leaks has exposed a huge gulf between what surveillance state nerds know to be public information and what the general public actually knows about the secretive agency. Perhaps an impromptu book club would narrow the gap.
Institute for Political Economy, The Money Changers Serenade: A New Plot Hatches, Paul Craig Roberts, Nov. 29, 2013. Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, was assistant Treasury secretary during the Reagan administration. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, right, a protege of Treasury Secretaries Rubin and Summers, has received his reward for continuing the Rubin-Summers-Paulson policy of supporting the “banks too big to fail” at the expense of the economy and American people. For his service to the handful of gigantic banks, whose existence attests to the fact that the Anti-Trust Act is a dead-letter law, Geithner has been appointed president and managing director of the private equity firm, Warburg Pincus and is on his way to his fortune. A Warburg in-law financed Woodrow Wilson’s presidential campaign. Part of the reward was Wilson’s appointment of Paul Warburg, left, to the first Federal Reserve Board. The symbiotic relationship between presidents and bankers has continued ever since. The same small clique continues to wield financial power. Geithner’s career is illustrative.
Washington Post, Timothy Geithner to join the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, David Koenig, Nov. 16, 2013. Former U.S. Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, who played a central role in the government’s response to the financial crisis of 2008-2009, is joining private equity firm Warburg Pincus. The firm announced Saturday that Geithner will become its president and managing director starting March 1. Geithner led the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for more than five years before being becoming Treasury secretary in 2009. By that time, the economy had sunk into a deep recession. Few Treasury secretaries received as much scrutiny. Supporters credited Geithner with helping prevent the recession from spiraling into a second Great Depression, but critics said he was too cozy with Wall Street.