2 March, 2024

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Six Seconds In Dallas: The Assassination Of President Kennedy

By Jayantha Somasundaram

Jayantha Somasundaram

Sixty years ago it was 12:30pm 22nd November 1963 at Dealey Plaza in Dallas Texas. President John F. Kennedy’s Motorcade was on Elm Street, moving at 18 kmph. The Presidential Limousine was number two in the Motorcade, following the lead police car. In the limousine next to the driver sat Roy Kellerman, ranking Secret Service Agent (the presidential protective detail) behind them in the jump seats were Texas Governor John and Nellie Connally, and behind them were President John and Jackie Kennedy. Then came six seconds of gunfire; Kennedy and Connally were hit, the President fatally. Forty five minutes later at Parkland Memorial Hospital President Kennedy was pronounced dead.

A week later Kennedy’s successor President Lyndon Johnson appointed a six-member commission chaired by Chief Justice Earle Warren, and including future President Gerald Ford and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Allen Dulles, to investigate the assassination. In September 1964 they presented their findings in what has come to be called the Warren Commission Report.

The Warren Commission concluded that 24-year old Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy without the aid or instigation of a third party. That using a Mannlicher-Carcano Carbine he fired from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository building in Dealey Plaza where he worked.  He then took a bus and a taxi, arriving at his home at 1:00pm, leaving shortly thereafter armed with a pistol. When confronted by police officer Tippit at 1:15 Oswald shot and killed him. After he was arrested that afternoon in a cinema he was held in a Dallas jail until the 24th when nightclub owner Jack L. Ruby, also acting alone, shot and killed him.

All the doctors who treated Kennedy at Parkland Memorial were explicit: The cause of death was a massive head injury from a gunshot wound at the left temple. Besides the head injuries there were other wounds, a back wound nearly six inches below the collar alongside Kennedy’s spine and a throat wound in front. 

If the wound at his left temple and throat were entry wounds they could not have originated from the Book Depository because at the time of the shooting that building was positioned almost directly behind the Motorcade. Moreover nearly two-thirds of the witnesses questioned as to the origin of the gun shots, identified a grassy knoll located in front of the Motorcade as their source.

Magic Bullet

The Commission claimed that Oswald’s rifle could fire a bullet every 2.3 seconds. On the basis of cine films taken by spectators in Dealey Plaza it was established that the firing had lasted six seconds. Hence a maximum of three bullets could have been fired by Oswald’s weapon in the given time. One bullet missed the Motorcade and embedded itself in the pavement. If another was responsible for the head wounds then the third bullet had to have inflicted all the other wounds. So it would have had to enter Kennedy’s back torso and in the words of the Warren Report: ‘pierced the President’s throat and also caused Governor Connally’s wounds.’

The Warren Commission therefore created the ‘magic bullet’ which was fired from the Book Depository into Kennedy’s back, then turned through 120º and travelled up his body, turned through another 120º at his neck where it exited  and then went on to inflict the wounds in Connally’s back, wrist and leg.

Ex-Secret Service agent reveals new JFK assassination detail

Six decades later, new details are still coming to light in one of the most scrutinised events in American history: the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Paul Landis, an 88-year-old former Secret Service agent who witnessed the president’s death at close range, says in an upcoming memoir that he took a bullet from the car after Mr Kennedy was shot, and then left it on the former president’s stretcher at the hospital. It might seem like a minute detail in a case that has been pored over since the 1960s, but to individuals who have spent decades looking at every shred of evidence; Mr Landis’s account is a major and unexpected development. ~ BBC News 13 September 2023

At 12:44 by which time all other police patrol cars were ordered to converge on Dealey Plaza, Police Officer J.D.Tippit was detailed to Central Oak Cliff – the location of his death – ‘so that you will be at large for any emergency that comes in.’ Witnesses said that Tippit’s killer placed his elbows on the car window and appeared to be chatting with the officer. Had Tippit accosted his killer suspicious that he was the President’s assassin, the least he would have done was draw his gun and step out of the police car.

The only witness who claims that he saw Oswald fire at the President was Howard Brennan. He provided a description of Oswald to Secret Service Agent Sorrel after one pm. Tippit was shot at 1:15. At 12:45 however the Dallas Police had broadcast a description of Oswald. Moreover when Oswald was arrested that afternoon he was charged with Tippit’s killing; only twenty four hours later would Oswald be told that he would be charged with the assassination of the President. So why was Tippit’s killer wanted by the Dallas Police half an hour before Tippit was shot?

How reliable in any case was Brennan as a witness. Though he provided an accurate description of Oswald minutes after the assassination, just hours later that day he failed to pick Oswald out of a police line up! Brennan also told police that through the sixth floor window of the Book Depository he could see Oswald walking about. But the upper portion of that window was shut. So the Oswald that Brennan saw must have been walking about on his knees!

Jack Ruby

Once Oswald was identified as the President’s assassin it would be assumed that he was securely guarded and protected. Then how did Ruby get close enough to him in the Dallas Police garage to be able to kill him? Ruby who ran a couple of nightclubs in Dallas was said to be on speaking terms with about “700 of the 1,200 men on the police force.” There were standing orders that policemen and their guests be served anything on the house. In addition he also “made women available to officers.”

When Ruby appeared before the Warren Commission he was warned by both the Police and the Secret Service not to disclose certain matters. So he requested a transfer to Washington so that they “might get a fair shake out of him… Gentlemen,” he said “my life is in danger here.” He also said “someone in the Police Department is guilty of giving the information as to when Oswald was coming down (to the garage where he was killed).”

On November 14th a meeting took place in Ruby’s night club. The participants were Ruby, Tippit and Bernard Weisman, one of the leaders of the political right in Dallas. A crude but signed defamatory advertisement attacking the President was taken out by Weisman in the 22nd Dallas Morning News. 

Ruby was identified hours before the assassination on the grassy knoll sporting a gun case and he was at Parkland Memorial after the assassination. Ruby was associated with elements of the US Armed Forces who were running guns to anti-Castro forces in Cuba. In a letter to the then Director of the CIA Richard Helms, Warren Commission Lawyers remarked that Ruby “was involved with members of the underworld…A Government informant in Chicago has reported that such Cubans (involved in gun-running to Cuba) were behind the Kennedy assassin.”

Fate of Witnesses

Interestingly witnesses like Mrs Tice who had identified Ruby at Parkland were harassed and threatened. Other witnesses suffered worse. One witness was shot through the head. Another hanged herself to death in the Dallas jail. After another witness was interviewed by independent investigators her son was arrested and injured when he fell out of a window in an alleged attempt to escape from the Dallas Police.

Two reporters visited Ruby’s apartment just after he had killed Oswald. One, a writer for the Dallas Times Herald was found dead in his Dallas apartment, the victim of a karate attack; the Dallas Police were unable to find his killer. The other a former Dallas resident and a prize-winning reporter for a California newspaper was shot to death in a California police station; the police were able to locate his killer – he was a local police officer. An eyewitness to the Tippit murder Mrs Acquilla Clemons stated that she was implicitly threatened with harm by a Dallas police officer if she disclosed what she had seen.

Abraham Bolden the first Black to serve on the White House Secret Service detail announced that he wanted to testify before the Warren Commission, because he was aware of the failure of the Service to take adequate precautions. Bolden was indicted by the Federal Government and charged with trying to sell government files. 

Marina Oswald, Lee’s Russian widow had from the outset insisted on her husband’s innocence. But after she was threatened with deportation by Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) her testimony changed. Jean Hill who had seen Ruby in Dealey Plaza soon after the assassination said that “the FBI was here for days. They practically lived here. They just didn’t like what I told them I had seen and heard when the President was assassinated. For years I have told the truth, but I have two children to support. I am a public school teacher. My Principal said that it would be best not to talk about the assassination, and I just can’t go through it all again. I can’t believe the Warren Report. I know it’s all a lie, because I was there when it happened!”

“To believe the Warren Commission” writes Robert Anson in They’ve Killed the President, “you have to believe that bullets pause in midair and make ninety degree right hand turns; that a poor marksman can do what experts cannot; that Newtonian laws of motion were not operating on November 22, that a man can be in two places at once; that atoms are able to change their structure; that everything in life is mere chance.”

The Hell Hole

What was the political climate in Dallas that November day in 1963?  “God made big people like Kennedy. And God made little people like me“ drawled one Dallas resident. “But Colt made the .45 to even things out. “

Dallas residents sported ‘KO the Kennedys’ car stickers. There were lewd jokes about the hotline to the Vatican that ended in a Rome Sewer. On the eve of the assassination Protestant intolerance reached its zenith. A Baptist Convention was told “one of the greatest blunders in history was the election of a Roman Catholic President.” And that in future one should not vote Democrat or Republican but Protestant. 

A Dallas newspaper accused Kennedy of being a follower of ‘the communist line, which is atheistic and godless.’ That Kennedy would ‘take a man’s income tax and without his permission spend it abroad as foreign aid in countries that deny a supreme creator!’ 

When the President landed in Dallas he faced placards which read ‘Kennedy Khrushchev and (Martin Luther) King’ and ‘Kennedy the Communist Party wants you re-elected.’ 

As the Presidential party embarked at Forth Worth Airport one of the local drivers asked Kennedy’s Special Assistant Larry O’Brian: Flying to Dallas? And when the latter nodded the man said “That’s the hell hole of the world!”

The CIA

They still call it the years of lightening. The thousand days that President John Kennedy occupied the White House bringing into it the ideals of the New Frontier. But it was also a thousand day running war with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA was the ‘invisible government.’ It had its private armies at Katanga in the Congo as well as in Laos. It had its own airline – it was a state within a state. What was more, the CIA saw no future in toning down the Cold War as President Kennedy proposed. They distrusted the Kennedy brothers whom they saw as ‘doves’ and held them responsible for the ‘loss’ of Cuba. 

The CIA viewed with alarm proposals for arms limitation, banning of nuclear weapons tests and the accommodation of liberation movements in South East Asia. In fact President Kennedy had already ordered the US military disengagement from Vietnam and summoned his Ambassador in Saigon Henry Lodge to review progress in Washington on 24th November. The CIA persisted with nuisance raids on Cuba and three weeks before Kennedy’s assassination had against Presidential orders, deposed of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in a bloody military coup.

The insubordination of the CIA infuriated and embarrassed the President and his brother Robert Kennedy, the Attorney-General. President Kennedy responded by removing CIA Director Allen Dulles, and two Deputy Directors  Richard M. Bissell Jr. and Charles Cabell, were forced to resign. Cabell’s brother, Earle Cabell, was Mayor of Dallas at the time of the Kennedy assassination on 22 November 1963. 

Oswald Defects

Lee Harvey Oswald had joined the United States Marine Corp (USMC) in 1956 and had been posted to the Atsugi Base in Japan, the largest CIA base, from which U-2 Reconnaissance planes operated over the Soviet Union and China. Here Oswald studied Russian and professed to be a Marxist. In 1959 Oswald applied for and received a discharge from the USMC, returned home for three days and then set out for the Soviet Union. Of particular interest is the fact that from London to Helsinki he was flown in a private plane. In Moscow he expressed a desire to defect.

At this point the US Naval Attaché in Moscow cabled US Naval Intelligence reporting the defection and identifying Oswald as “a former Marine…” The next forty three spaces are classified as Secret. What else was Oswald besides a Marine?

For some reason the KGB (Soviet intelligence) refused to clear Oswald, and his application for Soviet citizenship was turned down. However once he renounced his US citizenship Oswald was classified as ‘stateless’ and shipped to Minsk in Belarus. In 1964 when KGB officer Yuri Nosenko defected to the US, he brought across the KGB’s file on Oswald. It appeared that the KGB suspected Oswald of being a ‘sleeper;’ a spy who after being dormant for years would be activated by the CIA at a future date.

In Minsk Oswald met and married Marina Prusakova who was residing with her uncle Ilya Prusakov; he worked for the MVD the ministry under which the KGB operated.

In 1962 the Oswalds decided to return to the US and in record time the ‘defector’ was given both a US Passport and a medical check up by US Air Force Captain Alexis Davison whom Colonel Oleg Pengovskly, a US spy was later to name as his CIA contact in Moscow.

On his way back to the US Oswald’s itinerary contains two mysteries. Although he is supposed to have breached the ‘Iron Curtain’ at Helmstedt in Berlin, his passport carries no record of this crossing. In addition the Oswalds spent two days in Amsterdam, not in a hotel but in an apartment where they could have been debriefed by US Intelligence. Strangely the CIA did not question the ‘defector’ when he arrived in the US; mind you in that era they would regularly quiz tourists for information about Eastern Europe and open mail coming from there. Yet they seemed apparently disinterested in a returning defector.

Once they settled in Dallas-Fort Worth the Oswalds were adopted by the White Russian community – those who had fled the Soviet Union – which was closely linked to the CIA. In fact George De Mohrenschildt who was close to the Oswalds was known to have been in Guatemala City during the Bay of Pigs Invasion (the April 1961 landing of anti-Castro Cuban exiles with US assistance) and submitted a report to the US Government.

Three Oswalds?

In September 1963 Oswald travelled to Mexico City, here he applied for a visa to enter Cuba; there being no Cuban diplomatic mission in the US. By coincidence the person who crossed the US-Mexican border before Oswald was William Gaudet of the CIA.

One of the most perplexing problems that assassination investigators, both official and private came up against, were the hundreds of occasions when Oswald was in two places at the same time! More disquieting are two samples of Oswald’s writing; one written in the Soviet Union displays atrocious spelling and syntax, while another, written after his return, is flawless. Photographs and descriptions of Oswald over these last few years are also confusing.

Undoubtedly there was more than one Oswald. An examination of descriptions and photographs lead to the conclusion that there were three Oswalds. The historical or genuine one, the agent who went to the Soviet Union and the imposter used in the assassination. 

While Oswald stayed out of sight in the US, a trained CIA agent used his passport to travel to the Soviet Union – fantastic as this sounds, it is the only alternative to believing that Oswald increased and decreased in height during his time in Minsk! It will also explain why the CIA, which at that time clandestinely photographed everyone entering and exiting the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City did not provide a photograph of Oswald entering this Embassy.

It is now common knowledge that the CIA had worked out blueprints to assassinate not only Fidel Castro but Duvalier in Haiti, Trujilo in the Dominican Republic, Diem in Vietnam, Lumumba in the Congo, Schneider in Chile and Jagan in Guyana. Kennedy who was seeking rapport with Cuba, who was for US withdrawal from Vietnam and who was going to purge and reconstitute the Agency was perhaps the CIA’s most deadly adversary!

The CIA had many allies, many front organisations; it was the intelligence agency par excellence of the twentieth century and successfully enabled the US to emerge as the only super power by century’s end.

During World War II the CIA’s precursor the Office of Strategic Services, began a relationship with Salvatore ‘Lucky’ Luciano, the smartest and most ruthless Mafia leader. The Mafia protected the ports at home and they harassed the enemy in Italy. In return Luciano who was serving a prison sentence was deported to Italy when the War ended. Back home he organised the international heroin ring. But CIA-Mafia co-operation continued; in Marseilles, the entry point for heroin in France, troublesome French dock workers who struck in 1947 had the Mafia turned loose on them. Again in 1950 when the dockers refused to handle arms shipments to Indochina the Mafia went into action.

J. Edgar Hoover had officially proclaimed that the Mafia did not exist. Then in 1963 Joseph Valachi came before the US Senate testifying that the Mafia had infiltrated virtually every facet of American life. The Mafia empire was shown to be enormous; in addition to gambling, narcotics and prostitution they had penetrated legitimate business as well as unions like the Teamsters.

The Mafia

Meyer Lansky was a leader of ‘the Jewish Mob’ and an associate of Lucky Luciano. He is given credit for building up scattered rival gangs into a national crime syndicate by moving into banking, investment and real estate. Jack L. Ruby, born Jacob Leon Rubenstein, was on the streets of Chicago by the time he was eleven years old, running errands for Al Capone. Ruby then became an official in one of Chicago’s mob-run unions and was implicated in the shooting of its ‘clean’ Secretary Leon Cooke. This murder cleared the way for Paul Dorfman to take over the union on behalf of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa.

After World War II when the Mafia moved into narcotics and Texas, so did Ruby. He set up a ‘supper club’ in Dallas and in 1959 was recruited as an FBI informer. Lucky Luciano had after the War earmarked Cuba as the hub for the syndicate’s narcotics operations, thanks to the benevolence of its dictator Fulgencio Batista, who was already in league with mobsters like Santo Trafficante and the legendry Meyer Lansky. It was Lansky who provided the finances to fix the 1952 Cuban election in Batista’s favour. 

Things changed when Castro came to power in 1959. He earned a million dollar price-tag on his head from the Mafia whom he threw out of Cuba! While US Companies were expropriated to the tune of $272 million, the Mob lost much more. In blind fury they threw everything, money, guns even aircraft behind anti-Castro exiles.

The Kennedys stumbled onto the Mafia connection when Robert discovered in the course of a Senate Rackets Committee investigation in the early fifties that the CIA was giving immunity against prosecution to members of the Mafia. Long before he became Attorney-General Robert Kennedy in Senate investigations had realised the extent of organised crime and its links with organised labour.

So in 1961 as Attorney-General he began the pursuit of these racketeers putting many of them behind bars including Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters boss. “If they are crooks,” his policy went, “we don’t wound them, we kill them!” And John Kennedy backed his brother to the hilt. At the time of his assassination the President had ordered a full scale assault on organised crime. And the only way to stop Robert Kennedy was to remove the source of his power-the President!

On November 22 the curtain came down on the New Frontier. The men who had been most terrified by it were now safe. The restrictions on the CIA were now relaxed, they went on to do what they pleased in Indochina and elsewhere. The Mafia, the corrupt union bosses and the international heroin ring were mollified. Robert Kennedy became impotent, his war against them petered out and he finally gave in and resigned in September 1964. 

In 1968 Robert Kennedy tried to make a political comeback and ran for the US Presidency. On June 6th at Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles he was assassinated by Jerusalem-born Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian; another ‘lone deranged assassin.’ 

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Latest comments

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    “The Assignation Of President Kennedy”
    At the risk of being snarky, I wonder what JFK was assigned to?
    True, evidence is coming out suggesting that the JFK assassination was not as simple as it appeared. But at the same time, it appears that JFK and the Kennedys themselves were not the angels that the author seems to think they were.

  • 1
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    The story of the murder of President John F. Kennedy will keep you spellbound for ever because it has defied a finale!

  • 0
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    The essayist has taken great pains to research and write this essay on the Assassination of an illustrious President John.F. Kennedy. Misfortune trailed the Kennedy family.
    The first Roman Catholic President and the fact that the CIA was a government within a Government are clues.So much so even Newtonian Laws did not operate on the fateful day.
    Had Sherlock Holmes been around would he have cracked the mystery surrounding this episode.Would he declare Simple my dear Jayantha, Simple.

    • 0
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      It should read as…..

      Elementary my dear Jayantha, Elementary…..

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