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John F. Kennedy assassination

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy

The assassination of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, took place on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, USA at 12:30 PM Central time (18:30 UTC). Kennedy was fatally wounded by multiple gunshots while riding in a presidential motorcade within Dealey Plaza.

Two official investigations have concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee of the Texas Schoolbook Depository in Dealey Plaza, was the assassin, with one government investigation concluding that Oswald acted alone and another concluding he acted with, at least, one other person.


Background to the Texas trip

Kennedy had chosen to visit Dallas on 22 November for three main reasons: to help raise more Democratic Party presidential campaign fund contributions in advance of the November 1964 presidential election; to begin his quest for re-election; and, because the Kennedy-Johnson ticket had barely won Texas (and had lost Dallas) in 1960 he wanted to help mend political fences among several leading Texas Democratic party members who appeared to be fighting politically amongst themselves.

Timeline of the assassination

Main article: Detailed timetable of the assassination
all times in CST add 6 hours for UTC
all events on November 22
unless otherwise stated

Texas trip proposed
to JFK by LBJ & Connally

Texas trip announced

Oswald goes to Mexico City
Odio meets Oswald

Oswald gets job at
Texas School
Book Depository

Details of motorcade
route announced

Kennedy arrives at
Love Field airport, Dallas

Oswald seen
in cafeteria

Armed man seen in
depository west window

Armed man seen in
depository east window

Motorcade scheduled
to enter Dealey Plaza

Actual time motorcade
entered Dealey Plaza

Kennedy shot

Oswald first
confronted by police

Police search grassy
knoll parking lot
and railroad yard

News announced on TV

Kennedy (already dead)
receives the Last Rites

Oswald seen by witness
going into Theatre

death made public

Police told Oswald
is in Texas Theatre

Police attempt to arrest
Oswald in Texas Theatre

Kennedy's body taken
from Parkland Hospital
for Air Force One

Lyndon Johnson
sworn in as President

Air Force One arrives at
Andrews Air Force Base
near Washington D.C.

Oswald charged with
killing Tippit

Oswald charged with
assassinating Kennedy

Oswald shot
dead by Jack Ruby

June 6


September 25

3rd wk of Oct

Days before
Nov 22








74-90 seconds later




about 13:35




after 14:00


about 17:00



11:21 Nov 24

The presidential limousine shortly before the assassination
The presidential limousine shortly before the assassination

It was planned that he would go from the Love Field airport in a motorcade through downtown Dallas (including Dealey Plaza) to give a speech at the Dallas Trade Mart in suburban Dallas. The car in which he was traveling was a 1961 Lincoln Continental, open-top, modified limousine. Riding with Kennedy in the limousine were: his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy; Texas Governor John Connally, Sr., and his wife, Nellie; Secret Service agent and White House Detail Team #3 Assistant in Charge, Roy Kellerman; and Secret Service agent and limousine driver Bill Greer. The limousine was not equipped with a bulletproof top (plans for such a top were presented in October 1963), and no presidential car with a bulletproof top existed in 1963. (FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, however, had three bulletproofed cars.)

Throughout Dallas, and especially along the motorcade route, several groups critical of Kennedy expressed their views and handed out flyers. A smattering of handmade protest signs were held aloft by motorcade viewers. Also, in a November 22 Dallas newspaper there appeared a black-bordered, full-page advertisement paid for by Kennedy critics.

The assassination itself

President Kennedy, Jackie, and Gov. John Connally in the Presidential limousine shortly before the assassination.
President Kennedy, Jackie, and Gov. John Connally in the Presidential limousine shortly before the assassination.

The presidential motorcade traveled nearly its entire route without incident, stopping twice so Kennedy could shake hands with some Catholic nuns, then, some school children. Shortly before the limousine turned onto Main Street a male ran towards the limousine, but was thrust to the ground by a Secret Service agent and hustled away. Just before 12:30 PM CST (18:30 UTC), Kennedy slowly approached the Texas School Book Depository head-on, then the limousine slowly turned the 120-degrees directly in front of the depository, now only 65 feet (20 meters) away.

When the limousine had passed the depository Kennedy was shot at for an estimated 6 to 9 seconds. During the assassination the limousine is measured to have slowed from over thirteen miles per hour to only nine m.p.h. The Warren Commission later concluded that one of the three shots likely missed the motorcade, that the first to hit anyone went through Kennedy and likely also caused all of Connally's injuries, and the last to hit anyone opened a fatal wound in Kennedy's head. Nearly all agree that Kennedy was hit with at least two bullets, and was killed when shot in the head.

The route taken by the motorcade within Dealey Plaza. North is towards the almost direct-left
The route taken by the motorcade within Dealey Plaza. North is towards the almost direct-left

There was hardly any reaction in the crowd to the supposed first shot, many later saying they thought they had heard a firecracker or backfire. Only after Governor Connally was injured and had screamed, "No, no, no. They are going to kill us all!" did the gravity of the situation become clear to the Secret Service limousine driver, Bill Greer. During the attack Greer had turned very quickly to look behind him and towards the screaming governor and/or President, then turned forward again. He then turned very quickly again rearward (the limousine brake-lights were filmed illuminating at this point), and driver Greer was the only occupant of the limousine actually facing Kennedy when he suffered the fatal head shot.

When Kennedy was struck in his head, it moved slightly forward and down 1 to 2 inches (25 to 50 mm). The cause of what happened next is one issue that has kept people investigating the assassination. As the wound to the right side of his skull opened up, his right shoulder twisted forward and slightly upward, then his torso moved quickly backwards and to his left side, until he bounced off the rear seat vertical cushion and slumped lifelessly leftward towards his wife. Only after Kennedy was mortally wounded did the limousine then speed up to exit Dealey Plaza to proceed to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Others wounded

Texas Governor John Bowden Connally, Sr., riding in the same limousine in front of the president, was also critically injured but survived. His injuries occurred a split second after JFK's first injury (probably as a result of the same bullet, although this is still disputed by some). Doctors later stated that when Mrs. Connally pulled the governor onto her lap, the resulting posture helped close his front chest wound (which was causing air to be sucked directly into a collapsed lung). The action helped save his life.

James Tague, a spectator and witness to the assassination, also received a minor gunshot-caused wound to his right facial cheek while standing 270 feet (82 meters) in front of where Kennedy was hit.

Recordings of the assassination

No radio or television stations broadcast the assassination live, as the area the motorcade was traveling through was not considered important enough to broadcast. KBOX-AM did recreate the sounds of the shooting for an LP record it released with excerpts of news coverage of that day, but it was not an original recording. Except for the media positioned at the rear of the motorcade, most media crews were in fact waiting, in anticipation for Kennedy's arrival, at the Trade Mart.

However, Kennedy's last seconds of life through Dealey Plaza were recorded on silent 8mm film in the 26.6 seconds before, during, and immediately following the assassination by amateur cameraman Abraham Zapruder, in what became known as the Zapruder film. The 486 frames of this film have been used in many studies, but the film has not been able to fully settle disputes concerning whether or not Oswald was the sole assassin.

For several minutes before, during, and after the assassination a Dallas police motorcycleman's radio microphone was stuck in the "transmit" position and was recorded back at the police radio dispatcher's room on a Dictabelt.

Kennedy declared dead

Personnel at Parkland Hospital trauma room # 1 who treated Kennedy observed that his condition was "moribund," meaning, he had no chance of survival upon arrival at the hospital. At 1:00 p.m., CST (19:00 UTC), after all the heart activity had ceased and after a priest administered the last rites, the president was pronounced dead. "We never had any hope of saving his life," one doctor said. The priest who administered the last rites to Kennedy told The New York Times that he was already dead upon the priest's arrival at the hospital and the priest had to draw back a sheet covering his face to perform the sacrament of extreme unction. Kennedy's death was officially announced some time later, at 1:38 PM CST (19:38 UTC). Governor Connally, meanwhile, was soon taken to emergency surgery where he underwent two operations that day.

A few minutes after 2:00 PM CST (20:00 UTC), and after a ten to fifteen minute confrontation with cursing and weapons-brandishing Secret Service agents, Kennedy's body was taken from Parkland Hospital and driven to Air Force One. The body was removed before undergoing a forensic examination by the Dallas coroner, and against Texas state laws (the murder was a state crime, and legally occurred under Texas jurisdiction).

Lyndon B. Johnson (who had been riding two cars behind Kennedy in the motorcade through Dallas) had automatically become President of the United States upon Kennedy's death, and he took the oath of office onboard Air Force One before it departed Love Field. After Air Force One landed just outside Washington, D.C., Kennedy's body was taken to Bethesda Naval Hospital for an autopsy. The autopsy was conducted by three military doctors and witnessed by over thirty military men. Two FBI men have since revealed that Kennedy had a large wound on the right side of his head, another wound 5.5" below his suit coat collar top just to the right of his spine, and a third wound centered in the front of his throat at the bottom edge of his Adam's Apple. Several photos and x-rays were captured during the autopsy (several of which have disappeared from the official record).

Autopsy photos

The autopsy photos are graphic. If you decide to view them, along with the skull x-rays, and medical drawings prepared by the Assassination Records and Review Board when it took testimonies from the Parkland Hospital medical witnesses, they are available here and here

Reaction to the assassination

Main article: Reaction to the assassination of John F. Kennedy

The first hour after the shooting, before Kennedy's death was announced, was a time of great confusion and dread. Taking place during the Cold War, at first it was unclear if the shooting were not part of a larger attack upon the U.S., and also unclear whether or not Vice-President Johnson was safe. In Washington D.C., at 1:43 PM EST (12:43 Dallas time, 18:43 UTC, just minutes after the attack) the telephone system service was overloaded and sporadic for 59 minutes. So many phone calls were placed in the New York phone exchange that operators were eventually forced to refuse calls. People began to cling to radio and TV coverage for the latest bulletin.

The news of Kennedy's murder shocked the world. In New York and around the world, men and women wept openly, some clustering in department stores (to catch TV coverage) and others praying. Auto traffic in some areas came to a halt as the news of Kennedy's death spread literally from car to car. Schools across the USA and Canada dismissed students early. An unguided fury against 'Texas and Texans' was reported from some individuals.

After the Bethesda Naval Hospital autopsy, Kennedy's body was prepared for burial, then returned to the White House and placed in the East Room for 24 hours. The next day, Kennedy's flag-draped mahogany casket was taken to the Capitol rotunda to lie in state. Throughout the day and night, an estimated 250,000 people, some waiting in near-freezing temperatures for as long as 10 hours in a line that stretched 40 blocks up to 10 persons wide, personally paid their respects as Kennedy's body lay in state.

Hastily organized memorial services for Kennedy were held worldwide. The U.S. government declared a day of national mourning and sorrow for the day of Kennedy's state funeral, Monday, November 25. The funeral was attended by 220 foreign dignitaries from 92 countries, including the Soviet Union. After the service, the casket was taken by caisson to Arlington National Cemetery for burial.

Lee Harvey Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested eighty minutes after the assassination for killing Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit and charged with murdering Kennedy late that evening. Two days later while in police custody, Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby.

Official investigations

Dallas Police

After arresting Oswald and collecting physical evidence at the crime scenes, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry was ordered at 10:30 PM CST on 22 November (04:30 UTC on 23 November) by, in his words, "people in Washington" to send all of the physical evidence found, but not Oswald, to the FBI headquarters.

FBI investigation

The FBI was the first authority to complete an official investigation. On December 9, 1963, only 17 days after the assassination, the FBI report was issued and given to the Warren Commission while the FBI was still the primary investigating authority for the commission. The FBI stated that only three bullets were fired during the assassination; that the first shot hit President Kennedy, the second shot hit Governor Connally, and the third shot hit Kennedy in the head, killing him. The FBI stated that Lee Harvey Oswald fired all three shots.

The Warren Commission

Main article: Warren Commission

The first official investigation of the assassination, dubbed informally the Warren Commission, was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 29, 1963, a week after the assassination. The commission was headed by Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States and became known as the Warren Commission.

In late September 1964, after a 10 month investigation, the Warren Commission Report was published. The Commission reported that it could not find any persuasive evidence of a domestic or foreign conspiracy involving any other person(s), group(s), or country(ies), and that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The theory that Oswald acted alone is also informally called the lone gunman theory.

The commission also concluded that only three bullets were fired during the assassination, and that Lee Harvey Oswald fired all three bullets from the Texas School Book Depository behind the motorcade. The commission's determination was that:

  • one shot likely missed the motorcade (it could not determine which of the three),
  • the first shot to hit anyone struck Kennedy in the upper back, exited near the front of his neck and likely continued on to cause all of Governor Connally's numerous injuries,
  • the last shot to hit anyone fatally struck Kennedy in the head.

It noted that three empty shells were found in the sixth floor in the book depository, and the rifle was found hidden nearby. Rather than introduce more than two shots that caused injuries, the Commission offered as a likely explanation that the same bullet that wounded Kennedy also caused all of Governor Connally's wounds. This single bullet then backed out of Connally's left thigh and was found in nearly pristine condition. This theory has become known as the single bullet theory. Some ballistic evidence has suggested that such a bullet trajectory was possible, but this particular point is a source of much contention and disagreement.

The Commission also criticized weaknesses in security, which has resulted in vastly increased security whenever the president travels. The supporting documents for the Warren Commission Report are not all due to be released until 2017.

The commission's findings have not gained full acceptance from the general public in the USA, and many theories that conflict with its findings exist. At this time, there is no single theory with which a large majority of people would mostly agree. My name is Tony Mantana!!!!!

The House Select Committee on Assassinations

Main articles: House Select Committee on Assassinations, Dictabelt evidence relating to the assassination of John F. Kennedy

An official investigation by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, from 1976 to 1979 concluded that four bullets were fired during the assassination and that President Kennedy "was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy." The HSCA concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the first, second, and fourth bullets, and that there was a 95% probability that an unnamed second assassin fired the third bullet (but missed) from President Kennedy's right front from a location concealed behind the grassy knoll picket fence, 9' to the west of the picket fence east corner (exactly where an image is seen in the Moorman #5 polaroid photo captured at Zf-315 to 316, but not seen seconds later). The HSCA's test firings within Dealey Plaza in 1978 also acoustically matched this same grassy knoll fence location 9' to the west of the picket fence east corner where several witnesses claimed to observe gun smoke.

Summary of other evidence

Shot sequencing and origins

There were approximately 700 bystanders, witnesses, and motorcade witnesses within Dealey Plaza throughout the assassination. Of 267 identified witnesses who expressed or were asked the number of shots they recalled hearing, 249 (93%) claimed to hear only 3 shots (or 3 closely spaced volleys of shots), or fewer.

Of 207 witnesses who expressed or were asked from where the shots they remembered hearing originated from 34 could not tell (16%), 63 heard all shots they remembered hearing come from the depository or the Houston/Elm intersection area of the depository (31%), and 110 witnesses remembered hearing at least one shot that did not come from the depository or the Houston/Elm intersection area (53%).


Main articles: Testimony of the witnesses to the assassination of John F. Kennedy

On November 22, and in the months and years following the assassination, many witnesses in Dealey Plaza at that moment have come forward or have been identified and have stated their observations about what happened during the crucial seconds of the attack. Many witnesses were known to investigators, but some were never called by the investigators to describe what they observed. Many witnesses photographed at the scene (including several photographers and film-makers) are still unknown and have chosen to not come forward or have died.

The details of the events described by the identified witnesses match in many respects but there are also conflicting details between information described by the witnesses. Some witnesses have also described details that no other witness has yet described. Among the important witness considerations were:

  • The gunshots reactions of all limousine occupants relative to each other during the assassination and relative to what each limousine occupant testified they saw, heard, and felt during the assassination.
  • How many audible muzzle blasts a witness remembered hearing.
  • Where the audible muzzle blasts a witness remembered hearing originated from.
  • The identities of two armed men and at least one other man seen on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.
  • The identities of other potential witnesses, photographers, filmers and/or other located assassins and/or co-conspirators.

Conspiracy theories

Main article: Kennedy assassination theories

Many people dispute the claim that Oswald was an assassin, or, the sole assassin. Investigations, scientific testing, and recreations into the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's death have not, in the American public's view, settled the question of who plotted to kill him. A 2003 "ABC tv news" poll showed that only 32 percent (plus or minus 3 percent) of Americans who expressed a view believe that Oswald acted alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy [1] ; a "Discovery Channel" poll revealed that only 21% believe Oswald acted alone. [2]
 ; a "History Channel" poll gave a figure of 17%. [3]

Unreleased documents

As of June 2004 tens of thousands of pages of documents remain classified and sealed away from the public's availability and research:

  • 3+% of all Warren Commission documents
  • 21+% of the House Select Committee on Assassinations documents
  • An undeterminable percentage of CIA, FBI, secret service, National Security Agency, State Department, U.S. Marine Corps, Naval Investigative Service, Defense Investigative Service, and many other U.S. governmental documents.

Additionally, several key pieces of evidence and documentation are known to have been cleaned, destroyed or are missing from the original chain-of-evidence (limousine cleaned out at hospital, Connally's suit dry-cleaned, Oswald's military file destroyed, President Kennedy's brain not accounted for, Connally's "Stetson" hat and shirt sleeve gold cufflink missing, forensic autopsy photos missing, etc.)

All assassination related documents that have not been destroyed are scheduled, according to the 1992 Assassinations Records Review Board laws, to be released to the public by 2017 (originally the Warren Commission documentations were sealed just before the 1964 presidential election against public availability by President Johnson until 2039)

On May 19, 2044, the 50th anniversary of the death of Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, if her last child has died, there will be a 500-page transcript of an oral history about John F. Kennedy given by Mrs. Kennedy before her 1994 death released for the public by the Kennedy library.

See also

External links

  • JFK Assassination Timeline and Research
  • JFK/The Kennedy Assassination Home Page
  • JFK Assassination FAQ
  • JFK Assassination Resources Online
  • John F. Kennedy Assassination Homepage
  • Frontline: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?
  • JFK Collection at the National Archives
  • Assassination of President Kennedy Encyclopaedia
  • Interview of Assassination Researcher Bruce Adamson

Last updated: 02-02-2005 15:53:09
Last updated: 05-01-2005 03:48:41