The John F. Kennedy assassination: Four unanswered questions
The Kennedy assassination, a pivotal moment in American life, has fascinated historians, conspiracy theorists, and filmmakers, among others. Some questions might never be answered.
Forty-seven years ago today President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It was an event of only a few seconds, but it was a hinge of history, something of such political and cultural importance that at dusk on Nov. 22, 1963, America was a different country than it had been at sunrise.Skip to next paragraph
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Sheer shock was part of it. Almost everyone past preschool age at the time can say where they were when they heard the news, as today a new generation will always remember what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001.
Given its importance, the Kennedy assassination over the generations has been a subject of unending fascination to historians, filmmakers, novelists, conspiracy theorists, and ordinary citizens alike. Notable works range from director Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” a dense, purposely chaotic take that depicts the assassination as the work of a conspiracy, to attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 book “Reclaiming History,” a massive book of over 2,000 pages that attempts not just to refute conspiracy theorists, but to mock them, so that no one will take them seriously again.
Dissatisfaction with the report of the Warren Commission, the group appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the assassination, has helped keep debate about the killing alive. (The Warren Commission was named after its chairman, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, and began its work only days after the event.) The Warren Commission conclusion was that a single gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, killed John F. Kennedy, and wounded Texas Gov. John Connally, who was seated directly in front of JFK in an open limousine wending its way through the streets of Dallas.
Many Americans have never accepted the idea that a single man who seemed confused and adrift could carry out an act that wreaked such havoc on the US psyche. A 2003 Gallup poll found that three-quarters of Americans think Mr. Oswald did not act alone. They were split as to who else was guilty, however. A plurality of respondents to the poll, 37 percent, thought the Mafia to blame. In second place was the CIA, the choice of 34 percent of respondents.
That such attitudes have persisted may be due to unanswered questions about the assassination – or, perhaps more properly, questions which may be impossible to answer definitively, given the available evidence. Some of the most well-known of these include:
Were JFK and Connally wounded by a single bullet?
The Warren Commission concluded that JFK, in the back of the limo, and Governor Connally, in the front, were both struck by the same copper-jacketed 6.5mm rifle bullet. This shot hit Kennedy in the back, traveled through his body, and then struck Connally’s chest and wrist, according to the commission. It was found on a gurney at Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Many conspiracy theorists say this could not have happened, because the bullet would have had to swerve in mid-air to cause the damage ascribed to it by the Warren report. A second shooter from a different angle had to be involved, according to Warren’s critics.