City Opening Files On Kennedy Killing
'JFK' has reawakened interest in what happened at grassy knoll - a letter from Dallas
DALLAS — FORGET the Mafia, the Cubans, the CIA, the Soviets, and the military-industrial complex. "Oliver Stone was trying to put shoes on the wrong feet," insists Robert Goodman, a chance acquaintance at a diner next to Dealey Plaza.
It was deceased Dallas oilman H. L. Hunt who plotted President Kennedy's assassination 29 years ago, the conspiracy buff claims. Mr. Goodman reaches into his trench coat, then spreads on the counter photographs and letters purportedly establishing anti-Catholicism as Mr. Hunt's motive.
"JFK" has rekindled interest in the assassination and Dallas has been besieged with visitors and requests for information.
We visit the stockade fence above the grassy knoll, the spot where many witnesses said - what the Warren Commission ruled out - that a second gunman fired at Kennedy. It's a strikingly poor vantage point. After the president's motorcade turned onto Elm Street, bystanders and the knoll itself would have interrupted the line of fire for a sniper here. "That's why he only got the first and fourth shots," is Goodman's ready explanation.
"People may not believe this," he admits, weaving into his progressively more amazing scenario Jack Ruby's landlord and a rifleman on a fire escape. "Check out what I'm telling you."
We'd all love to know more, after sitting unblinking through three hours of "JFK." And what better place to start than those sealed files in Washington? The records of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, though, are just the tip of the locked filing cabinet.
Mr. Stone's film set city and county officials in Dallas to wondering just what their own archives might hold. They have rediscovered all kinds of documents. Some are available elsewhere; many have never been made public before. Callers have barraged city archivist Cindy Smolovik with requests to see 2,500 police files that the Dallas City Council voted last month to release. Another 17,500 assassination-related documents had been available for viewing since 1989, but hardly anyone knew.
As Mrs. Smolovik looks on, Dallas-area resident John Puff flips through a newly public file on Jack Ruby, hoping to find proof that Ruby knew alleged "lone nut" Lee Harvey Oswald. Mr. Puff was born after the assassination, but he has sifted for clues to the crime of the century since seeing the Abraham Zapruder film in 1975. "It gripped me that day," Puff says.
Dallas County intends to open the voluminous Kennedy files in its medical examiner's office, its sheriff's department, and district attorney's office. After viewing "JFK," the director of Parkland Hospital glanced at the institution's never-released medical file on Kennedy. He says that some of what he saw does not square with the Warren Report.
Visits are up at the privately run JFK Assassination Information Center, whose co-director, Larry Howard, assisted Stone's research. Mr. Howard explains that Roscoe White, a Dallas policeman who had served in Oswald's Marine division and whose wife had worked for Ruby, was "the man who killed Kennedy" with shots from the grassy knoll.
Howard exhibits copies of cables that White's family claimed to find after White's death. Dated 1963, one is an order from Naval Intelligence to "Mandarin," supposedly White's code name, to eliminate "a national security threat to world peace." A second specifies Dallas as the place.
Many Dallasites couldn't care less. For television producer Jamie Aitken, the significance of "JFK" was the $43 Stone paid him to play the tall deputy in the seven-second scene in which the press questions Oswald.
At a stoplight next to the former Texas School Book Depository building, he watches tourists stream to "The Sixth Floor" museum to get an Oswald's-eye view. "Sometimes I want to just call out the window, 'Hey, everybody, get a life! he says.