Monday, November 1, 2010


This past weekend I visited Dallas and Dealey Plaza. I had always wanted to go there, to check it out for myself. It was very interesting.

I've never had a big opinion about JFK conspiracy theories although I tended to believe the basic premise that Lee Harvey Oswald did in fact shoot JFK.

Whether he was part of a larger conspiracy, whether well organized or not, I've been pretty agnostic. There are a lot of facts that seem to point to a conspiracy: Oswald's defection to and redefection from the Soviet Union, his relationship with Cuban radicals, the trip to Mexico City, etc etc., not to mention his own subsequent assassination by Jack Ruby.

At Dealey Plaza I just wanted to check out the geometry of Oswald's shot and see if it made sense to me. There have been many, many conspiracists who said the shot was "impossible" and I wanted to see for myself.

My impression was that the shot was far from impossible, although Oswald, who was only a mediocre shot in the Marine Corps, was somewhat lucky with the perfect headshot.

Similarly there has been a great deal of controversy about the Zapruder film, alleging it proved the shot could not have come from the 6th floor of the Texas Book Depository. After standing in Oswald's perch on the 6th floor, looking at the "X" on the pavement where the fatal shot hit JFK, and standing on the spot where Zapruder made the film, it looked like it all made sense to me. The Zapruder film shows an explosive exit wound that looked to me to correlate with the trajectory from the 6th floor of the depository. The earlier frames also seemed to be consistent with the earlier shot from the same location, which hit JFK in the back and also hit Governor Connally.

While lurking on the grassy knoll, I met a very interesting man who claimed to be an eyewitness to the assassination, 13 years old at the time, who was across and up the street from where Zapruder took the film. He said he was sure he saw a shooter on the grassy knoll, that a part of Kennedy's skull was blown backwards, behind the car and across the street, and that nearly all the witnesses at the time believed the shooter was on the grassy knoll. He then went on to relate many of the more wild and unbelievable facets of the conspiracy theory, such as that Oswald, Ruby, J.D. Tippitt, etc, all knew each other in Dallas before 22 November 1963. I have no idea whether anything he said was true, but he told a good story.

So my individual objective observations seemed to support, to me anyway, the basic premise of the assassination: that Oswald, on the 6th floor of the school book depository, fired three shots in about 6 seconds and hit Kennedy twice, killing him instantly with the (probable) third shot.

But like everything with the Kennedy Assassination, there are an awful lot of puzzling bits of evidence. To me the poor ballistics analysis has always been problematic. Oswald probably fired three shots, but where did the third (or most likely second) shot go? Something hit witness James Tague, but I've never seen a good analysis of how that bullet got to where it was. (Fascinatingly (to me), Tague, like practically every witness who has made statements that I've heard of, reports facts contrary to the Warren Commission report and may believe in a conspiracy involving a shooter on the grassy knoll. I have no idea if that means anything other than they all see financial gain in promoting a conspiracy.)

There are just so many strange facts about the case - like why did Oswald visit the local FBI office and threaten FBI agent James Hosty, warning Hosty to stay away from his wife? And why was he not arrested for making the threats? And why did the FBI destroy the written, threatening note that Oswald left for Hosty?

Who was the strange man who presented Secret Service credentials to Dallas Police Officer Joe Smith in the parking lot behind the grassy knoll in the seconds after the assassination? No official authority has ever provided an explanation for Officer Smith's testimony, as there were no known Secret Service agents on the grassy knoll, and especially none dressed in casual clothes, as Smith reported.

What about the other strange bullets and cartridges found near Dealey Plaza? Not that I necessarily believe any of them have anything to do with the assassination, but it is strange.

Ultimately, I have to stick with Occam's Razor. If there was a massive conspiracy, it would have had to have been unimaginably massive, and it probably would have come out by now. If there were other shooters, they were way closer to JFK than Oswald and apparently didn't hit anything - and there would have had to have been a massive coverup to conceal the evidence of their presence.

A lot of weird stuff went on - destroyed evidence, coercion of witnesses, botched investigations, etc. - but I think the explanation for it all is probably typical government incompetence and arrogance, not an organized conspiracy. Finding the magic bullet on Connally's stretcher was particularly strange.

I think if there was a conspiracy, it probably involved Oswald as the shooter with "guilty knowledge" about his plans and general strangeness among the various government agencies who had been interested in him before November 22nd. The FBI, particularly, behaved very suspiciously, but then again J. Edgar Hoover was in charge and they behaved oddly most of the time.

But ultimately I'm agnostic. I wasn't there, and it's hard to tell what happened years later. Like most stuff of this ilk, I think the discussion says more about us today than about what happened then.