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JFK Assassination

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John F. Kennedy was sworn as 35th President of United States of America in January 1961, less than 3 years later he was assassinated in November, 1963. Kennedy was the second US president to be assassinated while in office after Abraham Lincoln. However, unlike in the case of Lincoln, where the purpose of assassination was overtly political, the reason why John F. Kennedy was murdered never became clear, nor it is certain if the real perpetrators where ever apprehended. The complex nature of events leading up to the assassination and the conflicting and often unreliable investigation by CIA, FBI, and government agencies have made the assassination of John F. Kennedy as the crime of the 20th century.


John F. Kennedy was a US military commander in World War II , where he had distinguished himself exemplarily. After the war he joined the politics, and after a number of terms in US House of Representatives he won the presidential election in 1961, defeating Richard Nixon of Republican Party. Kennedy was the second youngest president in US history; his personal charm, his leadership style, and his quintessential Americanism, made him one of the most US popular president’s of the 20th century. On the international front,  Kennedy successfully oversaw the highly volatile Cuban Missile Crisis, which was the only occasion when USSR and USA came close to an armed nuclear confrontation. Kennedy was also against the US’ war in Vietnam, recommending pull out of American troops from the country. On the domestic and social side, Kennedy had greatly inspired the US black community with his views on liberalism, equality, black education, social reforms, crime elimination and economically uplifting poor and underprivileged.

As a leader Kennedy had proved himself remarkably independent, free willed, dynamic, and persuasive. However, as a leader he was also fine tuned with American values, principles, and its roles in world politics, as well towards its citizens. This independent stand of Kennedy earned him many strong enemies, both within the government and without. The prominent among them were supporters of Cuban movement and American Mafia, both of them having excellent means and motives for assassinating Kennedy. While not formally established, it is also suggested that Kennedy’s anti-Vietnam war stand had also turned several powerful CIA personnel against him, who would have welcomed his assassination. Decades of research, investigation, and analysis has been inconclusive to date towards the identity of the actual killers, their motives and the organization behind them, who assassinated Kennedy n Dallas on 22nd November, 1963.

Assassination and Immediate Aftermath

ON the 22nd November, 1963, the presidential Motorcade of John F. Kennedy was going through streets of Dallas amidst cheers of crowd, with Kennedy himself sitting in an open Lincoln when at least three shots were fired at him, injuring him fatally. Doctors pronounced Kennedy dead when he was taken to hospital, stunning entire America and most of the world along with it. The initial official reaction was to treat the assassination as an act of sabotage against America, and as an international conspiracy to eliminate American leadership. Consequent to it, American forces were put on high alert throughout the world, while members of President’s cabinet, including the vice president Lyndon Johnson were immediately accorded all the required security. As shocked and incredulous Americans watched, the body of John F. Kennedy was put to its final rest on 25th November, 1963. But not before a thousand questions were opened, many of warranting a satisfactory answer (Kenney, C. 2000).  .

The Dallas police arrested one Lee Harvey Oswald, almost within an hour of Kennedy’s assassination, and charged him with the crime of killing Kennedy. Oswald was a former US marine, a sympathizer of communism, had lived in USSR for several years, and a man with a history of armed assault. He was in the upper floors of Texas School Books Depository building, from where he was seen walking away immediately after the assassination (Harper and  Krieg, 1988).  The police department charged that during his flight, he fatally wounded another police officer, J.D. Tippit, before he was surrounded and apprehended in a theatre. Oswald, reportedly, tried to shoot another officer, but was captured and arrested by police. During the two days of his custody, Oswald repeatedly and categorically denied his involvement in the assassination of John. F. Kennedy or any police officer. He persisted with his version of police frame up and his wrongful arrest before the press and the judge presiding over his case. Two days after his arrest and while he was in police custody, Oswald was murdered by a Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby. Ruby was arrested and duly charged with the crime, but his contention remained that he killed Oswald to avenge the death of President Kennedy and redeem Dallas before people of America.

Warren Commission

It was widely speculated in the press, public, and even bureaucratic circles that murder of Kennedy was part of an extensive conspiracy to serve some very deep routed political interests. President Lyndon Johnson instituted  a high powered Presidential Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, o investigate all the angels of the case, and come out with a truthful conclusion. The commission came to be known as Warren commission as it was headed by Chief Justice Earn Warren (Kenney, C. 2000).  Besides Warren, the commission also included several US senator, head of the CIA, and a former president of the World Bank. After 10 months of investigation into the matter, interviews with numerous witnesses, and analysis of CIA and FBI reports and the Warren Commission presented its 888 pages long report, which attributed the murder of Kennedy to Lee Harvey Oswald alone, with claims that he was acting independent and was the only person responsible for the assassination of Kennedy. The report of the commission also refuted many eye witness accounts which stated that four rounds were fired on the motorcade of President, instead of three.

The conclusion of Warren commission almost immediately came under attack by media, which denounced a single gunman theory. Although the public reaction at the time of its publish was positive, it turned against the report within a couple of months as a majority of people viewed the report as a cover up effort to shield the actual perpetrators of the crime. Evidences cited in the reports were questioned, its approach in investigation was criticized, and even its credibility was brought under suspicions, once the conspiracy theories started circulating through the press and the people. These conspiracy theories brought in a number of possible interested parties, which ranged form KGB, USSR’s official secret services to CIA, USA’s own secret services. Between them were stacked the supporters of Cuban movement, American Mafia, and American communists, who all wanted Kennedy dead for one or another reason (Harper and  Krieg, 1988).

However, the attention of researchers and rational critics was drawn by only two of other – either that the act was perpetrated by USSR’s KGB, or that it was done by a powerful domestic agency, because only these two possibilities would force Warren Commission to do a cover up rather than a full scale and truthful investigation. It was argued that if the role of KGB was found as conclusive in the assassination of Kennedy, America would have no choice but to declare war on USSR, and therefore start the Third World War. On the other hand, if a government agency was involved, then its exposure in such high profile case would severely undermine the US government in eyes of its own people, as well the rest of the world. The analysts, speculating for the involvement of a government agency claim that this theory would alone suffice in explaining the numerous faux pas, deliberate oversights, shortcomings, and apparent contradictions of the Warren Commission report. If a high powered government agency was involved in assassination of a US President, then certainly its bosses would ensure that a commission instituted under their own government would never publish the true report. Certainly the US government under Lyndon Johnson wholeheartedly accepted the lone gunman theory of Warren commission.

United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA)

Warren Commission’s report continued to draw flack from people and press. There was a wide refusal to believe the theory that a single gunman, without any outside assistance, would be able to accomplish such an extremely difficult operation as assassination of an incumbent American President. These theories led to the institution of the  United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

HSCA was formed 15 years after Kennedy’s assassination, and it took up the review of the Warren Commission report. HSCA heavily criticized Warren Commission for its singular lack of insight in the matter (Harper and  Krieg, 1988). It observed that the commission had deliberately narrowed itself down to investigate the events of the day of assassination only, without any accompanying investigation in the causes leading up to the crime. HSCA also noted that in its investigation, the commission did not interrogate many possible leads and roles of other possible actors in the assassination plot. It also discounted the theory that the motorcade of Kennedy was in fact ambushed from more than one direction, a fact which was brought out in testimony of many eye witnesses. Although HSCA agreed with Warren Commission that Kennedy was, in all probability, killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, it also stated that the assassination was done as a part of a larger conspiracy.

Impact and Aftermath

The emotional setback of Kennedy’s assassination was profound and it was felt across the entire nation. However, while this effect was transitory, the impact of Kennedy’s demise was stronger on political and economical questions, which demanded immediate attention of the next government. Kennedy was against US’s action in Vietnam and had demanded American pull out from the situation, irrespective of the cost. However, Johnson agreed to the prolonged US intervention, in order to combat the designs and aims of USSR to spread communism across entire world. The war heavily consumed America’s material and physical resources, and within a couple of years it became evident that it was one of the major policy blunders of the government.


Harper, P. Krieg, J. 1988. John F. Kennedy: The Promise Revisited.  Greenwood Press,  362 p

Kenney, C. 2000. John F. Kennedy: The Presidential Portfolio History as Told through the Collection of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum; Public Affairs, 2000.

Barone, M., & Hetter, K. ( 1993, November 15 ). “The lost world of John F. Kennedy “. U.S. News and World Report.

McHoskey , J. W. 1995. Case Closed? on the John F. Kennedy Assassination: Biased Assimilation of Evidence and Attitude Polarization. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 17, 1995.

Beschloss, M. ( 1993, November 22 ). “The day that changed America”. Newsweek, p. 60.

Garrison, J. ( 1991 ). On the trial of the assassins. New York: Warner.

Lifton, D. S. ( 1992 ). Best evidence: Disguise and deception in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. New York: Signet

Posner, G. ( 1993 ). Case closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of J.FK. New York: Random House

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