Posts Tagged ‘Dallas’

In a few days’ time, on Friday the 22nd of November, it will be 50 years to the day since John F. (Fitzgerald) Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. People old enough say that they remember exactly where they were when they heard the news. Well, I know exactly where I was, I was in my mother’s womb about half way through my 40-week gestation ­čśŤ She was at a school concert with my father in Salisbury where he was teaching at the time (with me as a free guest), my elder two sisters were in the house with a babysitter.

Kennedy was not the first US President to be assassinated in office. In fact, in total three US Presidents have been assassinated in office, the other most famous one being of course Abraham Lincoln, who was shot whilst at the theatre in April 1865 at the beginning of his second term of office. The other, less well known US President to be assassinated in office was the 20th President, James Garfield. He was shot in July 1881, less than four months into his term of office.

John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas with his wife Jackie moments before he was assassinated.

John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas with his wife Jackie moments before he was assassinated.

What has made Kennedy’s assassination one of the defining moments of the 20th Century? Is it because he was the youngest ever US President to be elected into office? Is it because his shooting is captured on film? Is it because there are still questions as to whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in shooting him? Is it because of the speculation over his affair with Marilyn Monroe and supposed Mafia links? Whatever the reasons, it is sobering to think that the only one of his immediate family still alive today is his daughter Caroline, with Jackie Kennedy Onassis dying in 1994, and John F. Kennedy Jr. dying in 1999 at the age of 38 when the plane he was piloting crashed off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

It is also interesting to speculate on how different the USA and the World might have been had Kennedy not been assassinated. Would the US have become as involved in Vietnam under Kennedy as the country did under Johnson? How would US/Soviet relations developed under Kennedy? What about US/Cuba relations? Would his younger brother Bobby ever have run for President had JFK not been assassinated? Presumably, had he not, Bobby too would not have been assassinated either.

There are, of course, countless books and documentaries about Kennedy’s assassination. I heard an interview on the radio recently with an academic who has written a book on the assassination 50 years on. One of the most fascinating things mentioned in that interview was how rushed the official enquiry into his assassination, the so-called “Warren Commission” was. It was started only seven days after his death, under the direction of President Johnson. He appointed Earl Warren, the head of the Supreme Court, to lead the investigation. Even though Warren apparently did not want to do it, Johnson gave him no choice in the matter.

The enquiry only lasted nine months, which meant that some potential evidence was either not gathered, or not looked into in any detail. There was a lot of disagreement amongst members of the Commission, with many members not being allowed to see important findings. Even his autopsy was apparently mis-handled. Jackie chose it to be conducted by the Navy, as her husband had served in the Navy. The Navy coroners had little to no experience of investigating gun-shot wounds; had the autopsy been done by the Army it may have been possible to learn a lot more about the circumstances of his death. Because of this, and other things, a lot of speculation still exists as to the true circumstances of Kennedy’s assassination, with many questioning both then and now the findings that Oswald acted alone.

A web search will quickly turn up actual footage of JFK’s assassination, so I thought I would show something different. Here instead is the footage of Walter Cronkite, US news anchor, announcing live on US TV first of all the breaking news that Kennedy has been shot, and later the news that he has died.

Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated? Or, where were your parents? Or, for my even younger readers, your grand parents?

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