Everybody the world over knows that the thirty-fifth President of the United States, John F. Kennedy was shot and fatally wounded on Friday November 22nd in 1963.
He was riding through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas in the Presidential motorcade at the time and the assassination was captured live on a few home movie cameras, notably the one held by amateur cameraman Abraham Zapruder which provided the famous clips most of us have seen and is known throughout the world as The Zapruder Film.
The following days provided endless news coverage, the like of which had not been since, that was until the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11th 2001. This coverage led to the many conspiracy theories that have been debated and argued about ever since with films, documentaries and books all offering their varied opinions.
The main point of debate is that the official version of events concluded Kennedy was shot from behind by a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald who was located at an upstairs window of the Texas School Book Depository, but the Zapruder Film clearly shows Kennedy’s head slam backwards and to the left, defying the natural laws of physics if the official conclusions are to be believed, which is why not many people do.
This has given rise to the widely believed theory there was more than one gunman and the famous ‘Grassy Knoll’ has emerged as the most likely location from where the fatal shots were fired. But no bullets were found confirming a second gunman’s presence, leading to the ‘Iced Bullet’ theory (see Iced Bullets) but needless to say this did not put off the conspiracy theorists and many doctors were also not satisfied at the time.
But there would have been an easy way to resolve matters and to determine the direction the fatal shots were fired in and would finally resolve decades of fruitless debate. In any cases of death by gunshot to the head the standard pathological procedure would be for a forensic expert to examine the brain of the victim and to study detailed X-rays of tissue samples which would determine how many shots had been fired and from which direction –front, rear or side.
But this was never done for the American President, or at least the findings were never publicly released.
After the President had been shot he was taken directly to Trauma Room One of the Parkland Memorial Hospital where he was officially pronounced dead at 1.38pm. A tense confrontation then followed between doctors & local authorities and armed Secret Service Agents who then drew their weapons and removed the President’s body at 2pm before it could undergo a forensic examination by the Dallas coroner.
This action was against Texas state law and, at that time, it was not legally a federal offence to kill a President so the state law should have prevailed. Kennedy was then taken to the Andrews Air Force Base in Washington DC and this was when all the conflicting opinions began to appear.
In Dallas doctors claimed the President had suffered wounds to the front of his head and in Washington the official autopsy states the point of entry was to the back of the head. The mortician, who reassembled the President’s skull for burial claims he found a bullet wound to Kennedy’s right temple.
All officials needed to do then was to examine the President’s brain. The problem was that when Kennedy’s body arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington DC a naval medical technician, as he later testified on oath, found the President’s cranial cavity to be completely empty, his brain had been removed, presumably en-route between Dallas and Washington.
And so the conspiracy theorists and Urban Legend fans who claim the President’s brain is missing are correct. Now I can think of subsequent Presidents whose brains appear to be missing but in Kennedy’s case it is true and it is still missing to this day. In 1998 The Washington Post revealed Kennedy’s personal physician, the late Adm.
George Burkley had left the hospital with the president’s brain, confirming that he was going to ‘deliver it to the Attorney General’ (Robert Kennedy),’ and Lab Technician John T Stringer is reported to have noted ‘presumably for burial.’
Whilst we are on the subject of the Kennedy’s we should consider another myth surrounding one of their clan, in this case JFK’s younger brother Robert. Bobby Kennedy served with distinction as Attorney General during his brother’s administration and was widely regarded as the most talented of the two.
Many people believed he was on the verge of making history on the night of June 5th 1968 when he accepted the Californian nomination to become the Democratic presidential candidate at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The only problem was that as he was leaving to the cheers of his supporters he was shot dead by a twenty-four-year old Palestinian immigrant called Sirhan B. Sirhan, or at least that is the official version of events.
The truth is that whilst Sirhan did appear a few yards in front of Kennedy and fired eight shots from his handgun, eight bullets were not later recovered leading to speculation that Sirhan was firing blanks.
Dr Thomas T Noguchi, a world famous pathologist, testified on oath that the fatal bullet, killing Bobby Kennedy, had entered his head behind his right ear from a distance of between one and three inches.
Indeed, Noguchi recorded thick powder burns on Kennedy’s skin and two other bullet entry points to the top and back of his right shoulder. He always remained cautious and diplomatic about his findings and noted in his biography ‘Coroner,’ published a decade after the shooting,
‘Until more is precisely known, the existence of a second gunman remains a possibility. Thus, I have never said that Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy.’
In addition, no single witness report ever revealed Sirhan to have been any closer than five or six feet to Kennedy and at no time was he behind him. The only person who was appears to have been in such a position was a private security guard called Thane Eugene Cesar who was walking with Kennedy on his right hand side and holding onto his right elbow.
He was also armed with a .22 pistol and when confronted with the evidence Cesar stated he had sold the pistol before the assassination. However, after witnesses testified he had been seen drawing his handgun and that it was later seen to be ‘smoking,’ he then changed his story and claimed that he did have the pistol with him on the night of the attack but had sold it soon afterwards.
Investigators tracked down the new owner in Arkansas but were told it had been stolen and no forensic examination has ever been made of the weapon.
Cesar was also a known opponent of the John Kennedy Administration but he did agree to a polygraph test (lie detector) and remained honest about his political sentiment. He was also not originally scheduled for duty that evening and had been called in as a last minute replacement which would have left him no time to properly plan such a high profile political assassination.
So whilst being caught up in the crossfire of history Cesar has never been much more than a simple curiosity to many observers and Cesar himself once said ‘just because I don’t like Democrats doesn’t mean I go round shooting them.’
But to this day Sirhan Sirhan and his family still plead his innocence. I draw no conclusion but do note the official pathologist’s conclusion that Sirhan could not have killed Bobby Kennedy.
Abraham Lincoln was elected to the US Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to the US Congress in 1946.
Abraham Lincoln was elected as President in 1861.
John F. Kennedy was elected as President in 1961.
Their surnames each contain seven letters.
Both of them were particularly concerned with the civil rights issue.
Both of their wives lost a child whilst living in the White House.
Lincoln and Kennedy were shot on a Friday.
Both Presidents were shot in the back of the head.
Lincoln’s secretary was called Kennedy.
Kennedy’s secretary was called Lincoln.
Southerners assassinated both Presidents.
They were both succeeded by Southerners.
Lincoln was succeeded by Andrew Johnson.
Kennedy was succeeded by Lyndon Johnson.
Andrew Johnson was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson was born in 1908.
Andrew Johnson was President until 1869.
Lyndon Johnson was President until 1969.
John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.
Both assassins were known by their full three names.
Both names are comprised of fifteen letters.
Booth ran from the theatre and was caught in a warehouse.
Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theatre.
Booth and Oswald were both assassinated before their trials.