You might have heard that Friday, 22nd of November, the world marked the 50th anniversary of president John F. Kennedy’s death. Or better yet, the world remembered his murder and the shots that made him a legend. It is hard to distance oneself from those images and most political analysts agree that the myth created around the 35th President of the United States has been largely exaggerated because of that.
As a journalist I had to write some pieces on Kennedy and, in my research, I found some curious facts that, I believe, can account for at least some of the mysticism that surrounds the family that after the event became “America’s Royal Family”. Here’s my “10 facts you probably did not know about JFK’s assassination”. A very original title, I know.
1) When Kennedy was shot, assassinating the President was not considered a federal offense. If charged with the assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald would have been trialled in Texas.
2) It was the fourth presidential assassination in the history of the United States. The first since the Secret Service began protecting presidents.
3) The assassination was one of the first major events reported on television. It became the longest uninterrupted news event on American television until the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Networks had to cancel four days of shows. Lee Harvey Oswald’s murder was the first one ever to be broadcast live.
4) John F. Kennedy’s only accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, died two days after the President was shot. Oswald denied killing JKF and his death gave the impression that he was silenced. It was the first spark that ignited the blaze of conspiracy theories that surround the murder.
5) Adding to that weird coincidence, Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby, a local club owner, was found to have several ties to organized crime. He was convicted of Oswald’s murder in 1964 and died in January 1967 of lung cancer.
6) John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald died at the same hospital and were assisted by the same doctor in their final moments. Jack Ruby also died at Parkland Hospital.
7) Lee Harvey Oswald’s troubled childhood, defection to Russia and the fact that he was a self-declared Marxist made him fit the role of Kennedy’s murder perfectly. The official government account of the event (known as the Warren Commission findings) suggests he fired 3 shots in 5.6 seconds from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Forensic scientists have questioned these conclusions because of the angle of the wounds, the time frame and the capabilities of someone like Lee Harvey Oswald. Theories that question the official version suggest the existence of a second shooter and some say the total number of shots fired was four.
8) The secrecy that surrounded the whole investigation was key in sparking these theories and it is still present today. Although most Kennedy files have been declassified, 3 per cent still remain sealed for national security purposes. They will become public in 2017, unless the acting president decides otherwise.
9) Adding to the mysticism and frenzied curiosity, the suit and Jackie Kennedy’s accessories from that day have since been preserved in the National Archives. The suit will not be made public, however, until at least 2103, as stipulated by Caroline Kennedy (JFK and Jackie’s daughter).
10) JFK’s death has been questioned since the President died but a curious fact has been common. Alternative theories are always in sync with the popular mood at the time. In the 1960s, during the epitome of the Cold War, the American public believed it was the Soviets. In the 1970s, it was the CIA, as they distrusted their own government. In the 1980s, with the rise of mob related movies, it was the Mafia. John F Kennedy’s killer has always been whoever the nation is most afraid of at the time. Today, one could expect the President’s death to be linked with Islamic extremism (however unlikely that may seem).
John F. Kennedy’s death populates the imaginary of the American public mostly because of its mysticism, easily understandable given all the secrecy and unanswered questions surround his death. It might have been just the government or his family’s way of preserving the Kennedy’s privacy. It is what made these theories justifiable. That and the unfortunate fact that his supposed assassin was killed two days later by a man, who died a few years later.
The public loves “Greek tragedies” and Kennedy’s assassination has all the ingredients of one. While some facts remain hidden, the public will continue to try to connect the dots. I myself do not know what to believe but these facts do make me wonder.