Friday, November 24, 2023

Peter Williams: JFK - Sixty Years On

We all know where we were when we heard the news

I’m writing this on the morning of November 23rd, 2023.

Because of one of the most famous events in history, I know what I was doing on this day sixty years ago.

It was a Saturday in New Zealand. I was playing in our backyard at 130 Dome Street, Invercargill waiting for my father to take me to Saturday morning cricket. It must have been around 8 am or perhaps just before.

Then my mother came out the back door and called out to my father.

“Allan, President Kennedy has been shot.”

Dad rushed across the backyard and into the house to listen to the radio where Mum had heard the news just a few minutes earlier. There couldn’t have been much more detail on the local radio station because we went off to cricket soon after.

What I remember there at Surrey Park, and I’m nine years old in a group of boys of similar age, is that we were talking about the American president being shot.

That was the impact the assassination had on this country in those far off times. Even at primary school in a small city a long way from Dallas, Texas, we liked to think John F. Kennedy somehow represented the dawn of a new era.

Yes, he was of the war generation and had been heroic on active service, but he was 43 years old when he was elected. He was handsome with a beautiful wife and young family, and he represented hope for a new world, one where global conflict would be a thing of the past after the two horror World Wars in the first half of the 20th century.

The world that we knew in New Zealand was horrified when he was gunned down. Who would want to do such a thing to a young leader who would wanted peace for the planet?

Within hours Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. Hitherto he’d been an anonymous 24 year old ex-marine, just returned from living in the Soviet Union and who’d brought home a Russian wife.

He had a $1.25 an hour job at the Texas Book Depository which he’d started six weeks before the Presidential motorcade passed by.

That he fired three shots from the 6th floor of the Book Depository Building is undisputed. That at least one of those shots hit the President is also undisputed. The questions, sixty years later, are why was Oswald motivated to shoot Kennedy and were there other shots fired at Kennedy from a grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza?

The quickly established Warren Commission into the assassination concluded that Oswald acted alone and that there were no other shots fired.

Just how the front of Kennedy’s head was blown off when Oswald’s firing position on the sixth floor was behind the President’s car is one of countless unanswered questions the conspiracy theorists have discussed and found no credible answer to six decades on.

As recently as 2017, sixty percent of Americans believed some part of the US intelligence or military services were involved in the shooting.

Like millions of others, I’ve read countless articles about he assassination. I’ve seen Oliver Stone’s movie. I’ve watched the Zapruder home movie of the shooting. I’ve thought about the possible forces that wanted Kennedy taken out – the Russians, the Cubans, the military industrial complex that stood to lose millions if Kennedy carried out his plans to de-escalate the Vietnam War.

I can’t help but be suspicious when both Donald Trump and Joe Biden refuse to release the final batch of official documents about the shooting held in the National Archives. Maybe those documents hold answers to other key questions.

Why was the presidential car washed down straight after the shooting and not preserved as a crime scene? Why did the FBI Agent who arrested Oswald destroy the notes he took of the interview? Why was Kennedy’s body taken to Washington for autopsy and not held in Dallas? Why is the autopsy still incomplete ? Why did future President Gerald Ford, who was a member of the Warren Commission, say in his memoir that he was unhappy with the single bullet theory and didn’t dismiss some sort of conspiracy?

I doubt the full truth of the Kennedy assassination will ever be known, not in the lifetime of 1963’s nine-year-olds anyway.

Sixty years on from a sunny Saturday morning in Invercargill the memory of getting the news is still fresh. The aftermath has been one of history’s most enduring stories.

Peter Williams was a writer and broadcaster for half a century. Now watching from the sidelines. Peter blogs regularly on Peter’s Substack - where this article was sourced.


Martin Hanson said...

And why was Allen Dulles on the Warren Commission? As chief of the CIA until sacked by Kennedy after the disastrous Bay of Pigs fiasco, he was chief suspect. Like having the chief suspect on the jury reeks of cover-up.

Anonymous said...

Since November 1963, and the following investigations, conspiracy theory's, the "sudden deep dive investigation, because new evidence has come to light", we will never know the Truth regarding the assassination of JFK but also his brother Robert, later - an act perpetuated by someone of dubious background, the one thing that for me - has been the continuous statement from the American Political Establishment - "We do not commit Political Assassinations in the United States of America".

I hear in the background the voices saying - "Yeah right, pull the other one".

And yes Peter, I also recall were I was on the day it was announced here in NZ.

Strange that two Brothers were shot dead, and the reasons & rational has since, been obscured.

Anonymous said...

Several doctors who were in the emergency room when former President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 raised serious doubts about the official narrative that says a lone gunman was responsible.
“So, we were thinking there were two wounds. Had to be an entrance wound and an exit wound. That was the only way we could put it together. And so, I thought it was an entrance wound,” said Dr. Ronald Jones, another Parkland doctor.
Dr. McClelland, who died aged 89 in 2019, said that he believed that "in all probability there was a conspiracy, i.e. there was more than one shooter," according to footage of the documentary released by the Daily Mail.
And Dr. Jones said that "in retrospect," if Mr. Oswald "was in the sixth floor depository, how could he have been shot from the front then? And so was there more than one assailant?"
Another doctor, Joe Goldstrich, who was a medical student at the time of the assassination, asked: "How could a gunshot from the rear peel the scalp from the front back?

Paul Landis, an 88-year-old former agent, was only a few feet away from President Kennedy when he was shot and killed. He had been assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy, the former first lady.
In an interview with The New York Times, published on Sept. 9, Mr. Landis recalled hearing multiple gunshots at Dealy Plaza in Dallas as he went behind President Kennedy’s limousine.
That same year, a former Secret Service colleague, Clint Hill, warned Mr. Landis that he shouldn't speak out about what he saw and heard on that day. If he did, there might be "many ramifications" for Mr. Landis, he recalled Mr. Hill as saying.