On Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was on the second of a two-day trip to Texas to officially begin his 1964 re-election campaign. Surely he did not imagine that he was living his final hours.
He had visited San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth the day before. He woke up in Fort Worth that morning and, after breakfast, took a 15-minute flight to Dallas Love Field Airport. Upon arrival, the Kennedys, accompanied by Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, began a 10-mile tour of the city that would lead them to a meal at the Dallas Trademark Center.
The Dallas delegation and the assassination
Some 200,000 people had gathered to watch and applaud the president and first lady. The motorcade was so well-received that Texas First Lady Nellie Connally turned to Kennedy and said, “Mr. President, you can't say that Dallas doesn't love you.” Those were the last words that, according to Stephen Fagin, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dealey Plaza, President Kennedy heard moments before being hit the shots that took his life.
The attack occurred in broad daylight, at 12:30 p.m. and in full view of the crowd and security. The presidential limousine was going down Elm Street in Dealey Plaza when shots were heard and chaos ensued. Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, who was traveling with the security team in the rear vehicle, jumped into the presidential car to try to protect the president and first lady. The presidential car sped off toward Parkland Hospital.
Meanwhile, the rest of the officers were trying to determine where the shots had come from. It took them 45 minutes to discover the crime scene on the sixth floor of the corner building, which served as a repository for Texas school books. There the investigators found an open window in one of the corners, where three rifle casings lay behind some boxes of books. Minutes later, they located the Italian Carcano M91/38 rifle allegedly used by Lee Harvey Oswald. Seconds after the attack, Oswald was confronted by a security agent while trying to leave the building, however, as he was an employee there, he was not considered a suspect. It was not until Oswald murdered Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit later that day in the Oak Cliff area that attention focused on him. Ninety minutes after the attack on President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested inside a movie theater on Jefferson Boulevard where he was trying to hide.
At Parkland Hospital, Dr. James Carrico and a group of around 12 doctors did everything possible to save the president's life, but due to the magnitude of the injuries he received, it was impossible. One of the bullets hit him in the head, blowing off the back-right part of his skull, while, according to the official version, the other entered through the back of his neck and exited through his throat. For this latter injury, the doctors performed a tracheostomy, however nothing worked. Thirty minutes after the attack, at 1:00 p.m., President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead.
The announcement of President Kennedy's death shocked not only the country but the entire world. The pressure fell at that moment on then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who made quick and controversial decisions, which have been questioned by many, such as the fact that an autopsy was not performed on Kennedy's body in Dallas, as established by Texas law.
The Kennedy succession and the death of Lee Harvey Oswald
A few hours after the assassination of President Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new President of the United States by Judge Sarah Hughes aboard Air Force One before taking off from Dallas Love Field Airport. It was the only time a woman has sworn in a president of the United States. In a scene that seemed straight out of a movie, first lady Jaqueline Kennedy, in the midst of pain and chaos, witnessed the appointment of the new president, still wearing the blood of her late husband.
Two days after the attack, the main suspect in the Kennedy assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, was murdered at the Dallas Police headquarters before the stunned gaze of journalists and police officers who were transporting him to court. Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner, shot him at point-blank range. Paradoxically, on Nov. 25, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippit, and their murderer, Lee Harvey Oswald, were all laid to rest.
Amid the grief over Kennedy's assassination, many saw Ruby's action as heroic. The Sixth Floor Museum still has dozens of letters of support that were sent to Ruby while he was in prison. Among them was a Western Union telegram that was sent by a New York police detective in which he said that Ruby should receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for having murdered Oswald.
Who is behind Kennedy's death?
With the passage of time, conspiracy theories began to spread about who and what interests could be behind the assassination of the youngest president ever to be elected (and to die) in the history the United States of America. For most Americans, the idea that a 24-year-old former Marine acting alone would have been able to change the course of American history like this is inconceivable. According to a study published days ago by Gallup, 65% of Americans believe that there was a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy.
Cuba, Russia, the CIA? We discuss this in our special report, “The JFK Assassination, 60 Years of Mystery.”