John Fitzgerald Kennedy was one of the most influential and beloved President’s of United States history. However, his death is shrouded in mystery. When all is said and done, conspiracy theorists have left virtually no stone unturned in an attempt to explain the tragedy of November 22, 1963. Clearly Lee Harvey Oswald was present and did shoot a gun. But did his bullet kill JFK? Did he act alone? Many people have their own ideas of what really happened that day.
One common theory is that the Cuban government ordered a hit on the President. The President had attempted to invade Cuba, and though the plan failed, Castro knew that further plans were in the works. Likewise, Kennedy had made several unsuccessful attempts on Castro’s life. Getting rid of Kennedy would certainly enable Castro to keep control of Cuba (Anders 1993).
A similar theory is that anti-Castro Cubans killed Kennedy. Perhaps they were hoping that if the suspicion were focused on Castro, America would demand retaliation. Later, evidence seemed to surface from a former Castro operative that Oswald was actually hired by the Cuban government (Anders 1993, McAdams 2004). With Oswald’s death, the facts of these reports could not be verified, though Castro staunchly denies this report.
Similarly, Russia, the US cold war opponent, was bothered by JFK’s youth and erratic nature. He would be capable of elevating the cold war to a full blown World War III. With the introduction of nuclear technology, the fear of a US strike on Russia was also a concern. Therefore, the Russians planned the assassination. In a related theory, this order came from Nikita Khrushchev himself (Anders 1993).
Another popular theory is that the mafia ordered a hit on Kennedy. Initially, some big name crime bosses such as Sam Giancana worked with Jimmy Hoffa and the teamsters to get President Kennedy elected, particularly through votes in Ohio ( Unfortunately, President Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, the US Attorney General, had later stepped up prosecutions of mafia members to an unprecedented high (Odoni 2005; McAdams 2004) J. Edgar Hoover, who was not friendly with President Kennedy, was due to be forced into retirement from his position of the Director of the FBI.
Hoover had a history of neglecting to prosecute mafia members. His retirement would mean mean the end of these favors, especially if JFK appointed his brother Robert to that position. After Kennedy’s death, Hoover remained as the head of the FBI for ten more years. During that time, mafia prosecutions fell dramatically. James Files, a mafia hit man, actually confessed to the murder, indicating that Giancana had ordered the hit. Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby, was a small time gangster with a few major mafia connections. He could have killed Oswald to silence him (Odoni 2005).
Two equally argued theories that are more alarming are those that implicate the United States itself. Many suspect Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson. He gained the Presidency after Kennedy’s death, though he was not liked by the public; Kennedy was planning to drop Johnson from his ticket in 1964. He was involved in four major criminal investigations involving bribery, money laundering, contract violations and misappropriation of funds, at the time of Kennedy’s death.
In fact, Kennedy often complained that he had been manipulated into appointing Johnson by the FBI and that Johnson acted as a spy for J. Edgar Hoover. After he became President, Johnson’s criminal investigations were dropped (Ayton no date). Another US based theory is that the CIA itself had killed the President to cover up or redirect attention from its new practice of assassinating foreign leaders. The Church Committee was formed to look into this possible scandal but concluded that while the CIA was increasing in national and international power, it was not responsible for the death of the President (Ayton no date).
The Warren Commission heard testimony from 552 witnesses and 10 federal agencies over the span of 10 months as it investigated the assassination and all the related conspiracy theories. Published in October of 1964, it concluded that, basically, Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, shooting three bullets from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository (McAdams 2004).
The single bullet that wounded Connally and killed JFK hit him from behind as the motorcade passed by the Depository. However, the issue has not been laid to rest. Four of the seven members of the investigatory team seemed to indicate skepticism about the Commissions findings (McAdams 2004). Several individual pieces of the Commission’s findings also have been called into question since its completion.
Kennedy was struck by two bullets. One hit him in the back, and one hit him in the head. The second hit killed the President. The single bullet theory was born because Oswald’s gun would not have been able to fire fast enough to hit both Kennedy and Connally with separate shots (McAdams 2004).
However, the idea that a single bullet traveled through Kennedy’s back, exited his throat, passed through the seat of a car, entered Connally’s back, exited his chest, passed through his wrist and entered his thigh has been seriously questioned by evidence from eye witnesses, including passenger Nellie Connally, and forensic evidence (McAdams 2004) Now this theory is known as the magic bullet theory. The bullet which had such an incredible journey ended up on a hospital stretcher in near pristine condition (McAdams 2004).
Medical examinations and missing x-rays and autopsy pictures also add to the mystery. Kennedy was taken first to Dallas’ Parkland Hospital where 44 doctors and medical staffers claimed that the exit wound was at the back of JFK’s head. This would have been impossible if the shot came from the Depository and lended itself to the grassy knoll theory (Odoni 2005).
However, two doctors at Bethesda Medical Center, the second hospital Kennedy was taken to, reported that the exit would was at the front of the head (McAdams, 2004). Why then did over 44 doctors and medical staffers claim that the wound was at the rear of the head? X-rays that a Parkland Hospital technician claims to have taken have never been found. Pictures of the autopsy that emerged up to four years after the assassination are suspicious and do not match accounts given by witnesses.
All in all, the Warren Commission seemed to ignore 44 doctors and 20 eye-witnesses at the murder scene. Other evidence was destroyed. Governor Connally’s shirt from the day of the shooting was dry cleaned at Johnson’s request within 24 hours (McAdams 2004). The car carrying the Kennedys and the Connallys was immediately cleaned and refurbished instead of being thoroughly examined for ballistic evidence. This was also ordered by Lyndon B. Johnson (McAdams 2004). Any forensic evidence that may have been provided by these items was lost.
Nobody will ever really know what happened that day in 1964. However, it seems that the “facts” are clearly not what they seem and that the Warren Commission did not delve into the discrepancies too deeply. The theories mentioned here are all viable theories that were not examined closely, if at all, by the authorities. The idea of a “magic” bullet is preposterous. It seems that something is being covered up. But what?
Anders, P. (1993). An Introduction to JFK Conspiracy Theories. Stay Free 4. Available from: http://www.stayfreemagazine.org/4/jfk.htm [accessed 10 August 2006]
Ayton, M. (no date). Questions of Conspiracy. Spartacus UK. Available from: [accessed 10 August 2006]
McAdams, J. (2004). The Kennedy Assassination. Available from: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/home.htm [accessed 10 August 2006]
Odoni, Martin. (2005). Who Killed JFK? Current Affairs. Available from: http://havetstorm.tripod.com/currentaffairs/id7.html [accessed 10 August 2006]