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The JFK Assassination and Historical Truth


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This ppt examines how the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy can be used as a platform to discuss how historical truth is arrived at.

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The JFK Assassination and Historical Truth

  1. 1. The Idea and Reality of History <ul><li>A discussion of the process of </li></ul><ul><li>historical claims-making for IB History </li></ul><ul><li>and Theory of Knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Daniel Rosenberg </li></ul><ul><li>International High School </li></ul><ul><li>The information and opinions within are the copyrighted intellectual property of the author, © 2008 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Whereof what’s past is prologue, what’s to come is yours and my discharge. </li></ul><ul><li>-- WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, The Tempest , Act II, Scene I </li></ul>
  2. 2. What does History reveal? <ul><li>Is it an avoidance of repeated or past errors? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ What experience and history teach is this -- that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hegel , Philosophy of History, 1832, Introduction. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.” </li></ul><ul><li>George Santayana, 1940 </li></ul><ul><li>Is it a mere record of past events? </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there.“ </li></ul><ul><li>George Santayana, 1944 </li></ul><ul><li>''A mere collector of supposed facts is as useful as a collector of matchboxes'' </li></ul><ul><li>Febvre </li></ul>
  3. 3. The functionality of Historical claims <ul><li>Is historical investigation a function of perceivable laws? </li></ul><ul><li>Consider Marx’s suggestion that history should be defined as a relationship between human activity and examinable laws of history; in particular, the proposition of historical inevitability . To wit: “Intrinsically it is not a question of the higher or lower degree of development of the social antagonisms that result from the natural laws of capitalist production. It is a question of these laws themselves, of these tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results. The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.” </li></ul><ul><li>Capital I, Preface to the First German Edition, 1867. </li></ul><ul><li>“ ... general laws have quite analogous functions in history and in the natural sciences, ... they form an indispensable instrument of historical research, and... they even constitute the common basis of various procedures which are often considered as characteristic of the social in contradistinction to the natural sciences. ... </li></ul><ul><li>Carl Hempel, ''The Function of General Laws in History'', 1942. </li></ul><ul><li>... the histories of dinosaurs, nebulas [in astronomy], and glaciers are generally acknowledged to belong to fields of science rather than to the humanities. But introspection gives us far more insight into the ways of other humans than into those of dinosaurs. I am thus optimistic that historical studies of human societies can be pursued as scientifically as studies of dinosaurs. </li></ul><ul><li>Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, 1997. ''Epilogue: the Future of Human History as a Science'' </li></ul>
  4. 4. Subjectivity and Objectivity, eternal friends in eternal tension <ul><li>Is the work of the historian a subjective or objective process? How can objectivity or subjectivity be meaningfully maintained? </li></ul><ul><li>“ The first law for the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice.” </li></ul><ul><li>Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Oratore, II, 62. </li></ul><ul><li>Historians seek to be detached, impassionate, impartial. In fact, however, no historian starts with his mind a blank, to be gradually filled by the evidence. </li></ul><ul><li>A.J.P. Taylor, in The Times Literary Supplement, 1956. </li></ul>
  5. 5. How can we help students to contend with the complex idea of history? <ul><li>In order to understand history as concept, I am proposing here </li></ul><ul><li>a hands-on methodology which asks students to examine events </li></ul><ul><li>a) relevant to them, b) very high interest, and /or C) very controversial. Some sample topics include: </li></ul><ul><li>Holocaust Denial and the Deborah Lipstadt/David Irving Libel trial </li></ul><ul><li>The Watergate break-in and the end of Nixon Presidency </li></ul><ul><li>Assassinations of RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, Ngo Dinh and Bui Diem </li></ul><ul><li>Iran-Contra Affair </li></ul><ul><li>The attack on the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor </li></ul><ul><li>The decision to drop the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki </li></ul><ul><li>Sen. Joseph McCarthy and HUAC </li></ul><ul><li>In the following slides, I will outline one such approach to opening up important questions of history, an examination of the controversy surrounding the deaths of the 35 th US President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and his presumptive assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. </li></ul>
  6. 6. “ There are some things that will not be known in your lifetime.” Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, 1973 <ul><li>While the assassination itself begs deeper analysis, it also raises more </li></ul><ul><li>general issues for the study of history, and the process of making </li></ul><ul><li>historical claims… </li></ul><ul><li>Questions to consider: </li></ul><ul><li>What is legitimate and illegitimate historical evidence? Photos and film? Witness testimony? ‘Scientific’ evidence gathering? </li></ul><ul><li>Does the authority of “Officialdom,” whether it be the Warren Commission or other credible professional investigators, detract from or give credence to any historical claim? </li></ul><ul><li>How does one contend with significantly conflicting evidence? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it in fact possible to recover the details of an event which took approximately 15 seconds, 43 years ago, by historical and investigative methods? </li></ul><ul><li>If the “truth” of that event can not be inarguably established, what then does that say about our conclusions and analyses of other events of which much, much less physical and testimonial evidence exists? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the ultimate importance of knowing precisely what took place? </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Assassination of JFK <ul><li>On 22 November, 1963, at approximately 12:30 p.m. EST, the 35 th President of the United Sates, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade procession through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Also injured was Texas Governor John Connally, who survived the attack. </li></ul><ul><li>The attack required firing a minimum of three bullets in a span of between 5.3 – 7.5 seconds, as established by comparing time elements from varying media-captures of the event </li></ul><ul><li>The slide at left shows the layout and motorcade route of the Presidential limousine through Dealey </li></ul><ul><li>The Slide at right is a photograph taken by Ms. Mary Moorman at the moment the President was fatally injured by a bullet to the right side of his skull. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Lee Harvey Oswald <ul><li>Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine who had defected to Russia in 1959 and then returned, was charged in the death of the President, as well as the murder of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippet, killed at approximately 1:10 pm the same day. </li></ul>
  9. 9. The Weapon <ul><li>Oswald is believed to have used this Mannlicher-Carcano rifle (L), which was purchased by mail order under an assumed name, Alex Heidel. He is presumed to have shot from an open window on the 6 th Floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository on Elm St. in Dealey (R), where Oswald worked as a warehouseman. Both the gun and three spent cartridges were recovered at the scene. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Succession <ul><li>The President was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas for examination, and then transferred by Air Force One to Washington, D.C. to be re-examined by doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital. At left, the dying President arrives at Parkland. At right, Lyndon Baines Johnson is sworn as the 36 th President of the US on board Air Force One during the flight to Bethesda. Mrs. Kennedy is beside him. </li></ul>
  11. 11. “I’m just a patsy!” <ul><li>Following the shooting and the ensuing commotion, Oswald was permitted, along with a number of other TSBD employees, to leave the building. He returned to a boarding house in which he was living under the name O.H. Lee. </li></ul><ul><li>Later that afternoon, Oswald was arrested in the Texas Theater in Dallas following a call from a local merchant who found him suspicious. Oswald had apparently failed to pay for his theater ticket. Within 10 minutes, at least 10 Dallas Police Officers arrived at the scene, where he was arrested following a brief confrontation with Dallas Police. </li></ul><ul><li>He was charged in the murder of J D Tippet (Lower R), a Dallas Police Officer, that afternoon. Approximately 9 hours later, he was charged in the death of President Kennedy and the wounding of Texas Gov. John Connally </li></ul>
  12. 12. “There will be no trial” <ul><li>Three days following the assassination and Oswald’s arrest, while he was being transferred from the Dallas police Headquarters garage, Oswald was shot to death in front of numerous witnesses and police by Jack Ruby. Ruby was a local strip-club owner with ongoing ties to the Marcello organized crime syndicate. Ruby, well known to local police, was permitted to enter the garage carrying a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol. </li></ul><ul><li>Jack Ruby died in prison from a very aggressive course of cancer. He was therefore never able to give testimony to the Warren Commission. His initial claim that he shot Oswald to save Mrs. Kennedy the pain of a trial was ultimately replaced with his insistence that there were elements of the crime he could not discuss, because of the danger to himself. The Warren Commission claimed it was unable to provide protection for Ruby were he to be taken into their custody for such testimony. </li></ul>
  13. 13. The Warren Commission Report <ul><li>In response to public concerns, LBJ asked Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren (handing the report to LBJ), to conduct an investigation into the event and report on its findings. </li></ul><ul><li>Their conclusion, contained in a 26- volume report, was that Oswald, acting entirely alone, was responsible for the assassination, and the proceeding killing of Dallas Police Officer Tippet. </li></ul>The men above are members of the Warren Commission. Among its members were future President Gerald Ford (4L), Sen. Arlen Specter (2L), Allen Dulles (3R), former CIA Chief fired by Kennedy, and Gen. Charles Cabell (2R), an iconic figure in intelligence circles since WW2. Cabell’s brother Earl was the Mayor of Dallas on the day of the shooting.
  14. 14. QUESTIONS <ul><li>A number of questions have been raised about elements of the assassination, the investigation and conclusions by experts and by the public. Those questions include, among others : </li></ul><ul><li>The nature and indications from the President’s fatal wounds, as well as the non-fatal wounds of the Texas Governor. </li></ul><ul><li>The direction and angle from which the bullets struck the motorcade, as well as concerns about the weapon and its recovery. </li></ul><ul><li>Conflicting witness reports </li></ul><ul><li>Concerns about the background and identity of Oswald as presented to the public. </li></ul><ul><li>Information suggesting more than one assassin, including ballistics evidence of more than three bullets. </li></ul><ul><li>The apparent political result of the succession of LBJ to the Presidency and our increased involvement in a war in Vietnam. </li></ul>
  15. 15. “ Let Justice be done though the Heavens fall.” Jim Garrison, D.A. of New Orleans Parish, Louisiana <ul><li>Only one person was ever placed on trial in connection with the assassination. That person is Clay Shaw (L), a prominent local businessman in New Orleans. Oswald had spent the summer of 1963 there and created some controversy over his political views especially regarding the US’s relationship with Cuba. Shaw had paid for Attorney Dean Andrews to represent Oswald in a matter regarding his discharge status from the military, and had mutual acquaintances with Oswald. The trial, and Garrison’s conduct, were considerably controversial. Garrison (R) proposed that Shaw was the “cut-out” connection between the CIA, the Military, and Oswald in a conspiracy to assassinate the President. Shaw was entirely acquitted, and Garrison later wrote a well-known book, On The Trail of the Assassins . </li></ul>
  16. 16. The Zapruder Film <ul><li>Abraham Zapruder, a local merchant, took perhaps the most famously known motion picture of the event. Following the shooting, it was bought by Life magazine, and never seen again publicly until 1973. It was bought by the US Congress for its own investigation in 1978, and is now the property of the TSBD 6 th Floor Museum in Dallas, Texas. </li></ul><ul><li>Below is frame 318 of that film, indicating the fatal head wound to JFK </li></ul>
  17. 17. Vantage Point(s) <ul><li>Like many events in modern history, the assassination was witnessed by numerous people from different vantage points. A number of others aside from Zapruder also filmed the event. A selection of those films appears in this and the next slide. </li></ul><ul><li>The question that they raise is an important one both for understanding the assassination, and for the process of historical examination as well. What can be learned from the films, what they indicate, and how they can be analyzed, are all subject to significantly variant interpretations </li></ul>
  18. 18. The Pascal, Wiegman, and Couch films
  19. 19. Evidence of a Conspiracy? <ul><li>There are a variety of deeply troubling questions which concern historians and the general public as regards the assassination, and which are the source of the ongoing controversy over whether a conspiracy existed in Dallas to kill the President. </li></ul><ul><li>For the purposes of a discussion on historical claims, the following slides will briefly outline some of the most disputed questions of fact and interpretation, including: </li></ul><ul><li>The ballistics evidence and the “Magic Bullet Theory” </li></ul><ul><li>The indications of multiple persons exhibiting strange behavior </li></ul><ul><li>The direction and nature of the President’s wounds </li></ul><ul><li>The issue of Oswald’s identity, and problems with the Warren Commission’s case against Oswald </li></ul><ul><li>Witnesses whose testimony opposes the conclusions of the Warren Commission </li></ul>
  20. 20. The Ballistics Issues <ul><li>3 bullets were fired from Oswald’s gun; one of which is known to have missed the Presidential limo completely (and was later recovered), the kill shot which blew out 40% of the President’s head, and one which must account for at least 5 other wounds to Kennedy and Connally both. At the top is Warren Commission exhibit CE399, the so-called “Magic Bullet” which caused back and rib wounds to JFK, as well as breaking the wrist, rib, and entering the thigh of Connally. It was discovered on JFK’s stretcher at Parkland Memorial hospital in the condition indicated in the photo, top left. The theory of a single bullet to account for those wounds was put forth by Senator Arlen Spector </li></ul><ul><li>The bottom photo is a series of test bullets fired by the FBI from the same gun; the rightmost bullet was fired through one wrist bone of a human cadaver. CE399 is at the extreme left. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Images of the ballistics and wound evidence The description, analysis, and sources of the President’s wounds are a source of considerable disagreement, and conflicting reports make establishing the findings of the autopsy quite difficult indeed. In addition, the brain of John F. Kennedy was transported to the National Archives in 1964, along with other personal and evidentiary items. When a post-mortem examination of the brain was attempted, it was found to be missing from the Archive records. It has never been found. All that can be known about it is its weight, taken at Parkland: 653 grams.
  22. 22. Images of Evidence continued The scope on the Mannlicher-Carcano was defective by 2 degrees (approximately 4 feet off-target at 238 feet, the distance from the TSBD of the first shot to strike Kennedy), and takes 2 seconds to recycle. One police officer at the scene described the gun recovered as a .763 Mauser This photo by witness Mary Moorman may have captured a second shooter, the individual known to conspiracy proponents as “Badge Man.” Some photographic experts believe this photo proves the front entry angle of the headshot; note the bulge of JFK’s brain moving towards the back of the car. It suggests to some a second shooter.
  23. 23. Mysterious or Controversial Persons Top Left: Who is the man behind the stockade fence? Bottom Left: “Umbrella Man” was caught on the Zapruder film opening and immediately closing an umbrella seconds before the shots. Some photo experts believe the man at left is holding a radio. Top Right: The center image (TR) is photo of the DalTex building; it is believed to indicate a person in shooting position. The bottom image was mistakenly reported by the Warren Commission as evidence of Oswald’s sniper position. Bottom Right: these “tramps” were arrested from the stockyard behind the “grassy knoll.” Col. Fletcher Prouty, a US Intel Officer in the period, claims that one of them is in fact Gen. Edwin Lonsdal
  24. 24. Who was Lee Harvey Oswald? Left: Many experts have questioned the legitimacy of this photo, as did Oswald himself. Note the difference in the facial and body-cast shadows. Below: compare the faces as regards the chin line; is this a crop-mark of a falsified photo? The man above, and ALL of the images at left, were described by the government, including the FBI, as images of Oswald at various places and times
  25. 25. Witnesses and others who contradict the Warren Commission Left: Bill and Gail Newman, who testified that the shots came from behind them at the grassy Knoll. Bill Newman was a Korean Conflict combat veteran Right: Mary Moorman took the “Badgeman” photo; she claimed later her Warren Commission testimony and signature were altered. Her companion that day, Ms Jean Hill, claimed alterations to her testimony as well. Bottom left: James Tague was struck by a fragment of a bullet which hit the concrete of the triple underpass in Dealey next to him. Does this necessitate at least a fourth bullet? Bottom Right: witnesses running towards the grassy knoll in the aftermath of the shooting. A Dallas policeman found another bullet in the grass near a drainage hole in the street, which was lost by the Warren Commission.
  26. 26. Many witnesses were interviewed both at the time of the shooting and later. A few of them have claimed that the testimony they gave, either to the police or FBI, did not appear as given, or was flatly falsified by some claimants. Below is an interview with Bill Newman, reiterating his claim that the third shot he heard came from behind him on the now-infamous “grassy knoll”
  27. 27. “ What do we say to the Dead?” John Burdick, Failsafe <ul><li>At right is part of a chronological listing of the deaths of the major witnesses and participants in the events of November 23. Those who claim a conspiracy in the assassination point to the high number of deaths, and the unusual circumstances under which they occurred </li></ul>Natural causes Dallasite who helped FBI trace Oswald's pistol David Goldstein ?/65 Hit by Dallas bus Texas Employment clerk who interviewed Oswald Mona B. Saenz* 8/65 Fatal fall Pilot for Guy Banister Maurice Gatlin* 5/65 Heart attack Ruby's first lawyer, was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63 Tom Howard* 3/65 Cancer &quot;Life&quot; writer who told of JFK turning to rear when shot in throat Paul Mandal 1/65 Murdered JFK &quot;special&quot; friend whose diary was taken by CIA chief James Angleton after her death Mary Pinchot 10/64 Unknown &quot;Life&quot; magazine senior Vicepresident who bought Zapruderfilm and locked it away C.D. Jackson 9/64 Blow to neck Reporter who was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63 Jim Koethe* 9/64 Heart attack x-FBI agent in New Orleans connected to Ferrie, CIA, Carlos Marcello & Oswald Guy Banister* 6/64 Fatally shot Ruby employee Teresa Norton* 8/64 Passenger in Ward's plane New Orleans Mayor DeLesseps Morrison* 5/64 Plane crash in Mexico Private investigator working with Guy Banister and David Ferrie Hugh Ward* 5/64 Gunshot in head ruled suicide CIA agent who claimed Agency was involved Gary Underhill* 5/64 Accidental shooting by policeman Reporter who was in Ruby's apartment on 11/24/63 Bill Hunter* 4/64 Throat cut Husband of Ruby employee, knew Oswald acquaintance Hank Killam* 3/64 Heart attack Thought to have information linking Oswald and Ruby Bill Chesher 3/64 Suicide by hanging in Dallas Jail Former Ruby employee who alibied Warren Reynolds shooting suspect. Betty MacDonald* 2/64 Gunshot to head Lookalike brother to Tippit shooting witness, Domingo Benavides Eddy Benavides 2/64 Gunshot Victim Expressed foreknowledge of Ruby shooting Oswald Jack Zangretti 12/63 Murdered Tv host's daughter who was overheard telling of JFK's death prior to 11/22/63 Karyn Kupicinet 11/63 Cause of death Connection with case Name Date
  28. 28. The BIG QUESTIONS about a possible conspiracy <ul><li>Why was JFK Killed? </li></ul><ul><li>Who had the ability to prepare and commit the act of assassination and the elimination or suppression of presumably responsible parties? </li></ul><ul><li>Who would have the ability to stage a massive cover-up, and prevent its discovery? </li></ul><ul><li>What did/would the conspirators gain from the killing of Kennedy and/or the succession of Lyndon Johnson? </li></ul>
  29. 29. History for Sale? <ul><li>The assassination of JFK has become, in the years since the event, a virtual industry of evidentiary and analytical conclusions. At right is a selection of the many books that have been written about the JFK assassination and related events. </li></ul><ul><li>The preponderance of such materials raises the question of whether a historical event is exhaustible ; that is, can a point be reached at which there is no more to say? </li></ul>