It has been 50 years since JFK was assassinated in Dallas. The act was a major turning point in a very tumultuous decade that would include the assassinations of RFK, MLK and Malcom X to name a few. During our August trip, we swung through Dallas for a couple of nights. I took my friends travelling with me to the 6th Floor museum, the old School Book Depository Building where Lee Harvey Oswald fired his rifle, and we toured the grassy knoll. For the record, if you find yourself in Dallas, the 6th Floor Museum is an awesome experience. It is a must see.
Like most Americans, I believe the assassination was a conspiracy. I am not the type to buy into conspiracy theories easily but since that tragedy in 1963 most Americans have consistently believed there were others besides Lee Harvey Oswald involved in the killing. We may never know. Many of the players aren’t around anymore. Many files are still classified and there is some indication that some have gone “missing”.
Since it is the 50th Anniversary there is a deluge of shows and books on the subject this year. It is actually one of the most written about events in U.S. history. Frontline had an excellent piece on television the other night, “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?” that can also be viewed online. A lot of new details in that show including the first ever interview with the three KGB agents who interviewed Oswald in Mexico City about 7 weeks before Dallas. CNN with Tom Hanks producing did a show last week about that was well received and got good ratings. It concentrated on the fact it was television’s first big breaking news event and showed behind the scenes on the reporting. A lot of famous news people covered that story and made their mark in Dallas.
There are books on the subject of course. I was listening today on the radio while driving around town and the author of the new book Dallas 1963 was talking about how in his research he came across an unknown story of an operative in Mexico who was suspicious of Lee Harvey Oswald when he was down there and tried to get the CIA to do something but was stonewalled. Later, the operative had his career ruined – suspicions are over his questions about Oswald – and the operative ended up committing suicide 2 years later. I may have to put that book on my to read list.
The famous author Norman Mailer did a book titled Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery that focused on Oswald’s early life especially his time in Russia. Most people forget that Oswald defected to Russia for a period. Mailer actually went to Minsk to visit people who knew Oswald there. The book really is an interesting take on a part of Oswald’s life that few people know about.
Speaking of Oswald, one image that has stuck with me is the fact that when Oswald was buried, besides his mother, wife and child and a couple other relatives, no one else was there. He had no real friends. In fact, reporters had to act as pallbearers because there was no one at the funeral to carry the casket to the grave. I also find that fact so sad. In a way it speaks of the tragedy itself.
JFK is worth talking about. In 3 years as a President who’d won the Medal of Honor during WWII, his major accomplishments rank more than any President since. My top five are 1. The Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world was literally seconds from nuclear war he found a way to avoid it 2. The Berlin Airlift, he fed Berlin and saved Europe from the Soviets 3. Starting the Space Program and that little thing called NASA 4. The Peace Corps – how many people owe their lives to that organization 5. Ending Segregation – he used the army and marshals to put down segregation in the South and usher in Civil Rights.
Was there a conspiracy? Like I said we may never know but there sure are a lot open questions like how did one bullet take out two people on the move and stay intact; was Oswald really that good of a shot – 3 bullets on the move in 8 seconds?; witness reports of other shooters and missed shots; CIA released a photo of Oswald in Mexico only it wasn’t Oswald and yet we know from their own records they have footage and recordings of him in Mexico yet those have “disappeared”; Jack Ruby who shot Oswald hours later was at the sight of the shooting when it occurred, we know this because there is a photo of him and yet he also knew later exactly when Oswald was being transported to gun him down, Ruby also had direct ties to 2 mob bosses who had sworn to kill JFK. Like I said there are a lot of mysterious elements to this story. And I will mention one last one that really doesn’t get attention. We know from Oswald’s wife and her friends that Oswald kept making secret phone calls in the week leading up to the assassination – um, who was he calling? No one has ever found out.
All I can say for certain is that those events in Dallas 50 years ago changed the world and to be honest, I’m not sure the world has recovered and found its footing ever since. RIP in peace JFK and Officer J.D. Tippet.