November 24th, 1963, and a handcuffed prisoner is led out of the Dallas Police Headquarters toward a waiting car in a dimly lit basement.
Interrogated for hours over the murder of two men, he is now being transported to the County Jail until his court appearance.
Stepping out of the darkness he appears to smile as the dazzling light of a flashbulb momentarily blinds him. In the confusion a man steps forward from a small crowd of onlookers and pulls out a gun.
A split second later and the fatally injured prisoner collapses to the ground. Appalling by any standards, the killing of this prisoner will have enormous consequences.
The man is accused of assassinating the President of the United States. Now silenced forever he can never be interrogated, explain his motives or implicate others.
Taking his secrets with him to the grave, his death is hard to swallow for many who judge it as too convenient. The murdered man can speak no more and leaves behind a legacy of speculation, doubt and accusation.
Bearing his name, a name that is indelibly stamped into America’s history, the circumstances and events that led to this act of retribution have become known as the Lee Harvey Oswald Conspiracy.
Lee Harvey Oswald
Born in 1939, Lee Harvey Oswald was a student of average intelligence. His father died just a few months before his birth and he was brought up by a mother who sometimes found his behavior difficult to cope with.
After periods of truancy in his teens he was examined by a psychiatrist who suggested that the young boy lived a vivid fantasy life to compensate for his own shortcomings.
Disturbingly, he also suggested that Oswald should be monitored for passive aggressive and schizoid traits as he developed.
There is no evidence that this monitoring ever took place and at aged 17 he joined the US Marine Corp. without any problems.
Initially trained as a radar operator, Oswald also qualified as a sharpshooter but was later downgraded to marksman. His military career proved to be far from dazzling and after being demoted he was granted a hardship discharge in 1959.
Disaffected and lacking in direction the young Oswald developed a strong interest in Marxist literature and made the decision to defect to the Soviet Union.
Once again life disappointed him.
He found life in Russia drab and uninspiring and after marrying a young Russian woman he returned to the USA to pick up his old life.
For the next few years Oswald’s existence followed a predictable pattern. Now a man with young children he failed to hold down a job. Repeatedly sacked, he was often described as argumentative, aggressive and lazy by his employers.
During this period, Oswald continued to develop his interest in left wing politics and Communism, objecting to and protesting against US intervention in Cuba and despising what he deemed Fascist politics.
By March 1963 he was teetering on the brink of fanaticism and in a portent of what was to come, Oswald purchased a rifle and a revolver and made his way to the home of retired US General, Edwin Walker.
Walker was a man with strong right wing sympathies who made no secret of his anti-Communist views.
Standing less than a 100 feet away from his target, Oswald attempted to assassinate Walker but only succeeded in injuring him slightly before escaping into the night.
By October of 1963, Oswald had obtained employment at the Texas School Book Depository. Whether it was by design or accident that it directly overlooked the route to be taken by President Kennedy and his motorcade six weeks later, is uncertain.
What is certain is that the scene was set for one of the most shocking events in modern history.
The Assassination of a President
On the 21st November 1963, the charismatic President Kennedy and his glamorous young wife Jacqueline set off on a motorcade through the streets of Dallas, Texas.
Accompanying them were the Governor of Texas John Connally and his wife Nellie. As it approached lunchtime people left their shops and offices to line the route.
Children who had been given the day off school waved flags and waited excitedly for their first glimpse of the Presidential vehicle.
At precisely 12.30 PM the motorcade with its open topped vehicles turned onto Dealey Plaza. As the crowds cheered and waved, Nellie Connally turned to the President and remarked that Dallas loved him.
President Kennedy agreed smiling. Seconds later shots rang out from the Book Depository overlooking the Plaza. What happened next was recorded for posterity by an amateur cine camera.
John Connally and President Kennedy slumped, clearly hit by gunfire. For a moment those around them appeared stunned and inert, unsure of what was going on.
Only Jacqueline Kennedy moved, covered in blood she climbed onto the trunk of the moving vehicle, desperately and inexplicably trying to retrieve the brains of her dead husband.
In the Book Depository, the assassin Lee Harvey Oswald coolly hid his rifle and made his way out of the building.
Catching a bus and then a taxi he traveled to the lodging house where he had been staying. Within minutes, Oswald’s description was circulated by the police as the likely sniper.
After picking up a jacket from his room the killer made his way to a bus stop. As he waited Police Officer Tippit pulled over in his patrol car to question him.
Cornered, Oswald shot the officer four times before escaping into the nearby Texas Theater.
Arrested minutes later Oswald shouted and complained of police brutality. Within 48 hours he was dead, murdered by a petty criminal Jack Ruby.
The Warren Commission
With Lee Harvey Oswald dead the search for the truth about the assassination of President Kennedy became almost impossible.
Did Oswald act alone, a crazed killer with personality issues brainwashed by Marxist literature or was he merely a pawn in a bigger game, a puppet who had played his part and needed to be disposed of before he could implicate others?
On 29 November 1963, a week after Kennedy’s death, the newly inaugurated President Johnson established the Warren Commission and charged it with reaching the truth.
In September 1964 its results were published. In essence the Warren Commission decided that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy entirely alone.
It also concluded that Jack Ruby did the same when he murdered Oswald two days later.
More Questions Than Answers
The matter of course should have ended there but not everybody was satisfied with the very neat explanation that both Oswald and Ruby had acted in isolation.
Very soon the skeptics began to voice their doubts and the conspiracy theory began to gather momentum.
One would expect that the Warren Commission would conduct itself with the highest possible standards if it was truly concerned with reaching the truth.
Nevertheless, rumors of intimidation soon began to emerge. Some of those who were summoned to give evidence complained that their testimony was cut short if it contradicted the party line that Oswald acted alone.
Worse still were stories that the FBI visited witnesses before they gave their evidence threatening and harassing them to change their account of what happened on the fateful day.
In the most sinister twist, allegations of suspicious deaths were made including that of Dorothy Kilgallen, the only journalist to have been granted a detailed and private interview with Jack Ruby.
Suppression of Evidence
Some theorists cite the suppression of evidence as a further indication of a conspiracy to cover the truth.
Seven witnesses who stated that they saw gunsmoke on a grassy knoll close to where Kennedy died were not allowed to give evidence, a further forty swore that the gunshots they heard came from this direction.
This of course would indicate that there was more than one gunman and consequently a wider plot to assassinate the President.
Others reported seeing not one but two snipers in the window of The Book Depository.
Other witnesses to the assassination, claimed to have had their cameras confiscated by FBI agents. They were never returned, the films never developed or offered as evidence.
Various pieces of vital evidence have reportedly been tampered with over the years. These include the cine film which offers the most compelling evidence of the President’s assassination.
Known as the Zapruder film it was handed over to the FBI on the day of the assassination. Anomalies in the film suggest that it may have been altered at some point to remove evidence.
Other experts disagree and suggest there is no evidence of tampering at all.
There are also claims that photographs of President Kennedy’s autopsy have been altered to disguise the fact that he was shot from the front as well as behind, further indicating the presence of at least two shooters.
The Grassy Knoll
Up to forty witnesses to the assassination identified the grassy knoll as the site from which they believed the shots that killed Kennedy originated.
If true this would confirm that Oswald could not have been the only assassin. The shots from the Book Depository came from behind, the grassy knoll was in front of the motorcade.
The theory is made all the more credible when it is considered that Oswald, who had missed a sitting target at 100 feet months before, supposedly shot off three rounds in eight seconds.
This time he was successful, hitting his target from a much greater distance with a cheap rifle. could he have improved his aim so dramatically in a few short months?
Those that believe that there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll use the Zapruder film to support their theory. They suggest that as Kennedy is shot for a second time, his head jerks back as if the impact comes from the front.
Further evidence to support the two assassin theory was offered during a re-examination of the evidence in 1978 by the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
Acoustical evidence retrieved from a recording of a police officer’s open radio appeared to indicate that there were four shots in those fateful eight seconds.
It would have been physically impossible to do this using Oswald’s single rifle. The evidence was later discredited when advances in science proved that the fourth shot was in fact static interference.
The Magic Bullet
The magic bullet theory refers to the theory put forward by the Warren Commission that a single bullet hit President Kennedy, traveled through his body and injured Senator Connally who was sitting directly in front of him.
If indeed only three bullets were fired, one must have entered the President’s neck fatally wounding him another was responsible for grazing the cheek of a secret service agent.
The third and only remaining bullet must have been the one that entered the President’s back.
If you accept that only three bullets were fired then it is the only one that could have caused the remaining non-fatal wounds to both himself and Connally.
This poses an obvious problem, the third bullet would have had to alter its trajectory and direction a number of times to inflict all of the wounds on both men.
This would seem to be implausible if not impossible, hence the name magic bullet.
To add further doubt the third bullet,once retrieved, showed hardly any damage despite the fact that it had traveled through bone, cartilage, muscle and the upholstery of the vehicle.
Photographic evidence taken by various people on the day reveals a number of witnesses who did not come forward to give statements and could not be traced after the event.
Included in these images is a man using a black umbrella on a sweltering day to hide his face, a dark complexioned man who seems uneasy and out of place and a uniformed man standing watching the motorcade from the grassy knoll.
Why didn’t they come forward, were they in fact complicit in the death of Kennedy? We will never know.
Assuming then that Oswald did not act alone in planning the assassination of President Kennedy, who could have been behind one of the most shocking acts in living history?
The CIA: Kennedy proved himself to be a thorn in the side of many people including departments and individuals in his own government.
In 1961 he authorized the failed Bay of Pigs invasion led by the CIA. The plan was to overthrow the Communist government of Cuba led by Fidel Castro.
The failed invasion actually had the opposite effect strengthening Castro’s position as President of Cuba and his connections with the USSR.
The situation ultimately led to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and proved to be a major embarrassment to the US.
Keen to deflect blame from himself, Kennedy instigated investigations into the CIA handling of the invasion, whilst at the same time planning to make peace with the Cubans.
Was this a step too far for the CIA? A classified report conducted at the time and eventually released in 1996 placed the failure of the operation squarely at their feet. A motive for murder? Possibly.
The Mafia: The Kennedy family had a long relationship with organised crime. The patriarch of the Kennedy clan Joseph Kennedy was suspected of profiting from bootlegging activities in the 1920’s and during this period strengthened his connections with the Mafia.
When his sons entered politics Kennedy stands accused of calling in favors and using his Mafia connections to help John win the state of Illinois in the Presidential Elections.
Already incensed by the botched Bay of Pigs invasion which lost them their crucial foothold in Cuba, Mafia bosses were further angered when Robert Kennedy in his role as Attorney General made it his mission to destroy organised crime in America.
In the eyes of the Mafia the Kennedy’s bit the hand that had once fed them.
The Russians: At the height of the Cold War when the politics of the day was characterized by brinkmanship, did the Russians have the audacity to assassinate the President of another super power?
Those who believe that this maybe is the case point to Oswald’s defection to Russia and his Marxist sympathies.
During his time in Russia Oswald was permitted to marry the niece of a high ranking official and astonishingly allowed to return to the US when he changed his mind about remaining in Russia.
Was this a calculated move on the part of the Russians? Were they already grooming the malleable Oswald to commit the unthinkable?
The Cubans: Two different theories have arisen with regard to the Cuban involvement in the Kennedy assassination.
The first implies that Castro arranged the assassination of Kennedy in a tit for tat response to The Bay of Pigs debacle.
In recent years American officials have revealed that there were plans in place to assassinate Fidel Castro. Did the Cuban President get in first?
The second theory suggests that Cuban exiles living in the Miami area were incensed by Kennedy’s increasingly soft approach to Cuba after he chose not to attempt a second invasion.
Lyndon B. Johnson: Author Roger Stone has put forward one of the most controversial conspiracy theories. He suggests that Kennedy’s Vice President was in fact the man behind the assassination of his boss.
Stone theorises that Johnson employed a hitman, Malcolm Wallace to assassinate the President. Wallace’s fingerprints were later discovered in the Book Depository.
Stone points out that Johnson organised the trip to Dallas, organised the route through Dealey Plaza and reduced the number of protection officers on duty.
His motive? To cover up fraud, corruption and murder.
Another author Zirbel supports Stone’s views and offers further corroborating evidence.
He suggests that Johnson and Johnson alone had the means, the opportunity and the motive to kill Kennedy as well as the ability to cover up evidence and prevent serious investigation in the years afterwards.
In a political era characterized by suspicion, paranoia and duplicity it took just eight fateful seconds to change the course of history.
The most powerful man in America was dead. Shock and disbelief reverberated around the world and a nation mourned the loss of its charismatic leader.
One man stood accused of the crime but he never stood trial. Silenced before he could speak, his death left more questions than answers.
Did he act alone or was he part of a greater plot? Was he even guilty of shooting Kennedy or merely a convenient patsy, set up to carry the blame for an act he didn’t commit?
In time modern science may solve the puzzle of the second shooter.
But what we will probably never know, as events on that fateful November day slip further back in history, is whether the assassin’s hand was guided by a greater force.
Those who know the truth have taken their secrets to the grave and as long as the full truth eludes us the Lee Harvey Oswald Conspiracy Theory will continue to garner believers keen to establish what really happened on Dealey Plaza on a November afternoon in 1963.