Robert F. Kennedy Jr., now nearly 50 years since the death of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, has come forward to criticize the Warren Commission report on the Kennedy shooting, calling it a “shoddy piece of craftsmanship.” He advanced these remarks in an interview Friday night to CBS host Charlie Rose. No historical incident has had as great an array of conspiracy theories put forward as that fatal shooting in November of 1963.
John F. Kennedy, well-loved and highly respected president of the United States, was shot to death while riding with his wife, Jacqueline, in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. None who were then alive will ever forget those highly emotional days. All media that day halted as it was announced that the president had been shot. The nation was in attendance as doctors at Parkland Hospital tried in vain to address the cruel wound to Kennedy’s throat and a massive, bleeding gouge in the back and side of his head. The president’s death was announced at 1:36 P.M. CST. On reaching the hospital short moments after the shooting, doctors said he was “Critically ill… moribund and near death.”
John Kennedy, rugged and youthful, will perhaps be best remembered for his brave stand in 1962, when it was discovered that the Soviet Union was constructing missile sites on the Island of Cuba. Kennedy kept America’s knowledge of the installation secret for several days while he met with advisors. The presidential team decided on a blockade, a ring of ships, around Cuba to end the incoming armaments. He warned Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that the missiles must be removed. Americans at this time felt war was imminent. Then, recognizing the potential for nuclear war, the Soviets began dismantling the structures in exchange for a pledge that there would be no U.S. invasion of Cuba.
At the time of the standoff with the Soviet Union, JFK’s wife, Jackie, was staying at their weekend house in Virginia, when he called her, asking her to come home. Biographer Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. reports that the first lady could “…tell that something was wrong.” “Why don’t you come back to Washington?” her husband asked, without explanation. When she learned that the Soviets were installing missiles aimed at American cities in Cuba, she begged her husband not to send her away. “If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you,” she says she told him in October 1962. “I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too — than live without you.”
In Dallas, following the fatal shooting of the president, police and agencies scrambled to find the source of the fatal shots. A Dallas man, one of the crowd on the parade route, told police he had been waving at the president when the shots were fired. He recalled the president had been shot twice: once, and Kennedy slumped in his seat; again, and the dying patriot slid further. It was later determined that the alleged shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, fired from a corner window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Cardboard boxes were found beneath the window, arranged in a sniper’s nest.
At 1:46 PM, ten minutes fafter the rifle shots, police had enough information to radio on police bands that, “We have information a suspect just went in the Texas Theater on West Jefferson.” Patrol cars bearing at least 15 officers converged on the theater, a few blocks from the site of the shooting. Police entered the theater from the front door, and from a rear entrance. An officer pointed out a “suspicious” man who had come into the theater without paying. The man was Oswald, sitting on the main floor, near the right center aisle. Many in the team of fifteen officers fell upon Oswald. Patrons in the theater confirmed that Oswald fought with four or five officers before he was handcuffed. One of the patrons saw an officer grab Oswald, and he claims that he heard the click of a gun misfiring. Another testified he saw Oswald pull the revolver and the officers struggle with him to take it away but that once he was subdued, no officer struck him. Lee Harvey Oswald was taken into custody.
Born in 1939, Lee Oswald would later train to become a sharpshooter in the Marine Corps. The Warren Commission, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, concluded that Oswald acted alone in firing the two shots that killed the president. Oswald had dropped out of the Marine Corps on a hardship plea and then began expressing pro-Soviet and politically radical views.. Nine days later, he left for the Soviet Union, where he tried unsuccessfully to become a citizen.
The drama continued. Before Oswald could be questioned, he himself was shot to death, before the disbelieving eyes of reporters, police officers and a nationwide television audience. On November 24, two days after the death of John Kennedy, Oswald was being transferred from the Dallas police headquarters to a more secure county jail. As Oswald was brought into the crowded room, mobster and nightclub owner Jack Ruby emerged from the crowd and fatally wounded him with a single shot from a concealed .38 revolver. Ruby claimed he was enraged by the shooting of the president. He was charged with first degree murder.
Ruby experienced a troubled childhood in Chicago working as a door to door salesman and sometime ticket scalper. He served in the Army Air Force. In the late 1940s, he moved to Dallas, becoming a small time operator in the world of nightclubs and gambling. He ran up a series of minor offenses. He had a reputation as a name dropper and publicity seeker. He had no known political affiliations.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy had a dramatic and romantic life that was cut short in Dallas. Kennedy himself was supported in his election to the presidency by those boys-of-endless-sunshine, the Las Vegas Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. They lived in a world of showbiz, booze, and broads, and were among the few who could get away with onstage drinking. It was common at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas for 34,000 people to share the glow of the singers, actors and comedians who thrived on hedonism, and in the shadow of organized crime.
Some assert that Frank Sinatra was the greatest blues singer of the 20th century. Years before the Kennedy election, Sinatra and Kennedy met at a Democratic rally where performers sang advocating religious and racial tolerance. Sinatra and Kennedy started spending time together at the singer’s home in Palm Springs and the young senator’s hotel suite in Washington. Peter Lawford, was Kennedy’s brother-in-law; having married JFK’s sister, Patricia, in 1954.
Popular too, in those early sixties was that much admired star with the breathy voice and hourglass figure, Marilyn Monroe. She was as mysterious as she was beautiful. She upset directors and cast by her legendary tardiness on film sets. From a poor background, discovered by talent scouts, Monroe was loved by America. She was linked romantically to Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, and John F. Kennedy.
Marilyn dated Sinatra and was an unofficial member of the Rat Pack. She had known Sinatra for years, and many suspected an earlier relationship. At an early point, Marilyn had been escorted to various functions by Peter Lawford. Bio Magazine notes, “Her association with both Sinatra and Lawford undoubtedly brought her into contact with John Kennedy, perhaps as early as July of 1960, when the young senator clinched the Democratic nomination for president. At the time, Lawford was married to Pat Kennedy, JFK’s younger sister.”
Time Magazine at one point wrote:
Such is the wattage of both Monroe and John F. Kennedy that rumors of their affair have kept tongues wagging more than 40 years later. Though there has never been official confirmation of any of Kennedy’s dalliances, there are indications he was unwilling to cede his playboy lifestyle to the conventions of marriage. Of his supposed conquests, Monroe tops the list. A sultry version of “Happy Birthday” sung by Monroe to Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962 was supposedly the impetus for their affair.
Post-affair: Monroe died later in 1962 of a drug overdose, but tales about her alleged fling with the president grew increasingly tall. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover tried to prove that the man on a secret FBI sex tape of Monroe was Kennedy, but he lacked definitive proof. Others claim Kennedy was involved in her death. Needless to say, the rumors are even less substantiated than the affair itself.
The Los Angeles Times examined FBI files regarding the death of Marilyn Monroe, and reported controversy. “Through the years, questions have been raised about whether she was murdered because of her association with John and Robert Kennedy.”
Jacqueline Kennedy was as important to many Americans as the president himself. She was sought after by entertainment publications and the media in general. Jackie was far more prominent than most first ladies, before and since. She was a lady of overwhelming power, a fashion icon and popular among dignitaries. Surely, had there been truth to the rumors of the president’s philandering, she would have been cast in a painful light. She was a devoted wife and mother.
Several years after she orchestrated John’s funeral, she was filled with fear for herself and her children, John and Caroline. In June 1968, when her brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, she came to fear for her life and that of her children, saying “If they’re killing Kennedys, then my children are targets…I want to get out of this country.” On October 20, 1968, she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who provided her both privacy and security. Jacqueline Onassis and her children moved to Onassis’ private Island in the Ionian Sea.
So we question what motivated Oswald to shoot the president? He had ties to Cuba, and to Russia, but politicians often (as in Watergate, e.g.) use dirt-level agents with foreign connections to do their bidding. When caught, the foreign ties tie in with motivation.
Was Ruby a hired assassin, brought in to prevent the man who shot the president from revealing information? Was jealousy a motive, involving an affair between the president and the most famous Marilyn Monroe?
Many have been blamed, but the controversy remains unsolved.