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John F. Kennedy was assassinated on 22 November 1963 in Dallas, Texas while riding in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza. A grainy video, shot by private citizen Abraham Zapruder and hence known as the 'Zapruder film', captured the harrowing moment where a chunk of his skull was blasted off and his wife, Jackie, became covered in blood. It's widely regarded that former US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who fired the fatal shots.
Those details were confirmed in an 888-page document presented to then US President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, which became known as the Warren Commission report. Despite it being the official investigation into the assassination, it's been criticised for its methods, omissions and conclusions.
But it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK reignited people's interest in the event. The revered movie looked into the various holes in the Warren Report, such as the 'single bullet theory' which the Commission claimed one bullet travelled through 15 layers of clothing, seven layers of skin, and approximately 15 inches of tissue, striking a necktie knot, removing four inches of rib, and shattering a radius bone.
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/JFK
Because the film sparked a new wave of attention for the assassination, it led to the JFK Records Act of 1992, which asked the National Archives and Records Administration to keep a record of any document related to the murder. It has a 25-year deadline to release all the information - and today is the day the remaining files are to be released.
About 88 percent of the documents have been available since the late 1990s, but there will be a final dump of information released today, consisting of 3,810 documents. In reality, that's a drop in the ocean compared to the five million pages already on public record. The majority of those files are already accessible but had sections redacted, however 441 documents have never seen the light of day.
Naturally, owing to widely varying theories about what really happened that day, people are incredibly interested in what might be revealed in these final files. But some experts are pouring cold water on the hope that there will be a major bombshell hiding in these pages.
Alan Dale, administrator of jfkessentials.com, has told the Guardian: "We would like greater detail associated with things that are relevant to President Kennedy's life and would help us understand who his adversaries may have been and for what reason he would have been viewed as an adversary to powerful elements within the national security establishment.
"A lot of our focus for decades has been: who was Lee Oswald, what was he engaged in, what did he think he was engaged in, and is there any reason to be concerned that maybe the truth about his story has been hidden from all of us for all of these years?"
There is speculation that these last files will look into Oswald's connections with Cuba and his trip to Mexico City in the days leading up to the assassination.
US President Donald Trump stated that the files will definitely be released, although it has of course been mandated to happen since 1992.
Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.
- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 21, 2017
Judge John R. Tunheim, who chaired the Assassination Records Review Board, has told Time magazine: "It's always possible that a really good researcher will find new information that they think is significant and will add to their version of the story, or perhaps even lead them in other directions.
"There are a lot of still-unanswered questions about the assassination. For example, did Oswald, when he lived in Minsk, have any connection with Cuban intelligence agents who were being trained in Minsk by the Soviets?
"There are issues like that that aren't fully resolved anywhere, and going through these documents might give good researchers an opportunity to come up with more than what we know today in the official story."
Lee Harvey Oswald never got to explain why he did what he did because he was shot by Texas nightclub owner Jack Ruby as he was being escorted through the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters.
Credit: Media Drum
As a result, there is fierce speculation whether Oswald was a lone wolf or a puppet for another person or group, with possibilities including the CIA, the Cuban government, the KGB, the FBI, the Secret Service, organised crime syndicates like the Mafia, or even then-President Johnson, who had previously served as vice president under Kennedy.
A 2003 Gallup poll found 20 percent of Americans felt Johnson was in some way connected to the assassination. LBJ was rumoured to have disliked Kennedy and he was worried he would be dropped from the Democratic ticket for the 1964 election.
Another Gallup poll a decade later found that 61 percent of Americans believed that people other than Oswald were involved in the assassination. In true conspiracy style, journalist and author Jim Marrs created a list of more than 100 people who died 'convenient deaths' following JFK's murder. These people were all related in some way to the investigations conducted by the Warren Commission and other government bodies. Some of the people had claimed to have killed Kennedy themselves or known someone who did.
Then there's the claim that there was more than one shooter.
The Warren Commission concluded that three shots were fired, all from the sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. But the House Select Committee on Assassinations ruled, a decade after the report was handed down, that there were nearly two dozen other possible firing points in Dealey Plaza.
The Committee also claimed there was a fourth shot fired from the infamous 'grassy knoll'. Plenty of witnesses claim they heard a shot from the grassy knoll which was in front of, and to the right of the direction the motorcade was travelling.
The Umbrella Man is a conspiracy theorist's dream. He was one of the closest bystanders when the President was shot, holding an open umbrella despite there being no rain whatsoever. Some believe he somehow shot a dart from his umbrella which contained a paralysing agent inside, leaving Kennedy immobile and a 'sitting duck' for a shooter or shooters.
A popular, but heavily discredited theory pointed to a member of the Secret Service in the car behind JFK's - in his book Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK, Bonar Menninger stated that Special Agent George Warren Hickey Jr. was the person who actually killed Kennedy.
Menninger believes that when Oswald fired his second shot, Hickey picked up his AR-15 rifle and flicked off the safety to aim at the book depository. However, in the ensuing panic, the car he was in sped off, causing Hickey to lose his balance and accidentally fire a bullet that hit Kennedy.
Even though the assassination happened more than half a century ago, people continues to make outrageous claims to this day. During the election campaign, President Trump boldly claimed that Republican candidate Ted Cruz's father was linked to Oswald.
"His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being - you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous," he said in an interview with Fox News. "What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don't even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it."
Despite all the chatter about various theories, in 1966 political journalist Roscoe Drummond wrote: "If there were a conspiracy to cover up the truth about the assassination, it would have to involve the Chief Justice, the Republican, Democratic, and non-party members of the commission, the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, the distinguished doctors of the armed services - and the White House - a conspiracy so multiple and complex that it would have fallen of its own weight."
What do you believe?
Featured Image Credit: Creative Commons
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