Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
By: Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy
Date: September 27, 1964
Source: "Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy," as published by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
About the Author: On November 29, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908973) established a committee, led by Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court Earl Warren (1891974), to evaluate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, TX, on November 22, 1963, and the killing of his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963. "The Warren Commission" released its findings in September 1964 in an 888 page report.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1917963) on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas, took the country by surprise. Kennedy was shot in the head during a parade while riding in an open convertible, seated next to his wife, Jacqueline. Within hours, Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine and vocal communist, was arrested and charged with themurder of the president. In addition to killing Kennedy, the shooter struck the Governor of Texas, John Connelly, who was riding in the front seat of the president's limousine, directly in front of Kennedy. Connelly received wounds to the back, chest, right wrist, and thigh.
On November 24, 1963, Jack Ruby murdered Lee Harvey Oswald as Oswald was being transported from the Dallas police station. The murder was the first to be viewed on national television, airing live on the National Broadcast Company (NBC). Ruby, a local nightclub owner with ties to the mafia, claimed to have killed Oswald simply because the opportunity presented itself. Oswald had been detained shortly after the shooting and was interrogated by Dallas police for fifteen hours. His answers were not documented.
In view of the Kennedy assassination and Oswald's murder, newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson called for the creation of an investigatory body, to look into the assassination of President Kennedy and surrounding events. Johnson appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren to head the operation. Other members of the investigation team included Richard B. Russell, a Democratic Senator from Georgia; John Sherman Cooper, Republican Senator from Kentucky; Hale Boggs, Democratic Representative from Louisiana and the majority whip in the House of Representatives; Gerald R. Ford, Republican Representative from Michigan and future President of the United States; Allen W. Dulles, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; and John J. McCloy, former President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the former United States High Commissioner for Germany.
Dubbed "The Warren Commission," the group interviewed 552 witnesses and worked with ten different government agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and others. The investigation took ten months, and the official report was released on September 27, 1964.
- The shots which killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired from the sixth floor window at the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository. This determination is based upon the following:
- Witnesses at the scene of the assassination saw a rifle being fired from the sixth floor window of the Depository Building, and some witnesses saw a rifle in the window immediately after the shots were fired.
- The nearly whole bullet found on Governor Connally's stretcher at Parkland Memorial Hospital and the two bullet fragments found in the front seat of the Presidential limousine were fired from the 6.5-millimeter Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found on the sixth floor of the Depository Building to the exclusion of all other weapons.
- The three used cartridge cases found near the window on the sixth floor at the southeast corner of the building were fired from the same rifle which fired the above-described bullet and fragments, to the exclusion of all other weapons.
- The windshield in the Presidential limousine was struck by a bullet fragment on the inside surface of the glass, but was not penetrated.
- The nature of the bullet wounds suffered by President Kennedy and Governor Connally and the location of the car at the time of the shots establish that the bullets were fired from above and behind the Presidential limousine, striking the President and the Governor as follows:
President Kennedy was first struck by a bullet which entered at the back of his neck and exited through the lower front portion of his neck, causing a wound which would not necessarily have been lethal. The President was struck a second time by a bullet which entered the right-rear portion of his head, causing a massive and fatal wound.
Governor Connally was struck by a bullet which entered on the right side of his back and traveled downward through the right side of his chest, exiting below his right nipple. This bullet then passed through his right wrist and entered his left thigh where it caused a superficial wound.
- There is no credible evidence that the shots were fired from the Triple Underpass, ahead of the motorcade, or from any other location.
- The weight of the evidence indicates that there were three shots fired.
- Although it is not necessary to any essential findings of the Commission to determine just which shot hit Governor Connally, there is very persuasive evidence from the experts to indicate that the same bullet which pierced the President's throat also caused Governor Connally's wounds. However, Governor Connally's testimony and certain other factors have given rise to some difference of opinion as to this probability but there is no question in the mind of any member of the Commission that all the shots which caused the President's and Governor Connally's wounds were fired from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository.
- The shots which killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. This conclusion is based upon the following:
- The Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5-millimeter Italian rifle from which the shots were fired was owned by and in the possession of Oswald.
- Oswald carried this rifle into the Depository Building on the morning of November 22, 1963.
- Oswald, at the time of the assassination, was present at the window from which the shots were fired.
- Shortly after the assassination, the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle belonging to Oswald was found partially hidden between some cartons on the sixth floor and the improvised paper bag in which Oswald brought the rifle to the Depository was found dose by the window from which the shots were fired.
- Based on testimony of the experts and their analysis of films of the assassination, the Commission has concluded that a rifleman of Lee Harvey Oswald's capabilities could have fired the shots from the rifle used in the assassination within the elapsed time of the shooting. The Commission has concluded further that Oswald possessed the capability with a rifle, which enabled him to commit the assassination.
- Oswald lied to the police after his arrest concerning important substantive matters.
- Oswald had attempted to kill Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker (Retired, U.S. Army) on April 10, 1963, thereby demonstrating his disposition to take human life. . . .
- The Commission has found no evidence that either Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby was part of any conspiracy, domestic or foreign, to assassinate President Kennedy. The reasons for this conclusion are:
- The Commission has found no evidence that anyone assisted Oswald in planning or carrying out the assassination. In this connection it has thoroughly investigated, among other factors, the circumstances surrounding the planning of the motorcade route through Dallas, the hiring of Oswald by the Texas School Book Depository Co. on October 15, 1963, the method by which the rifle was brought into the building, the placing of cartons of books at the window, Oswald's escape from the building, and the testimony of eyewitnesses to the shooting.
- The Commission has found no evidence that Oswald was involved with any person or group in a conspiracy to assassinate the President, although it has thoroughly investigated, in addition to other possible leads, all facets of Oswald's associations, finances, and personal habits, particularly during the period following his return from the Soviet Union in June 1962.
- The Commission has found no evidence to show that Oswald was employed, persuaded, or encouraged by any foreign government to assassinate President Kennedy or that he was an agent of any foreign government, although the Commission has reviewed the circumstances surrounding Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union, his life there from October of 1959 to June of 1962 so far as it can be reconstructed, his known contacts with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and his visits to the Cuban and Soviet Embassies in Mexico City during his trip to Mexico from September 26 to October 3, 1963, and his known contacts with the Soviet Embassy in the United States.
- The Commission has explored all attempts of Oswald to identify himself with various political groups, including the Communist Party, U.S.A., the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and the Socialist Workers Party, and has been unable to find any evidence that the contacts which he initiated were related to Oswald's subsequent assassination of the President.
- All of the evidence before the Commission established that there was nothing to support the speculation that Oswald was an agent, employee, or informant of the FBI, the CIA, or any other governmental agency. It has thoroughly investigated Oswald's relationships prior to the assassination with all agencies of the U.S. Government. All contacts with Oswald by any of these agencies were made in the regular exercise of their different responsibilities.
- No direct or indirect relationship between Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby has been discovered by the Commission, nor has it been able to find any credible evidence that either knew the other, although a thorough investigation was made of the many rumors and speculations of such a relationship.
- The Commission has found no evidence that Jack Ruby acted with any other person in the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald.
- After careful investigation the Commission has found no credible evidence either that Ruby and Officer Tippit, who was killed by Oswald, knew each other or that Oswald and Tippit knew each other.
Because of the difficulty of proving negatives to a certainty, the possibility of others being involved with either Oswald or Ruby cannot be established categorically, but if there is any such evidence it has been beyond the reach of all the investigative agencies and resources of the United States and has not come to the attention of this Commission.
- In its entire investigation, the Commission has found no evidence of conspiracy, subversion, or disloyalty to the U.S. Government by any Federal, State, or local official.
- On the basis of the evidence before the Commission it concludes that Oswald acted alone. Therefore, to determine the motives for the assassination of President Kennedy, one must look to the assassin himself. Clues to Oswald's motives can be found in his family history, his education or lack of it, his acts, his writings, and the recollections of those who had close contacts with him throughout his life. The Commission has presented with this report all of the background information bearing on motivation which it could discover. Thus, others may study Lee Oswald's life and arrive at their own conclusions as to his possible motives.
The Commission could not make any definitive determination of Oswald's motives. It has endeavored to isolate factors which contributed to his character and which might have influenced his decision to assassinate President Kennedy. These factors were:
- His deep-rooted resentment of all authority which was expressed in a hostility toward every society in which he lived;
- His inability to enter into meaningful relationships with people, and a continuous pattern of rejecting his environment in favor of new surrounding;
- His urge to try to find a place in history and despair at times over failures in his various undertakings;
- His capacity for violence as evidenced by his attempt to kill General Walker;
- His avowed commitment to Marxism and communism, as he understood the terms and developed his own interpretation of them; this was expressed by his antagonism toward the United States, by his defection to the Soviet Union, by his failure to be reconciled with life in the United States even after his disenchantment with the Soviet Union, and by his efforts, though frustrated, to go to Cuba.
Each of these contributed to his capacity to risk all in cruel and irresponsible actions.
The seven-member panel split their decision, 4 to 3, in favor of the single-assassin theory, declaring that Lee Harvey Oswald acted as a "lone gunman," and that the injuries to the president and Governor Connally were caused by two bullets. Abraham Zapruder, a bystander at the parade, caught the assassination on 8mm film. "The Zapruder Film" is the best video document of the shooting, and has been studied in great detail for decades. Still images from the film are some of the most famous pictures of the assassination.
The Warren Commission report also noted the limitations of Secret Service security operations during the parade. The report contained recommendations for future measures that could be taken to protect the president and other government officials, such as better communication with local police, a bulletproof top for the president's limousine, and maintaining a steady driving pace (to hamper an assassin's ability to zero in on a target). These recommendations have become standard protocol for presidential public appearances.
The Warren Commission's interviews, research, and transcripts were initially sealed upon their release until 2039, by executive order of President Johnson, although many documents may be released to the public as soon as 2017.
Semple, Robert B. Four Days in November: The Original Coverage of the John F. Kennedy Assassination. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003.
Archives.gov. "Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy." <http://www.archives.gov/research_room/jfk/warren_commissio... (accessed July 5, 2005).
Archives.gov. "Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives." <http://www.archives.gov/research_room/jfk/house_select_com... (accessed July 5, 2005).
Time.com. "TIME Magazine Cover: Lee Harvey Oswaldct. 2, 1964." <http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,1101641002,00.html> (accessed July 5, 2005).
Audio and Visual Media
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