Thursday 18 January 2018

November 22nd, 1963

FOUR gunshots on an early afternoon in Dallas, Texas ended the life of the first Irish- American and Catholic to be elevated to the office of US president.

John F Kennedy was just 46 when his life was cut short, with conspiracy theories abounding to this day as to who or what shadowy group was behind his assassination.

His trip through Dallas on November 22, 1963, in many ways, resembled his visit around Ireland just five months previously.

His motorcade through the city was designed to gain maximum coverage, and his open-topped car allowed him to wave to the crowds which greeted him on arrival.

But as his uncovered limousine entered Dealey Plaza, the end was in sight. His car took a planned left turn on to Elm Street, passing the Texas School Book Depository.

It was from this building that the fatal shots were fired, from gunman Lee Harvey Oswald.

The first shot entered Kennedy's upper back. The second and third came in quick succession, with the final bullet dealing the fatal blow, entering his skull.

The limousine exited Dealey Plaza and sped to Parkland Memorial Hospital but it was too late. Ireland's favourite son was dead.

Lee Harvey Oswald was picked up 70 minutes after the shooting, but denied any involvement. He claimed he was charged because he had lived in the Soviet Union.

Many believe he did not act alone, with the conspiracy theories wide and varied and including the CIA, Cuban President Fidel Castro and the Mafia.

While the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald acted alone, the US House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that at least two gunmen were involved.

The theories gained traction as Oswald never went to trial. He was shot dead by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while being escorted to the Dallas county jail. The shooting was captured live on television.

It was the end of an era, and the reaction in Ireland was one of shock.

"Ireland heard the news of President Kennedy's death with shock and bewilderment and, as the full realisation of it dawned on the people, a tide of deep sorrow and emotion swept the country," the Irish Independent reported.

"At first, it was almost too much to believe. Too much especially for those who had the news passed on to them in city streets, in shops or in buses. It was almost impossible to accept the fact that President Kennedy, who had come so close to them during his visit here in June – and shaken so many by the hand – was dead."

Paul Melia

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News