Sunday 15 September 2019

Everything you need to know about the assassination of JFK

Ahead of the possible release of new files into the murder of the US president, we look at the facts around his death.

John F Kennedy
John F Kennedy

By Nicola Irwin

When John F Kennedy was elected in 1960 he became the youngest man appointed to the office of President of the United States. Just over three years later on November 22 1963 he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Now the final files relating to inquiries into his murder are due to be released.

It is unlikely they will contain a huge revelation but will be analysed carefully by those who do not accept the existing narrative around his death.

What is the official version of events?

President John F Kennedy

President John F Kennedy was with his wife Jacqueline Kennedy in Texas. They were travelling through Dealey Plaza in Dallas in a black open-top limousine, waving at crowds. Also in the car was Texas governor John Connally and his wife Nellie. The vice president Lyndon B Johnson and his wife were in a second car.

JFK had been in the city ahead of the start of his re-election campaign.

At 12.30pm, three shots rang out. Two bullets hit Kennedy in the head and neck. His death was announced the same day at 1.33pm.

Politics – US President John F Kennedy – Buckingham Place, London

Investigators found the shots came from the Texas School Book Depository.

Within hours Lee Harvey Oswald, 24, was charged with killing the president and police officer JD Tippit. He never had the chance to give his version of events as the following day he was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while in police custody.

An official inquiry, the Warren Commission set up by President Johnson, determined that Oswald acted alone in the assassination. It also found that Ruby was not part of a bigger plot or cover-up.

Another later inquiry, by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, found that Kennedy “was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy” and that there was a “high probability that two gunmen fired”.

Who was John F Kennedy?

John Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline at Downing Street

Kennedy was born on May 29 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He went on to study at Harvard and after graduating in 1940 he joined the navy. He was seriously injured on August 2 1943 when his boat was sunk by a Japanese destroyer but managed to lead his fellow survivors to safety.

He was elected to Congress in 1946 and represented part of the Boston area. He served three terms before he was elected to the Senate in 1952, eventually running for president in 1960.

Kennedy came from a large Irish Catholic family. He married Jacqueline Bouvier in September 1953, when he was 36 and his wife 24. They went on to have two children.

Together they were seen to add an injection of vitality and glamour to the White House which helped America fall in love with the couple. He was seen as a handsome charismatic leader with a stylish, fashionable wife.

How is his presidency remembered?

American Presidents – John F Kennedy – New Ross – 1963

Kennedy’s truncated presidency is remembered for his handling of the ongoing nuclear threat, civil rights and the space race.

Throughout JFK’s election campaign and his presidency, he faced the threat of nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union which culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cuba wanted Soviet nuclear missiles on the island to deter future invasions.

It was seen by many as a masterclass in negotiations on Kennedy’s part as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to retreat.

Some felt he didn’t go far enough in support of black rights, but Kennedy used a television address to the US people to call for the end of racism and pushed a civil rights bill to Congress.

He said: “One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds… (and) on the principle that all men are created equal.”

He was instrumental in securing funding for the Apollo space missions as the US strove to be the first country to put a man on the Moon – and beat the Soviets.

Kennedy is also remembered for his eloquent speeches. Upon assuming the presidency, he spoke the famous line: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

What’s likely to be in the files?

Kennedy’s Telstar Press Conference

Congress ruled in 1992 that all assassination documents be released within 25 years and some have already been published.

In this final release, about 3,000 new files are expected plus some 30,000 documents which have previously been shared with redactions.

It’s thought that the files will contain more details of Oswald’s trip to Mexico in the weeks before the shooting. It is already known he visited both the Soviet and Cuban embassy.

Many of those new documents were “not believed relevant” to the assassination, although may now be seen in a different light.

PA Media

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

Editors Choice

Also in World News