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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > March 2018 > Who Killed JFK?

Who Killed JFK?

Everyone ‘knows’ who shot JFK, but is the story really that simple? Nige Tassell examines the classified files released by the US late last year for clues that might identify whether anyone was pulling the strings in the shadows
Kennedy was not wellloved in Dallas, yet felt compelled to visit the city as part of a wider Texan tour to shore up Democratic support
GETTY X3, COLOURISATION BY MARINA AMARAL
Placard-waving protesters mingle with well wishers waiting for JFK’s motorcade
GETTY X3, REX/SHUTTERSTOCK X1

It is history’s ultimate murder mystery, one that – nearly 55 years on – has never been satisfactorily solved. At 11.38am local time, on 22 November 1963, Air Force One landed at Love Field in Dallas. On board was US President John F Kennedy, visiting the Texan city in an attempt to boost his popularity in the state ahead of the presidential election the following year. Less than an hour later, a bullet had shattered both skull and brain. But the identity of who actually fired the fatal shot – and their motivation for doing so – has been the subject of deep conjecture and study ever since.

During 2017, more than 30,000 government documents concerning the assassination were released into the public realm, either in full or redacted form. While they added more detail to the debate and filled in a few blanks, they didn’t join the dots to present an indisputable explanation. The case is still not closed, the fog surrounding the tragedy still thick. But while the perpetrator and their cause continue to be speculated upon, the raw events of that fateful November day are burned onto the collective retinas of a nation.

The president was in Texas for political reasons. In-fighting within the state Democrat Party found Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B Johnson adopting a united front to stymie this bleeding wound, caused by a conflict between two key Texan Democrats

Governor John Connally and Senator Ralph Yarborough. The Democrats’ hold on Texas was flimsy and fragile. Kennedy, despite having the Texan Johnson as his running mate, had taken the state by fewer than 50,000 votes in the 1960 presidential election. “If the governor and the senator didn’t agree to a truce soon,” observed William Manchester, author of the seminal the Death Of A President, “the national ticket wouldn’t stand a chance there next fall. No party writes off 25 electoral votes, so both Kennedy and Johnson were going down to patch things up. They had to make a major production of the trip.” In the end, it became a major production of an assassination.

All smiles earlier in the day, Kennedy leaves a theatre in Fort Worth

“KENNEDY’S POPULARITY IN THE CITY WAS EXCEEDINGLY LOW”

Anti-Kennedy leaflets were distributed around Dallas ahead of the president’s visit
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About History Revealed

In this month’s issue… Who killed JFK? We know Lee Harvey Oswald pulled a trigger, but was he a lone gunman or part of a larger conspiracy? Plus: Elizabeth’s I love rival; the Irish Potato Famine; Picasso’s most prolific year; the medieval knight who’s travels made him more famous than Marco Polo; the Top 10 art controversies and the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.