PSC404, Spring 2001
Answers to Assignment 2
OVERVIEW; THE DEE
Warren Commission Report Foreword (ix–xv), Chapter I (1–27), and Chapter II (pp. 28–60).
1. Give at least three reasons why President Lyndon B. Johnson formed the Warren Commission. Why did he ask Chief Justice Warren to head it? Find and report all facts, avoid multiple parallel investigations, place broadest possible public mandate/acceptance on Report, no more possibility of regular trial for LHO, settle rumors of conspiracy, help LBJ get reelected
2. Which federal agency provided the most information to the Commission? What types of information? The FBI. Interviews and a full report.
3. What were the professions of the commissioners and the staff of the Warren Commission? How might this distribution of professions have influenced the orientation or the conduct of the Commission’s work? Lawyers (30), historians (2), and financial (2). The preponderance of lawyers made the Commission think and operate like a legal undertaking, even though strictly speaking it wasn’t.
4. Briefly recap Lee Harvey Oswald’s movements after the shooting. Do these movements point toward his guilt, toward his innocence, or toward neither? See pp. 5–8 of Report. They point toward his guilt but certainly do not prove it.
5. Summarize the major conclusions of the Warren Commission and the types of evidence it used to reach each of them. (1) LHO killed JFK and wounded Connally by firing from the sixth floor of the Depository [mostly physical evidence; supplemented by testimony of several witnesses on the ground]; (2) weight of evidence indicates that he fired three shots, one of which passed through the bodies of both men [more physical than testimonial]; (3) the single-bullet theory [mostly physical evidenced]; (4) LHO killed Officer Tippit, then resisted arrest in the Texas Theatre [mostly physical evidence]; (5) Oswald treated fairly by the Dallas Police [testimony of police]; (6) Ruby killed LHO, in part because of laxity by the DPD [mostly testimonial evidence]; (7) no evidence for conspiracy in any of the three killings, but conspiracy cannot be ruled out [lack of evidence is neither testimonial nor physical]; (8) Presidential protection needs to be tightened [testimonial plus physical].
6. Describe the presidential motorcade’s route through Dealey Plaza and why a dog-leg onto Elm Street was needed. From Main, turned right onto Houston, then sharp left onto Elm. After underpass, right onto Stemmons Freeway. Elm had to be used because access to Freeway from Main was blocked by concrete barrier. What was the motorcade’s next stop to be? Dallas Trade Mart for luncheon.
7. Give the dates when: (a) the trip to Texas was decided [5 Jun 63]; (b) the trip was first publicized in the Dallas area [13 Sep]; (c) the Secret Service was notified of the trip [4 Nov]; and (d) the full route of the motorcade was first announced in the Dallas papers [19 Nov]. Compare these dates with the dates when: (a) Lee Harvey Oswald first heard of the job available in the Texas School Book Depository [14 Oct 63]; (b) he interviewed for the job [15 Oct]; and (c) he started to work there [16 Oct]. What is the point of this question? Because he took the job five weeks before the route was announced, it is hard to believe that it was part of a conspiracy or even an individual plan to kill JFK.
8. Compare how the various occupants of the presidential car recalled the sequence of major events at the moment of the assassination (shots, hits, and reactions of passengers). Were there any significant differences? Do the same for the Secret Service agents. See the two tables in JFK/History/The deed, SS Agents and occupants of the presidential car. There were differences in the number of shots, the sequence of events, and whether JFK cried out. The SS agents reported fewer differences than did the bystanders, mostly in number and timing of shots.
9. Who conducted the autopsy of JFK? Where? Why there? What were its major findings? Drs. Humes, Boswell, and Finck, pathologists from Bethesda Naval Hospital and Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Main results: (1) Kennedy’s head had a small wound of entrance (6 x 15 mm) in the rear, about 1 inch to the right of the EOP and slightly above it, and a larger wound (13 cm in greatest diameter—see question 10) on the right upper side; (2) a line of 30—40 tiny metallic fragments ran from the back wound to the front of the head; (3) there was an entrance wound in the rear base of the neck that connected to an obscured exit wound at the base of the throat. Kennedy died from the head shot, but may not have survived the body shot.
10. Describe the president’s large head wound as reported by the autopsy doctors. How would you summarize in nonmedical terms where the wound was? Large, irregular defect (missing scalp and skull) on the right, involving chiefly the parietal bone but extending somewhat into the temporal and occipital regions. The defect is 13 cm at its greatest diameter. Wound in middle of right side of head, somewhat rear of center.
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