Echo of Dallas

Boris Izakov
New Times No. 51, 21 December 1966, pp. 29–31.

    It was a strange anniversary. The mayor of Dallas laid a large bouquet on behalf of the city at the plaque marking the scene of the assassination of America’s thirty-fifth president, there were memorial services in the churches, and at Arlington Cemetery people streamed from morning till night to John Kennedy’s grave. But the same day France Presse reported from Washington: “The controversy in American public opinion over the Warren Commission’s findings has reached such a pitch as to overshadow the commemorative ceremonies on the third anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination.”
    The official Commission under Chief Justice Earl Warren which conducted a lengthy inquiry into the assassination and issued a 26-volume report is under heavy fire.
    A new inquiry is demanded by very influential persons: Governor John Connally of Texas, who on that November 22 was riding in the same car with the President and was severely wounded by one of the shots; Senator Russell B. Long, deputy Democratic majority Leader in the Senate; Prof. Arthur Schlesinger, formerly adviser to Kennedy, and others. They have unexpectedly been joined by Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade, who has stated that the Warren Commission left many questions unanswered. Life magazine declared in connection with the anniversary that in the national interest a new commission, possibly Congressional, ought to be appointed to go into the whole case again, and in particular to examine all the evidence dismissed by the Warren Commission.
    The Warren report at first met with ready acceptance, largely thanks to the press (the Administration made a big sum available for press coverage of the report). But then people started wondering and questioning. A number of studies appeared which challenged the official version: there were the books by Mark Lane, Joachim Joesten, Thomas Buchanan, Harold Weisberg, Leo Sauvage, Sylvan Fox, Edward Epstein. According to France Presse, in the past six months there have been 34 books and articles (apparently of the magazine type) which criticize the Warren report.
    More and more evidence has been coming to light. Also, people have had a chance to look at the events with the truer eye of distance. And the conviction has been growing that the Warren Commission was not objective and President Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy.
    Three years after the assassination and two years after the Warren report, posters in bookshop windows ask, “Who Killed Kennedy?”
    The question is being asked not only in America., In Paris and London, a documentary is being privately shown which challenges the Warren Commission’s conclusions. A 45-minute documentary on the same subject has been televised in Hungary. In Brussels the public are flocking to a play called “Dallas, 22 November 1963, 12:27 p.m.,” which traces the assassination to a conspiracy of the Right-wing lunatic fringe. Several very detailed studies demonstrate that the Warren report is full of contradictions and is in effect an attempt to confirm the theory produced immediately after the assassination by the Dallas police and the FBI. That theory pins the deed on a lone maniac killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, who in turn was killed at Dallas police headquarters by Jack Ruby. The authors of the studies show that the evidence was made to fit into this pattern and facts which would not fit into it were set aside.
    According to the official theory Oswald, who is know to have been a poor shot, brought off the feat of two hits out of three shots at a moving target from a sixth-storey window in the record time of 4.8 to 7 seconds, hitting Kennedy twice and Connally once. Since a film taken by a bystander during the assassination, Abraham Zapruder, established that Oswald did not have enough time to hit the two men with separate shots, the Commission declared that the first bullet had struck both the President and the Governor. This bullet, fitting Oswald’s rifle, was supposedly found on Connally’s stretcher after the stretcher had been standing for some time in the hospital corridor. The bullet was all but unmarked. All of which was very strange, but the author of this “single-bullet theory” which enabled the Commission to make some sort of case flourished and became District Attorney of one of America’s major cities.
    Early the October the Washington Post published the results of a Harris poll on the Kennedy assassination. According to these, more than half the American public feel that the Warren Commission left “a lot of unanswered questions about who killed President Kennedy.” Three in five reject the lone killer version and are inclined to believe that there was a big conspiracy.
    Significantly, among the eager defenders of the Warren Commission’s findings are former CIA Director Allen Dulles and FBI chief Edgar Hoover. Dulles was a member of the Warren Commission, and apparently one with a big say, while Hoover supplied it with a ready-made version and a stack of evidence. Their defence of it is not likely to have surprised anyone, nor is it likely to drown out the demands to have the case reopened.
    Warren himself invited doubt when he announced that reasons of “national security” made it incumbent to withhold some of the evidence. Who decides about reasons of “national security”? Why, the CIA, the FBI, and the other secret services. Now, in the Kennedy assassination inquiry all these services were interested parties, if only because they are responsible in one or another degree for the life of the President. The maniac killer version absolved them from some of the responsibility: who can foresee what some maniac is going to do?
    That version has not been knocked on the head by the statements made to Life magazine by Governor Connally.
    Connally said from the first that he was not wounded simultaneously with the President but a few moments later. And indeed Zapruder’s film shows that the interval between the first signs of Kennedy being hit and the first signs of Connally being hit may have been as long as 1.8 seconds (but no longer). This does not square with the “single-bullet theory” on which the official version hinges. But neither was Connally wounded by a new Oswald shot, for Oswald could not have fired his rifle again in less than 2.3 seconds. The Warren Commission got out of the situation, with some difficulty, by declaring that Connally had experienced a “delayed reaction.”
    For three years the Texas Governor was silent, evidently not caring to dispute with the Commission. But then Life got him to examine enlargements of 168 consecutive frames from Zapruder’s film, covering the whole shooting episode. Connally studied them with a magnifying glass, recollected every detail, and now said:
    “I know every single second of what happened in that car until I lost consciousness. I recall I heard that first shot and turned to my right to see what had happened. {[Then] I started to look around over my left shoulder, and somewhere in that revolution I was hit. My recollection of that time gap, the distinct separation between the shot that hit the President and the impact of the one that hit me, is as clear today as it was then.” After saying that he had not read the Warren report and refused to join the dispute over it, Connally added:
    “I don’t want to discuss any other facets of the controversy except my wounds as related to the first shot that hit the President. They talk about the one-bullet or the two-bullet theory, but as far as I am concerned there is no ‘theory.’ There is my absolute knowledge, and Nellie’s [Mrs. Connally] too, that one bullet caused the President’s first wound, and that an entirely separate shot struck me. It’s a certainty; I’ll never change my mind.”
    What remains after this of the story constructed by the police and the Warren Commission? The cornerstone of the wholly shaky structure is gone. If the President and the Governor were hit by different shots, then more than one man was doing the shooting and a conspiracy is proved.
    Governor Connally may have been doing a rather dangerous thing in coming out with these statements. For people connected in one or another way with the Dallas mystery have had a curious way of vanishing from the scene. On the third anniversary of the assassination UPI recorded sixteen such deaths, and gave details about most of them.
    First of all, there is the high mortality rate among newspaper people who “know too much.” Reporters Kinley (Jim) Koethe of the Dallas Times-Herald and Bill Hunter of California went after Oswald’s murder to Ruby’s place and there made a discovery of some importance. Koethe was strangled in his home—“with intent to rob,” the police said, but the notes he had made disappeared. Hunter was “accidentally” shot by a policeman supposed to have been practicing a quiet draw.
    The well-known New York columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, who alone had been allowed to interview Ruby in jail, died of an overdose of sleeping tablets. She had written that the events in Dallas made Americans feel “bitter ashamed and a little afraid.”
    If the average mortality in the U.S. newspaper profession were as high, America would soon be left without any hews papers. Striptease might also disappear if all its exponents departed the scene with the speed of those who performed in Ruby’s Carousel Club . One of these, Nancy Mooney, hanged herself in prison, where she landed after a brawl. Another, Karen Carlin, who seems to have been the last person Ruby spoke to before shooting Oswald, was killed in mysterious circumstances. Hank Killam, husband of one of the Carousel waitresses, was knifed to death.
    Two witnesses whose names figure repeatedly in the Warren report—taxi-driver William Whaley and railway employee Lee Bowers—were killed in automobile accidents. Tom Howard, Ruby’s first lawyer, and Earlene Roberts, who ran the boarding-house where Oswald lived, died of heart attacks. And so the list goes on.
    Ruby in his prison cell seemed until recently to be pretty safe. His case has been shunted around for three years and the Texas Court of Appeal has ordered a retrial. But now we hear that Ruby is a very sick man, he is supposed to have a diagnosis of cancer, and it looks as if soon the man who silenced Oswald will himself be silenced for all time.
    Meanwhile the ultras still do what they like in Dallas. A while ago they staged the same kind of hooligan reception for America’s U.N. delegate Arthur Goldberg as for predecessor Adlai Stevenson in his day. Three members of the American Nazi Party were detained on that occasion and ordered to pay small fines.
    Dallas remains Dallas, but the echoes of the Kennedy assassination continue to reverberate.

Back to New Times
Back to Pre-WCR Reactions
Back to WC Period