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The Report of the Warren Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy

[1] On November 29, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson, by Executive Order No. 11130, created a commission whose sole purpose was to investigate the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, the simultaneous wounding of Texas Governor John B. Connally, Jr., and the murder of Patrolman J.D. Tippit of the Dallas Police Department. These shocking events took place on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Less than 48 hours after his arrest, Lee Harvey Oswald, who had been formally charged with the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of Patrolman Tippit, was fatally shot in the basement of the Dallas Police Department by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. Since it was no longer possible to arrive at the complete story of the assassination by normal judicial procedures, the Commission’s task was to evaluate all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the assassination and the subsequent killing of the alleged assassin and report its findings and conclusions to President Johnson. The Commission was chaired by Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States. Other members included Senator Richard B. Russell, Senator John Sherman Cooper, Representative Hale Boggs, Representative Gerald R. Ford, former CIA director Allen W. Dulles, and John J. McCloy. After a thorough private investigation, which included the sworn testimony of 552 principal witnesses to the assassination, the Commission submitted its final report to the President on September 24, 1964.

[2] President John F. Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy, and their party arrived at Love Field in Dallas at approximately 11:40 AM (Central Standard Time) on November 22, 1963. The trip was planned five months in advance by the President, Vice President Johnson, and Governor Connally. After leaving the White House on Thursday, November 21, the President flew to San Antonio where he dedicated new research facilities at the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. Following a dinner in Houston for US Representative Albert Thomas, the President flew to Fort Worth, where he spent the night at the Texas Hotel. On the morning of November 22, President Kennedy attended a breakfast at the hotel and afterward addressed a crowd at an open parking lot. Planned for later that day were a motorcade through downtown Dallas, a luncheon speech at the Trade Mart, and a flight to Austin where the President would speak at a Democratic fundraiser. The trip would conclude with a visit to the Texas Ranch of the Vice President.

[3] The Dallas motorcade was designed to evoke a demonstration of the President’s popularity in a city that he had lost in the 1960 election. The motorcade route, which was chosen because it afforded the greatest number of people the opportunity to see the President, was published in the local newspapers on November 19. The motorcade would leave Main Street, passing the intersection of Elm and Houston Streets, as it proceeded to the Trade Mart by way of the Stemmons Freeway. By mid-morning the skies had cleared, and it was no longer necessary for the Presidential limousine to use the “bubbletop,” which was a plastic shield used at the time to protect against inclement weather only (the shield was not bulletproof). The President sat in the rear right seat of the limousine. To his left was Mrs. Kennedy. In the “jump seats,” which were two collapsible seats between the front and rear seats, sat Governor Connally on the right and Mrs. Connally on the left. Special Agent William R. Greer of the Secret Service drove, and Special Agent Roy H. Kellerman sat to his right. Behind the Presidential limousine was an open follow-up car containing eight Secret Service agents – two in the front, two in the rear, and two on each running board. It was the job of these agents to scan the crowds, roofs, building windows, overpasses, and crossings for any sign of trouble. Behind this car was the Vice Presidential car, which carried Vice President and Mrs. Johnson, Senator Ralph W. Yarborough, and two additional agents. Trailing the Vice Presidential car was another follow-up car and the remainder of the motorcade was made up of several cars and buses for additional dignitaries and press representatives.

[4] The motorcade left Love Field at approximately 11:50 AM. Before reaching downtown Dallas, it stopped twice in residential neighborhoods at President Kennedy’s request to greet on-lookers. When the motorcade approached Main Street, the welcome became chaotic. At the west end of Main Street the motorcade turned right on Houston Street. It proceeded one block north before making a left onto Elm Street. This route was the most direct and convenient approach to the Stemmons Freeway and the Trade Mart. On the northwest corner of the Houston-Elm intersection was a seven-story warehouse and office building, the Texas School Book Depository. On Elm Street, the Presidential limousine proceeded at about 11 miles per hour down the gradual descent toward a railroad overpass under which the motorcade would proceed before reaching the Stemmons Freeway. The front of the Texas School Book Depository was on the President’s right. Dealey Plaza, an open area marking the western end of downtown Dallas, was on the President’s left. An agent riding in the Vice Presidential car noted that the clock atop the Texas School Book Depository indicated it was 12:30 PM. The President was about five minutes from his destination.

[5] A few seconds after the Presidential limousine turned left onto Elm Street, gunshots were fired in rapid succession. President Kennedy grabbed at his neck with both hands. He lurched slightly forward and to the left. A bullet had entered the base of the back of his neck, slightly to the right of his spine. It traveled downward and exited from the front of his neck, which nicked the lower portion of the knot in his necktie. Governor Connally, who had been facing toward the crowd on the right, started to turn back to his left when he felt a blow to his back. A bullet had entered the extreme right side of his back, below his right armpit. It travelled down and forward through his chest, exited below his right nipple, passed through his right wrist which had been in his lap, finally causing a wound in his left thigh. The force of the bullet’s impact caused the Governor to spin to his right, at which point Mrs. Connally pulled him down into her lap. Another bullet struck President Kennedy in the rear portion of his head, tearing open his skull on impact and spraying brain tissue all over the interior of the limousine. This last shot proved to be fatal.

[6] Upon noticing the President lurch forward in his seat, Agent Clinton J. Hill, who had been riding on the left running board of the follow-up car, jumped off the running board and sprinted towards the Presidential limousine. In the Vice Presidential car, Agent Youngblood moved from the front seat to the rear seat and sat on Vice President Johnson in order to protect him. At the same time, Agent Kellerman in the Presidential limousine turned around in the front seat to observe the President. Seeing that he had been hit, he instructed Agent Greer, the driver of the car, to proceed immediately to the hospital. As the car gained speed, Agent Hill was able to pull himself onto the back of the car where Mrs. Kennedy had climbed. He managed to push her back into the rear seat as the car raced toward Parkland Memorial Hospital, which was about four miles away. Had Agent Hill not done this, Mrs. Kennedy would have almost certainly fallen off the vehicle. Mrs. Kennedy later testified that she had no recollection of climbing onto the back of the car.

[7] At Parkland, the President was treated by doctors who had been alerted to the President’s arrival by the Dallas Police Department. They noted irregular breathing movements and a possible heartbeat, though they could not detect a pulse beat. They observed the extensive wound in the President’s head and a small wound in the lower portion of his neck. In an effort to facilitate breathing, the doctors enlarged the throat wound and performed a tracheotomy by inserting a tube into said wound. Completely absorbed in the task of attempting to save the President’s life, the team of doctors never turned the president over for an examination of his back. Despite their best efforts, all heart activities ceased. After his Last Rites were administered by a priest, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 PM. Governor Connally, who underwent extensive surgery, ultimately recovered from his wounds.

[8] Vice President Johnson left Parkland Hospital for the Presidential Plane at Love Field. Mrs. Kennedy, accompanying her husband’s body, arrived shortly thereafter. At 2:38 PM, in the central compartment of the plane, Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States by Federal District Court Judge Sarah T. Hughes. The plane then left for Washington and arrived at Andrews Air Force Base at 5:58 PM (Eastern Standard Time). The body of the President was taken to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, where it was given a complete pathological examination. The large head wound and the wound in the front of the neck which had been enlarged by Parkland doctors were described in the autopsy report as being “presumably of exit.” The autopsy also revealed a small wound of entry in the rear of the President’s skull and another entry wound near the base of the back of the neck. The cause of death as stated in the report was “Gunshot wound, head.” The bullets which struck the President were described as having been fired “from a point behind and somewhat above the level of the deceased.”

[9] There was a great deal of confusion immediately following the shooting as to where the shots were fired from. Several witnesses differed in their accounts of the direction from which the sound came from. Attention was soon focused on the Texas School Book Depository. The building was occupied by a private corporation, the Texas School Book Depository Co., which not only distributed textbooks but also leased space to the representatives of the publishing companies. Most of the employees in the building worked for these publishers. The remainder, including a 15-man warehouse crew, were employees of the Texas School Book Depository Co. itself. There were several eyewitness accounts that reported seeing a rifle being fired from the southeast corner window on the sixth floor of the depository building. One man in particular, Howard L. Brennan, told police that he had seen a slender man of about 5’10” take deliberate aim from the sixth-floor corner window and fire a rifle in the direction of the President’s car. Brennan thought he might even be able to identify the man, since he had noticed him in the window a few minutes before the motorcade made the turn onto Elm Street. As a result of Brennan’s observations, the police radio broadcast a description of the suspected assassin.

[10] Patrolman Marrion L. Baker of the Dallas Police Department was about 200 feet south of Elm Street when he heard the first shot. He looked up and saw pigeons scattering from their perches on the Texas School Book Depository. Upon entering the building, he encountered Roy Truly, the building superintendant, who offered to help Baker with his investigation. They ran towards the two elevators in the rear of the building. Upon noticing that both elevators were on an upper floor, they decided to use the stairway. Not more than two minutes had elapsed since the time of the shooting. When they reached the second floor landing on their way up to the top of the building, Patrolman Baker caught a glimpse of someone through the small glass window separating the hall area from the vestibule in front of the lunchroom. Baker stopped the man and asked him to turn around and slowly approach. Truly, who had started up the stairs to the third floor ahead of Baker, had returned at this point. Baker asked Truly whether he knew the man in front of them, and Truly replied that the man worked in the building. Both Baker and Truly continued on their way up the stairs. The man they had encountered in front of the lunchroom was Lee Harvey Oswald, who had started working in the Texas School Book Depository Building on October 16, 1963.

[11] After his encounter with Baker and Truly, Oswald was seen passing through the second-floor offices with a full bottle of Coke in his hands which he had purchased from the vending machines in the lunchroom. He was headed for the front of the building where a passenger elevator and a short flight of stairs provided access to the building’s main entrance. At about 12:40 PM Oswald boarded a bus on Elm Street, seven blocks east of the Depository Building. The bus was headed west back toward the Depository Building and then on to the Oak Cliff section in southwest Dallas, where it would pass seven blocks to the east of the boardinghouse where Oswald was living (1026 North Beckley Avenue). One of the other passengers on the bus was Oswald’s former landlady, Mary Bledsoe, who recognized him immediately. Oswald only stayed on the bus for 3 or 4 minutes, before the slow moving traffic caused by the motorcade and the assassination prompted him to exit the bus. He then entered a taxicab four blocks away and asked the driver to take him to a point on North Beckley Avenue that was several blocks beyond his boardinghouse. He entered the boardinghouse at about 1:00 PM. The housekeeper, Earlene Roberts, was surprised to see Oswald at midday, remarking to him that he seemed to be in quite a hurry. A few minutes later he emerged from his room zipping up his jacket and moved briskly out of the house.

[12] About 14 minutes later, and only 45 minutes after the assassination, Patrolman J.D. Tippit of the Dallas Police Department was shot and killed near the intersection of 10th Street and Patton Avenue, about nine-tenths of a mile from Oswald’s boardinghouse. He had been ordered by radio at 12:45 PM to proceed to the central Oak Cliff area as part of a concentration of patrol car activity around the center of the city following the assassination. Tippit was in position at 12:54 PM. At this time, the police radio had broadcast several messages alerting the police to the suspect described by Brennan at the scene of the assassination – a white male, 5’10”, about 30 years old, weighing approximately 165 pounds. At 1:15 PM, Tippit was driving east on 10th Street in Oak Cliff. He pulled up alongside a man walking in the same direction about 100 feet past the intersection of 10th Street and Patton Avenue. This particular man met the description of the suspect wanted in connection with the Kennedy assassination. The man exchanged words with Tippit through the right window of the vehicle. Tippit opened the door on the left side and started to walk around the front of his car. As he came around the car, the man on the sidewalk drew a revolver and began to open fire, hitting Tippit four times and killing him instantly. As the gunman left the scene, he walked hurriedly back towards Patton Avenue and turned left, heading south. Two witnesses inside the corner house on Patton Avenue heard the shots and saw the gunman cut across the lawn, shaking his revolver and emptying the cartridges onto the grass. He then crossed to the west side of Patton Avenue and ran south toward Jefferson Boulevard. After passing a used car salesman named Ted Callaway who asked him what was going on, the gunman ran on to Jefferson Boulevard and turned right. On the next corner was a gas station with a parking lot in the rear. The assailant entered the lot, threw his jacket away, and then continued west on Jefferson. Two people had witnessed the shooting with their own eyes, while four others heard the shots and saw the gunman flee with the revolver in his hands.

[13] The assailant stopped at a shoe store a few blocks farther west on Jefferson. He stepped quickly into the entranceway with his back to the street, and stood there until a police car made a U-turn and headed back in the direction of the Tippit shooting. Johnny Calvin Brewer, the manager of the shoe store, followed the man when he left. He saw the man enter the Texas Theatre without buying a ticket. Brewer relayed this information to the store’s cashier, who promptly called the police. Within minutes the police had the theatre completely surrounded. The house lights were turned on. Patrolman McDonald, along with several other policemen, approached the man that Brewer pointed out to them. McDonald ordered the man to his feet, at which point he heard the man say, “Well, it’s all over now.” The man drew a gun from his waist with one hand and struck McDonald with the other. McDonald reached for the man’s gun. A brief struggle ensued, but the officers were able to subdue and disarm the suspect. They then took him to police headquarters, arriving around 2:00 PM.

[14] Back at the scene of the crime, Captain J. Will Fritz, chief of the homicide and robbery bureau of the Dallas Police Department, arrived to take charge of the investigation at the Texas School Book Depository Building shortly before 1:00 PM. Searching the sixth floor, Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney noticed a pile of cartons in the southeast corner. He squeezed past these boxes and realized immediately that he had discovered the point from which the shots had been fired. Three empty cartridge cases were found on the floor. A carton had also been placed on the floor at the side of the window so that a person sitting on the carton could look down Elm Street toward the overpass and scarcely be noticed from the outside. Between this carton and the half-opened window were three other cartons arranged in such a manner that a rifle resting on the top carton would be aimed directly at the motorcade as it moved away from the building. The high stack of boxes, which first caught Mooney’s attention, screened a person at the window from the view of anyone else on the floor. The search of the sixth floor intensified at this point. About ten minutes after the cartridge cases were found, Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone discovered a bolt-action rifle with a telescopic sight stuffed in between two rows of boxes in the northwest corner near the staircase. It was decided that both the wooden stock and the metal knob at the end of the bolt contained no prints. Captain Fritz then ejected a live shell by operating the bolt. Stamped on the rifle itself was the serial number “C2766,” as well as the markings “1940,” “MADE ITALY,” and “CAL. 6.5.” The rifle was about 40 inches long and when disassembled it could fit into a handmade paper sack, which was subsequently found in the southeast corner of the building within a few feet of the cartridge cases.

[15] Captain Fritz began questioning Oswald at about 3:00PM on the third floor of the police department. Agents from the FBI and US Secret Service soon arrived and participated in the questioning. Oswald staunchly denied having anything to do with the assassination of President Kennedy or the murder of Patrolman Tippit. He told interrogators that he was eating lunch at the time of the assassination, and that he then spoke to his foreman for five to ten minutes before going home. He denied that he owned a rifle. When confronted with a picture of him holding a rifle and a pistol, he claimed that his face had been superimposed on someone else’s body. He also refused to answer any questions pertaining to the selective service card found in his wallet with his picture and the name “Alek J. Hidell” on it. No formal record was ever taken of any Oswald interrogation. More than 100 representatives of the press, radio, and television were crowded into the hallway through which Oswald had to pass to get from his cell to the interrogation room. Between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning he appeared in the hallway no less than 16 times. Reporters attempted to interview Oswald during these trips. The scene on the third floor was extremely chaotic and made police questioning all the more difficult. With regards to an attorney, Oswald made several calls in an attempt to procure representation of his own choice. He was offered help by the president of the local bar association, but Oswald declined his offer to obtain counsel. As of Sunday morning, Oswald had yet to procure an attorney.

[16] At 7:10 PM on November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was formally charged with the murder of Patrolman J.D. Tippit. Several witnesses who had seen both the shooting and the flight of the assailant were able to identify him in a police lineup. The revolver that Oswald had in his possession at the time of his arrest was of a type which could have fired the shots that killed Tippit. At the time, however, positive firearm identification evidence was not available. Shortly after 1:30 AM on November 23, Oswald was formally charged with the assassination of President Kennedy. The FBI was able to trace the rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository to a mail order house in Chicago which had purchased it from a distributor in New York. The Chicago firm told the FBI that the rifle had been ordered in March of 1963 by an A. Hidel for shipment to post office box 2915 in Dallas. This box was rented by Oswald. Payment for the rifle was remitted by a money order signed by A Hidell. As a result of handwriting analysis of the documents used to purchase the rifle, the FBI was able to conclude that the rifle had been ordered by Lee Harvey Oswald.

[17] Arrangements were made to transfer Oswald from the city jail to the Dallas County Jail about one mile away. The media was informed on Saturday night that the transfer would not take place until after 10:00 AM on Sunday morning. Earlier on Sunday, between 2:30 and 3:00 AM, several anonymous phone calls were received by the Dallas office of the FBI threatening Oswald’s life. Despite these warnings, television, radio, and newspaper representatives crowded into the basement of the Dallas Police Department on Sunday morning to record the transfer. At approximately 11:20 AM, Oswald emerged from the basement jail office accompanied by detectives on both sides and two his rear. He took a few steps towards the unmarked police car that would take him to the county jail. A man suddenly darted out from an area to the right of the television cameras. He carried a .38 revolver in his right hand. While millions watched on television, he moved briskly in front of Oswald and fired one shot into Oswald’s abdomen. Oswald fell to the ground and quickly lost consciousness. He was quickly taken to Parkland Hospital. He never regained consciousness, however, and was pronounced dead at 1:07 PM. The man who killed Oswald was Jack Ruby. He denied that killing Oswald was connected with a conspiracy involving the assassination of President Kennedy.

[18] Based on the contents of its investigation, the Warren Commission decided that the shots which killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired from the sixth floor window at the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository. The evidence suggests that three shots were fired. Experts indicate that the same bullet which pierced the President’s throat also caused Governor Connally’s wounds. However, Governor Connally’s testimony and certain other factors have given rise to some difference of opinion as to this probability, yet there is no question that all three shots which caused the wounds were fired from the sixth floor window by Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald lied to police after his arrest concerning important substantive matters. He had attempted to kill Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker on April 10, 1963, thereby demonstrating his disposition to take human life. The Commission was unable to find any evidence that supported the rumor that Jack Ruby may have been assisted by members of the Dallas Police Department in the killing of Oswald. However, it did find their decision to transfer Oswald to the county jail in full public view to be unsound. The arrangements that were made were inadequate, especially when considering that the news media and others were not excluded from the basement even after the police received threats against Oswald’s life. The Commission was unable to find any evidence that either Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby was part of any conspiracy, domestic or foreign, to assassinate President Kennedy. They do not believe that anyone assisted Oswald in planning or carrying out the assassination. They found no evidence that Oswald was involved with any person or group in a conspiracy to assassinate the President. Furthermore, they did not find anything to support the speculation that Oswald was an agent, employee, or informant of the FBI, the CIA, or any other governmental agency. No direct or indirect relationship between Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby was discovered, nor were they able to find any credible evidence that the two even knew each other. Finally, the Commission recommended that the duties and practices of the US Secret Service be reconsidered so as to better facilitate protection for future presidents.

Print Resources

Belin, David W. Final Disclosure: The Full Truth about the Assassination of President Kennedy. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988.
Belin's book is interesting in that it offers a competing view to most of the information relayed in JFK regarding the question of conspiracy. As opposed to the material Stone used to write the film, Belin is a firm believer in the findings of the Warren Commission. This is most likely because of the fact that he was selected by chief justice Earl Warren as counsel to the Warren Commission investigating the assassination. This led to his appointment in 1975 by President Gerald Ford as executive director of the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States, known as the Rockefeller Commission. In his book, he is chiefly concerned with countering what he calls "the assassination scam," which he believes to be perpetrated on the American people by various conspiracy theorists. He will often quote parts of other people's books so as to point out their flaws by using the various testimonies collected by him and others on the Warren Commission. He starts, as all books about the Kennedy Assassination do, by relaying the sequence of events that took place in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Once he does that, he immediately goes on the defensive, protecting some of the crucial parts of the Warren report that people find to be misleading. He is especially adamant about the fact that Oswald killed Dallas patrolman J.D. Tippit and that this action was what led police to arrest him inside the Dallas Theater. He refutes at great length the many claims that have been made regarding the theory that Oswald did not kill Tippit, therefore implying the police had some inside information that the man who was to take the fall for Kennedy's death would be him. He does, however, point out some of the flaws within the Warren Report, especially with regards to the lack of any autopsy photographs or X-rays used as physical evidence so as to respect the Kennedy family's wishes. The rest of Belin's book extends beyond the Kennedy assassination itself and focuses on recurring problems within the CIA. He focuses on such occurrences as the Iran-Contra Affair of 1987 and the questionable acts of Robert Kennedy after his brother's death. He draws parallels between the activities of the Kennedy administration and the CIA of the 1960s and the actions of Henry Kissinger as President Nixon's security advisor and the CIA in the 1970s. This is a good book for anyone interested in what the Warren Commission has to say for itself, as well as relevant information about the CIA and how they have been deceiving people since the assassination of JFK.
Brener, Milton E. The Garrison Case: A Study in the Abuse of Power. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. Publisher, 1969.
Brener worked for a short time in New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's office. He claims he got to know the man quite well. In his book, he recalls Garrison in a flattering light at first. He describes Garrison as being physically impressive. A rather tall man at six feet, six inches, he was well built and handsome. He wasn't a man without fault, but his faults were not what stuck out most about him. "But these faults, if such they were, seemed relatively insignificant. More prominent were his obvious ability, an easy manner, and a sharp and spontaneous humor. His mind was quick. He seemed incapable, and intolerant, of dullness or ineptitude" (3). However, the reader quickly learns that Brener is not Garrison's biggest fan. The rest of the book goes on to recount Garrison's 1969 trial of Clay Shaw, whom he accused of being involved in a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Brener describes the trial as a "travesty of justice" in which Garrison lambasted an innocent man in open court simply for the purpose of refuting the Warren report. He begins by describing Garrison's early political career to him and his staff being sworn into the New Orleans office in May of 1962. He goes on to describe in great detail Garrison's investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy, which he began after a conversation with Senator Walter Long in 1966. As he describes Garrison's probe into the national tragedy, he is quick to point out each one of its flaws. He accuses Garrison of intimidating and manipulating his witnesses. The witnesses he chooses to display in front of the court are described as less than ethical, involved in drugs and the New Orleans homosexual underworld. Brener's account of the trial is much different than we see in the film. The majority of the DA's case was not even argued by Garrison himself. He also accuses Garrison of using the Zapruder film excessively in an effort to convince the witnesses that the Warren Report cannot tell the whole truth about the Kennedy assassination. Brener continually argues that Garrison's trial wasn't about Clay Shaw at all. Finally, Brener states his conclusions, assuming that Garrison's case would be "consigned to the dung heap of history and promptly forgotten" (268). This book provides an interesting alternative look to the Garrison case by someone who wasn't on his side.
Fetzer, James H. The Great Zapruder Film Hoax. Peru: Open Court, 2003.
According to Fetzer, who has written several books on technical science, there are several different versions of the Zapruder film, which raises the question: which one is the real Zapruder film? Fetzer uses a combination of common sense and advanced film analysis technology to compare each supposed version of the actual movie. When simultaneously overlapping each of the films on top of one another, he finds that the frames are not in sync. Fetzer then carefully points out the differences in individual frames in order to strengthen his argument. This film was perhaps the strongest piece of evidence in Jim Garrison's conspiracy case against Clay Shaw, but Fetzer believes that the Zapruder film is quite deceptive.
Garrison, Jim. On the Trail of the Assassins. New York: Warner Books, 1988.
For anyone who wants to know the whole story behind JFK's unlikely hero, this is the book to read. This book provides the majority of the historical basis behind the plot of Stone's film and takes us into the world of the only man ever to successfully bring a conspirator to trial. Garrison describes himself as the underdog. His own words very closely concur with Stone's portrayal of Garrison, as the Capra-esque everyman who bites off more than he can chew. With the cards all stacked up against him and his career on the line, Garrison chose to persist in doing what no other law enforcement official had ever done. Though he was harangued in the press, denounced by the CIA, and ridiculed by the FBI, Garrison clung tight to his theories and ideals and fought his uphill battle against insurmountable odds. His book allows the reader to see the real names and faces of those who were behind this tale. It provides them with all the actual occurrences, without the theatrics and popular appeal taken into consideration by Stone when making the film. He is very concise when discussing his conclusion regarding the assassination – that members of the United States government, including Shaw, were responsible for the assassination and had carried it out in order to stop President Kennedy's efforts to break with Cold War foreign policy. He gives many examples of information that was kept secret from the general public, such as the telexed warning sent to the New Orleans office of the FBI five days before the assassination, the witnesses at Dealey Plaza who swore they heard shots fired from the grassy knoll in front of Kennedy, Oswald's negative nitrate test, the Zapruder film, Kennedy's brain disappearing from the national archives, and the pathologist in Bethesda who burned his first draft of the Kennedy autopsy report. His book is filled with extremely troubling pieces of information like these that he compiles during the course of his investigation, which he describes in detail. This book will assist a reader in clearing up any historical inaccuracies in Stone's film, as well as provide him with Garrison's own words and theories regarding the subject matter.
Marrs, Jim. Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1989.
Marrs' book is the second of the two historical sources used by Stone and co-writer Zachary Sklar when writing the script for JFK. At 625 pages, it is by far the most comprehensive study of the numerous conspiracies regarding the assassination of Kennedy. Marrs, who has been a leading conspiracy theorist for years, believes in the necessity of looking at every piece of the puzzle in order to get the whole picture. He begins his study with a rather unorthodox line: "Do not trust this book." He goes on to elaborate that, with regards to this particular assassination, you can't really trust any one source. It all depends on who you choose to believe. He describes his book as "an effort to break through the massive amounts of obfuscation regarding this topic and bring to the public a basic overview of this tragic event." The book is extremely reader-friendly. It is broken down in a manner that allows the reader to learn as much as he wants to learn. At the end of each chapter, he provides a quick summary of the key facts discussed within the chapter. So whether one wants to read the whole chapter or the last page, he can still learn something. The book is divided into four parts. As is customary with books of this nature, part one describes the scene in Dallas on November 22, 1963. However, he goes into far more detail than most other books regarding the subject. He spends a great deal of time discussing the many suspicious characters within the crowd, such as the Umbrella Man, the Babushka Lady, the man in the doorway of the Texas School Book Depository, the man who had the "distracting seizure," the Black Dog Man, the Badge Man, and the third wounded man. Part two begins with a discussion of Lee Harvey Oswald and whether or not he was the actual assassin or just a patsy. He goes into great detail about Oswald's military record, especially with regards to his time spent in Japan and Russia. He describes Oswald's relationship to the Soviet Union and to the Pro and Anti-Castro Cubans. He then moves on from Oswald to describe some of the other parties accused of being involved with the assassination – such as the mafia, elements of the CIA, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, right-wing extremist and Texas oil millionaires, and finally the Military-Industrial Complex. Part three describes the aftermath of the situation. He discusses the scene in Dallas after the shootings, the role Jack Ruby played, evidence compiled by the Dallas Police and the FBI against Oswald, evidence compiled by the Warren Commission, the Garrison investigation, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Finally, part four reveals Marrs' overall conclusions. This book is a must for anyone who wants to learn just how far the conspiracy theories extend – and just how much evidence exists suggesting that these theories could be true.
Prouty, Fletcher. Newsmaker Sunday. 19 Jan. 1992. Transcript of television show.
After Stone's JFK was released, many people started asking questions that had not been asked for years. It sparked a completely revived interest into the details of the assassination and introduced some of the flaws in the "official story" to a new generation of Americans. Almost every media outlet had its own opinion about JFK and whether or not it was historically accurate. The film also provided the media outlets with an enormous amount of new material, as networks sought out those who were actually involved in the occurrences of November 1963 to get their personal opinions on Stone's latest blockbuster hit. One such network was CNN. One of the shows broadcast on their network, Newsmaker Sunday hosted by Frank Sesno, ran a special on the film. During that special, they interviewed three people: Fletcher Prouty, Rep. Louis Stokes, and John Davis regarding their views about the film and its historical accuracy. The Prouty interview is of particular interest. Prouty was Stone's inspiration for the character of Mr. X, portrayed by Donald Sutherland. Many critics found this scene in which X reveals that the conspiracy extends all the way to the highest levels of government to be their number one example of how much Stone skewed the facts. Prouty was the former Chief of the Special Operations Division for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In his own words: "When Kennedy was elected President, I was working in the Pentagon as Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That's the other side of military operations. It is the clandestine operations of the government. By NSC directive, our work was required in order to support clandestine activities of the CIA throughout the world." Prouty goes on to describe how he was in New Zealand when Kennedy was assassinated, and the tragedy prompted him to resign from his position within weeks. He admits that he never actually met Jim Garrison in real life, as the movie depicts, but had corresponded with him through the mail. When asked if he believed the murder of John Kennedy was a coup d'etat, he responds by saying absolutely. However, when Sesno later says "but you felt the CIA, in some vast conspiracy, had murdered the president…" he suddenly becomes very uneasy, saying to Sesno "those are your words, not mine. Be careful." The interview, though short, provides insight into the character of Mr. X, and provides a clear-cut example of how people are still afraid to tell the whole truth.
Stone, Oliver, and Zachary Sklar> JFK: The Book of the Film: The Documented Screenplay. New York: Applause Books, 1992.
Screenplay with notes to Stone's sources plus a large collection of materials by Stone and journalists on the debate over the film in the popular media.
Stone, Oliver. "Who Defines History?" Cineaste 19.1 (1992): 23-24.
In his address to the National Press Club, Oliver Stone reveals some crucial historical evidence that he uses to combat his critics. He is primarily concerned with inaccuracies regarding Lee Harvey Oswald, particularly his military record. He fails to see how his critics can miss the fact that Oswald was almost certainly an operative working with the Intelligence community of the United States Military. It is thought-provoking and well-written, providing readers with further insight into the mind of Oliver Stone. He is not ashamed to voice his opinion and let everyone know that he wears his politics on his sleeve. This speech sums up Stone's response to his critics and defense of his work and is probably the best single example of Stone's defense of his work.
United States. Warren Commission. Report of the Warren Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1964.
Another must for anyone studying the assassination of JFK. This is the government's official report, compiled by Chief Justice Earl Warren and his staff and fully endorsed by President Lyndon Johnson. The government put its stamp on this document and told the American people that this was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In the years since it was released, there have been countless numbers of people who have doubted the credibility of this report. Nevertheless, one cannot begin to think about the Kennedy assassination without knowing the official conclusions of the Warren Commission. The essay above goes into further detail about the Commission's findings, but they basically boil down to one thing – Lee Harvey Oswald killed John Kennedy, and he did it alone. He fired three bullets from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, and those three bullets were the only bullets fired at the motorcade. They also maintain that one bullet caused seven different wounds between two different people. Finally, the Commission, with its entire investigatory prowess, could find no evidence of a conspiracy whatsoever. This edition of the report begins with various newspaper articles released at the time of the assassination. Then begins the official report, with a forward from the author followed by a narrative summary of the events and the Commission's conclusions based on the summary. After this somewhat brief summary comes a lengthy and detailed elaboration of the facts. They discuss the assassination itself, Oswald's arrest, the possibility of a conspiracy, Oswald's background, standard Secret Service procedures for protecting the president, a list of witnesses, expert testimony, an analysis of Oswald's finances, and, finally, information regarding Jack Ruby. Whether or not you trust the evidence of the Warren Commission, it is still a crucial document with regards to this moment in history, even if just for its flaws.
Weiner, Tim. "A Blast at Secrecy in Kennedy Killing." New York Times 29 September 1998.
Marks the final report of the Assassination Records Review Board, formed as a result of Stone's film. The Board brought together over 60,000 secret documents relating to Kennedy's death.

See Also

Lane, Mark. Rush to Judgment: A Critique of the Warren Commission's Inquiry into the Murder of President John F. Kennedy, Officer J.D. Tippit, and Lee Harvey Oswald. London: Sydney Bodley Head, 1966.

Posner, Gerald L. Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. New York: Random House, 1993.

Reynolds, Michael Lewis. "Suspicious Narrative: The Assassination of JFK and American Ways of Not-Knowing." Diss: U of Southern California, 2001.

Video/Audio Resources

The Assassination of JFK. Prod. Dennis Mueller. Videocassette. Maljack Productions, MPI Home Video, 1992.
For those of us who don't like to read, this documentary provides a condensed version of the many conspiracies surrounding the Kennedy assassination. Unlike the books listed above, this documentary relays the information in an interesting manner, providing many pictures and insights never before revealed to the public. The film begins with a quotation from Allen Dulles of the Warren Commission: "But nobody reads. Don't believe people read in this country. There will be a few professors that will read the record…the public will read very little." The documentary then goes on to describe the hopeful beginnings of the Kennedy administration and the disastrous Cuba situation that was soon to follow. With Kennedy's response to the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and with the comments he would soon make regarding Vietnam, people began to see a changing tide in the way the government would deal with Cold War foreign policy. The film then goes on to describe the many factions and names associated with the assassination: the mafia, anti-Castro Cubans, William Harvey, George Demohrenschlidt, Guy Bannister, Carlos Marcello, David Ferrie, and so on and so forth. The film concludes by describing Senator Arlen Spector's "Magic Bullet" theory. It draws a great deal of interesting parallels between the different groups and people associated with this probable conspiracy.
Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy. Prod. Stuart Sender, Barbara Kopple, Bill Davis, Marc Levin. Videocassette. Embassy International Pictures, 1992.
This documentary was made in conjunction with the release of Stone's film and is now sold along with the DVD as part of a dual package. It begins by interviewing the cast and crew of the film to get their reactions on not only making a film of such historical significance but on how they felt about John Kennedy as a president and the likelihood that he was killed by only one man. Members of the press are interviewed as well, and none seem to agree on whether or not there was a conspiracy. The majority of the rest of the film is similar to The Assassination of JFK in that it draws on many of the same parallels and conspiracy theories. The only real difference is there are more people interviewed in this particular documentary, including key witnesses, press representatives who were part of the motorcade, conspiracy theorists, and former members of Kennedy's staff.
Final Verdict: JFK's Murder Solved. Prod /Dir. Nathan G. Daniel. Videocassette. Underground Video, Inc.
Author and researcher Kal Korff discusses the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Image of an Assassination: A New Look at the Zapruder Film. Prod. H.D. Motyl. Videocassette. MPI Teleproductions, 1997.
The Warren Commission could not have been depending on evidence of this nature when they comprised their report. It seems almost cryptic that someone could have been able to capture moving pictures of the assassination from such a clear-cut angle. But it happened, and that someone was Dallas dressmaker Abraham Zapruder. With an .8mm handheld camera, he filmed the most famous 26-second home movie in all of history. But instead of holding on to it, he sold it to Time Life, and it was locked away in a vault for over five years. The general public would not see it until Jim Garrison subpoenaed Time Life to obtain the rights to the film, which he used in his trial against Clay Shaw. Some years later the film was shown on network television. It provides indisputable evidence that the findings of the Warren Commission are not physically possible. You can see quite clearly that Governor Connally is not hit by a bullet until 1.6 seconds after Kennedy is, meaning this bullet paused in mid-air. Even more shocking are the images of President Kennedy's head being blown to pieces and tossed violently back and to the left, meaning a shot must have come from in front of him. This is a comprehensive look at the Zapruder film, digitally restored and re-mastered and shown in both real time and slow motion.
JFK, The End of Camelot. Bethesda: Discovery Channel, 1986.
"Eyewitness accounts give historical perspective to this documentary on the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy and the legacy he left behind."
JFK: The Day the Nation Cried. New York: V.I.E.W., 1989.
"This moving documentary looks back on the remarkable life of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and combines the remembrances of those who knew him best, and those who knew him not at all."
JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America. New York: The History Channel: A & E Home Video, 2009.
"This two-part special uses unique, rarely seen and heard footage to document the Kennedy assassination and the nearly 50 years of speculation and controversy that changed America. This material comes from a range of sources including eyewitness home movies, Dallas police dispatch radio recordings, and raw news footage. Part 1 is a shocking, unflinching look at the assassination of the President and the days that followed. The second part of our special documenting the JFK assassination examines the aftermath, and the enduring controversies that emerged as succeeding generations of Americans struggled to comprehend the sudden murder of an unforgettable leader."
The Men who Killed Kennedy. New York: The History Channel: A & E Home Video, 1995.
Describes the assassination of President John F. Kennedy using photographic evidence and eyewitnesses. Sections: The coup d'etat -- The forces of darkness -- The cover-up -- The patsy -- The witnesses -- The truth shall set you free.
Oswald's Ghost. Prod/Dir. Robert Stone. Videocassette. PBS/American Experience. In association with BBC Television. Robert Stone Productions. (2007)
"For the Baby Boomers, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy took on the same since of tragedy as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks did for Generation Y - not only for the effect that it had on a nation's morale but for the conspiracy theories that would follow in it's aftermath as well. In the aftermath of the assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson plunged the country into a divisive and questionable war in part due to paranoia, thus creating an atmosphere of distrust and disillusionment that would linger for decades to come. Later, following the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, President Richard M. Nixon's flagrant abuse of power seemed the final nail in the coffin of American idealism. In this documentary, acclaimed filmmaker Robert Stone (Guerrila: The Taking of Patty Hearst) speaks with such renowned figures as Norman Mailer, Edward J. Epstein, Tom Hayden, and Gary Hart in order to explore the lingering malaise that still linger in the wake of the Kennedy assassination while drawing telling parallels between that pivotal event and the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy." ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Online Resources

Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board (1998)
"The Assassination Records Review Board was a unique solution to a unique problem. Although the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the subject of lengthy official investigations, beginning with the Warren Commission in 1964, and continuing through the House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978-79, the American public has continued to seek answers to nagging questions raised by this inexplicable act. These questions were compounded by the government penchant for secrecy. Fears sparked by the Cold War discouraged the release of documents, particularly those of the intelligence and security agencies. Even the records created by the investigative commissions and committees were withheld from public view and sealed. As a result, the official record on the assassination of President Kennedy remained shrouded in secrecy and mystery."
HSCA Final Assassinations Report (1979)
"The Final Report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations presents the HSCA's findings in the murders of both President John F. Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The HSCA found a "probable conspiracy" in the JFK assassination, but was unable to determine its nature or participants (other than that Oswald was still deemed to have fired all the successful shots). In the King case, the HSCA similarly found that James Earl Ray assassinated Reverend King, but that there might have been a small-scale conspiracy involved."
JFK: Oliver Stone's JFK. Dave Reitzes.
Incredibly rich site. Links to an enormous variety of useful information on both the assassination and the film.
The Report of the Warren Commission
The Warren Commission's report in an html file. The site also includes testimony from Marina Oswald and an article on a member of the commission who may have changed his mind.