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Peter Jennings (Voice Over) It was 40 years ago in this small plaza that John F. Kennedy was murdered. What happened in Dallas that day shook America every bit as much as Pearl Harbor and, more recently, the events of 9/11


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Peter Jennings Reporting -

The Kennedy Assassination – Beyond Conspiracy
Air Date: 11/20/04



Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) It was 40 years ago in this small plaza that John F. Kennedy was murdered. What happened in Dallas that day shook America every bit as much as Pearl Harbor and, more recently, the events of 9/11. In many ways, America never got over it.


Reporter

The president's car is now turning onto Elm Street, and it will be only a matter of minutes before he arrives at the Trade Mart.
Robert Dallek

Author, "An Unfinished Life"



Our tradition is so contrary to this idea, that you kill a president. And it just is so traumatic for the country. It's such an assault on our sense of, uh, self, on our institutions, on the United States.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) On that November day, and throughout the sad weekend that followed, there was a sense of horrible loss. But there was also a sense that events were spinning out of control. A suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald, was arrested and paraded before the press.


Reporter

Did you kill the president?
Lee Harvey Oswald

Kennedy Assassin



No, I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) As thousands of people paid their respects to the president in Washington, Oswald was murdered on national television.


Reporter

He's been shot. He's been shot.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) And day by day in America, the confusion and doubt grew deeper. What really happened in Dallas on November the 22nd, 1963? What really happened here in Dealey Plaza?


Robert Goldberg

Author, "Enemies Within"



The very first poll in regard to American sentiment about the assassination was conducted that weekend. And that poll indicated that 2-3rds of Americans already believed in a conspiracy against John Kennedy.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) They believed that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. And 40 years later, the majority of Americans still believe in a conspiracy. For most people, the idea that a lone assassin could kill the president, a man so widely revered, that idea was simply too much to bear.


GRAPHICS: THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION
BEYOND CONSPIRACY
PETER JENNINGS REPORTING
Peter Jennings

Good evening. I'm Peter Jennings. There is no other murder in history that has produced as much speculation as the Kennedy assassination. And it would be impossible in the two hours we have to examine the incredible number of conspiracy theories that have been advanced in the last 40 years. And 40 years after the assassination, the latest ABC News poll tells us that more than 2- 3rds of Americans still believe there was a conspiracy to kill the president. But unless you are an irredeemable conspiracy theorist beyond the pale, so to speak, what we will do tonight is demonstrate that those theories are wrong. Forty years after this crime, we know so much more about the case than we did in 1963, or even 1993. Tonight, we'll see that when government covered up facts, conspiracy theories flourished. And tonight, you'll see some stunning technology, which will make it clear precisely what happened that November day in Dealey Plaza.
Reporter

There's Mrs. Kennedy, and the crowd yells. And the president of the United States. I can see his suntan all the way from here.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) The president and Mrs. Kennedy arrived at Love Field in Dallas on Air Force One at 11:38, Central Standard Time. In less than one hour, the president would be assassinated.


Reporter

And here they come, right down toward us.
Robert Dallek

Author, "An Unfinished Life"



Kennedy was someone who gave the country hope. He's become a kind of mythological figure, an iconic figure. He's frozen in our minds at the age of 46.
Reporter

Mrs. Kennedy, right up. There's the president shaking hands with the people.
Theodore C. Sorensen

Special Counsel to President Kennedy



Here was a president who loved the people, the people loved him. He wanted to be able to wade into a crowd and shake hands. He wanted to be able to see and wave to people when his motorcade went down the street. He didn't want to be shut off from his public in a democracy.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) The president and Mrs. Kennedy, with Texas governor John Connally, rode through Dallas in an open limousine. He was the last president ever to do so.


Evan Thomas

Author, "Robert Kennedy"



When something terrible happens in the life of a nation, there has to be a reason for it. It's not good enough to say, "some nut with a rifle killed JFK." It's such a monstrous thing, that there must be a monster plot.
Robert Goldberg

Author, "Enemies Within"



At a time of emotional rupture, at a time of tragedy, conspiracy theories offer purpose and meaning, purpose and meaning that make tragedy more than a simple twist of fate at the hands of, in this case, a lone gunman.
Nicholas Katzenbach

Deputy Attorney General, 1962-1965



It was this young man, glamorous young man, whom I think had the potential to be a really great president, shot down before he really had very much chance to prove it.
Hugh Aynesworth

Reporter, the Dallas Morning News, 1960-1966



They had made it through town and it had been beautiful. And then, all of a sudden, the day turns to chaos. You know, and it's unbelievable.
Reporter

It, it appears as though something has happened in the motorcade route.
Reporter

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. You'll excuse the fact that I'm out of breath, but ...
Reporter

Presidential motorcade has just passed through heavy crowds in downtown Dallas when three shots suddenly rang out somewhere in the crowd.
Hugh Aynesworth

Reporter, the Dallas Morning News, 1960-1966



People were screaming, "Oh no. Oh no." They were running, running into each other. It was just complete chaos because no one knew where to run.
Reporter

This is from the United Press in Dallas. President Kennedy and Governor John Connally have been cut down by assassin's bullets in downtown Dallas.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) As the motorcade raced to Parkland Hospital, no one imagined that one man could wreak such havoc. Jackie Kennedy screamed, "They've killed him." The wounded Governor Connally shouted, "They're going to kill us both." "They" had done this. Something so horrible had to be the work of more than one man. And America had many enemies. It had to be a conspiracy.


Government Official

President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1:00 Central Standard Time today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain.
Reporter

This is WFAA-TV in Dallas, Texas. May I have your name please, sir?
Abraham Zapruder

Eyewitness



My name is Abraham Zapruder.
Reporter

Mr. Zapruder?
Abraham Zapruder

Eyewitness



Zapruder, yes, sir.
Reporter

Zapruder. And would you tell us your story, please, sir?
Abraham Zapruder

Eyewitness

I got out, and about a half an hour earlier, to get a good spot to shoot some pictures.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Abraham Zapruder, a local dressmaker, using his 8-millimeter movie camera, recorded one of the darkest moments in American history, the moment at which the president was murdered.


Gerald Posner

Author, "Case Closed"



The Zapruder film is a visual record of the assassination. To think that if the film did not exist, that home movie of the assassination did not exist, we would never be able to prove, with any certainty, what happened at Dealey Plaza.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) The Zapruder film is the only film that recorded the shooting from start to finish. The film itself has been cited as evidence of a conspiracy and used by some as proof that Oswald was not the only gunman.


Dale Myers

Computer Animator



Ninety-percent of what is out there is conspiracy-oriented. You can talk about all the theories you want. This thing happened only one way.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Dale Myers is a computer animator who has been studying the assassination for more than 25 years. To advance the analysis of the crime, Myers has generated an exacting computer simulation of the Zapruder film. He began by constructing a 3-dimensional, scale model of Dealey Plaza, the turn from Houston Street onto Elm Street, the Texas School Book Depository, the Grassy Knoll. They are all reconstructed exactly the way they were in 1963. On top of the Zapruder film, he then animated the movements of President Kennedy and Governor Connally, frame by frame. When all of these elements come together, we can now leave the place where Zapruder was filming and see the shooting from any point of view, each one an accurate representation of precisely what happened. If the crime were committed today, forensic investigators would unquestionably use this technique.


Dale Myers

Computer Animator

(Voice Over) Let's take a look at Abraham Zapruder's film in detail. Let's orient ourselves, first off. Zapruder, of course, is standing on a 4 1/2-foot-high pedestal, just west of the book depository. So he's looking up toward the corner. The limousine has just finished and completed its turn and starting to glide down Elm Street. Frame 133 is the first frame in which the president appears. As we advance the frames here, around frame 160 is approximately the time of the first shot. Apparently, a shot that missed. Governor Connally said that he was looking to the left side of the car. He heard a shot. He immediately identified it as a high-powered rifle shot. And so he said he turned to his right, because the sound seemed to come from over his right shoulder. And so we see him right here looking to his left. And in the next couple of frames, we see his head turn. And now he's looking to his right. So it's a very quick head snap, 1/4 of a second, like this. Now the car glides down toward the Stemmons Freeway sign. The car disappears for a moment. We see Governor Connally emerge first from behind the sign. He does not appear to be injured. Next frame, 223, you see the white shirt. You can see his jacket. You see a little bit of gray area where his tie is. And something happens. Between frame 223 and 224, you can really pinpoint the moment that the bullet strikes. Watch the jacket. You notice it changes shape. It's almost as if the jacket has popped out a little bit, kind of bulged out. Before, after. Before, after. In fact, a bullet has struck him in the right back. And it emerged about an inch below his nipple, blowing out about a 2-inch, ragged hole. In the next frame, the president comes out from behind the sign. We see kind of an anguished look on his face. And his hands immediately go up toward his throat. And they come up in a guarded manner. And the elbows rise in a very dramatic and a very high fashion. So he's kind of like this. But you'll note that both men are reacting simultaneously.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) This moment gives rise to what is called the single bullet theory, that the second shot hit both men. Passing through the president and into the governor. This is challenged by those who say that President Kennedy and Governor Connally were hit by different bullets from different guns. And two guns would make a conspiracy.


Dale Myers

Computer Animator

(Voice Over) Here we have President Kennedy and Governor Connally at the moment of the second shot. This is the moment they're hit, the equivalent of Zapruder frame 223. As we know, President Kennedy was struck in the upper-right back. He had another bullet wound in his throat. It was believed to have passed through his throat, moving back to front. Governor Connally, struck in the right back, just near the armpit. That bullet emerged, his right chest, about one inch below the nipple line. When we look at their positions based on the Zapruder film, this is exactly how they were seated at that moment, at frame 223, Governor Connally sitting slightly inboard of the president. In addition to that, he's turned sharply to his right. You can already see from this, that any bullet striking the president in the upper-right back and emerging out of his throat, that bullet is going to continue forward. And it's going to hit Governor Connally exactly where he was hit. Connally has to be hit. And the fact that they both react at the same time clinches it. So, it's not a magic bullet at all. It's not even a single bullet theory, in my opinion. It's a single bullet fact.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) So if President Kennedy and Governor Connally were hit from behind by the same bullet, where did it come from? Using the men's body positions and the locations of their wounds, Myers can isolate the source of the shot.


Dale Myers

Computer Animator

(Voice Over) We can start with, for instance, Governor Connally's entrance wound on his back. Connect that with the point of exit on the president's throat. And then take that line and project it rearward. What we end up with is a line that goes right back through the sniper's nest window, the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Dozens of witnesses pointed to the school book depository after hearing the shots. One witness reported seeing a gun in the sixth floor window. This is the building where Lee Harvey Oswald had been working as a clerk for five weeks. Within minutes of the shooting, the police rushed into the building. The sixth floor was a maze of boxes. At 1:12 PM, a deputy sheriff squeezed around a row of boxes in the southeast corner facing Elm Street and discovered the sniper's position. Two boxes stacked as if to support a rifle. Three shell casings scattered on the floor below the window. Photographers and fingerprint experts swept the scene. Ten minutes later, in the northwest corner of the building, behind other boxes, they found a rifle. After the shooting, Lee Harvey Oswald was the only worker missing from the building. The manhunt for him began. Police across the city were told to look out for "a white male, 30, slender build, 5'10", 165 pounds, reportedly armed." It was on this street that four witnesses saw Officer JD Tippit motion Oswald over to his patrol car. As Tippit got out of the car, Oswald pulled a revolver and shot Tippit three times. Oswald moved closer, and as the officer lay on the ground, Oswald shot him once more in the head.


Gerald Posner

Author, "Case Closed"



The evidence of Oswald shooting Kennedy, I think, is overwhelming. But many people contest that. The evidence of Lee Harvey Oswald killing officer JD Tippit is overwhelming and ironclad.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Now, there were two manhunts underway in Dallas. The police did not know that they were chasing the same man. Thirty-one minutes after the Tippit murder, the police were told that a suspect was in a nearby movie theater. The police arrested Oswald as he tried to pull his gun.


Reporter

Now, we're inside of the Texas theater. Of course, everything is black, the movie is going on. Police suddenly jump this man and started to drag him out of the theater.
Reporter

At that time the scuffle ensued inside of the Texas theater.
Reporter

Approaching, the suspect jumped up, struck him in the face and yelled, "This is it."
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) The police rushed Oswald away from an angry mob that had gathered outside the theater. Shortly after 2:00 PM, he was taken into Dallas police headquarters, where they began to question him.


Lee Harvey Oswald

Kennedy Assassin



All right. These people have given me a hearing without legal representation or anything.
Reporter

Did you shoot the president?
Lee Harvey Oswald

Kennedy Assassin



I didn't shoot anybody. No, sir.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Those of us in the Press Corp, including those traveling with the president, were now crowding into the Dallas Central Police Station, and all we wanted to know about was Oswald. The FBI actually had an open file on Oswald. And one of the men in the building that day was FBI Agent James Hosty.


James Hosty

FBI, 1952-1979



My immediate assignment was to go to the Dallas police station, to sit in on the interview and to tell the Dallas police everything we knew about Oswald.
Lee Harvey Oswald

Kennedy Assassin



I'd like some legal representation. These police officers have not allowed me to have any.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) The FBI knew that Oswald was a former marine who had abandoned the United States and lived for almost three years in the Soviet Union. He had returned to the States with a Russian wife. The FBI believed that he was a committed Communist.


Reporter

Did you shoot the president?
Lee Harvey Oswald

Kennedy Assassin



No, they've taken me in because of the fact that I've lived in the Soviet Union. I'm just a patsy.
James Hosty

FBI, 1952-1979



I was trying to find him. But there was no urgency to find him. I mean, he hadn't said, "I'm going to kill the president at November 22nd at 12:30, catch me if you can." Nothing like that. He disappeared, and I figured, I knew I'd find him. But just a matter, I had other things to do, and it wasn't the most urgent case on my list. Now see, I should have known.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) But no one in the FBI had any idea that Lee Harvey Oswald had the mind of a political assassin. Alarm bells began to ring in government. Lyndon Johnson, the vice president, had visions of World War III.


Jack Valenti

Aide to President Johnson, 1963-1966



We got on the airplane, it was heavily guarded by a cordon of menacing-looking men with machine guns at the ready, 'cause nobody knew. Was this a coup? Who else was to be murdered?
Michael Beschloss

Author "The Crisis Years"



Johnson had been briefed, even as vice president, that if there were a Soviet attack on the United States, one of the first things the Soviets would probably try to do would be to murder the president and the other top leaders of government.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) On the plane, as Vice President Johnson was sworn in as president with Mrs. Kennedy at his side, US armed forces throughout the world were put on high alert.


Robert Goldberg

Author, "Enemies Within"



President Johnson was convinced that there was a Communist conspiracy, a Communist conspiracy engineered by Moscow. When were the missiles coming?
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) The new president left Dallas for Washington with no idea if he would make it.


COMMERCIAL BREAK
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Air Force One, carrying the president's body, arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington at 6:05 PM Eastern Standard Time. Millions of people watched on television as the coffin came into view. They watched Mrs. Kennedy take her place in the hearse bearing her husband's body.


Reporter

Mrs. Kennedy is now coming down, following the casket.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Lyndon Johnson, who was now president, spoke briefly to the nation.


President Lyndon Johnson

I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help and God's.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Johnson had been afraid in Dallas that the assassination was the start of an all-out attack on the United States. He was somewhat less anxious now. But in the days ahead, he would be haunted by what he was learning about Lee Oswald from the director of the FBI.


Michael Beschloss

Author "The Crisis Years"



Johnson gets a call from J. Edgar Hoover saying that this Oswald who we think was probably the assassin had been seen in Mexico City at the Soviet embassy, perhaps, or the Cuban embassy. Johnson almost immediately said, oh, my God. I've now got to deal with another problem which is Americans are going to think that the Soviets did this or the Cubans did this. They will say go to war against the Soviets or the Cubans in revenge. He didn't want that kind of pressure on him. He knew that that could lead us to a war that would kill, at the very least, tens of millions of people.
Reporter

Suspect is again coming down the hall.
Reporter

What did you do in Russia?
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Johnson's fears were based on fragments of information about a man nobody really knew. Lee Harvey Oswald was a mystery, then and now.


Gerald Posner

Author, "Case Closed"



One of the things the American public misses here is they look at this case and they have lost somebody in their thinking of conspiracy over 40 years. They've lost the shooter, the assassin. They've lost Oswald. They have no idea of who he was, what he had come from, what his background had been like. They have no idea of motive.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) And no idea where his journey to Dealey Plaza began. The person who knew him best was his brother, Robert.


Robert Oswald

Brother


I turned the radio on, they were talking about a shooting of a police officer. And about that time, they announced they had an individual in custody by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald or Harvey Lee Oswald. And I said, "that's my kid brother." After all these years, I think more than anything else, if I had an opportunity, had the facts that said Lee was innocent, I would be out there shouting it loud and clear. It is my belief, my conviction, no one but Lee was involved. Period. People need to look at what transpired before that. Everything. You got to come all the way from childhood on up and especially that last year of his life and understand what transpired in his life. He was a lonely boy, needing attention, but not getting it.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Lee Harvey Oswald was born on October the 18th, 1939, in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father had died two months before. Lee wrote of himself that he was the "son of an insurance agent, whose early death left a far, mean streak of independence, brought on by neglect."


Robert Oswald

Brother


My mother constantly told us that we were, you know, a burden to her. And very early on, he'd learned that he wasn't wanted.
Peter Jennings

(Voice Over) Lee and his mother moved constantly. By the age of 13, he had attended seven different schools. He was often a truant. As a teenager, he lived in New York City, where he had no friends. Sometimes he spent days riding the subways alone. His interest in communism began when he was handed a flier about the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Communist sympathizers executed as spies for the Soviet Union. By 16, he had dropped out of school and was calling himself a Marxist.

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