I’m one of those people who can remember where he was when President John F Kennedy was shot. And every 10 years or so I get interested in the disputes that surround the event.
Last time I got interested, about 10 years ago, I became pretty much convinced that JFK had indeed been shot from the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street, rather than from the grassy knoll, as lots of people believe. My reasoning was pretty simple: Firstly, a gunman in the school book depository could have squeezed off a series of shots while keeping his rifle aimed along more or less the same line as the motorcade moved away from him. But a gunman on the grassy knoll would have had to have been swinging his rifle rightwards as JFK came past him. So the depository shots were easier. Secondly, the depository gunman was in a fairly well concealed position above the street, and would have had time to get away. A gunman on the grassy knoll was in a much more exposed position, and anyone would have seen him if they’d been looking that way.
And then a few days ago I came across a theory that I’d never heard of before. This was that the final fatal bullet had come from a storm drain on the right hand side of Elm Street (near the pergola steps) in front of the presidential limousine. I came across it 12 minutes into a YouTube video about the assassination.
And I immediately thought that this new location was actually a much better one than both the depository and the grassy knoll. Because, just like the depository, the gunman in the storm drain would not have had to swing his rifle much as the motorcade came towards him. Also, he was completely concealed.
Intrigued, I got hold of a map of Dealey Plaza which shows the position of JFK’s car when the fatal shot struck, and drew a (red) line from that point to the storm drain (click to enlarge map). The range was
40 72 feet [see note 1], and the trajectory was at an angle of about 10 degrees to the kerb. I figured that at that range there would be no need for telescopic sights.
I estimated the diameter of the circular manhole cover to be 2 feet, and the length of the roadside opening to be 4 feet, and the height 4 to 6 inches (less these days than in 1963 because the road has been re-surfaced). It seemed to me to be entirely plausible that somebody could have aimed a rifle out through this opening at a 10 degree angle without much difficulty, and shot Kennedy when he came within 72 feet. And then to escape, he could either have waited until things had calmed down before lifting the manhole cover and getting out, or squeezing his way down a 15 inch sewer pipe.
The idea has been around a long time, and I’m surprised I’ve never come across it before. It is contested, of course.
On the other hand we have the researchers who find this scenario not only ridiculous but improbable. They claim that the President would not have been visible from the storm drain until the limo rolled west another 54 – 56 feet past the fatal head shot location. The proponents of the theory answer back that the layers of asphalt have been added through out the years and the opening was twice as wide then than today.
Critics also claim that nobody could crawl down a 15 inch sewer pipe. But one or two other people seem to think it’s a plausible idea.
But with the 50th anniversary of the assassination less than 3 months away, it’s perhaps a good time to think about it all again.
Note 1: There seems to be a problem with the scale of the map shown. The Texas School Book Depository is said to be 100 feet long and 100 feet deep. But according to this map, it’s only 50 feet long. So JFK wasn’t 40 feet from the storm drain, but more like 80 feet. In fact, I think he was 72 feet away, and the limo wasn’t in the centre of the central lane of Elm Street as shown on the map, but had its left hand tyre almost on the white line marking the lane.