Isn’t it a strange world that we live in? It’s one in which everybody knows that smoking causes lung cancer, but nobody seems to know who shot JFK.
Hardened veteran readers will know that the assassination of JFK is one of my many interests (or perhaps obsessions). It’s an event I remember well. And what seems most memorable about it, in retrospect, was that in the Daily Telegraph of the following day, there was a photo of the prime suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald, holding a rifle, on the back page.
That didn’t strike me as particularly remarkable at the time, but in retrospect it seems highly remarkable. JFK was assassinated at 12:30 pm Central Standard Time, in Dallas, and so US newspapers had something like 12 hours for their reporters – some of whom were already in Dallas for JFK’s scheduled visit – to interview police officers, witnesses, and so on before they went to press. But 12:30 pm CST is 6:30 pm GMT in the UK, where the Daily Telegraph is published. Almost certainly the Telegraph had no reporters in Dallas. And it had only about 6 hours before the Saturday edition was due to go to press. How on earth did it manage to put together a story, complete with a photo of Lee Harvey Oswald holding a rifle, in just 6 hours, back in that pre-internet era?
The answer, I think, is that they were fed the story from the USA. And the story had to have been ready and waiting almost from the outset, complete with photos of Oswald holding a rifle, to be telegraphed all over the world. And the whole world learned that the president had been assassinated, and his assassin apprehended. The case had opened at 12:30 CST, and it had closed at 14:00 CST, when Oswald was taken into custody.
And that was what I thought too. The case was closed. It wasn’t a whodunnit, because everybody knew it was Oswald whodunnit. And that was what I thought for the next 10 years, until doubts began to surface, largely in response to the emergence of the Zapruder home movie of the assassination.
In fact, despite all the conspiracy theories and doubts and talk about a gunman on the infamous ‘grassy knoll’ beside Elm Street, I carried on thinking that it was Oswald whodunnit. And I had what seemed to me to be an excellent reason for continuing to believe it was Oswald: because he’d picked the best possible sniper’s position, high up on the Texas School Book Depository (where he worked), looking down the path that JFK’s limo was going to take, as it rolled slowly down Elm street away from him. All he had to do, as he fired off a succession of bullets at the back of JFK’s head, was make a slight adjustment in his aim between each shot. By contrast, a shooter on the grassy knoll would have had to have been swinging his rifle rightwards as he tried to keep the sights on JFK (and avoid hitting Jackie Kennedy beside him). No, a gunman behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll would have had to be a trick shot artist like Annie Oakley to have hit JFK. I didn’t believe it.
And that was what I continued to think – for 50 years – until 2013, when I heard of the Storm Drain. My reasoning, as I’ve just stated it, was that the sniper had to be either right behind the moving car, or right in front of it. Anywhere else (including the grassy knoll) was out of the question, because it would mean traversing a rifle from left to right, or from right to left. Oswald, high up in a corner window of the depository, was in the only place where a rifle could be held almost still. And where was there directly in front of the moving car from where a sniper could take aim? There was the triple overpass up ahead, which would have been a good place, but for the fact that there were about a dozen people standing on it, waiting for the motorcade to go under. Any sniper would have been overpowered by them immediately. There was just no place for any sniper. The only place was up where Oswald had his fixed rifle.
In 50 years, I’d never heard of the Storm Drain. But there were several storm drains at the edge of Elm Street, with a slit opening at street level to gather in water, and a chamber behind the opening for the water to fall into, and a manhole in the sidewalk above for access to the chamber. It was the perfect place for a sniper to lie in wait as the motorcade came down the road towards him. And it was much closer to JFK than Oswald, high up in the Depository window.
It’s purely a question of geometry whether a sniper in the storm drain could get a clear shot at JFK. I addressed the question back in 2013, and thought that he probably could. And didn’t think much more about it.
Until last night, when I started watching a 6-hour YouTube lecture by Douglas P. Horne, who had worked in the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) from August 1995 until September 1998.
I’ve only watched about 2 hours of this fascinating talk. And the gist of what I learned was that more or less all the witnesses in Dallas said that, when he arrived in the hospital shortly after he’d been shot, JFK had a large hole in the back right of his head, and a small hole in the front right of his forehead. He’d been shot from the front. Yet the Warren commission had concluded, some 40 years earlier, that he’d been shot from the back, by Lee Harvey Oswald, high up in the corner of the Depository.
This gave me two holes in JFK’s head. Would a line through these two holes point at the storm drain up ahead? Once again, it’s a purely geometrical problem. But I’d need to know exactly where JFK’s head was, and where it was facing, when the bullet arrived. Careful examination of frame 312 of the Zapruder film (below with superimposed bullet trajectory estimate) suggested that I could probably
make a good estimate if I knew exactly where the sun was, such that it fell on his right right cheek and the lobe of his right ear.
And, using my orbital simulation model, I’ve got a tool which can tell me exactly where the Sun was in the sky over Dallas at 12:30 CST, 22 November 1963. I think there may be just enough information in this photo to make a good estimate of where JFK’s head was, and which way it was facing.
But watching this grisly home movie once again, there occurred to me an awful possibility. JFK was slumping forward and to the left prior to frame 312, after being hit by a previous bullet. But Jackie, it seemed to me, was pushing him back upright. And as she pushed him back upright, she was pushing him back into the line of sight of the sniper in the storm drain. If she’d let him fall forward and leftwards, his head would have dropped out of sight below the side of the car. He would have arrived at the hospital a few minutes later with only one or two bullets in him. He would have survived. And the Vietnam war would not have started.
It’s not that Jackie intended to kill him, of course. It’s just that what she did may well have ensured that he died. She did the wrong thing. She should have done what Governor Connally’s wife can be seen doing in the seats in front, and pulling her husband down towards her, out of sight – while fearless Jackie was doing the exact opposite with JFK. And Jackie really was utterly fearless.
Anyway, I have a new project for my simulation model. I’m going to have to add a map of Elm Street to its world map. And I’m going to have to mark on it the exact position of the presidential limo at frame 312, and the location of the Zapruder camera, and Oswald with his sniper rifle, and of course the storm drain. I’ll also need the exact dimensions of the presidential limousine, and also JFK himself. And maybe a number of other things as well. And then maybe, just maybe, I might be able to show fairly conclusively (at least to myself) that JFK could – or could not – have been shot from the storm drain. It’s something that’s going to take quite a long time, simply to gather all the necessary data. It’ll take months, for example, just to find out how far above street level was the seat on which JFK was sitting.
But it’s all just geometry. Pure geometry.