In the slightly more than half a century that has now passed since President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, a wealth of theories has been put forward to explain the death of the only man who to whom Marilyn Monroe sung, or rather purred, “Happy Birthday.”
On November 29, 1963, an investigation began that still provokes huge debate in conspiracy-themed circles, decades after JFK bought the bullet(s). The ten-month-long study was undertaken by the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. Or, as it is far better, and unofficially, known: the Warren Commission, which took its name from its chairman, Chief Justice Earl Warren.
The commission’s job was to get to the bottom of the big question that everyone was itching to see answered: who really shot JFK? According to the Warren Commission, it was Oswald. And it was only Oswald. Not everyone agreed with that controversial conclusion, however.
Indeed, over the years numerous theories have been advanced. Those theories range from plausible to paranoid and bizarre to out of this world. And here’s my favorite, top three, unusual ones.
3. Was JFK the victim of both an assassin and friendly fire? Two men, totally unconnected to each other, but who, in a strange set of circumstances, ultimately sealed the fate of the president? This was the theory postulated in a 1992 book, Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK, by Bonar Menninger.
The scenario presented by Menninger had Oswald as the chief culprit, but not the only one. George Hickey was a Secret Service agent traveling in the vehicle immediately following the presidential car. After the bullets fired by Oswald slammed into JFK, Menninger suggested, Hickey accidentally discharged his weapon, delivering the fatal head-shot that killed Kennedy.
In 1992, when Mortal Error was published, Hickey was still alive. He was not pleased to see himself portrayed as the other gunman in the Kennedy assassination. Unfortunately for Hickey, he let three years pass before trying to take legal action against the publisher, St. Martin’s Press.
U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Harvey II dismissed the defamation case on the grounds that Hickey had waited too long to file suit. In 1998, however, Hickey received an undisclosed sum of money from St. Martin’s Press that led Hickey’s attorney, Mark S. Zaid, to state: “We’re very satisfied with the settlement.”
2. In October 1959, Lee Harvey Oswald – a self-admitted Marxist – made his way to the Soviet Union. Oswald reached Moscow on October 16 and announced that he wished to remain in Russia. Although the Soviets were, initially, reluctant to allow Oswald residency, that soon changed. It wasn’t long before Oswald had a job and a home. In 1961, he had a wife: Marina. Fatherhood soon followed. Claiming to have become disillusioned with a dull life in the Soviet Union, however, Oswald moved his family to the United States in 1962.
Was Oswald recruited by the KGB during his time in Russia? Was his return to the States actually nothing to do with disillusionment? Had the elite of the Kremlin convinced Oswald to kill Kennedy? One person who has commented on such matters is Ion Mihai Pacepa.
In 1978, Pacepa, a general with Romania’s Department of State Security, defected to the United States. One of Pacepa’s revelations was that JFK was killed on the orders of Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev. Still seething from backing down in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, Khrushchev was determined to exact his revenge. Oswald was chosen to ensure that revenge was achieved.
Notably, Pacepa asserted that Khrushchev made a last-minute decision not to go ahead with the plan to kill JFK. Unfortunately, the Russians failed to make timely contact with Oswald and inform him of the change in plans. The countdown to assassination could not be stopped.
1. For me, the oddest theory concerning the Kennedy assassination tumbled out of the pages of a 1975 book, Appointment in Dallas. It was written by Hugh McDonald, formerly of the LAPD. According to McDonald, Oswald was indeed a patsy, but in a very strange fashion.
Oswald was supposedly told, by shadowy sources, that his expertise was needed in Dallas on November 22, 1963. But Oswald wasn’t required to kill the president. Quite the contrary, Oswald was told to ensure all his bullets missed JFK. The operation, Oswald was assured, was designed to demonstrate how inadequate the Secret Service was by staging a mock-assassination attempt of the president. Unbeknownst to Oswald, however, a team of real assassins was in Dealey Plaza. Their bullets, however, did not miss.
The gunmen made quick exits, leaving Oswald as the man guaranteed to take the fall – simply because he really did fired bullets across Dealey Plaza. A panicked Oswald, realizing he had been set up, fled the scene, thus setting in motion the wheels that led to his arrest and death.
Will we ever know the true and full story of the assassination of JFK on November 22, 1963? I’m pretty sure we won’t. The only thing I am sure of is that, give it another fifty years or so, and we’ll have a dozen more theories on our hands.