Apr 11, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Who Killed JFK on November 22, 1963? Five Theories Stand Out

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.” Those theories range from plausible to paranoid and bizarre to out of this world. 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. With that said, I'm going to share with you five plausible theories for who killed Kennedy. Let's begin.

In 1978, fourteen years after the Warren Commission laid all the blame firmly on the shoulders of Oswald, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations came to a different conclusion. The lone gunman, said the committee, was not such a lone gunman, after all. President Kennedy’s death was the result of nothing less than a full-on conspiracy. The HSCA agreed with the Warren Commission that Kennedy was killed by Oswald and no-one else. The committee went one step further, however, by concluding that Oswald was not the only gunman prowling around Dallas on that deadly day. Forensic analysis suggested to the HSCA’s investigators that four shots rang out, not the three that the Warren Commission attributed to Oswald. That’s to say there was another gunman. In the minds of the HSCA’s staff, this mysterious second character completely missed his target. Nevertheless, a pair of shooters meant a conspiracy was at the heart of the JFK assassination. In other words: take that, Warren Commission. Moving on...

Texas School Book Depository Building

Prior to his death in 1976, Johnny Roselli was a notorious and much feared figure in the Chicago, Illinois Mafia. His influence and power extended to the heart of tinsel-town and the slots and tables of Vegas. In 1960, Roselli was quietly contacted by a man named Robert Maheu, a former employee of the CIA and the FBI. A startling proposal was put to Roselli. The CIA, Maheu explained, wanted Roselli’s help in taking care of Fidel Castro. In Mob-speak, “taking care of” meant “whacking.” Thus was born a controversial program that saw the CIA and the Mob work together, hand in glove. As history has shown, Roselli and his goons never did take out Castro. But, say conspiracy theorists, they may have ended the life of JFK, with help from the CIA. The Mob was no fan of the Kennedy administration. Robert Kennedy, as Attorney-General, went after the Mafia in definitive witch-hunt style. Did the Mob decide to return the favor? Maybe it did. Following Kennedy’s killing, Roselli and a number of other mobsters, including Santo Trafficante, Jr. and Carlos Marcello, were suspected of having been implicated. Even the House Select Committee on Assassinations admitted there were “credible associations relating both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby to figures having a relationship, albeit tenuous, with Marcello's crime family or organization.” Just perhaps, it’s not such a whacked out theory, after all. And here's the next.

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. 

The Grassy Knoll

As far back as the late 1950s, the CIA planned to have Cuba’s president, Fidel Castro, assassinated. The Kennedy administration sought to destabilize the Cuban government on many occasions. Castro was enraged. Not as enraged as he became in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the missile crisis of 1962, however.  So angered was Castro that he decided to teach the United States a terrible lesson by having the most powerful man on the planet, JFK, murdered. Or, so this particular conspiracy theory goes. None other than Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, suspected the Cubans were behind the president’s killing. Stating that he could “accept that [Oswald] pulled the trigger,” Johnson felt that Castro had a significant hand in matters somewhere. Not surprisingly, Castro has consistently denounced such claims. Castro also asserts, perhaps with justification, that had the United States proved Cuba was involved, his country would have been wiped off the map. Castro was certainly not a fan of JFK. But would he have risked the very existence of Cuba to see Kennedy killed? The question lives on. And, finally...

In January 1961, outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower made a speech, part of which has become inextricably tied to the murder of JFK. Eisenhower said: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” In the minds of many JFK assassination researchers, it is this military-industrial complex that we should look to for the answers on the fifty-year-old killing of the president. JFK had a vision of creating a state of lasting peace between the United States and the Soviet Union. In short, Kennedy wanted to end the Cold War. We’re talking permanently. Powerful figures in the military, the Intelligence community, and companies that raked in millions of dollars in lucrative defense contracts, secretly agreed to do the unthinkable. Profits from war were more important than the life and goals of the president.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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