The Oswald assassination: Nov. 24, 1963

Fifty years ago today, I saw this live on television:

I think about it today and realize this was the first time I saw what today would be immediately identified as a terrorist being led to jail by police. And it was the first time I witnessed a murder.
Years pass, and you read things that say that when the Dallas police charged Lee Harvey Oswald with the murder of the president, they said it was because of a communist plot to overthrow the government. That was noted on a PBS “Frontline” report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy:

NARRATOR: Less than one hour after the President was pronounced dead, police had arrested a suspect. Lee Harvey Oswald was a 24-year-old former Marine who had once defected to the Soviet Union. Only weeks earlier he had visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies.

JAMES P. HOSTY, FBI: The original complaint that the police department filed on Lee Oswald, around midnight on the 22nd of November, said that Lee Oswald did, “in furtherance of an international communist conspiracy, assassinate President John F. Kennedy.”

NARRATOR: That night, as Air Force One brought John Kennedy’s body home to Washington, the new president was afraid that Oswald’s apparent communist connections could spark an international crisis. President Johnson ordered the district attorney to drop any reference to a communist conspiracy.

Pres. LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON: This is a sad time for all people.

Mr. HOSTY: Johnson was fearful that if this had gotten out, it would inflame public opinion and could possibly lead to World War III. This is exactly how World War I began, with an assassination.

This fear of World War III does make sense. The Cuban Missile Crisis was just a year earlier. In October 1962, people were convinced there was going to be a nuclear war. America’s right wing, led by members of the the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted to invade Cuba.

The other thing that strikes me about the day is how totally incompetent the Dallas police were. Here’s a longer TV feed of the Oswald shooting.

No one checks ID. No one keeps people away from the transfer of the most hated man in America. And when he’s shot, the police just let reporters walk into the crime scene. It looks like anyone could walk in. Strike that. Jack Ruby, a strip club owner with mob connections and a gun did walk in and killed Oswald.

There was a “Prairie Home Companion” on recently broadcast from Dallas. One of the jokes was something along the lines of: “Here in Dallas, gun control is when you hold a gun real steady before you fire.”

In Dallas in 2013, that got a huge laugh. But all I could think when I heard the line was that in Dallas in 1963, a president was murdered. And in Dallas in 1963, the murderer of a president was murdered on national television.

Dallas was out of control.

2 thoughts on “The Oswald assassination: Nov. 24, 1963

  1. There is nothing about Jack Ruby’s life that does not tie him to the world of political corruption and organized crime. The activities of friends like Mafia enforcers Paul Roland Jones and Dave Yaras, certainly illustrated the nature of the influence that Ruby cultivated. In 1931, Jones murdered a state witness in Kansas, received a life sentence, but resumed his criminal career after Governor Husman pardoned him. Ruby associate Dave Yaras, also a well known killer who planned and executed murder contracts for the Mob, shared the habit of murdering witnesses who were in a position to testify against him. Ruby’s friends had made a career out of getting away with murder, and that probably summoned the necessary gumption required to execute the boldest assignment imaginable -to murder Lee Harvey Oswald on national television.

  2. At noon, on a street in Dallas, the president of the United States is assassinated. He is hardly dead when the official version is broadcast . In that version, which will be the definitive one, Lee Harvey Oswald alone has killed John Kennedy. The weapon does not coincide with the bullet, nor the bullet with the holes. The accused does not coincide with the accusation: Oswald is an exceptionally bad shot of mediocre physique, but according to the official version, his acts were those of a champion marksman and Olympic sprinter. He has fired an old rifle with impossible speed and his magic bullet, turning and twisting acrobatically to penetrate Kennedy and John Connally, the governor of Texas, remains miraculously intact. Oswald strenuously denies it. But no one knows, no one will ever know what he has to say. Two days later he collapses before the television cameras, the whole world witness to the spectacle, his mouth shut by Jack Ruby, a two-bit gangster and minor trafficker in women and drugs. Ruby says he has avenged Kennedy out of patriotism and pity for the poor widow.

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