By Rena Patel ‘19
The assassination of former President John F. Kennedy has fueled conspiracy theorists for almost fifty years -- until now! The government released thousands of documents concerning the Kennedy assassination on Oct. 27th and historians and conspiracy enthusiasts alike have been pouring over the documents since then, trying to decipher what truly occurred during the President’s fateful visit to Dallas on November 22, 1963.
JFK was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963, at 12:30 pm while riding in a presidential motorcade with his wife, Jackie Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connolly, and Connolly’s wife, Nellie, in Dealey Plaza when he was shot twice, once in the neck and once in the head. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at Parkland Memorial Hospital.
That much is indisputable. The rest, however, has been analyzed more than a literature student has analyzed Moby Dick.
Video footage of the assassination from amateur cameraman Abraham Zapruder remains one of the only intact videos of the assassination. Little footage, government secrecy, and Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK, has contributed to one of the most complicated conspiracy theories to date. Mobsters, Fidel Castro, the Soviet Union, and even JFK’s Secret Service Agent and his wife Jackie have all been targeted in various theories.
The government had planned to release all documents related to JFK’s assassination on Oct. 27th, which was mandated by John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. However, the law did state that the sitting president at the time of the record release could withhold some documents if they could cause governmental harm. President Trump has withheld over 500 documents citing these concerns, however, it seems that the majority of the withheld documents are in relation to Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald (JKF’s assassin).
Trump is legally allowed to keep these documents under wrap until April, so we’ll have to wait to fit all the pieces together until then, but right now, we seem to have more than enough material to shovel through and make sense of. Whether or not these documents will bring us closer to discovering the truth or will simply be more fuel for an already large fire is yet to be determined.
Until the release of the remaining documents, however, interested readers can content themselves with the release of new information about the United States’ convoluted attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. As revealed on Oct. 27th, the United States’ Cold-War-era plots to overthrow communist Cuba reached a fever pitch around the time of Kennedy’s assassination. A recently-declassified government memo documents the haggling which took place between Cuban exiles and mafia “businessmen,” arguing over a fair price for one Castro assassination (or alternately, a discounted package deal to take out both Fidel and Raul along with Che Guevara.) As the United States monitored these private backdoor deals, government officials also debated means of sabotaging or overthrowing Cuba’s government, including the suggested use of biological warfare to destroy Cuban agriculture.
Equally sinister, but perhaps more ridiculous, were plots to assassinate Castro via poisoned wetsuit or exploding seashell. But the surface-level hilarity of the U.S. government’s half-baked plans to kill a rival political leader should not lead readers to overlook the gravity of the recently-released documents. In addition to the proposal of biological warfare, details of the infamous Operation Mongoose included suggestions to “sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida” and “foster attempts on the lives of Cuban refugees,” in order to blame the Castro regime for the ensuing chaos.
The conspiracy theories and media frenzy surrounding the JFK assassination are endlessly fascinating, and the public can hardly be blamed for wanted to know the truth about that afternoon in Dallas. However, the deeper story within the released documents may be located in the U.S.’s attempts to justify military intervention in Cuba, and our government’s dangerous (and seemingly unhinged) efforts to portray Cuba as a dangerous and irresponsible world power. As the Trump administration continues to delay the full release of classified documents, the world will continue to speculate exactly which hidden stories they may reveal.
*If you’d like to do a little digging through primary sources on the JFK assassination, head over to Denison Library and ask about reserving their JFK files.