Audience questions Warren Commission's investigation about JFK assassination

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published:

Hudson -- Even after a discussion of the Warren Commission's investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and its findings that a lone shooter was responsible for his death, there were still those who believed in a conspiracy theory.

More than 100 people attended the Dec. 4 interview of attorney, author and historian Howard Willens by WCPN's Executive Editor David Molpus at the Hudson Library and Historical Society about Willens' latest book, "History will prove us right: An Insider Reveals the True Story of the Warren Commission Investigation of the JFK Assassination," published by Overlook Press.

Willens said the assassination of Kennedy is an important part of American history and teaches a lesson to acknowledge his weaknesses, speculate on his potential and honor Kennedy with the truth.

Willens said the Warren Commission did a broad investigation to tie down the facts -- Was Lee Harvey Oswald the murderer and if it was a conspiracy?

"The goals was to cast the nets wide," Willens said. "There were 152 witnesses and no credible evidence of a conspiracy in 1964."

Molpus said young people lack the understanding of the emotional effect the assassination of John F. Kennedy had on the public. He thought it was perhaps because of all the shared violence they have lived through and are more immune to violence. They are not as interested in conspiracy theories as older Americans. Molpus, like others, said he was open to new facts.

"For me personally, it is not so much what we know, but the what ifs we may never know," Molpus said. "What if it was linked to something bigger? Would that have been made public?"

Matt Grycan of Stow said he leaned both ways -- toward a conspiracy theory and a lone shooter, but the conspiracies attracted him.

"I watched JFK starring Kevin Costner and leaned toward the side for conspiracy," Grycan said. "I don't think the government or CIA investigated enough."

Dennis Plank of Hudson said he was totally convinced now that it was a single gunman.

"I had questions about the bullet, it is impact and going through both Kennedy and [Texas Governor John] Connally and looking the way it did," Plank said.

During the interview, Willens asked, "Where did the bullets go?" Willens said the Warren Commission focused on the physical evidence.

"There was no second shooter, and there was no fourth cartridge," Willens said.

Karen Zimny of Hudson was still leaning toward a conspiracy after the talk.

"There's not enough evidence proving it wasn't," Zimny said.

Donald Smith of Willoughby said he believed there was a lone shooter.

"The Warren Commission did their job," Smith said. "But people wanted a criminal trial."

Willens agreed the Warren Commission's finding in 1964 couldn't find a clear motive for Lee Harvey Oswald killing President Kennedy.

Chief Justice Warren was firmly of the opinion that all materials used by witnesses should be made part of the public record, so he did not want the autopsy photographs used, but mistakes were made during testimony, Willens said.

"Some of the diagrams were inaccurate," he added.

Someone testified Kennedy was shot in the back of the neck but it was the back of the upper shoulder, Willens told the audience.

Some of the conspiracies are fueled by movies or books. In one, the author said Connally, who was riding in the car in front of Kennedy, was the target and Kennedy was an "accidental victim" because the corset he wore kept him erect while Connally fell down in his seat, Willens said. Oswald's widow disputed that theory by saying Oswald voted for Connally.

Connally also added to the conspiracies by saying one bullet could not have shot Kennedy and him, Willens added.

"John Connally wanted his own bullet," Willens said. "He testified against one bullet."

Those in the audience were still asking questions by the end of the talk, not totally convinced while others seemed to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter Nov. 22, 1963.

But for many, they will never forget where they where when they heard the news that day.

Plank said he heard the announcement that Kennedy was shot while in French Class in High School. He was in the library when he heard the news that Kennedy was dead.

Smith said he and the other attorneys in his office just sat around after hearing the news.

The 60s were a very turbulent time and people were divided, Molpus said.

"Kennedy was such a different level of inspiration for young people, which I was at that time," Molpus said.

Zimny asked Willens to sign her copy of his book with "In memory of JFK. Always a fan."

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

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  • He went on TV and took the blame for the bay of pigs. Who does that? Well a rich guy who doesnt need the infratstructure and its approval to get reelected.  A pretty boy who is probably going to end up in hollywood after he leaves the white house. He would have pulled us out of vietnam, gone on TV and said I pulled us out because it was a bad thing for us. He would have then been reelected. In the mean time lots and lots of money would have been lost on the Vitenam war that we were no longer fighting. Aint that enough motive?

  • The easiest way to understand the conspiracy is to look at the life of Oswald himself. The legend that he was a Communist, deranged killer amazingly lives on despite all the contradictory information available then and now. Oswald was of above average intelligence and showed no signs of psychotic ideation, according to psychological exams. He had personality traits consistent with those in intelligence professions. His brother revealed that as a child, Lee was obsessed with Ian Fleming spy novels and his favorite TV show was "I Led Three Lives," about the multiple personas of a spy. At age 15, Oswald joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), then a known recruiting ground for the CIA and military intelligence. His CAP leader was David Ferrie, the guy always at the intersection of the CIA, the Mafia and the anti-Castro Cubans. 

    It was only after coming into contact with Ferrie that Oswald took on the persona of a "Marxist." At age 17, he joined the Marines -- whose primary job was killing Communists. His bunk mates assumed he was intelligence and have proclaimed that they would have shot him if they thought his Communist persona was for real. He was assigned to a base that housed a large CIA operation and was home to the U2 spy plane. He received a secret clearance and was taught Russian. 

    Oswald "defected" to the USSR during the time of the fake defector program of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Pilot Gary Powers believed that Oswald was responsible for providing info to the Russians leading to his U2 spy plane going down there. The incident, to the delight of Pentagon hard liners, sabotaged the scheduled U.S.-U.S.S.R. peace talks. 

    Oswald returned to New Orleans after a brief stop in Washington, DC. Military and intelligence agencies did not file the expected reports that would have followed a real defector with secret military and intelligence information. His return trip from the U.S.S.R. was even paid for by the U.S. Government. 

    In New Orleans, Oswald very obviously and publicly honed his Marxist cover. The local pro-Castro groups correctly believed he was an agent provocateur, so he started his own pro-Castro group. But the leaflets he handed out pertaining to this group were stamped with an office address linked to the FBI, CIA, anti-Castro Cubans and the Office of Naval Intelligence. Photographs and eyewitness reports place Oswald with the anti-Castro Cubans at the same time he was organizing these fake pro-Castro front organizations. 

    The "sheep-dipping" of Oswald reportedly included his trips to the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City. But Hoover himself reported that his FBI agents had determined that the voice on the tapes and the images from these visits were not Oswald's. Clearly, there was an organized effort -- with and without Oswald's participation -- to link him to the Communists and force the "hot" war with the Communists that many on the Joint Chiefs of Command desired at the time. 

    While detractors scoff at the idea of a conspiracy involving the military, intelligence agencies and the mob, the well-documented reality is that these entities were already working together in an attempt to assassinate Castro. 

    Kennedy inherited the Bay of Pigs operation which had been orchestrated by Eisenhower's Vice President Richard Nixon. The CiA convinced JFK to go ahead with the operation by lying about it not needing overt U.S. military intervention and by claiming that the invading force would be greeted by thousands of supportive revolutionaries in Cuba. None of this was true, however, and the director and top leadership of the CIA were subsequently fired by Kennedy who vowed to do away with the CIA's paramilitary operations. 

    To the dismay of Pentagon hard liners, Kennedy had opened back channels to Cuba and the USSR after the Cuban Missle Crisis. He had taken action to pull back involvement in Vietnam and was working towards peaceful coexistence with the Communists. 

    The Military-intelligence-Mafia alliance organized to eliminate Castro, turned its sights on the President of the United States. The assassination ended the efforts towards peaceful coexistence, elevated LBJ -- formerly known as the "Senator from the Pentagon," to the presidency, and the "Military-Industrial-Complex" that President Eisenhower warned us of, became the dominant force in U.S. economics and foreign policy.