This post steps outside the Metro Detroit region – taking a look back in time for just a moment. November 22, 1963, Dallas, Texas.
Here is a photo from the Detroit Free Press of President Kennedy in Detroit shortly before the assassination in Dallas, Texas. The area in Downtown Detroit that he spoke in was renamed Kennedy Square after his death.
Lets start with the Presidential limousine- a gun metal blue 1961 Lincoln convertible, complete with “suicide doors”. This car was customized for Presidential service with a removable non-bulletproof bubbletop, rear jumpseats, an elevator rear seat for JFK (due to his broken back he was unable to properly remove himself from the vehicle, this also allowed for better views of the President) and compartments for Secret Service weaponry. (AR-15 machineguns) The sides and rear of the car were fitted with foot and handholds for Secret Service protection.
This car now resides at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The car is very different from the configuration in 1963. After the shooting, the interior was stripped, and the glass was all removed – thereby destroying all evidentiary value of the car, and also making it inadmissible as evidence in any potential trial. The car was put in storage after JFKs Presidency, until it was pulled from storage and restored for use.
Titanium reinforcements were added, along with the solid roof and thick bulletproof glass. Barely any of the original vehicle exists in this display piece.
This is the seat where JFK sat during the shooting, with Jackie to his left. The Governor of Texas and his wife sat in front of them in the jump seats. Note the mirror configuration of the door handles – hence the term “suicide doors”, because the rear door opens backwards.
This is the hand/foot hold that Secret Service agent Clinton Hill grabbed just as the fatal shot(s) struck Kennedy in the head. It is interesting to note that Agent Hill was asked to come on the trip by Jackie Kennedy personally, due to her distrust of the other agents. Jackie Kennedy’s Secret Service agent was the only person to respond to the shooting, none of the Presidents guards ever moved from “Queen Mary”, the follow up SS car. It is Clint Hill that you see in the famous photos and films running and jumping on the back of the car, as Jackie Kennedy scrambles out on the rear deck to retrieve the rear occipital lobe of her husbands brain. She handed this brain matter to the surgeons at Parkland Hospital.
The most famous and complete record of the shooting was filmed by Abraham Zapruder from this pedestal on the garden pergola on the north end of Dealey Plaza. There are two mirrored pergolas in Dealey Plaza that face each other on the north and south sides of the park.
Zapruder was a dressmaker whose offices were in the Dal-Tex building nearby. His secretary stood behind his to steady him on the pergola pedestal as he filmed. The Zfilm was made using a Bell and Howell “Zoomatic” camera. The Zoomatic used an interesting 8 millimeter film stock that had a double strip of exposures. When you completed one side, you would flip the film and continue of the other half of the film. The film was then split in two at the photo finishing lab to be used in an 8 mm projector.
After the assassination, Zapruder stayed with the camera until the film could be developed and processed, thereby establishing a “chain of evidence” required to admit items into a trial. He obtained receipts from each person who touched the film or camera.
Most films were confiscated on the spot and have never been seen by the American public again.
A few others do exist, including the Munchmore, Bronson, Towner, and Nix films.
This is a diagram of the path of the cars in the motorcade. The motorcade takes a hard right turn on Houston Street, and then a very difficult left onto Elm Street. This turn is so sharp, the Presidential limousine hits the opposite curb rounding the corner.
Note that the motorcade could in fact have traveled straight down Main Street avoiding the (illegal by Secret Service standards) sharp turns onto Houston and Elm streets. This jog in the motorcade route was inserted at the last minute.
One of the most infamous buildings in the United States of America – the former Texas School Book Depository.
The TSBD was constructed in 1901 after an original structure was destroyed by fire that same year. Designed in the Commercial Romanesque Revival style to resemble the original 5 story warehouse. The TSBD has 7 levels, depending how you count the first terrace level floor. This led to confusion in identifying the floor shots were to have come from shortly after the assassination. J. Edgar Hoover described it as “5th floor”, while history now recognizes it as the infamous “6th floor”.
The building is located on the west side of Dallas in the old downtown area.
This is the window where shots were alleged to originate from. A museum now inhabits the 6th floor of the warehouse, and this window area is glassed off. Witnesses saw smoke from this area, and some saw the barrel of a gun being pulled back in after the shots were fired.
Immediately upon hearing the FIRST shot, Officer Marion Baker of the Dallas Police Department, left the motorcade escort and dumped his bike on the front steps of the Texas School Book Depository. Within 90 seconds, he ran into the front door, found the building manager Mr. Roy Truely, and proceeded to search the building floor by floor.
On that first floor of the building in the lunch room, the second person identified by Officer Baker, was Lee Oswald, standing by the Coke machine drinking a Coca~Cola while eating his lunch. He was calm, not sweating, not out of breath, and properly identified himself.
The rear of the TSBD, this is the elevator shaft and stairwell area. Oswald was supposed to have fired 3 or more shots, cleaned the carbine of fingerprints, stashed the weapon on the opposite end of the large sixth floor, and the descended all 6 floors to the first floor lunchroom. There he had time to get his lunch out, purchase and open his Coca~Cola and take a drink. No sweat, not shaking and not out of breath.
All in 90 seconds.
This is the weapon that was put into evidence after the shooting. Italian Mannlicher Carcano 6.5 Carbine. A low powered shoulder weapon, not a high powered rifle. Considered by some military historians as one of the worst guns ever made.
This gun had a rusty bent barrel, a misaligned scope set up for a left handed man, no bullet clip (this means each round had to be inserted by hand between each shot fired) and no finger prints.
The first weapon found and documented by police ( Deputy Sheriffs Roger Craig, Eugene Boone, and Seymour Weitzman ) was a German Mauser 7.65 high powered rifle, in excellent condition. A weapon favored by snipers during and after World War 2. This weapon is described in almost all early reports of the shooting, including the Detroit Free Press Extra edition of November 23rd. This newspaper also describes ‘automatic’ weapons fire, due to the close proximity of the gun volleys described by the Secret Service.
President Kennedy was first shot in the back, to the left of his right scapula, at the level of the third thoracic vertebrae. This is clearly displayed in autopsy photographs, as well as the telltale hole in JFKs suit jacket and shirt. Autopsy doctors described this wound as “finger deep” with no projectile in the wound.
Many people reacted to what they thought were shots from the Dal-Tex building fire escape. Dal-Tex is the red building behind the TSBD in this photo.
The suspected firing point from Dal-Tex was the second floor through the fire escape (now removed) in that center window just above the awnings. It is interesting to note that in 1963, that window opened into an interior closet. If an assassin were inside that window, they would be enclosed by the closet on the interior and concealed from witnesses.
A man named Eugene Braden was arrested coming from the Dal-Tex wearing leather gloves and shooting glasses after the murder. He was released and the arrest record was lost for a number of years.
The most famous alternative theory for shooting locations is the now infamous ‘grassy knoll’ over a picket fence at the top of a hill just past the pergola where Abraham Zapruder stood. This is one view from the fence looking up Elm Street toward where the President was shot.
Every doctor at Parkland Hospital identified the wound in JFKs neck as a “wound of entry”. This is the wound that causes the President to splay his elbows upward in a defensive posture during the shooting. Perhaps he was trying to alert the Secret Service that he was injured, as they were still unresponsive to the shooting at that point.
The President received this wound above his shirt collar and tie, just above the adams apple. His shirt and tie were cut with scalpels at Parkland, and were not “nicked” by a bullet.
Another location above the fence that witnesses saw smoke, and heard the report of a rifle was in the middle of the stockade fence on the hill. This is a very obtuse angle, and is often ruled out as an originating point for the shots which hit the President in the throat and in the head. However, people in front of the fence, behind the fence, and up on the railroad bridge overpass all put a man with a rifle at this location.
These witnesses describe a man standing on the bumper of a parked car with a rifle aimed over the fence. Standing next to him was a “spotter” with a radio, dressed as a railroad worker. The man with the rifle was described as wearing a Dallas Police uniform, with no hat. After the shooting, these witnesses say that the man wearing the uniform handed the weapon off the the “spotter’ and walked away. The “spotter” dressed as a railroad worker walked in the opposite direction while disassembling the gun.
If this is what happened, this is where these men stood.
Almost everybody in Dealey Plaza at the west end ran towards the grassy knoll fence, including a police officer in the motorcade, who dumps his bike and runs up the hill “chasing the man with the rifle”.
Many of the famous photos show people and police running to this location at the top of the grassy knoll hill. This is where the stockade fence and the railroad bridge meet. The most famous photo shows reporter Robert McNeil (of the McNeil-Lehrer News Report show) standing at this juncture looking over his shoulder. After being chased away by the “Secret Service Agent”, McNeil went to the Texas School Book Depository to find a telephone. He stops in the doorway and asks an employee where he can find a phone. “Right in there, just ask somebody” is what the employee politely answered. This person was positively identified as Lee Oswald, standing calmly in the doorway looking at what was going on.
While the middle fence location looks like a difficult angle to strike the President in the forehead, this location at this fence juncture happens to be perfect. It has been shown that a rifle could be placed between the fence slats and aimed up Elm Street quite effectively.
It just so happens that at this location, there is a sewer grate to the underground sewer system below Dealey Plaza. With the cover removed, a man can stand in the sewer and be at a level perfect to aim through the fence.
This sewer channel also is large enough to walk through, and people have conducted tests and verified that you can escape from this location, and come up in a sewer outlet on the other side of the railroad Triple Overpass.