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Featured Article for October 2005

All the News
that Seemed "Fit to Print"

A review of Dallas newspapers
from November 1963

by Walt Brown

In retrospect, it's probably a good thing that we have benefitted from the incredibly thorough investigation performed by the Warren Commission, because if we were only to rely on the media, we might make mistakes -­ how many shots, which direction, kind of weapon, crime suspects.

On the other hand, as you'll see, the media seemed to only understand "singular" concepts when it came to things like "sniper," "assassin," or "killer."

The Dallas Times Herald (DTH) "Final Edition" for November 21, 1963, clearly printed the motorcade route on page 1, including the tiny specks of Houston and Elm Streets. [What is curious is that Oswald, leaving the TSBD for the Paines', most likely did not see the map.]

"Showers Possible for JFK," ran the weather story, noting that rain was possible although sunny and 70s was hoped for. [It was 68 degrees when the shots were fired, and East Texas that day got 5.57 inches of rain.] Another piece noted "New Fuss Erupts Over JFK Tickets." It was written by Jim Lehrer, who, along with Dan Rather, Bill Moyers, and Bob Schieffer, seemed to do quite well, career-wise, following November 22.

"U 2 Found in Gulf; Pilot Not in Jet." It was believed to have been on a routine recon mission over Cuba before it left a visible oil slick in the Caribbean. [Could this have been an "Operation Northwoods " event, for JFK's private viewing while in Texas?]

November 21, DTH continued:

Nixon Here Before JFK on "Business"
"Former Vice President Richard Nixon said Thursday President Kennedy's `non-political' trip proves Texas is a major battleground in the 1964 presidential election. While sharply criticizing President Kennedy -- 'His public relations are brilliant, but his performance is poor' -- he urged a courteous reception for President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson." [Was any other kind of reception being considered?]

The remainder was by and large dross:

Jackie to Prevue Her `64 Campaign Style
[If only she'd had the chance...] "On-Again, Off Again TFX Contract Probe Off Again." [And with LBJ in the While House, "off" became permanent.]

Big news, but on page 14:

1,300 GIs to Be Returned from Viet Nam in 2 Months
[As reported, it was correct. As amended in a few days, it was fiction.]

DTH Friday evening, November 22, 1963. Final Edition. Price: 5 cents.

PRESIDENT DEAD
Connally Also Hit by Sniper
[singular]
The article itself is a patchwork quilt, and does not mesh well together. What you'll read in excerpts are as they appeared in chronolog­ical order.

"Two priests announced shortly before 1:30 that the President was dead. Bullets apparently came from a high-powered rifle in a building at Houston and Elm. A man was arrested and taken to the sheriff's office." [LHO wasn't taken to the sheriff's office, so this is somone else.] "The motorcade had just turned into Houston Street from Main Street when a shot rang out [wrong block]. Pigeons flew up from the street [could the pigeons have flown down from the street?]. Then, two more shots rang out and Mr. Kennedy fell to the floor of the car. The shots seemed to come from the extension of Elm Street from just beyond the Texas Textbook Depository Building at the corner of Elm and Houston Streets. Police swarmed into the area toward the railroad tracks and the witnesses could not tell if he [who?] was captured." "The cavalcade stopped there and there was bedlam. Six or seven persons were believed hit by sniper's volley. [earlier noted as 3 shots]. A sobbing carpet salesman told police minutes after the shooting that the President appeared to be hit twice. `The first time he slumped and the second one really blasted him.' These were the words of Charles Drehm..." [Brehm, and they were right, but Brehm's story was changed.]

"But reporters following the President in a motorcade said a man and a woman were seen scrambling on a walk over the underpass." [repeated two or three times, and wholly new/ unclear data] "Witnesses said six or seven shots were fired. The bursts were clearly heard." [Witnesses said....] "It was impossible to tell at once where Kennedy was hit, but bullet wounds in Connally's chest were plainly visible [to whom?], indicating the gunfire might possibly have come from an automatic weapon. Dallas motorcycle officers escorting the President quickly leaped from their bikes and raced up a grassy hill."

"Clint Hill, a Secret Service agent assigned to Mrs. Kennedy [how would that fact be so clearly known, when the rest is guesswork?], said, 'He's dead,' as the President was lifted from the rear of a White House touring car..."

"Fire equipment was rushed to the building from which the shots were believed to have been fired [300 feet from where the cops dumped their motorcycles and `raced up a grassy hill']. Firemen roped off the area as Secret Service men [no...] and city police swarmed through the building."

"Drehm seemed to think that the shots came from in front of or beside the President." "Mrs. Jean Hill ...and Mrs. Mary Moorman...who were among witnesses at the Triple Underpass, said the motorcade stopped suddenly and then swiftly sped on with its sirens blowing. `I thought I saw someone in the motorcade in street dress shoot back at a person running up the hill.'" [differs from Hill's statement at 1:20 p.m., CST, broadcast on NBC affiliate] "Moorman tells of taking a photo `exactly at the moment the shot rang out.' I heard another shot or two and I turned to my friend and we got on the ground." [Her photo was at Z313 +/-, which was supposedly the last shot; she also notes she got on `the ground,' not `the street,' as some interpret.]

"Patrolman W.E. Barker saw workers in the Texas School Book Depository pecking on a window from the third floor and pointing to a man wearing horn-rimmed glasses, a plaid coat, and rain coat. The officer immediately arrested the man and placed him in a roomful of witnesses in Sheriff Bill Decker's office..." [why would a cop put a suspect in with witnesses, unless he knew the suspect would walk?]

"The sheriff's office was becoming headquarters for one of the largest organized manhunts in history." [rubbish]

"The sheriff said he heard two shots and `may have seen one of the bullets hit the concrete and bounce."'

Secret Service Checks in Vain
"A motorcade route was checked out next. Trouble spots were spotted both in traffic and possible crowd situations."

"A list -- by name -- of known agitators in Dallas who might possibly be inclined to stir up trouble was obtained. Agents became familiar with them, their patterns." [This is absolute nonsense. The Dallas Secret Service office was very small. JFK's detail only arrived in Dallas that morning, and that, plus a minimal advance by Win Lawson, who did not even cover the entire motorcade route, was the extent of precautions. There were 28 SS agents, Dallas-related. Sixteen of them were in front of or closely behind, JFK's car. Some were keeping an eye on Air Force One, while some were already at the Trade Mart.]

The remainder of that paper was already set in type when the lead story was added. Existing pieces included mention of Jimmy Hoffa's bribery trial, as well as the ongoing Bobby Baker scandal. On page 19, it was noted, "Kennedy Sets Sunday Talks on Viet Nam," and "Bob Kennedy Won't Quit to Help JFK" [in the `64 election campaign].

Dallas Morning News Saturday, Nov. 23. By this time, some of the earlier "confusion" should have been cleared up. Some was -- but some wasn't:

KENNEDY SLAIN ON DALLAS STREET
Pro-Communist Charged with Act
"A sniper [singular, as it shall remain, with no questions found in any place even allowing for the remotest possibility that the single `sniper' had one or more accomplices] shot and killed President John F. Kennedy on the streets of Dallas Friday. A 24-year-old pro-­Communist who once tried to defect to Russia was charged with the murder shortly before midnight."

"Kennedy was shot about 12:20 p.m. Friday at the foot of Elm Street as the Presidential car entered the approach to the Triple Underpass." [This sounds like Specter's description of JFK's wound: "near the base of the neck." Intentionally imprecise?]

"The President died in a sixth-floor surgery room at Parkland Hospital about 1 p.m. The gunman also seriously wounded Texas Governor John Connally, who was riding with the President. The assassin [one], firing from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building near the Triple Underpass sent a 6.5 Mauser rifle bullet smashing into the President's head. He [LHO] was also accused of killing a Dallas policeman, J.D. Tippit, whose body was found during the vast manhunt for the President's assassin." [lone]

"It was a good-natured crowd that surged out from the curbs almost against the swiftly moving presidential car."

"Mrs. Kennedy, her stocking still flecked with blood from the assassination..." [flecked?]

"Johnson had deliberately delayed the ceremony to give Kennedy's widow time to compose herself for one of the grueling aspects of her husband's assassination." [Presidential widows are not constitutionally bound to be part of the swearing in at the time of a putsch, and as far as composing herself, Mrs. Kennedy was not able to testify before a very private Warren Commission thirty-one-question deposition until early June, 1964.]

Connally..."felled Friday by a sniper's bullet." [singular, for all wounds]

"After consulting with Mrs. Connally and others on the scene [who?] the consensus is that the governor was quite fortunate that he turned to see what happened to the president. If he had not turned to his right, there is a good chance he would have been shot through the heart -- as it was, the bullet caused a tangential wound." [If he was turning to see what happened to the president, he damn well didn't have his rib and wrist shattered by the bullet that caused the wound to the president, as it would have taken 0.005 of a second to pass through both men.]

Journalist Robert E. Baskin, who claimed to be three cars back in a press pool car [behind JFK was an SS follow up, LBJ's wagon, LBJ's followup, a car with Cabell et al., so Baskin was five cars back] wrote, "it was 12:30 p.m. The sharp crack of a rifle rang out. But at that moment, we couldn't believe it was just that. `What the hell was that?' someone in our car asked. Then there were two more shots -- measured carefully." [nice touch -- the Warren Report ten months early]

Back to non-cited text:

Assassin Fires Three Shots Into Car
"Another bullet had caught Gov. Connally in the back beneath the shoulder blades. He slumped to the floor and Mrs. Connally grabbed him."

"Parkland doctors said later that it was apparent that President Kennedy was not alive when he was brought into the hospital. Kennedy had two wounds, one in the throat just below the Adam's apple, and another in the back of his head, `a large, gaping wound with considerable loss of tissue.'" [It's a shame that the photographer at the autopsy missed that "shot."]

"'There was no spontaneous respiration,' said Dr. Tom Shires, chief surgeon, later. [On an earlier page, they had Shires being flown in on an air force jet, so how would he know this?] While the doctors were working frantically at the hospital, police, Secret Service men, and FBI agents had started a 2-city manhunt. They arrested several persons, among them a Fort Worth man who was said to be driving a car linked to the slayer." [oh my]

Quoting Helen Markham: "'I ran to the officer to see if I could help him,' she said. 'I was afraid he [LHO, presumably] was going to kill me, too, but I knew I had to try to help that officer.' Oswald fled. Mrs. Markham said Tippit tried to say something as he lay dying. `But he never got it out. He knew I was there, though."' [This sounds like she arrived at the body as the shots were echoing when, in fact, her WC testimony suggests she stood, frozen, a couple hundred, feet away, and covered her face as the assailant ran toward and past her. Beyond that, Tippit was dead when he hit the pavement. ]

"In a store-by-store search of the area, police found Oswald a few minutes later in the Texas Theater." [There was no such search, and it's the Texas Theatre, which, in its day, was the most famous theatre in America, so it's not like its some unknown firetrap.]

"Oswald, member of a respected Fort Worth family, is a former Marine. House Unamerican Activities Committee Records identify him as secretary of the New Orleans chapter of Fair Play for Cuba." [Could they have meant dysfunctional family? Beyond that, "Big Brother" WAS watching.]

Erik Jonsson, one of the co-sponsors of JFK's visit, made the first announcement at the Trade Mart: "There has been a mishap. We believe it is not serious at this time. A few minutes later, Jonsson announced that the shooting had been more serious than at first reported." [First reported by whom? The first reports would be police reports, and newsies are hooked right into that network to cover stories.]

"' Those damned fanatics,' one man shouted. `Why do we have them in Dallas?"'

The Houston Street photo of JFK wetting his lips (possibly with Lucien Conein immediately behind him) which appears on the cover of Treachery in Dallas is captioned "was taken as the presidential caravan moved slowly along Main Street."

Page three noted that seven presidents had died in office, "four by assassin's hand." Lincoln is, of course, noted, but not the Lincoln conspiracy; Zachary Taylor apparently didn't die in office, as there's no mention of him.

Witness From the News Describes Assassination
by Mary E. Woodward
"After acknowledging our cheers, he [JFK] faced forward again and suddenly there was a horrible, ear-splitting noise coming from behind us and a little to the right. My first reaction, and also my friends', was that as a joke someone had backfired their car. Apparently, the driver and occupants of the President's car had the same impression, because instead of speeding up, the car came almost to a halt. ... I don't believe anyone was hit with the first bullet. The President and Mrs. Kennedy turned and looked around, as if they, too, didn't believe the noise was really coming from a gun.. Then after a moment's pause, there was another shot and I saw the President start slumping in the car.... The cars behind stopped and several men [Secret Service men, I suppose] got out and started rushing forward, obstructing our view of the car. About ten feet from where we were standing, a man and a woman [most likely Bill and Gayle Newman] had thrown their small child to the ground and covered his body with theirs. Apparently the bullets had whizzed directly over their heads." [Mary Wondward was just to the left of the Stemmons Freeway sign, so a TSBD shot could be construed to have come,from behind her, but certainly not to her right. If the bullets whizzed over the Newmans, they were nol fired, f o}m the TSBD; on November 22, 1992, I spent time with Mary Woodward, and she told me essentially, of knoll shots, the last two of which were one behind the other. At a 1994 journalists' conference, she spoke of the shots from the TSBD only.]

What you read from Mary Woodward appeared in only one edition, and was pulled.

Kennedy Killer Hid in Area Little Used
"President Kennedy's killer could have been holed up in that sixth-story hideaway for as long as four days without anyone bothering him, the President [Jack C. Cason] of the Texas School Book Depository said Friday night. `The sixth floor was used solely as a "dead storage" area."' [We know better -- why didn't the president of the outfit?]

16 Persons Checked Out in Ft. Worth
"A Secret Service agent said here Friday that 16 persons were `checked out' Thursday night [bartenders at "The Cellar"?] by agents guarding President Kennedy's life." There was no evidence in the article to suggest LHO was one of the 16, although it was noted he was "from Ft. Worth." There are also no data regarding how many -- if any -- were `checked out' in Dallas.

Act of Maniac Not Tied to City: Cabell
DA Predicts Insanity Plea by Oswald
"Prosecutors said Friday they anticipate Lee H. Oswald will plead insanity if [IF?] he stands trial on charges of murdering President Kennedy." [I'd be curious as to what other options were under consideration for Oswald. It was noted by Henry Wade that because Oswald "fled the scene," he understood right from wrong, so the insanity plea wouldn't work.]

Hoover Orders Full Probe.
A small, one column, seven-line box which failed to mention such legal subtleties as "jurisdiction."

Oswald Said Opposed to Authority
"A Fort Worth policeman was describing Lee Harvey Oswald as he knew him from fifth grade through eleventh grade football practice in Fort Worth."

Author of Open Letter Says Shooting Terrible
The article noted that the "Welcome, Mr. Kennedy" hate piece which appeared in Friday's paper was the work of Bernard Weissman, about whom no data are provided except that Weissman regretted the tragedy.

Senator Tower Threatened By Callers
Conservative Texas Senator John Tower, nowhere near Texas at the time, was receiving threats by phone and cable.

Johnson Chose to Run at Urging of Kennedy
LBJ did not want to be Vice President, but gave in to JFK's pleas to be on the ticket.

Decision Cost JFK His Life
This piece tells that on November 15, at the urging of local party leaders [and every reader of this, journal will learn some amazing things about them in the days to come], JFK was convinced to have a motorcade: "The Democratic leaders urged the President to ride in motorcades through Fort Worth and Dallas to give more voters a chance to see him."

Officials Recall Sniper Shooting at Walker Home
"...police determined that the bullet was fired from a 30.06 rifle." [leaving out LHO, posthumously tagged with the crime]

Eventually, the pages dwindle to ads for then-playing movies -- Lord of the Flie s, Under the Yum Yum Tree, and McClintock Among others, and a scheduled Peter, Paul and Mary concert for Saturday night.

Tickets for the concert were $2, with student tickets at $1.50.


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