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Samizdata quote of the day – special JFK anniversary edition

The King of Camelot was killed by a commie loser. The impossibility of processing that drove the left crazy, and they still can’t face it.

Glenn Reynolds, who clearly enjoys annoying conspiracy theorists, as I do. Meanwhile, Janet Daley reflects on what it was like to be a Kennedy supporter back in the early 1960s.

40 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – special JFK anniversary edition

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Not to go all conspiracy theorist on you, but there is one piece of evidence that raised some interesting questions for me. When asked to conduct his own investigation, Carlos Hathcock, the greatest sniper who ever lived, concluded that the official account of JFKs shooting was all but impossible from a ballistic point of view. Even the great man was unable to reproduce Oswald’s performance on the day.

    I do think Oswald was one of the shooters, but I think it likely he had an accomplice, who of course would also have been a commie loser. As to whether there was a formal cover-up, I have no idea.

  • …of course he could have just been a lucky shot…

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Well, quite. Hathcock was of the view that if it was Oswald, it was a one in a million shot.

    Not impossible, but certainly not likely.

  • Paul Marks

    The bullet that got Jack Kennedy through the throat (the so called “magic bullet”) did indeed also hit the Governor – it is not a “magic bullet” because the Governor was NOT sitting where nearly everyone thinks he was sitting (and where he shown sitting in endless television shows and films).

    Governor C. was actually sitting on a JUMP SEAT – so there is no problem with the “magic bullet” (because the Governor was NOT sitting where he is normally presented as sitting).

    The problem (if there is one) is with the third bullet (not the oft mentioned “magic bullet” – which does not need to be “magic” at all).

    The third bullet seems to deform on impact (like a hollow point) – whereas Mr Oswald (as he had been taught) was using military ammunition – ammo designed to go through one person and carry on (in the hope of hitting someone else).

    Of course that bullet through the throat would have killed Kennedy anyway. But the bullet in the brain is the odd one.

    The least bad “conspiracy theory” is that one of Kennedy’s own guards ACCIDENTALLY fired – agent Hickey riding in the car behind with an AR15 rifle (firing the right sort of ammunition).

    I do not really believe it – but at least it has the advantage of being a “cock up – then panic cover up” theory.

    After all a government bureaucracy (such as the Secret Service) could not be exposed as useless (indeed harmful).

    Many of the Secret Service guards has actually been out drinking with strippers the night before (they still do that – there was a scandal only a couple of years ago) – they were useless on the day.

    However, Agent Hickey was NOT one of these people.

    He is dead now – but that is no reason to smear him.

    Agent Hickey was sober and had not been out on the town the night before. But bad things can happen when a man (under fire) grabs for a AR15 rifle.

    “The President is under fire, I will cover him. Oh …………………………………………….”

    A lot of people do actually die from “friendly fire” – if someone you are with is under fire, do not move your firearm to cover them (oddly that is what most people without extensive combat experience do). Look for who is shooting at them.


    A big GAIN for the left.

    Mr Johnson was way to the LEFT of Mr Kennedy – and always had been.

    No President Johnson – no Great Society Welfare State and no BANKRUPT UNITED STATES now.

    Also Jack Kennedy had Addison’s disease.

    It would have become obvious in the 1964 campaign.

    If Jack Kennedy has not been shot – his rival Barry Goldwater would have been elected President in 1964.

    A result that might not have displeased Kennedy as much as might be thought.

    After all Kennedy and Goldwater were FRIENDS (tell a leftist that – and watch them blow up).

    Whereas Kennedy and Johnson hated each other.

  • Paul Marks

    I also suspect that (as many people have pointed out) that the Warren Commission gets the first two bullets in the wrong order.

    The first bullet only causing a minor wound (it deflected off the road) – and causing Kennedy to cry out “I am hit” (which everyone in the car heard him say).

    Someone does not talk a lot after they have had their throat shot out.

    Also Governor C. was certain that it was the second shot that hit him – not the first.

    “So why did Kennedy not take cover” – fling himself down to the floor of the car…..

    He could not – the man was a CRIPPLE (something that people did not want to be generally known at the time – indeed he is still presented in a false light today).

    His back was held upright by a corset – so that he could wave at the crowd and look good.

    He was basically like a target at the range.

  • Aldous Huxley and CS Lewis both died on November 22, 1963. Can we remember them instead of some worthless politician?

    I was born in 1972, so I don’t get the whole Camelot garbage or why we in America need a political culture mired in the 1960s. Well, technically it’s advanced as far as the resignation os Richard Nixon, as evidenced by the use of the [long string of expletives deleted] -gate suffix for every political scandal.

    I wish I could remember where I first read it, but I read in a comments thread someplace saying that the Kennedys were the Kardashians of the 1960s.

  • Sam Duncan

    “I do think Oswald was one of the shooters, but I think it likely he had an accomplice, who of course would also have been a commie loser.”

    I’m not convinced, but yes. I’ve never understood why the possibility of two shooters “proves” it was the CIA/FBI/Mob/Klan/aliens.

  • SC

    It should be noted that Reynolds’ quote is actually just a summary of the Bryan Preston piece he links to.

  • razorbacker

    JFK was vastly more popular December 1, 1963, than he was November 1, 1963.

    November 1 there were still people angry that Chicago had delayed reporting votes until it became clear how many votes were needed to give JFK the victory. Some people were still calling Bobby Kennedy a ‘nepotism’ hire. Some people were still spooked by what darn near became nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I could go on.

    December 1, 1963, it was all forgotten.

  • John K


    One of the many problems with the “magic bullet” (CE399) is that the bullet wound in JFK’s back is lower than the wound in his throat. His back wound was 5 3/4 inches below the collar line, his throat wound was just above the knot of his tie. The Warren Commission described his back wound as being at the base of the neck, and produced a drawing showing it there, but it was below the neck. An assassin 60 feet up firing down cannot reasonably have an entry wound several inches lower than the exit wound.

  • Laird

    I believe that an accidental shot from a Secret Service agent in the trailing car, as was noted by Paul Marks above, is the most likely scenario for one of the bullets, and possibly the fatal one. The film clearly shows that agent standing up in the car after the first shot was fired, then falling backward as the car accelerated in the ensuing panic. An accidental discharge of his weapon is certainly plausible. All of the Secret Service’s actions afterward (intimidating witnesses, crowding around the autopsy room to be certain that the doctors reached the “right” conclusions, concealing evidence, etc.) are consistent with an agency deeply embarrassed by one of its own and anxious to cover up the fact. And of course Agent Hickey never spoke about the events of that day (and was never called by the Warren Commission, which somehow managed to miss calling quite a number of probably probative witnesses). So I do subscribe to a “conspiracy theory” of a sort, but not the ones ascribing the assassination to Castro/Khruschev/the mob/the CIA/Johnson (take your pick). A more benign conspiracy, as it were.

    I’m certainly no Kennedy fan (and it’s clear that the younger you get in that family group the worse the quality; it’s a pity that Ted survived the longest, as he was the least intelligent and most useless of the bunch), but in retrospect the assassination of JFK was truly unfortunate for the country because it subjected us to LJB. Kennedy was ambivalent about Vietnam and likely would not have expanded our involvement in that unfortunate war as did Johnson. He was far more economically conservative than Johnson, seemed to have a decent grasp of basic economic principles (witness his tax reductions, which sparked significant economic growth), and in general seemed to be much more “centrist” in his governing philosophy. (I suspect that today he would have been a Republican!) And because of his health he likely would have served only one term, paving the way for much better quality successors than we actually experienced (notably Johnson, Nixon and Carter). The ramifications of November 22 reverberate to this day.

    “The Kennedys were the Kardashians of the 1960s.” What a great line. I will likely “borrow” it.

  • Mr Ed

    Now the POTUS is far better protected than the late Mr Kennedy, the Vice-President is Joe Biden.

  • John K


    I feel sure that if an AR15 had been fired in the follow up car, some of the people on Elm St, who were only a few feet away, would have heard or seen it. I am not aware of any who did, as opposed to many who saw or heard suspicious activity on the grassy knoll.

    The Secret Service would, I am sure, have covered its ass if a stray AR15 round had hit JFK, but I doubt they could have arranged for the Navy to botch up the autopsy so badly, nor for the surviving autopsy photos and X-rays to have been faked.

  • Laird

    John K, you are more credulous than I!

  • John K


    I don’t think I am so credulous as to believe a theory that a Secret Service AR15 witnessed by no-one at all killed the president. However, the botched autopsy and the altered autopsy images are another matter.

  • Mr Ed

    @ JV 1st post

    Carlos Hathcock, the greatest sniper who ever lived

    I beg to differ, Simo Häyhä of the Finnish Army.

  • jdgalt

    @Paul Marks: I agree that retrospectively, Kennedy’s death was a big gain for the left, especially because it resulted in LBJ’s Civil Rights Act. But I can’t buy that someone on the left (other than a lone Communist) might have seen it that way at the time and done the deed, if for no other reason than Vietnam.

    Kennedy did send a few advisors into Vietnam, but there’s no way he would have condoned the huge American effort there that Johnson undertook. After the Bay of Pigs he knew perfectly well what kind of leaders he had at the Pentagon.

    If any of the conspiracy theories are true I have to believe it was some bunch at the Pentagon or CIA. Only they would have both the motive and the capability of getting a detailed itinerary of the President’s trip in advance. (The KGB would have that capability, but would also share the reason, Vietnam, to want to keep Kennedy alive.)

  • Laird

    John, see this. As far as “witnessed by no one”: everyone was looking around for the shooter after the first shot was fired; why would anyone be looking at the Secret Service car? And there were a lot of witnesses (never called by the Warren Commission) at ground level who smelled gunpowder, which certainly can’t be explained by a shooter nearly 300 yards away. There really is logic behind this theory.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Jaded Voluntaryist
    November 22, 2013 at 8:50 am
    Carlos Hathcock, the greatest sniper who ever lived….

    Shooting isn’t so exquisite a skill that there’s a “greatest.” I’m sure that any experienced shooter would have been as competent as Hathcock to rate the difficulty of the shot, and most of those who did seemed to think it was entirely possible.

  • John K


    I saw the recent TV programme about this theory, but it does not convince me. Witnesses were no more than 12 feet from the motorcade, I feel sure that an AR15 going off would have been seen or heard. You are right that Senator Yarborough and others smelt cordite on Elm St, which could point to a grassy knoll shooter. Incidentally, I don’t think the School Book Depository was as much as 300 yards from the car, more like 300 feet surely? Everyone who goes to Dealey Plaza remarks on how compact the killing ground was.

    Person from Porlock:

    Hathcock was certainly the best sniper the US armed forces had in the Vietnam era. I think the professional opinion of a man with more than 90 kills is worth taking seriously.

  • After the Bay of Pigs he knew perfectly well what kind of leaders he had at the Pentagon

    Was the Bay of Pigs a Pentagon SNAFU? I always thought it failed because Kennedy bottled out of providing air support.

  • As of people knowing for sure whether a shot was fired or when…it is extremely difficult for a civilian unused to hearing gunshots to tell, especially in amongst a panicking crowd. I’ve heard gunshots in Nigeria, you’re never really sure what you’ve heard unless the fire is sustained. And I don’t think the AR15 makes a huge noise…not sure, I’m only comparing it to the SA80 which I have fired. A bang yes, but not deafening. More of a crack, I’d say.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    As far as the number of shots heard is concerned, muzzle blast is one noise but the shock wave emitted by the supersonic bullet is another, and both of them bounce off the surrounding buildings as echos. So how many shots were heard, and where they came from, is pretty uncertain.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    John K
    November 22, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Person from Porlock:

    Hathcock was certainly the best sniper the US armed forces had in the Vietnam era. I think the professional opinion of a man with more than 90 kills is worth taking seriously.

    It’s certainly worth taking seriously, but not as ‘conclusive’ in the face of other qualified opinion.

  • Laird

    John K, you are correct on the distance: it’s reported as 81 meters, or around 275 feet. Still far enough away that the smell wouldn’t be immediately noticeable, though (and, as you say, consistent with a grassy knoll shooter). I agree with Tim about the noise. I’ve never fired an AR15 but I have fired its military cousin the M16, and it doesn’t make much noise at all (a .40 caliber pistol is much louder). Most civilians don’t really know what rifle shots sound like, anyway.

    We’ll probably never know the truth. Clearly, someone with a great deal of clout wanted to keep it secret, and did a lot to suppress evidence (as well as keeping the Warren Commission under control). It will likely remain one of the great mysteries.

  • jdgalt

    @Laird: I don’t trust Wikipedia to decide any argument; they’re too easy for biased groups to hijack. They’re usually a good place to start looking, though.

  • Eric

    88 yards is a pretty comfortable distance in the US marine corps where Oswald learned to shoot. Rifle quals happen at 200, 300, and 500 yards using iron sights, and Oswald was an above average marksman. If you have something to brace your rifle a 3″ grouping at 100 yards is probably something of which most everyone is capable with a little practice. Oswald certainly was.

    A moving vehicle makes it more difficult, but something moving at a constant speed in a straight line is the easiest moving shot to make. They teach that in the marines as well.

    There may be other reasons to suspect Oswald didn’t do all the shooting, but “he couldn’t possibly have made that shot” isn’t one of them.

  • Paul Marks

    jdgalt – Jack Kennedy sent many THOUSANDS of people to Vietnam (not “a few people”) and he was far more (not less) interested in fighting Communism that Johnson was.

    Vietnam was perfectly winnable – and had Kennedy remained President it most likely would have been won (see below).

    Tim Newman – President Kennedy did indeed change the plan in relation to Cuba, and his changes did mess things up.

    An experienced Commander in Chief gives a general order and then LEAVES IT TO THE PROFESSIONALS to carry out the operation in the way they see best. Kennedy, privately, blamed other people after the Cuban Exiles were defeated – but it was his changes to the operation that doomed it (amateur hour).

    A Commander in Chief should not play “toy soldiers” (“I think we should do it like this…..” is FATAL).

    Vietnam was also doomed by political oversight – mostly by Robert McNamara (a man with no military experience – but who issued detailed instructions on just about everything).

    For example the USAF was asked for a list of its top military targets – and then told it could not hit any of them.

    Kennedy appointed McNamara – but I find it very hard to believe that he would stuck with him.

    And besides……

    Barry Goldwater would have won the 1964 election had Kennedy lived – Kennedy’s Addison’s disease would have seen t that (yes Kennedy had the same illness in 1960 – but it is Progressive, the body goes down hill over time).

    And the first thing Goldwater would have done is to kick out Robert McNamara and all the other “management intellectual” types.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    There may be other reasons to suspect Oswald didn’t do all the shooting, but “he couldn’t possibly have made that shot” isn’t one of them.

    It’s not the performance on any single shot that Hathcock thought was the issue, it was the performance across all of them.

    Oswald fired 3-4 shots in 5-7 seconds, using a bolt action rifle with a misaligned sight. The inquest leaned toward 3 shots in 5 seconds. Later evidence suggests the timing may have been a few seconds longer. One of his shots missed completely, not only Kennedy but the whole limo. One of them was absolutely perfect. This indicates both a surprisingly high rate of fire, and a surprisingly high variation in performance. It seems like a more parsimonious explanation that Oswald fired the missing shot and the throat shot, and someone else fired the head shot.

    I’m not saying its impossible that Oswald fired all the shots. It just seems surprising that a shooter who could miss a huge target completely at less than 88 yards on his first or second shot could turn it around and hit JFK in the head on his third. This is what Hathcock was unable to replicate using a single shooter.

  • Richard

    A horrible, bloody and deeply unpleasant event, to be sure. I was about five or six and remember hearing the news when I came home from school, so yes, I actually do remember where I …

    But more than that, I remember the disc jockey, John Peel, who was in Dallas at the time, saying that they cheered in his friend’s school when they heard the news. How time alters perceptions! So, a shag happy, homicidal (look up the South Vietnamese coup) rich kid from a dysfunctional and deeply unpleasant, criminal family copped it. Why do we concentrate on myth so much? – not just in this instance, but in so many others!

  • John K

    Tim & Paul:

    With regard to the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy stuck to his guns. He said the plan could go ahead, but that there would be no overt US support. It is my belief that the CIA never thought the plan would succeed, and that faced with the possibility of failure, JFK would concede the point and order US air support at least, a full invasion at best. He did not, he held them to their side of the deal, and they were furious. He also sacked Allen Dulles as head of the CIA, a man who, by a strange coincidence, three years later was sitting on the Warren Commission. Anyone think that’s a bit odd?


    Most civilians don’t really know what rifle shots sound like, anyway.

    Maybe, but these were Texan civilians.

  • Paul Marks

    Who benefits?

    The Agency certainly did NOT benefit.

  • John K


    I have to disagree with you. The CIA hated Kennedy. He pulled the plug on their plans to invade Cuba, sacked the Director of Central Intelligence, issued an NSAM to the effect that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were to have jurisdiction over covert actions, and declared that he would like to smash the CIA into a thousand pieces. After the Bay of Pigs, he never trusted the CIA and they never trusted him.

  • Paul Marks

    I repeat the CIA did NOT benefit.

    Allen Dulles may have been fired by Jack Kennedy – but Dulles never acted from personal motives, he was a professional.

    There is plenty of material for conspiracy theories (if people want that sort of thing)- for example the Cuban regime may well have had advanced notice of the attack.

    But leave “it was the CIA” to the same morons who think that Mr Johnson (a leftist all his life) was allied with “right wing oil barons” – simply because they both spoke with a Texas accents.

    Oh by “morons” I do include Rothbardians – at least Rothbardians from the “left and right join hands” stage.

    The people who tried to get libertarians to ally with Communists during the 1960s.

    Indeed (given his hate filled, Radio Moscow style, attacks on the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s – American “genocide”, the Communists as fighters for “freedom” and “National Liberation) I would be more inclined to believe that Murray Rothbard was involved in the assignation of Jack Kennedy than Allen Dulles was.

    Actually neither was.

  • John K


    The dislike and distrust between Kennedy and the CIA was mutual. The CIA certainly did benefit from the death of a president who did not trust them and wanted to roll back the national security state.

  • Ed Snack

    Paul, that’s so similar to a post I wrote about the Menninger/Donahue theory, probably using the same sources helps.

    Donahue, who claimed significant ballistics expertise (he was actually one of 11 people chosen to attempt to replicate the shots by the Warren commission, and was the only one to do so), thought that Oswald’s shooting was by no means impossible. Donahue also thought that Oswald only fired twice, the first a miss, the second the neck shot, with the bent case found at the scene a device used to keep the rifle’s chamber clean before loading live ammunition. The third, the head shot, was the AR15 round from Hickey.

    He bases this primarily on ballistics info, the neck shot (aka the magic bullet) is aligned for a shot from the book depositary (post Mortem errors accepted) whereas it is difficult to fit the head shot into the same frame without postulating that Kennedy some bent suddenly forward in a way not captured on the Zapruder film.

    He also postulates one fairly obvious way to determine if this theory is correct; an AR15 round will have a noticeably different makeup from a mannlicher round and thus an analysis of the bullet residues in JFK’s brain would quickly resolve the issue. Sadly the brain has been missing for many years, putatively it was removed by RFK.

    The trouble with the grassy knoll theories is that there is no good evidence at all locating a gunman or gunmen at that location. The witness statements are at best contradictory and can’t readily be reconciled. Also, the head shot was clearly from behind based on the Zapruder film, a sudden backwards jerk is a common reaction from the muscles.

    But in the end I fear we’ll never be sure as the necessary evidence probably no longer exists.

  • Ed Snack

    The other point I should have made, there’s also a pretty good case that can be made for Oswald alone, the third shot, pace Donahue, is not impossible to make and the angles can be made to work. It is indeed a great pity that the initial autopsy was so poorly performed.

  • Maybe, but these were Texan civilians.

    Heh! Fair one…

  • razorbacker

    Did onlookers know what a gunshot sounded like? In 1963? When the draft still was in effect? Eighteen years after World War II? Not a decade past the Korean War? There were still an awful lot of men (sorry ladies, but yeah, men) who had personally heard plenty of gunshots from plenty different weapons under plenty of different terrain conditions. Yeah. If you were male and over eighteen years old you had a really, really good chance of having heard gunshots.

    And you didn’t have to be from Texas to qualify. Do not look and the world today and assume that the world has always been thus. And could the shot have been made from less than 100 yards? I have personally pulled the trigger enough times to know that shooting is an art wrapped in a science and shoved up a dog’s anus. Just because I can’t do it every time doesn’t mean I couldn’t do it once.

    It is a crying shame that a commie killed JFK. It is a crying shame that a Palestinian terrorist killed Bobby Kennedy. It is a crying shame that a racist shot MLK.

    If you pay attention, the world will make you cry a river of tears. You have no other place to live, sadly. You may as well look the world full in the face, and realize it for what it is.

  • John K

    Ed Snack:

    There was no “neck shot” on JFK to the rear. There was a bullet wound 5 3/4 inches below his collar line. It was at a downward angle, and at the autopsy Dr Finck was only able to get his finger in it to the second joint. It seemed to go nowhere. A wound to JFK’s throat was just above the knot to his tie.

    In the limousine, the nose and base of the bullet which apparently hit JFK in the head were recovered, the central part of the bullet seems to have vaporised. The autopsy x-rays do show a large number of tiny metal fragments along the top of JFK’s skull. The behaviour of this 6.5 mm Carcano bullet was singular to say the least.

    To my mind the most interesting aspect of the AR15 story is the corroboration it gives to the testimony of Ed Hoffman, a deaf man who watched the motorcade from near the railway overpass. After the shooting, he could see behind the grassy knoll, and saw a man hand a rifle to an accomplice, who put it in the trunk of a car and drive off. The Secret Service car had come to a stop under the overpass, and Hoffman tried to approach and tell them what he had seen, but was threatened with a machine gun. For a long time his story was disbelieved because the Secret Service denied they had a machine gun, but now we know that they did have an AR15. Hoffman tried to take his evidence to the Dallas Police and the FBI, but no-one was interested. The basic pattern of the investigation was that anyone who saw something suspicious at the School Book Depository was believed, and anyone who saw anything suspicious on the grassy knoll was dismissed as a fantasist. It’s almost as if the Warren Commission had a preconceived idea of what they wanted to find!