If you are intrigued, as I have always been, by the strange events that resulted in the Kennedy assassination, have I found a boo for you! It’s A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT by Philip Shenon.
This book is different from the others as it concentrates on a whole other angle: the investigation of the Warren Commission on the events surrounding the assassination.
I was two and a half years old when JFK was shot and I did not realize, until reading this book, that the “conspiracy theories” surrounding the assassination arose almost immediately on the day that it happened. Three days later, the man believed to be the shooter, one Lee Harvey Oswald, who claimed he didn’t do it and was nothing but “a patsy,” was shot by Jack Ruby, owner of a strip club, while being moved from a jail to another. He never got there. Another assassin’s bullet took Oswald out.
Oswald’s story is off-the-charts bizarre, and was so even before the assassination. He was an avowed Marxist, fed up with America, and so enamored of the Soviet Union that he renounced America and defected there. He met his wife, Marina, in Minsk and they had the first of their two daughters. Then he became fed up with the Soviet Union and, along with Marina and daughter June, came back to the USA.
Considering it was the height of the Cold War when this was all transpiring, and not long after Russian spies stole the secrets of America’s atomic bomb program, Oswald’s initial defection is really creepy. His flip-flop and subsequent return here, however, seems completely crazy. Why did American authorities allow him to come back?
It’s almost inevitable under such circumstances that the public would wonder just what in blazes was going on, and why a defector from America would be granted the right to return. Within days of the murder of Kennedy, newly sworn-in President Lyndon Baines Johnson decided a commission needed to be formed to look into the matter to put to rest the question of whodunit. He chose Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren to lead it. From then on, it became known as “The Warren Commission.”
Oswald, it turned out, was no stranger to the FBI or CIA, who had had him under surveillance ever since he came back to our shores. He wasn’t considered all that much of a threat, just a nut, at least initially, yet watch him they did. Later, after he was accused of shooting the president and killed before the authorities could prove it conclusively or find out additional info, there was a mad scramble for the FBI and CIA to cover their butts, lest they be thought of as having been too incompetent to stop him in time to prevent Kennedy’s murder.
There’s lots of details in the book on the behavior of the FBI and CIA, which was not always honorable; of in-fighting between agents and agencies; of personality conflicts between members of the Commission itself, all of whom came from a legal background, and some that were previously opponents on various sides of high-profile cases like Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Earl Warren is a friend of the Kennedys as tries to go soft on the family. He also doesn’t want the other commissioners to see the actual upsetting, and horrific, autopsy report. Add to this the fact that Oswald was in Mexico City, talking to the Cuban and Soviet Embassy personnel, two months before the assassination, and the plot just thickens and thickens! Best of all, it’s all true, and makes for a fantastic historical read.
A teacher of mine at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School had known him when he was in the military and told my class there’s no doubt in his mind Oswald did it. His name was Richard Call. Mr. Call was one of the witnesses who testified before the Warren Commission.
Last night, fascinated by this book, I ran a YouTube search on the assassination. I found this interview online of Oswald’s daughter, June. Take a look. I can’t help but feel for this woman, who had to grow up with the shadow cast by the assassination upon her. June still has questions about the situation, and rightfully so. She is excited by anyone who does research on the case since it might lead to new information.
What happened in Dallas, really?
Did Oswald do it?
Did someone else?
If, indeed, Oswald had been “a patsy,” as he claimed…if there really was a conspiracy, and not a lone gunman with issues…who better to cast into the role of scapegoat for the crime of the last century than a man who’d defected to Russia during the Cold War and then returned?