Timeline of the John F. Kennedy assassination
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January 15, 1963: Connally is sworn in as governor of Texas. As the governor of Texas, he will help plan and serve as host for President Kennedy's trip to Texas.
March 12, 1963: An order for a rifle with a mounted scope is sent to Klein's Sporting Goods from someone named "A. Hidell" (an alias used by Oswald) to be delivered to a post office box that was rented by Oswald.
March 13, 1963: Order received by Klein's Sporting Goods from A. Hidell at P.O. Box 2915 in Dallas for an "Italian Carbine 6.5 W/4X Scope". Total cost is $21.45 for rifle with serial number C2766.
March 17, 1963: Marina Oswald sends a letter to the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. asking to be granted an entrance visa to the USSR.
Oswald is given notice in the latter part of March that he will be terminated from his job.
April 6, 1963: Oswald works his last day at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall.
April 10, 1963: Someone fires a bullet that just misses retired general Edwin Walker, a strongly anti-communist advocate of far-right politics. The police determine that the shot came from a distance of less than 40 yards. The case remained unsolved until two weeks after the death of Lee Oswald when Marina Oswald admitted to the FBI that it may have been her husband who had fired the shot.
April 23, 1963: Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texas native, tells reporters in Dallas that President Kennedy may visit Texas sometime that summer. Johnson hopes that Kennedy's schedule would allow him to have a breakfast in Fort Worth, a luncheon in Dallas, an afternoon tea in San Antonio and dinner in Houston.
June 5, 1963: President Kennedy, Vice President Johnson, and Governor Connally are together in a meeting in El Paso when they agree to a second presidential visit to Texas later that year. (In 1978 Connally testified to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that in the spring of 1962 "Vice President Johnson told me then that President Kennedy wanted to come to Texas, he wanted to come to Texas to raise some money, have some fund-raising affairs over the State.")
Kennedy decides to embark on the trip with three basic goals in mind: to raise more Democratic Party presidential campaign fund contributions, to begin his quest for reelection in November 1964 and, because the Kennedy-Johnson ticket had barely won Texas in 1960 (and had even lost in Dallas), to mend political fences among several leading Texas Democratic party members who appear to be fighting politically against themselves.
June 24, 1963: Oswald applies for a US passport in New Orleans, Louisiana, stating that he intends to depart from New Orleans during the period from October to December 1963 for proposed travel as a tourist for a duration of between three months and one year. The next day, he is issued US Passport DO 92526, which will be valid for three years to all countries except Albania, Cuba and those portions of China, Korea and Vietnam that are under communist control.
September 17, 1963: Jack Valenti sends an invitation to the White House asking whether President Kennedy would attend a dinner in Houston on November 21 honoring Albert Thomas for his decision not to retire from Congress. The invitation is received at the White House on September 19, 1963.
Lee Oswald is issued a 15-day Mexican tourist card using the name "LEE, Harvey Oswald".
September 20, 1963: President Kennedy addresses the United Nations General Assembly and offers the Soviet Union a joint expedition to the Moon. The proposal is controversial with many members of Congress and raises fresh questions about how much money should be appropriated to the NASA budget.
September 21, 1963: Rep. Thomas, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and chairman of its Subcommittee of Independent Offices that had been reviewing the Kennedy Administration's record $5.3 billion 1964 NASA budget proposal, sends a letter to the president asking for clarification of his U.N. speech regarding a joint Soviet-US moon landing. He wonders whether this proposal indicates a weakening of America's effort in the space program. Thomas had also played an instrumental role in the location of the Manned Spacecraft Center, now known as the Johnson Space Center in his home district of Houston.
Ruth Paine drives Marina Oswald from New Orleans back to her home in Irving, Texas. Late that night Lee Oswald also leaves New Orleans to travel to Mexico City in the hopes of somehow gaining entrance to Cuba, to where travel has been banned by the United States.
September 24–28, 1963: President Kennedy embarks on an 11-state conservation tour that includes visits to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Utah, Oregon, California and Nevada.
September 24, 1963: At a press conference in Austin, Governor Connally announces that he will visit Washington, D.C. from October 2–4, 1963 and that he hopes to see President Kennedy, but has no plans to invite him to visit Texas although he would be delighted if he were to come.
The White House accepts the invitation to the Albert Thomas dinner in Houston and turns it into a two-day political trip encompassing all the major cities of Texas. Although Kennedy had wanted to visit Texas at some point, he had not planned to go at this particular time.
September 25, 1963: Late in the evening, White House sources, in an exclusive to the Dallas Morning News, announce that the president will visit Texas November 21–22, 1963 and that the tour will include Dallas.
September 26, 1963: The Dallas Morning News is the first newspaper to announce the Texas visit in an article covering the president's conservation tour in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
September 27, 1963: Lee Oswald arrives in Mexico City and registers at the Hotel del Comercio. He visits the Cuban consulate three times in an attempt to secure a visa to Cuba, as well as the Soviet embassy to obtain a visa, but is denied in both instances.
October 4, 1963: Governor Connally meets with President Kennedy at the White House.
Oswald returns to stay at the Paines' residence in Irving for the weekend.
October 7, 1963: Bobby Baker resigns his position as secretary to the Senate Majority Leader because of various scandals. He had been appointed to the position by close personal friend Lyndon Johnson in 1955.
October 10, 1963: The House of Representatives votes 302–32 to pass the 1964 fiscal year Independent Offices Appropriations Bill, which contains funding for NASA and 25 other independent government agencies. Guiding the bill through the House was subcommittee chairman Albert Thomas. The bill prohibits NASA from spending any of its budget on a joint Soviet Moon landing.
October 11, 1963: Kenneth O'Donnell sends a reply to Jack Valenti formally accepting his invitation for the president to speak at the dinner honoring Rep. Thomas.
October 14, 1963: Fred Korth resigns his position as Secretary of the Navy. He had been recommended by Johnson for the post when Connally had abruptly resigned in December 1961 to run for governor of Texas. The awarding of the TFX Program contract to Fort Worth-based General Dynamics Corp. had ignited a controversy when it was learned that Korth, as president of Continental National Bank, had once approved a line of credit for General Dynamics. In 1948, Korth, as a private lawyer, had represented Edwin Ekdahl in his divorce proceedings against Marguerite Oswald.
October 15, 1963: Ruth Paine calls the Texas School Book Depository and arranges for a job interview for Lee Oswald with building superintendent Roy Truly. Truly interviews Oswald later that day and hires him as a temporary employee. Oswald starts work the following day.
October 20, 1963: Kenneth O'Donnell, special assistant and Appointments Secretary to President Kennedy, calls Jerry Bruno the advance man for the Kennedy trips, and asks him to come to the White House to discuss the planning of the trip to Texas.
October 21, 1963: Bruno meets with O'Donnell and is told to contact Walter Jenkins, one of Vice President Lyndon Johnson's top administrative assistants, to get his input for the trip.
October 24, 1963: Bruno meets with Jenkins, who tells Bruno the stops that Governor Connally has suggested. The first stop would be to fly to San Antonio on November 21 and drive in a motorcade to Brooks Air Force Base, then fly to Houston and drive in a motorcade to the Rice Hotel, where the Albert Thomas dinner was originally scheduled to take place, and stay overnight at the hotel. Then on the morning of November 22, the president would fly to Fort Worth to receive an honorary degree at Texas Christian University (TCU) at 9:30 a.m. and then from Fort Worth ride in a motorcade for the short distance to Dallas, where he would attend a luncheon at the annual meeting of the Dallas Citizens Council at the Statler Hilton Hotel. Finally, the president would attend a fundraising dinner in Austin before returning to Washington. Jenkins suggests that Bruno go to Texas, meet with Governor Connally and evaluate the sites himself, and to also meet with Democratic Texas senator Ralph Yarborough, a bitter political enemy of Connally and Johnson, to avoid any trouble between the two parties on the trip.
United States ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson II gives a contentious speech on United Nations Day at the Dallas Memorial Auditorium, where he is booed and heckled. After the speech, he is hit on the head with a picket sign and spit upon.
October 29, 1963: Bruno meets with Henry Brown, president of the Texas AFL-CIO and a friend of Senator Yarborough, to obtain his input from labor leaders. He then has lunch with Governor Connally to review his itinerary, which includes an honorary degree from Texas Christian University; this event, because Kennedy is Catholic, is one that Bruno considers among the highlights of the trip. Connally informs Bruno that he has assigned different members of his staff to each stop on the itinerary and that they would be in charge of the visit. Bruno tells Connally that he welcomes his input and suggestions, but that the final decisions on the itinerary will be made by the White House.
Governor Connally announces that a "Texas welcome dinner" for Kennedy will be held in Austin on November 22. The governor says that the dinner will be a $100-per-plate event held at 7:30 p.m. at the Austin Municipal Auditorium as a climax to the president's Texas trip. It is sponsored by the state Democratic executive committee. No other plans have been completed except those for the November 21 Albert Thomas appreciation dinner in Houston.
October 30, 1963: Bruno and Johnson aide Clifton Carter visit the Texas cities that the president will visit. The San Antonio and Houston sites are checked and confirmed as acceptable, but when visiting Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Bruno is informed by school officials that TCU has no intention of conferring an honorary degree on the president and that they have only approved the use of their campus as the location for a speech. Bruno informs Connally of this development, and Connally says he will meet with the university's Board of Regents the next night. Bruno then travels to Dallas to evaluate the ballroom at the Statler Hilton Hotel where the luncheon is planned to take place on November 22. He is met there by J. Erik Jonsson, chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council (and an owner of Texas Instruments), and Robert B. Cullum, chairman of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and owner of the Tom Thumb Food Stores. Cullum informs Bruno that the ballroom at the Statler Hilton is now unavailable because organizers of a bottlers' convention had reserved it and would not surrender it. Jonsson and Cullum suggest the Dallas Trade Mart, but after visiting the site, Bruno dislikes the many catwalks that would be over the president, which, in light of the Stevenson incident that had just occurred a few days earlier, could present a security problem. He asks to be shown other available sites in Dallas.
October 31, 1963: Bruno visits two other potential luncheon sites, the Dallas Memorial Auditorium, which he deems too large, and the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest, which he believes would be too far out of town and thus impractical. He is also informed that Governor Connally is unhappy with the decision not to use the Trade Mart for the luncheon because of the catwalk issue. Bruno agrees to visit the Trade Mart again but still has misgivings. Connally telephones that he has met with the TCU Board of Regents and that they will not confer an honorary degree on the president. Bruno is now faced with two holes in the schedule, Fort Worth and Dallas. One last place is suggested as a luncheon possibility, the Women's Building (now known as the Women's Museum) at the fairgrounds at Fair Park.
November 1, 1963: Bruno returns to Washington D.C. with the Dallas luncheon site location still undecided. The Fort Worth visit is eventually resolved when the city's chamber of commerce agrees to sponsor a breakfast for the president. Because of this, the president's overnight stay is changed from Houston to Fort Worth so that he will have time to attend the breakfast.
November 2, 1963: The arrest and assassination of Ngô Đình Diệm, the president of South Vietnam, marks the culmination of a successful CIA-backed coup d'état led by General Dương Văn Minh. Diệm and his adviser, younger brother Ngô Đình Nhu, are arrested after the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) is successful in a bloody overnight siege on Gia Long Palace in Saigon. Kennedy cancels his planned visit to Chicago to attend the Army-Air Force football game so that he may instead keep in close touch with developments in South Vietnam.
November 4, 1963: Gerald Behn, the Secret Service Special Agent in Charge (SAIC) for the White House detail, telephones Forrest Sorrels, Secret Service SAIC of the Dallas district. He instructs Sorrels to survey the buildings that the president is planning to visit during the Dallas leg of the trip. The two leading contenders to host the Dallas luncheon are the Trade Mart (strongly favored by Governor Connally) and the Women's Building at the state fairgrounds, which Bruno favors and Connally bitterly opposes. Later that day, Sorrels reports back to Behn that the Women's Building appears to be preferable from a security standpoint, but that it is not a nice place to take the president. He reports that the Trade Mart has about 60 entrances as well as six catwalks over the area where the luncheon would be held, which could pose a problem in adequately staffing the site with security personnel.
White House Secret Service agent Winston Lawson is informed that he has been assigned to the Dallas visit.
November 5, 1963: Bruno visits the White House and has separate meetings with Kenneth O'Donnell, Gerald Behn and Walter Jenkins. It is decided that the Trade Mart poses too great a security risk, and the Women's Building is chosen as the Dallas luncheon site.
November 7, 1963: The Albert Thomas appreciation dinner to be held on November 21 sells out a second time. Organizers of the dinner had already moved the venue from the Rice Hotel, where the event had sold out, to the larger Sam Houston Coliseum because of increased demand for tickets once it became known that Kennedy would attend. After it was announced that the First Lady would also attend, tickets to the dinner at the larger venue sold out as well.
November 8, 1963: Bobby Baker is featured on the cover of Life magazine. The article features a full-page picture of Vice President Johnson with his arm around Baker and reveals that Baker was known around the Senate as "Lyndon’s boy."
As Johnson is visiting the Benelux countries, Life's Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter William G. Lambert receives approval to significantly expand his nine-member team investigating Baker and to send them to Texas to focus on Johnson's financial affairs. Teams of reporters began working in Johnson City, Austin and the Texas Hill Country searching through deeds and other records of recent land sales, as well as the real-estate and banking transactions of the Johnson family's L.B.J. Company. Reporters also investigate the advertising sales and other activities of KTBC-TV, the cornerstone of Johnson's extensive radio and television interests. The first of what is supposed to be a series of articles laying out some of the new findings is soon written by Keith Wheeler for future publication.
It is announced that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy will begin resuming her official White House duties on November 20th, more than a month earlier than expected. She had previously announced the cancellation of all her events for the rest of the year following the premature birth and death of her third child, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, the past August.
Around 2 p.m., Oswald test-drives a new red Mercury Comet Caliente two-door hardtop at the Downtown Lincoln Mercury dealership at 118 East Commerce in Dallas. He tells salesman Albert Bogard that he will be back to buy it in two or three weeks when he will have the $300 down payment.
November 10, 1963: Vice President Johnson winds up his tour of the Benelux countries and returns to Washington, D.C.
November 12, 1963: Billie Sol Estes, an alleged former business partner of Johnson, appears before the Senate Investigations subcommittee for questioning. He pleads the Fifth Amendment to all questions posed.
Attorney General Robert Kennedy reportedly telephones Bobby Baker to assure him that it was not he who was behind the investigation that led to Baker's resignation as secretary to the Senate Majority Leader. Rumors had been swirling that the attorney general was making Baker the scapegoat of a scandal in an attempt to embarrass Johnson because Kennedy wanted to force Johnson off the ticket in 1964.
A special flight carrying all the advance groups that are to work on the preparation for the trip to Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas departs Andrews Air Force Base at 8:20 a.m.
November 13, 1963: Jack Puterbaugh and White House Secret Service agent Winston Lawson, along with Dallas Secret Service agents Forrest Sorrels and Robert Steuart, visit the office of Robert B. Cullum, president of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, to discuss plans for the Kennedy visit. They reexamine the Trade Mart and the Women's Building and meet with representatives of the Trade Mart.
November 14, 1963: Johnson arrives in Los Angeles for a whirlwind visit. He addresses a luncheon meeting of delegates to the Regional Conference on Equal Employment Opportunities. He then flies by helicopter to Huntington Beach for the dedication of a new Douglas Aircraft Company missile and space facility before flying to Beverly Hills for the Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner. After the dinner, Johnson flies to Texas.
Acquiescing to the wishes of Governor Connally, Kenneth O'Donnell reverses his prior decision to hold the Dallas luncheon at the Women's Building and changes the location to the Dallas Trade Mart. According to both O'Donnell and Bruno, this change in the luncheon site, although seemingly insignificant at the time, dramatically alters the motorcade route taken through Dallas.
Lee Oswald appears at the Allright Parking Garage at 1208 Commerce Street to inquire about job openings.
The White House announces that the Dallas Trade Mart will be the site of President Kennedy's luncheon address and there will be a motorcade through downtown Dallas. Until that point, there had been speculation in the news media that Kennedy's tight schedule in Texas would not allow enough time for a motorcade through Dallas.
November 17, 1963: Kennedy stays in Palm Beach, Florida, spending much of the day preparing for the five speeches that he will deliver the next day in Tampa and Miami.
November 18, 1963: Kennedy delivers three speeches in Tampa with a motorcade through the city, then flies to Miami and gives two more speeches, including a hemisphere policy talk at the Miami Beach convention of the Inter-American Press Association, where he urges the Cuban people to overthrow the Castro regime. He flies back to Washington, D.C. late that evening. On the return flight, Kennedy confides to his good friend Senator George Smathers of Florida that Vice President Johnson wants First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to ride in the car with him during the upcoming tour of Texas.
November 19, 1963: In an informal discussion with his secretary Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy reveals some of his plans for the next administration if he is reelected in 1964. He informs Lincoln that he is seriously considering replacing Johnson as his running mate in 1964 with Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina.
November 22, 1963: The second in a series of articles on the Bobby Baker scandal appears in Life magazine.
Kennedy's upcoming trip to Dallas had been first announced to the public in September 1963. The exact motorcade route was finalized on November 18 and was announced to the public a few days before November 22.
During the third week of October 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was living in a rented room in a boarding house in the Oak Cliff district of Dallas. He had just been hired for a seasonal job at the Texas School Book Depository as a $1.25-per-hour clerk, filling customer orders for books. Oswald had obtained the job after a referral by Ruth Paine, with whom Oswald's wife Marina and their children were living. At about the same time, Paine had separated from her husband Michael.
A month before Kennedy's ill-fated trip, U.N. ambassador Stevenson was jeered, jostled, hit by a sign and spat upon when he visited Dallas to mark U.N. Day. Dallas police were fearful that similar demonstrations would occur when Kennedy visited Dallas. Several people, including Stevenson, warned Kennedy against coming to Dallas, but Kennedy ignored their advice. Dallas police chief Jesse Curry increased the level of security during Kennedy's visit; he put into effect the most stringent security precautions in the city's history. Curry even deputized citizens to take action for any suspicious acts that could endanger the president.
President Kennedy's Texas trip schedule
Thursday, November 21
- San Antonio: Dedication speech for U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base.
- Houston: Testimonial dinner at the Sam Houston Coliseum, honoring Congressman Albert Thomas (Beforehand, the Presidential party makes an impromptu visit at a League of United Latin American Citizens dinner at the Rice Hotel. After the President's brief address, the First Lady speaks to the audience in Spanish.)
- Fort Worth: Arrival at Hotel Texas.
Friday, November 22
- Fort Worth: Chamber of Commerce breakfast speech at Hotel Texas.
- Dallas: Luncheon speech attended by Dallas Citizens Council, Dallas Assembly and Graduate Research Center of the Southwest at Trade Mart.
- Austin: Fundraising dinner speech at Municipal Auditorium.
- Johnson City: Weekend of relaxation at Lyndon Johnson's ranch.
November 21: Arrival in Fort Worth
On Thursday, November 21, 1963, at 11:07 p.m., Air Force One lands at Carswell Air Force Base on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. The president and his wife walk down the steps of the aircraft and are met by Raymond Buck, president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and his wife.
Air Force Two also lands at Carswell with vice president Lyndon B. Johnson, the Texas governor John Connally, and Senator Ralph Yarborough. Connally and Yarborough dislike each other so much that Yarborough is unwilling to travel in the same car as Johnson, who is an ally of Connally. The following day, the president tells him to ride with Johnson.
At 11:35 p.m., the First Couple arrives at the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, after being cheered by thousands of well-wishers lined on the route towards the West Freeway. Despite the late time and rainy weather, the President and Mrs. Kennedy take some time to shake hands with well-wishers gathered outside the hotel before retiring to their assigned suite (Room 850) for the night.
November 22: Fort Worth breakfast speech
On Friday, November 22, 1963, at 8:45 a.m., the president speaks before breakfast in a square across Eighth Street, accompanied by Congressman Jim Wright, Senator Yarborough, Governor Connally and Vice President Johnson. Kennedy praises Fort Worth's aviation industry. The attendees, members of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, are largely conservative Republicans.
At 9:10 a.m., JFK takes his place in the hotel's Grand Ballroom for the scheduled speech, the First Lady arriving amid loud applause 15 minutes later.
After the speech, Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent in charge of the trip, is advised by Kenny O'Donnell that the presidential limousine should have its bubbletop off if it's not raining in Dallas.
Later, press secretary Mac Kilduff shows the First Couple a disturbing advertisement seen in The Dallas Morning News, ironically and critically headlined 'Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas'. JFK tells Jacqueline: 'We're heading into nut country today. [...]'
November 22: Arrival in Dallas
On Friday, November 22, 1963, at 11:38 a.m. CST, Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline, and the rest of the presidential entourage arrived at Love Field in northwest Dallas aboard Air Force One after a very short flight from nearby Carswell Air Force Base, west of Fort Worth. The motorcade cars had been lined up in a certain order earlier that morning. The original schedule was for the president to proceed in a long motorcade from Love Field through downtown Dallas, and end at the Dallas Business and Trade Mart.
The motorcade was scheduled to enter Dealey Plaza at 12:10 p.m., followed by a 12:15 p.m. arrival at the Trade Mart, where President Kennedy was scheduled to deliver a speech and share a steak luncheon with local government, business, religious, and civic leaders and their spouses. Invitations that were sent out specify a noon start time to the luncheon while SS agent Lawson told Chief Curry that after arriving at Love Field and leaving at 11:30 the 38- to 45-minute trip would get them to the Trade Mart on time. Air Force One touched down at 11:39 a.m. and the Presidential motorcade did not leave Love Field until approximately fifteen minutes later.
Dallas/Fort Worth's television stations were given separate assignments. As Bob Walker of WFAA-TV 8 (ABC) was providing live coverage of the President's arrival at Love Field, KRLD-TV 4 (CBS) with Eddie Barker was set up at the Trade Mart for Kennedy's luncheon speech. KTVT Channel 11 (Independent), had originated live coverage of the President's breakfast speech in Fort Worth earlier that day. On hand to report the arrival on radio was Joe Long of KLIF 1190.
Motorcade vehicles and personnel
The following lists the order of the vehicles in the November 22, 1963 Dallas Presidential motorcade, along with their occupants:
- The lead car, an unmarked white 4-door Ford Mercury sedan:
- Presidential limousine, a midnight blue 4-door 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible (modified) (SS-100-X):
- Motorcycle escorts for the Presidential limousine
- Dallas Police Officer Billy Joe Martin (left)
- Dallas Police Officer Robert W. "Bobby" Hargis (left)
- Dallas Police Officer James M. Chaney (right)
- Dallas Police Officer Douglas L. Jackson (right)
- Presidential Secret Service follow-up car, a black 4-door 1956 Cadillac Touring convertible (SS-679-X) code-named "Halfback":
- Driver Agent Sam Kinney (driver)
- ATSAIC Emory Roberts (right front)
- SA Clint Hill, in charge of the First Lady's security (left front running board)
- SA William T. McIntyre (left rear running board)
- SA Jack Ready (right front running board)
- SA Paul Landis (right rear running board)
- Presidential aide Kenneth O'Donnell (left middle)
- Presidential aide David Powers (right middle)
- Driver Agent George Hickey (left rear)
- SA Glen Bennett (right rear)
- Vice Presidential car, a steel grey 4-door 1964 Lincoln convertible:
- Vice Presidential Secret Service follow-up car, a yellow 4-door 1964 Ford Mercury sedan, model 54A Monterey with Breezeway design hardtop code-named "Varsity":
- Mayor's car, a white 2-door 1964 Ford Mercury Comet Caliente convertible, model 76B with red interior:
- National press pool car, a greyblue 2-door 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air sedan hardtop (on loan from Southwestern Bell telephone company):
- Telephone company employee (driver)
- Malcolm Kilduff, White House assistant press secretary (right front)
- Merriman Smith, UPI (middle front)
- Robert Baskin, The Dallas Morning News (left rear)
- Jack Bell, AP (middle rear)
- Bob Clark, ABC (right rear)
- Camera car #1, national motion picture cameras, a yellow 2-door 1964 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport (SS) convertible:
- Texas State Policeman Harlan E. Veasey (driver)
- John Hofan, NBC sound (middle front)
- Dave Wiegman, Jr., NBC Black & White movie (right front)
- Thomas J. Craven, CBS Black & White movie (left rear)
- Cleveland Ryan, lighting technician (middle rear)
- Thomas "Ollie" Atkins, U.S. Navy, White House color movie (right rear)
- Camera car #2, national still cameras, a silver 2-door 1964 Chevrolet Impala convertible:
- Clint Grant, Dallas Morning News Black & White still (right front)
- Frank Cancellare, UPI Black & White still (middle right)
- Cecil Stoughton, White House Communications Agency, White House color still (left rear)
- Arthur B. Rickerby, Life Black & White still (middle rear)
- Henry Burroughs, AP Black & White still (right rear)
- Camera car #3, local cameras, a grey 2-door 1964 Chevrolet Impala convertible:
- An employee of the Department of Public Safety (driver)
- James H. Underwood, assistant news director for KRLD-TV and KRLD radio, (CBS) Black & White movie (middle front)
- Thomas C. Dillard, The Dallas Morning News Black & White still (right front)
- James Darnell, WBAP-TV Channel 5 (NBC) Black & White movie (left rear)
- Malcolm O. Couch, WFAA-TV Channel 8 (ABC) Black & White movie (middle rear)
- Bob Jackson, The Dallas Times Herald Black & White still (right rear)
- Congressman's car #1, a white 2-door 1964 Ford Mercury Comet Caliente convertible, model 76B with red top:
- Congressman's car #2, a white 2-door Ford Mercury Comet Caliente, model 76D convertible:
- Congressman's car #3, a grey 1964 Lincoln sedan:
- VIP car, a 4-door 1964 Ford Colony Park Station Wagon, model 71D (9 passenger):
- Two Continental Trailways press buses, a local press car (4-door Chevrolet hardtop), a Western Union car (black 1957 Ford hardtop), the White House Signal Corps car (a white 4-door 1964 Chevrolet Impala Sedan hardtop) (carrying Warrant Officer Ira Gearhart, who carried the President's Emergency Satchel, aka the "nuclear football"), the Official Party bus (Continental Trailways bus) (carrying Evelyn Lincoln, the President's Personal Secretary, and Rear Admiral George G. Burkley, MD, the President's Physician), several extra cars, and police escorts follow.
- Abbreviations used above include:
- SA: Secret Service Special Agent
- SAIC: Special Agent in Charge
- ASAIC: Assistant Special Agent in Charge
- ATSAIC: Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge
- Driver Agent: Secret Service driver agents operated through their own command chain. Driver agents were typically recruited from the uniformed White House Police Force.
Presidential motorcade route
The motorcade route schedule was as follows: left turn from the south end of Love Field to West Mockingbird Lane, right on Lemmon Ave., right at the "Y" on Turtle Creek Blvd, straight on Cedar Springs Rd, left on North Harwood St, right on Main St, right on Houston St, sharp left on Elm St, through Triple Underpass, right turn up ramp to North Stemmons Freeway, to Dallas Trade Mart at 2100 North Stemmons. This same exact route cannot be driven today as there have been highway progressions in several areas.
The presidential motorcade began its route without incident, stopping twice so President Kennedy could shake hands with some Catholic nuns, then some school children.
At 12:29 p.m. CST, the presidential limousine entered Dealey Plaza after a 90-degree right turn from Main Street onto Houston Street. Over two dozen known and unknown amateur and professional still and motion-picture photographers captured the last living images of President Kennedy.
Just before 12:30 p.m. CST, President Kennedy was riding on Houston Street and slowly approached the Texas School Book Depository head-on.
12:30 p.m. (CST): Shots are fired
According to witnesses, the shooting occurred shortly after the limousine made the sharp left-hand turn from Houston onto Elm Street. Most of the witnesses recalled that the first shot was fired after the president had started waving with his right hand. Several onlookers recalled hearing three shots, with the second and third shots bunched distinctly much closer together than the first and second shots. Witnesses estimate that from three to eight shots were fired. The Zapruder film shows the President re-emerging in the footage after being temporarily hidden from view by the Stemmons Freeway sign at Zapruder film frames 215 to 223; his mouth has already opened wide in an anguished expression by frame 225. He has already been impacted by a bullet, which hit him in the upper back and exited his throat, and his hands clench into fists. He then quickly raises his fists dramatically in front of his face and throat as he turns leftwards towards his wife. Secret Service Agent Clint Hill testified that he heard one shot, then jumped off the running board of the Secret Service follow-up car directly behind Kennedy (Hill was filmed jumping off his follow-up car at the equivalent of Zapruder frame 308; about a quarter of a second before the president's head exploded at frame 313). Hill then rapidly ran towards the Presidential limo and then another shot hit Kennedy in the head, cracking open the right side of his skull. As the limousine began speeding up, Mrs. Kennedy was heard to scream and she climbed out of the back seat onto the rear of the limo. At the same time, Hill managed to climb aboard and hang onto the suddenly accelerating limo, and Mrs. Kennedy returned to the back seat. Hill then shielded her and the President. Both of the Connallys stated they heard Mrs. Kennedy say, "I have his brains in my hand!" The limo driver and police motorcycles turned on their sirens and raced at high speeds to Parkland Hospital, passing their intended destination of the Dallas Trade Mart along the way, and arriving at about 12:38 p.m. (CST).
Governor Connally was also struck by the shots, and his wife pulled him closer to her. He suffered several severe wounds that he survived; a bullet entry wound in his upper right back located just behind his right armpit; four inches of his right, fifth chest rib was pulverised; a two-and-a-half inch sized chest exit wound; his right arm's wrist bone was fractured into seven pieces; and he had a bullet entry wound in his left inner thigh. Although there is controversy about exactly when he was wounded, analysts from both the Warren Commission (1964) and House Select Committee on Assassinations (1979) believed that his wounds had been inflicted nearly simultaneously with President Kennedy's in their theories that the two men were struck by a single bullet. The Commission theorized both men were hit nearly simultaneously between Zapruder film frames 210 to 225, while the Committee theorized it happened at frame 190.
Witness James Tague was also injured by the shots when he received a superficial face wound. The Main Street south curb he had been standing 23.5 feet away from was struck by a bullet or bullet fragment that had no copper sheath, and a fragment of the concrete curb or a bullet fragment struck Tague on his right cheek. At Zapruder frame 313 Tague's head top was located 271 feet away from and 16.4 feet below President Kennedy's head top and the limousine's front windshield and its pushed nearly vertically straight-upwards sun visors were in between the president and the impacted curb point. The bullet or bullet fragment that struck the concrete curb was never found.
Lee Harvey Oswald
Dallas Patrolman Marion L. Baker had been assigned to serve as a motorcycle escort for the motorcade, and he was riding just behind the camera cars. He testified that the first shot he could hear was fired after he turned from Main St. onto Houston St. and had traveled approximately 60 to 80 feet along Houston as he approached the Houston and Elm streets intersection. Baker stated that he recognized the first shot he could hear as the report of a high-powered rifle and that he thought the shots had originated from the building "either right in front of me [the Depository] or the one across to the right of it" [the Dallas Textile Building (DalTex)]. He also said that he noticed pigeons take flight up from the roof of the depository building and start flying around. Baker then quickly drove to the corner of Houston and Elm St., parked his motorcycle, then looked westward into the aftermath of persons screaming, running and laying on the ground. He then listened to Chief Curry's radio broadcast saying, "Get some men up on that railroad track".
Baker then ran to the entrance of the Texas School Book Depository, entered the building with his gun drawn, and led by building superintendent Roy Truly, made his way to the far northwest corner of the first floor. From there, Baker and Truly started yelling for someone to send an elevator down from a higher floor. When there was no response, the two men began climbing the stairs, with Truly in the lead. Approximately 90 seconds after the shots rang out, Baker stepped out onto the second floor and a movement towards the lunchroom vestibule across from the stairs caught his attention. Baker confronted Oswald at gunpoint. He let Oswald pass after Truly identified him as an employee. According to Baker, Oswald did not appear to be nervous or out of breath. Truly said that Oswald appeared "startled" when Baker aimed his gun at him. According to the Warren Commission, Oswald was next seen by a secretary as he crossed through the second-floor business office carrying a soda bottle. He left the Texas School Book Depository through its front door at approximately 12:33 p.m.
The Warren Commission theorized that Oswald had traveled from the sixth-floor easternmost window, and hid an 8-pound, Italian-made 1940 Carcano, 6.5-millimeter rifle equipped with a four-power scope along the way. The rifle was reportedly discovered near the sixth-floor northwest corner by a Dallas police detective at 1:22 p.m., having been placed down between stacks of boxes, balanced upright on the lowest edges of its barrel and wooden stock. After being discovered, the rifle was photographed before being touched and was filmed while it was being inspected by the police crime lab supervisor.
Estimates of when the depository building was sealed off by police range from 12:33 to 12:50 p.m. The Dealey Plaza immediate area streets and blocks were never sealed-off, and nine minutes after the assassination, photographs show that vehicles were still driving unhampered down Elm Street, through the crime scene kill zone.
After leaving the depository, Oswald walked seven blocks before boarding a bus. When the bus got stuck in traffic, he got off, walked to a nearby bus station, entered a taxi, took it several blocks past his rooming house, and then walked back to the rooming house. He arrived at his rooming house at 1026 North Beckley Ave. at around 1:00 p.m. According to his housekeeper Earlene Roberts, he left three or four minutes later. She last saw him standing and waiting at a bus stop outside the rooming house.
At 1:15 p.m, Oswald shot and killed Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit near the intersection of 10th St. and Patton Ave. This was 0.86 mile from Oswald's rooming house. Thirteen people witnessed Oswald shooting Tippit or fleeing the immediate scene. By that evening, five of the witnesses had identified him in police lineups, and a sixth identified him the following day. Four others subsequently identified Oswald from a photograph.
After killing Tippit, Oswald was seen traveling on foot toward the Texas Theater on West Jefferson Blvd. About 1:35 p.m. Johnny Calvin Brewer, who worked as a manager at Hardy's Shoe Store in the same block as the Texas Theater on Jefferson Blvd. saw Oswald turning his face away from the street and duck into the entranceway of the shoe store as Dallas squad cars drove up the street with sirens on. When Oswald left the store, Brewer followed Oswald and watched him go into the Texas Theater movie house without paying while ticket attendant Julie Postal was distracted. Brewer notified Postal, who in turn informed the Dallas Police at 1:40 p.m.
Almost two dozen policemen, sheriffs, and detectives in several patrol cars arrived at Texas Theater because they believed Tippit's killer was inside. When an arrest attempt was made at 1:50 p.m. inside the theater, Oswald resisted arrest and, according to the police, attempted to shoot a patrolman after yelling once, "Well, it's all over now!" then punching a patrolman.
A Catholic priest named Father Oscar Huber (1895–1975) was summoned to Parkland Hospital to perform the last rites for President Kennedy. Dr. Malcolm Perry, assistant professor of surgery at UT Southwestern and a vascular surgeon on the Parkland staff, was the first to treat Kennedy and he performed a tracheotomy, followed by a cardiopulmonary resuscitation performed with another surgeon. Other doctors and surgeons who gathered worked frantically to save the president's life, but his wounds were too severe.
At 1:00 p.m. CST, Kennedy was pronounced dead after all activity had ceased and after Huber had administered Extreme Unction. Personnel at Parkland Hospital Trauma Room #1, who treated the President, observed that the president's condition was "moribund", meaning he had no chance of survival upon arrival at the hospital. "We never had any hope of saving his life," Dr. Perry said. "I am absolutely sure he never knew what hit him," said Dr. Tom Shires, Parkland's chief of surgery. Father Huber, after administering the last rites to the president, told The New York Times that the president was already dead upon the priest's arrival at the hospital. Huber had to draw back a sheet covering the President's face so that the last rites could be given. Governor Connally, meanwhile, was soon taken to emergency surgery where he underwent two operations that day.
Although Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 p.m. CST, the official announcement would not come until more than half an hour later. After receiving word of the president's death, acting White House press secretary Malcolm Kilduff entered the hospital room where Vice President Johnson—who would be sworn in as the new President on Air Force one later that day—and his wife were sitting. Kilduff approached them and said to Johnson, "Mr. President, I have to announce the death of President Kennedy. Is it OK with you that the announcement be made now?" Johnson ordered that the announcement be made only after he left the hospital. When asking that the announcement be delayed, Johnson told Kilduff: "I think I had better get out of here.. .before you announce it. We don't know whether this is a worldwide conspiracy, whether they are after me as well as they were after President Kennedy, or whether they are after Speaker (John W.) McCormack, or Senator (Carl) Hayden. We just don't know." He later recounted to Merle Miller: "I asked that the announcement be made after we had left the room...so that if it were an international conspiracy and they were out to destroy our form of government and the leaders in that government, that we would minimize the opportunity for doing so."
President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1:00 CST today, here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound to the brain. I have no other details regarding the assassination of the president.
A few minutes after 2:00 p.m. CST, President Kennedy's body was removed from Parkland Hospital and transported straight to Air Force One. The removal occurred subsequent to a ten- to fifteen-minute angry confrontation between Kennedy's special assistant Ken O'Donnell (backed by weapons-drawn and/or aimed Secret Service agents) with Parkland Hospital doctors and Medical Examiner Dr. Earl Rose, along with a justice of the peace. The removal of President Kennedy's body may have been illegal according to Texas state law, because it was done before a forensic examination could be performed by the Dallas coroner. The assassination of the president was, at that time, listed on the books as a state-level crime and not a federal one, and as such legally occurred under Texas jurisdiction. To this date, however, no official judge or court of law has ruled on this matter.
Breaking the news
Locally in Dallas
From Dallas, local listeners of top-rated Top 40 music station KLIF-1190 were listening to The Rex Jones Show when they received the first bulletin at approximately 12:38 p.m. CST. A "bulletin alert" sounder faded in during the song "I Have A Boyfriend" by The Chiffons. The song was stopped and newscaster Gary Delaune made the first announcement over the bulletin signal:
This KLIF Bulletin, from Dallas: Three shots reportedly were fired at the motorcade of President Kennedy today near the downtown section. KLIF News is checking out the report. We will have further reports. Stay tuned.
KLIF's competitor Top 40 station, KBOX, has been widely cited as the only station to report the shooting as it happened, but the "aircheck" of this moment widely circulated in the decades since – in which newsman Sam Pate breathlessly reports, "It appears as though something has happened in the motorcade route ..." – is in fact a recreation. Although authentic airchecks of KBOX's coverage from later in the day do exist and have been posted online, they do not include the moment when the station first broke the news.
Down the dial, Dallas' CBS Radio affiliate KRLD concluded the coverage of the presidential party's arrival at Love Field and switched to reporter Bob Huffaker who was standing at the corner of Main and Akard Streets in the downtown area, just 1/2 mile east of Dealey Plaza where the shooting occurred. After the president's car passed him, Huffaker continued reporting for several more minutes and was said to have been on the air as the shooting took place (although shots cannot be heard in the audio coverage). Shortly after returning to regular programming with the nationally syndicated religious program Back To The Bible, the first reports of the shooting came through CBS Radio. Huffaker was not aware of the developments until he arrived back at the KRLD studio after wrapping up his coverage; he quickly drove out to Parkland Hospital to report the scene outside the hospital's emergency entrance.
NBC Radio affiliate WBAP played instrumental music, with interruptions for local bulletins, until NBC Radio's continuous coverage began.
Dallas' ABC television affiliate WFAA was airing a local lifestyle program, The Julie Benell Show, at the time. At 12:45 p.m. CST, the station abruptly cut from the prerecorded program to news director Jay Watson in the studio, who had been at Dealey Plaza and ran back to the station following the incident:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. You'll excuse the fact that I am out of breath, but about 10 or 15 minutes ago a tragic thing from all indications at this point has happened in the city of Dallas. Let me quote to you this [briefly looks at the bulletin sheet in his left hand], and I'll... you'll excuse me if I am out of breath. A bulletin, this is from the United Press from Dallas: (Reading UPI bulletin) 'President Kennedy and Governor John Connally [in his agitated state, he mispronounced Connally's name as "Colony"] have been cut down by assassins' bullets in downtown Dallas. They were riding in an open automobile when the shots were fired. The President, his limp body carried in the arms of his wife, Jacqueline, has rushed to Parkland Hospital.'
Watson then began anchoring continuous coverage of the tragedy with Jerry Haynes, better known as WFAA-TV children's TV show host "Mr. Peppermint," followed shortly by an interview with witnesses Bill and Gayle Newman.
The first national news bulletin of the shooting came over the ABC Radio Network at 12:36 p.m. CST/1:36 p.m. EST. The most complete recording of the initial ABC bulletins came from WRUL, a New York-based station transmitting to Latin America and Europe on shortwave, which was featuring a program of MOR album music when the shooting took place. At the time, Doris Day's recording of "Hooray for Hollywood" was playing when newscaster Don Gardiner broke in with the developments:
We interrupt this program to bring you a special bulletin from ABC Radio. Here is a special bulletin from Dallas, Texas: (Reading UPI bulletin) 'THREE SHOTS WERE FIRED AT PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S MOTORCADE TODAY IN DOWNTOWN DALLAS, TEXAS.' This is ABC Radio. To repeat: 'in Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade today.' The president now making a two-day speaking tour of Texas. We're going to stand by for more details on the incident in Dallas. Stay tuned to your ABC station for further details. Now, we return you to your regular program.
Four minutes following ABC's radio bulletin, CBS was the first to break the news over television at 12:40 p.m. CST/1:40 p.m. EST. The network interrupted its live production broadcast of As the World Turns with a "CBS News Bulletin" bumper slide and Walter Cronkite, reporting from the CBS Radio flash booth, filed an audio-only report. Live video of Cronkite was impossible at that time, as no camera in the CBS newsroom was active and ready. TV cameras of that era used image orthicon tubes which took approximately 20 minutes to warm up. 
Here is a bulletin from CBS News: 'in Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas.' The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting. More details just arrived. These details about the same as previously: President Kennedy shot today just as his motorcade left downtown Dallas. Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed Mr. Kennedy, she called 'Oh, no!' The motorcade sped on. United Press says that the wounds for President Kennedy perhaps could be fatal. Repeating, a bulletin from CBS News: 'President Kennedy has been shot by a would-be assassin in Dallas, Texas.' Stay tuned to CBS News for further details.
Initially, the live broadcast of As the World Turns continued, with the actors unaware of the earlier pre-emption for the bulletin. Cronkite later filed two additional audio-only bulletins to interrupt programming, the last of which interrupted a Friskies dog food commercial and pre-empted the remaining running time of As the World Turns. Only the bulletin bumper remained on screen while a television camera warmed up, until 2:00 p.m. EST. Cronkite stated in a later interview that this event was responsible for a new CBS network policy of always having a hot camera available to the newsroom to avoid this difficulty in the future.
At that time, As the World Turns was the runaway top-rated daytime show, and ABC and NBC made no concerted effort to compete with CBS in the time slot; as a result, the other television networks weren't on the air in the Eastern and Central Time Zones. Various programs were being broadcast through their affiliate stations. From their main headquarters in New York, WABC-TV's first bulletin came from Ed Silverman at 1:42 p.m. EST, interrupting reruns of The Ann Sothern Show on the East Coast and Father Knows Best in the Mountain Time Zone. ABC-TV was not feeding programming to its affiliates in the Pacific Time Zone at that hour. At the same time of ABC-TV's first bulletin, NBC Radio reported the first of three "Hotline Bulletins", each preceded by a "talk-up alert" which gave all NBC-affiliated stations 30 seconds to join their parent network. Three minutes later, Don Pardo broke into WNBC-TV's local rerun of Bachelor Father with the news, saying (reading AP bulletin) 'PRESIDENT KENNEDY WAS SHOT TODAY JUST AS HIS MOTORCADE LEFT DOWNTOWN DALLAS. MRS. KENNEDY JUMPED UP AND GRABBED MR. KENNEDY. SHE CRIED 'OH NO!' THE MOTORCADE SPED ON.' (Videotape of the NBC bulletins have been assumed "lost" as they did not start recording coverage until minutes later. However, audio engineer Phil Gries rolled tape on a set of audio recordings on a 1/4" reel to reel audiotape recorder. These have been donated to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. However, NBC, in its book on the coverage of the assassination, mentioned the bulletins.) At 1:53 p.m. (EST), NBC broke into programming with an NBC Network bumper slide and Chet Huntley and Bill Ryan began informing the viewers what was going on as it happened. However, NBC's camera was not ready and the coverage was limited to audio-only reports as CBS' coverage had been to that point. Other than for two audio-only bulletins (one following the initial report), ABC did not break into its stations' programming at all, instead waiting until the network was to return to broadcasting at 2:00 p.m. Eastern to begin its coverage.
At 1:57 p.m. EST, just as Frank McGee joined the reporting, NBC began broadcasting the report as their camera was ready and working. Three minutes later, at 2:00 EST, CBS' camera was finally ready and Cronkite appeared on the air after a brief station break, with ABC beginning its coverage at the same time. Radio coverage was reported by Don Gardiner (ABC), Alan Jackson (CBS), and (after a top-of-the-hour newscast) by Peter Hackes and Edwin Newman (NBC).
Television and radio coverage (from approx. 2:00 to 2:40 p.m. EST)
Providing the reports for ABC Television were Don Goddard, Ron Cochran, and Ed Silverman in New York, Edward P. Morgan in Washington, Bob Clark (who as noted above had been riding in the motorcade when Kennedy was shot) from Parkland Hospital, and Bill Lord from the Dallas County sheriff's office. As with the other networks, ABC interspersed with their Dallas affiliate WFAA-TV 8 for up-to-date information. Reporting from WFAA were Bob Walker (who had been at Love Field for live coverage of the President's arrival) and Jay Watson (who had remained on the air locally from the time he broke into local programming upon his return from Dealey Plaza). They were later joined by Bob Clark upon his arrival from the hospital.
ABC's initial coverage of the incident was very disorganized. Cochran, ABC's primary news anchor, was on his lunch break when word of the assassination attempt first broke and the network had to call him back to the studio. Silverman was the voice accompanying ABC's first bulletin, broadcast during a rerun episode of Father Knows Best that was airing on a majority of the network's affiliates in the Mountain Time Zone at the time; the surviving videotape of ABC's initial bulletins appears to have been recorded by then-affiliate KTVK in Phoenix, as it contains the interruption of Father Knows Best. The first on-camera report was given by Goddard in the network's news studio, which was too far away from the teletype machines. Goddard then moved to the newsroom and was joined by the returning Cochran, and the technical crew began constructing an impromptu news set around them (ABC did not have studio space ready for such an occasion; NBC had a flash studio in its newsroom and CBS' reports came directly from their own newsroom as they had since they launched an evening newscast earlier in 1963). Cochran and Goddard were forced to stand and awkwardly hold microphones and headsets so they could report the information.
In addition to the disorganization in New York, ABC was not able to switch to Dallas to speak to its correspondents. Only one feed was available to them at first, which came from the Dallas Trade Mart and CBS affiliate KRLD reporter Eddie Barker. CBS had earlier aired snippets of Barker's report, but had cut it off to return to its own reporting of the incident before Barker finished; ABC aired the remainder of the report until the end. The reason that ABC was able to air the CBS affiliate's coverage was due to a pool arrangement the three major Dallas stations agreed to for the President's visit. WBAP was responsible for covering the President's visit to Fort Worth and his departure and landing at Love Field, WFAA was assigned to cover the parade through downtown Dallas, and KRLD was set up at the Dallas Trade Mart for the address the President was to give.
At 2:25 p.m. EST, while attempting to switch to Bob Clark in Dallas, ABC Radio reported that Parkland Hospital said President Kennedy was dead, and then stressed that it was unconfirmed. Upon reporting the news, anchor Don Gardiner said this to his audience:
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a moment trying for all of us. Let us pause, and let us all pray.
ABC Radio then stopped coverage to broadcast orchestral music.
At 2:33 p.m. EST, Cochran reported on ABC Television that the two priests who were called into the hospital to administer the last rites to the President said that he had died from his wounds. Although this was an unconfirmed report, ABC prematurely placed a photo of the President with the words "JOHN F. KENNEDY – 1917–1963" on the screen.
Five minutes later, this photo was again prematurely placed when Cochran received an erroneous report that the President had died at 1:35 p.m. CST when, in fact, he had died at 1:00 p.m. CST. A few minutes following that, Cochran received further information regarding the President's condition and relayed the following to the ABC viewing audience:
Government sources now confirm...we have this from Washington. Government sources now confirm that President Kennedy is dead. So that, apparently, is the final word and an incredible event that I am sure no one except the assassin himself could have possibly imagined would occur on this day.
On ABC Radio, Gardiner reported the news, but did not say whether or not it was official. ABC then switched to Pete Clapper on Capitol Hill for an interview with the Senate's press liaison Richard Reidel. Moments later, the interview was interrupted by Gardiner's report of the President's death:
Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, is dead. The President is dead. Let us pray.
ABC Radio then returned to orchestral music.
At 2:00 p.m. EST, CBS took an extended station identification break so the affiliates in the Mountain and Pacific time zones could join the rest of the network in covering the story. Cronkite, now at his desk in the newsroom, appeared on camera for the first time and, for the sake of any new viewers who might not have been aware of what was happening, told the audience of the attempt made on the President's life.
From the time the CBS affiliates joined Cronkite in the news room at the top of the hour to approximately 2:38 p.m. EST, the coverage alternated from the CBS Newsroom and Cronkite, to KRLD-TV's Eddie Barker at the Dallas Trade Mart where President Kennedy was to give his luncheon address.
At approximately 2:11 p.m. EST, CBS News correspondent Dan Rather telephoned one of the two priests who performed last rites on Kennedy to confirm that he had indeed been shot. "Yes, he's been shot and he is dead," the priest told Rather. Almost simultaneously at the Trade Mart, a doctor went up to Barker and whispered, "Eddie, he is dead... I called the emergency room and he is DOA." Moments later, as the news cameras panned throughout the Trade Mart crowds, Barker gave this report:
As you can imagine, there are many stories that are coming in now as to the actual condition of the President. One is that he is dead; this cannot be confirmed. Another is that Governor Connally is in the operating room; this we have not confirmed.
Several minutes later, when CBS switched back to KRLD and the Trade Mart for another report, Barker repeated the claim of the President's death, adding "the source would normally be a good one." During this report, as Barker was speaking of security precautions for the President's visit, a Trade Mart employee was shown removing the Presidential seal from the podium where President Kennedy was to have spoken.
CBS Radio's death announcement
At 2:19 p.m. EST, CBS Dallas correspondents Dan Rather and Eddie Barker spoke by telephone to "compare notes, to take stock". Rather was aware that there was an open line to New York as the two of them spoke, but "didn't realize how many people were on that phone line", which included at least three individuals from CBS Radio. Rather, who had "no doubt in his mind" that Kennedy was dead, nevertheless was not delivering official word to CBS Radio, nor was he aware that his discussion with Barker would be construed as such. As Rather spoke to Barker, an individual from CBS Radio asked, "Did you say the president is dead?" Rather replied, "Yes." Based on the call, CBS Radio newsroom supervisor Robert Skedgell wrote "JFK DEAD" on a slip of paper and handed it to CBS Radio news anchor Allan Jackson. At 2:22 p.m. EST, eleven minutes before Kilduff's official announcement, Jackson made the following announcement:
Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States is dead. John F. Kennedy has died of the wounds he received in an assassination in Dallas less than an hour ago. We repeat: it has just been announced that President Kennedy is dead.
After the announcement, CBS Radio, apparently trying to play "The Star Spangled Banner", inadvertently aired a brief excerpt of an LP Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings played at the wrong speed of 78 RPM. After a few seconds of silence, Jackson repeated the news:
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President Of The United States, is dead at the age of 46. Shot by an assassin as he drove through the streets of Dallas, Texas less than an hour ago. Repeating this: the President is dead, killed in Dallas, Texas by a gunshot wound.
We repeat our announcement that the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, is dead in Dallas, Texas, of an assassin's bullets. He was shot, and governor Tom Connelly of the state of Texas was shot, as they rode in a motorcade through the streets of Dallas less than an hour ago. Governor Connelly is in serious condition, President John Kennedy is dead. The 35th president of the United States, he was 46 years old. According to the constitution, Vice President Lyndon Johnson will now succeed Mr. Kennedy in office. Mr. Johnson will become the 36th president of the United States, very probably within a few hours upon taking the oath of office.
After Jackson's announcement, his co-anchor Dallas Townsend added:
Townsend's comment was followed by "The Star Spangled Banner".
While CBS Radio had taken Dan Rather's earlier discussion with Barker as confirmation of the president's death, there was a debate going on between CBS television network officials as to whether or not to report this development, as Rather's report was not a truly official confirmation. At 2:27 p.m. EST, they decided to give Rather's report to Cronkite, who relayed this to the nation:
We just have a report from our correspondent Dan Rather in Dallas that he has confirmed that President Kennedy is dead. There is still no official confirmation of this. However, it's a report from our correspondent, Dan Rather, in Dallas, Texas.
Approximately five minutes after this, one of the newsroom staff members rushed to Cronkite's desk with another bulletin. As Cronkite read the bulletin, he had to re-read it as he stumbled over his words.
The priest... who were with Kennedy... the two priests who were with Kennedy say that he is dead of his bullet wounds. That seems to be about as close to official as we can get at this time.
Although Cronkite continued to stress that there was no official confirmation, the tone of Cronkite's words seemed to indicate that it would only be a matter of time before the official word came. Three minutes later, he received the same report that ABC's Ron Cochran chose to relay as official word. Cronkite did not do the same, reporting it instead in this context:
And now, from Washington, government sources say that President Kennedy is dead. Those are government sources, still not an official announcement.
Cronkite continued as before while still awaiting word of the official confirmation of the President's death, which at this time had been relayed by Kilduff at the hospital two minutes prior but had not made the press wires yet. After speaking about what Kennedy had done earlier that day in Fort Worth, Cronkite noted that the plane from Fort Worth flew the President to his "rendezvous with death, apparently, in Dallas", although the official bulletin still had not arrived yet.
Immediately after that, at 2:38 p.m. EST, Cronkite remarked on fearful concerns of demonstrations in Dallas similar to the attack of U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson in Dallas the previous month. At that moment, a CBS News employee seen in the background pulled off a sheet from the AP News ticker. He quickly relayed it (off-camera) to Cronkite, who put on his glasses, took a few seconds to read the sheet, and made the announcement:
After reading the flash, Cronkite took off his glasses so he could consult the studio clock, which established the lapse in time since Kennedy had died. He paused briefly and replaced his eyeglasses, visibly moved for a moment. Cronkite continued:
Vice President Johnson... (clears throat) ...has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded. Presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the thirty-sixth president of the United States.
There was a sense of irony to CBS' coverage of the assassination. On September 2, 1963, Kennedy gave an interview with Cronkite, helping CBS inaugurate network television's first half hour evening newscast.
It should perhaps be noted that CBS did not include any further coverage from Dallas or Washington as the other networks had until after the announcement of Kennedy's death. As coverage continued following the announcement, Charles Collingwood relieved Cronkite in New York while Neil Strawser reported from CBS' Washington bureau and Dan Rather and Eddie Barker provided reports from KRLD in Dallas.
At NBC-TV, Chet Huntley, Bill Ryan, and Frank McGee anchored from the network's emergency "flash" studio (code name 5HN) in New York, with reports from David Brinkley in Washington, Charles Murphy and Tom Whelan from NBC affiliate WBAP-TV (now KXAS-TV) in Fort Worth, Texas, and Robert MacNeil, who had been in the motorcade, at Parkland Hospital. Edwin Newman reported from NBC Radio with periodic simulcast with NBC-TV. NBC Radio's coverage was simulcast in Canada by CBC Radio. Also, the United States' international shortwave broadcaster, Voice of America, relayed portions of NBC's coverage (including the simulcast with the television coverage) as part of its English-language coverage of the tragic news. (A short aircheck of VOA exists in which the announcers on duty attempt to make sense of the conflicting reports about Kennedy's condition, and then the station briefly simulcasts NBC before heading into Polish language programming at 1:00 p.m. Central Time.)
Throughout the first 35 minutes, there were technical difficulties with the Fort Worth TV relay as well as with the phone link MacNeil was using to report from the hospital. When the coverage began, McGee was waiting for MacNeil to call in with information. While Ryan and Huntley were recounting the information, McGee got MacNeil on the line and told him to recount chronologically what happened. However, NBC was using a studio that wasn't equipped to patch calls through to the air and thus only McGee could hear MacNeil. While the studio crew worked on a solution, McGee improvised and told MacNeil to relay the information in fragments, which he would then repeat for the audience. While they were talking, Huntley was handed a speaker from off camera and took the receiver from McGee so he could attach it to the earpiece, this enabling MacNeil to be heard. However, by that time there was no further information to report; MacNeil had a medical student from Parkland hold the phone line for him so that he could return to the emergency ward for the latest developments. He would return briefly several minutes later to offer more word on the condition of the President, during which the phone link temporarily worked, but as MacNeil left again the relay cut out. Before he left, he informed McGee that a press conference regarding Kennedy's condition was forthcoming.
At approximately 2:35 p.m. EST, shortly after Ryan reported that a neurosurgeon had just arrived at Parkland to assist in treating Kennedy. Huntley alluded to the last time a president had died in office:
In just this momentary lull, I would assume that the memory of every person listening at this moment has flashed back to that day in April 1945 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt ...
However, he was unable to complete his thought. The flash regarding the priests who administered the Last Rites to the President had reached the desk while Huntley was speaking, and Ryan interrupted him to relay this:
Excuse me, Chet. Here is a flash from the Associated Press, dateline Dallas: 'Two priests who were with President Kennedy say he is dead of bullet wounds.' There is no further confirmation, but this is what we have on a flash basis from the Associated Press: 'Two priests in Dallas who were with President Kennedy say he is dead of bullet wounds.' There is no further confirmation. This is the only word we have indicating that the president may, in fact, have lost his life. It has just moved on the Associated Press wires from Dallas. The two priests were called to the hospital to administer the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church. And it is from them, we get the word, that the president has died, that the bullet wounds inflicted on him as he rode in a motorcade through downtown Dallas have been fatal. We will remind you that there is no official confirmation of this from any source as yet.
As this was going on, McGee received a report from Parkland Hospital. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Vice President Johnson had been advised to begin heading back to Washington to assume executive duties in case he needed to be sworn in. Johnson decided to wait until he received word of Kennedy's condition, which he did at approximately 1:20 PM CST. McGee reported to Ryan that a motorcade carrying the Johnsons had just left Parkland Hospital, which Ryan took to be confirmation of the President's death as the priests had reported.
On NBC Radio and CBC Radio, Newman reported the same flash, having received it about half a minute after Ryan did:
Here is a flash from Dallas: 'Two priests who were with President Kennedy say he is dead of bullet wounds suffered in the assassination attempt today.' I repeat, a flash from Dallas: 'Two priests who were with President Kennedy say he is dead of bullet wounds.' This is the latest information we have from Dallas. We are, of course, standing by to give you all available information as it comes to us. I will repeat, with the greatest regret, this flash: 'Two priests who were with President Kennedy say he has died of bullet wounds.'
At that point, both radio networks rejoined NBC-TV where Ryan reported that there may in fact be confirmation of the priests' account of Kennedy's death. The feed then switched back to Charles Murphy at WBAP-TV, who reported that although no official statement had been released by the President's staff, the Dallas Police Department had been notified of Kennedy's death and radioed the word to every one of its officers on duty shortly before the flash from Dallas made the wires.
As Murphy was filing his report, McGee got back in touch with Robert MacNeil, who had just returned from the aforementioned press conference. Partway through the report, the audio link was fixed and MacNeil could be clearly heard in the studio and on the air. McGee was unaware of this, as he simply carried on as he had been:
White House (Acting) Press Secretary... Malcolm Kilduff... has just announced that President Kennedy... died at approximately 1:00 Central Standard Time, which is about 35 minutes ago... (audio enabled) ...after being shot at (after being shot)... by an unknown assailant (by an unknown assailant) ...during a motorcade drive through downtown Dallas (during a motorcade drive through downtown Dallas).
After MacNeil finished giving all the relevant information available, he left the phone to obtain further information. McGee, wiping a tear from his eye, stood by and kept the phone line open for MacNeil's next update.
KLIF Radio, Dallas
From local radio station KLIF, Gary Delaune relayed the bulletins as received with reports from Joe Long from KLIF News Mobile Unit #4. Long, who had reported the President's arrival at Love Field earlier, later joined Delaune in the studio; Roy Nichols took over the #4 mobile unit and headed for Parkland Hospital. After a report from the Trade Mart, radio broadcaster and KLIF founder Gordon McLendon returned to the radio station to relieve Delaune. The reporters continuously stressed, as a strict radio station rule of McLendon's, whether the information received is from official or unofficial sources, especially concerning reports of the President's death. At approximately 1:38 p.m. CST, KLIF's Teletype sounded ten bells (indicating an incoming bulletin of utmost importance) and Long was given the official flash:
Gordon McLendon: The President is clearly, gravely, critically, and perhaps fatally wounded. There are strong indications that he may already have expired, although that is not official, we repeat, not official. But, the extent of the injuries to Governor Connally is, uh, a closely shrouded secret at the moment...
Joe Long: President Kennedy is dead, Gordon. This is official word.
Gordon McLendon: Ladies and gentlemen, the President is dead. The President, ladies and gentlemen, is dead at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
KLIF's continuous coverage would eventually be aired over an ad-hoc radio network of its own, as the station's coverage was fed to KLIF's sister stations in Houston, Louisville, and other cities and reportedly aired (with or without permission) on dozens, possibly hundreds, of others.
Following the official announcement of President Kennedy's death, all three commercial networks suspended their regular programming and commercials for the first time in the short history of television and ran coverage on a non-stop basis for four days. The assassination of President Kennedy was the longest uninterrupted news event in the history of American television until just before 9:00 a.m. EDT, September 11, 2001, when the networks were on the air for 72 hours straight covering the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Return to Washington
Once back at Air Force One, and only after Mrs. Kennedy and President Kennedy's body had also returned to the plane, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in by Sarah T. Hughes as the 36th President of the United States of America at 2:38 p.m. CST. One of President Kennedy's aides stayed with his coffin during the swearing-in of Johnson.
At about 6:00 p.m. EST, Air Force One arrived at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. The television networks made the switch to the AFB just as the plane touched down. Reporting on the arrival for the TV networks were:
|ABC||Richard Bate||Frank Reynolds|
|CBS||Charles Von Fremd||Dan Rather|
|NBC||Bob Abernethy & Nancy Dickerson||Ray Scherer|
After President Kennedy's brother (and Attorney General) Robert F. Kennedy, boarded the plane, Kennedy's casket was removed from the rear entrance and loaded into a light gray US Navy ambulance for its transport to the Bethesda Naval Hospital for an autopsy and mortician's preparations. When Jackie Kennedy stepped off the plane with her brother-in-law, her pink suit and legs were still stained with her husband's blood. All that long afternoon and into the early morning hours of the next day, the widow objected to leaving her husband's body, except for the swearing in of Johnson. She also refused to change out of her blood-stained suit; Lady Bird Johnson, in her audio diary, quoted Mrs. Kennedy as saying "I want them to see what they have done to Jack."
Shortly after the ambulance with the casket and Mrs. Kennedy departed, President Johnson and the First Lady exited Air Force One. They were led to a podium clustered with microphones where Lyndon Johnson made his first official statement as President of the United States:
This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep, personal tragedy. I know the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best; that is all I can do. I ask for your help and God's.
President Johnson himself ordered the arrival to be televised live. While en route to Washington from Dallas, he and Kilduff told the other assistant press secretary, Andrew Hatcher, that he was going to make his statement and that he wanted the arrival to be televised live. As the new president boarded his helicopter, he said that Mrs. Kennedy was in his heart and remarked about the presidency, and recounted, "Then the door of the helicopter slammed shut behind me and thus ended a tragic chapter in American history."
NBC Director Max Schindler directed the coverage of the arrival for the networks and said that the contributions to the reports on the arrival came in 1965 during a conversation he did with Johnson at the White House for the TV networks. Schindler talked about the arrival during the conversation, describing the sequence of events to Johnson and asked him "Were you in the plane watching TV at that time?" He replied that he was watching television and said that he seeing Schindler pan his camera back to Air Force One was his cue to come out.
Oswald charged with two counts of murder
On November 24, 1963, at 11:21 a.m. CST, before live television cameras, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and mortally wounded in the basement of Dallas Police headquarters by a local nightclub owner with alleged mafia ties, Jack Ruby. Unconscious, Oswald was put into an ambulance and rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, the same hospital where doctors tried to save the life of John F. Kennedy two days earlier. Oswald died at 1:07 pm.
The body of President Kennedy was brought back to Washington soon after his death and was placed in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours. On the Sunday after the assassination, his flag-draped coffin was carried on a horse-drawn caisson to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state. Throughout the day and night, hundreds of thousands lined up to view the guarded casket.
Representatives from over 90 countries attended the state funeral on Monday, November 25. After the Requiem Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, the late president was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The Warren Commission's 888-page final report was presented to President Johnson on September 24, 1964, and made public three days later, saying one shot wounded President Kennedy and Governor Connally, and a subsequent shot hit Kennedy in the head, killing him. The Commission also concluded a third shot was fired, but made no conclusion as to whether it was the first, second or third shot fired. The Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald fired all three shots.
In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated the assassination of JFK and found that president Kennedy was "probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy". The Committee found that Carlos Marcello and Santos Trafficante had the means, motive, and opportunity to assassinate president Kennedy, stating "Trafficante, like Marcello, had the motive, means, and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy.”
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The priest who administered the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church to President Kennedy said last night that when he arrived at the hospital, the president was dead...The Very Reverend Oscar L. Huber said he had to draw back a sheet that was covering the president's face so that he could anoint his forehead with oil.
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Sometime around 9 a.m. yesterday a television milestone was reached: three broadcast networks had covered one news event for more consecutive hours than any previous event in American history. The terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon have truly become the story of a lifetime on television, surpassing even the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which no network covered for more than 70 consecutive hours. As of yesterday morning, CBS, NBC and ABC, the three networks at the time of Kennedy's assassination and funeral, had been on the air continuously, without commercial interruption, for 72 hours (though some affiliates continued to air regularly-scheduled local newscasts during that time).
- Johnson 1971, p. 15
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A few years later, President Johnson told Schindler that he was watching TV before he stepped out of Air Force One. When the camera panned back to the plane, he saw it as his signal to come out and address the nation.
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CBS-TV reporter Charles Von Fremd summed up the scene aptly: 'An historic but aching moment.'
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