3 Books you should read about the JFK Assassination

quotescover-JPG-43The 22nd November is the anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy; one of the most shocking events of the twentieth century. It’s something I’ve been interested in ever since I was a boy and I’ve collected many books about the subject.

I’m still fascinated by the mystery: Did Lee Oswald shoot the President? Did he act alone? Why did Jack Ruby shoot Oswald? Was the CIA involved? Very few of those questions will ever be answered but it’s clear that the findings of the Warren Commission, the investigative body set up by President Lyndon Johnson are not definitive. Indeed the senate investigation in the 1970’s concluded that the President was assassinated ‘probably’ by a conspiracy. Even so, no attempts to investigate further or take action have been made. If you want to find out more, what should you read? Well, there are numerous books on the subject you might try but here below are three key and classic books you need to read:

Mark_Lane_Rush_to_Judgment_coverRush To Judgement by Mark Lane
This was one of the first books to take a critical look at the Warren Commission report and say, ‘hang on, some things don’t add up here!’ Lane deals with a lot of the minutiae of the assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald’s activities.

One interesting element to me was the murder weapon; the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle bought through mail order and sent to a post office box that Oswald rented under a false name. The gun was oily. The scope on the gun was not aligned properly, in fact the FBI found that it could not be aligned at all and had to add metal shims in order to align the scope, meaning that it was test fired by the FBI in a condition that was not available to Oswald!

The first officer to find the rifle even signed an affidavit that the rifle was a Mauser and not a Mannlicher-Carcano! Quite a mistake for an American police officer who would surely be familiar with firearms.

sixsecondsSix seconds in Dallas by Josiah Thompson
Thompson argued in favour of a conspiracy by analysing the Zapruder film of the assassination. In the film shot by local businessman Abraham Zapruder the last two shots come close together, meaning that one of them could not have come from Oswald’s rifle because it took 1.7 seconds to eject the used cartridge and make ready to fire again. This clearly occurred to the people in the Warren Commission as one of its members (Arlen Specter, a lawyer not a forensic expert) put forward the so called ‘single bullet theory’ which argued that a single bullet hit President Kennedy in the back, exited his throat and then struck Governor Connelly who was sitting ahead of Kennedy in the Presidential limousine.

This bullet was found on a stretcher in almost pristine condition which many commentators have asserted means it could not have passed through two bodies and inflicted so much damage.

In 1979 the Select Committee on Assassinations heard evidence of tests that showed the firing could have taken place in only 1.66 seconds per shot. Oswald’s original rifle however, was in too poor a condition to be used for the tests and another was substituted. Even so, none of the test shooters were able to replicate Oswald’s marksmanship despite Oswald being at best only a reasonable shot. An interesting, readable and thoughtful book but rather rare.

Best Evidence by David Lifton.

best evidence

best evidence

This is an excellent book in many ways. It’s not just about the assassination itself, the author spends a lot of time describing his personal fascination in the Kennedy case and how his interest has evolved and developed. He has followed the growth of theories and new revelations over the years and made efforts to meet and interview many of the witnesses involved.

Lifton puts forward an argument that is a little unbelievable, certainly to me, that Kennedy’s body was spirited away and the injuries changed to fit in with the theory that Oswald shot Kennedy from the rear. The doctors at Parkland Hospital all clearly state that Kennedy had a massive exit wound in the back of his head indicating a shot from the front but the autopsy report concluded Kennedy was shot from the rear.

I can understand where Lifton was coming from, the autopsy result and recollections of medical staff at Parkland clearly don’t match, but altering the President’s body? I don’t think so. The President’s body would have had to have been pried from the Secret Service who were with it from Dealey Plaza, to Parkland, and Air Force One to Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Some of those whom Lifton interviewed claimed a helicopter landed and the President’s body arrived, implying it came by helicopter when in fact it came by motorcade in an ambulance with the First Lady aboard. One interviewee stated that at Parkland Hospital the body was wrapped in sheets and placed in a coffin. Another spoke of taking the President’s body out of a body bag at Bethesda so clearly these accounts do not match up.

This book also did a lot to help me reconcile the workings of the Warren Commission. It is often dismissed by many people as a cover up but in fact the Warren Commission reacted to the evidence presented to it by the FBI as any other court or legal body would do: It processed the assassination according to the evidence.

Did anyone see someone shooting from the grassy knoll? No. Did anyone see a shooter in the Texas schoolbook depository? Yes. Was a rifle found in the sniper’s nest at the Texas School Book Depository? Yes. Was it delivered to a PO box belonging to Lee Oswald? Yes.

As you can imagine, the Warren Commission found Lee Oswald guilty of the assassination. What else could they do? However, many people not heard or dismissed by the commission heard gunfire and shots from the grassy knoll.

One Police Officer dropped his motorcycle and ran up there only to encounter a scruffy man looking like an auto mechanic. The man had Secret Service credentials and the officer let him go. There were no Secret Service there that day. They were all in the motorcade or waiting at the Trade Mart where the President’s next stop should have been, so who was the man? What was he doing there on the grassy knoll?

As you read more and more about the assassination, more stories like that come to light and the accumulated weight of these revelations is what fuels the enduring mystery. I do love a mystery and my interest in the JFK assassination, like Lifton’s has endured for a long time.

I’m not sure just how to describe to you just how fascinated I am in this story but if you’ve seen that part in the Woody Allen film Annie Hall, where Woody is trying to seduce someone but finds himself consumed by thoughts about the assassination then you’ve got the idea.

To find out more about the assassination try the JFK Lancer website at http://www.jfklancer.com

On a less serious note, here’s the Woody Allen clip:

 

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Marilyn Monroe: Suicide, the Kennedys, and a Red Notebook

mmpicmonkey-imageIn my book collection, which is pretty big, I’ve probably got more books about Marilyn Monroe than any other single subject although I only have two of her movies on DVD. Some like it Hot directed by the Great Billy Wilder and her very last completed movie, The Misfits. I suppose I’m just more interested in her, the woman herself rather than her films. The woman born Norma Jeane Mortensen, according to her birth certificate, who went on to become the movie star Marilyn Monroe.

Funnily enough, June the 1st, only a few days ago as I write this post, would have been Marilyn’s 89th birthday. It’s hard to imagine Marilyn, this icon of movie star allure as an old woman. Marilyn will never age and our image of her is fixed not only by her movies but by the many clips and photographs of her that fill cyberspace. She was a woman loved by the camera but she had a hard battle to become the person she wanted to be, a serious actress in charge of her own fate as a movie star and in control of her career and her roles.

It seems to me after reading many books about Marilyn, she lived her life in compartments and in each separate compartment were different and separate people. You may have read a book about her by Robert F Slatzer, ‘The Life and Curious Death of Marilyn Monroe,’ who claimed to have married Marilyn only to have had the marriage annulled at the request of her movie bosses. Slatzer was kept in a separate compartment from Bill Purcell, who features in my most recent Marilyn book purchase; IMGA0351‘Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed’ in which the author refers to a long time relationship between him and Marilyn. Slatzer and Purcell, and indeed her three husbands, Jim Dougherty, Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, were all kept by Marilyn in separate compartments which only occasionally connected.

Marilyn claimed she only wanted to settle down and have children but stardom was something she could never give up. She had worked so hard for it and when her struggles to have a child failed, or when her relationships themselves failed, her movie career was always there to fall back on.

She died in 1962 aged 36. The coroner said she died as a result of a probable overdose. Indeed, she had a history of overdosing and Arthur Miller, her third husband, saved her from death more than once. Many writers have attributed her sacking from her final film ‘Something’s Got To Give’ as a contributing factor in her suicide but in fact Marilyn had been reinstated to the film at an increased salary. On top of that she had many film projects planned, including a movie biopic about Jean Harlow, so did she commit suicide? Was it an accidental overdose, or was she murdered? Who would want to murder Marilyn Monroe and why?

The fact of the matter is that Marilyn had become rather dangerous to quite a few people and she was in possession of some pretty interesting information because of her involvement with President John Kennedy. Kennedy, who was a serial womaniser, was not amused at her overtly sexual performance at his birthday party and decided to end his association with her. FBI boss J Edgar Hoover had made Kennedy painfully aware he knew of his trysts with another woman named Judith Campbell, who was also intimate with mafia boss Sam Giancana. Anxious perhaps not to give Hoover further ammunition against him, the President tasked his brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to do the dirty work and smooth over things with Marilyn.

Some books and articles claim that was exactly Bobby Kennedy’s mission with Marilyn; damage limitation and keeping her quiet. Others say things had gone further and Marilyn had another affair, this time with Bobby Kennedy himself. Marilyn was someone who had spent a lifetime trying to better herself in the arts and literature. She was a great reader and she began taking notes of her conversations with the Attorney General in order to research their topics and appear confident and knowledgeable. Those conversations included, incredibly, highly secret things within the US government including attempts to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro in Cuba. She wrote these notes down in a red notebook which she showed to Robert Slatzer. He advised her it was an extremely dangerous notebook to have but as her affair with Bobby Kennedy cooled, if indeed it was an affair, Marilyn grew more and more angry. She claimed to friends she was fed up of being tossed around ‘like a piece of meat’ and threatened to blow the lid on her dealings with the Kennedys in a press conference. Bobby Kennedy wanted that notebook destroyed and Marilyn kept quiet. The mafia wanted derogatory information on the Kennedys and had even had Marilyn’s home bugged. The press conference was arranged for Monday August 6th, 1962. Sadly, Marilyn was found dead in the early hours of the 5th.

mm5409683410_8350501c78_oOn the last day of her life, August 4th, 1962, Marilyn was not depressed but making plans for the future. The day before, the 3rd, she spoke on the telephone with handyman Ray Tolman and arranged for him to visit the next week to sort out some repairs on her house, 12305 5th Helena Drive in Brentwood. She also ordered various plants and shrubs for her garden. She spoke with her publicist Pat Newcomb and invited Pat to stay the night. The two women dined locally and turned in to bed early.

The next day, 4th August, Marilyn was awake when the housekeeper arrived at 8am. She spoke with numerous people on the telephone and arranged for Masseur Ralph Roberts to come over for a barbeque the next night.
Pat Newcomb arose around 12 noon and felt that Marilyn was not in a good mood. Pat had slept well while Marilyn, who had a long history of sleeping problems, had slept badly. This seemed to cause some friction between the two women. Shortly after 1 pm Ralph Greenson, Marilyn’s psychiatrist arrived. Marilyn and Greenson had a therapy session together while Pat spent the afternoon sunbathing by the pool as previously arranged.

At around 3pm Pat Newcomb says Greenson asked her to leave as he wanted to work alone with Marilyn.
Later, Eunice Murray, Marilyn’s housekeeper dropped Marilyn off at Peter Lawford’s beach house while she did some shopping. At about 4pm she returned home and Doctor Greenson also returned for presumably, more therapy.

At 5pm Peter Lawford called and asked Marilyn to a supper later that evening but she declined. Marilyn received numerous telephone calls during the day some of which Eunice Murray had fielded by telling callers Marilyn was busy or not at home. Many times this was simply not true. A call from Ralph Roberts was answered by Dr Greenson who said sharply “Not here,” and put down the phone.

At 7 pm Greenson says he left, leaving Marilyn alone with housekeeper Eunice Murray. At around this time Marilyn took a call from Joe DiMaggio Jr. Joe had broken off his engagement to his fiancée and found Marilyn to be in good spirits. At about 7.30 Peter Lawford called again to ask Marilyn to dinner. His description of Marilyn contrasts with Joe Jr as Lawford states Marilyn’s speech was slurred and that she appeared disorientated. Towards the end of the call Lawford stated famously that Marilyn said, “say goodbye to the President and say goodbye to yourself because you’re a nice guy.” Mexican actor Jose Balleros also claimed to have spoken on the telephone with Marilyn that night, he claims Marilyn was lucid and awake in contrast to Peter Lawford’s statements. The fact is Lawford and Eunice Murray both gave varying reports of what happened on Marilyn’s last evening and neither’s statements can be completely trusted.

According to Murray she noticed a light on under Marilyn’s door but the door was locked. She went outside and saw Marilyn either asleep or unconscious on the bed. This was 10 pm in the first version Eunice told. Later on it was moved forward to 3 am. She called Ralph Greenson who advised her to break a window with a poker. Greenson himself then arrived at the house, broke another window and gained entry through the window and found Marilyn dead.

When Police Sgt Clemmons arrived at 4.25 am he saw Marilyn lying face down in what he called the ‘soldier’s position.’ He said “her hands were by her side and her legs perfectly straight. It was the most obviously staged death scene I have ever seen.” Not only that, all the sheets on the bed were clean and Mrs Murray was busy doing the laundry. Clemmons also noted the unusually long time that had elapsed before calling the police and asked why wait until gone 4 in the morning? Greenson and Murray said the film studios had to be informed first. Later, Murray changed her story saying she saw the light on in Marilyn’s room at midnight, went back to bed then awoke later and saw it was still on at 3am then she called Greenson. Greenson then called Doctor Hyman Engleberg and both doctors arrived shortly after. It was Hyman Engleberg who pronounced Marilyn dead.

Eunice Murray admitted in a BBC interview in 1985 for the documentary say Goodbye to the President that Bobby Kennedy was at Marilyn’s house on the day of her death. Eunice’s son in law and Marilyn’s handyman, Norman Jefferies told author Donald Wolfe that Bobby Kennedy arrived late on the Saturday evening with two unknown men and asked Jefferies and Murray to leave while he spoke with Marilyn alone. When they returned Marilyn was comatose in one of the guest cottages attached to her house. Jefferies and Murray called an ambulance but Marilyn died from an overdose. Was it a suicide or an accident? Was it murder? It seems to me that at this late stage we can never know but the autopsy showed that Marilyn’s blood level contained a lethal level of Chloral hydrate and Nembutal but there was no residue from the pills in her stomach, in fact, Marilyn would have had to swallow 38 to 66 capsules of Nembutal plus the chloral hydrate, and would have lost consciousness long before swallowing all of the pills. Was an injection given? The autopsy showed no trace of any needle marks and the final result was noted as a ‘probable suicide.’ Other versions of this story state that an ambulance was called and Marilyn expired on the way to hospital. Presumably it was the ambulance crew that pumped her stomach removing the pill residue. Recently an ambulance driver named James Hall claimed he attended Marilyn’s home that night and Marilyn was responding to treatment when a doctor whom he identified as Ralph Greenson injected Marilyn in the chest with a hypodermic syringe with a long needle. It was he said an inept amateur injection that broke one of her ribs however, these claims were not substantiated by the autopsy. The body was then returned to her home in order to give Robert Kennedy time to leave Los Angeles. I cannot for a moment imagine Bobby Kennedy as a murderer but he certainly would not want to be associated in any way with a movie star suicide. To this day John Bates, a friend of Kennedy’s claims that Bobby and his family spent the weekend with him at his ranch in Gilroy, south of San Francisco.

The final tragedy of this drama is that former husband Joe DiMaggio was set to remarry Marilyn. The date of the wedding should have been August 8th. Instead Joe attended Marilyn’s funeral on that day.

DiMaggio sent half a dozen red roses to her crypt three times a week for the next twenty years. He died in 1999 aged 84 and never remarried. He never spoke about Marilyn publically ever again. When Robert Kennedy visited the Yankee stadium in 1965, DiMaggio took a discreet step back when it was time to shake Kennedy’s hand.

"Marilyn Monroe crypt2" by User:Oleg Alexandrov. Original uploader was Oleg Alexandrov at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia(Original text : Made by Kodak Easy Share camera by User:Oleg Alexandrov). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marilyn_Monroe_crypt2.jpg#/media/File:Marilyn_Monroe_crypt2.jpg

“Marilyn Monroe crypt2” by User:Oleg Alexandrov. Original uploader was Oleg Alexandrov at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia(Original text : Made by Kodak Easy Share camera by User:Oleg Alexandrov). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marilyn_Monroe_crypt2.jpg#/media/File:Marilyn_Monroe_crypt2.jpg

Sources: The Assassination of Marilyn Monroe by Donald Wolfe

Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed by Michelle Morgan

Goddess by Anthony Summers

Say Goodbye to the President: 1985 BBC documentary

Websites: http://www.lovingmarilyn.com

http://www.cursumperficio.net

For a recent daily Mail article, click here.

 

Seven Questions about the Bobby Kennedy Assassination

I’ve seen and heard a lot of shocking events on television over the years. I remember hearing about the death of Princess Diana one Sunday morning while I waited for the kettle to boil for a morning cup of tea. I was watching TV when 9/11 happened and watched with horror as the second tower was hit by an aircraft. The very first tragedy I learned about from the television though was the shooting of Bobby Kennedy. I was only eleven years old then in 1968 but I knew exactly who Bobby Kennedy was and that his brother, the President, had been assassinated five years before.

Bobby Kennedy was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the 5th of June, 1968. He was celebrating his victory in the California primary the previous day. He made a speech to his campaign supporters then turned away from the rostrum. He was due to meet the press in another part of the hotel and was led away through the pantry area at the back of the hotel. As he passed through the corridors numerous people approached to shake hands with the senator and pass on their best wishes. One man stepped forward though with a gun in his hand. His name was Sirhan Sirhan. He was ahead of Bobby and he pushed forward and began firing his Iver-Johnson eight shot revolver. He was quickly grabbed and pushed down onto a nearby table. The gun stayed firmly in his grasp and he continued to fire as more people assisted in trying to subdue him. Only when all eight shots were fired was the revolver finally wrestled from his grasp. Bobby Kennedy had been injured in the head and a busboy, Juan Romero, dropped to his knees to help. He pushed rosary beads into Bobby’s hands and the injured Senator was heard to ask ’is everyone safe?’

Robert Kennedy picture courtesy wikipedia

Robert Kennedy picture courtesy wikipedia

Bobby Kennedy died the next day. It’s fairly probable that had he lived he would have succeeded Lyndon Johnson as the next President of the United States. He was a man clearly concerned about the war in Vietnam, not only the war itself but the effect it was having within the United States so one of his priorities would surely have been ending the war. J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI had been given a special dispensation by Johnson to stay at the head of the bureau despite having reached the mandatory retirement age. Would Kennedy have retired Hoover and put his own man in charge? Would he have reopened investigations into the death of his brother John, the assassinated President? Either way, these are only speculations. Bobby died the next day.

1. The autopsy showed that Bobby was hit in the back of the head at point-blank range. The fatal shot was fired in an upward direction. How could this be if Sirhan Sirhan was ahead of Kennedy and not close enough to inflict a point blank wound?

2. Scott Enyart, an amateur photographer was in the pantry and photographed the shooting. His film and photographs could answer many questions but they were confiscated by the LAPD. Later he sued the Police department for the return of his pictures but the Police claimed they had been routinely destroyed. What happened to them? Why was photographic evidence relating to the death of a major figure in the US destroyed?

3. Sirhan Sirhan had a number of notebooks. They were filled with page after page of notations like ’RFK must die.’Robert Kennedy must be assassinated.Why did he write these things? Were they part of hypnotic techniques that compelled Sirhan to shoot Bobby Kennedy?

4. Who was the girl in the polka dot dress seen leaving the hotel with a companion after the shooting and boasting that they had killed Kennedy?

5. Why was witness Sandra Sorrano forced to change her story about the polka dot dress girl during an aggressive interview with the FBI?

6. Sirhan Sirhan fired an Iver-Johnson eight shot revolver at Kennedy and discharged all eight bullets. In 1988 examination of an audio recording made of the assassination by reporter Stanislaw Pruszynski revealed thirteen gunshots rather the eight fired by Sirhan. Who fired the other five shots?

7. On August 21, 1968, less than two months after the assassination, 2400 photographs from the original investigation were burned, in the medical-waste incinerator at LA County General Hospital. Other records were also destroyed. Why?

When I heard about the shooting of Bobby Kennedy in 1968 I went out into the back yard of our home in the suburbs of Manchester and said a prayer for him. When he died the next day I was stunned, feeling a personal loss despite being an eleven year old English boy living a thousand miles away from the United States. In the USA itself, thousands of mourners lined the path of Kennedy’s funeral train as it wound its way towards Washington where Bobby was buried beside his slain brother, the President, in Arlington National Cemetary.

Recently Robert Kennedy Jr met with Sirhan Sirhan in a California State Prison and declared he now supports calls for a reinvestigation of the murder. Read more about this in an interesting article in the Washington Post by clicking here.


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