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15 Unanswered Questions About JFK’s Assassination

Despite four American presidents being felled by an assassin’s bullet, JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963, remains morbidly fascinating to people across the globe, mostly because the many questions that surround that fateful day remain inexplicably unanswered.

There have been countless books penned on the subject, with almost as many films, TV shows, and documentaries going over every minute detail of that dreadful day and the days before and after, looking for answers as to how and why one man could kill the most powerful man in the world. And most controversially, was he even guilty at all?

This world-changing event remains, even 60 years later, one that still interests and intrigues many. So, here we have a few puzzling questions that still linger.

jfk's death
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

1. What Was Lee Harvey Oswald Doing In Mexico City?

Despite being arguably the most infamous assassin in the 20th century, there is still a lot we don’t know about the machinations and motivations of Lee Harvey Oswald. One of these questions concerns his trip to Mexico City just weeks before the killing of JFK. It could be argued that he was just on a little holiday before his life would change forever. However, the choice of Mexico City raises some troubling questions.

Why? Because in the 1960s, Mexico City was known as “the spy capital of the Western hemisphere.” We do know Oswald spent some of his time petitioning for a Soviet visa as he visited their embassy, but strangely, the CIA claimed the camera they had fixed on the building was malfunctioning on that specific day. Why is not suspicious at all, right?

What we do know from the CIA informers in Mexico City is that Oswald met with two young Americans at a party. To this day their identities have never been established and no one has ever come forward claiming to be either of the people who talked to the soon-to-be presidential assassin.

2. Why Was June Cobb Ignored?

One of the spies we do know was operating in Mexico City at that time was a young woman from Oklahoma, June Cobb. She had originally become a pro-Castro revolutionary before becoming disillusioned and even disgusted by the Castro regime and working for the CIA. After JFK’s death, she turned to her CIA handlers and told them that not only had Oswald been seen at a party in the city, but many of the partygoers, many of who were Cuban diplomats, openly joked about assassinating JFK.

She had already earned her place as a valuable asset to the CIA and previous information she had provided had proved invaluable. However, this time her information was disregarded by the CIA even though the person who informed Cobb, the Mexican playwright Elena Garro, confirmed this information. The specifics of what Cobb had to say remain shrouded in mystery as her CIA file is still under lock and key.

3. Why Wasn’t Oswald Surveilled After Returning From The USSR?

Oswald defected to the Soviet Union and arrived in Moscow on October 16, 1959, where he promptly renounced his American citizenship in a letter he wrote to the Soviet authorities. After the Kremlin rejected his pleas for citizenship, he attempted suicide. The Kremlin eventually relented and shipped him off to Minsk to work in a radio factory.

Oswald himself would later claim that he offered the Soviet authorities valuable information on America’s U2 spy plane program. By June 1962, apparently disillusioned with life behind the iron curtain, Oswald has returned to the United States with a Soviet wife, Marina Nikolayevna Oswald, and their newborn daughter June.

Given the fact that he had betrayed his country twice, firstly by defecting and secondly by offering state secrets, you would think that the FBI and the CIA would have kept a very close eye on this returning traitor. However, there are no records of the FBI putting him under surveillance or the CIA interrogating him, giving him free rein to do as he pleased, and eventually shooting JFK in Dealy Plaza just over a year later.

4. Why Did No One Take Action After The First Shot?

When the first shot of six came from the barrel of John Hinckley Jr’s Röhm RG 14 .22 LR blue steel revolver aimed at President Ronald Reagan, the Secret Service agents present on that day of March 30, 1981, immediately sprung into action. Strangely, when the first bullet struck JFK’s in the throat on the day of his assassination the Secret Service agents did….. nothing?

Five more seconds would pass before the second shot would fatally strike JFK in the head before Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill would climb into the car. Later interviews with Secret Service personnel would blame a culture of little to no sleep and getting crazy drunk every night and having a hangover that day as an excuse for their inaction.

That does not explain why the running boards on JFK’s car, usually in place so the Secret Service agents could shield the occupants, were retracted. Nor does it explain why the driver of JFK’s open-top 1961 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible limousine, Agent William (Bill) Greer didn’t immediately take evasive action.

5. Who Was The ‘ Babushka Lady’?

Following the JFK assassination, law enforcement attempted to trace and interview as many witnesses as possible, but one witness has eluded them to this day, the famous Babushka Lady. Named for the Russian-style headscarf she was wearing, she was seen, like Abraham Zapruder, filming the presidential motorcade. Unlike Zapruder, she has never been identified and neither has what she captured on her 8mm movie camera that day.

A slight glimmer of hope appeared in 1970 when a woman called Beverly Oliver claimed that she was indeed the famous Babushka Lady. Unfortunately, her credibility soon disappeared as not only did she claim to know who ‘really’ assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. but the camera she claimed she was using in Dealey Plaza to film the assassination hadn’t even been invented at the time.

jfk death
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

6. Why Did The Autopsy Doctor Burn His Report?

As is standard procedure in any autopsy, the organs are removed and weighed, but in the case of Kennedy’s autopsy, Dr. James Joseph Humes failed to do so. The reason for the lack of procedure can be chalked up to the unbelievable stress of the situation for Dr. Humes, however, there can be no excuse for what he did next. He didn’t keep the original JFK autopsy report.

Instead, he made a handwritten copy and burned the original. When asked years later why he would do such an inexplicable thing to one of the most important documents in the 20th century, he claim he did it to stop the bloodstained report from becoming a source of morbid fascination. Strange then, that he had other bloodstained documents from that day that he failed to destroy.

Another odd outcome from the autopsy was the now-famous autopsy photos that reside in the National Archive. Ones that fail to show the extent of JFK’s injuries. Not only that, when Saundra K. Spencer, the woman who developed the photographs at the Navy’s photographic laboratory in Washington, was shown these pictures. She claimed they did not resemble the images she had processed and that the paper type used for these images was not the same as the paper she used on that day.

7. Was Cuba Responsible For Killing JFK?

In 1966, Herminio Diaz Garcia, a hitman for the Cuban mafia, gave a deathbed confession to fellow Cuban Tony Cuesta, the military leader of the anti-Castro group Commandos L, claiming that he had fired the shots that killed JFK. This story came to light in 2007 when Cuban exile Reinaldo Martinez Gomez told this story to investigative journalist Anthony Summers. In his book ‘Not in Your Lifetime’ Summers claims that Diaz was indeed in the United States on November 23, 1963, and was also responsible for a total of 20 political assassinations.

Another story that apparently backs up the Cuban connection also came to light in 2007 when former Kennedy detail Secret Serviceman Abraham Bolden claimed that the Secret Service got a tip-off about a potential assassination attempt before the infamous day in Dallas. JFK was due to take a trip to Chicago on November 2, 1963, but the trip was canceled at the last minute. The tip claimed that two Cuban men were spotted in a room along the motorcade route armed with rifles.

There was an attempted surveillance operation against the two mysterious men, but they will remain mysterious (if they did indeed exist) as the operation was bungled and the men escaped. They have never been identified to this day.

8. Did Mobster Sam Giancana Have JFK Killed?

There has long been a conspiracy theory that the violent mobster Sam Giancana, who was boss of the Chicago Outfit from 1957 to 1966, took a hit out on JFK. And while this might sound rather far-fetched, when you look a little closer there are some possible connections between the two men. The story goes that Giancana had ties to JFK’s dad, Joseph P. Kennedy, from Prohibition, and that Joseph had asked for the mobster’s help in securing his son’s victory in the 1960 presidential election.

This ‘favor’ allegedly convinced Giancana that he had the new president in his pocket but when JFK took office and made his brother Robert Attorney General, the Kennedys actively tried to destroy organized crime in America. This was the excuse Giancana needed to whack the sitting president. Although his father was in the whisky importation business, scholars dismiss the claims of connections to the mafia.

What lends this theory a little credence is that Giancana was indeed used by the CIA to attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. And when Giancana was called to testify before the 1975 Church Committee, a U.S. Senate select committee set up to investigate CIA and Mafia collusion, he was shot 7 times with a .22 caliber pistol. A weapon more often used by clandestine operatives than mob hitmen.

9. What Happened To The Official Notes Of Oswald’s Questioning?

If you’ve ever seen any cop show, you’ll know that when the police are questioning a subject they record both visual and audio for when their time in court comes. You would think that there would be extensive records of the interviews with the man who had just killed the most powerful man in the world, but you’d be very wrong. Unbelievably, there are next to no official notes of Oswald’s questioning by Dallas police or the FBI.

The only notes we have are from two interviewers which are handwritten and incomplete at best. Having more extensive notes from the interviews conducted with Oswald could have given us a better understanding of his psyche and motivations. The notes we do have only surfaced in the 1990s when they were discovered in the personal belongings of former Police Captain J.W. Fritz, and anonymously donated.

What we do know from the notes is that Oswald consistently protested his innocence, claiming that the now famous photograph of him in his backyard holding a rifle in one hand and Marxist newspapers in the other is completely fake.

10. Why Are So Many Oswald Documents Missing?

Just like the aforementioned autopsy notes inexplicably burned by Dr. Humes, there are many more records and important documents that have seen that same fate or just disappeared completely. Just a few of the documents we as the public would like to see are a note that Oswald penned to the FBI, the US Army Intelligence file on Oswald, and the Secret Service notes on JFK’s canceled trip to Chicago we mentioned earlier.

Although not definitive, there is some evidence to suggest that after the assassination the Marine Corps, of which Oswald had been a member, launched its own investigation but not a shred of paperwork has ever surfaced about that.

One of the biggest paper-related mysteries is a story told by historian and journalist James Reston Jr. He claims that Secret Service agent Mike Howard told him that after the assassination, they raided Oswald’s apartment and found a notebook written by the assassin. One particular page was of interest as the heading was ‘I WILL KILL,’ followed by a hit list with the name of a general, an FBI agent, Richard Nixon, and JFK’s passenger on the day of the shooting, Governor John Connally.

Many have cited this as evidence that Oswald was in fact trying to assassinate Governor John Connally, not JFK. Whether this is true or not we might never know because that page has been torn from the notebook and has been missing ever since.

jfk's death
State Library and Archives of Florida, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

11. What Happened To JFK’s Brain?

One of the more ‘wait….what?’ aspects of the aftermath of the killing of JFK is the seldom talked about and actually true fact that JFK’s brain is indeed missing. The story gets even wilder from there. The brain went missing from a secure room at the National Archives in 1966 and the award-winning historian James L. Swanson genuinely believes that the culprit was none other than the president’s brother and future assassination victim, Robert Kennedy.

Swanson’s theory surmises that RFK wanted to cover up the fact that JFK was more ill than the public knew and was taking a whole host of drugs including codeine, Demerol, and methadone for his back pain, along with a smorgasbord of other pills for insomnia and anxiety. What we do know for sure, is that during the autopsy the president’s brain was placed in a stainless steel container and stored with some brain tissue samples, and taken by the Secret Service to the National Archives.

And as heartbreaking and horrendous as it might sound, the person responsible for keeping an eye on the president’s brain was JFK’s devoted former secretary, Evelyn Lincoln. Begging the question of how could something like that be stolen under the eyes of someone who deeply cared about her former employer. The attorney general at the time immediately ordered an investigation but to this day we still have no idea where it is and who stole it.

12. Was JFK’s Assassination Really A Conspiracy?

The quick answer to that question is yes, that is, according to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. This 1976 committee was tasked with re-investigating both the JFK and MLK shootings and by the end of their investigation they concluded that “The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President JFK was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.” Although they wouldn’t say who.

All they would say is that the evidence suggested a second gunman was involved, but they stopped short of saying who that might be and how extensive the conspiracy might have been. No wonder over 60% of Americans still believes that JFK was NOT killed by a lone nut.

It should be noted that in the almost five decades since the House Select Committee on Assassinations came to this astonishing conclusion, many of the pieces of evidence they used to settle on that answer have been roundly debunked.

13. What Were The CIA Keeping From The Public?

In July 2017, in accordance with a 1992 law that stated all records of the assassination must be declassified by October 26 of that year, more documents were released to an eager public. Unfortunately, most of what was released was already known, but there was one tantalizing tidbit of information discovered. What the CIA was saying publicly was quite different from what they have been discussing privately.

In public, the CIA embraced the idea of a lone gunman feeling like the most powerful man in the world, but behind the scenes, they were more on the side of a conspiracy. By who? Well, that depends on who you ask as some agents leaned towards the Soviets or as retaliation from the Cubans for the many attempts on Castro’s life. While others believed that it might have been a rogue element within their own ranks, which opens up a whole new perspective.

14. Where Are The Rest Of The Classified Files?

As we just mentioned, in 1992 George H.W. Bush signed the Assassination Records Collection Act, a law that insisted all classified documents related to the assassination must be released to the public by October 26, 2017. The problem is, that not all the documents have been released, with 1,171 records that we know of, still being withheld by the CIA. If you ask the Center for Effective Government, they would put that figure closer to one million.

We learned very little that didn’t know already when the documents were released, but having so many still under lock and key, despite the law, raises more than an eyebrow. Then President Trump did have the power to release everything, but, for a man who likes to muddy the waters occasionally, he chose to veto the release and keep them hidden for a while longer.

15. What Did The Russians Know?

If the American authorities kept records on Lee Harvey Oswald, you can be absolutely certain the Russians did as well. And for a brief moment after the collapse of the Soviet Union, researchers had a chance to find out exactly what they knew. And it was apparently a LOT. Oswald’s KGB file has been described as “five thick volumes, plus a folder tied with shoelaces,” but most of it remains unpublished.

What we do know is the thoughts of the KGB in relation to their recent defector. They did not consider him a valuable asset and described him as a ‘poor shot’ after not fairing very well in a shooting competition held among workers at his factory. After the assassination, their records state that the KGB believed it was impossible that Oswald could have managed to kill JFK.

We still don’t know what else is in the KBG files as they were restricted again just a year after the collapse in 1992, but we do know where they are. Unfortunately, that location is in the hands of Belarusian intelligence, which means we are unlikely to get access to them any time soon.

Want to learn more about JFK’s assassination? Here’s a book you may be interested in reading!

You may also want to read Meet the 5 Strong Female Politicians Who Shaped America’s Future.

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  1. What about the belief by some that Kennedy was on the verge of releasing evidence of alien contact and so his killing was to stop that?

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