Let’s start with a million dollar question that many of us are still wondering – was JFK’s assassination a conspiracy? Or do you believe that what happened on that tragic day in 1963 is exactly what was reported through the Commission report and Lee Harvey Oswald was the guilty individual that fired the fatal shot. Exploring the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza may well help sway your opinion, or perhaps it will leave you further confused as to what actually took place on November 22, 1963.
Thanks to CityPASS, our tour was included in this package deal so I would strongly encourage you to consider purchasing this for a great valued experience of Dallas (you can read our post on our CityPASS Dallas experience for full details on what else is included).
The Approach to Dealey Plaza
Our experience in downtown Dallas started by walking around the exact route that JFK’s parade took in front of and through Dealey Plaza. As you gaze up to the windows of the old Texas School Book Depository where Oswald fired those fatal shots, there is a real sense of poignancy as you imagine what it must have been like to be present during this tragic day.
We will return to Dealey Plaza and the infamous Grassy Knoll later but first, we headed inside the Book Depository and began our tour of the Sixth Floor Museum.
After bypassing the lengthy queues due to one of the great benefits of the CityPASS, we picked up our audio guide and headed to the elevator to take us to the Sixth Floor. You are immediately thrown into the life of JFK and the self-guided tour allows you to pick and choose whatever iconic moments you want to focus on.
The museum tour offers a variety of artifacts and exhibits that depict the life of JFK. If you are looking for a way to interpret and understand everything that happened to JFK from his electoral days to those final tragic moments at Dealey Plaza, exploring the legacy of JFK throughout the Sixth Floor Museum is a great option.
It was interesting to learn a little more about JFK, but after visiting the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, I was most interested in learning about exactly what happened during his trip to Texas in 1963.
The Trip to Texas
President John F. Kennedy’s reign as president started in January 1961 and two years later he embarked on one of his state wide visits. Texas was on his radar during November 1963 and a planned visit to five cities around the Lone Star State was setup.
After welcoming visits to San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth, JFK took a short flight to Love Field in Dallas to begin his parade through the downtown district of the city. JFK and his wife Jackie always enjoyed the public reception and wanted to be as close to the locals as possible, of course causing a nightmare situation for security and local police officers on duty.
Nevertheless, the parade was going smoothly until they reached Dealey Plaza and at 12:30PM on November 23, 1963 that horrific moment took place when gunshots reverberated around the plaza and JFK was down.
Soon after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was confirmed at nearby Parkland Hospital. How did this happen? The Sixth Floor Museum holds a number of key exhibits that will help you form your own judgement and whether you agree with the Commission report or not, I will leave this for you to decide.
Of course the most significant spot in the museum tour is in the corner of the Book Depository overlooking Dealey Plaza, where much evidence was discovered suggesting that a sniper was situated there while JFK’s parade slowly moved through the plaza. The three shell casings were found beside the cardboard boxes that had been strategically stacked to hide anyone gazing through the window from the outside. This is referred to as the ‘Sniper’s Nest’.
The re-creation of this sniper’s perch appears as a perfect match to the report of how the Dallas enforcement officials found this part of the Texas School Book Depository. It is now protected behind glass, but you can still imagine what probably took place in November, 1963,
If the theory that Oswald fatally shot JFK is true, it is likely that he was situated behind those boxes waiting for the perfect moment to fire through the window of the Sixth Floor. Three fatal shots later and the tragedy occurred!
The Grassy Knoll
After exploring in detail everything offered inside the Sixth Floor Museum, we headed outside to the area known as the Grassy Knoll. It is here where flocks of visitors stood aligning the streets as JFK’s procession passed through Dealey Plaza, but it is also a key location that immediately became the target as a potential spot for the marksman that shot JFK.
The immediate aftermath of JFK’s assassination saw law enforcement officials rush to the Grassy Knoll in an attempt to locate a suspect. There are a number of spots on this knoll that could have been potential targets for the sniper, but there has never been any concrete evidence to support claims that a second marksman or other suspect than Oswald was ever located here.
As we walked along this spot that is now a memorial to JFK, I took a moment to ponder I truly believed happened in November, 1963. I am having a hard time believing that Oswald was the sole accomplice here and there is just far too much evidence, or perhaps lack of, that supports something else took place.
Peering down from the top of the Grassy Knoll to Elm Street, there is a white X that marks the spot where JFK was shot. Was Oswald a good enough marksman to have fired from the Sixth Floor of the Book Depository?
We will never find out what happened on that day but I have to admit that exploring all of this area is a really cool experience that makes you start thinking and perhaps doubting yourself and any preconceived opinions you had about JFK’s assassination.
Key Conspiracy Theories
Much evidence was obviously discovered at the Texas School Book Depository that lead the Commission report to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the guilty party in the assassination of JFK. Whether there is undisputed evidence that he was a sole accomplice, well that’s debatable and clearly what leads to a number of conspiracy theories that have developed over the last 50 years and likely will over the next 50.
The ‘single-bullet’ theory is one which has caused the most resistance to the verdict that Oswald was the sole accomplice. The Warren Commission reported that one of the three bullets fired passed through JFK’s neck and then through Governor John Connally’s chest, wrist before lodging in his thigh! Just imagining all of this in my opinion seems highly unlikely but I am certainly no forensic or ballistic expert.
A key figure in the evaluation of what actually took place was Abraham Zapruder because of his key evidence – the detailed frame by frame footage of JFK’s assassination that he captured using his personal camera (Bell & Howell Camera Model 414PD).
However, even this footage leads to further conspiracy theories as opposed to confirming any suspicions we may have. Was this footage modified before its release to the authorities? What do the still frame shots actually prove?
The fence that you see in the above picture is also a point of controversy in this investigation. Many witnesses report shots being fired from behind this fence, with smoke billowing above. It’s interesting to note that more than two dozen witnesses supported this claim that at least one shot was fired from in front of the presidential motorcade.
Why did the Warren Commission reject these claims? Was it purely because there was insufficient evidence to support this? Or perhaps yet another reason to support a conspiracy theory behind JFK’s assassination.
Heather is a huge JFK fan so it was no surprise to see that she was enamored by all of the information and evidence available throughout the Sixth Floor Museum. I arrived in Dallas from a more neutral perspective, probably thinking like many others that Oswald was the suspect that killed JFK. However, now I am not so sure.
Creating new conspiracy theories is never going to help anything aside from create more confusion. But one thing it does do, is create an environment that is a perfect spot for historical analysis.
What is your stand on this potentially controversial topic? Please comment below with your opinions as we always encourage debate!