Of course we will never know exactly what happened. The plethora of evidence both contemporaneous with the assassination and details that have come to light in the intervening years have not made the problem of seeking the truth any easier.
Countless books, films, TV programmes, newspaper and magazine articles and other publications have postulated so many different theories, ranging from the patently absurd to carefully researched and detailed chronicles. They generally fall into two main camps: the supporters of the Warren Commission and those postulating a conspiracy. If one accepts the concept of conspiracy though, what do we think happened that day in Dealey Plaza?
I cannot claim to be expert in this area, but here is my view.
This was an ambush, complete with a back-story to claim the version of events framing Oswald, and a backup in case things went wrong. Which they did.
Suppose there had been one shot and that shot had hit President Kennedy in the head killing him outright? Would we be contemplating any form of conspiracy? Almost certainly not. Pinning the blame on Oswald would have been quite easy. However, that is not what happened and the assassins were forced to resort to their back-up plan.
The real shooter was in the Dal Tex Building opposite the Book Depository. A decoy shooter was on the sixth floor of the Book Depository. As Kennedy was driven down Elm Street, a shot was fired from the Dal Tex Building and simultaneously from the Book Depository. The Dal Tex shot, from a high-powered rifle with a silencer, fell low, striking Kennedy in the back, exiting from his throat and the decoy shot from the Book Depository, without a silencer, struck the ground on the south side of Elm Street. Shot one, failed to secure the kill required.
The shooter in the Dal Tex building fired again twice more, missing Kennedy on both occasions. The Book Depository shooter also fired twice more, the first shot striking Governor Connally and ending up embedded in his left thigh and the second striking the pavement on the far side of Dealey Plaza causing the injuries to James Tague.
The two extra shots from the Dal Tex Building struck the frame over the windshield of the limousine and the windshield itself. Evidence shows the damage caused. It is not clear where the first bullet struck, but it would have been lower and probably ended up embedded in the dashboard.
At this point Kennedy was not fatally wounded and would have quite readily survived. The assassins could not take this chance. The back-up shooter was behind the picket fencing on the grassy knoll and he fired once, striking Kennedy in the head, evidenced clearly in the Zapruder film where his head is thrown violently backwards and to his left. The shot was totally effective in killing the President leaving a large gaping hole in the back of his head, as readily described by all the medical staff who attended him at Parkland hospital. Films showing the grassy knoll just after the limousine has passed, show witnesses and observers rushing towards the grassy knoll where the shots had originated.
The shooter would have packed his rifle, possibly in a toolbox, jumped into a waiting car in the car park and made a rapid getaway. Similarly, the Dal Tex shooter would have had plenty of time to pack his gun and make his departure, and no doubt, all those involved would have been out of the country before the end of the day.
I have always struggled to understand how Connally’s wrist was injured by the bullet that passed through his body. I believe the doctors’ report suggested that the bullet entered the anterior, or outer lower arm, exiting from the inner part of the wrist. My speculation is that one of the shots from the Dal Tex struck Connally as he fell into his wife’s lap and as his right arm raised in doing so. This would be far more convincing, although I would admit it is not easy to see such in the Zapruder film.
Several bullet fragments were found in the limousine, which the Warren Commission claimed were all from the head shot. To be consistent with the Warren Commission version of events, they could not be from any other source as the single bullet was found in Parkland Hospital and the other shot missed the car altogether. Several bullet fragments were found in Kennedy’s head at autopsy and it is likely that some fragments would have been thrown out of the vehicle anyway.
I believe these are fragments from the bullets from the Dal Tex Building.
The Warren Commission also claimed that it was one of these bullet fragments that was responsible for the fracture in the windshield, but as it was bullet-proof glass, it is very unlikely that a ricocheted fragment would have caused such a crack in the glass. I think it is clear the damage was caused by a bullet striking the windshield directly.
If there was a conspiracy and there had been some careful planning behind it, elaborately implicating Oswald and making sure the location was right, then this might well be plausible. It would certainly help to explain why it was that Oswald did not take a shot at Kennedy as the limousine was driving towards him on Houston Street prior to making its turn on to Elm Street. Also, any conspirators would have been extremely determined to ensure they finalised matters, quite probably in the expectation that the new President would not look too hard beyond the legend created around Oswald.
Of course, with the limited evidence available (most of which is in the Warren Commission exhibits) it is impossible to be certain and I am sure some of these details will be found wanting, but in essence I think it makes sense.