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JFK Visits Dallas

The Kennedys arrive at Dallas Love Field

President and Mrs Kennedy arrive at Love Field Airfield to greet the crowds and to begin their visit to Dallas.

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Kennedy had started his campaign for re-election. Following a term in office characterised by some of the most alarming events in recent US history, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, by embarrassing and controversial events such as the invasion of the Bay of Pigs and a thorough campaign against organised crime and the established government institutions such as the CIA and FBI, Kennedy was ready to capitalise on his popularity to carry a second term.

JFK and his glamorous wife, Jacqueline, were the nearest thing the US people could claim to royalty. They were hugely popular and had declared a new generation of openness with their people using television to share their family values with the American people. However, as popular as he was in some quarters he was equally unpopular in others, particularly amongst those that branded him a communist and appeaser. The US was divided, but there was little doubt his support would carry him through the next election with a much improved majority on the 1960 result.

The Presidential limousine proceeds through Dallas

Kennedy was visiting the South, along with his Texan Vice President, Lyndon Johnson. The crowds had been wildly enthusiastic as they arrived at Love Field and throughout their motorcade route through the city of Dallas. As they were approaching the final part of the route, and before joining the Stemmons Freeway to take them on to their luncheon engagement at the Trade Mart, shots rang out.

The President grabbed at his throat and his wife realised something untoward had happened. Those in the motorcade more familiar with firearms recognised a rifle shot and looked around to see from where it had come. Further shots were fired and Kennedy was struck in the head, violently pushing him backwards in his seat.

The car accelerated, Mrs Kennedy climbed up on the back of the car and as it drove away, her personal body guard, Clint Hill, who had been riding the running board on the car behind, climbed on to the rear of the limousine, pushed Mrs Kennedy back into her seat and there clung on until the car arrived at Parkland Hospital.

After a half hour of emergency procedures, the doctors attending in Parkland’s trauma rooms declared the President dead. At the same time, the badly injured Governor Connally, who had been sitting in front of the President was operated upon for gunshot wounds. Although severely injured he was to survive.

Almost immediately, an unseemly argument took place between the local officials of the Texas Police Department and the FBI. Murder, even of a President, is a local state matter and not a federal matter. However, the FBI prevailed and they took the body away in Airforce One. Before departing, the new President, Lyndon Johnson, was sworn in on the aeroplane, with Mrs Kennedy, still in her blood-soaked clothes, standing beside him.

JFK’s body was flown back to Washington and taken to Bethesda Hospital in Maryland for autopsy by military doctors. His funeral took place the following week in Washington and his body now rests in Arlington Cemetery.

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Walter Cronkite makes the moving announcement of Kennedy's death.

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©Copyright Mark Collins, 2007