The Guns of Dealey Plaza -- Weapons and the Kennedy Assassination
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The Guns of Dealey Plaza -- Weapons and the Kennedy Assassination investigates the numerous sightings and sounds of weapons in and around Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 as well as bullets and bullet fragments found in Dealey Plaza and experiments that employed 21st century technology to investigate details of the JFK assassination that were unavailable to the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigations. High definition television, high-speed cameras, and 3D laser scans that create accurate virtual worlds are some of the latest technical instruments used to dissect the nature of the shots fired in Dealey Plaza.
This essay will investigate Lee H. Oswald’s infamous 6.5-millimeter Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, a 7.65 Mauser, a Johnson 30.06 rifle, an unknown rifle on the roof of the Depository, the Secret Service’s AR-15 automatic rifle in the presidential backup car, a 7-millimeter Czech automatic rifle, rifles on the triple overpass, 7.65-millimeter rifle shell, the "double bang" sound heard by numerous eyewitnesses, a rifle behind the fence on the grassy knoll, a Remington Fire Ball XP-100 pistol, a Winchester .220 Swift rifle, an unknown military rifle, and a man claiming he was a FBI agent who had a gun under an overcoat on the grassy knoll. Additionally, a Smith and Wesson snub-nosed .38 pistol found in a paper bag near Dealey Plaza and four 7.35 Mannlicher-Carcano rifles alleged to be peripherally involved in the assassination are examined.
Table of Contents
A Rifle on the Sixth Floor
The Missing Shot
The Holland/DeRonja, Haag, and Hargather Experiments
Single Bullet, Single Man
Action on the Roof and the Mauser
The AR-15 Automatic Rifle
The Johnson Semi-Automatic
Bullet Fragments and Shells
The Sights and Sounds of the Grassy Knoll
Firecrackers, Backfires, and Echoes
Timing the Shots
The HSCA Jiggle/Blur Analysis
Startle Reflex/Perception-Reaction-Time Analysis
Timing Shot Intervals Using Zapruder Frames
The Double Bang
A Possible Scenario
Sources and End Notes
For historians, for forensics gun enthusiasts, for those who enjoy conspiracy theories, The Guns of Dealey Plaza is a investigative resource that you will want to check out.
This is a non-fiction, technical, very detailed review of the guns that were involved, or at least studied, found in November, 1963. Readers will not find excitement -- they will find detailed facts and/or hypotheses of what happened. But mostly it is information about the guns used/found... and the investigation surrounding the assassination.
I was working on my first job, in the Office of Personnel, at WVU, when we heard the news about what was happening in Texas. The assassination of the President was something that would never be forgotten, or, it seems, studied. Will that help prevent a future disaster? Or, perhaps, "not" since being able to purchase a gun through the mail for less than $15 says more about that??? And still does...
One part interested me when Craig discussed that Oswald's competency in shooting was "maligned..." Then proceeds on to discuss the witnesses as they discuss whether he was skilled, more skilled...or even more skilled, of course, using the correct military terms... After reading that, I began to wonder about my own interest in forensics science television...My thought was, if they proved he killed him, why argue how skilled Oswald was...so what if it was just "luck?" The President was still dead...Right?
Included in the book is information about the bullets and shells, handguns, the timing of the shots, etc., and, of course, the government agencies and The Warren Commission that worked on the case. In any event, you will see that many aspects of the entire investigation has been included, regurgitated, and, in the end, Craig provides "A Possible Scenario" of how he sees everything happening and then an Afterword which included some interesting details...I found these most interesting as a conclusion before I went on to review the extensive sources and end notes documenting the research conducted and footnoting exactly what came from where...
The format of the book is much like I've read in university dissertations and should be easily used by students and others who are conducting research on the same or similar topics. It is exceptionally well done... And I want to point out that this is an excellent illustration of the quality and content that can be found in today's self-publishing world. Kudos to the author!
I would be remiss in saying that I would not buy this book since I have no interest in guns. This book format, style of writing, etc., are very similar to my experience with a scholarly study. And I have no doubt that members of the NRA should check this one out...
Paperback provided for Review
Review placed on Amazon.com
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With the possible exception of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, the assassination of John Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, is the most famous murder in history, and certainly the most thoroughly investigated. Though the putative assassin was himself gunned down in bizarre circumstances only a day later and never stood trial, a presidential commission was immediately convened to establish the facts of the case, and summarized its conclusions in twenty-seven volumes which have rarely been read, and less often believed.
Indeed whole forests have been cleared to print the subsequent literature, which has cast doubt upon the identity of the murderer, his status as an independent actor, his motivation or lack of it, what weapons were employed, how many shots were fired and from where, who saw and heard (even smelled) what, who told the truth and who was lying. The resulting hermeneutic chaos was succinctly summarized by the satirical organ The Onion in their historical compendium Our Dumb Century with the headline “Kennedy Slain By CIA, Mafia, Castro, LBJ, Teamsters, Freemasons; President Shot 129 Times from 43 Different Angles.”
It is the conclusion, however, of John Craig’s meticulously researched and impeccably reasoned analysis that the original account was essentially correct: Oswald was the lone gunman; three shots were fired in an interval of between 8 and 11 seconds; the first missed; the second struck both Kennedy and Connally; the third was fatal; the rest is bulls***.
Mr. Craig’s principal characters, are, as his title suggests, guns. The chief protagonist is Oswald’s Model 91/38 6.5 millimeter Mannlicher-Carcano rifle — which was, incredibly, obtained by mail order under an assumed name (technological progress would now probably allow it to be 3D printed from open source specs available on Libertarian websites); other players include one or more 7.65 millimeter Mausers, a Johnson semiautomatic 30.06, an AR-15 .223 automatic, a British Enfield .303, a Winchester .220 Swift, and the snub-nose .38 pistol Oswald used to kill a police officer.
It is a subject of debate (of course) whether Oswald’s rifle could easily have been assembled using a dime as a screwdriver; Mr. Craig addresses this issue. The bolt action was slow, the firing pin defective, and the scope misaligned; Mr. Craig addresses these issues as well. He examines ballistics, summarizing laboratory experiments and computer simulations which account for the medical and forensic evidence (notably the observed distribution of bullet fragments); parses the acoustical evidence to explain the confusion caused by echoes in the plaza, the sonic booms of supersonic bullets as they passed their auditors, and the misinterpretation of a police dictabelt recording; explains the use of the Zapruder film to index jiggle/blur and startle reflex analyses and construct a consistent timeline; notes that advances in psychology (confirmed by what the study of artificial intelligence has learned about pattern recognition) have shown that eye-witness accounts, particularly of stressful events, which have a dramatically deleterious effect upon brain chemistry, are inherently suspect, and that, as now-ubiquitous video recording has made obvious, memories are almost always edited after the fact; derives a consensus nonetheless from the conflicting reports of many dozens of witnesses; and makes only sparing use of adjectives like “ridiculous,” “fantastic,” “amazing,” “incredible,” and “grossly illogical” in dispelling the myth of the grassy knoll and discussing the assorted legends of Dog Man, Umbrella Man, Railroad Man, Badge Man, and Sewer Man. (He does not, so far as I know, comment on the theory that the twisted trajectory of the second bullet was the result of an attempt by Magneto of the X-Men to deflect it, but I admit I haven’t read all 402 footnotes.)
In short, though we can expect in the near future that advances in computer simulation will permit a complete virtual-reality recreation of the events in Dealey Plaza (though for obvious reasons it was universally condemned, the 2004 first-person shooter video game JFK: Reloaded could be regarded as a crude first draft), and that this will be used to provide a mathematically rigorous assessment of the probabilities involved — were the shots as difficult as skeptics have claimed? should Oswald have been expected to succeed, or was he freakishly lucky? is the physical evidence completely consistent with the scenario Mr. Craig endorses? — the likely answers are known. The physical facts seem well established.
Unfortunately knowing what happened still doesn’t tell us why, and the psychological mystery remains. The opaque banality of Oswald, the blankness of the man that made him impossible to read, suggests the tabula rasa, the mental empty slate of the British empiricists, and the temptation to suppose someone else was writing upon it is irresistible. But once we begin with such speculation, there is (see Ellroy, Mailer, DeLillo, Oliver Stone) no way to stop.
So here again probability must be our guide. If Oswald was a witless boob and an inconsistent marksman, this is just the proof we need he acted alone: if the Illuminati had wanted Kennedy dead, they would have chosen a more impressive instrument. — Again, though Mr. Craig does not quote Karl Popper explicitly, it is clear that the theme of falsifiability as the hallmark of scientific theory is dear to his heart: assertions which by definition cannot be disproved are meaningless, no matter that they’re guaranteed to make the bestseller lists.
Thus we have to accept, as conspiracy theorists cannot, that on some occasions history really is shaped by bad luck, blind chance, and the perverse whims of twisted individual actors, and that this was almost certainly one of them. Achilles, the greatest warrior of antiquity, was killed beneath the walls of Troy by the feckless gigolo Paris with a bow and arrow; pace Homer, that made no sense. John Kennedy, the most gifted and charismatic of our postwar leaders, was killed in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald with a mail-order rifle. And there was no reason.
Today such a catastrophe could not take place without being recorded on thousands of iPhones; the sheer mass of data would demand huge investments in hardware and software to process it all, but there would never be any doubt where the shots came from, or how many there were; Oswald himself would be photographed, rifle still in hand, by dozens of cameras as their owners turned to look back at the repository; all ambiguity would be dispelled. In Dallas in 1963, however, there was only one 8-millimeter enthusiast who, to his lasting regret, found himself in the right place at the wrong time. Somehow the saddest thing I carry away from this rigorous and unfailingly objective dissertation on the grimmest of subjects is Mr. Craig’s parenthetical remark that, after the experience that made him famous, Abraham Zapruder never touched a camera again. But then, how could he.
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By Amazon Customer on May 4, 2016
The Guns of Dealey Plaza is a good read and at the same time is very scholarly. The book's presentation offers the scenarios of multiple guns, multiple shooters and then systematically investigates the evidence that supports or disproves each theory. I found the footnotes very useful in clarifying the author's exploration of this tragic assassination. Conspiracy theory thrives when improbable people, events happen as with people armed with box cutters bringing down the Twin Towers. The Guns of Dealey Plaza goes a very long way to clarify how we arrive at our contemporary history. I'm very glad I read it.
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