Conspiracy theorists have had a field day expounding theories about why Kennedy was assassinated and by whom. This postulation appeals to me.
What I have always found confusing was to refer to John Fitzgerald Kennedy as “Jack Kennedy.” To ensure that I was not referring to one of his siblings or offspring, for 40 years I have always used his initials JFK. Kennedy was an American politician who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until he was assassinated on 22nd November 1963 in Dallas Texas.
The event left a deeply-lasting impression on many Americans. As with the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour before it, and the September 11, 2001 attacks after it, asking “Where were you when you heard about President Kennedy’s assassination” would become a common topic of discussion.
Main picture: Was the black umbrella man the true assassin of JFK?
Since that date thousands of books have been written on this subject and dozens of theories have been postulated as to whom was ultimately responsible for this atrocious act. The motives of all elements of American society have been impugned, from disaffected elements within both political parties to the CIA and the FBI. One must not forget that aspersions have also been cast on the Russians and Fidel Castro as possible suspects as well.
For the most part, it has become a lucrative industry. Apart from books, conferences are held and a steady stream of documentaries produced. The 50th anniversary of the assassination in 2013 saw many channels on DSTV devoting numerous programs both to re-enactments of the assassination but also to in-depth presentations on possible culprits.
While many of these parties had a “motive” whether they were actually complicit is questionable. In this context motive includes disaffection through disagreement.
Two main issues have created controversy and disbelief in the evidence ab initio: whether there were 3 shots or 4 and the killing of the alleged murderer – Lee Harvey Oswald – by Jack Ruby.
The prime suspect
Why was Lee Harvey Oswald the prime suspect? Let us examine his background.
Oswald’s childhood can best be described as unsupervised. As his father had passed away when he was two month’s old, his mother worked long hours to support him. As a loner and outsider, Oswald developed an interest in socialist literature.
In 1956, he joined the U.S. Marines. He was a better-than-average marksman, yet was court-martialled twice in 1958 for having an illegal weapon and displaying violent behaviour. Oswald ended his military service the following year and arranged a trip to Moscow, where he informed Russian authorities that he wanted to move to the Soviet Union. After some debate by government operatives over Oswald’s possible role as a spy, he was allowed to stay in the city of Minsk, where he was closely monitored by the KGB.
Oswald wed Marina Prusakova in April 1961. Dissatisfied with the quality of life in the Soviet Union, Oswald returned to the United States in June 1962, bringing his wife and their newly born daughter with him. The family set up residence in Dallas, Texas, with Oswald taking on the post-office alias of Alek J. Hidell. Around this time, Oswald’s interest in communism transformed into support for Cuba. In early 1963, he ordered a .38 handgun via the mail and later acquired a Carcano 6.5mm rifle. He had Marina take a picture of him with the weapons—a document that would later be used as criminal evidence, as Oswald’s rifle was eventually identified by a notch as the firearm used to murder President John F. Kennedy.
In April 1963, Oswald allegedly tried to shoot right-wing ex-general Edwin A. Walker through the window of his home, but missed. After returning to New Orleans by himself for a short stint, in September 1963, Oswald took a trip to Mexico City, where he attempted to obtain passage to Cuba and the Soviet Union to no avail.
Oswald then returned to the United States, where he got a job working at the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. His family stayed with a friend in a nearby suburb, and Marina gave birth to a second daughter that October.
On the afternoon of November 22, 1963—around the time of President John F. Kennedy’s approaching motorcade through Dallas—Oswald was seen on the sixth floor of his work building, holding a rifle. At 12:30 p.m., three shots were fired, with the second and third hitting President Kennedy. President Kennedy died at Parkland Memorial Hospital shortly after the attack.
Oswald was spotted leaving the scene of the shooting and was later confronted some distance away by police officer J.D. Tippit, whom Oswald then shot and killed. Oswald was later found and apprehended by the police at the Texas Theatre. Over the next two days, he was arraigned, interrogated and placed in line-ups.
Oswald would never see a trial for his alleged crimes. On November 24, 1963, the 24-year-old Oswald, while being taken to the county jail, was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, a club owner with mob affiliations. Ruby stated that he acted out of outrage over Kennedy’s assassination. There have also been theories that Ruby’s actions might have been part of a larger web.
Enter the Man with the Umbrella
Many of the conspiracy theorists have concocted convoluted theories and theses that render them unlikely candidates. The one that has appealed to me has always been referred to by its appellation, The Black Umbrella Man.
Firstly let us deal with Josiah “Tink” Thompson, an American writer, professional private investigator, and former philosophy professor. He was the person who originally speculated in December 1967 in a column entitled Talk of the Town about the possible involvement of the Black Umbrella Man in the killing of JFK.
Thompson’s logic was impeccable. There had been rain in Dallas the previous day but by 9:30 on the day of the assassination it was bright and sunny with not a cloud in the sky. As the route and the ETAs at each location were published days in advance, people only started gathering on the grass at Dealey Plaza towards noon.
Amongst those gathering was a man carrying a black umbrella. As the motorcades approached, this man stood up and opened the umbrella. At this moment the shots rang out and Kennedy was struck. This man sat down, closed his umbrella and then nonchalantly ambled away.
Nobody least of all the police had taken any notice or mention of this event. It was only the column by Thompson just over four years later in which he speculated why a person would exhibit just peculiar behaviour that the event became yet another of the myriad conspiracy theories abounding. Not that Thompson had implied that this unknown person was involved in the assassination in any manner or form, but rather as he remembers, he mentioned it because news on that particular day was sparse.
Once the conspiracy theorists had embellished the story somewhat, Thompson made an appeal for this man to come forward and appear before the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations which he duly did.
In 1978 the “umbrella man” voluntarily identified himself as Louie Steven Witt, is a man who appears in the Zapruder film, and several other films and photographs, near the Stemmons Freeway sign within Dealey Plaza during the JFK assassination.
The explanation that he presented for his surreal behaviour was that he purchased the umbrella to simply heckle Kennedy whose father, Joseph Kennedy, had been a supporter of the Nazi-appeasing British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. By waving a black umbrella, Chamberlain’s trademark fashion accessory, Witt said he was protesting about the Kennedy family appeasing Adolf Hitler before World War II. An umbrella had been used in cartoons in the 1930s to symbolize such appeasement, and Chamberlain often carried an umbrella.
What an innocent explanation voluntarily proffered!
This is the interview with the journalist Thompson by Errol Morris:
Of course in spite of this perfectly innocuous explanation which one would expect to subdue the speculation as regards the role of the Black Umbrella Man, it did the very opposite: it stoked vociferous additional speculation.
This postulation has been led by one – Bill Still – who alleges that the umbrella in fact was a form of gun firing flecettes or dart like bullets. This ignores the fact that Oswald’s Carcano rifle was found in his work place together with three cartridges.
Secondly why would Louie Steven Witt voluntarily reveal that he indeed was the umbrella man if he was guilty of murder? Surely he would have done the exact opposite as all the pictures of this person were blurry and obscure.
Of course Still takes issues with all of Witt’s behaviour on that fateful day including the identity of a fellow bystander with a swarthy complexion and was hence possibly of Cuban extraction. Another pointer to Witt’s guilt is that he worked for an Insurance Company which shared a building with Immigration which Oswald often visited to obtain visas for travel to various Communist Countries. Like all conspiracy theories he makes the association that Witt must have met Oswald on one of these many visits and then co-conspired to kill JFK.
Interview with Bill Stiller:
A Personal Assessment
From Lee Harvey Oswald’s life story it is apparent that he not only had a motive being disgruntled with Capitalism but he also possessed the opportunity and wherewithal as his place of work overlooked the route that Kennedy’s cavalcade would proceed along. Furthermore his marine record indicates that he was an above average marksman.
Over the years, the question of conspiracies has continued to blight the Oswald case. The 1964 Warren Commission declared that no evidence of a conspiracy had been found. Yet an investigation initiated by the House of Representatives Assassination Committee in 1979 eventually found that another shooter could have been involved in the assassination. Debate and much speculation—including who Oswald met with during his final stay in New Orleans—continue to this day.
Testifying before the HSCA, Witt – the Umbrella Man – stated “I think if the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, I would be No. 1 in that position, without even a close runner-up.”
The fact that the real motives of the Umbrella Man have been ascertained and the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald ticks all the blocks as regards motive and opportunity have not doused the flames of speculation that the Umbrella Man was culpable and Oswald was not.
This vignette highlights a number of factors about life: put any incident under the microscope and many peculiar and unusual associations will become visible. These have no relevance and are purely happenstance. To those conspiratorially inclined however they are indicative of sinister motives and intent. In these circumstances all actions will be coloured with such sinister intent and will forever form the flesh on which the sharks will have a feeding frenzy.
Finally people love to speculate and theorise. The 2.4 million documents so far released on JFK’s assassination have not yet satiated the conspiracists’ viewpoint that documents are being hidden.
Where do I personally stand on this murder?
I believe that Oswald was culpable
If so, why have I presented this blog as the Umbrella Man being a possible assassin: merely to highlight the surreal nature of these theories and the reality that the facts have no bearing on people’s beliefs in this regard?
The opposite is true: additional details fuel additional speculation.
The Umbrella Man serves as a cautionary tale not to disregard common sense and to remain sceptical at all times.
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