When asked about the nuclear-mad antics of Dr. Strangelove, Pentagon whistleblower Dan Ellsberg said, “For those of us who worked in the Pentagon, the movie was a documentary.” As nuclear historian Eric Schlosser has written, “almost everything” in the movie was true. JFK was disturbed at the laxity of U.S. nuclear control regime, and sought to tighten command and control and dissolve the Cold War, especially in 1963.
Fifty three years ago today, a man named Lee Harvey Oswald came to the attention of a group of senior CIA officers in Langley, Virginia. Oswald had recently visited the Cuban consulate and Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. A CIA wiretap captured a man identifying himself as “Oswald.”
The CIA officers conferred about Oswald and his actions and signed off on a cable about him. They are identified on the declassified CIA cable whose authenticity is not disputed.
Was JFK going to make peace with Cuba?
On November 5, 1963, President Kennedy was exploring the idea. You can hear JFK talking about it with aides on this White House tape recording. (The substantive conversation starts at :25 in the recording.) Read more
Under the suggestive title “Castro Figured Out The JFK Case in Five Days”, an English version of his speech at the University of Havana on November 27, 1963, is available from CTKA.
In due course, the Warren Commission was provided with a slightly different version, but its members feared and rejected Castro’s line of argument depicting JFK’s assassination as part of a broader “plan against peace, against Cuba, against the Soviet Union, against humanity, against progressive and even liberal sectors of the United States.”
▶ Lee H. Oswald debates the Cuba issue with anti-communist activist Ed Butler, and anti-Castro militant Carlos Bringuier of Cuban Student Directorate (DRE)
A haunting photo gallery from Robin Unger, curator of the best online collection of JFK Assassination Photographs.
When it was released in 1964, the movie’s chilling message about the fragility of American democracy and the danger of far-Right paranoia was underscored by a real-life backstory that was just as disturbing. Frankenheimer made Seven Days in May at the personal urging of President John F. Kennedy, who’d clashed with an Army general with extremist views early in his administration, and apparently feared such a cabal really was possible. Sadly, JFK did not live to see the film he helped bring to the screen
One of the most haunting images from November 22, 1963, is Jacqueline Kennedy’s pink suit smeared with President Kennedy’s blood in Dallas.
Two men, brothers-in-law aged 20 and 16, were taken into custody. The report continued, “A .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle and a full box of .22 long rifle ammunition was seized.” Both men admitted “pointing the gun out the window on the parade route.”
Nikolai S. Leonov has an interesting perspective on the story of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Leonov joined the KGB in 1958 and retired in 1991 with the rank of Lieutenant General. In the spring of 1963, his fluency in Spanish gained him the job as the Russian interpreter for Cuba president Fidel Castro during his first visit to the USSR in the spring of 1963, In the photo above he is the man standing between and behind Castro and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Read more
“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment,” wrote former president Harry Truman in the Washington Post on December 22, 1963. It was exactly one month after the assassination of President Kennedy.
“It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas,” Truman wrote.
The former president never explicitly linked JFK’s death to the clandestine service, but the timing and venue of his piece was suggestive.
“This week, 52 years ago, John Fitzgerald Kennedy: A Memorial Album sold an astonishing 4 million copies in its first six days of availability, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. …It cost 99 cents a copy.”
The national media, much less diverse and fragmented in 1963 than today, joined the campaign to assuage doubts and dispel “rumors” about JFK’s assassination. Pollsters were already finding that a majority of Americans suspected conspiracy. Life Magazine’s Dec. 6 issue was devoted primarily to photo coverage of the Kennedy funeral, but also included a piece by Paul Mandel entitled “End to Nagging Rumors: The Six Critical Seconds.”
The article began with a quote from Dallas DA Henry Wade: “I would say without any doubt that he is the killer”, and referred to Oswald as “the assassin.”
Life Magazine had earlier purchased rights to Abraham Zapruder’s famous home movie of the murder in Dealey Plaza, and in a November 29 issue had shown frames from that film in black-and-white. Now the Mandel article tried to reconcile the film with Oswald’s guilt.