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End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy PDF

411 Pages·2013·5.69 MB·English
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DEDICATION For my wife, Andrea. And for my father, Lennart. EPIGRAPH I have a rendezvous with Death . . . And to my pledged word am true, I shall not fail that rendezvous. —ALAN SEEGER, HARVARD GRADUATE, AMERICAN WORLD WAR I POET KILLED AT THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME ON JULY 4, 1916, AND AUTHOR OF ONE OF JOHN F. KENNEDY’S FAVORITE POEMS. We are all mortal. —JOHN F. KENNEDY, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, JUNE 10, 1963. If somebody wants to shoot me from a window with a rifle, nobody can stop it, so why worry about it? —JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORT WORTH, TEXAS, ON THE MORNING OF NOVEMBER 22, 1963. I should have known that he was magic all along. I did know—but I should have guessed that it would be too much to ask to grow old with [him] and see our children grow up together. So now, he is a legend when he would have preferred to be a man. —JACQUELINE KENNEDY, NOVEMBER 17, 1964. CONTENTS DEDICATION EPIGRAPH LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS A NOTE TO THE READER Prologue 1. “Such Dangerous Toys” 2. “The Glow from That Fire” 3. “Show These Texans What Good Taste Really Is” 4. “A Bright Pink Suit” 5. “Someone Is Shooting at the President” 6. “They’ve Shot His Head Off” 7. “I Haven’t Shot Anybody” 8. “We Had a Hero for a Friend” 9. “Lee Oswald Has Been Shot!” 10. “One Brief Shining Moment” Epilogue: “All His Bright Light Gone from the World” ACKNOWLEDGMENTS BIBLIOGRAPHY SOURCE NOTES INDEX ABOUT THE AUTHOR ALSO BY JAMES L. SWANSON CREDITS COPYRIGHT ABOUT THE PUBLISHER LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 1. Lee Harvey Oswald, posing with his rifle 2. John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Martin Luther King Jr. 3. President Kennedy in Berlin 4. Oswald as a high school student 5. President Kennedy, Caroline, and John Jr. in the Oval Office 6. Oswald’s rifle 7. Kennedy with Johnson and Governor Connally 8. Kennedy outside of the Hotel Texas 9. Kennedy speaking in front of the Hotel Texas 10. Jackie and JFK disembark Air Force One 11. Jackie with roses at Love Field 12. The Kennedys and Connally in the Dallas motorcade 13. The presidential motorcade proceeds through Dallas 14. Map of Dealey Plaza 15. Oswald’s view of the limousine 16. Zapruder’s camera 17. Side and rear view of bullet 18. Kennedy’s second wound 19. The sixth-floor Texas Book Depository window 20. The presidential limousine at Parkland Hospital 21. Carrying the casket aboard Air Force One 22. Lyndon Johnson being sworn in 23. The president’s casket at the U.S. Capitol 24. The funeral procession at the United States Capitol 25. Jacqueline Kennedy and children at the Capitol 26. The procession to St. Matthew’s Cathedral 27. The caisson leaves for St. Matthew’s 28. Carrying the casket to the grave site 29. Panoramic view of the funeral at Arlington 30. Folding the national colors 31. The Lee mansion at Arlington Cemetery 32. Mourning buttons 33. Memorial banner 34. Memorial banner 35. Dealey Plaza desk set 36. The electric Eternal Flame night-light 37. Jackie tribute magazine 38. Oswald magazine 39. The Warren Commission presents its Report to President Johnson A NOTE TO THE READER I t is hard to believe it happened fifty years ago. Even in the current generation, it remains a great dividing line in American history. It was the greatest national trauma since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at the end of the Civil War in April 1865. Those who were alive in the fall of 1963 and were old enough then to remember it today shudder at the mere mention of the date. Find anyone you know over the age of sixty—a parent, grandparent, or friend—and speak one phrase: “November 22, 1963.” At once they will tell you where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. “I remember,” they will say and then tell you their story. Many still shed tears for him. The drama could have been scripted by Shakespeare: The elevation of a young hero scarred by war and haunted by death. This charismatic leader of his people—beside his beautiful wife, whose natural poise captured the nation—is struck down at the height of his power and fame, leaving behind a young widow to conjure his legend. It is a tale filled with irony and foreshadowing, with heroes and monsters. This book attempts to re-create a moment when time stopped. It seeks to recapture how Americans lived through this tragedy and to resurrect the mood and emotions of those unforgettable days between President John F. Kennedy’s murder and his funeral. To those of you who remember, I hope this book does justice to your memories. To those who do not and who know—or think they know—the story only through retellings in books or films, I hope this book evokes the mood, the loss, and the emotional and historical truth of the fall of 1963. Our misguided modern-day obsession with exotic, multiple, and contradictory conspiracy theories involving tales of grassy knolls, umbrella men,

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