“I never let schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain
Today is the anniversary of the brutal murder of POTUS John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The event which transpired in New York city on September 11, 2001 has been equated with what happened in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, which to anyone my age is laughable. The enormousness of the killing of a POTUS dwarfs any other day of infamy.
The death of President Kennedy was announced at a pep rally at my high school on a Friday afternoon. Half of those in attendance cheered. JFK was reviled in the South, not only because he was a yankee, but also a Catholic. Southern Baptists did not like Catholics. Actually, most of them did not like anyone other than those who were like minded.
I had turned thirteen a few months earlier and was in the eight grade at a new high school where I knew only two other students, both from my grammar school. Fights broke out after the announcement. Fortunately I was not involved.
Like most other Americans my family gathered around the television to watch the continuous coverage. One could tell how important an event was this because there were no commercials broadcast for days. I saw Jack Ruby allegedly shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, if it was really Lee Harvey Oswald, in the basement of the Dallas police department. Oswald said he was a patsy. Some do not believe Ruby, an FBI informant, actually shot Oswald. Only a few people know the truth, and they are not telling. One reason may be what has been written about something in the office of organized crime figure Carlos Marcello’s office: “Three can keep a secret if two are dead,” which is a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin.
I read Rush To Judgement, by Mark Lane, in the late 1960’s and was hooked. At one time I could count the number of books on the assassination, but that is no longer the case, and has not been for decades. Former Georgia Chess Champion Michael Decker once told someone that I “Had read EVERYTHING!” It may have been close to the truth then, but there have been so many books written now that it is virtually impossible for anyone to read all of them. Michael, like most other Americans, refused to believe anything other than what the government said had happened. On one of the many visits I made to visit him in Louisville I noticed a copy of Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, by David S. Lifton. When asked if he had read the book he looked like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He refused to discuss the matter, so I let it drop. I could discern his faith in our institutions had been shaken.
I even read discredited books concerning the assassination considered by knowledgeable people to be disinformation. When asked why I would reply, “In order to know what they leave out, or where they want you to go, so I can go the other way.” I drew the line, though, at the doorstop, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, by Vincent Bugliosi. After all, my time on this earth is limited and reading that piece of trash would be a complete waste of time. I will admit, though, that the reviews panning it were even better than the reviews of Gerald Posner’s terrible book, Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK.
I went to the Atlanta Historical Society one evening to listen to a lecture by a man some call an “eminent historian,” Robert Dallek, who had written, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 – 1963. I was in line to ask him a question when the first question to him was, “What books have you read on the assassination of JFK?” When he said, “Case Closed,” the questioner asked, “That’s all?” When Dallek said there was no need to read any other books after reading that one, the audience booed, and hissed, and booed some more. I turned and walked out. Need I tell you this is one of the highlights of my life?
Back in the 1980’s Michael “Mad Dog” Gordon, another Chess player, watched a two-hour program on the JFK assassination, which he thought made him an expert. The Legendary one, had told Mike that I had read many books on the subject, so Mad Dog began asking me questions one evening while taking a break from playing fifteen minute games. We did not play another game. Many hours later he offered his couch because of the late hour. I could not do that now because my memory is not what it used to be. I have forgotten names, dates, and details, unfortunately. The program Mad Dog had watched “proved” that LHO had shot JFK. As the man from the High Planes, Life Master David Vest, former Georgia Chess Champion and Georgia Senior Chess champion, would say, “I refuted the Mad Dog.”
Whatever one thinks of John Fitzgerald Kennedy the fact that you are here today and reading this is testament to the man because if he had not been POTUS during the Cuban Missile Crisis there would have been a nuclear war. There would have been an alternate timeline, one that possibly would not have included humans. You see, the hawks who wanted to bomb the hell out of Cuba did not know that nuclear weapons were positioned there, ready to strike the US, and that the Russian battlefield commanders had authority to fire them in case of an invasion. This was learned decades later at a conference in Cuba.
A few who have learned of my continuing interest in the sordid affair have asked me what book to read, as if there were one, and only one, book to read on the assassination of President Kennedy. My usual response has been to scoff at such a ridiculous question. Now I am old and today may be my tomorrow, so I have decided to share the titles of the books I would recommend one read, if interested in the subject.
When I began researching the subject I focused on not who had killed the POTUS, but why was he killed. This is the best book to answer that question:
JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, by James W. Douglass.
Garrison Keillor puts out an edition of The Writer’s Almanac every day, which can be listened to on NPR and found here: https://writersalmanac.org/
Mr. Keillor writes in today’s edition, “As they drove through Dealey Plaza, Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire from a sixth-floor window in the Texas School Book Depository.” Lee Harvey Oswald was later that day tested for nitrates on his face, something he would have had if he had fired a rifle earlier in the day. He tested negative.
Because it is his birthday a piece on Charles de Gaulle, a former President of France, follows, which is ironic because when asked about the Kennedy assassination, de Gaulle, who had survived numerous assassination attempts, said, “His security was compromised.” This is the book to read in order to understand what happened that November day in 1963:
Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy, by Vincent Palamara.
Douglas Horne has written a five volumne set of books that is simply de rigueur if one wants to know what happened in Dallas that terrible day: Inside the Assassination Records Review Board: The U.S. Government’s Final Attempt to Reconcile the Conflicting Medical Evidence in the Assassination of JFK.
If one wants to know the empirical evidence he should read the masterful: A Deeper, Darker Truth, by Donald T Phillips.
That’s it, unless one is interested in speculation, when I would highly recommend: Target JFK: The Spy Who Killed Kennedy? by Robert K. Wilcox, the author of the highly acclaimed, Target Patton: The Plot to Assassinate General George S. Patton.
Then there is, THE MEN THAT DON’T FIT IN, by Rod MacKenzie. Can it really be true that these last two books are true? With the JFK assassination, anything is possible.
The Men That Don’t Fit In
By Robert W. Service
There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.
Ran across your blog somehow.
Hope you are doing well. Don’t remember ever claiming to be an expert on the JFK shooting, just that I knew David Belin when I was a kid and you thought his book was the worst ever. Anyway, good to see you are still alive as so many from the chess world have passed. If you could send me your email and regular address, I have some items, you may enjoy.
“Mad Dog” Gordon
Pembroke Pines, Florida/Sincelejo, Colombia