The Day Kennedy died

President John F. KennedyWarning – contains one rather grim statement.

I very much recommend the ITV documentary, “The Day Kennedy died” narrated by Kevin Spacey. It’s available on ITV Player and Catch-up for the next 22 days. I’ve watched several documentaries about the JFK shooting, but this one stood out.

They follow JFK (and his body) from the moment he walks out of the Fort Worth hotel, where he was staying, in the morning, until the early hours of the next morning. They use an extraordinary mixture of footage, taken from various angles, both black & white and colour, both video of live TV and film.

They also interview some remarkable eye-witnesses such as Clint Hill, the bodyguard who jumped on the back of the car. Buell Frazier, who drove Oswald to work that day with his long package of “curtain rails”. Ruth Paine, who was hosting Oswald’s girlfriend. The Newman family, who were standing on the side of the road at the point where Kennedy was shot. One of the nurses in the trauma room where Kennedy was taken after the shooting. Etcetera, etcetera.

The result is a very poignant programme which sheds light on a number of aspects of the day.

I don’t remember where I was when the news came through that JFK had been assasinated. I was only four years old. I would have been in Bude. I can remember where I was when the news came through that Robert Kennedy had been shot.

There were a number of interesting things which I learned about the day from the programme:

When Kennedy flew into Dallas, he actually only flew 30 miles in 13 minutes from Fort Worth. It was hardly worth taking off. But he wanted the big picture of him arriving with Jackie at Dallas airport.

After the shooting, there is the famous image of Jackie Kennedy climbing onto the back of the car. I always thought this was her instinctive reaction to get away from the dead body of her husband, or perhaps a way of summoning help. However, Clint Hill, the bodyguard who was a few feet from Jackie Kennedy, said that she was trying to collect the pieces of her husband which had landed on the back of the car. Grim.

I didn’t realise that Clint Hill hung on to the limousine while it reached speeds of 80 mph going to the hospital. Hairy stuff.

And through numerous photos, film snippets and audio, the programme gives a very vivid picture of the LBJ swearing-in in the plane on the tarmac at the airport, which was extremely grim and emotionally charged. People could be heard and seen sobbing openly.

Lee Harvey Oswald was taken in handcuffs past the waiting press at least 15 times after his arrival at the police station where he was questioned. It seems incredible.

I also notice from the film that there is a white “X” on the road in Dallas where JFK was shot. Tourists regularly risks their lives in the traffic to have their photo taken standing by it. Crazy stuff.

All in all, stirring stuff from ITV.

But after taking a mild interest in all the conspiracy theories, I am left with the overall impression that a lone nutjob did it. Lee Harvey Oswald. Also, we should take into account that Presidential security was at a very early stage then and perhaps Oswald was ahead of the curve. These days he wouldn’t have got into the Book Depository with his “curtain rails” in the first place.


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