The Enduring Mystery of JFK's Death

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says that each year, close to the November 22 anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, a new conspiracy theory emerges about the circumstances of his death.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Next Tuesday is the 42nd anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and to mark the occasion there are new conspiracy theories floating around. NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has a hard look.

DANIEL SCHORR:

Another day, another plot. Over the years, dozens of conspiracy theorists have arisen to challenge the conclusion of the Warren Commission that President Kennedy was killed by a single, disturbed young man. Now, in time for the anniversary of the assassination, a new conspiracy book is appearing, which has at least the virtue of novelty. It's titled "Ultimate Sacrifice," 904 pages and 2,700 footnotes. It's written by Lamar Waldron, who calls himself an assassination scholar and says he has the advantage of having seen four million documents recently declassified.

One of Waldron's theories goes like this. President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, bitter about the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, in 1963 concocted a secret plan to stage a palace coup to unseat Fidel Castro with the aid of the US Army. The coup leader would declare martial law and proclaim a provisional government, then cut ties with the Soviet Union and join the United States in partnership. Robert Kennedy was personally in charge of this invasion plan. D-Day--or, rather, C-Day for coup day--was to be December 1st, 1963. But two weeks before that, President Kennedy was killed, and that was the end of the invasion plan.

So who killed Kennedy? Waldron's theory is that the assassination was organized by Mafia dons Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante and Johnny Roselli in revenge for the Kennedy war on organized crime. As the author would have it, these Mafia chiefs controlled Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald.

So there you have it, not just one conspiracy but two: the conspiracy against Castro and the conspiracy against Kennedy. The latest of some 80 books dealing with the Kennedy assassination will undoubtedly fascinate the conspiracy-minded. For the rest of us, it is simply the latest example of myth-making about a painful chapter in our history. This is Daniel Schorr.

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