by Paul R. Hollrah –
As Donald Trump orders the release of thousands of pages of Warren Commission documents that have been shielded from public view for a full half century, it is an absolute certainty that those documents will create more questions than they answer.
At a time when a substantial majority (more than 60%) of the American people have lost faith in our federal establishment… particularly the Department of Justice, the CIA, the FBI, the BATF, ,the NSA, the IRS, the DEA, and the EPA… it is unlikely that the Warren Commission Report will attract any more credibility than the official findings in the ground-to-air missile destruction of TWA Flight 800; the murder of the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas; the Oklahoma City Bombing; or the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
And while some 2,800 documents, comprising tens of thousands of pages, have been released, some 300 documents are considered so sensitive that the FBI, the CIA, and other agencies have asked the president to withhold them for several more months while they are further evaluated for national security implications.
However, one question that deserves much more attention has already presented itself. It has to do with the circumstances that brought Lee Harvey Oswald and John F. Kennedy together in Dallas, Texas, just 260 feet (80 meters) apart, in the early afternoon of November 22, 1963.
According to the Warren Commission Report, the decision for Kennedy to visit Dallas was finalized on October 4, 1963 when Texas Governor John Connally telephoned the White House to extend the invitation. In that conversation, it was agreed that the principal events during the visit would be a fundraising luncheon, preceded by a motorcade through downtown Dallas.
As presidential aide Kenneth O’Donnell argued, the Kennedy organization had motorcades almost everywhere they went. To those who opposed the idea of a motorcade, he explained that it “would be automatic” for the Secret Service to arrange a route which would, within the time allotted, bring Kennedy “through an area which exposes him to the greatest number of people.”
The Warren Commission Report (Chapter 2, Page 29) explains that, “Advance preparations for President Kennedy’s visit to Dallas were primarily the responsibility of two Secret Service agents: Special Agent Winston G. Lawson, a member of the White House detail who acted as the advance agent, and Forrest V. Sorrels, special agent in charge of the Dallas office.
Both agents were advised of the trip on November 4… As advance agent working closely with Sorrels, Lawson had responsibility for arranging the timetable for the President’s visit and coordinating local activities with the White House staff, the organizations directly concerned with the visit, and local law enforcement officials.
“Lawson’s most important responsibilities were to take preventive action against anyone in Dallas considered a threat to the President, to select the luncheon site and motorcade route, and to plan security measures for the luncheon and the motorcade.”
According to of the Warren Commission Report, Agent Sorrels was asked to evaluate three potential sites for the luncheon: 1) Market Hall, 2) the Women’s Building at the State Fair Grounds, and 3) the Trade Mart, “a handsome new building with all the necessary facilities…” Sorrels was convinced that the security difficulties at the Trade Mart could be overcome by taking special precautions, and on November 13 Kenneth O’Donnell approved Sorrels’ recommendation.
Chapter 2, Page 31 of the Report tells us that, even before the Trade Mart was selected as the site for the luncheon, “Lawson and Sorrels began to consider the best motorcade route from Love Field to the Trade Mart.” On November 14, eight days before Kennedy arrived in Dallas, Lawson and Sorrels attended a meeting at Love Field and on their return to Dallas, drove over the route which Sorrels believed was best suited for the proposed motorcade. This route, eventually selected for the motorcade, measured 10 miles and could be driven easily within the allotted 45 minutes. Two days later, on November 16, the Dallas Times-Herald reported that the Kennedy motorcade “apparently will loop through the downtown area, probably on Main Street, en route from Dallas Love Field.” That was the most detailed information made available to anyone in Dallas, including Lee Harvey Oswald.
The route from Love Field to the Trade Mart was quite straightforward, but with one major exception. As a former presidential advance man, having done advance work for Governor Ronald Reagan in 1980 and for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 1986-87, I saw immediately a major mistake made by Lawson and Sorrels that, had I been in their position, would have caused alarm bells to sound.
The Kennedy entourage arrived, as scheduled, on Friday, November 22. And as the motorcade proceeded west on Main Street, approaching Dealey Plaza, it slowed to make a 90-degree right-hand turn from Main Street onto northbound Houston Street. It then proceeded some 240 feet north on Houston Street before making an even slower 130-degree left-hand switchback turn to the southwest onto Elm Street (directly beneath the 6th Floor window of the Texas School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald waited). As the motorcade made the turn from Houston Street onto Elm Street, it was moving at a calculated speed of just 11.2 mph, slow enough for a skilled marksman to acquire a target and fire a round.
Although the temperature in Dallas at midday was a cool 67 degrees F, with 10-15 mph winds, the metal roof of the Kennedy limousine with its bullet-resistant windows had been removed, leaving the occupants fully exposed from all sides and from above. The advance team should never have placed Kennedy in a position where he was visible from several floors above, while moving at such a slow pace. Clearly, Lawson and Sorrels were sensitive to the dangers posed by transporting Kennedy in an open limousine past tall buildings and beneath highway overpasses. It was with that thought in mind that they chose Harwood Street to access Main Street, instead of Central Expressway with its numerous overpasses. However, they appear to have abandoned that concern at the intersection of Elm and Houston Streets, in the shadow of the Texas School Book Depository.
The better choice would have been to traverse downtown Dallas westbound on Elm Street, instead of Main Street. Elm Street is not as wide as Main Street and would not have accommodated as many spectators, but it would have allowed the motorcade to cross Houston Street, at the Texas School Book Depository, at a much higher rate of speed, making a successful shot from the 6TH Floor window problematic, at best, and all but impossible with the limousine’s metal roof in place.
But the question arises, what was Lee Harvey Oswald doing at an open window on the 6th Floor of the Texas School Book Depository, in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 PM, on November 22, 1963, with a Mannlicher-Carcano bolt action rifle in his hands? Oswald applied for a job at the Texas School Book Depository on October 15, 1963, eleven days after the Kennedy visit was planned. His first day of work was the next day, October 16, 1963, thirty-seven days before Kennedy’s visit to Dallas. If his intention was to assassinate Kennedy, how did he know when and where to be? And why was he employed at the School Book Depository, the one major “chokepoint” on the motorcade route, instead of flipping burgers at a local McDonald’s? Are we to believe that was all coincidence?
If one is convinced that Oswald was the lone JFK assassin, it is also necessary to believe that he just decided to take his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to work with him one day, wrapped as curtain rods, on a day when the President of the United States was scheduled to be in Dallas, and stash it on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, the one and only place on the Dallas motorcade route where Kennedy would be exposed to view and where his vehicle would be required to move at a very slow rate of speed.
So, what are we to believe? What are the possibilities?
Given the timing of Oswald’s job search, and the almost infinite number of places where he could have found employment, coupled with the route of Kennedy’s motorcade, the lack of a protective roof and bullet-resistant glass, and the sharp left-hand turn that required his limousine to slow briefly to 10 mph, or less… at a point directly beneath a waiting assassin… it is difficult to conclude that these were all a matter of coincidence.
Let us hope that, as more Kennedy assassination documents are made available for researchers, the American people will be provided with the information they need to either accept the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report… or reject them. | October 30, 2017
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.