“There’s a kind of psychological dynamic here in that we tend to remake our memories to make sense of how things have gone,” says Ling. “And so the Kennedy assassination becomes seen as this moment when the hopefulness of the 60s starts to falter. By the time Oliver Stone comes out and basically says [Kennedy] is killed by the CIA to enable the Vietnam experiment to go forward, that’s what many Americans sort of want to believe – that it’s all been taken away from them by evil forces.”
In 1992 – partly as a result of Stone’s film – US Congress passed the John F Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, leading to the release of millions of previously classified documents about the assassination. They have been released in batches – Biden authorised release of the final batch this year – and every new burst of information feeds the frenzy further.
Paul Landis’s shocking new revelation, which comes from his upcoming book The Final Witness, set to be published on 10 October, is sure to shake things up even further.
“It’s fundamental in what it blows out of the water,” says Ling. Because the bullet was found on Connally’s stretcher, the Warren Commission originally concluded that a single bullet travelled through Kennedy and hit Connally, causing several injuries. It became known as the “magic bullet” – but many were doubtful one bullet could behave this way.
“If it didn’t go through in that way we are left with unanswered questions as to where the bullet is that hit Connally,” says Ling. “If we start getting more bullets than we can reconcile with the speed of fire that Lee Harvey Oswald could maintain, we’re in a situation where there has to be somebody else shooting.”
Ling though, has doubts about the credibility of this new information. There are questions over why Landis waited so long to reveal it (he says he avoided anything about the assassination for years), and it’s certainly stirred up interest in his book. In a piece for Vanity Fair, historian James Robenalt says he believes Landis. He has called the findings “the most significant news in the assassination since 1963.”
It’s too soon to tell where this new information will lead, but one thing is certain: it won’t stop people coming up with theories on what happened that day. “It’s a whodunnit that everybody knows,” says Ling. “But no-one has the final chapter.”
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