seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Assassination of Irish American John Fitzgerald Kennedy

kennedy-assassinationJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, is assassinated at 12:30 PM CST (18:30 UTC) on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. Kennedy is the first Roman Catholic president of the United States and descendant of immigrants from Ireland.

At 12:30 PM CST, as Kennedy’s uncovered 1961 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible limousine enters Dealey Plaza, Nellie Connally, the First Lady of Texas, turns around to President Kennedy, who is sitting behind her, and comments, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” to which President Kennedy acknowledges by saying “No, you certainly can’t.” These are the last words ever spoken by John F. Kennedy.

From Houston Street, the presidential limousine makes the planned left turn onto Elm Street, allowing it access to the Stemmons Freeway exit. As it turns onto Elm, the motorcade passes the Texas School Book Depository. Shots are fired at Kennedy as the motorcade continues down Elm Street. About 80% of the witnesses recall hearing three shots.

A minority of the witnesses recognize the first gunshot they hear as weapon fire, but there is hardly any reaction to the first shot from a majority of the people in the crowd or those riding in the motorcade. Many later say they heard what they first thought to be a firecracker, or the backfire of a vehicle, just after the President started waving.

Within one second of each other, Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally, and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, all turn abruptly from looking to their left to looking to their right. Connally, like the President a World War II military veteran, testifies that he immediately recognizes the sound of a high-powered rifle. He also testifies that when his head is facing about 20 degrees left of center, he is hit in his upper right back by a bullet he does not hear fired. After Connally is hit he shouts, “Oh, no, no, no. My God. They’re going to kill us all!”

Mrs. Connally testifies that just after hearing a loud, frightening noise that comes from somewhere behind her and to her right, she turns toward President Kennedy and sees him with his arms and elbows raised high, with his hands in front of his face and throat. She then hears another gunshot and then Governor Connally yelling. Mrs. Connally then turns away from Kennedy toward her husband, at which point another gunshot sounds and she and the limousine’s rear interior are covered with fragments of skull, blood, and brain.

According to the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, as President Kennedy waves to the crowds on his right with his right arm upraised on the side of the limo, a shot enters his upper back, penetrates his neck, slightly damages a spinal vertebra and the top of his right lung, and exits his throat nearly centerline just beneath his larynx, nicking the left side of his suit tie knot. He raises his elbows and clenches his fists in front of his face and neck, then leans forward and left. Mrs. Kennedy, facing him, then puts her arms around him in concern.

A second shot strikes the President as the presidential limousine is passing in front of the John Neely Bryan north pergola concrete structure. Both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations concludes that the second shot to hit the president enters the rear of his head and, passing in fragments through his head, created a large, roughly oval hole on the rear, right side. The president’s blood and fragments of his scalp, brain, and skull land on the interior of the car, the inner and outer surfaces of the front glass windshield and raised sun visors, the front engine hood, the rear trunk lid, the followup Secret Service car and its driver’s left arm, and motorcycle officers riding on both sides of the President behind him.

After the President has been shot in the head, Mrs. Kennedy begins to climb out onto the back of the limousine, though she later has no recollection of doing so. United States Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill, who is riding on the left front running board of the follow-up car, believes she is reaching for something, perhaps a piece of the President’s skull. He jumps onto the back of the limousine while at the same time Mrs. Kennedy returns to her seat. He clings to the car as it exits Dealey Plaza and accelerates, speeding to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

After Mrs. Kennedy crawls back into her limousine seat, both Governor Connally and Mrs. Connally hear her say more than once, “They have killed my husband,” and “I have his brains in my hand.”

The staff at Parkland Hospital’s Trauma Room 1 who treat President Kennedy observe that his condition is “moribund,” meaning that he has no chance of survival upon arriving at the hospital. George Burkley, the President’s personal physician, states that a gunshot wound to the skull is the cause of death. Burkley signs President Kennedy’s death certificate.

At 1:00 PM, CST (19:00 UTC), after all heart activity has ceased and after Father Oscar Huber has administered last rites, the President is pronounced dead.


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State Visit of U.S. President John F. Kennedy

jfk-state-visitJohn F. Kennedy, an Irish American and the first Catholic to become president of the United States, arrives in Ireland on a state visit on June 26, 1963. After Air Force One touches down at Dublin airport, Kennedy’s motorcade weaves through the streets of Dublin city, the thrilled crowd, lacking ticker tape, improvises by throwing rolls of bus tickets.

Kennedy is proud of his Irish roots and makes a special visit to his ancestral home in Dunganstown, County Wexford, while in the country. There, he is greeted by a crowd waving both American and Irish flags and is serenaded by a boys choir that sings The Boys of Wexford. Kennedy breaks away from his bodyguards and joins the choir for the second chorus, prompting misty-eyed reactions from both observers and the press.

Kennedy meets with 15 members of his extended Irish family at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown. There he enjoys a cup of tea and some cake and makes a toast to “all those Kennedys who went and all those Kennedys who stayed.” His great-grandfather, Thomas Fitzgerald, had left Ireland for the United States in the middle of the Great Famine of 1848 and settled in Boston, becoming a cooper. Generations of his descendants go on to make their mark on American politics.

At the time of JFK’s visit to Ireland, the predominantly Catholic Irish Republic has been an independent nation for 41 years. The northern counties of the island, however, remain part of the largely Protestant British Empire and still suffer from long-standing sectarian violence. On the day after his arrival in Dublin, Kennedy speaks before the Irish parliament, where he openly condemns Britain’s history of persecuting Irish Catholics. Two days later, he travels to England, America’s oldest ally, to meet with British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan and his cabinet to discuss setting up a pro-democratic regime in British Guiana.

Kennedy later tells his aides that his favourite part of the trip was the wreath laying and silent funeral drill done by the Irish Army cadets at Arbour Hill military cemetery in Dublin.

Five months later, his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, makes a special request to the Irish government. She asks that those same Irish army cadets, who so impressed the President on his visit, perform the drill again at his state funeral. Within days, those awe-stuck, trembling young men stand just inches away from foreign dignitaries from over 90 countries and perform their silent funeral drill in memory of a president that had inspired their country just a few short months earlier.