Caryn

While visiting Alaska a few years ago, Bob and I kept hearing about Captain James Cook. I suppose I had probably heard a little about him at one point or another during my school years, but as often happens with kids, I wasn’t really interested…at least not until I saw Alaska for myself. Then, the places that were discussed in history actually came to life, because I was there in person. In reality, Captain Cook had a direct impact on several areas of the west coast of the United States, including the Puget Sound in Washington and areas of Oregon. Cook’s two ships, the Discovery and Resolution, had worked their way northwest from what is now Oregon and Puget Sound, along the British Columbia and Alaska coast, hoping to find the long sought after Northwest Passage to Europe.

In early June 1778, Captain Cook and his men were in the Cook Inlet, hoping it would lead to the imagined passageway to Europe. It didn’t, of course, but once again Cook sent his crew exploring in small boats. Their adventures there led to the naming of Turnagain Arm, which Captain Cook originally called River Turnagain. It was so named because it was a disappointing “turn again” for Cook’s crew. The problem they were having was because Turnagain is subject to climate extremes and large tide ranges. During high tide, taking a boat in is simple, but if you don’t get out before low tide, you will find yourself fighting the quicksand-like mudflats that make up the beaches along Turnagain Arm in low tide.

In the times that Captain Cook was exploring for England, it was customary to name places after places and people in England. The visit to Cook Inlet was part of Cook’s longer exploration of the Alaska coast from which included a stop in Prince William Sound, which Cook named, along with Bligh Reef in the Sound. Bligh Reef would become famous in 1989 when the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on it and spilled millions of gallons of crude oil. Prince William Sound, interestingly, was almost named “Sandwich Sound” by Cook after the Earl of Sandwich in England, and who also, by the way, invented the sandwich as a food item. The Sound was renamed by Cook after Prince William, a descendent of the royal family when his journal was published. Leaving Prince William Sound, Cook ventured west along the Alaska coast to explore further, and after leaving Cook Inlet, he named Bristol Bay after Admiral Earl of Bristol, and Norton Sound after Sir Fletcher Norton, then Speaker of the British House of Commons. As he continued his quest for the Northwest Passage, Cook entered the Chukchi Sea through the Bering Strait and, amazingly, got as far as Icy Cape, on Alaska’s northwest coast, before being stopped by ice. In fact, the two ships were almost trapped by ice the off of Icy Cape.

During his travels, Captain Cook named many other places, including Mount Edgecumbe and Cape Edgecumbe after George, Earl of Edgecumbe. He broke from protocol in naming Mount Fairweather and Cape Fairweather, using the fact that he had good weather at the time of his exploration, as inspiration for the names. Cross Sound was so named because he found it on May 3, designated on his calendar as Holy Cross day. Cape Suckling was named after Maurice Suckling, comptroller of the Royal Navy when Cook left England. Controller Bay was probably also named after Maurice Suckling, but the Russians translated the name to Zal Kontrolyer on the Hydrogaphy Department Chart 1378, dated 1847, and so it remained Controller Bay. Cape Hinchinbrook was named after Viscount Hinchinbroke. Snug Corner Cove was so named because Captain Cook thought, “And a very snug cove it is.” Montague Island was named after John Montagu, Earl of Sandwiche, the son of Viscount Hinchinbroke. The list of names and their origins goes on and on, but I find these the most interesting.

During his third visit to the Sandwiche Islands, which we now know as Hawaii, Captain James Cook lost his life in a mob fight with the Hawaiian natives, who wanted one of his boats. As the men came ashore, the Hawaiians greeted Cook and his men by hurling rocks at them. They then stole a small cutter vessel from the Discovery. Negotiations with King Kalaniopuu for the return of the cutter collapsed after a lesser Hawaiian chief was shot to death, and a mob of Hawaiians descended on Cook’s party. The captain and his men fired on the angry Hawaiians, but they were outnumbered. Only a few managed to escape to the safety of the Resolution. Captain Cook was killed by the mob on February 14, 1779. A few days later, the Englishmen retaliated by firing their cannons and muskets at the shore, killing some 30 Hawaiians. The Resolution and Discovery eventually returned to England.

Every new invention has to have its trial run, but some of them might not be so easy to test as others. If you are testing a Frisbee to see if it flies, it is much different than testing a plane to see if it flies. Still, an invention cannot be used, sold, and especially patented without being tested, so testing must be done, and sometimes that can be a little bit dangerous.

For many years, police work was extremely dangerous…even more so than it is now. Without some of the protective coverings the officers have today, they could be easily killed in the line of duty…not that they can’t now, but there is a little bit less chance of it these days. Kazimierz Zeglen, was a Polish engineer, born in 1869 near Ternopol. He is credited with inventing the first bulletproof vest. In 1893, after the assassination of Carter Harrison Sr, the mayor of Chicago, he invented the first commercial bulletproof vest. In 1897, he improved it together with Jan Szczepanik who was the inventor of the first commercial bulletproof armor in 1901. It saved the life of Alfonso XIII, the King of Spain…his carriage was covered with Szczepanik’s bulletproof armor when a bomb exploded near it.

When the time came to test the bullet proof vest, a man names Mr Borzykowski, who was a friend of Szczepanik, agreed to test the vest…not on himself, mind you, but on his servant. When he shot his servant, it looks to me like the man braced for death, but he stood in place as he was told to do. It’s kind of like testing a shark suit for the first time. You would have no idea if you would see tomorrow or not. Once the vest was tested, however, it quickly became a valued piece of protective gear for police officers everywhere. The vest worked very well, but the early vests were quite heavy. Through the years, vests have much improved, and will continue to do so, as new materials become available.

When a new lighter vest was demonstrated by the Protective Garment Corporation of New York in 1923, it had to be proven again, because no one was willing to buy these vests sight unseen, so to speak. The gun players were WH Murphy and his assistant. Pictures were taken during a demonstration of the company’s bulletproof vest for DC area police. The live demonstration took place at the Washington city police headquarters. The inventors and salesmen were trying to convince the police force that these bulletproof vests did work and did save lives. The police officers in the background were all part of the Frederick County Police Department, the gun they were firing is believed to be a Smith and Wesson Model 10 Revolver. Mr Murphy stood less than ten feet from the firing gun and took two consecutive .38 round slugs straight to the chest. An eye witnesses claims he “didn’t bat an eye” in both cases. Later Murphy gave the deflected .38 bullet to the police officer as a souvenir. This vest weighed 11 pounds, fit close to the body, and was considered more comfortable than the previous types of bulletproof vests. The bullet proof vest has become standard gear for police officers.

When I think of forms of entertainment, snail racing is about the furthest thing from my mind, but apparently it is a thing. In fact, on October 1, 1954 a ten year old boy named Martin Witter put his snail team through their rounds at a trial race at his home in Lynwood, California. Martin had formed, what he claimed to be, the only snail stable in the country. Every afternoon the snails were awakened for their trial runs by being placed in the sun. As the sunshine began to penetrate their shells, the snails came to life. On top of the racing snail’s shell, Martin had glued a tiny yoke made from a matchstick. The reins, made of string, were connected to a small simulated Roman chariot constructed from a fish food tin in which the snail driver sits. Speedy, in the harness and Butch, in the “Chariot” beat a neighborhood entry establishing a new track record of 3 feet in 5 minutes…not bad for a couple of racers, who we all know travel at a snail’s pace.

The “World Snail Racing Championships” is an annual event that started in Congham, Norfolk in the 1960s after its founder Tom Elwes saw the same event in France. At the 1995 race the snails set the benchmark time of two minutes by a snail named Archie. The 2008 event had to be cancelled because the course was waterlogged by a period of heavy rain. That was also just days after the death of its founder, Tom Elwes. The 2008 World Championships was won by Heikki Kovalainen and a snail named after a Formula One racing driver, in a time of three minutes, two seconds. The 2010 World Championship was won by a snail called Sidney in a time of three minutes and 41 seconds.

The first official live snail competitive race in London, the “Guinness Gastropod Championship” was held in 1999. It was called by horse racing commentator, John McCririck who started the race with the words “Ready, Steady, Slow”. This is the common terminology for the start of a race. The following year Guinness featured a snail race in their advertisement, Bet on Black as part of their “Good things come to those who wait” campaign. It kind of funny when you think about it. Waiting for the end of a snail race would definitely be a wait. The advertisement won the silver award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival and was self-parodied for their “Extra Cold” campaign several years later.

The “Grand Championship Snail Race” began in Cambridgeshire in 1992 in the village of Snailwell as part of its annual summer holiday. The event regularly attracts up to 400 people to the village, more than doubling its normal population. The rules are that you’re not allowed to touch your snail during the race, change snails or doing something that would make your snail go faster than it should. The snail has to win the race on its own.

Most gun lovers have seen just about every gun out there, and I’m pretty sure that the gun lovers I know will most likely know about the Punt Gun. The punt gun gave a whole new meaning to the term packing. A punt gun is a type of extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for shooting large numbers of waterfowl for commercial harvesting operations. Punt guns were usually custom designed and so varied widely, but could have bore diameters exceeding 2 inches and fire over a pound of shot at a time. A single shot could kill over 50 waterfowl resting on the water’s surface.

The guns were too big to hold and the recoil so large that they were mounted directly on the punts, which is a type of boat used for hunting, hence their name. Hunters would maneuver their punts quietly into line and range of the flock of birds, resting on the water, using poles or oars to avoid startling the birds. Generally the gun was fixed to the punt, so the hunter would maneuver the entire boat in order to aim the gun. The guns were sufficiently powerful, and the punts themselves sufficiently small, so that firing the gun often propelled the punt backwards several inches or more. To improve efficiency, hunters could work in fleets of up to around ten punts. In many ways it was a cruel way to hunt. Waterfowl flocks were severely depleted in the United States, so by the 1860s most states had banned the practice.

The Lacey Act of 1900 banned the transport of wild game across state lines, and the practice of market hunting was outlawed by a series of federal laws in 1918. There were still about 50 punt guns in the United Kingdom, as shown by a 1995 survey. The UK limits punt guns to a bore diameter of 1.75 inches by law. Since Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 there has been a punt gun salute every Coronation and Jubilee over Cowbit Wash in Cowbit, Lincolnshire, England. During the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, 21 punt gun rounds were fired separately, followed by the guns all being fired simultaneously. While the original use of punt guns was almost cruel, I suppose their latter uses is a much more noble way to use the guns.

Everyone, at one time or another in their lives has thought about what it might be like to find a hidden treasure. There are many ways that could happen, from a hidden gold mine, to an auction, to the attic, but few can match what it would be like to find a buried treasure in a gold mine. It was the stuff dreams were made of, especially in the Old West. When gold was discovered in California, the Gold Rush started, and while few people ever found their fortune, many people made the journey to try their luck.

Victorio Peak was not in California, but it was said to hold a huge cache of gold ingots. The treasure was first discovered by a soldier, who on his death bed in the 1600s, told a monk in a New Mexico monastery about his knowledge of a secret cache of gold ore in the mountains. The monk was Padre Felipe LaRue. LaRue put together a band that purportedly located the mine and successfully drew ore from it for three solid years. When the Mexican Army was sent to overtake LaRue’s operation, he ordered workers to close the entrance to the mine with a landslide and, soon thereafter, LaRue’s entire camp took information about the location with them to the grave at the hands of the soldiers.

Fast forward to 1937, when a New Mexico couple named Ernest and Ova Noss were said to have stumbled upon a narrow entrance to this mine while hunting, and then returned several times to collect the heavy gold ingots from the secret location. When Ernest tried to open the mine further with a blast of TNT, it was inadvertently sealed despite repeated attempts to reopen it. When the White Sands Missile and Bombing Range was expanded in 1955 to include the land, Ova Noss supposedly sent a party to investigate and they reported that Army officials were seen digging near the site. Still, the Army never made any mention of the Victorio gold.

In 1977, ground-penetrating radar identified an open area underground near where the Noss’ claim might have been. In the 1990s, a locked steel door was said to have been found covering the site of the original shaft. Whatever the case may be, a reported 88 solid gold ingots were brought forth from the mountains of New Mexico by the Noss couple, and it is unlikely the public will ever know exactly what became of the site and its associated treasure. Some people think the whole legend is a con, but shortly before her death in 1979, Ova Noss was a the White Sands Missile Range seeking access to her claim. Access was denied, and to this day her family and their organization called The Ova Noss Family Partnership continue to push for access to the mine, although in my mind, it is doubtful that they would find much today, since the mine has been under the exclusive control of the missile base for a long time.

Airplanes are able to do so much more and travel so much further these days than they were in World War II. Back then, planes had to be based in nations closer to the fighting, because bomb runs could not be done from US shores…too much distance. Nevertheless, it wasn’t because no one had considered such a possibility. On September 28, 1942, General Henry “Hap” Arnold ordered the highest priority be given to the development of two exceptional aircraft. They were the B-35 Flying Wing and the B-36 Peacemaker, and they were intended for bombing runs from bases in the United States to targets in Europe. It could have potentially changed the way the war was fought…had everything worked out as planned.

General Arnold was a man of distinction from the beginning of his career. Not only was he one of the first pilots in the US Signal Corps, but he was taught to fly by none other than one of the Wright brothers. During World War I, Arnold was director of aviation training for the Army. Between World War I and World War II, he was a proponent of the controversial military philosophy that emphasized strategic bombing, eliminating the need for the use of ground forces altogether. It was a noble idea, and could have potentially saved many lives, although I don’t know how feasible it really is. I think there are times when ground forces are the only way to go, but I have never fought in a war, so I could be wrong on that thought.

When the United States entered into World War II, the Army Air Forces had become an increasingly distinct military service. General Arnold became its first chief. Along with this honor came the opportunity of a seat with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Initially this was intended to boost his status to that of his counterpart in Britain, but it also increased the stature and independence of the Army Air Forces. General Arnold was able to form alliances with British RAF allies who also favored the use of strategic bombing in lieu of ground-force operations.

In 1942, Arnold gave the highest priority to the development of two extra long-distance transatlantic planes that would prove most useful to his strategic bombing game plan, the B-35 Flying Wing and the B-36 Peacemaker transatlantic bombers. The B-35 had been first proposed in early 1941, intended for use in defending an invaded Britain. But the tailless design was so radical that it was viewed as…maybe not safe, so the plane was put on the back burner. When I look at the plane, I can see how it might look unsafe, and really not flight worthy.

The plans for the B-35 were finally revived because of advantages the plane afforded over the B-36 bombing range in relation to gross weight, for example. Fifteen B-35 planes were ordered for construction, but the first did not take flight until 1946, after World War II had ended. Designs for the B-36 were also developed early in 1941, on the assumption that the United States would inevitably be drawn into the war and it would need a bomber that could reach Europe from bases in America. It was to be a massive plane…162 feet long with a 230 foot wingspan. But its construction lagged, and it was not completed until after the war ended either. Although Hap’s “high priority” could not cut through the military bureaucracy of his time, 1947 would see the Nation Defense Act establish an autonomous Air Force…a dream for which he had worked. The B-35 Flying Wing would become the prototype for the B-2 Stealth bomber built in 1989. And the B-36 was used extensively by US Strategic Air Command until 1959, but the B-36 Peacemaker never dropped a bomb.

In Wyoming, where I live, traffic jams are pretty rare, but if you drive in the bigger cities, you can often find yourself stuck in heavy traffic, causing delays in reaching your destination. That can be quite annoying, but I seriously doubt if it is as annoying as the event that happened on September 3, 1967 in Sweden. That September 3rd was known as Dagen H…or H Day, so named after the word, Högertrafik, which is Swedish for right traffic. Prior to that day, the Swedish people drove their automobiles on the left side of the road, even though most of their Scandinavian neighbors drove on the right side of the road. In fact, most of Europe was on the right side of the road. Swedish cars had left hand steering, because their early automotive era relied on imported American automobiles. Still, Sweden had maintained a dominant left-hand traffic system since the mid 18th century. Initially, the usage of American cars…with drivers positioned on the left side of the vehicle seemed to work well in their minds. It allowed them to negotiate the tight squeezes past oncoming traffic by paying close attention to the underdeveloped left shoulders of the country’s old roads.

By the 1950s and 1960s, increased auto traffic and more developed roads created dangerous overtaking situations due to the mismatch of left-hand roads and American style left-side drive. Therefore, the Swedes implemented a switch for the sake of logic, safety, and consistency with their Scandinavian and continental counterparts. As often is the case, the change was not popular, and in a 1955 referendum, 83 percent voted to keep driving on the left. Nevertheless, on May 10, 1963, the Riksdag approved the introduction of right hand traffic in 1967, as the number of cars on the road had tripled from 500 000 to 1.5 million, and was expected to reach 2.8 million by 1975. A body known as Statens Högertrafikkommission (“the state right-hand traffic commission”) was established to oversee the changeover.

As Dagen H neared, the intersections were equipped with an extra set of poles and traffic signals wrapped in black plastic. Early in the morning on Dagen H, workers roamed the streets to remove the plastic. On Dagen H, a Sunday, all non-essential traffic was banned from the roads from 1:00pm to 06:00pm. Any vehicles on the roads during that time had to follow special rules. All vehicles had to come to a complete stop at 4:50pm, then carefully change to the right-hand side of the road and stop again before being allowed to proceed at 5:00pm. In Stockholm and Malmö, however, the non-essential vehicle ban was longer…lasting from 10:00pm on Saturday until 3:00am on Sunday, to allow work crews to reconfigure intersections. Certain other towns also saw an extended ban, from 3:00am on Saturday until 3:00am on Sunday. Roads, crossings, roundabouts, and flyovers had already been redesigned and some 360,000 road signs were changed during the overnight hours. The date had also been preceded by an intensive national campaign, informing people about what was going to happen that day.Some 130,000 reminder signs had been put up everywhere along streets and roads, and most cars had an H-sticker on the dashboard in front of the driver in order to remind him or her to drive on the right side of the road. Very few cars in Sweden were right-hand drive at the time, despite the fact that Swedish road users had been living with left side traffic for 233 years.

On the day of the change, only 157 minor accidents were reported, of which only 32 involved personal injuries, with only a handful serious. On the Monday following Dagen H, there were 125 reported traffic accidents, compared to a range of 130 to 198 for previous Mondays, none of them fatal. Experts suggested that changing to driving on the right reduced accidents while overtaking, as people already drove left-hand drive vehicles, giving them a better view of the road ahead. In addition, the change caused an increase in perceived risk and so was followed by very cautious behavior that caused a major decrease in road fatalities. Fatal car-to-car and car-to-pedestrian accidents dropped sharply, and the number of auto insurance claims went down by 40%. While all this was a good change, for a short time on that day, this was a serious traffic jam.

On September 26, 1774, a man named John Chapman, who is my 6th cousin 6 times removed, was born in Leominster, Massachusetts. John was the second child, after his sister Elizabeth, of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Chapman. While Nathaniel was in military service, his wife died on July 18, 1776, shortly after giving birth to a second son, Nathaniel. The baby died about two weeks after his mother. Nathaniel Chapman ended his military service and returned home in 1780 to Longmeadow, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1780 he married Lucy Cooley of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and they had 10 children. So in the end, John Chapman came from a large family. You might wonder what all this has to do with anything, and I suppose you would be justified in asking, but I think when you hear John Chapman’s nickname, you might know who I am talking about. For most of his life, John Chapman was called, Johnny Appleseed. Most people will remember him from the history books, as an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while he was still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. These days plant nurseries are often named after Johnny Appleseed, including on in my city of Casper, Wyoming.

According to some accounts, an 18 year old John persuaded his 11 year old half-brother Nathaniel to go west with him in 1792. The boys lived a nomadic life until their father brought his large family west in 1805 and met up with them in Ohio. Nathaniel decided to stay and help their father farm the land. A short time later, John began his apprenticeship as an orchardist under a Mr. Crawford, who had apple orchards, and so began his life’s journey of planting apple trees. There are stories of Johnny Appleseed practicing his nurseryman craft in the area of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and of picking seeds from the pomace at Potomac cider mills in the late 1790s. Another story has Chapman living in Pittsburgh on Grant’s Hill in 1794 at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion.

The most popular image is of Johnny Appleseed spreading apple seeds randomly everywhere he went. In reality, he planted nurseries rather than orchards, and then built fences around them to protect them from livestock. Then he left the nurseries in the care of a neighbor who sold trees on shares, and returned every year or two to tend the nursery. His first nursery was planted on the bank of Brokenstraw Creek, south of Warren, Pennsylvania. Next, he seems to have moved to Venango County along the shore of French Creek, but many of his nurseries were in the Mohican area of north-central Ohio. This area included the towns of Mansfield, Lisbon, Lucas, Perrysville, and Loudonville.

Johnny Appleseed was a bit of a missionary too. He would tell stories to children and spread The New Church gospel to the adults, receiving a floor to sleep on for the night, and sometimes supper, in return. “We can hear him read now, just as he did that summer day, when we were busy quilting upstairs, and he lay near the door, his voice rising denunciatory and thrillin—strong and loud as the roar of wind and waves, then soft and soothing as the balmy airs that quivered the morning-glory leaves about his gray beard. His was a strange eloquence at times, and he was undoubtedly a man of genius,” reported a lady who knew him in his later years. He made several trips back east, both to visit his sister and to replenish his supply of Swedenborgian literature. Swedenborgian was also known as Swedenborgianism and the General Church of the New Jerusalem. Several historically related Christian denominations were developed as a new religious movement, by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Johnny preached the gospel as he traveled, and converted many Native Americans. The Native Americans regarded him as someone who had been touched by the Great Spirit, and even hostile tribes left him strictly alone. Johnny passed away about 1845, with several dates being given. I guess no one really knew the date for sure. I think my cousin might have been a very interesting man.

Sometimes, a business starts up and then can’t make a go of it. Whatever the reason, things just don’t work out. Such was the case with a 1690 newspaper called Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick. This newspaper was published for the first and last time on September 25, 1690, making it the shortest business on record.

It would seem like such a business venture wouldn’t hold a very significant place in history, but it did have one distinction that gave it an important place. It was the first multi-page newspaper published in the Americas. Before then, single-page newspapers, called broadsides, were published in the English colonies and printed in Cambridge in 1689. The first edition of Publick Occurrences was published in Boston, then a city in the Dominion of New England, and was intended to be published monthly, “or, if any Glut of Occurrences happen, oftener.” It was printed by American Richard Pierce of Boston, and it was edited by Benjamin Harris, who had previously published a newspaper in London. The paper contained four 6 by 10 inch pages, but filled only three of them…not bad for a new newspaper.

The second edition was never printed because the paper was shut down by the Colonial government on September 29, 1690, who issued an order as follows: “Whereas some have lately presumed to Print and Disperse a Pamphlet, Entitled, Publick Occurrences, both Forreign and Domestick: Boston, Thursday, September 25th, 1690. Without the least Privity and Countenace of Authority. The Governour and Council having had the perusal of said Pamphlet, and finding that therein contained Reflections of a very high nature: As also sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports, do hereby manifest and declare their high Resentment and Disallowance of said Pamphlet, and Order that the same be Suppressed and called in; strickly forbidden any person or persons for the future to Set forth any thing in Print without License first obtained from those that are or shall be appointed by the Government to grant the same.”

Of course, in those days, we were not an independent nation, and the Constitution did not exist. Freedom of the press…or any of the other freedoms that our soldiers and our nation have fought to give us, didn’t exist either. England was the ruler and the law, and we had to obey…for a time. Soon enough, change would come, as would freedom, and every kind of newspaper and other types of information sources imaginable.

When President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, I was just a little girl of 8 years. I vividly remember how I found out about it. A neighbor girl came running across the street from her house to mine. I was on my way to meet her. It was in the middle of the street that I heard the news…our President had been assassinated. I was horrified, like most Americans were that day. It all seemed too impossible to comprehend. I knew nothing of politics back then, of course, I just knew that something horrible had happened to my country…the whole country. A nation doesn’t lose a president for any reason and not suffer from that loss. The loss of the president…the only president lost during office in my entire lifetime…not that attempts weren’t made or threatened, was so shocking to me. It’s something I will never forget.

After the assassination, there was much controversy about what happened. Immediately…as always happens when anything big happens, there is a special commission appointed to find out what happened. I can see how that is important sometimes, but I don’t know that I think these commissions are always unbiased. As with most events such as these, there were, and still are, many people who do not think that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone…or that he was even involved at all. Seven days after the assassination, Johnson appointed the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy to investigate Kennedy’s death, and on this day, September 24, 1964, the Warren Commission, headed up by Chief Justice Earl Warren, gave their report to President Lyndon B Johnson, who had been vice-president to President Kennedy, and therefore became president upon his death.

Following the report, those who disagreed thought that the whole thing was a conspiracy. The conspiracy theories were many, including the Mob, Cuban exiles, military leaders, the secret service, and even Lyndon Johnson. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald was the “lone gunman” in the assassination, but that failed to satisfy some who witnessed the attack and others whose research found conflicting details in the commission’s report. Critics of the Warren Commission’s report believed that additional ballistics experts’ conclusions and a home movie shot at the scene disputed the theory that three bullets fired from Oswald’s gun could have caused Kennedy’s fatal wounds as well as the injuries to Texas Governor John Connally, who was riding with the president in an open car as it traveled through Dallas’ Dealey Plaza that day. Eventually, another congressional investigation was conducted in 1979, but that committee reached the same conclusion as the Warren Commission. During its almost year-long investigation, the Warren Commission reviewed reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, Department of State and the attorney general of Texas. It also pored over Oswald’s personal history, political affiliations and military record. The Warren Commission listened to the testimony of 552 witnesses and even traveled to Dallas several times to visit the site where Kennedy was shot.

The enormous volume of documentation from the investigation was placed in the National Archives and much of it is now available to the public. Access to Kennedy’s autopsy records, though, are highly restricted. To view them requires membership in a presidential or congressional commission or the permission of the Kennedy family. I am one of those who find the conclusion of the Warren Commission to be…very simplistic, and hard to believe. I have watched several documentaries about the assassination, including the video of the actual event, and it just doesn’t make sense. Be that as it may, the commissions have spoken, and nothing more will ever be done about it. The many people involved are all gone now, so there is no one to say what really happened. So we only know what we have been told, but most of it doesn’t make sense to me.