Saturday, November 23, 2013

NBC and Brokaw host "Where Were You? The Day JFK Died"

Where Were You?  The Day that JFK Died” with Tom Brokaw, was aired Friday Nov. 22 as a two-hour documentary from NBC Dateline.
Brokaw interviews many “average people” still living 50 years later, now seniors, about what they saw.  Included is the woman who saw Officer J.D. Tippit get shot.  Another man was in the Texas Theater watching “War Is Hell” (or "Cry of Battle") and saw the fight in the theater before he was subdued and arrested. Oswald tried to shoot another police officer inside the theater, according to an eyewitness.

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I was at work, at the National Bureau of Standards, in the old Federal City College campus (now the UDC) at Connecticut Ave. and Van Ness Streets in Washington DC.  I worked in an oil rheology laboratory, my first wage-paying job ever.  I was 20 years old.  I happened to be at my desk, glancing to my left at the air conditioning unit, the other side of the room from the oil calibration chambers and air ducts, when my boss came into the room and said that the president had been shot.  He turned on a radio.  The announcement that the president was dead, made very bluntly by Cronkite, would occur in about twenty minutes.  So I must have learned about it around 2:15 PM EST.  We were immediately dismissed from work, and I took the usual bus back to K Street where I would transfer to my parents’ home in Arlington – long before there was a Metro.  I remember waiting for the 2T bus on the special  service island and wondering suddenly if a nuclear attack could come.  That image would stay with me for a long time any time I took this bus along this unusually constructed street.

Lyndon Johnson would later say he didn’t know at first if World War III was coming.

But the initial information about Oswald made him look like a mentally ill misfit, but the history of travel to Russia, the wife, and Jack Ruby’s slaying of him in the police station Sunday quickly led to rumors about a Communist or Mafia plot.  The lack of an automobile to pick up Oswald and drive him away is said in the documentary to argue against this idea. 

Oliver Stone is interviewed, and suggests a right-wing plot that wanted expanded war in Vietnam.  But others suggest that Oswald would have obviously made a very unreliable recruit into a conspiracy.
Brokaw interviews Sonny Jurgensen about the refusal of the NFL to cancel games that weekend. 
Brokaw suggests that Kennedy did not have Civil Rights at the top of his agenda until the broadcast media started covering it. 

But he also shows an interview where Kennedy, when asked if he believes in the Domino Theory, says, “I do”, and that supports the idea that Kennedy might have been hawkish in Vietnam as was LBJ. But many conspiracy theorists claim that Kennedy would have pulled out and denied the right wing military industrial complex its war, leading to 50000 US combat deaths in Vietnam and divisiveness over the draft and student deferments.

The documentary shows that 800,000 visited the Kennedy memorial Monday Nov. 25.  My parents and I stayed home in Arlington.  I think that classes at GWU did resume Monday. 

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