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This Day In History: President John F. Kennedy Is Assassinated

November 21, 2016

This day in history, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated during a political trip to Dallas, Texas to smooth frictions in the Democratic party between liberals Ralph Yarborough and Don Yarborough and conservative John Connally.

Lee Harvey Oswald was identified as the suspected shooter, but he denied ever shooting anyone, claiming that he was a patsy. Two days after Kennedy was assassinated, Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald.

His death caused intense mourning in the United States and brought Vice President Lyndon Johnson to the presidency.

Kennedy’s untimely death also left future generations with a great many “what if” questions concerning the subsequent history of the Cold War. In the years since Kennedy’s death, a number of supporters argued that had he lived he would have done much to bring the Cold War to a close.

Some have suggested that he would have sharply curtailed military spending and brought the arms race under control. The most persistent claim, which served as the centerpiece of Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK, is that Kennedy would have withdrawn U.S. troops from Vietnam after being re-elected in 1964. Stone went on to charge that right-wing militants in the U.S. government coordinated the assassination plot.


During his brief presidency, Kennedy consistently requested higher military spending, asking for billions in increased funding. After the defeat at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, his administration approved Operation Mongoose, a CIA program that involved plots to destabilize the communist government in Cuba, including a discussion about assassinating Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

In Vietnam, Kennedy increased the number of U.S. advisers from around 1,500 when he took office, to more than 16,000 by the time of his death. His administration also participated in the planning of the coup that ultimately overthrew South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, who was murdered by his own military just three weeks prior to Kennedy’s assassination.