History | Vintage

Dramatic Photos Capture The JFK Assassination As It Happened

AP- Mary Evans / Ronald Grant Archive

For a generation of Americans, the death of our 35th president was the ultimate "Where were you?" moment.

History changed in the blink of an eye on November 22, 1963, when an ordinary day became a milestone our country would never forget.

1. The Trip

President Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy arrive in Dallas.White House Photographs

President Kennedy's final trip to Texas had begun the day before in San Antonio. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and Texas Governor John Connally were touring the state to raise goodwill for the president's reelection run in 1964.

Denver Post
Kennedy Library
Texas Governor John Connally sits in front of the president and First Lady.Newsline

Unexpectedly, the Texas crowds were warm and welcoming, with people lined up across the state to welcome the president and the First Lady.

2. The Motorcade

The president's custom stretch limousine, with the jump seats folded down.NBC News
Wikimedia

The president's route through Dallas had been planned and publicized days in advance. While police were on edge, the president stopped the motorcade twice, to shake hands with groups of nuns and schoolchildren.

The Sixth Floor Museum
You can see Dealey Plaza in the far background of this photo.Wikimedia

3. Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza on the day of the shooting.CBS News

The president's "last stop" was Dallas's Dealey Plaza. As his motorcade turned onto Houston street, the president's car was facing the Texas School Book Depository building, where his killer was lying in wait.

The building with the Hertz billboard is the Book Depository.The Sixth Floor Museum
"A" marks where a witness saw a gunman shoot at the president.Wikimedia

4. The Gunman

Oswald poses with a Caracano rifle, almost certainly the one that killed President Kennedy.The Warren Comission

President Kennedy's killer was Lee Harvey Oswald. He was a former U.S. Marine, but also an ardent communist who had tried to emigrate to Soviet Russia.

Oswald, during his time in the Marine Corps.Wikimedia
Oswald and his wife Marina in Russia. AP

Most importantly, Oswald had recently been hired for a temporary job in the Book Depository.

Lee Harvey Oswald's "sniper nest" recreated in the Sixth Floor Museum.Daniel Drensky - Dallas Observer

As Kennedy's motorcade approached, Oswald waited on the building's sixth floor.

5. The Shooting

Bettman

Dozens of photographers captured the president's final moments. A clothing manufacturer named Abraham Zapruder even filmed the assassination using a handheld camera.

A still from Abraham Zapruder's footage of President Kennedy's assassination
A still from Abraham Zapruder's footage of President Kennedy's assassinationAbraham Zapruder

Oswald opened fire as the president's motorcade turned West down Elm Street. The president was struck with three bullets, as his panicked wife jumped on the back of their car.

The president's escorts react to the gunshots in this photo, taken after the second shot.AP
A. Zapruder
Agent Clint Hill hangs on to the limo.AP

Secret Service agent Clint Hill jumped onto the speeding vehicle to try and shield the president and the First Lady.

Spectators duck as the motorcade speeds away.UPI
A crowd forms outside the Parkland Hospital.CBS News

The president was rushed to the nearby Parkland Hospital and pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

6. The Manhunt

A Dallas police officer began searching the Book Depository as soon as the shots rang out. He pointed a gun at Oswald while clearing the building, but let him go when Oswald's boss explained he was an employee.

The scene of officer J.D. Tippit's murder.Sixth Floor Museum

Almost 45 minutes later, Oswald shot and killed another Dallas police officer and slipped into a nearby movie theater.

Oswald ran into a nearby theater. This photo shows Oswald being arrested by police.U.S. National Archives

Oswald was caught when dozens of police officers, sheriffs, and detectives swarmed the theater.

A t-shirt marks where Oswald sat in the Texas Theater.Dallas News
Oswald's mugshot.The Smoking Gun

He was arrested and charged with the murders of both Kennedy and the police officer, but never stood trial for his crimes.

Oswald was being transferred when Jack Ruby opened fire.AP - Colorized by Marina Amraral
Oswald is placed on a stretcher.CBS News

Oswald was shot and killed two days later on live TV by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner.

7. The Aftermath

Women break into tears after hearing the president has died.AP

News quickly broke that Kennedy had been shot and killed, with the first national radio bulletin running just six minutes after the shooting.

On CBS, Walter Cronkite reported the breaking news live, telling millions of Americans that Kennedy had died.

As stories continued to pour in from Dallas, Vice President Johnson was quickly sworn in as president on Air Force One, with a shaken Jackie Kennedy by his side.

Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as president on-board Air Force One.Wikimedia

Meanwhile, news photographers captured the shock and grief as average Americans came to grips with the tragedy.

A Harvard student cries at a memorial service the day after the shooting.The Globe
Time and Life Pictures

8. The Funeral

The president's coffin lies in the Capital Rotunda.Time and Life Pictures

President Kennedy's state funeral lasted three days, and was attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

The president's coffin, on display in the White House.AP

First, the president's body was kept in the White House for 24 hours. Then, his coffin was draped with an American flag and carried through the streets of Washington to the U.S. Capitol building.

Jackie Kennedy and her children leave the White House, followed by the president's brother Robert and his wife Patricia.Wikimedia
The president's coffin.AP
Crowds line the streets to see the president's funeral procession.AP
World leaders assembled in front of St. Matthew's Cathedral.AP

Representatives from more than 90 countries attended the president's official funeral at St. Matthew's Cathedral, before he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Kennedy's son, John Jr., salutes his casket.AP

Dan Farrell, the photographer who took the iconic photo of John Jr. saluting his father's coffin, called it "the saddest thing I've ever seen in my whole life."

The funeral procession crosses the Arlington Memorial Bridge.AP

It was a fitting way to say goodbye to a man who changed America forever, but still much too soon.

Wikimedia

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