Nixons V sign

Behind the camera: AP Photographer
Where: White House lawn Washington D.C. America
Photo Summary: Nixon giving his famous V sign before he boards the Presidential helicopter, Army One (Until 1976 Marine Corps shared the responsibility of helicopter transport with the Army).
Picture Taken: August 9, 1974

Well, when the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal

Say Nixon to anyone and ask what word comes to mind, most likely they will say “Watergate”. One of the biggest scandals in America’s history, Watergate forced the 37th President of the United States, President Richard Milhous Nixon, to resign from the president’s office on August 9, 1974 (The only president ever to resign). Every other scandal since then has had the suffix “gate” added to it. The image of Nixon entering the Marine-One Helicopter door, smiling and giving his patented two-handed V-sign was for many
the last image of Nixon.


Photo by Bob Daughtery/AP File Photo

Photo by Bob Daughtery/AP File Photo

Nixon was born Jan 9, 1913, to Francis Nixon and Hannah Milhouse Nixon in Yorba Linda, California. Raised a Quaker he lived a modest life yet still managed to excel in school earning a full-tuition scholarship from Harvard. The Harvard scholarship didn’t include living expenses, so Nixon couldn’t go and instead studied at the local Quaker school, Whittier College. He graduated in 1934 second in his class and managed to secure a full scholarship at Duke University School of Law.
He returned to California after graduation where he practiced law and met his future wife Pat, a high school teacher. The two married on June 21, 1940. When war broke out the next year he served as an officer in the Navy eventually working in the supply corps of the South Pacific. As a poker shark he built up a large fund which when the war ended, he used to fund his election campaign to get into Congress.
Nixon quickly rose through the political ranks becoming Vice President on Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1952 ticket. In 1960, he first tried to become President running against and losing to John F Kennedy. In 1962 he again lost an election this time for California Governor. He moved to New York where he worked as a high profile lawyer until 1968 when he made a political come back to not only win the Republican nomination for President but also the election itself. Beating Hubert H. Humphrey and George Wallace, Nixon became the 37th President of the United States.

Nixon Achievements

He took America off the gold standard, created many of the acronyms that we are familiar with today including the: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), even the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Treaty with Russia (SALT Treaty). The Nixon presidency normalized diplomatic relations with Communist China, talked to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin while they walked on the moon, and among other things created the Legal Services Corporation. However, the Nixon White House will always be marred by some of the Bloodiest years of the Vietnam War, secret bombings of neutral Cambodia and of course Watergate.


Ollie Atkins takes a different angle

On June 17, 1972, Frank Wills, a security guard working at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. called the police when he noticed suspicious activity. The police arrived and arrested five men who were discovered breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. The five men, Bernard Barker, Virgilio González, Eugenio Martínez, James W. McCord, Jr., and Frank Sturgis were discovered to have links to the CIA and the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP also known as CREEP). The men had been part of a plot to sabotage the Democratic election bid the burglary was later revealed as an attempt to repair listening devices planted in an earlier break-in. The White House at the time was able to deny any links to the men but over the course of two years two reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were able to uncover a series of embarrassing and incriminating disclosures about Nixon’s abuse of presidential executive powers. The final straw that forced Nixon from office was a tape between the Vice President and Nixon, the recording would later be known as the “smoking gun”.

His own undoing

Secretive and often paranoid Nixon had taken to tape recording all activities in the White House. These tapes would later be used against Nixon when a transcript of a recording made in the Oval Office, the so-called “smoking gun” tape was released on August 5, 1974. It showed that on June 17, 1972, six days after the Watergate break-in, Nixon had discussed using the CIA to block the FBI’s investigation of the burglary. This recorded conversation directly linked “Tricky Dick” to the burglary something he always denied. Seeing the writing on the wall and seeking to avoid a long drawn out impeachment trial, three days later Nixon gave a televised resignation speech and on August 9, 1974, boarded the Army One Helicopter. Just before entering he turned back to the White House and Press and gave his famous smile and V-sign.

Hunter S. Thompson on the scene

In with the Press Club was reporter Hunter S. Thompson who gave this account:

I walked outside to the Rose Garden, where a big olive-drab helicopter was perched on the lawn, about 100 feet out from the stairs. The rain had stopped and a long, red carpet was laid out on the wet grass from the White House door to the helicopter. I eased through the crowd of photographers and walked out, looking back at the White House, where Nixon was giving his final address to a shocked crowd of White House staffers. I examined the aircraft very closely, and I was just about to climb into it when I heard a loud rumbling behind me; I turned around just in time to see Richard and Pat coming toward me, trailing their daughters and followed Closely by Gerald Ford and Betty. Their faces were grim and they were walking very slowly; Nixon had a glazed smile on his face, not looking at anybody around him, and walked like a wooden Indian full of Thorazine.

…I lit a cigarette and watched him climb the steps to the door of the helicopter. . . Then he spun around very suddenly and threw his arms straight up in the famous twin-victory signal; his eyes were still glazed, but he seemed to be looking over the heads of the crowd at the White House. Nobody was talking. A swarm of photographers rushed the plane as Nixon raised his arms– but his body had spun around too fast for his feet, and as his arms went up I saw him losing his balance. The grimace on his face went slack, then he bounced off the door and stumbled into the cockpit. … The helicopter went straight up and hovered for a moment, then swooped down toward the Washington Monument and then angled up into the fog.
Richard Nixon was gone.


After leaving by helicopter Nixon fly flew from the South Grounds of the White House to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. He later recounted, “As the helicopter moved on to Andrews I found myself thinking not of the past but of the future. What could I do now?…” At Andrews, Nixon boarded the Air Force One Jet that flew him to El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, California and then to his new home, San Clemente, California. While flying to California to start his self-imposed exile back in the East Room of the White House, Chief Justice Burger swore in Ford as the 38th President of the United States. When news reached the pilot of Air Force One, he radioed in to change the plane’s call sign from “Air Force One” to “SAM 26000” as the plane no longer carried the president.
In his home state of California Nixon over the years with carefully timed releases of interviews and books slowly worked his way back into the Washington political scene, even visiting the White House. By his death on April 22, 1994, he was seen as a respected elder statesman and gave counsel to both Republican and Democratic governments.

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Fetus hand reaches out

Behind the camera: Michael Clancy
Where: Vanderbilt, Hospital Nashville
Photo Summary: Samuel Armas touching the surgeon’s hand while still being in his mother’s womb
Picture Taken: August 19, 1999

In late 1999, the closing days of the millennium, a story broke about a popular picture that was being emailed around the world. Matt Drudge a right-wing radio commentator who at the time had a show on FOX was actually prevented from airing the photo. The shot was of an operation with what appeared to by a baby’s arm reaching out of its mother’s womb and grabbing the surgeon’s finger. The picture was immediately seized upon by the anti-abortion establishment, which ensured that it would become an iconic picture.


Spina bifida is a disease were a baby developing inside its mother’s womb has a small lesion on its back exposing the spinal column. While the baby swims around the womb it hits the uterus walls and if the exposed spinal column hits the uterus walls the spinal nerves can be damaged. By the time the baby is brought to term irreversible damage is done. The results differ depending on the extent of the harm with some children being able to control their bowels and walk using crutches but others are forced to use wheelchairs, suffer from learning problems and endure endless operations to fix chronic life-threatening issues.

Enter the doctors

In 1992 two doctors, Dr. Joseph Bruner and Dr. Noel Tulipan met for lunch at Vanderbilt hospital. Tulipan treated many spina bifida patients but felt that the damage could be lessened if the lesion or opening that allowed the spinal damage could be closed as soon as it was detected. At the time, technology forced surgeons to wait until the baby was delivered before they could close the spinal column. Burner seeing the potential of a pre-birth operation suggested the two work together to perfect a surgical operation where they would operate on the fetus in the womb, “The idea,” Tulipan recalls, “was that we could prevent enough of the secondary injuries so that more spina bifida children would have a chance to walk.”

The two spent years practicing and perfecting the operation before settling on a procedure where they would remove the uterus, place it on the mother’s stomach, drain the amniotic fluid, operate on the fetus, refill the uterus, place it back in the mother and then allow the baby to continue full term. The operation soon had some success and word began to spread. Letters and emails starting pouring in. Some letters were from grown spina bifida patients who felt that the operation was playing god, risking the life of the fetus in order to create a “perfect” baby. However, most of the communication was from desperate parents willing to risk the surgery.

Not one but two

The pictures circling the Internet are actually of two babies undergoing the new Vanderbilt procedure. One picture is of Trish and Mike Switzer’s baby, Sarah Marie and the other popular shot is of the Armas’ baby, Samuel Armas. Both are being operated on by the two Vanderbilt surgeons Dr. Bruner and Dr. Tulipan.

Sarah Marie Switzer

The Switzer baby shot was taken by photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg for LIFE magazine. During July 1, 1999, operation he captured the moment Dr. Bruner gently placed Sarah Marie’s hand back into the uterus. “She’s going to be beautiful,” he recalled saying.
Her parents would agree when on August 22, 1999, almost two months after having the surgery Sarah Marie Switzer was born. Born nine weeks premature, doctors were amazed at the health of the baby and allowed Sarah Marie to go home with her parents in early Sept. Sarah Marie showed none of the signs of extreme spina bifida and even kicked her legs as an infant rare in most spina bifida patients.

Sarah Marie Switzer in the womb

Sarah Marie Switzer's arm

Samuel Armas
Samuel Armas’ parents, Alex and Julie, discovered that Samuel had spina bifida during an ultrasound at 14 weeks. Doctors offered to terminate the pregnancy as the risks of delivering a healthy baby are rare. Julie refused to accept this solution and with her family scoured the net for information about the disease. It was then she came across the Vanderbilt procedure being performed by Bruner and Tulipan. She quickly raised the money, as an experimental procedure American insurance companies refuse to pay for the operation, and performed the surgery during the 21st week of surgery.

The Armas’s family also allowed the operation to be photographed and let Nashville free-lance photographer Michael Clancy take pictures of the Aug. 19, 1999 operation, the 54th mother to undergo the procedure. Clancy’s picture eventually was published as part of a September 7, 1999, article in USA TODAY. From there other media picked it up and it quickly spread around the world.

This photo has become an icon … Depending on your political point of view, this is either Samuel Armas reaching out of the uterus and touching the finger of a fellow human, or it’s me pulling his hand out of the uterus … which is what I did. … The baby did not reach out the baby was anesthetized. The baby was not aware of what was going on.
Both mother and fetus were drugged and would not have been able to move on their own and according to Dr. Tulipan, who closed the hole in Samuel’s spine, at 21 weeks Samuel, “would have no ability to reach out and grab anything,”

Clancy the photographer offers a different version where he claims that little Samuel “thrust” his arm out of the uterus incision and Clancy took a picture when the surgeon, “reached over and lifted the hand, which reacted and squeezed the doctor’s finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shook the tiny fist. Samuel held firm.” The medical journal write up of the operation offers this version of events:

[J]ust as surgeon Dr. Joseph Bruner was closing the incision in Julie Armas’ uterus, Samuel’s thumbnail-sized hand flopped out. Bruner lifted it gently and tucked it back in.
Whatever happened, a healthy Samuel was born on December 2, 1999, and almost four years later, on September 25, 2003, Alex and Julie Armas testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space about the photo and their experience with the surgery. Samuel was also present and his father said, “Today, Samuel is nearly four years old and has not had to endure the surgeries that are common for most children with spina bifida. He’s walking with leg braces, is cognitively normal, and loves looking for bugs.”

The Drudge Connection

In Nov 1999 the right-wing news gossip guru, Matt Drudge, had a Saturday night television show called Drudge on the Fox News Channel. Drudge wanted to show Samuel’s image on his Nov 13 show but Fox news directors refused to allow Matt to display the image. He refused to go back on air crying censorship and the two parties supposedly, “amicably”, went their separate ways with the November 6, 1999 episode of Drudge being the last.

Fox News directors refused to allow the airing of the picture because they feared that Drudge, a staunch anti-abortionist, would use the picture to further his argument against late-term abortions. The news directors felt that this use would miss-represent a picture that they felt represented a breakthrough medical procedure for spina bifida NOT a picture to be used for or against abortion.

Buy it to Kill it

When Michael Clancy took the picture of little Samuel he had no idea that he was going to get in a life-altering experience and at the same time battle LIFE. In fact, when he initially took the picture he didn’t even know if the shot was in focus. To prevent digital manipulation of images USA Today requires that all film be submitted unprocessed. So he had to wait until 10 days after he submitted the film before he finally heard that the photos turned out alright. USA Today loved the shots and the photo editor called saying, “It’s the most incredible picture I’ve ever seen.” They were published on September 7th, 1999 in USA Today and The Tennessean Newspaper with Clancy’s caption, that Samuel reached out on his own.

When Clancy’s picture was released he didn’t realize it but he was scoping, at the time, one of the biggest magazines in the world, LIFE magazine. They had Max Aguilera-Hellweg take the Switzer baby shot and were planning to do a big story called “Born Twice” in their December 1999 issue. Their photo was posed and as Clancy asserted his picture wasn’t, the baby reached out on its own. Also, the Switzer baby operation was taken at 24 weeks into the pregnancy, while the shot of Samuel was taken at the 21-week mark.

Clancy offered to sell the picture to LIFE and initially, they agreed. Clancy’s agent told him over the phone, “They do want to buy your picture. They want to buy it to kill it.” The photojournalist quickly told him no way and that if LIFE didn’t buy it to print then he would spread the shots through multiple media outlets and thus kill the LIFE magazine big breaking news item as by then the story would be old news. After negotiations that went on over four days LIFE eventually decided to pass on the photo and true to his word Clancy aggressively published his photo so by the time December rolled around LIFE had buried their story and picture in the back of their Dec issue.

Mike Clancy thought he had won his little battle but then a bomb dropped. Dr. Bruner, whose hands which are present in both shots, released a statement where he stated, “The baby did not reach out, The baby was anesthetized. The baby was not aware of what was going on.” This directly contradicted what Mike Clancy stated and published in his caption where he claimed that Samuel reached out on his own. The doctor’s statement in Clancy’s opinion “stripped any credibility” that he had as a journalist. His Editors and co-workers were soon asking why he lied about the picture but Clancy stuck to his guns always claiming that Samuel reached out and grasped Dr. Bruner’s hand. Even though the photographer was eventually forced to leave his profession as a result of the caption discrepancy he doesn’t blame Bruner stating, “He’s an incredible surgeon but [he] simply could not admit the unborn child came out from under the anesthesia too soon.”


Dr. Bruner, while acknowledging that his experimental surgery is still in the early development stages and poses significant risks, he looks to a future where this surgery will be performed across the world, offering incredible promises to parents of unborn children with birth defects.

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The Cuban Kid – Elian Gonzalez

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Behind the camera: Alan Diaz
Photo Summary: Donato Dalrumple holding Elian Gonzalez in a closet while a federal agent screams at him to hand over Elian
Picture Taken: April 22, 2000
Where: The house of Elian’s great-Uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, Miami, Florida, USA

Thanksgiving day 1999, Sam Ciancio and Donato Dalrumple were enjoying the fishing off Florida’s coast when something caught their eye. Floating in the water was what appeared to be an inner tube with a doll attached but right then their lines tugged and they focused on their fishing poles. When Donato’s fish got away and his line went slack he looked again to the tube. It was then he saw the “doll” move. Screaming at his cousin to bring the boat around he stripped down and dived into the water. Safely back in the boat, an exhausted young boy, that the world finds out was Elian González, promptly fell asleep in Donato Dalrumple’s tattooed arms.
Taking the boy to US soil Sam and Donato were about to spark one of the biggest custody battles in the US. Reigniting cold war tensions and pitting Elian’s father backed by communist Cuba against Elian’s Miami relatives backed by the fiercely anti-Castro Cuban American community of Miami. Stuck in between was the American Federal government. Elian’s saga would reach a climax with the federal agents forcible removing Elian from his distant relatives’ home. A scene captured by freelance AP reporter, Alan Diaz, in this famous Pulitzer Prize-winning photo.

Back in Cuba


She couldn’t get pregnant
-Juana Hortado Demendosa

The story begins before Elian was born, back in Cardenas, Cuba when a young couple Juan Miguel Gonzalez and Elisabeth Brotons fell in love. Elisabeth’s father recounts how she fell in love with Juan at 14 and by 18 the two had married. The marriage didn’t last long yet the two still lived together, even trying to get pregnant after the divorce. Elisabeth had fertility problems, her first 7 pregnancies ending in miscarriages, but then with special medical help on Dec 6, 1993, they had a boy. Taking the first three letters from Elizabeth and the last two of Juan they christened their new child, Elian.
The two shared custody of the child taking turns raising the boy. Eventually, the two moved on with their lives, Juan marrying Nelsy Carmenate and Elisabeth starting a relationship with Lazaro Munero until he left for America 1998. He quickly returned, relatives of Munero said he couldn’t adapt to American life, perhaps his love of Elisabeth drove him to take path rarely taken by Cubans, he sailed south back to Cuba. The Authorities arrested him on his return and he spent 2 months days in a Cuban jail. When he was released he continued his job as a taxi driver and planned again to sail north, this time with Elisabeth and Elian.

Making the crossing


Saving enough money he and a partner built a small craft no bigger than a car fashioned out of old aluminum poles, and a questionable engine. In this rickety boat with no seats or a roof, Lazaro was bringing not only Elizabeth and Elian, but also Lazaro’s younger brother, father (over 70 years old), and his mother. His financial partner took his entire family: his wife, his parents and his brother, and a neighbor who lived opposite and whose husband was awaiting her in the United States. At the last minute, it was decided to take a 22-year-old woman, Arianne Horta, her five-year-old daughter Esthefany; and Nivaldo Vladimir Fernandez. All told 15 people where crammed in the boat which depending on the weather would take two to three days to reach Florida.
They set out on November 20th but had to quickly return when their engine failed. Paddling back to shore, they fixed the engine and waited a few days before trying again. Before they set off, Arianne Horta scared by the engine failure episode had decided to take her 5-year old daughter to her mother’s home. After fixing the engine they again set off towards America, but by midnight well into their trip, the engine had failed. It was here in the rough waters of the Florida Straits that the makeshift boat sank. The boat only had three inner tubes, of the three one went flat. Of the 14 who started the journey only 3 would live, Elian and the two last-minute additions to the trip, Arianne Horta and Nivaldo Fernandez.

The worst happens

God wanted him here for freedom
-cousin Marilysis Gonzalez

Elizabeth had left messages for Juan that she was off to Havana for the weekend. When she and Elian didn’t return Juan started to ask around and learned that Elizabeth had taken his son on an attempt to cross the ocean and reach America. Days passed with no news and then seemingly his worst fears where confirmed when reports of bodies washing up on Florida beaches filtered back to Cuba. There was then a ray of hope when news of a boy being pulled out of the water near Fort Lauderdale reached him. It was confirmed to be Elian and on Nov 25 Juan got a call from his son. Elian had told doctors at the American hospital his contact info in Cuba and doctor’s called Juan for Elain’s medical history. Juan was able to talk to his son at the hospital, it was this way that Elian told him how he had watched his mother drown.

Elian Lives


Elian was released from the hospital into the custody of Juan’s Uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, who had lived in Florida for years. Elian’s case quickly became a national, and world spectacle with the Gonzalez family and Elian thrust into the spotlight. Lazaro Gonzalez’s attractive daughter Marisleysis took the role of Elian’s mother and media spokesman. Quickly it became clear that the Florida relatives weren’t going to send Elian back to Cuba, stating that he would be better off in America, that it was Elizabeth’s wish to bring him to America, something she died to make happen. Even if the federal government agreed with the family there was nothing they could do as by law the only person who could speak for Elian was his legal guardian and father, Juan who throughout the ordeal maintained that Elian be sent back to Cuba.
Media closely followed the story throughout early 2000 as the case worked its way through the court system with the Elian’s Miami relatives refusing to hand over Elian either to the federal government or Elian’s Cuban family. In Jan 2000 Elian’s grandmothers came to try and secure his release but with no results. The INS throughout stuck to its position that only Juan, the boy’s father could speak for Elian. In response, the Miami relatives first got temporary custody of the boy through local Florida family courts and then tried to get 6-year-old Elian an asylum hearing.

Custody Battle


In April 2000 6 Juan arrived from Cuba with his wife and son. Juan’s Uncle Lazaro still refused to hand over Elian to his father forcing Janet Reno the Attorney General at the time to order the Miami relatives to hand over the boy by April 11. The deadline came and went with relatives making more and more demands. Negotiations dragged on until things came to a head-on April 21st. The American-Cuban community was getting more and more radicalized with people arriving every day taking about resisting any attempt to seize Elian. Reno who at the time felt she being forced to act while she could, ordered the forcible seizure of Elian from his great-Uncle’s Lazaro’s home.

Police storm the house

Don’t move, don’t move. Give me the kid
-Federal Agent

Donato Dalrumple the fisherman who pulled Elian out of the water and had since become good friends with Elian and his Miami relatives. Donato would often visit the household to play with Elian and talk with the relatives. He recounts what happened just before dawn April 22,”I was in a dead sleep, [when around 5:10AM] … I heard the rustling of what I call the foot soldiers,” he said. “Then you heard screaming and yelling like bloody murder and people screaming, ‘Get down, get down, we’ll shoot.’
“I jumped up when I heard those words and said, ‘Oh, my God.’ Now, Elian was right in front of me and he was screaming. My natural instinct was to run to him and sweep him up in my arms, and I said to myself, ‘My God, where do we go?’
“I ran into the bedroom. … The photographer made his way into the house with the agents. Then one of the guys from the family took him by the back and just threw him into the room where we were, and then, boom, the door slammed.”
In the room with Dalrymple were Elian, Lazaro’s wife Angela, her niece, the niece’s young son, and AP photographer Alan Diaz. Dalrymple tried to get into a packed closet but couldn’t force himself in. Anglea stood defiantly facing the door while her niece hid by the bed. Diaz picked the back wall of the room and they all waited for the agents to find them. Dalrymple recalls:

“I was trying to get into the closet as much as I could, but there was no way to go … So I asked [Diaz], is there a way out of here? Can we do something? And he said, ‘Donato, just relax, there’s no way out. This is it, man.'”
“[outside] You heard everything being trashed. People screaming and the sound of shoosh, shoosh. There was pepper spray in the house.” Then the agents found the door.
“I heard bam, one, then, bam, two, … They were hitting the door with a battering ram. The door broke right in half and came down, and these guys rustled into the room. And the guy who had the gun just like that [gesturing to his chest] says, ‘Don’t move, don’t move. Give me the kid. Give me the kid.’
The next guy had his gun on the other kid.
I said, ‘Don’t hurt the boy, don’t hurt the boy.’ Then there was this lady with like a towel or a blanket or a pillow case or something who came in, … Elian — you’ve seen the face on him — was screaming. … The soldier and the lady snatched the boy and they threw the blanket over him … And then we’re going out. She never said a word that I know of,” [speaking of the female agent, Dalrymple said] “She was like the silent devil standing there.”

The silent devil was INS agent, Betty Mills, who would be later photographed outside the house bundling Elian into a waiting federal vehicle. Inside a plastic I.D. card agent, Mills had around her neck was written a comforting Spanish phrase that government psychologists recommended being repeated for Elian. It said, “You may feel very scared right now. Don’t be scared. We’re here to bring you to your Papa. You can trust us. People love you.”
Betty Mills accompanied Elian in the van to the waiting helicopter. After a quick helicopter ride, they switched to a Marshals Service jet at the Homestead Air Force Base. Before take-off Elian was given a quick medical exam to make sure everything was OK. Mills would later recount how on the flight from Miami to the reunion with Elian’s father in Washington, Elian didn’t say much. He colored, and he played with the Play-Dough that the child physiologists had recommended they provide for him. The boy ate and at one point, fell asleep on her lap.
At 9:20 the family was reunited at Andrew’s Air Force base where they lived in a small house before being taken to the Wye Plantation, an out of the way retreat, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Pictures where later taken of the reunited family with Elian smiling while being held by his father. In Florida Marisleysis Gonzalez angrily denied the photos were real accusing the government of doctoring the photo to show a smiling Elian. Lazaro’s legal team was able to force Juan and Elian to stay in Washington until the Miami relatives exhausted all legal possibilities. On June 1, 2000, the US 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Elian was to young to apply for asylum and that his legal guardian was his father Juan. The Miami relatives took the case to the US Supreme Court but it refused to hear the legal drama and on June 28, 2000, just over seven months after leaving Cuba Elian and his family returned to a hero’s welcome.

Back in Cuba


Even though Castro pledged to make sure the boy led a normal life he routinely shows up at government events always sitting close to the front row near Castro. In an interview with 60 minutes in 2005, Elian stated he viewed the dictator as a father figure and by all accounts, Fidel seems to dote on him like a son. Elian has become something of a tourist attraction in his hometown with foreigners always asking locals where he can be found. People usually are directed to July 14, 2001, inaugurated “Museum of the Battle of Ideas” or the Elian museum.
Juan, Elian’s father, became a national hero for resisting the American capitalist system and was elected to Cuba’s National Assembly, in 2003.
Donato Dalrymple one of the two fishermen who pulled Elian out of the water still gets recognized on the street. The controversy which split the country even split the two fishermen. Sam Ciancio the other man who saved Elian thought he should go to his father and Donato supporting the Miami relatives. The difference of opinion led to a falling-out and they still don’t speak. Donato still runs his janitorial service company and keeps in touch with the Miami González family.

Where are they now?

Absolutely, I could have been killed
-Alan Diaz

Alan Diaz, who took the picture, landed a job with a staff reporter for the AP. Recounting that night, he was locked in the room with Elian and Donato he says, “The minute the first agent broke in, my strobe light hit him in the face.” One of the federal agents in charge of the operation to seize Elian says it was a miracle that Diaz wasn’t shot. Even Diaz thinking back of his actions agrees, “Absolutely, I could have been killed.” Elian’s Miami based relatives, his great-uncles, Lazaro and Delfin González quickly stepped out of the spotlight, their 15min of fame finished. They lead normal lives, Lazaro working as a bus mechanic. Delfin runs an Elian museum and shrine full of memorabilia from the event. They don’t have any contact with their Cuban great-nephew, Elian. Marisleysis González, the emotionally charged daughter of Lazaro González, became a public spokesperson for Elian’s cause. Marisleysis was seen by outsiders as a surrogate mother of sorts to Elian, who admits that she hasn’t talked to Elian for some time. Throughout the ordeal, she suffered from stress and was hospitalized for mental exhaustion some eight times. In 2002 she opened the successful Marisleysis Hair Design beauty salon in Westchester at 7383 SW Eighth St. She also wed Richard Moreno, several years her junior. When reporters tried to get a comment on rumours her wedding was in name only González was quoted as saying, “I’m working, I have to hang up now.’”

In 2010 ten years after the raid Elian is 16-years old and happy with his life in Cuba. He is mostly shielded from Cuban and International media but in a rare interview said that he bears no ill will to his Miami relatives. At the 10 year anniversary of his return, he gave a statement saying, “This is the place I belong. Here I feel good. Thanks to the help of a big part of the American people and of our people, today I’m with my father, and that is everything.” Elian’s father revealed that his son is getting good grades and hopes to join the Cuban military.

Same story but in reverse


Arianne Horta the other survivor of the ill-fated boat ride that killed everyone except her, Elian and Nivaldo Fernandez had her own almost parallel custody battle, except her story, happened in reverse. She had originally intended to bring her daughter, Esthefany, with her on the boat but at the last minute sent her home to her Cuban home and father. Now in America, she is appealing to be reunited with Esthefany but her Cuban family has refused to allow her to go to America.

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Challenger Explosion

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Behind the camera: NASA Tracking Camera
Where: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Photo Summary: Space Shuttle Challenger breaking up soon after takeoff
Picture Taken: Jan 28, 1986
This image is in the public domain because it was taken by a federal employee

The Challenger crew on that Jan 28, 1986 morning was a PC dream team. Two white women (Sharon Christa McAuliffe and Judy Resnik), an Asian American (Ellison S. Onizuka), an African American (Ron McNair), and three white men (Greg Jarvis, Michael J. Smith, and Dick Scobee). McAuliffe was the first citizen astronaut, a teacher, who won a place on board Challenger by beating out a group of 11,000 other entrants. During the mission, she was going to broadcast live a lesson to millions of school children across the country. When the seven boarded that morning they had to step carefully as they entered the shuttle, as the boarding platform was covered in ice from an unusual Florida deep freeze. It was this same cold weather that would ultimately doom their launch.

Canadian Cold Front

Ice formed on the Challenger

Icicles on the day of the launch

The odd cold front had come down from Canada putting much of Florida well below freezing. Ice-covered the shuttle while it was waiting for take-off at the Kennedy Space Center. These cold temperatures, which dropped to –5 C (20 Fahrenheit), raised concerns in the control room and after the astronauts had entered the shuttle, the launch was delayed to allow the temp to increase. Some of the concerns were about the two booster rockets, more specifically the two booster rocket’s O-rings that helped seal together the different segments that made up each rocket. Engineers had come to the conclusion that the O-rings’ design was flawed in extremely cold conditions like those reached on Jan 28. When the temperature dropped the O-rings became brittle and they would not expand to prevent ignited rocket fuel from bursting out through the seals.

Previous launches had come dangerously close to Challenger’s fate with much higher take-off temperatures, the lowest up to that point was 12 C (53 Fahrenheit). Roger Boisjoly, an engineer at, Morton Thiokol the contractor who built the booster rockets, became so concerned that he and his co-workers tried to stop the cold weather, Challenger launch. NASA managers listened to their concerns and told the group they had 45min to prove the launch would fail, “We had 45 minutes to prepare for the most important meeting of our lives,” Boisjoly said. After the presentation NASA still refused to delay the launch, putting the O-ring issue in the acceptable flight risk category. Morton Thiokol company managers also backed down. Perhaps fearing that any delays might damage their upcoming contract renewal they made a “management decision” overriding their engineers and refused to take the issue any farther.
Oblivious to all this, the seven astronauts patiently waited for the go-ahead. After a 2 hour wait, the green light was given. The following are excerpts from the timeline that started at 11:38 a.m. EST, Jan. 28, 1986 when the solid rocket ignition command was sent.


0.000 – Solid rocket ignition command is sent.
Astronaut Judy Resnik, intercom: “Aaall Riight!”
1.000 – Shuttle pilot Michael Smith, intercom: “Here we go.”
3.375 – Launch commentator Hugh Harris, NASA-SELECT television: “… Liftoff of the 25th space shuttle mission, and it has cleared the tower.”
11.000 – Smith, intercom: “Go you mother.”
15.000 – Resnik, intercom: “Shit hot!”
19.000 – Smith, intercom: “Looks like we’ve got a lot of wind here today.” Shuttle commander Dick Scobee: “Yeah.”
22.000 – Scobee, intercom: “It’s a little hard to see out my window here.”
28.000 – Smith, intercom: “There’s 10,000 feet and Mach point five.” The shuttle is 10,000 feet high travelling at half the speed of sound.
40.000 – Smith, intercom: “There’s Mach 1.”
59.000 – Challenger passes through the region of maximum aerodynamic pressure, experiencing 720 pounds per square foot.
59.262 – A continuous “well defined intense plume” of exhaust is seen on the side of the suspect booster by tracking cameras. This is clear evidence of an O-ring joint burn through.
59.753 – First visual evidence of flame on the right-side booster. 70 mm tracking camera closeup: A flickering tongue of flame appears on the side of the right-side booster away from the shuttle and quickly becomes continuous.
60.000 – Smith, intercom: “Feel that mother go!” Unknown, intercom: “Wooooo Hooooo!”
64.660 – The plume from the burn through changes shape suddenly, indicating a leak has started in the shuttle’s liquid hydrogen tank to fuel the fire.
64.705 – A bright, sustained glow is photographed on the side of the external fuel tank.
65.000 – Scobee, intercom: “Reading four eighty six on mine.” This is a routine airspeed indicator check. Smith: “Yep, that’s what I’ve got, too.”

66.764 – The pressure in the shuttle’s external liquid hydrogen tank begins to drop, indicating a massive leak. Smith had real-time readings of pressure in the liquid hydrogen tank, but it is doubtful he noticed anything unusual because of the rapidity of the failure. It made no difference, ultimately, because even if Challenger’s pilots had suspected an SRB problem there was nothing they could have done about it. While the shuttle separates from its external fuel tank shortly before reaching orbit, it does so with no engines firing and in a benign aerodynamic environment. As Scobee and Smith well knew, separating from the tank while the SRBs were firing would drive the shuttle into the bottom of the fuel tank.
68.000 – Mission Control spokesman Steve Nesbitt in Houston: “Engines are throttling up. Three engines now at 104 percent.”
Dick Covey, mission control: “Challenger, go at throttle up.”
70.000 – Scobee calmly responds, air-to-ground: “Roger, go at throttle up.”
73.000 (approximate) – Smith, intercom: “Uh oh…” This is the last comment captured by the crew cabin intercom recorder. Smith may have been responding to indications on main engine performance or falling pressures in the external fuel tank.


The booster Orings

On the ground, onlookers who had braved the cold watched in horror as the O-rings failed and superheated ignited fuel from inside the booster rocket acted as a blowtorch and igniting the huge external fuel tank. A fireball exploded across the sky as metal flew everywhere and the two booster rockets free of the shuttle spiralled off into the sky. In the stands the children of pilot Mike Smith at first stared in shocked silence and then started screaming, “I want my father! I want my father! He told us it was safe!” AP reporter Howard Benedict dictated the breaking news over the phone to the New York office, “There was no immediate indication on the fate of the crew, but it appeared that nobody could have survived that fireball in the sky.”
Yet, Howard Benedict was wrong. Years after the crash, officials acknowledged that the crew cabin of the shuttle survived the shuttle break-up, intact. There was no real explosion, no detonation of the huge amounts of fuel carried by the shuttle. As the shuttle structure was broken down from the leaking flaming booster rocket it was torn apart by incredible aerodynamic forces outside the supersonic shuttle. At 48,000 ft., the shuttle ripped apart freeing the crew section, which still under great momentum flew to a peak altitude of 65,000 ft before returning back to earth. As the crew compartment flew higher, released fuel from the External Tank (ET) and shuttle burned in seconds creating the huge fireball seen below. The force that tore apart the rest of the shuttle wasn’t great enough to destroy the crew compartment, in part because air density at that height is much lower. Recovered flight recorder data revealed that Shuttle computers still functioned after the break-up, even shutting down the engines when sensors showed there was no fuel.

Did the crew survive the explosion?

The G-Forces from the breakup and descent back to earth may have rendered the crew unconscious but it was revealed that on the trip down at least some of the crew where awake. Of the four emergency oxygen tanks, called Personal Egress Air Packs or PEAPs, that were recovered from the ocean, three had been turned on. One of the PEAPs was identified as Smith’s and because the switch was located on the back of his seat investigators believe either Resnik or Onizuka, who sat behind Smith, had the presence of mind after the shuttle break up, to turn it on. It wasn’t until what was left of the shuttle smashed into the ocean at 200 mph some 2 minutes and 45 seconds after the disaster that the compartment was crushed and all inside killed instantly.
The fact that the crew wasn’t killed when the shuttle came apart wasn’t revealed until years after the crash. NASA officials still don’t like to talk about the fate of the crew after the 73-sec mark when the spacecraft broke up. Their resistance to making public such things as photos of the wreckage, autopsy reports, and other data recording sparked a number of conspiracy theories on the internet. One such viral email included a faked transcript of the final minutes and rumors that some of Challenger crew even survived the ocean crash but died at the bottom of the sea while waiting for a rescue.


Challenger wreckage still washes up

Efforts to find the wreckage in the waters off Florida were at first hampered by falling debris. Soon Navy and coast guard ships were helping in the search for shuttle remains. It took months to get all the wreckage that was recovered but efforts were complicated by the huge search area 1165 square kilometres (450 square miles), water depths of 15 to 365 meters (50 to 1,200 feet), currents of four to six knots, and the sheer number of shuttle pieces. In all 15 tons of debris was pulled from the ocean. 55% of Challenger, 5% of the cabin crew and 65% of the satellite cargo still lies on the ocean floor; occasionally some of it washes up on Florida beaches. The US government still owns the wreckage and under Title 18, United States Code, Section 641 charges anyone who is in possession of Challenger Debris. After the investigation, all recovered pieces of the space shuttle were moved to two abandoned Minuteman Missile Silos at Complex 31 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Whitehouse Pressure?

Ronald Reagan was supposed to give his State of the Union address the night of the launch. After the crash, a number of rumors surfaced that the Whitehouse pressured the shuttle to launch over NASA concerns because Reagan wanted to incorporate the astronauts in his speech. The rumors were taken seriously enough to be investigated by commissions into the cause of Challenger crash but no evidence of Whitehouse pressure was found. That evening instead of the State of the Union address Reagan gave a national address on the Challenger disaster. At the end of the speech he quoted a poem that was a favorite of aviators and astronauts, “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.” Weeks after the crash all seven bodies were recovered from the water. Remains that could be identified were returned to their respective families on April 29, 1986. Dick Scobee and Michael Smith’s families chose to bury their bodies in Arlington National Cemetery. Body parts not able to be identified were buried together at a Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial in Arlington on May 20, 1986.


The Challenger crash was not the result of design flaws in the booster rockets. The crash also had nothing to do with the replacement of the original asbestos-bearing putty in the booster seals. The O-ring seals performed better than the asbestos putty and they would have functioned safely IF the weather conditions that cold Jan day were warmer. NASA operated under the idea of acceptable risk, and problems that weren’t deemed urgent were put aside to be dealt with in the future. Management forgot the “principles of safely operating on the edge of extreme hazards.” After the shuttle tragedy, problems that had concerned NASA engineers in the past were brought forward. Among the 400 changes made before the next launch of the space shuttle Discovery, 32 months later, on September 29, 1988, was the addition of electric heaters installed in the O-rings to keep them at maximum performance.
Challenger crashed because management at NASA concerned with Challenger’s many launch delays and the effect of the delays on congress’s funding chose to suppress pre-launch valid safety concerns. Post-Challenger NASA had safety personnel and representatives from the major contractors included in the mission management team, the group that gives the green light to shuttle launches and shuttle flight operations. Some tried to spin the Challenger tragedy by saying that the loss of human life was the price for expanding into space but this is only true of disasters that are unpreventable. The loss of the space shuttle Challenger and its seven crew was due to incompetent management, not unpreventable events. The disaster was unnecessary.

Other Famous Pictures

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Ruby Kills Oswald

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Behind the camera: Robert H. Jackson
Where: Basement of Dallas police headquarters in Dallas, America
Photo Summary: Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald while Oswald was handcuffed to Jim Leavelle
Picture Taken: 11:21 am CST Sunday, November 24, 1963

The Nation was still in shock from the assassination of President John F Kennedy when two days later on Sun, Nov 24, 1963, Oswald the prime suspect in the JFK murder was himself gunned down by Jack Ruby. The nation watched in horror as Ruby shot Oswald on live TV the first time a homicide was captured and publicly shown on live television.

Transferring Oswald

JFK was assassinated on the afternoon of Nov 22, 1963. About an hour later Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested on suspicion of murdering both President Kennedy and Officer Tippit (Witnesses saw Oswald shoot Tippit as he stopped his squad car to question Oswald). By that evening he had been arraigned for both murders. Since the assassination of JFK hundred of reporters had been descending on Dallas and when word broke out about Oswald’s arrest the reporters headed towards police headquarters. District Attorney Henry M. Wade told the Warren Commission that he thought about 300 reporters and other individuals were hanging out on the third floor where Oswald was being questioned. When he was being questioned the hallways were so cramped and security so lax that anyone could have killed Oswald as he walked flanked by his police escorts through the hall of the third floor.

Colourized by Marina Amaral

Due to media pressure for some kind of statement from Oswald an impromptu press conference was held around midnight in the basement assembly room of the Police Station. As many as 100 people reporters and curious onlookers crammed into the small room. The Police Chief Jesse Curry stopped the press conference almost as soon as it started because the media got out of hand, the newsmen “tried to overrun him.” Before the screams of reporters shouting questions drowned him out Oswald was able to give the following statement:

Well, I was questioned by Judge [Johnston]. However, I protested at that time that I was not allowed legal representation during that very short and sweet hearing. I really don’t know what the situation is about. Nobody has told me anything except that I am accused of, of, murdering a policeman.
I know nothing more than that and I do request someone to come forward to give me legal assistance.
Q. Did you kill the President?
A. No. I have not been charged with that. In fact nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question.
Q. Mr. Oswald, how did you hurt your eye?
A. A policeman hit me.46 — Warren Commission

During the Warren Commissions’ investigation when looking at the news camera footage of the midnight press conference Jack Ruby was identified as being present in the crowd of reporters.
Over the next two days, Oswald was interrogated several times at the Dallas Police Headquarters before it was decided to transfer him to the county jail. The decision to transfer Oswald was reached Sat evening, Nov 23 by Chief Curry. In an effort to get reporters to go home on Saturday night Curry had announced that around 10:00 AM the next day Ruby would be transferred. During the night, around 2-3am, the local FBI office received a call from an unidentified man who warned that a “committee” had decided “to kill the man that killed the President.” This threat was passed on to the Dallas police department and to Chief Curry.

With this threat in mind, Chief Curry decided to use an armored truck to transfer Oswald and his own men would handle the transfer. Some of the officers at the Dallas headquarters had suggested that Oswald either be moved at another exit or at an unannounced time but Captain J. W. “Will” Fritz one of Curry’s advisers negated the idea, as he said that Curry “wanted to go along with the press and not try to put anything over on them.”

Warren Commission Exhibit #2636

To provide security during the basement transfer extra police were called in and orders put out to secure the route the armored truck would take. The officer in charge of the patrol division for the city of Dallas, a Capt. C. E. Talbert, on his own initiative, took extra security precautions for the basement. First, he directed a Sgt. Patrick T. Dean, to clear the basement of all non-police personal and then directed a search of the basement looking in the rafters, above the A/C units and in the many closets. After the search, news media were allowed back into the basement after their credentials were checked although the Warren report found that police allowed in anything that looked official with some reporters testifying that they weren’t checked at all. When Oswald came down to the basement around 40 to 50 newsmen and 70 to 75 police officers were assembled.
At this time Oswald’s right hand was handcuffed to the left hand of Detective J. R. Leavelle. As they walked towards the waiting car Fritz walked ahead and then Oswald, with Detective Leavelle at his right, Detective L. C. Graves at his left. Leavelle would later testify lights from the camera’s made it impossible to make out anyone in the crowd. As the crowd of reporters surged forward, Oswald made it about 10ft before Jack Ruby slipped from the crowd and holding a .38 calibre revolver shot one bullet into Oswald’s abdomen.
It took a few minutes to get the unconscious Oswald out of the police station as the cars intended for his transfer were blocking the exits. The time lost in the confusion wouldn’t have made any difference as the single bullet did major damage and doctors were unable to save him. 48 hours and 7 min after the Presidents death Lee Harvey Oswald was pronounced dead.


Colourization by Artistic Panda

Colourization by Artistic Panda

Just before the shooting

Timeline of Jack Ruby’s day:

  • 10:00 AM: Even though the police said they would transfer Oswald at 10:00 Jack Ruby is at home and takes a long time to leave his apartment. While on the way to the police station he stops off at a Western Union office.
  • 11:17 AM: He sends a $25 money gram which is stamped, 11:17. The clerk later reported that he didn’t seem rushed.
  • 11:21 AM: Ruby shoots Oswald yelling, “You killed my president, you rat!” as he was taken to the jail he went on to tell the police, “You guys … couldn’t do it. I did it for you. I had to show that a Jew has guts. I’m happy that I got him.” Ruby, himself a Jew, was worried that the Dallas Jews were going to be blamed for the JFK killing.
  • Through video footage of Jack Ruby standing outside of the police station and the Western Union money gram the Warren report was able to determine that he entered the basement no shorter than 2-3min before he killed Oswald. The Warren report also established that he received no help in entering and was able to slip by police guards as a police car was exiting the station. No press pass was found on Rudy when he was arrested and no discarded press passes were found in the basement. Ruby himself denied to the Commission that he received any form of assistance claiming that he just walked down the ramp into the basement when the police car was exiting.

    Jack Ruby

    Ruby's Money Gram time stamped at 11:17

    Jack Ruby was born Jacob Rubenstein on March 25, 1911, in the heavily Jewish 24th Ward on Chicago’s West Side. He shortened his name to Ruby because of concerns that his Jewish name would hurt a planned mail order business. After serving in Army Air Force during World War II in 1946 Ruby returned to Chicago. In 1947 he moved to Dallas where he managed a number of bars, strip clubs, dance halls and nightclubs. During his time as a manager, he associated and was friends with many people in both law enforcement and the mafia.
    During his trial, Ruby’s lawyer tried to get him off the hook by claiming mental illness. This defense failed and on March 14, 1964, Ruby was convicted of “murder with malice” and received the death penalty. This was later overturned and a second trial was about to begin when Ruby became ill and on December 9, 1966, Ruby was admitted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
    Jack’s connection to the mafia has fueled many Conspiracy theories but several official investigations have ever revealed any concrete connections. Although while in jail he was visited by friends Sam and Joe Campisi, two high-level figures in the Dallas mafia.
    Ruby himself started to ramble about conspiracies but as his health deteriorated in jail so did his mind. By 1967 Ruby was suffering from lung cancer but before that could kill him on January 3, 1967, he died from a pulmonary embolism. In a twist of fate, JFK, Oswald, and Ruby died in Dallas’s Parkland Hospital.

    He’s been shot!

    List of clothing worn by Oswald

    A small slip of paper bearing four telephone numbers:
    OR 9-9450
    RI 8-9711
    AC 2-4161
    CO 7-3110
    CH 7

    Only one network was covering the prison transfer live and that was NBC through their Dallas-Ft. Worth affiliate station WBAP-TV. CBS had a camera set up and was recording the events but instead of going live with the footage decided to stay with its Washington DC report of the preparations for JFK’s funeral. On the live NBC feed correspondent, Tom Petit described the transfer of Oswald in the basement. On camera you can see Ruby come into the picture squeeze off a shot and then hear Tom Petit screaming, “He’s been shot! He’s been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot! … There is absolute panic. Pandemonium has broken out.”
    CBS’s coverage came via its affiliate KRLD-TV and cameraman George Phenix who just a few feet away from Oswald taped the whole encounter. Later on national TV the footage would be replayed again and again frame by frame and narrated by then up and coming CBS reporter, Dan Rather:

    Now we will show you the film of Oswald being shot, still-framed, … Watch the hat in the right-hand corner of the frame. Watch Oswald’s eyes as they seem to catch the eye of the assassin [Ruby]. His head turns, he looks at the assassin and his eyes never leave him. The assassin moves in … and a few inches from {Oswald’s} abdomen, fires a shot. — Dan Rather

    More famous images

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    Oswald Backyard Shots

    Behind the camera: Oswald’s Russian wife Marina using the Imperial 620 Duo Lens Camera
    Where: Oswald’s Backyard
    Photo Summary: Lee Harvey Oswald holding two left-wing newspapers The Militant and The Worker which are dated March 11 and March 24. In addition to the two papers, Oswald is holding a rifle, and has a .38 caliber revolver strapped to his waist.
    Picture Taken: Sunday, March 31, 1963

    The world stopped on Nov 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while driving his open limo through the streets of Dallas. The murder of JFK has almost from the second Kennedy was killed been shrouded in conspiracy theories and intense public interest. One of the many figures that became infamous as a result is the supposed lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.

    Lee Harvey Oswald

    While growing up with his family Lee Harvey Oswald moved constantly around America. Before the age of 18, Oswald had lived in 22 different residences and attended 12 different schools, around New Orleans and Dallas. He had trouble spelling and writing and some say he had a learning disorder like dyslexia. Perhaps because of this and his constant movements, he never finished high school.

    Going from left to right are pictures CE-113A, CE-113B and CE-113C.

    Though he had trouble with school he had a voracious appetite for books and by 15 became an ardent Marxist. His socialist beliefs didn’t stop him from joining the marines, an action seen as following in his idolized older brother’s, Robert, footsteps. He was accepted and trained as a radar operator and spent time at various military bases throughout the Pacific. In the Marines, he scored a rating of sharpshooter but in the latter rating, he qualified as a marksman, a lower classification. Experts examining his records characterized his firearms proficiency as “above average” for the Military. The same experts when comparing average civilian males his age called Oswald, “an excellent shot.” In the marines he was court marshalled twice, first as a result of accidentally shooting himself in the elbow with a small, unauthorized handgun and later for starting a fight with a sergeant he thought responsible for the penalty he received.

    Oswald goes to the USSR

    Warren Commission Image of Oswald in Minsk, USSR

    Disillusioned by his experience in the marines, he was able to get a “hardship” discharge by saying that he needed to care for his sick mother. After spending just one day with his mother he boarded a ship and travelled to the Soviet Union where he renounced his US citizenship and asked to join the Soviet motherland. The Soviet authorities at first denied his request but allowed him to stay after Oswald attempted suicide. He was sent to Minsk where he could be easily watched and worked as a metal lathe operator at the Gorizont (Horizon) Electronics Factory in Minsk, a sprawling complex that produced radio and televisions along with military and space electronic components. His friends and co-workers gave him the nickname, Alek, as Lee sounded too Chinese.
    Oswald spent almost 3 years in the Soviet Union but became disillusioned with the monotony and bureaucracy of the Soviet system and after a honeymoon period started to look into moving back to the States. At a dance in early 1961, Oswald meets Marina Alexandrovna Nikolayevna Medvedeva Prusakova, a 19-year-old student. One month later they married and Marina soon became pregnant with their first daughter, June.

    Lee Harvey Returns

    Almost a year of paperwork finally got Oswald and his family an exit visa, and on June 1, 1962, the three moved back to America setting up in Dallas. A number of failed jobs followed and without the friends and a social life that he had in Minsk, Oswald began to look back at his time in the USSR with nostalgia. He even looked into moving back to the USSR or perhaps Cuba.

    These reborn socialist feelings probably inspired Oswald’s attempted assassination of General Walker, an outspoken anti-communist, anti-civil right, former US General fired for giving men under his command right-wing propaganda. On April 10, 1963, from less than 100 feet Oswald took a shot at Walker who was sitting at his desk. The bullet hit the wooden window frame and instead of killing Walker deflected into his forearm. Oswald’s next attempt at a sniper shot would be from the Texas School Book Depository.

    Shots from the Book Depository

    The rifle in the picture and used to kill the President

    Oswald had got a job working at the Texas School Book Depository via an acquaintance. On Nov 22, 12:30 pm Oswald shot Kennedy from the 6th story window of the Depository. Oswald fired three shots in 8.3 seconds, fatally wounding President Kennedy and critically wounding Governor John Connally. After the assassination, Oswald hid the rifle behind some boxes and ran outside the building toward an unknown destination. Oswald was stopped by Officer JD tippet and when Tippet got out of his car Oswald shot and killed him using a pistol. He then ran into a Theater that was playing the film “War Is Hell” starring Audie Murphy. A suspicious theatre worker called the police and after a struggle police arrested Oswald.

    Dallas detectives exercising a search warrant of the Paine house on November 23, 1963, discovered a number of pictures including the one used on the February 21, 1964, Life magazine cover. Marina, Lee’s wife, had been staying with the Paine family. Donald Uhrbrock, a Life photographer, obtained the cover shot from copies he made from photographs in the police files. The cover shot was one of three similar shots later given the name, the backyard pictures. The shots have been shrouded in allegations that they were faked partly due to the retouching that occurred when LIFE used the image on their cover. (The February 21, 1964 issue with Oswald on the cover contained a number of articles including Oswald: Evolution of an Assassin, and Was Jack Ruby Insane?) Oswald himself, when shown the pictures by Dallas Police after his arrest, insisted they were fakes.

    Photos faked?

    In the Detroit Free Press and Newsweek magazines the sniper scope was erased while adjusting the contrast, a common procedure with magazines

    To investigate the assassination of the U.S. President John F. Kennedy Lyndon B. Johnson established The Warren Commission, named after its chairman, United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren on November 29, 1963. Another commission was established in 1978, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) to investigate the Kennedy and Martin Luther assassinations. The HSCA looked into allegations that the backyard pictures were faked. After extensive analysis using the latest technologies available the HSCA determined that the images were authentic. Some of the allegations involving the backyard pictures that were disproved by the HSCA included:
    Unnatural lines in the vicinity of Oswald’s chin

  • Inconsistent square-shaped chin
  • Unnatural and inconsistent shadows
  • Identical heads and inconsistent body proportions in the three shots
  • Identical backgrounds in the three shots
  • Disappearing sniper scope
  • In a 1978 BBC television documentary Malcolm Thompson, a British forensic photography expert determined that the backyard pictures were composites. Similarly, a photographic analyst with the Canadian Department of Defence reached the same conclusion. On seeing the evidence and thoroughness of the HSCA investigation both experts recanted their conclusion and agreed that the backyard pictures were genuine.
    The photos are continuously examined by experts in the photographic field. As recently as November 2009 Hany Farid, director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth confirmed the pictures were authentic. Farid was able to use the latest software to recreate the sun on that day. It was this software that determined that the shadows in the picture were where they were supposed to be. “You can never really prove an image is real, but the evidence that people have pointed to that the photo is fake is incorrect,” Farid said, “As an academic and a scientist, I don’t like to say it’s absolutely authentic … but it’s extremely unlikely to have been a fake.”

    Camera used

    Oswald's camera used to take the picture The front plate reads: "DUO LENS - 620 - IMPERIAL REFLEX - MADE IN U.S.A."

    Marina used the Imperial 620 Duo Lens Camera a very cheap and light model that uses 620 film (620 film is no longer manufactured). The camera is almost entirely made of plastic with both the lens and the viewfinder also made out of plastic. To take a picture using the Imperial, one looked down into the top of the camera which had a mirror inclined to 45 degrees in order to see the subject of the shot.

    Taking the pictures

    Marina told the Warren Commission that she took the pictures in the backyard of the Oswald residence on Neeley Street in Dallas around March 1963. She gave different versions of exactly when the pictures were taken and was only sure that they were taken on a Sunday. However investigators were able to figure out when the pictures were taken by noting that the two left-wing newspapers Oswald is holding, The Militant and The Worker, are dated March 11 and March 24. Contacting the newspapers they determined that the publications were mailed on March 7 and March 21, by second-class mail. The postal service testified that the newspapers would have arrived in Dallas by March 28. From all this information, the Commission established the date on which the photographs were taken to be Sunday, March 31, 1963.

    In addition to the two papers, Oswald is holding a rifle and has a .38 calibre revolver strapped to his waist. The 1978 Committee determined that the rifle in the picture was the same used to shoot Kennedy. The revolver was also determined to be the same one used to kill Officer Tippit when Oswald was trying to make his escape.
    During the Warren Commission, the pictures were labelled as exhibit CE 133-A and CE 133-B. Only one negative was found and the commission gave it the title, CE 749; it was the original negative of 133-B. The negative for photo 133-A was never found. Another photo was discovered much later and was used in the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations. Mrs. Geneva Dees of Paris, Tex handed over this photograph to the committee on December 30, 1976. Mrs. Dees testified that her former husband, Roscoe White, now deceased, acquired the photo while employed with the Dallas Police at the time of the assassination. The new third picture was promptly named 133-C.

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    JFK jr salutes JFK

    Buy on amazonJFK Jr salutes his father
    Behind the camera: Stan Stearns
    Where: Just outside St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington D.C., America
    Photo Summary: Three-year-old, John F Kennedy Jr stepping up to salute his father’s casket. Jackie Kennedy is beside Robert Kennedy and his daughter, Caroline Kennedy
    Picture Taken: Monday, November 25, 1963

    In the wake of JFK’s assassination, people around the world mourned and tried to come to terms with John F. Kennedy’s death. Many found solace in the stoic Kennedy clan. Lead by the dignified and unbreakable Jackie Kennedy following the family adage of “Kennedy’s don’t cry,” people ached for her as she and the Kennedy family refused to break down. The youngest member of the Kennedy family three-year-old, John F Kennedy Jr. or John-John was no exception. As the casket left St. Matthew’s Cathedral on its way to the President’s final resting place JFK Jr. stepped forward and raised his small hand in salute, an image that broke the hearts of millions.

    The President has been killed

    At 1:00 p.m. on Friday, November 22, 1963, John F Kennedy was declared dead at the Dallas Parkland Hospital. Vice President Lyndon Johnson was then the President of the United States. With no knowledge of who was behind the assassination, secret service agents wanted to get the now President Johnson out of Dallas in the case of another assassination attempt. Agents wanted to go to the safety of Washington, but President Johnson refused to leave without Jackie Kennedy and Jackie refused to leave JFK’s body. A comprise was met when it was decided to bring Jackie and the President’s body to the capital in Air force One. This plan was almost thwarted by Dallas Police.
    At that time there was no federal ruling against killing a President. Therefore it was against the law to remove a murder victim from the jurisdiction of the Dallas Police. Dallas’, Dr. Earl Rose tried to enforce this law and block Kennedy’s body from being moved to Washington without first performing an autopsy in Dallas. He even brought a Judge to back him up. The Secret Service was able to convince everyone that security of the moment trumped everything and the Dallas officials backed down.
    Air force One arrived at the Andrews Air Force Base at 6:05 p.m. EST. Jackie Kennedy had refused to clean up or change wanting the media to capture her bloodstained clothes so that the plotters could see what they had done. Lady Bird Johnson who also on Air force One wrote in her diary:

    I looked at her. Mrs. Kennedy’s dress was stained with blood. One leg was almost entirely covered with it and her right glove was caked, it was caked with blood – her husband’s blood. Somehow, that was one of the most poignant sights – that immaculate woman exquisitely dressed and caked in blood.

    Robert Kennedy met the blood-covered Jackie when the plane landed and together they accompanied Kennedy’s body to the Bethesda Naval Hospital for an autopsy.

    JFK arrives at the Whitehouse

    On 4:30 a.m. EST Saturday, November 23 President John F. Kennedy returned to the White House for the last time. He was placed in the East Room of the White House which at Jackie’s request had been transformed into a recreation of how it looked when Abraham Lincoln was killed. At 10:00 am there was a private service and then for the rest of that Saturday, government officials were invited to pay their respects to the 35th President. It was decided that the next day the body would be moved to The Capitol Rotunda the large dome-like structure that is seen as the center of Washington.
    On Sunday the 24th, the President was moved by horse-drawn carriage to the Capitol Rotunda. It was the same carriage that had carried the body of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As per military tradition a riderless horse, ironically nicknamed Black Jack, was part of the procession with boots placed backward in the stirrups. After a number of Eulogies by government officials, the Rotunda was opened up to Public viewing. Until 9:00 AM the next day about 250,000 people waited in line, some for waiting for up to 10hrs, to walk past and pay their respect to the President.

    Day of Mourning

    One of Lyndon Johnson’s first acts as President was to declare Monday, November 25 as an official day of mourning. At 8:25 that day the doors to the Rotunda were closed locking out about 10,000 people still trying to get in to pay their respects. President Kennedy had never planned a funeral and so planning duties were taken over by the Military District of Washington (MDW) in consultation with the president’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, and a presidential aide. The plan was to have Kennedy’s casket moved from the Capitol Rotunda to the White House to St. Matthew’s Cathedral and then on to the President’s final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery. Almost 1,000,000 people turned up to watch the procession with millions more watching on TV that was broadcast to over 23 countries around the world.
    On Mon the procession finished the first leg of its journey when it reached the White House. From the White House, the funeral continued on foot to the Cathedral led by Jackie and close members of the Kennedy family followed by over 220 foreign dignitaries. They included 19 heads of state, various high-ranking government representatives including officials from the Soviet Union and members of various royal families. The last time so many presidents, prime ministers, and royalty attended a state funeral was to pay their respects to Britain’s King Edward VII in 1910. With so many high-ranking officials, it was a security nightmare for the secret service. As a safety measure Under Secretary of State, George Ball did not attend the funeral as everyone in Washington wanted to pay their respects.

    St. Matthew’s Cathedral

    Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!
    -Singing to JFK Jr on his birthday the same day as his father’s funeral

    Over 1,200 invited guests attended the service at St. Matthew’s Cathedral presided over by the Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cardinal Cushing. Cushing was a close associate of the Kennedy’s having officiated at their marriage, spoken at JFK’s Presidential Inauguration, and having christened their children. As requested by Mrs. Kennedy the funeral was a low mass, meaning no singing. Instead of reading directly from the bible, it was decided that the reading should be made from selected works of Kennedy’s writing and speeches including the entire Inaugural Address. At her request, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill the agent who is seen climbing onto the limousine in Dallas sat directly behind her in the church.

    For JFK Jr. Mon November 25, 1963, started out with his nanny, Maude Shaw, and sister Caroline singing “Happy Birthday” to him. The day that the nation buried his father was also his third birthday. While his mother and the Kennedy clan led the procession to the church John-John and his sister trailed behind in the limo. After the service, Jackie standing with Caroline and John-John and close Kennedy members witnessed the casket being carried out of the church. It was here that TV coverage, and photographers, caught an emotional scene as Mrs. Kennedy whispered to JFK Jr. who then stepped forward and gave his best three-year-old salute to his father.

    Taking The Picture

    Stan Stearns remembers taking the picture:

    I was chosen to walk with Jackie and the world leaders from the White House to St. Matthew’s for the JFK service. When we got there I had to go behind the ropes with the other 70-odd photographers. All squeezed in an area for 30. Wow! UPI photographer Frank Cancellare squeezed me in next to him…. I had the longest lens, a 200mm. … I just watched Jackie. She bent down and whispered in [John-John’s] ear. His hand came up to a salute. Click! One exposure on a roll of 36 exposures.

    Stan Stearns was working as a UPI photographer when he took his famous shot of JFK Jr. In 1970 he retired from news photography and started a lucrative career as a wedding and portraits.

    Joe O’Donnell Controversy

    Dan Farrell, of Long Island, holds another historic photo taken from a different angle that he took for the New York Daily News

    Dan Farrell, of Long Island, holds another historic photo taken from a different angle that he took for the New York Daily News

    Decades later an ailing White House photographer Joe O’Donnell sparked a controversy when he claimed that he took the Stearn’s shot. Further investigation by the New York Times determined that O’Donnell had claimed not only Stearn’s picture but pictures from a wide range of famous photographers.

    Final Resting Place

    The funeral procession of a long line of black limousines to Arlington cemetery took over an hour to arrive. At 3:34p.m. JFK’s body was laid to rest. After the burial service, the widow Kennedy lit the eternal flame over his grave that has burnt continuously to this day. She had gotten the idea of a symbolic flame from the memorial to the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. On Dec 4, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy who had died shortly after birth on Aug 9, 1963, and his stillborn sister, Arabella, were reinterred alongside their father. At 64 on May 19, 1994, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis the woman who had gained so much respect for her strength during those four days in November died due to complications from lymphoma. On May 23 she was buried underneath the eternal flame, beside her husband.


    AP Images handles the copyright for this image.

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    Zapruder Film

    Behind the camera: Abraham Zapruder
    Where: Elm Street, Dallas Texas, USA
    Photo Summary: John F Kennedy after he is shot. Jackie Kennedy climbed onto the trunk in an effort to grab a piece of John’s skull. Agent Hill seen jumping onto the back of the car later testified that she said, ‘I have a piece of his brain in my hand.’
    Picture Taken: November 22, 1963

    On November 22, 1963, the nation was in shock as news spread throughout the country, someone had shot the president; someone had shot John F Kennedy. While Americans prayed and hoped that Kennedy could pull through, Abraham Zapruder who had filmed the bullets slamming into JFK’s skull had no such false hopes, “…I saw his head explode like a firecracker. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. There’s no way he could still be alive.”

    Just like any day

    Map of President's parade route

    People woke on Nov 22 with no idea of the anguish that would play out that day. Abraham Zapruder had woken disappointed that the weather was cloudy and overcast. JFK was going to be doing one of his motorcade parades through Dallas and he had wanted to film the parade. He had bought the top of the line Model 414 PD Bell & Howell Zoomatic Director Series Camera, Serial number AS13486; with Varamat 9 to 27mm F1.8 lens the year before. For its day it was quite a piece of technology with an electric eye, spring wind indicator, and varying speeds of 1, 16 and 48. The camera used 8mm film with 25 feet being able to be shot at a time.
    Abraham Zapruder worked at his Jennifer Juniors, Inc. which made women’s clothing. In 1963 the company operated out of 4th and 5th floors of the Dal-Tex Building at 501 Elm close to where the president’s motorcade was to pass that day. He arrived without his camera but an office worker, Lilian Rodgers, convinced him to go back home and get it because the weather had cleared up and it looked to be a beautiful day.

    Taking the picture

    To get a better view of the passing President, Abraham Zapruder headed down to the parade route with another one of his employees, Marilyn Sitzman. He shot some footage to make sure the camera was working properly and noticed that he would have a better vantage point if he got on top of a concrete block located on the now infamous grassy knoll. Once up Zapruder’s vertigo kicked in and he asked Marilyn to come with him in case he started to get dizzy while filming. While waiting for the president to come he and Marilyn are photographed by a number of journalists and amateur cameramen also waiting for the president.
    At the Warren Commission Zapruder recounted what happened next:

    I started shooting–when the motorcade started coming in, I believe I started and wanted to get it coming in from Houston Street… Well, as the car came in line almost–I believe it was almost in line. I was standing up [on the concrete block] and I was shooting through a telephoto lens, which is a zoom lens and … I heard the first shot and I saw the President lean over and grab himself like this [Zapruder holds his left chest area]… For a moment I thought it was, you know, like you say, “Oh, he got me,” … I [didn’t] believe the President is going to make jokes like this, but before I had a chance to organize my mind, I heard a second shot and then I saw his head opened up and the blood and everything came out and I started–I can hardly talk about it [Zapruder breaks down crying] … I thought I heard two [shots], it could be three because to my estimation I thought he was hit on the second–I really don’t know. … I never even heard a third shot … after the second shot … I started yelling, “They killed him, they killed him,” and I just felt that somebody had ganged up on him and I was still shooting the pictures until he got under the underpass–I don’t even know how I did it.
    And then, I didn’t even remember how I got down from that abutment there, but there I was, I guess, and I was walking toward–back toward my office and screaming, “They killed him, they killed him,” and the people that I met on the way didn’t even know what happened and they kept yelling, “What happened, what happened, what happened?” It seemed that they had heard a shot but they didn’t know exactly what had happened as the car sped away, and I kept on just yelling, “They killed him, they killed him, they killed him…

    Desperate to Develop

    Harry McCormick, Dallas Morning News reporter, arrived soon after the shooting and after talking to those milling around quickly determined that because of his location Zapruder would have filmed the whole thing from a great vantage point. McCormick tracked him down and tried to talk to him but Zapruder said that he would only talk to federal investigators. McCormick knowing the scoop he would have if he could get the footage, set off to find an agent so that he would be able to pitch buying the film from Zapruder again.
    McCormack was able to make contact with Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas Secret Service field office, Forrest Sorrels. An emotional Zapruder quickly agreed to supply agent Sorrels with a copy of his footage to help the investigation but got a promise from Sorrels that it only be used for investigation purposes and not shown to any media. McCormick again offered to pay for the footage but Zapruder turned him down already thinking that he could get a higher price.
    Then McCormick, Sorrels, Zapruder, and Erwin Schwartz, Zapruder’s business partner went to the ABC affiliate, WFAA-TV station in hopes they could develop and copy the film. WFAA-TV couldn’t process the film and missed probably the scoop of the century but was able to get Zapruder to do a live on-air interview about what he saw at 2:10 pm less than 2 hours after the shooting.

    Developing at the Kodak Lab

    Bert Schipp, the chief photographer at WFAA-TV, called a Kodak lab and made sure they could process Zapruder’s film. By this time a Dallas police car had been arranged and it escorted the trio of Zapruder, Schwartz, and Sorrels to the Kodak lab. Phil Chamberlain a lab technician met them on their arrival and they quickly processed the film, with Zapruder looking on. The original was labelled with the number 0183 by lab tech Kathryn Kirby. Zapruder and staff viewed it once and seeing the importance of the footage decided not to view it again until copies where made.

    The copies

    Went forward with considerable violence
    -Dan Rather commenting on Kennedy’s head but failing to mention the famous backward motion

    Since the Kodak lab didn’t have means to copy the film Zapruder was directed to go to Jamieson Films in Dallas. There he made three unprocessed copies and returned to the Kodak Lab to get them developed. The copies were given lab ID numbers 0185, 0186 and 0187. The footage was only 26 seconds long, with 486 individual frames, filmed at 18.3 frames per second. The original was split into 8mm and viewed by Zapruder, and a number of lab technicians present. They watched in silence with a collective gasp when the bullet struck Kennedy’s head.
    Agent Sorrels had left earlier when he heard that Oswald had been arrested but Zapruder was able to track him down around 10:00 pm and handed over two copies of the film. Secret Service Agent Max Phillips in Dallas shipped one of the copies to Secret Service Chief Rowley in Washington, D.C. with the note, “Mr. Zapruder is in custody of the ‘master’ film.” The other is handed over to the FBI who also ships it to Washington to be copied.

    Enter LIFE

    Earlier in the day, Richard Stolley from LIFE magazine had arrived from LA. He was on a plane as soon as he heard of the attempt on the president’s life. Setting up at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas he learns from LIFE stringer reporter, Patsy Swank, that footage of the assassination exists and was in Zapruder’s possession. Stolley immediately started calling the Zapruder house in 15min intervals.
    After handing over the two copies to the secret service at around 10:00 pm Zapruder drives around aimlessly trying to absorb the day’s events and arrived home at 11:00 pm. It was at this time Richard Stolley called and tried to set up a viewing of the film. Zapruder, tired, was able to put off the viewing until the next day and set up a 9:00 am meeting at his Jennifer Juniors office.

    Richard Stolley arrived an hour early and was joined by a number of Secret Service agents who wanted to see the film as theirs were shipped off to Washington to be copied. With Zapruder manning the projector the small crowd watched the film, replaying it as more reporters arrive. Stolley seeing that he had to work fast before others got the film was able to convince Zapruder to sell the print rights for $50,000. Stolley left with the original and quickly sends it to Chicago where the LIFE editorial staff was gathered to prepare the new November 26th edition. The original edition was stopped in the presses when news of the assassination reached Chicago. Managing editor George Hunt ordered the move costing LIFE almost a million dollars. Publisher Henry Luce who was initially outraged at the cost said later it was the best million he had ever spent.
    While making copies of the film and preparing black and white shots for the new LIFE magazine photo technicians damaged some of the frames the original footage, slicing it in two places.

    Life seeks to Suppress

    Obtain all rights to the film and withhold it from public viewing
    -LIFE executive C.D Jackson

    A copy was sent to NY where LIFE executive C.D Jackson was so disturbed by the footage he ordered Stolley to return to Zapruder and get full rights to the film. In 1973 Stolley would recount: C.D. Jackson “was so upset by the head-wound sequence that he proposed the company obtain all rights to the film and withhold it from public viewing at least until emotions had calmed.” He later changed his story in 1992, “All decisions regarding the use or non-use of the Zapruder film were made by LIFE’s editors, not by anyone on the publishing side”
    This stoked the conspiracy researchers, as C.D. Jackson was a former member of the US military intelligence. Many claim the Zapruder film to be altered in some way to cover up evidence of other shooters and the President’s limo stopping. They point to strange anomalies in the footage and that LIFE tried for such a long time to stop anyone from viewing the footage. However, Zapruder’s film wasn’t the only shoot of the assassination, with at least seven others present at the time filming. The two other publicly released films confirm the events of Nov 22 and that the anomalies can easily be explained by film limitation of the camera’s available in the 60’s. Even though LIFE executives tried to stop the public from seeing the film they themselves ordered copies for private showings.

    Stolley returned to Zapruder and was able to purchase all rights for the footage for $150,000 to be made in six annual payments of $25,000. The first $25,000 payment Zapruder donated to the family of murdered Dallas Policeman J.D. Tippit. Oswald had shot Tippit just prior to being arrested. Zapruder gave the impression to the media that the $25,000 was the price LIFE magazine bought his footage for and not just the first installment.

    Young Dan Rather

    A young Dan Rather was able to see the Zapruder footage and later narrated the film to CBS national television coverage, claiming that he saw the President’s head “went forward with considerable violence.” He failed to mention the backward motion made famous in the Oliver Stone movie, JFK. His omission seemed to confirm that the single shooter theory with just Oswald firing from the rear. When the Zapruder film became public, he was forced to apologize saying it was “an honest error.”

    The Groden copies

    In government circles, copies of the film circulated often copies of copies sometimes many generations old. When the Warren Commission studied the film the next year they had difficulties with the quality and clarity of the prints. In Feb 1964, LIFE lab assistant Herbert Orth brought the original film to a meeting of government officials and volunteered to make slides of all the frames. The original was sent out to a New Jersey photo lab where photo lab technician Robert Groden made a bootleg copy. He also was able to remove the amateur shakiness of the original by re-framing it. This improved version was far superior to the copies the government held but he placed it in a bank vault out of fear he would be arrested for making a bootleg copy.

    After the Warren Commission finished its report, footage and slides were entered into the National archives. Requests to get LIFE to release footage by private researchers and other media outlets are denied. It wasn’t until 1969 that Jim Garrison subpoenaed LIFE for his trial of Clay Shaw (later made famous in the movie, JFK) that the public saw the movie. Lax security at the trial allowed the film to be copied and bootleg’s started to circulate around the country. At the same trial Zapruder is called to testify, the next year on Aug 30, 1970, Abraham Zapruder died of carcinoma in Dallas.

    In 1975 Groden started to show his enhanced version of the Zapruder film. In March 1975 Geraldo Rivera on his show Goodnight America convinced ABC executives to show Groden’s film. This was the first time most in America have seen the backward motion of Kennedy’s head and it caused a sensation. Feeding off the public outcry congressman Thomas Downing and others introduce a resolution in Congress that would later lead to the creation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, HSCA. The committee went on to investigate the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr concluding that both murders were the result of a conspiracy.

    Life sells the Film

    A New Look at the Zapruder Film
    -The tag line for the new DVD released by the Zapruder family

    The increased publicity of the film and public outcry at LIFE for refusing to allow anyone to view the originals forced TIME-LIFE to sell the film and rights to the footage to the family for the symbolic amount of $1. The original and other material that TIME-LIFE owns is handed over to the National Archives with limited access. The family allowed anyone to study the film but if it was used for commercial purposes they are charged a fee. Disputes between the Zapruder family and those wanting to use the footage increase with several lawsuits being filled. The pressure was increased when lawsuits arguing that because of the importance of the footage, a national treasure, that no one should own the rights.

    The film hits the markets

    In 1991, the Zapruder family tried to sell video copies of the footage. This was quickly halted by legal action. In 1997, the film footage and related slides, copies, transparencies are made “assassination documents” under the JFK Act. Disagreement over how much the Zapruder family is to be paid for the material dragged on until 2000. The government valued the material, as worth 1.4 million dollars but the family wanted $30,000,000. Finally, in 1999 an arbitration board ruled the value to be $16 million dollars. This does not include the copyright of the film, which is retained by the family, which they use to distribute a DVD called Image of an assassination. The DVD costs $20 a copy and is 45min film long. Image of an assassination claims to be, “A New Look at the Zapruder Film” and offers more information and a highly improved version of the footage.

    Donation to the Sixth Floor Museum

    In 2000 the Zapruder family donated their collection of Zapruder film material to the Sixth Floor Museum in what used to be the Texas School Book Depository building. In addition to the following material the family also handed over the film rights to the Museum.
    Among the items handed over by the Zapruder family were:

  • The only privately held first day, first-generation print of the Zapruder film.
  • Numerous film copies—in a variety of formats including 8mm, 16 mm, and 35 mm. Some in full color and some in black and white. These copy prints and negatives of the Zapruder film were apparently utilized by Time-Life for publication layout and internally for reference.
  • Two complete sets of 4×5 color transparencies–these are LIFE 1st generation copies of each frame of the original film as they existed in 1963/1964 before any fading and damage appeared.
  • 8×10 glossy color prints of Zapruder film frames—these are LIFE prints of each frame. Again, they show each frame as they existed in 1963/1964 before any fading and damage appeared.
  • The original is still owned by the American government and presently in the Kennedy Collection at the National Archives at College Park. The National Archives allows copies to be made for personal use but to publish in any other way requires permission from the copyright holders, the Sixth Floor Museum.

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    Patty Hearst

    Behind the camera: Hibernia Bank security cameras
    Where: Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco
    Photo Summary: Patricia Campbell Hearst, known at the time as Tania, wielding a modified M1 Carbine with MP-40 stock and shortened barrel during a bank robbery.
    Picture Taken: Robbery took place at 9:40 A.M. April 15, 1974 they were in the bank for 4min.
    This image is in the public domain because it was taken by a federal employee

    The Symbionese Liberation Army (S.L.A.) shot to media fame when on February 4, 1974, when they kidnapped 19-year-old, Patricia Campbell Hearst, the heiress and granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. The media coverage again peaked when pictures of her robbing a bank were released. She had gone from being the victim to what appeared to be a willing and active participant in her captor’s terrorist group.

    Symbionese Liberation Army

    Patty Hearst Propaganda Poster

    The Symbionese Liberation Army was an American terrorist group born out of a number of radical prison advocacy groups. The organization was created after the escape of Donald DeFreeze one of the founding members and leader of the SLA. While hiding out, DeFreeze and other SLA members developed the group’s imagery of the seven-headed cobra which they borrowed from naga, ancient Sri Lankan stone carvings depicting a seven-headed Cobra. Naga were placed around water sources as protectors or guardians of clean water.

    DeFreeze explained the term “Symbionese” in the SLA manifesto, Symbionese Liberation Army Declaration of Revolutionary War & the Symbionese Program: “The name ‘symbionese’ is taken from the word symbiosis and we define its meaning as a body of dissimilar bodies and organisms living in deep and loving harmony and partnership in the best interest of all within the body.”
    The SLA participated in a number of acts of terrorism before assassinating superintendent of schools Dr. Marcus Foster. As a result of the murder, two members of the SLA, Joseph Remiro, and Russell Little were arrested. In an effort to free their two comrades the SLA hatched a plan to kidnap an important figure so that they make a prisoner switch. They chose publishing heiress Patricia Hearst who they hoped would increase the news coverage of their group and its goals.

    The Capture of Patty Hearst

    19-year-old Patty Hearst was seized on February 4, 1974, from her Berkeley, California residence that she shared with her fiancé and former teacher, Steven Weed. She was taken to a house in Daly City, California where she was kept in a closet, which was 24 in. wide and 66 in. long, for 4½ weeks. While held in the closet Hearst claims to have been sexually and physically assaulted and had her life threatened unless she cooperated. She was moved again to a third-floor studio apartment in a black neighborhood in northern San Francisco, #6-1827 Golden Gate Ave, where she was kept for another 4 weeks in a closet, 19 in. wide and 60 in. long. For 57 days she was held, “Blindfolded, gagged, tied up,” in small closets during which she was heavily indoctrinated with SLA political literature. This period of confinement and abuse at the hands of the SLA would be used as evidence of her brainwashing. Later doctors would claim that she suffered from Stockholm syndrome, where hostages in a survival response sympathize with the aims of their captors.

    Ransom Attempt

    Hearst in hibernia bank yelling

    Hearst Yelling, 'I'm Tania. Up against the wall, motherfuckers.'

    After her capture talks for a prisoner swap broke down and instead the SLA demanded that the Hearst family distribute millions of dollars of free food to needy families and to publish their political writings. The demands were met by the Hearst family but Patty was not released, when the SLA said more food had to be given away Randolph Hearst, Patty’s father, demanded that in exchange for the food his daughter was to be released. After Randolph Hearst’s condition was given, the talks stopped.

    Patty Hearst becomes Tania

    The weeks past with the only news that Patty was alive being tapes or “communiqués” as the SLA called them. On the recorded messages Patty seemed to be drifting towards the SLA agenda and eventually, she announced that she had joined the cause and released a picture of her holding a gun in front of the SLA cobra (shown right). One of these taped announcements also told how she had changed her name to “Tania”, after the famous German communist revolutionary associated with Che Guevara. It was assumed that she was being forced to say these things until the FBI released security footage of “Tania” robbing a bank.

    Hibernia Bank Robbery

    Bank Heist of the Hearst-hibernia

    Hearst leaving the bank with DeFreeze to the left

    At 9:40 A.M. on April 15, 1974, four white women and a black man burst into the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco yelling, “It’s a hold-up! Down on the floor! On your faces, you motherfuckers!”. The group was led by Donald DeFreeze and accompanying him were SLA members Patricia Soltysik, Camilla Hall, Nancy Ling Perry and Patty Hearst. In four minutes they managed to rob the bank of $10,000, wound two bystanders and make a clean getaway in a waiting car. Patty recounted her memory of the robbery on Larry King:

    “I said my name and — because I was supposed to say my name and make a speech, but it’s all pretty unclear, And then, Donald DeFreeze shot someone, and then everything went blank. … My next memory is sitting in the car leaving (the bank).

    “[After the robbery] I sensed that I had, in fact, crossed over some sharp line of demarcation. … For me, suddenly it became plain: There was no turning back.”

    When the attorney general saw the footage he determined that Hearst had not been forced but was a willing participant in the robbery. He issued a warrant for her arrest as a “material witness”
    This later changed when another SLA “communiqués” was released where Patty claimed that at no time was a gun pointed at her, that her family were the enemy (the “pig Hearsts”), her fiancé, Steven Weed, was “an ageist, sexist pig.” and that the robbery was an “expropriation”: “Greetings to the people, this is Tania … the difference between a criminal act and a revolutionary act is what the money is used for.” It was on this tape that she declared the idea of her being brainwashed was ridiculous. After the released tape her status was changed to reflect that she admitted full participation in the crime.


    from like the day I was taken … I started changing my views about things
    -Patty Hearst

    After the Bank robbery, DeFreeze decided to move the group to LA so as to recruit more members. Emily and William Harris were shopping with Hearst when a security guard moved to arrest the two for shoplifting. Hearst, who was waiting outside, started firing at the outside of the store. FBI agent Charles Bates remembers that “(Hearst) pointed an M-1 carbine and fired the whole clip, … And then she took another rifle and shot some more. As I recall, there’s about 30 shots, and there were people walking along the sidewalk. … Thank God she missed them.”
    The three were able to escape and ditched the van and commandeered a series of vehicles the last of which had a driver, teenager Dan Russell. Dan recalls his ordeal and that while he was alone asked Hearst, “When did you decide to go with, join their army deal?” he remembers she shrugged and replied, “I just started listening and learning from like the day I was taken away, and I started changing my views about things. It was a real process, the way I see it.” In their hurry to get away the trio forgot to clean out the van before they ditched it. When police found the van a parking ticket led to the SLA safe house.

    When the other members of the SLA saw the news coverage of the incident they fled the safe house but with nowhere to go took over a house that just happened to have its lights on. Police were called and hundreds of police and swat officers descended on the house. By morning the house was surrounded and police broadcast for the people inside to come out. Some of the residents were allowed by the SLA to come out, but the SLA stayed inside. Tear gas was lobbed which sparked a two-hour shootout were over 5,371 rounds were fired at the house.
    Either the tear gas or one of the thousands of bullets ignited the house and SLA members Angela Atwood, Donald DeFreeze, Camilla Hall, Nancy Ling Perry, Patricia Soltysik, and William Wolfe were killed. William Harris, Emily Harris, and Patty Hearst watched the shootout live on TV from a motel room. As part of her brainwashing, she was told that the police were hunting for her and wanted her dead. At her trial, she would point at the shootout as proof that she couldn’t turn herself in as she thought the police would kill her.

    On the run and Trial

    Patty Hearst Mug Shot

    Patty Hearst Mug Shot

    The three remaining members William Harris, Emily Harris, and Patty Hearst moved back to the San Fransisco area where they recruited more members and robbed two more banks and tried to bomb some LAPD cars. To avoid arrest Hearst and the others move around the country but in September 1975 the law finally catches up to her and she is caught and booked on bank robbery charges. While being processed she is shown smiling with the clinched handcuffed fist of a revolutionary and was quoted as saying “urban guerrilla.” when asked for her occupation.
    This defiant attitude would soon change to that of the brainwashed victim during her trial. The prosecutor was able to show that Hearst had plenty of chances to get away and got the Harris couple to testify that, “she had freedom from the day she ceased to be a prisoner of war. She rode buses, went shopping, went to movies.” The prosecutor even recounted how Patty while climbing a cliff “rangers” who assumed she was in trouble came to her aid. Bill Harris said, “She could have said anything, like, ‘I’m Patty Hearst, get me out of here.’ But she didn’t.” The jury was convinced and on March 1976 Patty Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison. During the trial, she took the Fifth Amendment 42 times.
    Her sentence was later commuted on February 1979 by President Jimmy Carter by granting her executive clemency and in January 2001 President Clinton pardoned her. After she was released she married her former bodyguard Bernard Shaw who she has had two daughters with. She went on to find some success in acting and producing.

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    Oklahoma City Bombing

    Behind the camera: Lester LaRue and Charles Porter took almost the same picture
    Where: Outside the wreckage of the bombed out Alfred P. Murrah Federal government Building, Oklahoma, USA
    Photo Summary: Oklahoma City fire Capt. Chris Fields holding Baylee Almon
    Picture Taken: April 19, 1995

    At 9:02, on April 19, 1995, Gulf War vet, Timothy McVeigh detonated 4,800 lbs of fertilizer and fuel oil. The resulting blast destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal government Building and killed 168 people. The bombing, the largest act of domestic terrorism, in America, shattered pre-911 America’s innocence.
    As the fires raged rescue services and bystanders rushed to pull victims out of the twisted wreckage. Sifting through the rubble police officer, Sgt. John Avera found a small half-buried body. Shouting. “I have a critical infant! I have a critical infant!” he thrust the 1-year-old Baylee Almon into the arms of nearby firefighter Oklahoma City fire Capt. Chris Fields. As Chris checked Baylee for signs of life two amateur photographers both raised their cameras. Lester LaRue and Charles Porter standing just three feet apart, yet unaware of each other, snapped the image that came to symbolize the victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing.

    The photographers


    Charles Porter a 25-year-old credit specialist knew he had something less than 3 hours later when the clerk at the Wal-Mart photo counter stopped at one picture and began to cry. A friend told him to take the pictures to the media, and looking in the phone book he found the Associated Press office in Oklahoma City. Wendel Hudson, who was the AP photo editor in Oklahoma City right away saw the potential of the shot and sent it out on the AP wire. Porter returned home thinking that his photo might end up in the local paper until he received a long-distance call:

    I go home about 1300. About 1320 I get this phone call from this lady and she says: “Hi, I am so-and-so from the London Times and I want to know if you are Charles Porter.”
    I said: “Yes I am, but how do you know who I am?”
    She said: “Well I just received your image over the AP wire…”
    And she proceeded to explain to me what the Associated Press wire was.
    I said that I didn’t know how to respond and she said, “Well sir, can I ask you one question?” And this is where it hit home: “Could I get your reaction and response to what your feelings are going to be, knowing that your image is going to be over every newspaper and every magazine in the entire world tomorrow?”
    I was silent and speechless, and chills go over me just to think about the magnitude and the enormity of where that picture went and the impact that picture had at that time.
    It was beyond my scope of comprehension and understanding, way beyond.

    Lester LaRue

    The second shooter, Lester LaRue, a safety coordinator employed by Oklahoma Natural Gas Company rushed to the scene of the explosion thinking that the blast was a gas leak. When he could drive no further he grabbed the company camera he kept in the car and started taking pictures. Later, he realized he too had something special when while developing his film the Moto-Photo clerk asked to make copies to show some people. The next day, the clerk called and said Newsweek wanted to see his negatives. The Magazine paid Lester $14,000 for the picture and it appeared on their May 1, 1995, cover. When the magazine hit the stands he became an instant celebrity and people started calling to make deals. Lester was both proud and ashamed of his claim to fame. He would sign magazines on the bottom right corner while blocking the image with his left. He was uncomfortable with the offers of money for photo rights. He worried the picture might be upsetting the baby’s mother. But a couple of weeks after the bombing, he saw Aren Almon, the baby’s mother, on the evening news saying she was proud her daughter had come to symbolize the innocence of the victims. That was enough for Lester, permission granted. Deals were made, money handed over: statues, posters, coins. His wife suggested T-shirts, with some of the profit going toward a downtown statue of the image. The shirts were only in stores a few days when he saw Aren Almon holding one of his shirts on TV livid that Lester was making money, off the image of her dead child.

    Things turn bad

    Company executives at Lester’s work started to get worried. They thought the controversy was bad for public relations. Since Lester took the picture with a company camera and on company time they told him to give up the picture and any money earned, he refused. After months of neither Lester nor management budging, at 10 a.m. on September 6 his manager dropped an ultimatum on his desk. Sign over the money earned and any picture rights to the company or pack up your stuff and leave. Lester left. As he drove home in a co-worker’s car he couldn’t believe it. He had been a faithful company man for 32 years, didn’t that mean anything?

    The Mother

    Aren isn’t the only one who lost a child in bombing

    –Angry mother

    Aren Almon, Baylee’s mother had avoided seeing her dead child the day of the explosion by getting her father to identify the body. The next day the shattered Aren couldn’t avoid the sight as she instantly recognized Baylee’s lifeless body on the front page of the Daily Oklahoman. Hours later the media tracked her down at her grandmother’s house. McVeigh’s bomb not only ended her child’s life but her own apartment only a block from the explosion was windowless and filled with debris and shattered glass.
    She felt alone, crushed by the loss of her child. Looking at the paper again she sought comfort in the same arms that held Baylee, Chris Fields. Reporters arranged a meeting; she only got in a few words before breaking down, perfect footage for the evening news. She came to rely on Chris calling him 2, 3 times a week. She called him so much that tabloids started to imply that their relationship had developed into something else. Chris and Aren’s fears were confirmed when photographers started to ask them to kiss on camera and request shots of Chris’s wife standing alone.
    Aren gladly granted some interviews and even gave her OK for some uses of the photograph. But now the picture of Baylee in Chris’s arms was coming to symbolize the tragedy, and both she and other victims’ families were starting to resent it. Other mother’s started to speak, out of grief and jealousy, that Aren was getting all the attention. On TV one woman said, “Aren isn’t the only one who lost a child in the bombing. Why should Aren get all the publicity – and most of the donations?” At a gathering of victims’ relatives, the mother of another dead child turned to Aren and said, “We don’t have to write as many thank-you notes as you do.” In the darkest moments as the world seemed to turn on Aren she knew she could always depend on Chris.

    The Firefighter

    Police officer, Sgt. John Avera thrusting the Baylee Almon into the arms of Chris Fields

    Chris Fields knew he had to be careful with his newfound fame as he knew of firemen who took it too far. One in Texas had his 15min when he saved a baby trapped in a Texas well but when the publicity faded he couldn’t take it and committed suicide. Even days after the picture was flashed around the world some of the men at his station started to grumble, “I did more rescues than he did,”. He could understand their attitude because of one picture it was Chris, not them, who got to have breakfast with Tom Brokaw and Barbara Walters and get free trips to New York and Los Angeles for TV interviews.
    Chris by all accounts didn’t let the attention go to his head; he didn’t even consider himself a hero. How could he when everyone he tried to save that day was dead or died later of their injuries. The one thing he could do was being there for the Aren. He thought Aren would find it was important that as he was the last one to hold Baylee. He felt it was his duty to comfort and protect her.
    When resentful bombing victims vilified her on the TV news, he defended her. When she needed help to stop the exploitation of Baylee’s photo, he gave her names of lawyers. As time went on he felt more of a friend to Aren rather than Aren being just another one of his duties as a fireman.
    On March 29, 2017, it was reported that Chris Fields retired after 31 years, 7 months and 16 days at the Oklahoma City Fire Department. The veteran firefighter said that after the bombing, Fields came to realize “PTSD is a real thing,” The smell of wet concrete triggers painful memories for him because it rained on the day of the blast. It took years of counselling for PTSD for Fields to recover and he wants his example to get other first responders and their bosses to pay attention to mental health. “Twenty or 30 years ago, you just didn’t show emotion, you went on about your day… we’ve come so far since then,” he said.

    Moving On

    The mother of the baby in the firefighter’s arms
    -The address of some of the letters to Aren

    A memorial now sits on the grounds where the Murrah building stood. 168 empty chairs recall those who died. Amongst the 168 chairs, smaller chairs commemorate the 19 children killed, 15 in the same day-care center. The chairs are lined in nine rows, symbolizing the 9 floors of the building.

    Ten years after the bombing Chris Fields has gone from Capt. to Major and is the acting battalion chief with the fire department. The memories don’t bother him but he dreads having to go through it again.
    Aren is now married with two kids, Bella and Broox, both of who know about their famous half-sister. After Baylee’s limb body appeared on TVs across the world, letters started to flow in from everywhere. Many only had “the mother of the baby in the firefighter’s arms” as the address. There was poetry, letters, cards but most had one thing in common, money. Aren used the donations to get her life in order to buy a house and a car but some of the very first donations she used to set up a group called Protecting People First Foundation (PPFF). Since the beginning PPFF’s mission has stayed the same, to raise awareness about the deadly effects of flying glass caused by a terrorist attack or natural disaster. After the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon, workers thanked her because the protective glass helped save lives.

    On April 18, 2005, the family celebrated what would have been Baylee’s 11th birthday. The cake and party favors are for her kids. They still have the party every year and the kids know the next day they’ll go to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and lay a wreath on the little chair that bears her name.
    Oklahoma Natural Gas didn’t stop with firing Lester and on October 5, 1995, sued to claim copyright ownership of the photos. Oklahoma Natural Gas won. The court’s denied Lester’s appeals and Lester was forced to give up copyright ownership and pay statutory damages in the sum of $34,623.50.
    Charles Porter’s picture went onto win the 1996 Pulitzer Prize. After the bombing Charles quit his job, moving to a collection agency but not happy there, he left that too. He worked odd jobs, and sometimes he got work as a wedding photographer. Brides had no idea their discount photographer was a Pulitzer Prize winner. Eventually, he went back to school and found his destiny – a degree in physical therapy. The Pulitzer he received for his picture is somewhere in his attic in a box. “My life,” Porter says, “is not defined by that one picture.”

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