I Have a Dream

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Behind the camera: AP Images
Where: Steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Photo Summary: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Picture Taken: August 28, 1963

I have a dream!
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I Have a Dream” is the name given to the August 28, 1963, historic public speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he spoke of his desire for a future where blacks and whites would coexist harmoniously as equals (I Have a Dream). The speech is seen as his crowning moment and one of the most Iconic moments of that time. The speech is often ranked as one of the greatest 20th-century speeches in America. Footage and pictures of the speech are still famous and the clip is used in movies and on TV to represent the civil rights movement in the ’60s.

Taking the photo

G.Marshall Wilson started the day with 6:00 AM walking through the crowds with four 35mm cameras. The cameras, film and other equipment weighed 38 lbs but that didn’t slow down Wilson. Around noon he had wandered over to the speaker’s platform in front of the Lincoln Memorial and climbed to the top of the elevated cameramen’s stand. Seeing the crowd spread out he had an idea for a photo. Walking back down he talked with King and his entourage and King always on the lookout for iconic photos jumped at the chance for a front page photo. Climbing to the top of the cameramen’s stand Wilson took a number of shots of King waving to the crowd. Space was limited so Wilson used a 24mm wide-angle lens on his 35mm camera.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

The federal government had for years tried half-heartedly to pass some kind of civil rights bill that would grant equality to all Americans. It wasn’t until President John F. Kennedy tried to pass his bill on June 11, 1963, that a real attempt to give Blacks civil rights was undertaken. The bill was quickly blocked by southern representatives in Congress.
It was under this atmosphere that leaders from the civil rights movement planned a march to Washington to build political momentum behind the measure. Proposed by A. Philip Randolph and organized by him, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. the march saw a joining of multiple parties who often were in disagreement. At first, the Kennedy Whitehouse was against the march as it might turn violent and hurt the passage of the bill. The organizers agreed to tone down the rhetoric and keep the more militant organizations in check but refused to cancel the march. Once he saw that he couldn’t stop it Kennedy supported the march but because of the concessions organizers gave Kennedy many prominent Black leaders were against it. Malcolm X called it the “Farce on Washington” and the Nation of Islam punished any members who attended.

Stay home. This will not be safe
Southern congressmen

Before the march there was an atmosphere and fear of potential violence, on one side Southern congressmen told their white female employees, “Stay home. This will not be safe.” and on the other, there was a fear that not enough people would show to show how much the public supported the goals of the march. These fears proved unfounded as almost a quarter of million people came to hear the speeches given that day, the largest demonstration in America at that point in time. Amongst the speakers were Martin Luther King Jr and many others who each got 15min to speak or perform. The speakers included SNCC leader John Lewis, civil rights figures such as Gordon Parks and Roy Wilkins, labor leaders such as Walter Reuther, clergy including Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle (the Archbishop of Washington, who made the invocation), Rabbi Uri Miller (President of the Synagogue Council of America) who gave the prayer, remarks by Rabbi Joachim Prinz (President of the American Jewish Congress), Archbishop Iakovos primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, author James Baldwin, film stars such as Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Marlon Brando, nightclub stars Josephine Baker and Eartha Kitt, and singers such as Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan (who performed after King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, as seen in the film No Direction Home)

Prepared Speech

Legend holds that King departed from his prepared text and began preaching on the fly, but he had delivered a similar speech incorporating some of the same sections in Detroit in June 1963, when he marched on Woodward Avenue with Walter Reuther and the Rev. C.L. Franklin. He had rehearsed other parts before the march.


  • Text and Audio of Speech Accessed Dec, 2006
  • AP IMAGES handles the copyright for the several images that day: AP “I Have a Dream” picture from behind and the AP “I Have a Dream” picture from the front

    Copyright of the Speech

    Because King distributed copies of the speech at its performance, there was controversy regarding the speech’s copyright status for some time. This led to a lawsuit, Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc., which established that the King estate does hold copyright over the speech and had the standing to sue; the parties then settled. Unlicensed use of the speech or a part of it can still be lawful in some circumstances under the doctrine of fair use.

    While the recording King gave that day is considered a national treasure it is still copyrighted, like a song would be. This is why you can’t find a full copy on YouTube or even a government site. This is due to the British music publishing EMI Publishing house (In 2011 Sony Corp bought out EMI) and the King estate own the rights to the recording. If movies, documentaries want to use the speech they have pay. If you want a copy for yourself you have to buy the Martin Luther King Jr. – I Have a Dream DVD.

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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

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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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    Burning Monk

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    Behind the camera: Malcome Browne
    Where: Phan-Dinh-Phung St.
    Photo Summary: Thich Quang Duc igniting himself on fire to protest South Vietnamese religious policy
    Picture Taken: June 11th, 1963

    On June 11th, 1963 a Buddhist protest march was making its way down one of Saigon’s busiest arteries, Phan-Dinh-Phung St. The procession of around 400 Buddhist monks and Nuns moved through the city until they hit Le-Van-Duyet St where a light blue Austin that was part of the procession, the car is seen in the background of the picture, stopped. The hood was raised as if the car had engine trouble while the nuns and monks in the parade quickly surrounded the car forming a circle of some seven monks deep. Thich Quang Duc a 66-year-old monk calmly got out of the car and walked to the center of the circle sitting on a cushion provided for him. His religious brothers removed a jerry can of fuel from the car and proceeded to pour it over Quang-Duc who was now meditating in the lotus position. Quang-Duc with his Buddhist prayer beads in his right hand, then opened a box of matches, lit one and was instantly engulfed in flames. He did not move while his body was incinerated, while Malcome Browne the only western reporter present snapped the picture of the monk on fire.


    Reenactment from the shockumentary Mondo Cane 2

    Malcome Browne’s image, that would later get him the Pulitzer prize that year, was on news covers around the world including the desk of American President, JFK. When Kennedy saw the image he was heard to remark, “Jesus Christ … This sort of thing has got to stop.” Marking the beginning of the end of American support for the Ngo Dinh Diem regime.
    For many, the story was their first introduction to religion not then common outside of Asia, Buddhism. Time, in its article “Faith that Lights” article attempted to introduce a faith that would inspire it’s followers to light themselves on fire. When describing the Eightfold Path Time told it’s readers that Buddhism was “full of pitfalls,” and that “in many Western ways, Buddhism is socially useless. It has only a limited tradition of good works,”.

    Thich Quang Duc

    Thich Quang Duc

    Thich Quang Duc

    Thich Quang Duc, real name Lam Van Tuc, was born in rural Vietnam in 1897. At the age of seven, he entered the religious life becoming a disciple of the Zen master Hoang Tham. At twenty he officially became a monk spending the next decade and a half in the remote Ninh Hoa Mountains. In 1932 he came out of isolation and started teaching Buddhism and also spending time rebuilding Buddhist pagodas. By 1942 he had rebuilt 20 pagodas and the same year moved to Saigon where he settled into the Quan The Am temple eventually becoming the Head of rituals Committee of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation.
    During Vietnam’s time as a French colony, Catholicism spread throughout with the colonial government favoring Catholics for key positions in the government, army, and police. By 1963, South Vietnam was ruled by a dictatorial leader, Ngo Dinh Diem. Under Diem, most of South Vietnam’s power was held in the hands of Catholics. Diem’s regime oppressed the Buddhist majority, who made up some 80% of the country. Most high-ranking government figures were Catholic, and Buddhists were being discriminated against in Universities and government jobs. Government policy followed a strict Catholic morality such as, “bans on dancing, contraceptives, divorce, and polygamy, [that ran] counter to customs and beliefs of the majority.“ Buddhists were not allowed to teach or practice their own religion, and protesting monks and nuns were being beaten, detained and tortured by Diem’s secret police. Even in the fight against the communists, it was only the Catholics who were given weapons with which to fight the Viet Cong. It was this intense religious persecution that Thich Quang Duc was protesting against, not the ongoing guerrilla war with the Vietcong.

    The ancient city of Hue is arguably the heartland of Buddhism in Vietnam. Hue is also the birthplace of Diem, South Vietnam’s leader. Ruled by Diem’s two brothers — one as a major/warlord, the other ruled as the Catholic archbishop. In May 1963 Diem celebrated the anniversary of his brother’s promotion to the archbishop in a ceremony where the gold and white Catholic flag flew next to Vietnam’s national flag. The two raised flags were a direct violation of South Vietnam Law prohibiting any flag but the national flag to be flown. Only days later, Hue’s Buddhist community attempted to fly its own five-colored flag to celebrate the 2,587th anniversary of Buddha’s birthday. The government said no and when people took to the streets in protest, 9 people were killed by government forces firing into the crowd. Diem tried to blame the deaths on the communists but the damage was done.

    The car seen in the background has been saved and still be viewed

    People spilled onto the streets demanding change. The Buddhist monks disregarded as meditating, out of touch, holy men proved surprisingly knowledgeable on how to use the modern media, calling reporters, using English signs, in an effort to get their plight to the outside world. The monks strived to push a common message making the following request of the Diem regime: “Lift its ban on flying the traditional Buddhist flag; Grant Buddhism the same rights as Catholicism; Stop detaining Buddhists; Give Buddhist monks and nuns the right to practice and spread their religion; and Pay fair compensations to the victim’s families and punish those responsible for their deaths.” Reporters who had been slugging it out in the rice paddies covering the fight against the Vietcong quickly moved back into the cities to cover this urban civil unrest. Foreign journalists soon had their phones ringing off the hook as they received tip after tip telling them about the next demonstration.

    Taking the photo

    2010 site of the Burning Monk

    Present day picture of the Intersection. Located at Phan Dinh Phung Boulevard and Le Van Duyet Street in HCMC

    As early as the spring of 1963, Western reporters knew of Buddhist plans to use staged suicides as a form of protest. These plans were never taken seriously as no one could imagine that the priests of a religion that was regarded as nonviolent would condone suicide. Even after the deaths from the flag incident, the Buddhists followed a policy of non-violent marches and peaceful rallies. When June rolled around it was painfully obvious that the strategy wasn’t working. The protests, “were having no impact on the general populace,” and the foreign news media had “lost interest completely.” So the monks moved to Plan B and escalate the protest. In secret experiments, they discovered that gasoline burned too fast risking horribly burning the protester and prolonging the agony. They solved the problem by creating a diesel and gas mix that would burn hot yet burn long enough to guarantee death. By early June the foreign media started ignoring the phone tips that told them where the next protest was. That is everyone but Malcome Browne:

    …So while other correspondents got tired of the endless Buddhist street demonstrations that were going on all that summer, I stuck with them, because I had the sense that sooner or later something would happen. [The night before the Quang-Duc protest, a message was sent] to half a dozen other American correspondents, but they all ignored it. I did not. That morning a Buddhist monk went out and sat down in a main intersection in downtown Saigon. Two of his fellow monks poured gasoline over him, and he set himself on fire [at 9:22 AM] and died [13 min later]. I was there, the only western correspondent present and taking pictures. I suppose I took six or eight rolls of 35-millimeter film … [By 10:45AM he had the film en route to Tokyo]

    It was clearly theater staged by the Buddhists to achieve a certain political end. At the same time, there was a human element to it that was just horrifying, because the sequence of pictures showed the initial shock of the flames touching his face, and so forth. He never cried out or screamed, but you could see from his expression that he was exposed to intense agony and that he was dying on the spot … I’ve been asked a couple times whether I could have prevented the suicide. I could not. There was a phalanx of perhaps two hundred monks and nuns who were ready to block me if I tried to move. A couple of them chucked themselves under the wheels of a fire truck that arrived. But in the years since, I’ve had this searing feeling of perhaps having in some way contributed to the death of a kind old man who probably would not have done what he did — nor would the monks, in general, have done what they did — if they had not been assured of the presence of a newsman who could convey the images and experience to the outer world. Because that was the whole point — to produce theater of the horrible so striking that the reasons for the demonstrations would become apparent to everyone.

    The Body

    Heart of the burning monk

    The heart refused to burn after Thich Quang Duc was cremated

    Browne would later recount that the monks at the protest had trouble getting Thich Quang Duc horribly burnt corpse into a casket, “because he was splayed out in all directions.” After the protest, Duc’s body was burned again when his fellow monks cremated him. The monks claim that his body was reduced to ashes except for his heart which while singed was still intact. The organ was declared Holy and is still kept as a holy artifact by the monks. Before Duc died he composed a letter to explain his actions and asked people to unite and work towards the preservation of Buddhism in Vietnam and around the world. This became known as the Letter of Heart Blood.

    Government response

    Diem’s regime handled the burning badly. He quickly tried to pass off the whole protest as a Buddhist plot with monks working somehow with the communists. He tarred Browne with the same brush claiming that the enemy had bribed him. Things were made worse when Madame Nhu a famous outspoken relative of Diem was quoted as saying, “I would clap hands at seeing another monk barbeque show…” After this quote, Madame Nhu became known and feared as the “Dragon Lady”.
    The regime was so outraged over the whole incident, and in a later protest, the secret police cornered and beat Browne and some reporter colleagues, including Peter Arnett. Browne, the actual target was able to half climb a pole while Arnett took the brunt of the blows. He was eventually pulled down and his camera smashed but not before he snapped off a few pictures with the same Minolta camera that captured Duc’s burning body. One of the pictures Browne salvaged from the camera was of famous Vietnam correspondent David Halberstam brawling with the police while trying to pull Arnett to safety.
    Thich Quang Duc’s suicide was the first of many other self-immolations around Vietnam. The Buddhist protest exposed the hypocrisy of the American policy in Vietnam. The question of how could the white house claim to be protecting freedom by supporting Diem when the government practiced such severe religious persecution was not answered. After a crackdown on the Buddhist protests began, America cut off aid and the White House became hostile after more and more monks and nuns doused themselves in fuel and lit themselves on fire. When American intelligence learned of a plot to assassinate Diem in a coup attempt, US officials contacted the conspirators and assured them that the U.S. would not interfere. On Nov 2, 1963, Diem and his younger brother were killed.

    Malcolm Browne: The self-immolation of Thích Quảng Đức, 1963

    With Color

    The Photographer – Malcolm Browne

    On April 17, 1931, Malcolm Wilde Browne was born in New York. He left Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania with a degree in chemistry and was quickly drafted and almost served out his enlistment as a tank driver but instead worked for the military newspaper which jump-started his interest in journalism.
    Malcolm Browne spent forty years documenting world events thirty of which he worked for the New York Times. Much of that time was spent in war zones and he has been shot at, thrown out of over a dozen countries and for his work in South Vietnam even put on a death list. While in Vietnam he met his wife Le Lieu and the two have been together ever since. It was Le Lieu who notified the world that at 81, on August 27, 2012, Browne lost his fight against Parkinson’s disease. He was survived by his wife, a son, Timothy; a daughter, Wendy, from a previous marriage; a brother, Timothy; and a sister, Miriam.


    The copyright for this image is held by APIMAGEs: Burning Monk by Malcolm Browne

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