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The Warren Commission: Report & Findings

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

In November of 1963, the United States was devastated by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This lesson explores the background, report, and findings of the Warren Commission, whose job it was to investigate the murders of both Kennedy and his assassin.

The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

Nearly every generation experiences a major event that defines an era. For millennials, that event was the terrorist attack on 9/11. Ask anyone born before 1993 where they were on 9/11. Odds are, they can tell you exactly what they were doing and how the event affected them personally.

For most Americans living during the early 1960s, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was the defining event. JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the crime and brought into police custody just hours after Kennedy was shot. To the nation's amazement, Oswald was himself assassinated two days later by a man named Jack Ruby.

Oswald after his arrest in Dallas
Oswald after his arrest in Dallas

The Warren Commission

As you can imagine, the country was shocked. Kennedy was the young and exciting president that shook up American politics. He represented the voice of change. To lose someone so young and so promising shook the United States to its very core. Within a week of Kennedy's death, the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, created the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Also known as the Warren Commission (named after its chairman Chief Justice Earl Warren), Johnson tasked the seven-man committee with investigating the deaths of both Kennedy and Oswald.

The Warren Commission conducted its investigations for nearly ten months. During that time, the investigators heard countless testimonials from people who witnessed the assassination or who had a connection to Lee Harvey Oswald. They also traveled to Dallas on several occasions to gather information. By September of 1964, the Warren Commission was ready to issue its report.

Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

The 888-page Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy was published for the public almost immediately after it was released. In the massive document, the Warren Commission presented two key findings:

  • Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository
  • There was no conspiracy or connection between Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby (the man who assassinated him)
  • Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he killed the president
  • The Secret Service did not do enough to make sure that the president was secure

Cover of the Warren Commission Report
Cover of the Warren Commission Report

The Warren Commission's report also detailed Lee Harvey Oswald's background and personal history. According to the commission, Oswald had visited the Soviet Union and was just recently employed by the Texas School Book Depository. Because Oswald was dead, it was difficult to determine why he shot the president. As a result, the report did not investigate Oswald's motives.

In addition to presenting information about the assassination, the report also made two recommendations:

  • Make the Secret Service stronger
  • Make the assassination of a president or vice president a federal offense

Outcome of the Warren Commission

After the Warren Commission released its report, many people challenged the findings. Did Lee Harvey Oswald really work alone to assassinate the president? How was it that Oswald was assassinated just two days after the president? Did his political connections or trip to the Soviet Union play a role in the assassination? In the years following, conflicting evidence from the Warren Commission's report added to new conspiracy theories and questions about the accuracy of the information shared with the public.

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