On October 29, 1966, a Saturday afternoon in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, a coroner’s station wagon, accompanied by police vehicles, entered the sprawling grounds of the National Naval Medical Center. Almost three years before, another morbid convoy had embarked upon a similar journey, transporting the lifeless body of John Fitzgerald Kennedy for an autopsy that would be conducted at the NNMC. On this occasion, however, the victim of a violent death was already located within the confines of the NNMC. He was Lieutenant Commander William Bruce Pitzer, age 49, dead from a .45 caliber bullet wound to his brain.
The authorities would quickly determine that the late lieutenant commander had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was deduced from the forensic evidence that Pitzer had blown his brains out with a pistol he fired from his left hand, despite the fact that the late naval officer was right-handed. His death was ruled a suicide in spite of the lack of evidence pointing to a motive-Pitzer’s widow testified that her late husband was pedantic about writing notes about everything he did, yet no suicide note was left. William Pitzer was on the verge of retiring on a full pension, and was in the final stages of negotiating a lucrative media job in the private sector, yet the powers on high decreed that this same man, for some inexplicable reason, had decided to end his life abruptly in his office on that particular Saturday.
Left unsaid by the authorities were the strange correlations that began to emerge between the supposed suicide victim and the most famous-or infamous-autopsy to ever be performed at Bethesda. A trained X-ray technician and supervisor of medical photography, the late Lieutenant Commander William Pitzer was said by one participating witness to have been present at the Kennedy autopsy, despite his name being left off the official roster. Another witness affirmed that Pitzer had access to highly classified images from the assassinated president’s autopsy, and may have considered leaking details to the media that would have contradicted the single assassin/ lone nut theory that was the official government interpretation of what transpired in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, as formulated by the Warren Commission.
The late Lieutenant Commander Pitzer is only one of more than fifty individuals with some connection to the JFK assassination and its aftermath who have died under mysterious circumstances. This strange parade of the dead stands in stark juxtaposition to the still official version of the events of November 22, 1963. No matter the contradictions, implausibilities and accumulated evidence that conflicts with the lone assassin conclusion of the Warren Report, the official position has always been-and will always remain-that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, was the sole assassin of the 35th president of the United States, for reasons that are inexplicable except for his own delusional psychology.
Even more bizarre, the first death connected to the assassination of John F. Kennedy predates the horrific events of November 22, 1963 by nearly twenty-four years. On December 8, 1939 the president of the Chicago local of the American Federation of Labor Scrap Iron and Junk Handlers Union, Leon Cooke, was fatally wounded by gunshots. The police picked up the union local’s secretary, who they suspected of complicity in some manner with the shooting of Cooke. He was a hustler and racketeer by the name of Jack Rubenstein, and he was soon released by the Chicago police for lack of evidence. Several years later, he changed his surname to Ruby and moved to Dallas. The next time he would be arrested in connection with a murder, the act would be witnessed live by sixty million television viewers.
Fifty years after one of the most traumatic events in American history, it is clear that the full truth about the assassination of JFK will never be known. When Jack Ruby murdered accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters in the most brazen public execution ever conducted, a criminal trial with defense attorneys was replaced by a presidential commission charged with selling the lone assassin legend to the American public. In the intervening five decades, many credible conspiracy theories have been advanced, involving either organized crime or renegade elements in the intelligence community, or a mixture of both. Most notable of the alternative legends connected with the Kennedy assassination was Oliver Stone’s controversial 1991 film, “JFK,” based on New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation into the events of November 22, 1963. However, after the passage of fifty years, it is likely that every major actor who may have been a participant in a conspiracy to murder President Kennedy is dead.
Perhaps the most meaningful clue as to what forces may have conspired to kill Kennedy is one almost as old as the assassination itself. Exactly one month after the JFK assassination, an unusual op-ed piece appeared on the front page of the Washington Post. It was headlined, “Harry Truman Writes: Limit CIA Role To Intelligence.” At age 79, the former president was clearly shaken by some event that impelled him to warn the American people that the Central Intelligence Agency had dangerously exceeded its original mandate of providing intelligence data to the President, and had meandered into the dark realm of covert operations. Reminding his readers that as president he had established the CIA to fulfill a specific and limited purpose, Truman wrote, “I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations… there is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.”
Though President Truman did not reference the Kennedy assassination in his op-ed piece, the context is clear. A half century after the JFK assassination, amid credible allegations about rogue elements from within the Central Intelligence Agency being involved in the JFK assassination that have surfaced over the intervening decades, and the most recent revelations regarding the vast surveillance state that has been erected by the U.S. intelligence community, the warning about the CIA’s out-of-control clandestine activities that Harry Truman felt compelled to issue only one month after the murder of JFK bears relevance even fifty years after November 22, 1963.