Sixty years after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, the “what-ifs” continue to haunt Americans.
Case in point: One historian stumbled upon an event that took place 13 months before the fatal attack which he said represents a “missed opportunity” that should have reshaped presidential security protocols.
Kennedy was shot while riding in an open convertible as his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
Younger generations have grown up learning in history class about a long list of assassinations and assassination attempts during that era, from JFK, his brother Robert F. Kennedy (1968), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1968), Malcolm X (1965), and later, the murder of pop singer John Lennon (1980) and the attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life (1981).
To many, such tragic events have always been a part of American life. But before the pivotal moment of JFK’s assassination, just as before 9/11, such an act was largely considered unthinkable, and law enforcement had a much more relaxed standard of security.
So it was that a bizarrely similar event during Kennedy’s motorcade ride in Springfield, Illinois, on October 19, 1962, barely made a blip on the police radar screen.
The incident remained largely forgotten until a researcher stumbled across the account while going through the archives at Boston’s John F. Kennedy Library.
Stephen F. Knott, an author and professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, described the scene in an exclusive interview with Fox Digital this week.
Kennedy visited Springfield that day to lay a wreath at Abraham Lincoln’s tomb and to deliver a speech, Knott said.
“And while he was parading in an open car through downtown Springfield, a police officer spotted a rifle with a scope on it, emerged from a nearby building under which Kennedy’s limousine was going to pass.
“Thankfully, [an] Illinois police officer spotted it.”
A 20-year-old man and 16-year-old boy were arrested and accused of pointing a .22-caliber rifle at Kennedy.
They claimed to be using the rifle scope “to get a better look at the president,” according to the report.
“The Secret Service held these two individuals for a time,” Knott said. They confiscated the gun and a box of ammunition, but the two young men were never charged.
That event, Knott told Fox, took place “at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which would have been a disaster.”
Despite the potential crisis that had been averted, “no changes were made,” he said.
“[I]t’s really, I think, perhaps a missed opportunity where Kennedy’s security could have been enhanced.”
Then again, he added, Kennedy himself likely would have objected to heightened security measures.
“President Kennedy never liked the idea of being cut off from the people,” Knott told Fox. “[He] always rejected the idea of putting some sort of bubble top on his limousine.”
Still, he concluded, “Thirteen months later, under similar circumstances, after gunshots echoed throughout Dealey Plaza, some in the Secret Service must have wished that the episode in the shadow of Lincoln’s Tomb had been taken more seriously.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.