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Kennedy's Last Days: The Assassination…

Kennedy's Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation

by Bill O'Reilly

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  Bookman1954 | Oct 21, 2015 |
Kennedy’s Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation by Bill O’Reilly is a photographic essay about Kennedy’s life as a politician and his assassination. The photographs used in this book are interrelated with the text, they provide an emotional and informational response from the reader, and allow the reader to see how John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy lived their lives through family and politics. The captions explain what the photographs are showing and the reader is able to get a personalized view of the subject of the photographic essay. The additional information such as: a photo of the Kennedy’s family tree, some facts about the early 1960s, a time line, etc. contribute to the overall effectiveness of the photographic essay. All of the features of the book work together as an integrated whole by tying all of the information together and providing additional information on the subject at hand.
Kennedy’s Last Days is also a document and a partial biography written through a four part, chapter-length format and is created around primary sources as well as some secondary sources that are used to depict John F. Kennedy’s life as a politician and his assassination during his presidency. The primary sources include quoted information, eyewitness accounts, and historical documents (John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, Investigating the Assassination: The Warren Commission, etc.) as explained in the bibliography and sources. The quoted materials used personalize the historical events and broaden the reader’s understanding of the information. The inclusion of the primary source material increases an objective perspective by providing an insight into what really occurred.

Bill O’Reilly is a former high-school history teacher and author of several number one bestselling books, including Lincoln’s Last Days and Killing Kennedy. He is also the anchor of The O’Reilly Factor, the highest rated cable news show in the country. He is the winner of Press Club of Dallas Award for his reporting on the JFK assassination while at WFAA-TV. O’Reilly was a freshman in high school when President Kennedy was assassinated. He recalls where he was when he heard the news and how Americans were “glued to their television” after the assassination. However, it was not until college that O’Reilly became “interested in politics and in how great men like John Kennedy met the challenges that were thrown at them.”
The sources used in this book are both primary and secondary sources. Much of the primary material came from interviews and reporting that the author has done over the years. One interview conducted was with the former FBI agent, Richard Wiehl, who was assigned to investigate and debrief Marina Oswald after the shooting. There were a number of first-person manuscripts that provided details about meetings, conversations, and events, as well as numerous Internet videos of JFK’s speeches and television appearances. Copies of John F. Kennedy’s actual daily schedule, showing his precise location, the names of different people at various meetings, and the time each afternoon he slipped off to the pool or to “the Mansion” were provided to the author. Some primary source examples are the Warren Commission Report, President Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech, and the Zapruder Film which shows the actual assassination of President Kennedy (found on YouTube). Many of the secondary sources came from books, magazine articles, and websites such as The Cuban Missile Crisis: To the Brink of War by Paul J. Byrne.
The facts and opinions written in this book are distinct and clear. The author is presenting all factual information and places few, if any, opinions within this book. The author specifically states in the sources section, “Kennedy’s Last Days is completely a work of fiction. It’s all true. The actions of each individual and the events that took place really happened. The quotations are words people actually spoke” (p. 306). For example, the author does not place any opinion when speaking about Lee Harvey Oswald; the author is explaining what his life is like at a certain time, what he went through, and why he decided to assassinate John F. Kennedy. Throughout the text, the author provides no personal opinion on Lee Harvey Oswald, and is simply describing the facts. The author does not use any stereotypes, anthropomorphism, or teleology.

The scope of this book ranges from John F. Kennedy’s days as a skipper on the boat PT 109 in World War II, to his days as a politician, then to his assassination and burial. The depth of his experience on the boat PT 109 describes what occurred that night and how he saved his troops without skipping over any information. The information provided during his political reigns describes how he came into politics, the events that occurred leading up to his presidency as well as during his presidency, and his family life and background. The information provided for his assassination begins with the life of Lee Harvey Oswald and Kennedy’s last days leading up to the assassination. All of the information is deep, extensive, and well researched. The focus of the book is clearly on John F. Kennedy and his life in politics, with information provided on his background and family, as well as Lee Harvey Oswald. All information provided is needed for the reader to gather an understanding of who Kennedy was, who Oswald was, and why this assassination occurred.

The content in this book is carefully organized and ideas are logically ordered in that the way the information is given, coincides with what the author is talking about at that time. The book opens with President Kennedy being sworn in as the 35th president of the United States. The language is accessible for the target audience. Explanations and examples use appropriate analogies and figurative language (i.e. “Kennedy towers over the five-foot-six civil rights leader” (p. 133); “And so he stands toe-to-toe with Consul Eusebio Azcue…” (p. 154).).
The language used in this book is through a variety of sentence structure ranging among simple, compound, and complex sentences. These short sentences, “This is no ordinary inaugural address. This is a promise.” has an effective meaning to President Kennedy’s speech and plan for America. Another example of rhythmic prose is, “What he does not know is that he is on a collision course with evil—a course that will cut short the time he has to fulfill the promise he has just made” (p. 10). An example of vivid language is, “Oswald is a defector” (p. 11), and an example of precise language is, “Traveling at 1,904 feet per second, the 6.5-millimete round tears through the president’s trachea and then exits his body through a tight knot of his dark blue tie” (p. 205). The author provides interesting descriptions of the events during assassination and provides great detail into the assassination. In the opening chapter of the book, the author leads the reader in by using the statement, “The man with fewer than three years to live places his left hand on the Bible” (p. 3). There are no chapter titles; however there are four parts that include titles and most of the titles pique interest to the reader.
The tone of the author uses throughout this book is conversational. He is providing information on events and facts that have occurred during John F. Kennedy’s life. The author is also neutral in his writing where even though he is passionate, he is also objective throughout the book.

The author somewhat uses enumeration in this book. There aren’t many subtopics, however every now and then the author will throw in information to “examine what they believe to be relevant parts of the whole.” For example, in chapter fifteen, the author is discussing what Jackie Kennedy and John Kennedy are doing on that day and then he shifts to Lee Harvey Oswald. For the most part, the book is in chronological order; the book begins on January 20, 1961 and ends in 1963 after President Kennedy’s assassination. However, there are a couple of chapters that jump back to Kennedy’s life in the army and what was occurring between 1944-1961. The narrative structure explains the conflict of Present Kennedy and the conflict of the Civil Rights Campaign and him winning over all Americans. There is no alphabetic structure used within this book.
The reference aids included in this book are four parts, but no chapters. There is a table of contents displaying the prologue, key players, and the four parts of the book, an epilogue, afterword, bibliography, sources, and index. The additional information provided in the contents include The Kennedy’s: A photo family tree, The Crew of USS PT-109 on Its Last Mission, John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, John and Jackie Kennedy: Some Famous and Interesting Words, The Zapruder Film, The Warren Commission, Some Facts about the Early 1960s, a Time Line, places to visit, and recommendations by the author.

The cover invites the reader in by providing a picture of Kennedy in his motorcade on the day of his death and by having the title displayed in big print and all capitalized. The cover suggests that the content is going to be serious and detailed. The book has endpages that displays a letter or some kind of writing written by John F. Kennedy himself, which adds to the content and appeal of the book.
The table of contents offers little insight into the organizational structure of the book. There are four parts to the book and although the parts outline what each part will be about, the contents does not show any chapters which gives the reader little insight into how the information is actually going to be given. The book has many chapters; each chapter titled with a specific date (month, day, year) and each chapter’s first sentence begins with bold font. The chapter titles or part titles do not aid the reader in locating content and they do not encourage the reader to ask questions or wonder about the content.
The book has an index and it is very detailed, highlighting topics about certain things. There is no glossary, pronunciation guide, or sidebars within this book. The book has a bibliography which lists sources that support readers’ efforts in conducting further research, as well as listing primary and secondary sources. The author includes notes that document his research process and identifies the books that he used as well as including recommendations for further research.
The book contains a prologue, which describes where the author was when he heard the news of the assassination, and the epilogue describes what the author did after college. The afterword explains Kennedy’s burial site, Jackie Kennedy after the assassination, Kennedy’s children’s lives, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Oswalds after the assassination. The visual displays in this book are photographs showing Kennedy’s family, his children, his wife, etc. and each picture goes along with the text and provides insight for the reader. Each photo has a caption near the picture to explain what the reader is actually looking at and where the photo was taken. The quality of the photos is good and clear and easily able to see what the photograph is showing. Many of the photos are in black and white, with a section in the middle of the book showing colored photos. There are maps located in this book showing the route Kennedy took on PT 109, the Bay of Pigs, and the route he took in Dallas on the day of his assassination. The maps have a key and scale, and help give the reader a visual sense to understanding the text. The maps and many photos cover an entire page; other photos take up a quarter or half of a page. There is also a time line of Kennedy’s life included at the end of the book.

Another book the University of New Orleans has in its collection on the assassination of Kennedy is The President Has Been Shot!: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy. After evaluating this book, I would suggest adding this book to UNO’s collection. Although there is another book about Kennedy’s assassination, this book provides more pictures and a better insight into the assassination as well as places to visit, further reading recommendations, and colored photographs in the middle of the book.
As a teacher, I would use this book in social studies, in a junior high to high school class. I would use this book as a text, having the students read a 5-8 chapters (depending on the length of the chapter) a night and then discussing, as a class, what they have read and what they have learned. I would also have students write a summary of what they read, an essay on how they felt about the information given, and/or what would they have done differently if they were President Kennedy or the Secret Service in charge of protecting the president.
If I did not use this book, I would possibly use End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Swanson because he covers Kennedy’s health problems, his heroism in World War II, and his wedding to Jackie Bouvier. The book also highlights less remembered but critical facts surrounding Oswald’s action before and after the assassination. If I were to use this book, I would have students either write or verbally explain what they think Oswald was thinking at the time of the assassination and/or what Jackie Kennedy thought or felt after seeing her husband shot. Although conspiracies are not mentioned in his book, after reading it, I would explain to the students that there are many conspiracies out there about the assassination and what those conspiracies are. Then I would have students either come up with their own conspiracy or I would have students write about which conspiracy they believe to be true and why, or if they believe Oswald to be the real shooter and why. ( )
  ALGuerra | Mar 31, 2014 |
Kennedy's Last Days is a children's version of the events that lead up to JFK's death in Dallas. It's written with historical accuracy but readers similar to a thriller and is great for older children and young adults interested in history with excitement. Although this has more difficult content, I think it would be a great read for a younger child with strong reading skills.
  Tvickrey | Mar 11, 2014 |
Richie's Picks: KENNEDY'S LAST DAYS: THE ASSASSINATION THAT DEFINED A GENERATION by Bill O'Reilly, Henry Holt, June 2013, 336p., ISBN: 978-0-8050-9802-0

"And the night comes again to the circle studded sky
The stars settle slowly, in loneliness they lie
'Till the universe explodes as a falling star is raised
Planets are paralyzed, the mountains are amazed
But they all glow brighter from the brilliance of the blaze
With the speed of insanity, then he dies."
-- Phil Ochs, "The Crucifixion" (1965)

As we continue our approach toward the fifty-year anniversary of the tragic events in Dallas Texas that changed the course of history, I've now read a second new book about President John F. Kennedy just a couple of months after writing about a first one.

KENNEDY'S LAST DAYS is written by a famous political commentator. I'm apparently one of the last two-dozen people in America who have never seen his show. But I do recognize his face from a TV I once passed in an airport terminal. And irrespective of what the guy's views are on current issues, he's written a pretty solid and very interesting photo-filled book for middle school students that is focused primarily on JFK's brief presidency and death. It includes some great stuff about Jacqueline Kennedy's significant role in creating what later came to be known as the Camelot era:

"January 8, 1963 Washington, D.C. 9:30 P.M.
Jackie Kennedy looks stunning in her pink gown and dangling diamond earrings. Long white gloves come up past her elbows. She makes small talk with a man she adores, André Malraux, the 61-year-old writer who serves as the French minister of culture.
"On this night, as she stands in the West Sculpture Hall of the National Gallery of Art, the first lady is truly a vision.
"Jackie turns away from Malraux to gaze at the figure in the painting hanging on the gallery wall. She is known as La Giocanda, or the Mona Lisa, a wife and mother of five children who sat for this portrait by Leonardo da Vinci in the early sixteenth century.
"Bringing the world's most famous painting to Washington, D.C., had been Jackie's dream. About a year ago, she made a discreet request to Malraux, who then arranged the loan.
"Now millions of Americans will line up to view the painting before its return to France in March -- and all because of Jackie Kennedy.
"John Walker, director of the National Gallery, was against the loan, fearful that his career would be ruined if he failed to protect the Mona Lisa from theft or the damage that might accompany moving a fragile, 460-year-old painting across an ocean in the dead of winter.
"Walker's task of protecting the painting at the gallery was made much easier when JFK ordered the world's most elite bodyguards to watch over the precious work of art -- none other than the men who would willingly take a bullet to protect the president himself: the Secret Service."

As we see highlights of a young family's life in the White House juxtaposed against some incredibly tense national and world events, and learn about the back brace which helped that young president endure the terrible back pain he was secretly suffering, KENNEDY'S LAST DAYS also reveals what Lee Harvey Oswald was up to during these years leading up to the 22nd of November, when the president's Dallas motorcade passed right in front of the Texas Book Depository where Oswald was employed.

This story in KENNEDY'S LAST DAYS is my history. I lived through all of this stuff as an elementary student and I just can't get enough of reading about it: The Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis; the White House meetings with Dr. King, and the Children's Crusade, and the March on Washington and, yes, today's horrible fiftieth anniversary of the murders in Birmingham of four young black girls, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie May Collins. (My plans for today include rereading THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, 1963.)

As I continue to wander the children's literature trail down the fiftieth anniversary of what was my own ninth year, it is sort of feeling at the moment like 1963 peaked on August 28th and pretty much went downhill from there.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/ http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php ( )
  richiespicks | Sep 15, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 080509802X, Hardcover)

More than a million readers have thrilled to Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, the page-turning work of nonfiction about the shocking assassination that changed the course of American history. Now the anchor of The O’Reilly Factor recounts in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy—and how a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.

In January 1961, as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In addition, powerful elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.

The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life in ways that will profoundly move the reader. This may well be the most talked about book of the year.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:43 -0400)

A historical narrative of the events surrounding the death of the 35th president is set against the backdrop of an escalating Cold War and describes the many political challenges Kennedy was facing before his assassination, in an account that also describes Lee Harvey Oswald's story and the events surrounding his death.… (more)

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