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Wednesday, June 2, 1999 Published at 03:27 GMT 04:27 UK

World: Americas

Kennedy's casket dumped in Atlantic

Kennedy was buried in a different, mahogany coffin

The family of John F Kennedy insisted that a bronze casket used to transport the body of the assassinated president back to Washington be dropped into the ocean, recently-released documents have revealed.

The documents show that the coffin lies 9,000ft (2,800 metres) down at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

[ image: The assassination caused shockwaves aound the world]
The assassination caused shockwaves aound the world
President Kennedy was assassinated as his motorcade travelled through Dealey Plaza in Dallas on 22 November 1963.

The president's body was placed in a bronze coffin for the flight back to Washington.

He was later buried in a mahogany coffin in Arlington National Cemetery after it was discovered the bronze casket had been damaged and was missing a handle.

"What I would like to have done is take it to sea," Robert Kennedy, the president's brother, told a Government Services Administration official in February 1966.

The casket was dumped from a military aircraft above an area used to dispose of unstable and outdated weapons.

The government had paid for the bronze coffin, but there was disagreement on whether it was covered by a law that made evidentiary items government property.

Robert Kennedy told a GSA official that he thought the casket belonged to the family, and "we can get rid of it any way we want to," according to a memorandum about the phone conversation.

Watery grave

[ image: The bronze coffin was used for the journey back to Washington]
The bronze coffin was used for the journey back to Washington
In February 1966, an Air Force van took the casket from the National Archives in Washington.

The casket was loaded with three 80-pound bags of sand, drilled with holes and loaded into a pine box that was also drilled full of holes.

The pine box was bound with metal bands and rigged with parachutes.

Kermit L Hall, a member of the now-defunct Assassination Records Review Board, says the disposal took place several miles off the Maryland-Delaware coastline.

"There's actually a map in the documents that pinpoints the co-ordinates where it was dropped," Mr Hall told the Associated Press news agency.

The drop point was chosen because it was not near air or shipping lanes and would be undisturbed by trawling or other sea-bottom activities, according to the documents.

Assassination investigation

The Warren Commission investigation into President Kennedy's assassination concluded that it had been carried out by a lone individual, Lee Harvey Oswald, firing from the sixth floor window of the Texas Book Depository which overlooked the plaza.

[ image: President Johnson was sworn in on the flight back to Washington]
President Johnson was sworn in on the flight back to Washington
Oswald himself was shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby the day after the assassination.

However, critics have claimed there are numerous inconsistencies in the evidence available to the commission and many have said this in itself points to evidence of a conspiracy.

The whereabouts of the bronze casket had been one such mystery.

In 1998, a document released by the national archives stated that a General Services Administration truck collected it in March 1964.

Then, when the Assassination Records Review Board asked the GSA last year where the casket had been taken, it said that it did not know.

Now, this appears to have been cleared up. But the revelation of its whereabouts is likely to add fuel to conspiracy theorists who believe it was dumped as part of a high-level cover-up.

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Internet Links

National Archives and Records Administration: The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection

Warren Commission Report

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