ONE OF THE recurring questions that Gerald Blaine hears as he talks about President John F. Kennedy's assassination is why he now, 47 years later, chose to write a book about the tragedy.
The former Secret Service agent, who served throughout Kennedy's presidency, said someone needed to set the record straight.
"Unfortunately, since the assassination, history has been dominated by a cottage industry called conspiracy theory," he said. "When it finally reached the point where people started accusing the agents of being part of it, well "..."
No event in American history has been more thoroughly debated or dissected than the death of our 35th president. Conspiracy theorists have linked the assassination to organized crime, Fidel Castro and every alphabet organization from the KGB to the FBI to the CIA.
If you Google "JFK assassination," you will get 882,000 hits and dozens of far-flung theories.
Judging by the crowd at the Pleasanton Library on Sunday, when Blaine talked about his book, "Kennedy Detail," interest has not waned. About 250 people crammed into a room where a sign read: "Maximum Occupancy: 139." Dozens more were turned away.
Blaine, 84, said he went years without talking about JFK's death -- not even to his family.
"I didn't want to bother the family," he said, "and I didn't know how to deal with it. I found out that was consistent with every agent who worked for President Kennedy. Not one of them talked about it."
Blaine is certain that Lee Harvey Oswald worked alone. His marksmanship skills were more than adequate, and he perfectly fit an assassin's profile.
"He had psychiatric problems when he was a young man," Blaine said. "He had problems in military service and problems holding down a job. He even had a problem when he tried to defect, and he had a marriage that failed.
"Also, about a month or two before taking a shot at the president, he took a shot at a general in Texas. The bullet just missed, but it was traced back to Oswald's rifle."
Kennedy was shot while riding in an open-top car -- a president rides only in bulletproof vehicles today, Blaine said -- but that was in keeping with his personality. He wanted to see and be seen by the people.
The fateful Dallas appearance marked the last of several southern stops, including Tampa, Fla., San Antonio and Houston. Earlier in the trip, Secret Service agents rode on the back of the presidential limousine, which likely would have obstructed Oswald's aim. Kennedy stopped that.
"The president told us, 'I've got to use my political style, and my political style is to be among the people, to greet them and have them be able to see me,' " Blaine said.
The assassination still torments the former agent, but what makes matters worse is what he regards as misrepresentation of what he knows to be true.
"How many of you saw the movie 'JFK'?" he asked, referencing a film that reinforced conspiracy theories. "Unfortunately for our youth, that seems to be their history book.
"An article last month in USA Today said 82 percent of young people between 18 and 29 believe that President Kennedy's assassination was a conspiracy. "
He said he has no illusions of transforming the doubters, but he hopes his book, which includes input from fellow agents, will at least put facts on the table.
"If we make history out of the wild stories," he said, "you'll never trust history again." Blaine said he knows the truth about what happened in Dallas. He's had to live with it for 47 years.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.