For reasons beyond my grasp, the first image in each chapter sometimes
fails to appear. If there's nothing up above, don't despair; you can still see the image here
Only adding to my suspicion that the Clark Panel
deliberately misrepresented Kennedy’s wounds to support the single-bullet
theory is the strange coincidence that the next person to look at the photos,
and the very first member of the private
sector to be allowed to inspect the autopsy photos and x-rays, just so happened to be Dr. John K. Lattimer, the aforementioned urologist to FBI Chief J.
This was suspicious for a number of reasons. Not only was Lattimer not a forensic pathologist, and not only had he headed a Federal Government research program from the late 1940's to the mid-1960's, but he'd written extensively on the JFK case already, always at a time when the public's interest was heightened, and always with the conclusion that the Warren Commission had properly addressed the evidence. In mid-1966, just as books critical of the Warren Commission were starting to get wide-spread attention, there was Lattimer, with an article in The New York State Journal of Medicine comparing the deaths of John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, in which Oswald was described as "an enemy (communist) sympathizer" and an "attention-hungry fanatic." In late 1966, moreover, as doubts about Oswald's shooting ability were sweeping across the nation, up popped Lattimer with an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association asserting that Kennedy's back brace had propped him up after he was first hit, and had made him an easy target. Now this would be bad enough, but Lattimer actually made the mistake of asserting that a second coincidence also contributed to Kennedy's death--that the misalignment of Oswald's scope had coincidentally compensated for the curve in the road, so that all Oswald had to do was fire at Kennedy, and the bullet would hit him in this exact location, even though he'd moved several feet down the road, and inches to the right.
Well, this gives up the game, and reveals Lattimer to be more theorist than scientist. This misleading proposition was first offered by FBI agent Robert Frazier during his Warren Commission testimony. Perhaps Frazier was thinking of the tests undertaken AFTER he'd sighted in the scope and brought the scope and rifle in the best alignment possible without adding shims to the scope mount. These tests revealed that the rifle fired 4 inches high and 1 to the right at 100 yards. Such a misalignment would indeed allow someone to fire at JFK when he was on Elm without having to worry about a lead, should he know ahead of time the degree of this misalignment. BUT THIS WAS NOT THE MISALIGNMENT OF THE SCOPE WHEN FIRST TESTED BY THE FBI. Frazier testified that the rifle, when first tested by the FBI, fired 4 inches high and 1 to the right at ONLY 15 YARDS, and that these shots all landed within the size of a dime, and that this indicated the rifle had not recently been adjusted. Well, such a misalignment would be of no help at all to a sniper; it would force a sniper to shoot BEHIND Kennedy in order to hit him as he was moving away. It follows then that Frazier's assertion the misalignment worked to the sniper's advantage was either a total brainfart on his part or a deliberate deception, and that Lattimer's repetition of this nonsense was more of the same, or perhaps a reflection that he took his job as Hoover's urologist a bit more seriously than anyone could reasonably have imagined.
And from there things just get worse. An October 24, 1968 article in the New York Post reflects that Lattimer had started giving talks on the feasibility of the single-bullet theory to his fellow physicians, and that he believed at so early a date, long before the Zapruder film was widely available, that the first shot "hit a tree branch and never reached the President's car," and that the second "struck the back of President Kennedy's neck, went through his voice box, and 'came out at the knot of his tie,'" before striking Governor Connally. This marks him once again as more theorist than scientist. The eyewitnesses overwhelmingly claimed the President reacted to the first shot. The autopsy report fails to note damage to the voice box, or larynx. The drawings created by the autopsy doctors for the Warren Commission, moreover, depicted the bullet exiting below Kennedy's voice box or larynx, on his trachea, or windpipe. Lattimer's assertion that the first bullet hit a tree branch and the second bullet went through Kennedy's voice box, then, can only be seen as his ignoring the findings of the Warren Commission and re-interpreting the shooting sequence and bullet's angle of descent within the neck...for reasons all his own.
In any event, following his inspection of the autopsy materials on January 9, 1972, Lattimer told the New York Times that the photographs and x-rays “eliminate any doubt completely” about the validity of the Warren Commission’s conclusions and that Oswald fired all the shots. He said further that the photos and x-rays demonstrate that the back wound was actually higher than the Commission reported (yes, that’s right, even higher than on the Rydberg drawings) and that the angle of descent within the neck was far greater. He said the wound was so high in comparison to the throat wound, in fact, that in order for the throat wound to have been an entrance wound as so many believed, someone would have to have been firing from the floor of the limousine in front of Kennedy. Lattimer didn’t seem to understand that this comment meant conversely that the bullet exiting the neck should have hit the floor and not Connally, and that this statement was therefore an argument against the single-bullet theory he was so adamantly defending.
Perhaps the man had suffered some sort of meltdown. On January 10, the next day, he was interviewed by John Nebel on WNBC. and admitted that after reading the Warren report he "still had considerable doubts, and uh these doubts revolved about the such items as the trajectory of the bullet that went through President Kennedy's neck" and asserted that the Warren Commission drawing for this trajectory, CE 385, "makes the bullet track look as if it's much parallel with the ground. And that worried me a good deal, and, uh, I know that it's little things like this that combine to worry you about the whole massive text." But that was in the past. Lattimer told Nebel that upon viewing the autopsy photos "I was interested to observe that the rear hole, which is clearly a wound of entrance, is quite far above the front hole, which is presumed to be a wound of exit." As it would later be shown that the bullet entrance on CE 385 was in fact two inches too high, and that the rear wound Lattimer claimed was "far above" the front wound was in reality either below or at the same level as the front wound, it's clear that Lattimer, perhaps overcome with "worry," simply reported what he wanted to see, or felt others should believe he saw.
But this was not the end of Lattimer's trail of "whoa!" For Lattimer's May 1972 Resident and Staff Physician article on his trip to the archives he created a drawing depicting his interpretation of Kennedy's back wound, and the path of the bullet purportedly entering Kennedy's back and exiting his throat. This drawing was staggeringly, and shockingly, inaccurate. While acknowledging
in a February 14, 1972 letter to Robert Biecher found in the Weisberg Archives that "the wound on the back of the neck" which he'd discussed with the press "was certainly the one 14 cm. below the right mastoid process," and while acknowledging in the text of his article that the
back wound was 5 cm below the neck crease “at the juncture of neck and
back,” Lattimer inexplicably depicts the wound in his drawing about 5 cm below the mastoid process, at the juncture of neck and back. Equally strange, in order to explain the bruise on Kennedy's lung, Lattimer depicts the upper dome of the lung adjacent to the bullet path descending Kennedy's neck...and, in the process, lifts the dome of the lung into the neck, above the knot on Kennedy's tie. Even
more absurd, to account for the holes in Kennedy's clothing being so much
lower on Kennedy's back than
Lattimer's proposed location for the back wound, Lattimer bunches up a gigantic
fold of clothing on the back of Kennedy's neck in the drawing. No such fold, of course, can be seen on any of the assassination films.
Now that's already way too much, but Lattimer's drawing also has the bullet path
descending 27 degrees through Kennedy's body, which, since the limousine was on a downhill
slope of 3 degrees, means he believed the bullet was descending 30 degrees from the
horizontal plane. Since he eventually claimed the
bullet came from the sniper’s nest at Z-224, when the angle of descent from the
sniper’s nest was 21 degrees, this suggests he believed Kennedy was leaning 9 degrees
backwards when struck.
From there Lattimer’s story gets even more absurd, and disturbing. Not content with the round of extended articles he was able to publish in the aftermath of his visit to the archives, he put together a 24-page article for the November 1974 issue of Medical Times. While he spent much of this article, devoted entirely the "Kennedy-Connally One Bullet Theory," discussing Governor Connally's wounds and the wound ballistics of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition, he did spend just enough time discussing Kennedy's wounds to slip in one heckuva lie. His "Reconstruction of What Happened" entailed: "The 6.5 mm bullet, fired from above and behind the President, had entered the top of the prominent roll of soft tissue across the back of President Kennedy's neck..." Yikes. As we have seen, the bullet wound was not on the back of the neck, let alone at the top of a prominent roll of soft tissue across the back of the neck.
Yes, there was apparently no belief too absurd, or no lie too great, for Lattimer to have shied from, should it have suggested Oswald's sole guilt. On May 7, 1975 he was interviewed by the Rockefeller Commission, and repeated much of what he’d told the New York Times. He went even further, however, and told them that inspecting Kennedy’s brain would be unnecessary, seeing as Dr. Humes had been “particularly thorough about finding any foreign material in the brain” and that “we have surprisingly good x-rays of it and surprisingly good photographs of it.” He claimed further that this provided him with a “reasonable basis for knowing what the situation in the brain was, relative, at least, to the direction of the missiles.” He ignored that he'd previously concluded that the ever-thorough Humes had incorrectly identified the entrance of the bullet on the back of Kennedy’s head, and had been off by four inches.
In November, 1976,
moreover, as a response to Congressman Thomas Downing's public declaration that the Zapruder film had convinced him Kennedy was shot from the front, Lattimer popped up yet again. Somehow, someway, he just so happened to make an appearance before a luncheon of the National Press Club, and show them films of experiments he'd performed by shooting bullets into animal skulls (no doubt, your typical luncheon entertainment). Not surprisingly, these tests (later debunked by Wallace Milam) showed the skulls flying back in the direction of the bullet, and supposedly undercut Downing's claims the rearward movement of Kennedy's head suggested the fatal shot came from the front.
Evidently, these tests convinced Lattimer he’d solved everything and that no further investigation was necessary, because on March 22, 1977, an article carried by the Ridder News Service reported that Lattimer had told some 300 members of the Fayette County Medical Society that “Reviving the investigation of President Kennedy’s death would be expensive and unnecessary.” Now, why would he do this? Was he concerned that a new investigation would reveal that he had been untruthful when he asserted that the back wound was even higher than in the Rydberg drawings? Or was he really that confident? If he was really that confident, well, then, he had NO reason to be, as other statements attributed to him in this article reveal that he was simply making stuff up in order to justify shutting down the investigation already underway.
According to the article Lattimer described the shots as
follows: “The first shot probably struck
the branch of a tree and was deflected to the pavement where it was
absorbed…Five seconds later, with the limousine now only 190 feet away from
Oswald’s position, the second shot was fired.
It hit the president in the back of the neck, passed through it, and
entered Gov. John Connally’s side…Five seconds later, the third shot was fired
from a striking distance of about 250 feet, striking Kennedy in the back of the
head…” Well, wait a second! If the first shot was fired five seconds
before the single-bullet shot, which was at the latest frame 224, then it was fired around frame 131, TWO seconds
before any of the trees in front of the school book depository would interfere
with a shot from the sniper’s nest. Could Lattimer really be proposing that Oswald led the limousine by 30 feet or more?
Okay. Okay. It seems possible Lattimer misspoke about the five seconds… A 2-27-78 HSCA Contact Report on a conversation with Lattimer, after all, reports that by then he was postulating that "the first shot occurred at Zapruder frame (Z) 166 and was a miss." But it gets worse. The 1977 article quotes Lattimer as discussing Oswald and his motivation as follows: “After returning to this country, Oswald began a propaganda campaign for Cuban revolutionaries in New Orleans and eventually ended up in Dallas. There, three weeks before he shot the President, he attempted to kill a retired Army general. He learned from having tried to shoot the general that it would take more than one shot to kill Kennedy...If he’d been assigned to shoot Kennedy, he wouldn’t have been firing at someone else just three weeks before.”
The omissions and mistakes in Lattimer’s scenario are more revealing than what he gets correct. First of all, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, with whom Oswald was affiliated in New Orleans, was not a violent or revolutionary organization, as implied by Lattimer. Second of all, Lattimer omits that this “retired general,” General Edwin Walker, was forced out of the military by Kennedy for his reactionary and racist political activities and that there is reason to doubt that anyone contemplating his assassination would kill Kennedy instead. Third, the attempt on Walker did not take place three weeks before Kennedy’s assassination, as asserted by Lattimer, but on April 10, 1963, more than 7 months before! Needless to say, Lattimer’s understanding of Oswald and his background was as wildly inaccurate as his strange belief the back wound was further above the throat wound than depicted in the Rydberg drawings.
To be fair to Dr. Lattimer, I think I’ve located the source of some of his confusion. I believe this same confusion contributed to the Clark Panel’s errors. When one compares the left lateral autopsy photo, which shows the location of the throat wound, with the photographs of the back wound, and focuses on a rounded hump of flesh on Kennedy’s shoulder, one can easily imagine that this shape is a “hunch” of some sort and that the bullet entrance is in the middle of this “hunch.” Since this “hunch” in the back wound photo is clearly higher on the body than the throat wound in the left lateral photo, moreover, one can take the next step and conclude that this means the bullet traveled downwards in the body, and that the single-bullet theory is supported by the photographs. But when one relies on hunches alone one will often be wrong.
Some of whom have noticed this “hunch,” including Dr.s
Lattimer and Baden, have even went so far as to speculate on its origins. Dr. Lattimer, on the day after he'd first viewed the autopsy materials in 1972, told NBC that Kennedy's body had a "slight thickening of the tissues over the shoulders, which is typical of people taking cortisone." In his paper on this inspection, presented in the May 1972 issue of Resident and Staff Physician, moreover, he expanded on this theme, and insisted that "the tissues at the back of his neck were more prominent than those of most people. This was possibly due partly to his manner of holding his shoulders very high, so that a 'roll' of tissue was produced across the back of his neck and also perhaps because he was taking the cortisone derivative which may have caused a slightly greater than normal thickening of these tissues."
To Lattimer, this "thickening" seemed somehow significant, and a key to understanding the assassination. By 1975, he was telling those questioning the single bullet theory trajectory, such as researcher Emory Brown, that "what you do not realize is that he (Kennedy) had an unusual roll of muscle tissue across the back of his neck, possibly related to the adrenal hormones he had been taking for years." This "possibly," moreover, soon dissolved away. In time, Lattimer began asserting as fact the obvious nonsense that Kennedy had grown a hunch on his back from the steroids he'd taken to combat his Addison’s disease, and that this hunch explained how the holes on Kennedy’s clothing 5 inches below the top of his collar could overlay a wound at the level of his chin. Lattimer, and those who swallowed his nonsense, like Baden, failed to realize that the left lateral autopsy photo which appears to portray a slight hunch was taken with Kennedy lying flat on his back, with his shoulders rolled outwards, pushing the flesh of his back upwards. They failed to see as well that photos of Kennedy taken on the day of the assassination prove there was no such hunch...
When one starts measuring their whole argument falls to pieces. The ruler in the un-cropped back photo appears to be about 37 mm wide, or 1.46 inches. From this measurement one can see how the Clark Panel came up with their determination that the back wound was 5.5 cm (a little over 2 inches) below the fold along the back of the neck. When one matches the “hunches” one can see that the distance from the fold to the throat wound on the lateral photo approximates the 9 cm that the Clark Panel proposed. Why no one on the Clark Panel decided to measure this distance on their own bodies is another question. I’m 6’4” and when one measures 9 cm below the fold across the back of my neck one reaches the level of my sternum, far below the level of the wound in Kennedy’s throat. Experienced doctors should have known better, or at least have been suspicious enough about the measurement to take a second look.
For when one takes a second look, one realizes that in order for this “hunch” to match in each photo, and in order for the neck lines to match, the photo of the back wound must be greatly reduced compared to the lateral photograph. A quick comparison of Kennedy’s ears in the two photos proves that this is true. Should one use the ruler in the back wound photo to measure the size of Kennedy’s head in the lateral photo (when the hunches are made to match) one can approximate that the vertical height of Kennedy’s skull was 11.5 inches. When the ears are made to match, however, this distance is only 9.8 inches. My skull, even with my mouth slightly opened, is only 9 ¼ vertical inches from the level of my slightly opened jaw to the highest point. It's hard to believe that Kennedy’s skull would be 24% longer than my own. (Fatter maybe, longer no.) When one takes the time to match the sizes of the ears and body proportions, therefore, one can see that the “hunch” was largely an illusion based on Kennedy’s body position, and that the back wound in the photograph was actually 25% closer to the level of Kennedy’s throat wound than it appears when the hunches are made to match.
When one takes notice of Kennedy's body position in the back wound photo, and sees that he's laying on his left side with his head turned to his right, moreover, it should be apparent that the back wound is, in fact, at the same level as the throat wound (when the body is in the anatomic position).
Should one refuse to believe that the back wound location is distorted and lifted upwards in both the back wound photo and lateral photo, moreover, one need only re-read the autopsy report. The back wound was reportedly 14 cm below the bottom tip of Kennedy's mastoid--which is approximately at the level of the bottom of his ear. If the back wound was REALLY 5.5 cm below the transverse fold in Kennedy's neck, when the body was in the anatomic position, as concluded by the Clark Panel, it means the transverse fold was 8.5 cm below the mastoid. And this simply isn't true. There is no way that anyone can honestly believe that the transverse fold on the back of Kennedy's neck in the lateral photo is more than 50% FURTHER away from the bottom tip of the right mastoid than the supposed entrance location in the back hump. This makes it clear that either 1) the autopsists were incorrect, and claimed a wound roughly 8-9 cm below the bottom tip of the mastoid was 14 cm below the bottom tip of the mastoid, or 2) Kennedy's position in the back wound photo and/or the lateral photo make the wound appear to be higher on the body than it would be in the anatomic position.
This second option seems obvious.
Up the Neck
But you don't have to trust me on this. My finding that the back wound was at the same vertical level in Kennedy's body as the throat wound was shared by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, comprising nine of the top pathologists in the country. No, that’s not quite true. The forensic pathology panel's report, released in 1979, actually asserts that the bullet fired from the sniper’s nest at least 20 degrees above Kennedy passed through his body in a slightly upwards trajectory.
When one looks at the testimony of Dr. Michael Baden before the committee, and compares the bullet entrance on the back of Kennedy’s clothing with its purported exit on Kennedy’s collar, one can begin to see why they came to this conclusion. The path is clearly upwards. If you’re surprised by this it’s no wonder. While many TV shows present the single-bullet theories of Dr. Lattimer, Gerald Posner, and Dale Myers as if they are the official government theory, the theories of these men are actually at odds with both the Warren Commission and HSCA interpretations of the wounds, trajectories, and shot sequences.
That rant having passed, I must admit that I also have problems with the HSCA's conclusions. To begin with, it seems clear to me that the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel (FPP) was indeed mistaken in their analysis of the back wound. Not by much, mind you. While they were correct to note that the abrasion collar in the back wound photo was on the lower half of the entrance wound, and that this indicated the bullet was heading upwards along the skin, they were mistaken to say “the direction of the missile in the body on initial penetration was slightly upward, inasmuch as the lower margin of the skin is abraded in an upward direction. Furthermore, the wound beneath the skin appears to be tunneled from below upward.” As the upper back is slanted towards the neck, any bullet striking the upper back at a downwards angle less than the angle of the slant would leave a mark along the skin reflecting an upwards trajectory. The abrasion ring noted by the FPP, therefore, could have represented a bullet heading downwards within the body as well as upwards.
Unfortunately, this is not the only point on which we disagree. Not by a long shot.
T-3 or Not T-3?
But before we go on to complain about the horrendous mistakes/deceptions of the HSCA, let me congratulate them for getting at least one thing right. They resolved the location of Kennedy's back wound! In both the testimony of Dr. Baden and in their exhibits they made it clear they believed the bullet entered at the level of the first thoracic vertebra, roughly 2 inches lower than the entrance depicted in the Warren Commission's drawings.
While my acceptance that the bullet entered at T-1 has led to at least one conspiracy theorist trumpeting that I'm intellectually dishonest, it would be intellectually dishonest for me to pretend I disagree with the HSCA on this point. I have looked through dozens of anatomy books and measured dozens of medical drawings, and am convinced that T-3, where many conspiracy theorists place the wound, is an inch or two lower than the back wound apparent in the photos. While some point out that Kennedy's personal physician, Dr. George Burkley, placed the wound at T-3 on Kennedy's death certificate, they fail to appreciate that Burkley was far from certain about this and had, in fact, stated "a second wound occurred in the posterior back at about the level of the third thoracic vertebra." They also fail to appreciate that there is no indication Burkley did anything more than glimpse at Kennedy's body and did anything to establish the back wound's location beyond glimpsing at the confusing face sheet.
While some note a small mark in the back wound photo near the T-3 level, and propose that this mark was the "real" back wound, I find this also has little foundation, as the size of this mark (roughly 3 mm x 4 mm, or 12 mm) is less than 1/2 the size of the bullet wound measured at autopsy (7 mm x 4 mm, or 28 mm), and the wound at T-1 is, no surprise, a much better fit (roughly 8 mm x 5 mm).
And, FWIW, I am far from alone in my rejection of the claim the back wound on the face sheet and photos was at T-3. While Dr. David Mantik and myself have many disagreements about the Kennedy assassination medical evidence, this isn't one of them. In his 2011 review of Don Thomas' Hear No Evil, available on the CTKA website, Mantik made this more than clear, stating that "both the autopsy photo (Galanor 1998, Document 12) and the autopsy diagram (the descriptive sheet—see Galanor 1998, Document 5) place the wound...close to the level of T1 or T2." He thereby adopted the T1 location as the location for the purposes of discussion, a discussion which led him to reject the single-bullet theory even if the wound was at T1.Sometimes we think alike...
T-1 is Enough
Now, it's not as if I don't understand the sentiments of those wanting to believe the bullet entered at T-3. If the bullet entered as low as the third thoracic vertebra there would be no way it could avoid piercing Kennedy's lung en route to its purported exit in his throat. The single-bullet theory would be so outlandish not even Arlen Specter would lay claim to it. But I feel that an entry at T-1 is nearly as damaging.
You see, from poring through anatomy
books, trying to figure out the proper level of the back wound
entrance, I came to understand that the T-1 level of the spine
corresponds to the level of the first rib. This is extremely
problematic for the single-bullet theory in that, if Kennedy was
sitting fairly upright, a bullet entering at T-1 as depicted in the
HSCA exhibits, including Exhibit F-65, would dive down below T-1, and
into Kennedy's lung. According to the autopsy, which held that nothing
pierced Kennedy's lung, this did not happen. An entrance at T-1 is also
problematic in that, even if Kennedy was bent forward to such an extent
that the bullet entering his back would head straight for his throat,
the first rib would be right in its way. As the "magic bullet," CE 399,
had been avoiding sweets and had a decidedly unblemished nose, this also did not
So how did the HSCA solve this dilemma? Did they accept what would seem obvious? That the lynch-pin of the single-assassin conclusion, the single-bullet theory, made little sense
The HSCA Single Bullet Theory
If one were told in 1976 that the HSCA was going to determine that the Warren Commission and Clark panel were wrong, and that the back wound was at the same level as or even slightly below the wound in Kennedy’s throat, one would rightly have concluded that the single-bullet theory had been debunked Instead, when the HSCA published its final report in 1979, the committee concluded that the theory was still valid. To do this, they proposed that Kennedy was leaning a lot further forward than had previously been presumed.
This was doubly surprising since the HSCA had also decided that Kennedy was first hit at Zapruder frame 190, at a point when he is clearly sitting up in his seat. The Warren Commission, we should remember, concluded he was hit somewhere between frames 210-225 of the Zapruder film, when he was behind the Stemmons Freeway sign, and his forward lean could not precisely be determined. Equally troubling, by moving up the proposed moment of impact, the HSCA put Kennedy closer to the Texas School Book Depository at the time he was shot, and made the angle of descent for the "magic bullet" that much sharper. A quick comparison of Kennedy's position in Zapruder frame 188, 1/9 of a second before the supposed impact, to Kennedy's position in HSCA Exhibit F-46, a drawing of Kennedy leaning forward to the degree required for a non-deflected bullet to pass through his back and neck and then hit Governor Connally, demonstrates that Kennedy was not in the proper position to receive his wounds as proposed.
This forces one to wonder if the drawing was simply in error, or if the doctors truly believed the single bullet-theory they were depicting. Some quick measurements show that Kennedy’s neck is bent forward 31 degrees in the drawing, and that the arrow descends at 27 degrees. A bullet on such a trajectory would ascend 4 degrees through Kennedy’s body. As this matches the pathology panel’s analysis of the back wound, it seems clear, then, that they expended some effort on the drawing, and were not just guessing. Which makes it hard to explain why the arrow in the drawing descends at 27 degrees. The angle of descent from the sniper's nest at frame 190, when the HSCA proposed Kennedy was first wounded, was only 24 degrees.
A careful reading of the panel's report offers a partial explanation for these errors. It indicates that F-46 was only supposed to demonstrate the relationship between Kennedy’s wounds, and that determining the actual position of Kennedy at the moment of the shot and the trajectory of the bullet was the responsibility of the trajectory panel. This sets off my bullshit detector.
The 9-7-78 testimony of Dr. Cyril Wecht only adds to my concern. About the single-bullet theory, Wecht testified: "How does a bullet that is
moving slightly upward in the President proceed then to move downward
25 degrees in John Connally. This is what I cannot understand. My colleagues on the panel are aware of this. We discussed it, and what we keep coming back to is, "well,
don't know how the two men were seated in relationship to each other."
I don't care what happened behind the Stemmons Freeway sign, there is
no way in the world that they can put that together, and likewise on
the horizontal plane, the bullet, please keep in mind, entered in the
President's right back, I agree, exited in the anterior midline of the
President's neck, I agree, and was moving thence by definition, by
known facts, on a straight line from entrance to exit, from right to
left. And so with that bullet moving in a leftward fashion, it then
somehow made an acute angular turn, came back almost two feet, stopped,
made a second turn, and slammed into Gov. John Connally behind the
right armpit, referred to medically as the right posterior axillary
area. The vertical and horizontal trajectory of this bullet, 399, under
the single bullet theory is absolutely unfathomable, indefensible, and
Wecht's testimony indicates that some members of the panel supported the theory under the belief the shot was fired when Kennedy and Connally's positions were unclear. Earlier and subsequent statements by four of the panel's leading lights, Dr. Werner Spitz, Dr. James Weston, Dr. Charles Petty, and Dr. Michael Baden prove this to be true, and prove them to have been a bit, shall we say, clueless.
Shortly after he'd first studied the photos and X-rays on behalf the Rockefeller Commission, in a May 25, 1975 appearance on the Lou Gordon Show, Spitz declared that no one could say Kennedy and Connally were not in position to have a single-bullet create all their non-fatal wounds "since you don't really know what had happened behind the sign when the President's motorcade was behind the sign which is noted on the Zapruder film. Since you don't really know what happened there, that the Governor may have turned around..." Well, this is strange. Spitz had elsewhere acknowledged that the back wound was below the throat wound but was so clueless he didn't realize that the issue had then become whether or not Kennedy had leaned forward while behind the sign, not whether Connally had turned around.
By 1988, he at least seemed to know that the imaginary act he needed to propose involved President Kennedy, and not the governor. In a 1988 interview on radio station WXYT, Dr. Spitz insisted that we didn't know the position of Kennedy when he was shot because "The first shot, when Kennedy is hit, is when he is passing behind a road sign which indicates the upcoming freeway and you really don't know when at exactly the point when Kennedy was hit in the shoulder. You think you know because of the echo, but we know very well that the echo follows the sound." (What echo? What is he talking about?) Spitz then revealed that he--and by extension the entire pathology panel--had never been told that the photography panel had determined Kennedy to have been hit before he went behind the sign. When told that photographs indicate Kennedy was hit before he went behind the sign, he thundered: "No, that's not true. You see him with a distorted face when he comes out from the sign. When he goes behind the sign, he's smiling and waving to the people on the right." (The photography panel had rejected this argument, and had determined that Kennedy was in fact in distress when he went behind the sign.)
Dr. Weston was equally in the dark. After viewing the autopsy materials in 1975, at the request of CBS News, he emerged with a similar attitude as Spitz. According to a November 28, 1975 AP article, published nationwide, Weston claimed that while a better autopsy and a photo of Kennedy when the bullets struck could have helped "determine the bullet's point of origin," the "president's car is hidden by a roadside sign in the only films of the crucial seconds when he was hit."
Dr. Petty apparently concurred. While he never said anything, from what I have found, about the shot's impacting while Kennedy was hidden behind the sign in the Zapruder film, he did make some statements suggesting that he believed Kennedy's appearance in the frames when he was not behind the sign incompatible with the single-bullet theory. In his 1978 HSCA testimony, taken right after Dr. Wecht's testimony (perhaps to dull its impact), he defended the single-bullet theory's viability. After acknowledging that he believed the bullet trajectory to have been upward in Kennedy's body, he asserted,
"But the President was not upright at the time he was shot, he was certainly not in the anatomic position." Shrewdly, he failed to mention when this was. If there had been a frame in which Kennedy had been leaning forward enough to support Petty's claim, one can only assume, Petty would have mentioned it.
That Petty had problems locating a frame in which Kennedy and Connally's wounds were in alignment is supported, moreover, by his statements a few moments later. When discussing the horizontal trajectory, and Dr. Wecht's claim Kennedy's throat wound was not aligned with Connally's back wound for a shot from the sniper's nest, Petty asserted "the apparent relative positions of the President and the Governor are somewhat misleading, that is, that one cannot determine by looking at a flat two dimensional view of one side of the limousine and the contained individuals precisely what relationship they had one to another." By saying the apparent relative positions of the two men in the film were somewhat misleading, of course, Petty was as much as admitting that the film suggested, even to him, that Kennedy and Connally were never aligned in a manner supporting that they were struck by one bullet as proposed. One can only assume, then, that he, as his colleagues, felt comfortable with the assumption they were hit when their exact positions could not be observed.
In 2003, at a conference sponsored by Dr. Wecht, Dr. Baden, the pathology panel's spokesman, revealed himself to be yet another more comfortable with the blinders on. When asked to point out the moment in the Zapruder film that Kennedy is first hit, he asserted: "My impression is that he (Kennedy) is shot behind the Stemmons Freeway sign; that's why we don't see it." When Wecht correctly pointed out that Kennedy was only behind the sign for .9 seconds, hardly enough to lean forward and then back, Baden then explained: "I think Kennedy's neck has to be leaning forward a little bit, waving to somebody as you do, and that would put him in position."
Spitz, Weston, Petty, and Baden's supposition that Kennedy was hit while behind the sign in the film, and/or unscientific belief one couldn't accurately determine the relative positions of Kennedy and Connally in the limo, is inconsistent with the HSCA's findings. This, then, raises the possibility that someone (perhaps Robert Blakey) knew the Zapruder film never showed Kennedy to be in a position to receive his wounds as proposed, and had sought out someone less concerned with his reputation to claim just the opposite. That way, when confronted with the fact that Kennedy never was in such position, the doctors could always raise their hands and do their best Freddie Prinze impression, protesting, "It's not my yob, mang!"
Well, then whose job was it? As the job was virtually impossible, they gave it to another 70's television icon, a man who regularly did the impossible: Mr. Phelps.
The Portable Hole
No, not quite Mr. Phelps of Mission Impossible fame, but close. They called NASA, and NASA sent them a trajectory expert named Thomas Canning. To their eternal shame, the HSCA then gave Canning the ability to move the wounds as he saw fit, in order to better align the trajectories and, one can only assume, make sure they all pointed back to the sniper's nest.
Since this last assertion is really hard to swallow, let me quote the part of the HSCA report that makes this clear. On page 33 of HSCA Appendix Vol. 6, in the report on the trajectory analysis, when describing the procedures used to establish the bullet trajectories, it declares "The Forensic Pathology Panel was responsible for providing, to the extent possible, the precise locations of the wounds sustained by Kennedy and Connally." But there is an asterisk after this. At the bottom of the page, in an explanation of this asterisk, the report acknowledges "While the Forensic Pathology Panel did provide this information, the actual measurements related to wound locations were determined by the NASA scientist who was responsible for supervising the trajectory project. He was in frequent consultation with members of the Forensic Pathology Panel and with forensic anthropologists from both the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute, and the Smithsonian Institute." How frequent he consulted with these unidentified panel members isn't stated. But if any of the members disagreed with Baden's testimony regarding the back wound location, and disagreed with the exhibits he presented to the committee, they were free to testify and voice their dissent. None did.
In any case, under the encouragement of others or not, when Canning testified
on 9-12-78, it became clear he'd taken liberties with the wound locations. Despite the fact that Dr. Baden had testified but 5 days
before, and had presented a number of exhibits, including exhibits 46,
58, and 65, depicting the bullet entering at the T-1 level, Canning boldly dragged Exhibit 376, which showed this same
bullet entering considerably above the T-1 level and the problematic first rib, before the committee.
Much as a character on the old Mission: Impossible TV series, or a cartoon character, or a decent Dungeons and Dragons player, he had availed himself of a portable hole.
Apparently, his conscience had fallen down that hole. Although the wound locations in his exhibits were undoubtedly at odds with the wound locations described in the pathology panel's report, he had the cojones to entitle Exhibit 376 "JFK Wound Locations Deduced from Pathology Panel Report."
Now, in the House
of Representatives they might call this creative interpretation., but in my
house, we call it LYING.
And there's reason, moreover, to think others put Canning up to it. Not doctors, but the HSCA staff... HSCA Deputy Chief Counsel Gary Cornwell, in his 1998 book Real Answers, makes a bizarre claim that shows that Canning was far from alone in misrepresenting the back wound location as interpreted by the pathology panel. Here it is: "In the end, when the errors committed by the original clinical pathologists as set out in the Warren Commission Report are corrected, and the Warren Commission's alleged 'precision' of wound location and bullet trajectories are recognized as actually being quite imprecise, there is nothing necessarily 'magical' about the path of the single bullet."
Feel free to read that again... Yep, Cornwell was claiming that the HSCA's being more 'precise' than the Warren Commission in its determination of the wound locations made the single-bullet theory less magical, and therefore more probable. What a crock! There isn't a soul alive--outside perhaps Cornwell--who thinks the HSCA pathology panel's re-interpreting the back wound location at a point 2 inches lower on Kennedy's back--at a point actually below the throat wound--made it more believable these wounds were connected by the path of a bullet sharply descending from above, and entering from behind.
Real Answers? Get real!
Cunning Canning and Bad Bad Baden
But the incorrect placement of the back wound in F-376 is just the tip of the iceberg. For its lateral depiction of the single-bullet theory in Exhibit F-376, the trajectory panel placed the back wound on the back of the neck in nearly the exact location used in Warren Commission Exhibit CE 385. F-376, it bears repeating, was presented to the committee by Thomas Canning five days after Dr. Baden testified that the back wound in CE 385 was two inches higher than its actual location. Not stated previously, however, is that Dr. Baden presented CE 385 into evidence as HSCA Exhibit F-47. Canning had thereby presented an exhibit to the commission that confirmed the wound location in an exhibit already presented to the committee as an example of an inaccurate exhibit. Even worse, Canning claimed the wound locations in his own exhibit had come from the panel claiming the wound locations in F-47 were inaccurate! Now, I don't know which is more shocking--that Canning would misrepresent the evidence in so brazen a manner or that no one on the committee noticed that his exhibits directly contradicted the more credible testimony of the forensic pathology panel.
The forensic pathology panel's exhibits, unfortunately, weren’t much better. On Exhibit F-58, for instance, the back wound was shifted slightly further from the spine than was indicated by the autopsy photos or by the measurements. The entrance was measured as being 4.5 cm from the mid-line of Kennedy’s spine. If the entrance on this drawing is 4.5 cm from his midline, however, then Kennedy measured only 13.6 cm to his shoulder. The Clark Panel measured 16 cm to his shoulder, which is as one should expect for a man of his size. If he was indeed 16 cm to his shoulder, the wound in exhibit F-58 is 5.4 cm from his spine, not 4.5. In addition, if one uses the width of the ruler in the photo (which appears to be a centimeter ruler), 37 mm or 1.46 inches, to measure the distance from Kennedy’s spine to the bullet entrance, one finds the entrance is approximately 3.9 cm. from his spine, not 4.5. If the entrance was really 3.9 cm from the spine but presented in F-58 as 5.4 cm from the spine, it follows that the wound was moved almost 40% further from the spine.
This convenient movement of the back wound, courtesy Dr. Baden, who worked on the drawings with medical illustrator Ida Dox, allowed the bullet path to seem outside the width of Kennedy’s spine. That this entrance was at the level of the first rib, and the first rib was not depicted, on this or on any other of the exhibits created for the medical panel, is also suspicious.
But Canning was not to be outdone. Canning held that Kennedy was leaning forward 14 degrees compared to the street when he received the back wound and that a proper analysis of his wounds and a proper analysis of his body position at frame 190 of the Zapruder film indicated the bullet was descending 4 degrees as it passed through his body. This, of course, directly contradicted the professional opinions of the doctors, who said the bullet passed upwards in his body. Canning held, furthermore, that when one added in the 3 degree slope of the street to the 14 of the forward lean and the 4 of the descent within the body one could project back 21 degrees from the point of impact to establish the location of the shooter. Not surprisingly, he said this was just below the sniper’s nest. By deciding that Kennedy was leaning forward 14 degrees from the street and then adding the slope of the street on top of it, of course, Canning had testified that Kennedy was leaning forward 17 degrees from vertical at frame Z-190. This was far less than the 31 degrees offered by the forensic pathology panel but was still far more than was evident in the Zapruder film.
If you're having trouble grasping this, it's no wonder. There were two interpretations of Kennedy's wounds and body position put forth in major disagreement with each other. One interpretation came from nine prominent doctors and presented Kennedy leaning forward 31 degrees before he was shot, and the other interpretation came from a man with no medico-legal background whatsoever, who re-arranged the wounds and re-positioned the body to come up with something more acceptable to the committee.
That Canning's report was a confusing mess is easily demonstrated. When depicting Kennedy's wound locations he presents Figure II-13, which is the same as the anterior view of Exhibit F-376 above. This depicts a bullet entrance above Kennedy's first rib, and an exit slightly below it just above the level of the first rib. Amazingly, however, in the text of the report he tells a different story. When discussing the back wound, he writes "the back wound was located at a point 4.4 cm to the right of and 1.1 cm above Kennedy's neck wound at the time of the shot. The bullet was moving from right to left by 18 degrees and downward by 4 degrees relative to Kennedy if he were sitting erect". When discussing the single-bullet theory, he explains further "Kennedy's neck wound was 1.1 cm below the first thoracic vertebra." What? Is it really possible that Canning didn't know that the first rib was at the level of the first thoracic vertebra? Why else would he depict the bullet entrance above the rib on the drawing, and then admit it was actually at the same level as the rib in the text? And why else would he depict the exit just above the level of this rib in the drawing, and then claim it was 1.1 cm below this level in the text? Someone was pulling a fast one, or simply screwing up big time.
When one compares Canning's depiction of the single-bullet theory to the Zapruder film one discovers another reason to doubt not only the single-bullet theory as proposed, but his commitment to the truth. As stated, by moving the single-bullet theory to Z-190 from the Warren Commission’s estimation of Z-210—Z-225, the HSCA had not only increased the vertical trajectory from the sniper's nest, but the right to left trajectory of the bullet entering the limo. This forced them to re-assess Connally's position in the limousine. In order to explain how he could be hit in the armpit by a bullet exiting Kennedy’s throat, Canning decided Connally was sitting near the middle of the limousine, turned to his right. This contradicted Connally’s testimony that after the first shot, he tried to turn to his right but couldn’t see the President, and was starting to turn to his left when hit. A man in the position Canning proposed for Connally could see the President quite easily when turned to his right, and would never have turned to his left in hopes of a better view.
Upon close inspection, it seems clear that Canning paid little attention to the Zapruder film when preparing this drawing. In the film, not only is Connally closer to the door than depicted in the trajectory drawing, but his torso is turned further to its right. A bullet hitting Connally at the angle determined by Canning, it follows, would probably have pierced his heart, and exited his left side. If Canning had studiously compared the Z-frames to the drawing he would also have noticed that Jacqueline Kennedy is in the film at Connally’s
left, but that the only way she could be at his left in the drawing would be
if she were hanging over the left side of the car. Since a viewing of this sequence reveals
she was sitting against the back of her seat, the only logical conclusion to be made is that Connally was closer to the door than depicted.
A photo taken a few minutes before Z-190, but from a similar angle, supports this conclusion. As it depicts Jackie Kennedy sitting considerably inward from
her side of the car, but still outside of Connally, it suggests that
Connally was sitting in a similar position in Z-190. If one can look at Canning's exhibit and visualize Connally sliding back to the position depicted in this photo, moreover, then one can see how the backwards
trajectory through Kennedy’s neck on to the sniper's nest would pivot to his left, right off the face of the
school book depository and right onto the face of the Dal-Tex
It gets worse. When one looks closer at the drawing, which was entered into evidence as Exhibit F-144 and re-printed in the final report the next year as Figure II-24, one can see that the line supposedly leading to the sniper’s nest actually leads back to the far east corner of the school book depository, approximately 5 feet from the sniper's nest. This means that if Connally was even one inch closer to the door than depicted in the drawing then the rearward projection of his wounds through Kennedy would miss the school book depository altogether and point accusingly back towards the Dal-Tex Building. Although the wound locations and their relative positions within the limousine were purportedly determined independently, and then projected back towards the sniper's location, the incredible coincidence that this trajectory just so happened to point to the corner makes me suspect that the original trajectories did in fact point towards the Dal-Tex Building, and that Canning subsequently moved Connally further and further inwards from the door until the trajectory from his back wound location through Kennedy’s neck reached the school book depository. Call me paranoid if you like. But there's nothing about Canning's work for the HSCA that remotely inspires trust.
In fact, it inspires mucho mistrust. Canning's drawing reminds me of an earlier drawing used to support the single-bullet theory. In his 1966 book, Our Murdered Presidents, a book supporting the Warren Report and its single-bullet theory, writer Stewart M. Brooks reprinted an early cartoon depiction of the shooting. This Boston Globe cartoon inaccurately depicted the Texas School Book Depository, on the northwest corner of Houston and Elm, in the actual location of the Dal-Tex Building, on the northeast corner of Houston and Elm. Brooks thus misled his readers into believing the Warren Commission's purported single-bullet shot came from directly behind Kennedy and Connally. Now, was this just a dumb mistake?? Or was Brooks deliberately deceiving his readers, knowing full well that the Dal-Tex location was the more "logical" source for a shot striking both men on the right sides of their bodies? Call me paranoid if you like. But I'm not so sure these innocent mistakes are "innocent."
The realization that Baden's Exhibit F-58 misrepresented the location of Kennedy's back wound, and moved it further from the spine, led me to wonder just how a bullet entering a back within two inches of the middle of a grown man’s spine can exit from the middle of his throat without striking his spine. Since there was NO damage to the nose of the purported magic bullet, the slightest tick of a transverse process destroys the single-bullet theory. Someone needs to show us then how the proposed magic bullet made its way through Kennedy’s body without striking any bone. Every time a single-bullet theorist such as Arlen Specter makes an appearance the audience should start chanting “spine…spine…” until he deals with this problem. I’m almost serious.
Now it's not as if Specter, when developing his theory, was unaware of this problem. Pathologists consulted for an 11-24-63 article for the Associated Press had claimed that any bullet entering or exiting near the Adam's Apple would "probably" have "struck the spinal cord." When taking the testimony of Dr. Malcolm Perry in March 1964, moreover, Specter asked Perry about his initial speculation Kennedy's throat wound and head wound were caused by one bullet. To this, Perry replied "Since I observed only two wounds in my cursory
examination, it would have necessitated the missile striking probably a
bony structure and being deviated in its course in order to account for
these two wounds...It required striking the spine." Well, if Dr. Perry thought a bullet entering the middle of Kennedy's throat and exiting the right side of his head might very well have hit his spine, shouldn't Specter have considered the likelihood a bullet on the opposite right to left trajectory would similarly strike his spine?
So, why didn't he? Was he afraid of what he'd find? Both Dr. John Nichols in the seventies, and Dr. David Mantik in the nineties, studied the anatomy of the neck, and the trajectory of the bullet through Kennedy's neck, and concluded that the bullet, should it have entered the entrance described in the autopsy report, and exited the exit described in the autopsy report, would have struck his spine. This is so readily apparent, in fact, that one of the first articles on the president's wounds, by Frank Carey for the Associated Press, noted: "Pathologists here speculated that President Kennedy's spinal cord and some vital nerve tracts near the base of his brain may have been badly damaged by the bullet that killed him on Friday...the Washington pathologists said that if the neck wound was near the Adam's Apple, which is on the mid-line of the neck, the bullet probably struck the spinal cord, which runs up to the brain via the back of the neck, also at the mid-line. They said a bullet entering the body near the Adam's Apple--or leaving it at that point--could also plow into vital nerve channels at the base of the brain."
When I looked at this issue myself, I just couldn’t find a
way for the bullet to squeak through.
Although some single-assassin theorist trajectories begin above T1, they
nevertheless entail that the bullet passed the spine at T1, a level where the
spine is considerably wider than it is higher up on the neck (even when one
ignores the problematic first rib). From photos and x-rays and from
the HSCA’s Exhibit F-58, I was able to estimate that the spine at T1 is 60% the
width of the neck above it. As my neck
is approximately 5 inches wide, I estimated that Kennedy’s spine was 3 inches
wide at T1. This means that it extended
1.5 inches across the midline. Since the
spine is slightly more than halfway between the back wound and the throat
wound, however, this means that, even if the middle of the bullet entrance
(which was ¼ inch wide) was 2 inches to the right of the midline the bullet
would strike the spine at just less than one inch from the midline, a half inch or
so in from the tip of T1. If the bullet entered closer to the spine—by my
analysis the entrance was roughly 1 ½ inches from the midline of the
spine--then the bullet would have struck the spine at a point more than ¾ of an
inch in from the tip. The width of the spine at T1 alone,
therefore, even without the problematic first rib, necessitates that the bullet passed either above or below this
if the bullet entered at T-1 and passed above this level, the bullet
would not be likely to exit at the T1 level of Kennedy's throat, as
described by the doctors and demonstrated by the autopsy photos.
Which means the only way to make the single-bullet theory work is to bend it like Canning and disregard the medical experts and assert that the bullet entered above T1 and passed slightly above T1 and the first rib en route to an exit at approximately the T1 level. This has its own set of problems, however. A bullet passing just over T1 would pass at C7. In 2012, at a shopping mall, I noticed that within a series of booths set up to welcome runners returning from a 10k race for charity there were two chiropractors, and that each of them had a model spine set up to advertise his wares. I inspected these spines and spoke to these chiropractors, and they both confirmed without any hesitation whatsoever that there was "no way" a bullet could pass between the transverse processes of C7 and T1 without striking bone. (This confirmed a point I'd made years before with single-assassin theorist John McAdams, who'd repeatedly claimed a bullet could have passed on such a trajectory, and that he'd demonstrated this many times with a dowel.) In any event, this suggests that, for the bullet to pass over T1 without incident, it would have to pass the spine at C6 or higher--inches above the level of the trajectory proposed by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel.
If there’s some reason to believe Kennedy’s spine at T1 is not as wide as I’ve ventured, however, or if there is some reason to believe that the bullet entered higher than C7 and just missed striking bone, I’d appreciate someone demonstrating just how this occurred. Similarly, if someone can come up with a reason to believe Kennedy was bent over at the moment of impact, as depicted in HSCA Exhibit F-46 (only with a higher back wound), then maybe the single-bullet theory can be defended.
Even then, however, there will still be
with this fantastic theory, reviled the world over, that some nevertheless claim as a “fact.”
The Speed Trap
The testimony of the HSCA's wound ballistics expert, Larry Sturdivan, is that the first bullet to strike Kennedy was
traveling over 1700 feet/second as it passed through his neck. Later, in his 2005 book, The JFK Myths, he increased this "probable velocity" to somewhere between 2045 feet/second and 1780 feet/second. This bullet was purported to have struck only soft tissue, and done little damage to the neck. And yet, Dr. Gary Ordog, in
his book Management of Gunshot Wounds,
notes that the mortality rate for high-velocity gunshot wounds to the
over 50%. He explains: “Vascular injury
caused by missile wounds from bullets moving faster than 1,000 feet/second has
been shown to occur by neat shearing of the vessel without stretching it first,
as occurs with low-velocity missiles. This is followed by cavitation that
damages a more extensive area of the blood vessel, possibly extending for at
least 20 mm on each side of the bullet’s path.” He further explains that “Cavitation stretches
the smaller blood vessels, shearing and rupturing them as well as nerves and
even bone.” He later concludes: "In the author's experience, up to 100% of patients with high-velocity bullet wounds of the neck have major structural damage requiring surgery."
Should one think that Ordog was some ill-informed civilian spouting his personal impressions, one should know that in support of his statements he cited a study performed by Sturdivan's employer, Edgewood Arsenal, and published in the Archives of Surgery in August 1970. This study concludes "The high velocity missile neatly shears the arterial wall, but the apparent explosive effect of the temporary cavity causes 'blunt' trauma in a crushing manner." A chart prepared for this study, moreover, shows that a high-velocity bullet just missing an artery will nevertheless cause breaks in the artery, even when traveling as slow as 1,000 fps.
Now compare those descriptions of the damage one might expect to find with what Kennedy's autopsist, Dr. James J. Humes, told the Warren Commission he actually found. From his March 16, 1964 testimony: "We examined in the region of this incised surgical wound which was the
tracheotomy wound and we saw that there was some bruising of the
muscles of the neck in the depths of this wound as well as laceration
or defect in the trachea...it is our opinion that the missile traversed the
neck and slid between these muscles and other vital structures with a
course in the neck such as the carotid artery, the jugular vein and
other structures because there was no massive hemorrhage or other
massive injury in this portion of the neck."
While high-velocity bullets "shear" and "rupture" blood vessels in the neck, the bullet traversing Kennedy's neck was reported to have only "slid between" these vessels. While Dr. Ordog noted that up to 100% of those receiving a high-velocity gunshot wound to the neck have "major structural damage requiring surgery" Dr. Humes claimed there was "no massive hemorrhage or other massive injury" to Kennedy's neck. Hmmm...
Okay, you might be thinking, this was just the opinion of one of the autopsists, Dr. Humes. Perhaps Dr. Humes had missed something, and the other doctors disagreed and hadn't bothered to correct him. But this wasn't just Humes' speaking for the others... In 1965, Dr. Finck wrote his superior, General Blumberg, and told him not only that "I examined the tracheotomy skin wound and the trachea and did not find evidence of a bullet wound," but that all three autopsists had examined the tracheotomy wound and that "None of us noticed a bullet wound along its course." Double hmmm...
And to close the circle, when discussing the throat wound with the HSCA's Andy Purdy on August 17, 1977, Dr. Boswell is reported to have claimed he was "certain...no major blood vessel (was) damaged by the path of the missile." Triple hmmm...
one considers that Dr. Charles Carrico, the emergency room doctor who first examined Kennedy, also noted only minor damage to his throat, telling the HSCA that he'd observed "some modest amount of hematoma in the recesses to the endo right of the trachea" and that Malcolm Perry, the Parkland surgeon who performed Kennedy's tracheotomy, not only confirmed Carrico's conclusion there was little damage to the neck, but initially described the exit wound as being only 3-5
mm wide--smaller than the bullets fired by Oswald’s rifle--well, then it
becomes pretty darned clear that something is just wrong with the supposed single-bullet
"fact". It just doesn't add up. The bullet creating Kennedy's throat wound--if it was a bullet--was almost certainly not traveling at a high velocity.
The more one digs, the clearer this becomes. Beyond testifying to his observing a small hole in the throat, and a lack of damage to the blood vessels, Dr. Perry told the Warren Commission that, before it was obscured by a tracheotomy incision, he had observed a “small ragged laceration of the trachea on the anterior lateral right side.” A small laceration.
He later specified just how small. In 1978, when contacted by the HSCA and interviewed by its counsel Andy Purdy, he claimed that the laceration "was on the right side of the trachea, and that it was incomplete, and I don't remember whether it was a third or a quarter of the circumference..."
As you might have guessed, this makes little sense should Kennedy have actually been hit by a high-velocity bullet. According to Dr. D.F.N. Dixon in Management of Gunshot Wounds, “Direct impact on larynx or trachea from bullets fired from high velocity military rifles or carbines will produce severe damage from their high kinetic energy, tumbling, or cavitation effect.” Furthermore, Dr.s Kenneth and Roy Swan in their book Gunshot Wounds: Pathophysiology and Management note that "Gunshot injuries of the larynx and trachea are infrequently seen in emergency rooms" due to such injuries usually being associated with "fatal exsanguination (bleeding) from injured common carotid arteries and internal jugular veins."
Surgery in World War II, a book released by the
Surgeon General of the U.S. Army in 1962,
confirms this harsh assessment. A chapter written by a former surgeon of the Fifth Army, which fought
Italian forces in Sicily, reports that when treating neck wounds he needed to effect "Debridement (the removal of dead and damaged tissue)
of all structures" as "Multiple involvement was the rule
because of the anatomy of the area." And it's not as if this understanding was restricted to military surgeons; Earl Ubell, Science Editor of the New York Herald-Tribune, described Kennedy's wounds on 11-23-63 in a manner suggesting he knew something of the destruction brought by a high-velocity bullet's slicing through a neck. He wrote "The bullet that crashed through President Kennedy's neck and head probably took with it blood vessels and nerves leaving his entire body stunned and helpless."
From this it seems likely that, in 1964, when the Warren Commission first released the medical reports and testimony regarding President Kennedy, there were many military and emergency room doctors, and even science editors for daily newspapers, who were aware of the single-bullet theory's speeding problem, who opted to say nothing.
It seems possible, however, that there are many other doctors, including experienced forensic pathologists such as Michael Baden, who are currently unaware of this problem. In 1980, during a seminar on forensic pathology and homicide investigation in Toronto, Ontario, Dr. Baden admitted that "less than a tenth of 1%" of the gunshot wounds studied by his New York coroner's office were by "military rifles," and that almost all the rest came from handguns or shotguns. He admitted further that Kennedy was killed "by rifle type ammunition which we know very little about."
one might assume that thousands of doctors with WW II experience would
know more than Baden, and would have been able to assist the HSCA, this
is not necessarily true. Surgery in World War II
confirms the rarity of Kennedy's
wounds. Among its graphs and charts it reveals that intra-cranial head
and neck wounds each accounted for but 2% of the wounds seen at the
hospital level, and that rifle fire accounted for but 5% of the wounds
studied. From this one can estimate that during WW II a U.S. doctor
would see someone with a head wound created in the same manner as
Kennedy's was purportedly created, oh, once every thousand patients or so,
and someone with a neck wound created in the same manner as Kennedy's
was purportedly created, also about once every thousand patients or so. This
brings up the additional question of why neither the Warren Commission
nor the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel consulted with doctors who'd seen the effects of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition on soldiers, and instead used doctors affiliated with the U.S. military and/or large research facilities dependent on government grants.
one think it unlikely that a layman as myself should recognize this
problem with the single-bullet theory bullet's velocity, when so many
supposed experts, including those on the HSCA's Forensic Pathology
Panel, have looked the other way, one can take comfort that one of
Kennedy's emergency room doctors, Dr. Ronald Jones, mentioned this
problem long before I. When asked by Arlen Specter if the throat wound
could have been an exit of an M/C rifle bullet, he told the Warren
Commission: "If this were an exit wound, you would think that it exited
at a very low velocity...to the point that you might think that this
bullet barely made it through the soft tissues and just enough to drop
out of the skin on the opposite side."
And should one assume that Jones was a bit of an oddball, and that
his fellow physicians at Parkland Hospital couldn't possibly have shared his impression that the bullet creating Kennedy's throat wound was not traveling at a high-velocity, one should know
that Dr. Baxter also told Specter that the small throat wound was not in keeping with what he would expect from a high-velocity bullet. When asked by Specter why he thought such a small wound was unlikely, he replied: "It would be unlikely because the damage that the bullet would create
would be---first its speed would create a shock wave which would damage a
larger number of tissues, as in its path, it would tend to strike, or
usually would strike, tissues of greater density than this particular
missile did and would then begin to tumble and would create larger
jagged--the further it went, the more jagged would be the damage that it
created; so that ordinarily there would have been a rather large wound
Now, to be clear, Dr. Baxter accepted that the small exit, under the circumstances described by Specter, was "perfectly understandable." But the circumstances described by Specter were not the actual circumstances. Here is Specter's question: "Dr. Baxter, what would your opinion be if these additional facts were
present: First, the President had a bullet wound of entry on the right
posterior thorax just above the upper border of the Scapula with the
wound measuring 7 by 4 mm. in oval shape, being 14 cm. from the tip of
the right acromion process and 14 cm. below the tip of the right mastoid
process--assume this is the set of facts, that the wound Just described
was caused by a 6.5 mm bullet shot from approximately 160 to 250 feet
away from the President, from a weapon having a muzzle velocity of
approximately 2,000 feet per second, assuming as a third factor that the
bullet passed through the President's body, going in between the strap
muscles of the shoulder without violating the pleura space and exited at
a point in the midline of the neck, would the hole which you saw on the
President's throat be consistent with an exit point, assuming the
factors which I have just given to you?"
Well, as we've seen, there was no evidence the bullet passed between the strap muscles of the shoulder. This is something Specter invented, as a consequence of either his lack of integrity or his lack of competence. Yes, Dr. Humes testified that there was a bruising of the strap muscles, and that in hindsight this suggested the passage of a bullet exiting the throat, but the strap muscles HE was describing were on the front of the neck, and not the back of the shoulder.
And no, Baxter was not the only Parkland doctor asked to concur with the throat wound being an exit for a high velocity bullet under the blatantly false circumstances described by Specter. Specter played the same trick (or made the same stupid mistake, take your pick) with Dr.s McClelland, Carrico, Perry, and Jenkins. Dr. McClelland even agreed the wound could be an exit for a high velocity bullet under the incorrect assumption a Carcano bullet would lose much of its velocity in soft tissue. He had thereby supported Jones' belief the throat wound was inconsistent with a wound made by a bullet still traveling at a high velocity.
While Carrico, Perry and Jenkins agreed with Specter's make-believe scenario without reservations, furthermore, we have reason to believe at least two of them were either just playing along, or later came to realize their mistake.
Operative Trauma Management: an Atlas, a medical text book published in 1998, instructs that with high velocity gunshot wounds to the neck, "damage may be remote from the missile tract as a result of blast injury, and the incidence of major associated injuries is high." As discussed, there was no such damage in Kennedy's neck. This makes clear, then, that the wound to Kennedy's throat did not give the appearance of a a high-velocity gunshot wound to those inspecting Kennedy's wounds. And guess what? The editor of Operative Trauma Management was none other than Dr. C. J. Carrico, the first doctor to examine Kennedy's throat wound. And guess what? The author of the cited passage was none other than Dr. Malcolm Perry, who performed a tracheotomy on Kennedy expecting to find damage to the underlying vessels, only to note no such damage beyond a small ragged wound to Kennedy's trachea.
And should one think I'm quoting Dr. Perry out of context, there's this... In 2011, an 11-17-81 letter from Dr. Perry to a student named Stephen Munson was auctioned off over the internet. A link to this letter was sent my way by David Butler. In this letter, Dr. Perry tried to explain his error in calling Kennedy's throat wound an entrance wound. He wrote "I initially thought that the neck wound was an entrance wound only because it was small, as entrance wounds tend to be, but this is not invariably the case. Full-jacketed bullets and small missiles may produce small wounds on exiting, especially if their velocity has decreased appreciably..."
And should that not be enough to convince one that this problem deserves our attention, one should also be aware that at least one of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel's members refused to let themselves believe that the damage to Kennedy's throat was as minor as reported, and presumed instead that the impressions of Dr.s Carrico, Perry, Humes, Boswell, and Finck were grossly in error. While the Panel kept no publicly-available notes of their discussions, Dr. Baden testified to this dispute, telling the HSCA committee, "The panel could not unanimously agree as to whether or not the gunshot wound through the back and neck would necessarily be fatal because of the failure to examine the bullet track at the time of the autopsy--dissect the track. As a result we do not know whether there was injury to the spine of the President or to major blood vessels." The fact that this was even questioned, after Dr. Humes and Dr. Perry testified before the Warren Commission that there was no damage to the spine or major blood vessels, indicates that there was at least one member of the panel who realized that it didn't make a lot of sense for a high-velocity bullet to create so little damage.
This member, if it was but one member, may have been Baden himself. On 8-15-78, barely three weeks before he testified on Kennedy's wounds, Baden testified before the HSCA on Dr. Martin Luther King's fatal wound. Dr. King had also been killed by a high-velocity rifle bullet; it entered his right cheek, smashed through his jaw bone, re-entered his neck, smashed through his spine and was found beneath the skin on the left side of his back. During his questioning, Dr. Baden was asked by Congressman Sawyer if a high-velocity bullet would cause "extensive damage and severe damage to tissue out beyond its track because of the lines of force it creates within the body." Dr. Baden's answer is most informative; after discussing the bones actually hit by the bullet, he added "If the bullet continued through the spine, it would have severed the spinal cord. If it didn't continue through the spinal canal and sever the spinal cord, the lines of force from the impact would have severely damaged the spinal cord without even touching it; and much of the extensive hemorrhaging and destruction of the tissues in the face and neck area of Dr. King were due to the lines of force that you allude to, sir."
The wound as reported by Carrico, Perry and the autopsy doctors was just not severe enough to have been created by a high-velocity rifle bullet. A WW II-era
report on the Bougainville Campaign, found online, describes a dozen
or so chest
wounds caused by 6.5 mm ammunition. The average wound of exit was many
times that of the
average wound of entrance, with several more than 10 times as large.
entrance wound in Kennedy’s back is believed to have been larger than
in his throat, I found no instances of thoracic wound entrances being
their exits, and only one instance where the entrance was more than one
the size of its exit. While these shots
were virtually all at closer range than the shots striking Kennedy, and while
all these shots were fatal, and therefore automatically more severe than the
one striking Kennedy, the small size of the exit in Kennedy’s throat still
seems curiously disproportionate. By way of example, one man shot by a sniper
from 150 yards, more than twice the length of the shot from the sniper’s nest
to Kennedy at Z-224, was found to have a 3 cm by 1.5 cm exit wound on his
chest, more than ten times the size of the small wound observed in Kennedy’s
Yes, the wound was just too small. While some, including Dr. Lattimer, have noted that bullets exiting from skin covered by tight clothing will often create an exit smaller than the width of the bullet, they fail to comprehend or acknowledge that such an exit, often referred to as a "shored" or "supported" exit, leaves behind a tell-tale sign. According to Dr. Vincent J. M. Di Maio, in his 1992 book Gunshot Wounds, and as demonstrated online in Milicent Cranor's article Trajectory of a Lie, shored exit wounds are "characterized by a broad irregular band of abrasion of the skin around the exit. In such wounds the skin is reinforced, or "shored," by a firm surface at the instant the bullet exits...Shored wounds have very wide, irregular abrasion collars and when dry may simulate contact wounds."
Now this is nothing new. In 1976, Abdullah Fatteh, in his book Medicolegal Investigation of Gunshot Wounds, noted: "If a bullet exits the skin without any resistance other than the tissue resistance, an exit hole with subsidiary tears results...If, however, the bullet exits from the skin against pressure from a firm or hard object in contact with the skin, the appearances of the exit wounds are different...If the object in contact with the skin is hard and the bullet exits against considerable resistance from it, the exit wound may not only be round but it may show a rim of abrasion in its margins. Such exit wounds could easily be mistaken for entrance wounds. Exit wounds of this nature may be seen when the victim is lying on the ground or standing against a wall when and the exited bullet is stopped by the ground or the wall. They may also be caused when the exited bullet hits a belt, buckle, tough clothing or a similar object in tight contact with the skin." Notice that Fatteh says such a wound "may" show a rim of abrasion, not that one can expect it to show such a rim.
A 1981 article by Dr. Douglas Dixon in the Journal of Forensic Sciences entitled The Characteristics of Shored Exit Wounds, however, proclaimed: "If the exit wound is "shored" or abutted by a firm support such as clothing, furniture, or building materials, then the exit wound may take on appearances of an entrance wound, such as a circular defect with an abraded margin. This can occur with contact, close range, or distant shots. 92% of shored exit wounds in one study had a round or ovoid defect, and all had some degree of abrasion. The degree of shoring abrasion increased directly with the KE of the projectile and the rigidity of the shoring material." Notice that Dixon concludes that all such wounds have some degree of abrasion and that the abrasion is related to the amount of energy released in the tissue and the rigidity of the shoring material.
A September 1983 article by Dr. Josephino Aguilar in the Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology, moreover, shared this conclusion. Aguilar concluded that one could distinguish shored wounds of exit from entrance wounds by the “scalloped or punched-out abrasion collar and sharply contoured skin in between the radiating skin lacerations marginating the abrasion.”
These studies then support Di Maio's subsequent claim that abrasion rings are "characteristic" of such wounds, and would most certainly be expected at the shored exit of a military rifle bullet.
This appears to be the modern consensus. The "abrasion ring problem" discussed by Cranor is reinforced by numerous other textbooks and articles, which refer to "supported" wounds--Lattimer's term for the small exit created by the tie--and "shored wounds", the more commonly used term, interchangeably. The chapter on gunshot wounds in the Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences (2000) by Stefan Pollak and Pekka J Sauko, for example, claims: "Occasionally, the margins of the exit wound are abraded (shored) when a firm object (e.g., tight-fitting clothes, floor, wall or back of a chair) is pressed against the body at the site of the exiting projectile (Figures 3c and 5c). Under such circumstances, the skin around the exit is abraded by the supporting surface. In contrast to the “original” abrasion ring around the entry wound, in “shored” or “supported” exits the area of abrasion is not concentric, but irregular or lopsided and often disproportionately large ." Notice that the "rim of abrasion" Fatteh once said "may" be seen is now to be expected.
describing Kennedy's throat wound at Parkland described a small hole,
with no noticeable abrasion ring. The autopsy doctors also failed to observe this abrasion ring. And there is no abrasion ring apparent in the autopsy photos. Even the HSCA pathology panel, which took Lattimer's cue and believed the throat wound to be a shored wound of exit, noted that the margins of what they took to be the exit wound along the bottom of the tracheotomy incision in the photos were only "slightly denuded and reddish-brown." They failed to note an abrasion ring. It follows then that there is no evidence the small hole in Kennedy's throat was a shored or supported (Lattimer's term) exit, and that the evidence, in fact, suggests it was not. The report of the HSCA pathology panel noted: "Several panel members are also of the opinion that an unshored exit wound of a missile of comparable size and velocity might be similar if the missile were not misshapen by striking a substantial bone within the body." This means the bulk of the panel was not of this opinion, and believed the shoring of the throat wound to be the only logical excuse for the small size of this exit, should the exit have been for the bullet recovered at the hospital, and fired from Oswald's rifle. This suggests that the small size of the throat wound is, in the eyes of modern forensic science, an unsolved mystery.
When I pored through forensics journals looking for any
record of a bullet traveling a trajectory like that purported for the
so-called "magic bullet," I found further reason to doubt. The October 1975 Journal of Forensic
Sciences, for example, describes the death of a woman after she was struck in
the throat, in the same location as Kennedy’s throat wound, with a .25 caliber
jacketed slug similar in width to the bullets fired from Oswald’s rifle. This
bullet traveled on a similar trajectory as the purported trajectory through
Kennedy, albeit in the opposite direction. This bullet was recovered from the right transverse process of the 7th
cervical spine, the area of the spine purportedly damaged by the passage of the
bullet through Kennedy. However, even
though this bullet was accidentally discharged from a pen gun and was traveling
at a much slower speed than the bullet purportedly traversing Kennedy, it
severed the woman’s right common carotid artery in passage, and brought about
Intriguingly, the article was co-written by Dr. Werner Spitz, a defender of the single-bullet theory, who served on both the Rockefeller Commission's medical panel and the HSCA's forensic pathology panel. Dr. Spitz needs to explain then how the supposedly high-velocity bullet striking Kennedy could traverse his neck and do so little damage, while a much slower bullet traveling on the same trajectory was so lethal. Until that time, there’s no reason we should take the single-bullet theory seriously as a theory, let alone accept it as a "fact".
Connally’s Chest Wounds
When one looks at the presumed trajectory of the bullet striking Connally, one finds yet another reason to doubt the single-bullet theory. (I know. I know. This is reason number umpteen. But I’m trying to put this garbage of a theory where garbage belongs, in a trash heap, NEVER to be recycled.) While a bullet traveling a flat trajectory from the entrance on Connally’s back might indeed have caused a glancing blow to his fifth rib, and have exited without penetrating his lung, the fact is that the bullet exited from just below Connally's nipple at a much wider part of his chest, and that it, to quote Dr. Robert Shaw's testimony before the Warren Commission, "stripped away" "about 10 centimeters of the fifth rib starting at the, about the mid-axillary line and going to the anterior axillary line." While the HSCA’s Dr. Charles Petty shared Dr. Shaw's impression of the wound and theorized that the bullet destroyed all this rib without ever piercing Connally's lung, this is extremely hard to believe when one looks at cross-sections of the chest and notes the entrance and exit locations on Connally. As Connally was turned to his right when struck, moreover, and as the bullet doing the striking was believed to have come from his right, he was simply not in the proper alignment to have the bullet slide along his right rib, whether on the outside or the inside of the rib. Of course, it also makes little sense for 10 cm of rib to be "stripped away" (as opposed to "fractured") by a bullet striking just a glancing blow. From this we can see why the rest of the HSCA panel rejected Petty's proposal. But this raises a dilemma for single-bullet theorists, far and wide. Unless one is to believe that the initial impact of the bullet in the armpit broke the rib into multiple pieces clear up to the point where the bullet made its exit, one is forced to concede that the bullet, having already passed through Kennedy, hit Connally’s rib upon entrance, hit it again upon exit, blasted through his wrist and then penetrated his thigh, all the while suffering no more damage than one fired into cotton.
The Warren Commission hired Dr. Alfred Olivier to see if this could be. Olivier and the staff at Edgewood Arsenal, fired Mannlicher-Carcano bullets through simulated necks, simulated chests, and actual cadavers’ wrists. He concluded the single-bullet theory was viable. He failed to simulate the wounds all at once, however. In 1967, CBS hired him to conduct a more thorough test. On the CBS program The Warren Report a bullet was shown passing through a simulated neck, a simulated chest, and a simulated wrist only to bounce off a simulated thigh. In a televised interview, Olivier admitted that, in Connally's "case, the bullet passed along the rib, fractured the rib, throwing fragments into the lung. Of course, we have no rib here, but it still simulates passing through the flesh." He went on to state that even without simulating the damage to Connally's rib, which would have greatly slowed the bullet prior to its even striking the wrist, "In some cases, it passed through the wrist; in other cases it lodged in the wrist." Amazingly, CBS declared the tests a success anyhow, insisting that the bullet would only have needed a little more velocity to penetrate the thigh. In 2003, the Discovery Channel created a similar simulation, with similar results. Once again the bullet, without being asked to strike any simulated ribs at the exit point of a simulated chest, bounced off a simulated thigh and the program declared its simulation a success.
In 1967, in the book Where Death Delights, Dr. Milton Helpern, a man who had supervised 10,000 autopsies on gun shot victims, explained why these tests failed. He said: “The single-bullet theory requires us to believe that this bullet went through seven layers of skin—tough, elastic, resistant skin….In addition to these seven layers of tough, human skin, this bullet passed through other layers of soft tissue, and then these shattered bones!...I just can’t believe that this bullet had the force to do what Mr. Specter and the Commission have demanded of it."
But this wasn’t the only test performed by Olivier to be misrepresented. In order to “simulate” Connally’s chest wounds and the proposed glancing blow off his rib for the Warren Commission, Olivier arranged for thirteen sedated goats to be shot. In only one of these attempts did the bullet glance off the bone as proposed. The recovered bullet from this attempt, furthermore, was far more damaged than the magic bullet, even though it had struck a smaller bone. After Dr. Cyril Wecht brought this up before the HSCA, HSCA special counsel I. Charles Mathews asked their ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan for an explanation. Sturdivan testified: “Exhibit 853 was a bullet that has ricocheted from the rib of a goat carcass, as Dr. Wecht indicated. However, let’s remember that the goat, which is roughly 100 pounds, is much, much smaller than Governor Connally and, therefore, the bullet passed through a relatively small amount of tissue before it hit the bone, and therefore, lost correspondingly less velocity. So we would have to say that the striking velocity on that bullet, CE 853, was much in excess of the striking velocity on Governor Connally, even if the bullet had passed through nothing before it hit Governor Connally.” That Sturdivan was spinning in order to shut down speculation was made clear by his statements moments later. After being asked for the difference in velocity between a bullet striking Kennedy and then Connally versus one directly striking Connally, he replied: “this bullet if only encountering a few inches of soft tissue would go through losing almost no velocity, 100 feet per second or thereabouts.” Thus, in Sturdivan’s expert opinion, the inch or less of flesh in Connally’s armpit overlying his rib would do more to slow a bullet’s velocity than the 5 ½ inches of muscle and tissue in Kennedy’s back and throat! The wounds are seemingly from different worlds. And at war with one another.
The absurdity of this war was reinforced by Sturdivan in his 2005 book The JFK Myths. In Table III he relates the probable speed of the magic bullet at seven steps of its voyage. Sturdivan proposes that the bullet was traveling at 2160 fps (plus or minus 30 fps) when fired, 2015 fps (plus or minus 30 fps) upon impact with Kennedy's neck (and yes, he writes "neck"), 1830 fps (plus or minus 50 fps) upon impact with Connally's back, 1450-800 fps (plus or minus 100 fps) while penetrating Connally's rib, 500 fps (plus or minus 100 fps) upon impact with Connally's wrist, and 135 fps (plus or minus 20 fps) upon impact with Connally's thigh. This is PREPOSTEROUS. Amazingly, he actually proposes the bullet lost more velocity in Connally's back before penetrating his rib (380 fps plus or minus 100 fps) than from passing through 5 1/2 inches of Kennedy's neck (185 fps plus or minus 50 fps) or shattering Connally's wrist (365 fps plus or minus 20 fps).
If you're wondering how a supposed expert could dream up anything so ludicrous, well, you need to look at Table II in Sturdivan's book. In Table II, he notes the speeds at which bullets like those used in the assassination rifle will deform. Here, Sturdivan relates that such a bullet traveling point first will deform on bone (such as Connally's rib) at 1700 fps and that such a bullet traveling sideways will deform on bone at 1400 fps. As the magic bullet was purportedly traveling sideways as it impacted Connally's rib, and emerged almost unscathed, Sturdivan had to find a way to lower its velocity from the 1830 fps or so it would be traveling upon exit from Kennedy's neck. So he simply decided that Connally's back flesh substantially slowed the bullet before it impacted on Connally's rib around 1450 fps. There were no tests to support this conjecture, at least none mentioned in his book. He simply decided.
No, that's not quite fair. In Appendix B of his book, Sturdivan offers an explanation for his conclusion. It's an extremely weak explanation, but an explanation nonetheless. You see, Sturdivan realized that the bullet traveled approximately 25-30 cm through Connally's back and chest, and was purported to have destroyed 10 cm of Connally's rib. He then assumed from this, on no apparent basis, that this 10 cm represented the middle third of the bullet trajectory, and that, therefore, the bullet traveled as much as 10 cm or 4 inches through Connally's body before striking his rib. Apparently, it never occurred to him to look at the entrance location near Connally's armpit, and project 4 inches forward along the trajectory from this entrance. If he had he would have seen that a bullet traveling sideways, as proposed, was on a direct course for the rib, and would have impacted the rib within the first inch or so of its journey.
If you're thinking that Sturdivan is a scientist, and his writings above reproach, you should consider that wound ballistics expert Dr. Martin Fackler, in his testimony in the 1992 ABA mock trial of Oswald, testified that, in his estimation, the bullet exited Connally's rib and struck Connally's wrist at 900 fps. This is almost twice the speed of the bullet traveling 500 fps (plus or minus 100 fps) proposed by Sturdivan, and makes little sense if one considers Sturdivan's approximation that the bullet traversing Connally's chest lost 1200 fps or more in velocity accurate. This not only demonstrates the speculative nature of this "science," but suggests that Sturdivan stealthily cut the velocity of the bullet before it hit the rib, as here proposed. I mean, let's think about it: if the bullet had struck Connally's back at 1830 fps, as proposed by Sturdivan, and struck Connally's wrist still traveling 900 fps, as proposed by Fackler, it would most certainly have struck and penetrated Connally's rib at a speed well over 1400 fps, at a speed at which the rib would have grossly deformed the bullet.
And should one still think my suspicion of Sturdivan unfair, and that he would not have changed his findings to support that the bullet striking Connally could have been as undamaged and as nearly pristine as CE 399, one should consider the testimony of one of the HSCA's experts that "the bullet would begin to deform, if it strikes say, soft tissue, at
something--remember, the density of soft tissue is around one, the
density of water, and it will begin to deform at something in excess of
2,000 feet per second. In other words, at the muzzle velocity of the
Mannlicher-Carcano. If it strikes bone, which is twice as dense, then
it would begin to deform nose on at approximately 1,400 feet per second.
If the bullet turns sideways, which is a weaker orientation, it will
deform down to around 1,000 feet feet per second."
Now, this expert's testimony was clearly at odds with Sturdivan's later assertion that the bullet would not deform if traveling below 1400 fps. And this expert's testimony, if accurate, clearly supports the testimony of Dr. Cyril Wecht that CE 399 would have to have been far more damaged for the single-bullet theory to be credible. And this expert was, furthermore, someone with whom Sturdivan would most certainly have compared notes before deciding the bullet wouldn't deform at 1400 fps. So who was this expert, you ask? Yeah--you guessed it--Larry Sturdivan himself...
The Upside-Down Pyramid
The bruise on the President's lung also raises some questions. When one considers that Dr. Humes told the Warren Commission that the magic bullet did not pierce the President’s lung but that it nevertheless left a 5 cm wide “pyramid-shaped” bruise at the lung’s tip, it should seem obvious that the damage stretched an inch and a half or more below the presumed bullet path. This is a wider bullet path than one would expect. Single-bullet theorists will explain this by insisting that the bruised lung was caused by the temporary cavity created by the supersonic passage of the bullet. They’ll claim this same cavity caused the damage to the transverse process of the first thoracic vertebrae apparent on the x-rays.
But there are severe problems with
this. For one, the ballistics experts of
the Warren Commission and HSCA testified that the bullets fired by
Mannlicher-Carcano rifles were among the most stable they ever tested, and, as
a result, could pass through one man and hit another with relative ease. Unspoken but implicit in their testimony,
however, is that these bullets transmit less energy into the surrounding tissue
than other bullets of their class and leave a narrower wound track. (This characteristic of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition was not exactly unnoticed by those who make it their business to notice such things. As far back as 1897, The Columbus Medical Journal noted that "In the Abyssinian campaign of the Italians, the disabling effect of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle of 6.5 millimeters, with which they were armed, was so slight that it was thought that the ammunition had been tampered with: for the natives overcame them with frightful slaughter.")
A second problem is that, even if a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet was able to create such a cavity, since the bullet would presumably be at the center of this cavity, the temporary cavity would be around 3 inches wide. A study by the Biophysics Division of the Army's Chemical Warfare Laboratory published in Military Medicine in 1957 correlates the size of temporary cavities to permanent cavities and demonstrates that a bullet creating a 3 inch wide temporary cavity would be likely to leave a permanent cavity 15mm wide or better. When one considers that the passage of this particular bullet was impossible to probe at autopsy, left the major vessels of the neck unharmed, and left only a 3-5 mm round hole upon exit, it seems highly unlikely such a large cavity was created.
Ab even bigger problem is that lung is, according to the dozens of articles I’ve read on wound ballistics, among the least dense tissues in the body, and, as a result, “little energy transfer occurs, and temporary cavities are small.” Michael S. Owen Smith made this lack of lung density and how it relates to the Kennedy assassination breathtakingly clear in the 1988 book Management of Gunshot Wounds. He said “The thorax behaves differently from the abdomen because it is largely filled with air owing to the large volume of the chest that is occupied by the lungs. Therefore, since the tissues are not mainly liquid-like, the conditions for the formation of the temporary cavity are not met. The heart and great vessels, which are filled with fluid, are extremely susceptible to damage from cavitation, and such injuries from a rifle bullet are fatal. The lung itself is remarkably resistant to damage from high-velocity bullets. Indeed, it is true to say that the lung and the skin are the two tissues that are most resistant to damage from cavitation.” Hmmm.
There is still another problem with the argument Kennedy’s lungs were bruised by a temporary cavity and it is that, if one is to assume there was a 3” temporary cavity around the bullet as it passed through Kennedy, one should assume there was an equally large or greater cavity around the bullet as it passed though Connally.
Let me explain. Connally’s doctor testified that the bullet passed within an inch of Connally’s heart. While my study of the trajectories indicates this wasn’t so, that it was more like 3 inches, it also shows that for the bullet to have exited where it did from Connally’s lung, it would have to have passed within an inch or so of Connally’s liver. (The lower lung where the bullet made its exit sits atop the upper dome of the liver like a sailor’s cap sits atop your head.) This bullet is also purported to have struck Connally's back and fifth rib at an angle, and to have traveled sideways through his body along his rib until it exploded outwards, leaving a gaping hole in his chest.
There's a problem with this. According to a June 1990 article in the British Journal of Surgery by Dr.s G. J. Cooper and J. M. Ryan, bullets traveling sideways impart more than three times the energy into the surrounding tissue as bullets traveling straight ahead. The reasons for this are explained in 1997's Ballistic Trauma, by Dr.s Jeanine Vellema and Hendrik Johannes Scholtz.
"The greater the angle of yaw when a bullet strikes a body, the greater the retardation of the bullet and consequently the greater the amount of kinetic energy transfer. This explains why unstable projectiles in flight cause larger entrance wounds on impact with the body. Once the bullet enters the denser medium of tissue, its yaw angle increases progressively until the bullet becomes completely unstable, tumbles and rotates by 180 degrees, and ends up traveling base forward. Tumbling of the bullet in tissue increases the presented cross-sectional area of the bullet, resulting in more direct tissue destruction and increased retarding (drag) forces, with consequently greater kinetic energy transfer and larger temporary cavity formation. The sudden increase of the drag force also puts strain on the bullet, which may lead to the break up of the bullet and more tissue destruction."
Now plug this in to the official story. According to the HSCA ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan, the bullet struck Kennedy in the back at 1800 feet per second, met minimal resistance, struck Connally at 1700 feet per second, and blasted out his rib at 1,100 to 1,300 feet per second. This indicates the bullet passed nearest the liver between 1300 and 1500 feet per second, traveling sideways, creating a temporary cavity much larger than the temporary cavity created in Kennedy's neck.
Now consider the damage this would do to Connally's liver.
Once again, Michael S. Owen-Smith in the book Management of Gunshot Wounds: “Direct damage from a high velocity missile is catastrophic, because the liver is extremely susceptible to cavitation damage and the resultant pulping of liver tissue is so extensive that most cases are fatal…Liver and spleen are so sensitive to cavitation and shock effects that they may be damaged even when the rifle bullet passes through the chest…Lesser degree of damage from bullets passing close to the liver would result in damage similar to that from low-velocity bullets or blunt injury." No such damage was reported. The Textbook of Military Medicine, put out by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, moreover, confirms: “Liver, spleen, and kidney are highly vascular, friable organs (that is, the tissues lack elasticity, they tear when they are stretched). Temporary cavitation causes severe tissue disruption...Such injuries are rapidly fatal.”
Ironically, the fact that Connally survived raises grave doubts about the manner in which Kennedy died.
Ovoid? Oy Vey!
Despite the problems presented by Connally's wounds discussed above, the Warren Commission, in its report, cited the size of Connally's back wound as possible evidence the bullet had first struck Kennedy. This was clearly spin, however. On page 92, the report claims "Because of the small size and clean-cut edges of the wound on the Governor's back, Dr. Robert Shaw concluded that it was an entry wound." Then, on page 109 it claimed "the large wound on the Governor's back would be explained by a bullet which was yawing, although that type of wound might also be accounted for by a tangential striking." The report failed to note that the expert stating that the back wound was large and that the bullet may have been yawing, Dr. Olivier, did so under the impression the back wound was 3 cm in its largest dimension, and that the doctor claiming the back wound was small and a tangential strike, Dr. Shaw, testified that this 3 cm measure was not the actual measurement of the wound, but the measurement made after he'd cut away the damaged skin along its edge.
By the time of the HSCA, unfortunately, the Warren Commission's use of the back wound size as possible evidence had ballooned into its use as conclusive evidence. The HSCA's Dr. Baden, almost certainly under the influence of a November 1974 article by Dr. Lattimer in Medical Times, cited the shape of Connally's back wound as clear-cut evidence for the single-bullet theory. In his testimony before the committee, Dr. Baden testified
that "the panel concluded, based on the enlarged nature of the entrance
perforation in the Governor's back, that the bullet was wobbling when
it struck him and had to have struck something before striking the
It seems evident, however, that not everyone on his panel concurred. The report of Baden's Forensic Pathology Panel, published the next year, claimed instead that "The panel believes that the ovoid characterization of this wound requires interpretation...One possible interpretation is that the avoid entrance wound, as described, could have resulted from the missile striking the skin surface on a tangential plane...Another possible interpretation of this ovoid wound is that the missile itself, just, prior to striking the body, was out of alignment with its trajectory (due to striking an intervening object). That is to say, it had tumbled slightly before entering the body, thereby creating an elongated defect...The panel, in its evaluation, also considers it important that the shape of the defect in the clothing would have been a more uniformly round hole if the bullet had struck on a tangential plane with the missile aligned with its trajectory. The panel (except for Dr. Wecht) concludes, therefore, that the wound in Governor Connally was probably inflicted by a missile which was not aligned with its trajectory but had yawed or tumbled prior to entry into the Governor."
Baden testified that the panel had concluded that the bullet creating Connally's back wound "had to have struck something before striking the Governor" when the panel, with one exception, had actually concluded that the back wound was "probably" inflicted by a missile which was out of alinement. The panel's report said nothing about this bullet having to have hit something before striking the Governor. Dr. Baden had ballooned this possibility into a fact during his testimony, but his colleagues had failed to back him up on it.
Not that anyone noticed. The HSCA's Final Assassinations Report claimed that Kennedy's and Connally's wounds were "consistent with the possibility that one bullet entered the upper right back of President Kennedy, and, after emerging from the front of the neck, caused all the Governor's wounds...A factor that influenced the panel significantly was the ovoid shape of the wound in the Governor's back, indicating that the bullet had begun to tumble or yaw before entering" because "An ovoid wound is characteristic of one caused by a bullet that has passed through or glanced off an intervening object."
It seems clear, then, that Dr. Baden had misled the Committee about the significance of this ovoid wound. As previously mentioned, and as discussed in Milicent Cranor's excellent online article, Trajectory of a Lie, Dr. Robert Shaw, Governor Connally's doctor, testified before the Warren Commission in 1964 that Connally's back wound was about 1.5 x 5/8 centimeters (4H104), but that he later removed the damaged skin around this entrance and enlarged it to about 3 cm (6H188). By 1974, however, Dr. Lattimer, noticing that 3 cm was the same size as a 6.5 mm Mannlicher/Carcano bullet traveling sideways, seized upon this second measurement and started claiming in his articles that this was the actual size of the wound. Not surprisingly, he asserted that the size of Connally's wound demonstrated the bullet was traveling sideways and not merely at an angle to Connally's back, as testified to by Shaw. As demonstrated by Cranor, Lattimer let out a big smelly lie in the process.
This, of course, would have been the word of but one sloppy researcher/zealot had Baden and others not fallen under Lattimer's smell/spell. Although Dr. Shaw repeated his claim the wound was really 1.5 x 5/8 cm to an HSCA investigator, and was even quoted on this in the report of Baden's Panel, Dr. Baden oversold the significance of this ovoid shape in his testimony before the committee and produced a smelly lie of his own in his 1989 book Unnatural Death. While an HSCA report written by Baden records the length of Connally's back scar as 1 1/8 inches (or 2.9 cm), Baden told Unnatural Death's readers the back wound scar was 2 inches long (or 5 cm).
The impact of Lattimer's and Baden's lies has been palpable. In 1992, in the mock trial of Oswald put on by the American Bar Association and televised on Court TV, Dr. Martin Fackler, testifying for the prosecution, repeated the 3 cm lie, and made matters worse by incorrectly testifying, when it was pointed out to him that Dr. Shaw had told the HSCA that the wound was really 1.5 cm, that Dr. Shaw had only changed his recollection "later on." (Dr. Shaw had, in fact, insisted since first asked that the bullet hole was 1.5 cm long, and that the 3 cm measurement on his report reflected not the size of the bullet hole, but the size of the wound after skin had been removed.) Since then, "researchers" (more like single-bullet theory aficionados or Lattimerites) such as Gus Russo and Dale Myers have also misrepresented the back wound as 3 cm or more in their work. Myers, on his website, actually links to an HSCA report to support that the wound was 3 cm, failing to tell his readers that just below the statement by Shaw in this report is another statement, in which Shaw clarifies his earlier statements, and insists the 3 cm measurement was the measurement of the wound after he'd cut away some of Connally's skin.
Not only do these theorists misrepresent the size of Connally's back wound to sell their theory, they miss that the hole on Connally's jacket and shirt were, according to the HSCA, 1.7 x 1.2 cm and 1.3 x .8 cm, respectively, an impossibility if the wound was truly 3 cm wide, as they propose.
While acknowledging this 1.7 cm tear, HSCA ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan, in his 2005 book The JFK Myths, argues that a 1.5-1.7 cm entrance is still ovoid and is therefore still an indication that the bullet struck something--such as a President--before striking Connally. He, as Baden before him, fails to acknowledge that the HSCA determined the defect in Kennedy's jacket was even more ovoid (1 by 1.5 cm) than Connally's jacket (1.7 x 1.2 cm) and that the defect in Kennedy's shirt was also an ovoid .8 x 1.2 cm (to Connally's 1.3 x .8 cm). He also overlooks that the entrance on Kennedy's back was originally measured at an ovoid .7 x .4 cm and that the entrance on the back of Kennedy’s head was measured at an absolutely ovoid 1.5 x .6 cm. While the ovoid nature of these entrances could indicate that the bullets were tumbling, they more probably indicate that the bullets entered at an angle, exactly as proposed by Dr. Shaw way back in 1964.
Still, there's another possibility. Papers by Ronchi and Ugolini (Zacchia, 1980) and Menzies et al (Journal of Forensic Sciences, 1981) found that a bullet wound of abnormal length or width can be taken as an indication that the weapon firing the projectile was equipped with a silencer. This assertion has been repeated, furthermore, in books such as 1997's Ballistic Trauma, by South African forensic pathologists Jeanine Vellema and Hendrik Johannes Scholtz.
Just a little something to think about.
As is this... When the Discovery Channel attempted to replicate Kennedy's and Connally's wounds for their 2004 program Beyond the Magic Bullet, the wound on the Connally torso's back created by the tumbling bullet in the program was not ovoid at all, but "keyhole" shaped, and measured 50 x 45 mm.
Ovoid? Oy Vey!
Neutron Activation Analysis Analysis
Another strong argument against the single-bullet theory can be found in the words and works of Dr. Vincent Guinn. While single-assassin theorists cite Guinn as an expert on bullet-lead analysis, and endlessly tout that he testified both before the HSCA and in subsequent televised appearances (such as 1988's PBS program Who Shot President Kennedy?) that his test results indicated only two bullets struck Kennedy and Connally, and that the bullet fragment removed
from Connally’s wrist "matched" and most probably came from the bullet purportedly found on Connally's
stretcher, few have actually studied Guinn's results or read his numerous articles.
If they had, they wouldn't be so supportive.
And that's not just me talking. In his book Every Contact Leaves a Trace (2000), noted forensic scientist Dr. Zakaria Erzinclioglu reported that, when one actually studies Guinn's results, "it is clear that the trace element evidence shows that more than two bullets were fired."
Still, on what basis can a layman as myself question the findings of a nuclear physicist?
Well, without even going into the substantial circumstantial
evidence indicating that the bullet supposedly found on Connally’s stretcher
after falling from his leg was, in fact, found on someone else’s stretcher (as
per the hospital employees who discovered it—Darrell Tomlinson and Nathan
Pool), was never seen until at least an hour after Connally had been rushed
into the hospital (as per the nurses and orderlies who removed Connally’s
clothes and wheeled away his stretcher—Doris Nelson, Ruth Standridge, Jane
Wester, and R. J. Jimison) and never lodged in his leg (as per Connally’s
doctor, Dr. George Shires), there is reason to doubt Guinn’s results proved what
so many believe. (An alternative explanation for the bullet’s presence on the
stretcher appears at the end of this chapter.)
If one looks at Guinn’s results, one realizes there is a surprising lack of uniformity in the make-up of Mannlicher-Carcano bullets, both from bullet to bullet and box to box. This is because the type of ammunition used in the gun believed to be Oswald’s was made from the melted-down lead of other bullets. When one looks even closer at Guinn’s analysis, one finds that his interpretation of his test results leaves even more to be desired. Since Guinn believed that similar counts in parts per million of certain elements could leave an identifiable fingerprint of exact bullets, and that antimony, silver, and copper were the most reliable of these elements, let’s make a comparison between three sets of bullets on these elements, and Guinn’s subsequent conclusions.
Numbers reflect the counts of the two samples in parts per
A vs. B. 647-602 antimony, 8.6-7.9 silver, and 44-40 copper.
C vs. D, 833-797 antimony, 9.8-7.9 silver, and 994-58 copper.
E vs. F, 732-730 antimony, 15.9-15.3 silver, and 23-21 copper.
So which two samples were described by Guinn as being from the same bullet?
Well, that's actually a trick question, as A vs. B actually represents FOUR samples, a fragment found in Kennedy's brain, two fragments found on the floor of the limousine, and the nose of the bullet found on the front seat. And yet notice how uniform they seem to be. One might actually conclude they are probably from the same bullet. And Guinn did. Well, since they were so uniform and since Guinn also concluded the wrist fragments came from the magic bullet, then E vs. F must be the comparison between the magic bullet and the wrist fragment, right?
WRONG. E vs. F is a comparison between 6001B and 6003A, test bullets taken from separate batches of ammunition from separate years. Subsequent tests showed them to be quite dissimilar.
Which leaves C vs. D as the wrist/magic comparison. Since
the silver and copper ranges are substantial, it's safe to say Guinn's
conclusion came purely from the similarity on antimony. He ignored everything
else and focused on those two numbers...833-797. And yet, when one looks at the
test results, one finds that 6002 A2 was at 869, and 6001 B4 was at 791, within
36 ppm of the magic bullet and the wrist fragment, respectively, and this out
of only 40 tests beyond the magic bullet and wrist fragment. This translates to
there being a 5% chance for the wrist and magic fragments to fall within 36 ppm
randomly. Of the 14 different bullets
tested from assorted boxes of Western Cartridge ammunition, in fact, 3, 6000a,
6001d, and 6001A, were within 15 ppm on antimony, even though they were from different
years and different batches. This reduces the 833-797 numbers to nothing near
the relevance Guinn and such disciples as Kenneth Rahn attach to it. When one
takes into account the other six elements tested, in fact, the logical
deduction is amazingly the opposite of Guinn's ...that it's highly probable the
magic bullet and the wrist fragment ARE NOT related.
A comparison of ranges of the 4 fragments found in the limousine vs. the magic bullet/wrist fragment on the 7 elements tested by Guinn:
Antimony: 4 fragments 647-602, magic/wrist 833-797
Silver: 4 fragments 8.6-7.9, magic/wrist 9.8-7.9
Copper: 4 fragments 44-40, magic/wrist 994-58
Aluminum: 4 fragments 5.5-1.1, magic/wrist 8.1-0
Manganese: 4 fragments 0.1-0.01, magic/wrist 0.09-0.07
Sodium: 4 fragments 134-9, magic/wrist 120-5
Chlorine: 4 fragments 59-22, magic/wrist 257-19
Since the range of 2 related samples should be smaller than the range of 4 related samples (7 out of 8 times), and since the range difference should usually be significant, it's clear that manganese is the only element that suggests the magic bullet and wrist fragment are related, and that antimony and sodium are also consistent with that analysis. It's equally obvious that the other 4 elements tested are strongly suggestive there was NO relation at all between the two, as the range of the 2 samples is many times that of the 4. The proper conclusion then should be that the magic bullet and the wrist fragment are most probably not related. This conclusion is supported by the additional fact that CE 399, while missing some lead, is not believed to have lost any size-able amount of copper. As both Connally’s coat by his exit wound and the wrist fragments themselves were found to contain inordinate amounts of copper, one should conclude he was struck by a separate bullet whose jacket had been badly damaged. In short, anyone whose argument for the single bullet theory relies on Guinn's analysis has clearly never studied Guinn's results with an open mind. His conclusion was wrong; whether he sincerely believed his testimony or was asked to lie is open to conjecture.
The FBI v Guinn
While I had not planned on engaging in such conjecture,
recent developments in bullet lead analysis have alerted me to much that is
suspicious with Guinn’s analysis...beyond his incorrect conclusions. On September 1, 2005, the FBI announced
they would no longer analyze bullet lead. Their decision was spurred on by a February
2004 report by the National Academy of Sciences questioning the value of bullet
lead analysis, particularly in light that it had never been tested by
scientists outside those whose careers depended on its presumed worth,
including Vincent Guinn. Surprisingly,
this study was performed by the Academy on behalf of the FBI itself, after a former
FBI metallurgist named William Tobin began writing articles critical of the
probative value of bullet lead analysis. Shockingly, this study even spurred one-time HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey, the man
who'd pushed Guinn's findings on the House Committee, to reverse himself
and publicly denounce Guinn's findings as "junk science."
Among the reports written by Mr. Tobin and members of the Academy, I found at least three good reasons to suspect that Guinn knew his HSCA testimony was questionable.
1. Although bullet lead analysis was conducted by the FBI for over 30 years, the FBI would not allow its employees to testify beyond that a bullet (usually found within a body) was likely to have come from the same box as bullets found somewhere else (usually in the home of a suspect). The FBI's Cortlandt Cunningham, then Chief of the Firearms section of the FBI Crime Lab, testified in court on February 24, 1977, only months before Guinn's tests, that his agents could only testify that a bullet "could have come from that source or another source with that same composition" and could not identify a fragment as having come from a particular bullet. Guinn’s testimony that it was “highly probable” the wrist fragments and the magic bullet were parts of the same bullet is therefore perhaps the only time in history someone has testified to such a degree. Since the National Academy has now found that “The available data do not support any statement that a crime bullet came from, or is likely to have come from, a particular box of ammunition,” and that the possible existence of coincidentally indistinguishable bullets “should be acknowledged in the laboratory report and by the expert witness” it would seem apparent that Guinn’s expert opinion went well beyond what was warranted.
2. While Guinn said his opinion was based on the results of three elements, antimony, silver, and copper, the FBI at that time was using antimony, copper, and arsenic. Even when Guinn expanded his test to seven elements, arsenic was not included. This forces one to consider the possibility that Guinn tested arsenic, found it did not match, and excluded it from his results. Since silver, which the FBI started using as one of its seven elements in 1990, is reported to have little value, as most bullets are within a small range in parts per million, and are considered to match, its propping up by Guinn as the second most valuable element is also intriguing. Guinn’s own results, where more than half of the test bullets matched the wrist fragment in silver, with many of them closer in parts per million than the “magic” bullet determined by Guinn to be identical, support that such a match is not really much of a match.
3. It seems Guinn himself was skeptical of any conclusions based on only three elements. In 1970, Forensic Neutron Activation Analysis of Bullet Lead Specimens, a report prepared by Guinn and three other scientists for the Atomic Energy Commission, concluded “two bullets with the same pattern of only three identification points are not usually definitively identified as having a common source, Matching concentrations of all three elements does not indicate that two bullets came from the same lot.” Since the FBI began using seven elements 20 years later, and since it was necessary for a bullet to match on all three elements tested up until that time, and all seven elements afterwards, before the FBI would even find that a bullet was likely to have come from the same box as another bullet, it seems clear that, due to the problems with copper, at no time in its history would the FBI have testified that the wrist fragments and the magic bullet matched. In fact, when given the opportunity to do so, in 1964, without even testing copper, the FBI ruled their tests inconclusive and kept them from the public. The question then is not only why Guinn testified in the manner he testified, in contradiction to his previous reports and the accepted standards of the FBI, but whether the FBI was deliberately removed from the process.
Should one suspect I'm exaggerating the vast divide between Guinn's methodology and that of the FBI's crime lab, one need but read The Basis for Compositional Lead Comparisons, an article by Charles Peters of the FBI's Materials Analysis Unit, published in the July, 2002 issue of Forensic Science Communications, and available on the FBI's website. Peters explains: "Years of analysis in the FBI Laboratory have demonstrated that the distinctiveness of a melt is defined not only by the number of elements measured but also by the relative scarcity of other alloys in that melt. Not all measured elements are equally effective at discriminating among lead sources, however. In general, for most lead products, the relative source discrimination power of the measured elements decreases in the following order: copper, arsenic, antimony, bismuth, and silver (Peele et al. 1991). Tin is not included in this list because in many lead sources it is not present at detectable levels. However, when tin is present, it provides excellent discrimination among melts of lead. Antimony, specified by the ammunition manufacturers, is alloyed with lead in order to harden the bullets. The other elements are present in trace amounts and can vary from one product to another." Note that Peters considers both copper, which Guinn found did not match, and arsenic, which Guinn inexplicably failed to test, more reliable indicators than antimony, which Guinn upheld as the only element that mattered. From this it seems clear that, should they have been forced to testify, and encouraged to tell the truth, the FBI's crime lab employees would have told the HSCA that the stretcher bullet and wrist fragments did not match, and that the single-bullet theory, which their former Director J. Edgar Hoover never believed anyhow, was bunkum. This brings us back to the question of why Guinn and Guinn alone was called.
Should one think I'm being a nit-picker, and assume that Guinn had found his own reasons not to trust arsenic as an indicator, and his own reasons to think a single true match was sufficient to pronounce that two fragments were highly probable to have come from the same bullet, let alone the same source, one should read the words of Guinn himself. The bulk of the tests described in Guinn's 1970 report to the AEC were for antimony, copper, and arsenic. Although antimony and copper were found in much more consistent numbers from lot to lot, and box to box, of the same type bullets tested, than arsenic, making arsenic the least reliable, there was no call that arsenic be dropped. In Chemistry and Crime, an anthology published by the American Chemical Society in 1983, moreover, Guinn claimed that "small samples of bullet lead can be analyzed rapidly, quantitatively, and non-destructively for their concentrations of antimony, silver, copper, arsenic, and sometimes tin." He then explained that antimony, silver, and copper can be tested via a rapid screening method, but that the test for tin takes slightly longer, and the test for arsenic even longer. He then declared "if the rapid screening procedure reveals marked differences in the elemental composition (antimony, silver, and copper concentrations) of two bullet lead samples (e.g. a sample from a fatal bullet, and one from a cartridge found in the possession of a suspect) it is apparent they were not produced from the same homogeneous melt of lead, and hence, no further analysis is necessary. If, however, the two samples being compared are analytically indistinguishable from one another in their antimony, silver, and copper concentrations, it is desirable to also compare them via their arsenic concentrations by using the longer procedure to provide four points of comparison instead of just three. In crucial cases, it is even worthwhile to use a third (intermediate) INAA procedure, in an effort to detect and measure a fifth element, tin."
Well, hell, seeing as neither arsenic nor tin were (at least
officially) tested, are we to assume that Guinn didn't consider the
murder of a president a crucial case?
And it's not as if this was the only time Guinn touted the benefits of arsenic...
In Activation Analysis Vol.2 , published 1990, the arsenic poisoning of Guinn's credibility approaches a lethal dose. While discussing the best way to test bullet lead, he proposed that one first test his three favorites (antimony, silver, and copper). He then declared: "If this fast method clearly shows that none of the victim specimens match any of the specimens associated with a suspect, in elemental composition, no further analyses are needed. However, if one or more of the victim specimens appears to match one or more of the suspect samples, an additional analysis is called for...to add a fourth element (AS-arsenic) to the comparison." He then discussed other elements that can be tested, including tin. Later, in this chapter, Guinn trumpeted that his bullet lead testing procedures had "been used to advantage in many hundreds of criminal cases...including some very well known cases (e.g. the President John F. Kennedy assassination)."
Sorry, but I have to ask--to whose advantage, exactly?
In Nuclear Analytical Methods in the Life Sciences, published 1991, moreover, Guinn once again pushed arsenic and tin. There, he asserted: "Applications of the NAA method in the field of forensic chemistry--such as the detection of primer gunshot residue (detecting barium and antimony), and the analysis of evidence specimens of bullet lead and shotshell pellets (for antimony, arsenic, silver, copper, and tin)--are special to the author and used on a large scale in the investigation of gunshot homicide criminal cases, especially by the FBI Laboratory. In 1977, as part of the reinvestigation of the President Kennedy assassination, the author's reanalysis of all the bullet-lead evidence specimens, by INAA, produced decisive results."
So, should we assume that in 1978, when Guinn testified before the HSCA, he just didn't have the appreciation for the importance of arsenic and tin he would later develop?
When asked if there were other elements found in bullets beyond antimony, silver, and copper, after all, he'd testified: "Well, many times in bullets, under the conditions that we normally use, you will just see those three. Very often, unless you very carefully clean them, you will find a little bit of sodium and a little bit of chlorine, coming from salt, which may be from perspiration if anybody has handled the specimens, or salt spray in the air if it is anywhere near the ocean, for example. Often you will find a little trace of manganese... The main reason for using the activation analysis method is that it is an extremely sensitive method. it will detect very small concentrations, but it doesn't have the same sensitivity for all elements. Some are far more sensitive than others. So we sometimes see a little manganese, occasionally a little aluminum, once in a while some arsenic or tin. That about covers all of the elements that we have ever seen in all bullet leads."
"Once in a while some arsenic or tin..." Was Guinn deliberately downplaying the importance of arsenic? Or did he simply not see it as important?
If so, it's hard to see how. Guinn had tested arsenic as far back as the 1960's. An article in the May 2004 issue of Analytical Chemistry credits him with pioneering its use. Forensic Neutron Activation Analysis of Bullet Lead Specimens, the 1970 report co-written by Guinn describing his tests for antimony, arsenic, and copper in bullet lead, had suggested that more elements be added into the mix, not that arsenic be dropped. In Application for Nuclear Science in Crime Investigation, a paper written for the Annual Review of Nuclear Science in 1974, moreover, Guinn was still presenting tests for antimony, arsenic, and copper as the usual procedure.
So what happened?
Well, in Chemistry and Crime, 1983, Guinn explained that while the FBI still used the longer procedure he'd helped pioneer, and tested antimony, arsenic, and copper, he now preferred a rapid-screening procedure for antimony, silver and copper. He then explained why he dropped arsenic from the big three. He declared "many samples are too low in arsenic for very precise measurement." But he didn't stop there. He then admitted "that bullet fragments and samples taken from mashed bullets often have bits of copper jacket imbedded or buried in them (if the bullet was a copper jacketed bullet), thus resulting in spuriously high copper concentrations. Of course, such jacket contamination of the sample also produces erroneously high copper values in the rapid-screening INAA procedure. Whenever such useless copper values are encountered, the longer INAA procedure reduces to just two elements (antimony and arsenic, if the arsenic concentration is high enough) and the rapid-screening INAA procedure also reduces to just two useful elements (antimony and silver). In such cases of copper contamination, it is especially desirable to use both INAA procedures to determine a possible total of three useful comparison elements (antimony, silver, and arsenic)."
Well, that's as good as a confession, don't you think? Guinn knew full well he based his conclusions regarding the assassination on two elements, and yet here he is admitting to his colleagues that he really needed to test another element--arsenic--before coming to such a conclusion.
So why didn't he test it?
Hmmm. In Guinn's chapter in Activation Analysis Vol. 2, he spelled out that the content of bullet lead impurities normally ranges from 1 to 100 ppm for silver, 1 to 1500 ppm for copper, 1 to 2000 ppm for tin, and 1 to 2500 ppm for arsenic. This suggests that the likelihood of random matches for arsenic and tin was much less than the likelihood of random matches for silver, and slightly less than copper. (The levels of copper in the stretcher bullet and wrist fragment, of course, didn't match). This, of course, but strengthens my suspicion Guinn tested arsenic and perhaps even tin, but didn't like his results, and flushed them down the memory hole. While ultimately bragging that his tests produced "decisive results," Guinn didn't, after all, tell us what decision these results helped produce.
Of Alchemists and Liars
But that's being snotty. While I'd like to have left it at that, I have discovered a number of other reasons to distrust Guinn, which I would be remiss not to mention. In Chemistry and Crime, for starters, he not only discussed his testing of the fatal fragments, he provided his readers some background on the assassination and his role in solving the crime...and was totally deceptive in doing so...
For example, after stating that Oswald killed Kennedy and Tippit as a fact, Guinn further revealed his bias by claiming "The consensus of opinion among witnesses was that three rifle shots emanated from that room (NOTE: he means the 6th floor of the depository) when the President and Texas Governor John Connally were hit." This, of course, was nonsense. While some thought some shots came from the general direction of the depository, very few could identify what room the shots came from, let alone form an opinion as to whether all three shots came from there.
He then discussed the Warren Commission, and his work with the HSCA. While doing so, however, he overstated the case by claiming that his testing of the bullet fragments clearly revealed the presence of two and only two bullets. He based this on the fact that the mean or average values of the brain and limo fragments tested were "markedly lower" in antimony than the average values of the magic bullet and wrist fragment (622 vs. 815), and "somewhat lower" in silver (8.07 vs. 9.3).
This last point caught me by surprise. Guinn's HSCA testimony and report reflect that the magic bullet and wrist fragment were measured at 7.9 ppm and 9.8 ppm silver, respectively. That's a mean of 8.85, not 9.3. This led me to take another look at the April 1979 article in Analytical Chemistry in which Guinn first reported his results to the public. Here he claimed the magic bullet was measured at 8.8 ppm silver (plus or minus 0.5 ppm). Well, that explained the 9.3. But how in the heck did 7.9 (plus or minus 1.4) ppm silver in September 1978 become 8.8 (plus or minus 0.5) ppm silver in April 1979? I then noticed a footnote in Guinn's 1978 report at the bottom of Appendix B, where he presented his findings. It explained that silver and aluminum were measured twice for each sample, and that the uncertainty measurements for the test of these elements--which were more than twice as large for the magic bullet (plus or minus 1.4 ppm) than any other sample--reflected either the standard deviation taken from the counting statistics (a number obtained from a formula estimating the accuracy of the test) or "the spread of the two values," whichever was larger. Well, hell, this suggested that one of the two measurements for silver on the magic bullet was even lower than the 7.9 ppm Guinn reported, possibly much lower.
Heck... if I'm understanding this correctly Guinn's measurement of 7.9 ppm silver (plus or minus 1.4 ppm) for the magic bullet meant that his actual measurements were 9.3 ppm and 6.5 ppm, and that he'd averaged them out, and assumed the distance to his actual results was the range. If so, well then it seems likely that his measurement of 9.8 ppm silver (plus or minus 0.5 ppm) for the wrist fragment means that his actual results were 10.3 and 9.3. If this is true, however, it means that Guinn knew that the silver value for the magic bullet may actually have been a bit smaller than 6.5 ppm (when one subtracted the standard deviation taken from the counting statistics) and that the silver value for the wrist fragment may actually have been a bit larger than 10.3 ppm. Well, then, no wonder he ignored the counting statistics! No wonder he measured his samples twice and averaged them out! As shown on the slide above, there is no way anyone can consider a silver value of 10.3 ppm a match for a silver value of 6.5 ppm. As more than half the Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition samples tested fell within this range, it is at best inconclusive. If the test for silver was inconclusive, of course, Guinn had little choice beyond admitting that there was insufficient evidence to claim the magic bullet and wrist fragments matched. Perhaps then this was why Guinn reconfigured this number months later, and changed a 7.9 into an 8.8... Perhaps he'd realized that if he'd presented the measurement for silver as 7.9 (plus or minus 1.4 ppm), questions might arise in the minds of his fellow scientists. A wrist fragment measurement of 7.9 ppm silver, after all, would suggest that the wrist fragment and magic bullet were closer in composition to the brain and limo fragments than they actually were to each other. And this, in turn, would pretty much sink Guinn's claim that his tests revealed two readily distinguishable bullets.
So why not just change a number or two? I mean, if you're gonna fudge your numbers you might as well make it a good fudge.
Guinn's treatment of the copper test in Chemistry and Crime was even more curious. While acknowledging that the wrist fragment had far more copper than the other fragments, he claimed this indicated it was "probably contaminated with imbedded copper jacket material," and that this invalidated the test. He discusses this on pages 74-75. Well, on pages 70-71, he claims that in the FBI Laboratory specimens "are examined under magnification to ascertain whether there is any visible evidence of adhering jacket material. If there is, one attempts to remove the jacket material with a surgical scalpel." He then proceeds "In our laboratory, such samples are then further processed by immersing each sample in concentrated nitric acid for 10 minutes at room temperature. This procedure will dissolve away any specks of adhering jacket material without dissolving any measurable amount of the lead material. However, even this acid treatment procedure fails if there are jacket particles completely imbedded in the lead and inaccessible to attack by the nitric acid." Now, the largest wrist fragment, the only one tested, was tiny, only 16.4 mg. (It would take 632 fragments of this size to make a 160 grain bullet like the one purportedly killing Kennedy.) This tiny fragment, moreover, supposedly fell from the bullet as it traversed Connally's wrist. There was no copper missing, at least that anyone described, from the tail end of the bullet. So how, presuming Guinn actually performed the inspection described both above and in his September 1978 report to the HSCA, did copper get "imbedded" within the lead of this tiny fragment?
Well, on page 76 he offers up a theory. Sort of. Basically, he throws out a little fact (which turns out not to be a fact) which those reading his chapter can then use to make sense of the copper mystery. He writes that the so-called magic bullet "left no particles along the wound track in either the President or the Governor, and hence was not damaged (even though it broke one of the Governor's ribs with a glancing blow) until it struck the Governor's right wrist. Here, it suffered a dent in its nose and lost about 1% of its lead." Yep, he proposed, albeit in a roundabout way, that the copper imbedded in the wrist fragment came from the nose of the so-called magic bullet. Well, there's two problems with this: 1) the dent on the bullet nose was created by the FBI subsequent to the shooting, and 2) he knew the lead in the wrist fragment came from the back of the bullet. Yes, when asked in his HSCA testimony if it was his testimony that the magic bullet and wrist fragments came from the same bullet, he testified "Yes. One, of course, is almost a complete bullet so it means that the (wrist)
fragments came from, in this case, the base of the bullet."
SO...my gosh, it appears from this that Guinn was trying to sell that a nearly pristine bullet hit Connally's wrist, and lost some copper from its nose, and that this copper then somehow got imbedded within a tiny speck of lead squeezed from the base of the bullet upon impact, so much so that the copper was imperceptible to the human eye... even under magnification. Yeah, okay... We have a magic bullet and now we have a magic fragment from this bullet.
Let's note here that in Chemistry and Crime Guinn admitted that he'd studied Mannlicher-Carcano bullet lead even before being hired by the HSCA, and that he'd found the range of copper among this lead to be from 10 to 370 ppm. Let's note as well that in Activation Analysis Vol. 2, he admitted that he'd studied the lead of other bullets as well, and had found the range for copper to be between 1 and 1500 ppm. Now, let's recall that the wrist fragment was 994 ppm copper. This means that Guinn knew, as soon as he'd performed his test, that he'd PROVED the wrist fragment did not derive from the magic bullet, or any other bullet fired from Oswald's rifle, and that the single-bullet and single-assassin theories he'd clearly subscribed to were thereby kaput...UNLESS he could find some reason--any reason--to invalidate his own test.
Well, the quickest way to do that was to claim jacket material had thrown off his count for copper. So far, so good. But there was no copper missing, as far as could be determined, from the base of the bullet. Well, that's okay, there was a dent on the bullet nose; perhaps it came from there. Only the FBI admitted they'd made the mark on the nose while performing spectrographic tests in the FBI Crime Lab...
Now, is it reasonable to assume Guinn didn't know this? I don't think so. It seems hard to believe that in his many discussions with the HSCA he would never have inquired about the nick on the bullet nose, and have been informed it had been created by the FBI.
Well, then, is it possible he just...lied? Yes, I now think so. The final paragraph of Guinn's chapter in Chemistry and Crime reads not like the conclusions of a serious scientist, but the bragging of a politician. He writes: "My findings, of course, neither prove nor disprove the various conspiracy speculations, such as someone, in addition to Oswald, firing from some other location such as the 'grassy knoll.' They do show that if any other persons were firing, they did not hit anyone or anything in the President's limousine."
Now, this, of course, is nonsense. Even if one accepts Guinn's analysis of the bullet fragments, his findings "showed" no such thing. But he didn't stop there. In 1986, in sworn testimony taken as part of a televised mock trial, Guinn actually repeated this nonsense. When asked by his fellow Vincent, Bugliosi, "What you're saying is that from your neutron activation analysis, there may have been fifty people firing at President
Kennedy that day--is that correct--but if there were, they all missed--ONLY bullets from
Oswald's Carcano rifle hit the President--is that correct?" Guinn eagerly responded "That's a correct statement, yes!"
Well, I'll be! Could he really have forgotten he'd found no evidence suggesting the magic bullet had created Kennedy's back wound? Or throat wound? Could he really have forgotten that at least one of the bullets was never found? Well, then, how could he claim that tests never performed on this bullet proved it hadn't hit Kennedy, or anything else in the limo for that matter?He couldn't, and what's worse, he knew he couldn't. Here is how he summed up his findings in Analytical Chemistry, written but 4 years before Guinn wrote his chapter in Chemistry and Crime, and 7 years before he testified in the mock trial: "The new results can not prove the Warren Commission's theory that the stretcher bullet is the one that caused the President's back wound and all of the Governor's wounds, but the results are indeed consistent with this theory."
And here is how Guinn testified before the HSCA, only 8 years before he testified in the mock trial: "These results only show that the CE 399 "pristine" bullet, or so-called stretcher bullet, matches the fragments in his wrist. They give you no information whatsoever about whether that bullet first went through President Kennedy's body, since it left no track of fragments and, for that matter, it doesn't even say that it went through Governor Connally--through his back, that is--because it left no track of fragments there. At least I have never seen or heard of any recovered lead fragments from either of those wounds. The results merely say that the stretcher bullet matches the fragments in the wrist, and that indicates indeed that that particular bullet did fracture the wrist. It unfortunately can't tell you anything else because there were no other bits and pieces along the other wounds."
Guinn had completely reversed himself for the mock trial!
And this wasn't the only point on which Guinn's mock trial testimony was suspect. Upon cross-examination, Oswald's defense attorney Gerry Spence pointed out that there were at least thirty bullet fragments in Kennedy's head, and that Guinn had examined but two. He thereby raised the possibility that, in opposition to what Guinn had just told Bugliosi, another bullet was involved. When then asked by Spence if he knew the composition of the fragments he'd never examined, Guinn testily replied "Yes!" When then asked if he'd actually tested these fragments, Guinn fought back, showing what one assumes were his true colors. He snapped "No, but I know what they are!"
Well, how could he know that? And, what's more, what kind of scientist would claim, in a court of law, (even a mock court of law) that he knows the results of tests he'd never conducted?
This suggests to me that Guinn knowingly misrepresented his test results to the HSCA, knew it was only a matter of time before his fellow scientists caught on, and attempted to obfuscate the issue by further misrepresenting the case for a single-assassin in articles like the one in Analytical Chemistry, in books such as Chemistry and Crime, and in public appearances like his testimony in the 1986 mock trial.
Guinn v Guinn
But that's just me. Now, has any expert on bullet lead analysis supported this conclusion? No, not directly. There is one expert on the subject, however, whose writings demonstrate beyond any doubt that Dr. Guinn's conclusions were inappropriate, and far beyond what was warranted. And that expert, as you no doubt have figured out, is Dr. Guinn himself.
When asked during his 9-8-78 HSCA testimony the degree of certainty he'd attached to his conclusion the Connally wrist fragment derived from the magic bullet, that is, whether he felt it was merely more probable than not or highly probable, after all, Dr. Guinn testified: "I would say highly probable, yes. I would not want to say how high, whether it was 99 percent or 90 percent or 99.9 percent. I can't make a calculation like that."
Hmmm... Well, what are we to make of this? He wouldn't give a number, but said it was "highly probable." Was this a deliberate use of the term?
Yes, sure enough, in the final paragraph of his final report on the fragments, entered
into evidence during his testimony, and published on page 533 of HSCA
Appendix Vol. 1, Guinn uses the term again. Here, he asserts: "It is highly probable
that the specimen tested from Q1 (the stretcher bullet) and the specimen
tested from Q9 (the wrist fragment) came from the same bullet."
So, make no mistake about it, here was a
man of science throwing the full weight of his expertise behind his
conclusion the stretcher (or magic) bullet and wrist fragment were one.
Now look at how he handled this issue in Chemistry and Crime five years later. He admits: "Because of an inadequate background file of bullet-lead compositions and for other reasons, it is not possible to make an accurate calculation of the mathematical probability that two scientifically indistinguishable bullet-lead samples were produced from the same homogenous melt of lead. Instead one must resort to more qualitative expressions, such as 'probably' (if only three elements were measured), 'very probably' (if four elements were measured), or 'highly probably' (if five elements were measured). Depending in individual cases on how relatively common or uncommon the observed concentrations are (among the whole population of bullet leads) and on how accurately and precisely each concentration was measured, these three qualitative expressions of probability of a common melt origin may correspond, respectively, to probabilities to the order of 99, 99.9, and 99.99%."
Yes, you got it. While Guinn used the term "highly
probable" in his HSCA testimony, and implied that this term could be
used to describe a 90% probability that two samples having two
matches, antimony and silver, came from the same bullet, he later
reserved the term "highly probable" for the 99.99% probability that two
samples having five matches came from the same melt.
Now look at how he backs this up in Activation Analysis, Vol. 2, published 1991. He now claimed: "If one is to conclude that two BL (bullet lead) or SSP specimens "match" one another to the extent that, to a high degree of probability, they had a common lead-melt origin, they must "match" one another in their concentrations of each of a number of elements measured to a respectable precision, and not exhibit any significant mismatches... For a variety of reasons, it is presently not possible to calculate a numerical probability that any two specimens had a common lead-melt origin. Instead, assuming that they do not mismatch in any element, but only match one another in one or two measured elements, one usually merely states that they might have had a common origin; with three matching elements, that they probably had a common origin; and with four, five, or six matching elements, that there is a very high probability (approaching "certainty") that they had a common origin."
So, ask yourself, is it a coincidence that Guinn testified that the
apparent match between the wrist fragment
and magic bullet on two elements made it "highly probable" they came
from the same bullet, when he later claimed such a match meant merely
that they "might" have come from the same melt, and reserved the term
"highly probable" for samples matching on four or more elements?
I think not. In Neutron Activation Analysis in Scientific Crime Investigation, a 1990 paper by Guinn found on the International Atomic Energy Agency website, he noted that a one ton melt of lead can be made into 1,870 boxes of 50 bullets each, or 93,400 bullets. And this was chicken-feed. A May 2004 article by Wilder Smith in Analytical Chemistry notes further that a compositionally indistinguishable volume of lead can be used to make 12 thousand bullets, on the low end, and 35 million, on the high. How can Guinn have claimed, then, that it's "highly probable" two samples matching on two elements in the Kennedy case are the exact same bullet, when he elsewhere said the most one can say about two samples matching on two elements is that they "might" be from the same batch of 93,400 bullets, or more? I mean, who was he trying to fool?
Apparently everyone. Not only had Guinn become far more
conservative in his use of the term "highly probable" after his HSCA
testimony, he'd become much more liberal with its use for his testimony. After conducting his first series of tests in 1970, using antimony, copper, and arsenic, Guinn claimed that although "matching concentrations of all three elements does not indicate that two bullets came from the same lot" "a
significant difference in concentration in any one of the three
elements...indicates that they came
from different lots."
Yes, Guinn was, at least initially, convinced his tests were far better at showing two specimens did not match, than match. Here is how he summed it up in the Annual Review of Nuclear Science in 1974, just three years before he conducted his tests for the HSCA: "the antimony concentration itself proves to be a fairly effective means of deciding whether two specimens of bullet lead do not have a common origin. Measurements of the levels of a few additional elements that can be detected, e.g. aluminum, copper, arsenic, silver, tin, can lead to at best only a moderately strong probability of common origin...The purely instrumental NAA approach can readily indicate two specimens do not have a common origin, but it cannot yet establish very high probabilities of common origin."
So what changed? Did Guinn make some major break-through just prior to his HSCA testimony?
Not that I've discovered... No, it appears instead that Guinn changed. Had Guinn's 1977-era methodology have been far superior to previously methodology, after all, he wouldn't have said the FBI had been mistaken when they claimed their 1964 test results were inconclusive, and he wouldn't have presented their results as support for his conclusions. But he did...
This leads me to conclude, then, that it's highly probable Dr. Vincent Guinn deliberately skewed his conclusions to support the single-bullet theory during his 1978 HSCA testimony, and that he deliberately lied about it afterward.
And it's not as if his misuse of the term "highly probable" was just an unfortunate turn-of-phrase, with no repercussions. Dozens if not hundreds of books, starting with the HSCA's 1979 report, were tainted by it--some to near comical effect... In 1998's Live By The Sword, for example, Oswald-did-it-for-Castro theorist Gus Russo relates "Using a technique known as neutron activation analysis, the HSCA
received supporting testimony from Dr. Vincent Guinn, one of the
country's top experts in the field of neutron activation. Although at
the time Guinn would use only the words "highly probable," he later
published two articles in which he makes it clear that by "highly
probable" he meant a "99.99% probable."
Yes, you read that right. Russo got it backward. He realized that Guinn claimed "highly probable" in his testimony, and later specified that "highly probable" meant 99.9%, but failed to realize, or at least acknowledge, that Guinn's definition of "highly probable" changed along the way, and that the match for antimony described in his testimony could no longer be taken to mean it was "highly probable" these samples came from the same source.
Of course, I'm skeptical Guinn ever honestly believed these odds were "highly probable"...
But that's me. Should the reader wish to think better of this learned man of letters, (Guinn, not Russo) and give him the benefit of the doubt, well, then, let us conjure up an explanation for at least some of his mistakes -- one that moves him from the category of deliberate liar to mere screw-up. In their early tests of bullet lead, Guinn and others discovered there was an apparent conformity between bullets in the same box, and sought to find practical applications for their discovery. Over time, the courts came to accept the value of bullet lead analysis and the FBI began testifying that one bullet most probably came from the same box as another. This allowed prosecutors to convict suspects even when no gun was found. The problem, as outlined by William Tobin and the National Academy of Sciences, was that little research was done on how bullets were actually made and distributed, and that, when one studied these things, one could only conclude that virtually indistinguishable bullets were likely to end up in boxes of ammunition on opposite sides of the country. In his research on Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition, however, Guinn found that the bullets within the same box had no apparent conformity. This led him to believe that the slight conformity between the wrist fragment and the magic bullet had significance, as other bullets from its box would be unlikely to match on antimony. The problem was that there was NO REASON to assume the wrist fragment bullet came from the same box as the magic bullet. Quite literally, then, Guinn was thinking inside the box when he should have been thinking outside the box!
Or maybe he was lying.
All I know for sure is that his testimony regarding the magic bullet and wrist fragment was inaccurate. In July,
2006, Dr.s Erik Randich and Patrick Grant published an article in the Journal
of Forensic Sciences, describing a study they'd conducted with the help of Tom Pinkston. They used cross-sections of bullets to demonstrate that antimony concentrations were not standard throughout bullet lead, even within the same bullet, and that one would have to have used samples far larger than those used by Guinn before coming to any conclusions whether or not a fragment could have come from the same bullet as another fragment. They also found that other full-metal jacketed ammunition contained similar levels of antimony as the ammunition fired in Oswald's rifle. Their conclusion reads: “We therefore assert that, from our perspectives of standard metallurgical
practice and statistical assessment of the fundamental NAA measurements a
conclusion of material evidence for only two bullets in the questioned JFK
assassination specimens has no forensic basis.
Although collateral information from the overall investigation might
very well narrow the choices, as stand-alone primary evidence, the recovered
bullet fragments could be reflective of anywhere between two and five different
rounds fired in Dealey Plaza
on that day. Only the near-complete mass
of CE-399, the stretcher bullet, precludes the conclusion of one to five
rounds. Moreover, the fragments need not
necessarily have originated from MC ammunition.
Indeed, the antimony compositions of the evidentiary specimens are
consistent with any number of jacketed ammunitions containing hardened lead."
In May, 2007, a similar article by Spiegleman, Tobin et al in the Annals of Applied Statistics confirmed Randich and Grant's conclusions, and disclosed that they had repeated Guinn's tests on random Mannlicher-Carcano bullets. Not surprisingly, given Guinn's results, they'd found that one of the thirty random bullets used in their study was a close match to one of the assassination fragments. This news even made the Washington Post.
And SO... in my estimation, one has a choice: the tests on the fragments performed by Guinn were either: 1) incorrectly interpreted, (as they actually showed the likelihood of more than one shooter); 2) of little scientific value; or 3) BOTH incorrectly interpreted and of little scientific value. No matter what, however, one thing is clear: the tests did not do what single-bullet theorists claim they did (prove the magic bullet passed through Connally's wrist).
The Clean-up Crew
Should one doubt the “magic” bullet could have come
from anywhere but Connally’s leg, moreover, one should consider that the bullet, had it
fallen from Kennedy’s back as originally believed, would most likely have
fallen out in the limousine, and that the limousine was cleaned up while
sitting outside Parkland Hospital in Dallas by two Secret Service Agents, Sam
Kinney and George Hickey.
William Manchester, in his book The Death of a President, disputed that such a
clean-up occurred, citing a nurse who says she was asked to bring the agents a
bucket of water but failed to deliver it, Manchester overlooked the statement
of an orderly, Joe Lewis Richards, admitting that he did indeed bring them the
And we know this bucket was used because...
- An 11-22-63 UPI article, most likely reflecting the words of UPI’s man-on-the-scene Merriman Smith, reported on this clean-up, stating: “Outside the hospital, blood was cleaned from the limousine.”
- An 11-23-63 New York Times story by Tom Wicker similarly reported, “A bucket of water stood by the car, suggesting that the back seat had been scrubbed out.” (In his 1978 book On Press, Wicker would specify that it was “a bucket of bloody water.”)
- An article on the assassination by Hugh Sidey in the 12-20-63 issue of Time Magazine confirmed these accounts, and described his witnessing “A young man, I assume he was a Secret Service man, with a sponge and a bucket of red water, and he was trying to wipe up the blood and what looked like flakes of flesh and brains in the back seat.”
- And as if that weren't enough, Newsweek’s Charles Roberts also confirmed these accounts. In his 1967 defense of the Warren Report, modestly entitled "The Truth About The Assassination," Roberts said simply that on 11-22-63 he saw two Secret Service men "starting to put the fabric top" on the President's limo, and thought "Why now?" He would later expand on this, however. In an interview conducted for Robert MacNeil's 1988 book The Way we Were, Roberts admitted that he'd actually seen these agents “mop up the back seat” before putting on the fabric top, and that he'd thought it “ironic” that one of the Secret Service agents waved him aside and told him “you can’t look,” when "this wall of protection...of course could do no good."
And they weren't alone. In the decades following the assassination, White House photographer Cecil Stoughton, Associated Press photographer Henry Burroughs, and ambulance driver Aubrey Rike added their names to the list of those witnessing this clean-up. In 1983, Life Magazine--not exactly a propagator of conspiracy theories--published a photo taken by Stoughton of a bucket beside the limo with the caption "Outside Parkland, agents clean the bloody limousine." In Richard Trask’s 1994 book Pictures of the Pain, moreover, a number of similar photographs were published, all taken by Stoughton, and all showing a bucket by the limousine.
The evidence for the Secret Service clean-up of the limo is so convincing, in fact, that in 2003 the Fox News
Channel asserted that a clean-up had occurred and broadcast footage of a
Secret Service Agent, possibly George Hickey, walking away from the limousine with the
bucket. That same week, a former member
of the President’s Secret Service detail in Dallas,
Gerald O’Rourke, came forward, telling the Rocky Mountain News “that on the day
of the assassination, one agent was ordered to clean out the cars used in the
motorcade, getting rid of blood and other evidence.” (He implied this was
Sam Kinney.) By 2008, the once-disputed clean-up of the limo had become so widely accepted that even the Discovery Channel, in a program pushing that Oswald acted alone, by gosh, discussed the clean-up as an established fact.
Yes, it's conclusive, accepted even by defenders of the Warren Commission: the Secret Service, if only briefly, cleaned-up the limo while it was sitting outside Parkland.
Should one doubt that this clean-up destroyed or removed evidence, moreover, one should reflect that Warren Commission Exhibit CE 840 consists of all the bullet fragments found in the car beyond the two large fragments found in the front seat, and comprises but three small fragments found in the carpet beneath Nellie Connally’s seat, several feet to the left of the presumed trajectory of the bullet. That there were no bullet fragments found on the floor by Kennedy’s or John Connally’s seats or on the seats themselves is undoubtedly suspicious. Also suspicious is that one of the three fragments found beneath Nellie’s seat disappeared from the archives at some point in the sixties. Adding to the likelihood that a Secret Service agent planted the bullet on the stretcher, perhaps simply to avoid admitting that he’d screwed up and cleaned-up important evidence (neither Kinney nor Hickey ever admitted that a clean-up occurred), is that one of the two men to find the stretcher bullet, Nathan Pool, told an HSCA investigator he saw a Secret Service agent standing near the stretcher just before the bullet was discovered.
While any theory explaining the appearance of this bullet on the stretcher is broad speculation, and any theory on the disappearance of an additional bullet (or bullets) during the movement of Connally onto the stretcher or the clean-up of the limousine is even broader speculation, I believe it is reasonable speculation, given the alternative. One of the truly laughable arguments made by the single-assassin theorist community is that since only two bullets were recovered, it is illogical to assume that more than two bullets inflicted the wounds. “Where’s the third bullet?” they will ask. They forget that their theory holds that a bullet lodged in Connally’s leg, became dislodged as his clothes were removed, went unnoticed when he was moved to the operating table, stayed unnoticed when the sheets were folded up, stayed unnoticed when the stretcher was moved downstairs, and re-appeared an hour later when two stretchers collided, on a stretcher not fitting the description of Connally's stretcher, and a stretcher that the man “discovering” the bullet, Darrell Tomlinson, suspected was, in fact, not Connally’s stretcher.
Even worse for those disputing the bullet was planted, researcher Josiah Thompson, building upon Darrell Tomlinson's suspicions, read through Parkland Hospital's records for 11-22-63, and found that the stretcher on which the bullet was found was almost certainly the stretcher of a young boy named Ronnie Fuller, who was admitted to the emergency room after suffering a cut. Thompson's research on this issue has never been countered.
In fact, he's continued to build upon it. At the 2003 Wecht Conference held at Duquesne University, Thompson showed how the only Parkland employees to see the bullet found by Tomlinson on 11-22 believed the bullet had a pointed tip. CE 399 has a rounded tip. Thompson also discussed the strange fact that both Governor Connally and Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade were of the impression a bullet was found in Connally's operating room. While these differing recollections could have come from the passage of time, and the resulting confusion, he related another tale that's much harder to explain. This tale sprang from an interview of Parkland's Director of Nursing, Elizabeth Wright. In this interview, conducted by researcher Wallace Milam in 1993, the former Mrs. Wright related that there was more than one bullet found on stretchers in the days after the assassination, and that this led one of the nursing supervisors, Doris Nelson, to complain: "I wish they would stop putting bullets on these stretchers." If the bullet found by Tomlinson did not look like CE 399, and other bullets were found afterwards, of course, it is entirely possible CE 399 was found at Parkland sometime later in the evening, after Oswald's rifle had been retrieved by the Dallas Police.
If this, in fact, occurred, then it only follows that the bullet found by Tomlinson was made to disappear. And if the bullet found by Tomlinson was made to disappear, then it only follows that any other bullets or fragments found at Parkland were made to disappear.
Fortunately, we need not drive down this particular conspiracy road, as a less-conspiracy-oriented answer to the "Where's the third bullet" question is also available. It goes like this...IT...GOT...LOST. The FBI and Secret Service certainly believed as much. Their official reports on the shooting concluded that all three shots hit Kennedy and Connally, even though only one and a half bullets had been retrieved; the FBI's report even specified that CE 399 fell from Kennedy's back. Apparently, neither agency had any problem believing that the bullet striking Connally, the third bullet, had gotten lost in the Parkland shuffle.
For this conclusion, they had plenty of support. In his 1970 book, Legal Medicine, the Clark Panel's Dr. Alan Moritz offered that "Often a bullet that has had sufficient velocity to pass
through the body will be so nearly spent that it will fail to penetrate
the head covering or clothing at the site of exit. Unless the doctor,
nurse, or accident ward attendant is alert to this possibility, such a
bullet may be lost." Elsewhere, Dr. Moritz explained that "Years of medicolegal experience in the investigation of firearm injuries confirm the truth of the generalization that the only things likely to be seen and remembered are those that are looked for with knowledge of their potential significance." Those arguing that CE 399 created Connally's wounds and was found on his stretcher, and thus that the bullet had been overlooked by at least five nurses and hospital employees prior to its discovery, thereby inadvertently confirm that other bullets, potentially including the bullet that ACTUALLY created Connally's wounds, could have been lost in the madhouse that was Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963.
Another top pathologist believed that it was just that simple--that the bullet had been lost. Dr. Milton Helpern, who'd supervised over 10,000 autopsies of gunshot victims in his long career, explained that, clean-up or no clean-up, one can not always find the bullets involved in a homicide. Specific to the Kennedy assassination, in an interview for the book, Where Death Delights, he told former FBI man Marshall Houts: “It is not unusual at all for spent bullets that have passed through a human body to become lost…If I had to venture a guess as to what happened to the bullet that wounded Governor Connally, I would suggest that it fell out of his pants leg while he was being removed from the car and placed on the stretcher; or it could have fallen out at any stage of his hospital experience.” He said it.
And the FBI's Robert Frazier, the man tasked with inspecting the limousine on the night of the assassination, apparently shared his belief this was possible. In 1995, undoubtedly as a response to the then-widespread criticism of
the FBI crime lab, a book entitled Hard Evidence was published to help
promote the FBI crime lab. This book, written by David Fisher, featured
an interview with Frazier. When musing on
the whereabouts of the still missing remnants of the bullet found in
pieces on the front seat of the limousine, the carpet beneath Nellie
Connally's seat, and in the President's skull, Frazier declared "What
happened, I think probably in the confusion when they got to the
hospital, everybody jumped out of the car, and if there were lead
fragments on their clothes or in their pockets or anywhere else, they
fell on the ground and were just trampled on and that was the end of it." While some might say that the likelihood of losing fragments in the chaos was significantly greater than that of losing a nearly-intact bullet, the bullet may have been in pieces and a nearly-intact bullet could easily have been picked up in the treads of a car tire. Sometimes things get lost.
But even if one should refuse to believe it got lost, there is the possibility that it simply was overlooked. On May 13, 1964, in testimony before the Warren Commission, Robert Frazier described his search of the limousine for bullet fragments late on the night of the shooting. Two bullet fragments had already been retrieved from the front seat by the Secret Service. First, Frazier described the car: "There were blood and particles of flesh scattered all over the hood, the windshield, in the front seat and all over the rear floor rugs, the jump seats, and over the rear seat, and down both sides of the side rails or tops of the doors of the car." Then Frazier described his search: "I examined the car to determine whether or not there were any bullet fragments present in it, embedded in the upholstery of the back of the front seat, or whether there were any impact areas which indicated that bullets or bullet fragments struck the inside of the car." At this point he found three small bullet fragments on the carpet under Nellie Connally's jump seat. By his finding these three fragments, and by his using the word "examine" to describe his search, Frazier gave the clear implication that he was extremely thorough in his search for bullet fragments.
When asked if he felt his search was indeed a "thorough examination of all aspects of the interior of the automobile," however, Frazier's response was not without its qualifications. He replied: "Yes, sir; for our purpose. However, we did not tear out all of the rugs on the floor, for instance. We examined the rugs carefully for holes, for bullet furroughs, for fragments. We examined the nap of the rug, in the actual nap of the rug, for fragments and bullet holes. We pulled the rug back as far as we could turn it back and even tore the glue or adhesive material loose around the cracks at the edges of the rug so we could observe the cracks to see whether they had been enlarged, and we examined all of the upholstery covering, on the back of the front seat, on the doors, and in the rear seat compartment, the jump seats, the actual rear seat, the back of the rear seat, and we examined the front seat in a similar manner, and we found no bullet holes or other bullet impact areas, other than the one on the inside of the windshield and the dent inside the windshield chrome." (5H58-74).
An 11-27-63 Secret Service report on this inspection, included in the Secret Service's report on the limo to the Warren Commission, CD80, confirms "a meticulous examination was made of the back seat of the car and the floor rug." But this wasn't exactly true.
In Hard Evidence, Frazier was more forthcoming about this examination. He revealed "The President's limousine arrived back in Washington about six o'clock. Around one o'clock the next morning, Cort (Cortland Cunningham) and I started sifting through the blood looking for lead fragments. It was tough; it was very tough...We'd just reach down into the clots of blood and scoop it up in our hands and let it dribble through. Whenever we felt something gritty, we'd clean it up and if it was lead, we'd save it in a pillbox. We didn't really recover a lot of lead." Evidently, they never thought of sponging off the blood and inspecting the carpet with a metal detector and a magnifying glass.
In any event, according to the Secret Service's own report on the limo, CD80, by the afternoon of the 23rd a Secret Service agent was requesting permission to clean the rest of the blood from the back seat and floor of the limo. At this time, he was told to wait for FBI approval. The very next day he made a second request, this time noting "that the odor from the car was becoming offensive." This request, almost certainly made after the announcement of Oswald's death, was granted "after clearance from the FBI." Late that evening, the limousine was cleaned up. No FBI agent was present. According to the Secret Service's own records, "there were still fragments of bone and hair in the debris of the car which had not been removed by the FBI search team." There's no record of what became of this "bone and hair." There's no indication that this clean-up crew looked for small fragments of lead hidden amongst this bone and hair. A Ford Motor Company memo first obtained and reported by researcher Pamela McElwain-Brown, moreover, demonstrates that within 10 days of the shooting, the carpet of the limousine had been removed by "the White House upholstery man" and had been replaced by the writer of the memo, Ford Motor company employee Vaughn Ferguson. There's no record of what this "upholsterer" did with this carpet. There's no reason to believe that a thorough inspection of this carpet was ever undertaken.
And should one still have any doubts, and still cling to the notion that the bullet hitting Connally must have remained on his person or in the limousine, and could not possibly have been cleaned-up, stolen, lost or overlooked, there is this: there is at least one fragment that disappeared after the shooting. Yes, in 2010, with the release of The Kennedy Detail, Secret Service Agent Paul Landis related that after Kennedy and his wife were pulled from the limousine, he noticed a bullet fragment sitting on the back of the car by the headrest. He claimed he then put it on the seat. Well, you guessed it, no fragment was found on this seat. This, then, suggests this fragment was "cleaned up" in some manner, for one reason or another.
And should one STILL find the urge to claim "yeah but that was just a fragment," well, there's this: a piece of metal the size of a bullet also disappeared. Yes, Nellie Connally, in her 2003 memoir From Love Field, reported that a Mexican peso worn by her husband as a cuff link was shot off his wrist during the shooting and was never recovered. She reported that she had a bracelet made from the remaining cuff link, and wore it thereafter as a memento of her husband's close brush with death. It follows then that any explanation for what happened to this cuff link could apply to a bullet as well.