Making sense out of nonsense
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
Warren Commission Exhibit 388/Zapruder Frame 312 Comparison
While the early critics of the Warren Commission focused on
discrediting the single-bullet theory, and using the location of the back wound
on the clothing and face sheet to achieve this goal, by 1967 they'd begun questioning the official interpretations of the head wounds as well.
With perspective, it’s easy to see that there was something suspicious about the head wounds from the get-go. To prepare for their testimony before the Warren Commission, the doctors who'd performed Kennedy's autopsy were asked to prepare drawings depicting the trajectory of the bullet through the President’s skull. They did this by verbally describing the locations of the entrance and exit on the skull to medical illustrator Skip Rydberg, who then drew Kennedy bent over in the manner required so that his wounds could be connected by a straight line from above and behind. This drawing became Exhibit 388. What is wrong with this scenario is that the Warren Commission had blown up prints from the Zapruder film at their disposal, and Rydberg could have been given these in order to make his drawing as accurate as possible. Instead, the ever-wiley Arlen Specter, the Warren commission counsel leading this area of inquiry, flashed lead autopsist Dr. James J. Humes the prints of Zapruder 312 and 313 in the middle of his testimony, after 388 was already entered into evidence, and asked him if the prints depicted Kennedy’s head in “approximately the same position” as it had been in 388. To this, Dr. Humes replied “yes, sir.” As if to drive home the Commission’s lack of concern for accuracy, Commissioner Dulles continued in this vein moments later by asking Humes, who was never swore in as a photographic expert, by the way, if the posture of Kennedy’s head was “roughly the inclination that you think the President’s head had at the time.” To this, Humes repeated his response--“Yes, sir.” Amazingly, there is no evidence anyone on the Commission thought to compare the drawing to the photos themselves.
The testimony of Dr. Pierre Finck was equally odd. As the wound
ballistics expert on the autopsy team, his testimony was needed to shore up
that the bullets came from above and behind. As the drawings presented by the doctors depicted the back wound much
higher than the exit in the throat, it was not hard for him to say as much
regarding those wounds. As the skull
entrance was, by the doctors’ own admission, lower than the exit at the top of
the skull, however, there was no way he could reasonably assert that the fatal
bullet would have to have come from above. When Finck testified that the exit wound was “so large that we can only
give an approximate angle. In my
opinion, the angle was within 45 degrees from the horizontal plane,” Specter most assuredly saw that this opened the door for a shot from someplace other than
the sniper’s nest, even someplace on the ground. He immediately interjected “Is that to say
that there was a 45 degree of declination from the point of origin…” to which
Finck ultimately responded “I think I can only state, sir, that he was shot
from above and behind.” This echoed the autopsy protocol’s over-zealous
statement that “the projectiles were fired from a point behind and somewhat
above the level of the deceased.” On
what purely medical basis could these claims be made? If one ignores the eyewitnesses, the Zapruder
film, and the rifle found in the school book depository, none of which belonged
in the testimony of a doctor unfamiliar with such evidence, there was no reason
for Finck to say the fatal bullet came from above. That Finck himself was uncomfortable with his
testimony on this point can be inferred from the fact his report to his superior officer General Blumberg stated simply “I testified that Kennedy was shot from behind.”
"Behind"... No mention of "above." That the doctors knew they'd found nothing to suggest the shots came from above is confirmed, furthermore, by an unexpected source: Dr. Humes. When discussing the medical evidence with the HSCA Pathology Panel on September 16 or 17, 1977 (it's unclear), Dr. Humes was asked if he felt the essential findings were that two shots came from above and behind, or just behind. He responded, with all apparent candor, that "I think behind is the most one can say from the anatomic findings."
But the lack of evidence indicating that the shot came from above didn't stop it from becoming part of the official myth, mind you, or the script repeated ad nauseum by Warren Commission defenders. In late 1966, as a response to Mark Lane's best seller Rush to Judgment, former Warren Commission Counsel Wesley J. Liebeler took to the lecture circuit. An October 19, 1966 article in the L.A. Times, however, suggests that, in defense of the Commission, Liebeler, a UCLA Law Professor, was willing to also assault the truth. Liebeler was reported to have told 650 students at a Stanford University law forum that the "autopsy x-rays of assassinated President John F. Kennedy showed 'all shots' fired at him were 'from behind and above.'" What malarkey! The x-rays gave no indication whatsoever that the shots were fired from above. No one testified to as much; in fact, Dr. Humes discussed a trail of fragments leading from low on the back of the head to high on the head, suggesting the exact opposite. So what was Liebeler talking about? Not only had the radiologist present at the autopsy. Dr. John Ebersole, not been asked to testify before the commission, but the doctors who were asked to testify were prevented from reviewing the x-rays beforehand. Such was the secrecy regarding these x-rays, in fact, that the doctors were not even allowed to study them while writing the autopsy report. By October, 1966, moreover, NO ONE had studied the x-rays beyond looking at them in hopes of finding missing bullet fragments. One can only conclude then that Liebeler was either grossly misquoted, or desperately making stuff up. I propose we suspect the latter.
But I digress. The point I've been trying to make is that, while few had questioned the Warren Commission's conclusions regarding the head wound prior to November 1966, it wasn't long before the former members and counsel of the commission felt the need to clarify and revise their findings. Researcher David Lifton had written an article, subsequently published in Ramparts Magazine in January 1967, expressing doubt that the descriptions of Kennedy's head wound made by those viewing him in Dallas--which placed the exit wound on the back of Kennedy's head--could "be reconciled with the findings of the Bethesda autopsy"--in which the bullet entered the back of his head, and exited from the top of his head. He had shared his reasons for coming to this doubt, moreover, with his college professor, former Warren Commission counsel J. Wesley Liebeler. This then led Liebeler to write an 11-16-66 letter to Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin listing Lifton's reasons. Liebeler then mailed this letter to pretty much all the former counsel and members of the commission, along with a few other persons of interest, most significantly Acting Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
While Rankin ultimately responded to Liebeler, on 12-1-66, and made clear that no further investigation would be undertaken...by the former employees and members of the Warren Commission...it would be naive to accept that no response was forthcoming...by anyone.
Indeed, we should accept the opposite.
While the drawings created for the Warren Commission, consistent with Dr. Humes' testimony that skull fell to the table as he reflected Kennedy's scalp, depicted a large skull wound at the top of the head extending somewhat onto the back of the head, and while a report signed by Dr.s Humes, Boswell, and Finck in January 1967 confirmed the accuracy of these drawings, it wasn't long before someone decided something more supportive of Oswald's sole guilt, and more responsive to the points raised by Lifton, was needed. A May 29, 1967 memo written by Director of Public Information Cliff Sessions--outlining "talking points" that Dr. Humes should touch upon during his upcoming televised interview with Dan Rather--was sent to the Justice Department's Acting Assistant Attorney General Carl Eardley, and forwarded to Dr. Humes. Among these talking points was something new, that had not been previously touched upon; when asked about the bullets striking Kennedy, Dr. Humes was told to say that one of them "entered the back of the skull and exited through the front." The "front." The exit wound was no longer on the top of Kennedy's head, as depicted in CE 388, the drawing created for the Warren Commission under Dr. Humes' direction, but the "front" of the head. Dr. Humes was, in effect, being told to change his testimony.
So, did he follow his orders? You betcha. Loyal soldier to the end, when asked the location of the large exit wound by Rather, Dr. Humes said nothing about a wound on top of the head which could be an exit for a bullet entering from the rear or the front, and instead told the nation that the "exit wound was a large irregular wound to the front and side--right side of the President's head."
This verbal movement of the wound, however, proved too little, too late. With the publication of Josiah Thompson's Six Seconds in Dallas in late 1967, and its demonstration that the Zapruder film shows a wound on the top of the head, and not the front of the head, as claimed by Dr. Humes months earlier, the problems with the bullet's trajectory reached an even greater audience.
This led the Justice Department, now functioning as a de facto cover-up department, to take even more drastic measures. Putting Dr. Humes on TV to tell the public what the government thought they should hear would clearly no longer suffice.
In late February 1968, even though it had been but
a year since the autopsy doctors had signed a report saying the wounds in the autopsy photos confirmed the accuracy of the drawings they'd created for the Warren Commission, a four-man secret panel supposedly made of random experts but actually made of close colleagues (Dr. Alan Moritz had been a mentor to the panel's leader, Russell Fisher, at Harvard, and Dr.s Morgan and Carnes had been professors together at Johns Hopkins University) re-reviewed the photos and x-rays on behalf of Attorney General Ramsey Clark. This was supposedly done at the urging of the autopsy doctors themselves, but there is reason to doubt this is true. (Dr. Boswell's
testimony before the ARRB suggests that he was, in fact, manipulated by Clark's assistant Carl Eardley--the same Carl Eardley who'd forwarded the "talking points" to Dr. Humes--into making this request).
This panel, commonly called the Clark Panel, then, not only made tremendous mistakes in its assessment of Kennedy's back wound location, which served to support the then-under-fire single-bullet theory, but also solved the problem of the head bullet's trajectory, by "finding" a wound of
entrance high on the back of Kennedy's head that had apparently been missed by
everyone who saw the President in Dallas
and Bethesda, including the autopsy
doctors. This new "find," moreover, made Thompson's comparison of CE 388 with Zapruder frame 312 irrelevant.
One might wish to think this a coincidence.
this was not a coincidence was confirmed, however, by Clark panel
ring-leader Russell S. Fisher when he told the Maryland State Medical
Journal in March 1977 that
Attorney General Ramsey Clark had seen the proofs of Six Seconds in
Dallas, and that the Clark Panel report was released "partly to refute some
of the junk" in the book. Apparently, their way of "refuting"
Thompson's comparison of CE-388 and Z-312 was by confirming he was right and by
declaring instead that their esteemed colleagues, Dr.s Humes, Boswell and Finck, were
badly mistaken as to the actual location of the entrance wound
on the back of Kennedy's skull, and were off by roughly 4 inches! Even more
amazing, Fisher told the Maryland State Medical Journal that this was only a
“minor error.” What the??? One ponders what Fisher would consider a "major error" under such circumstances...
Agreeance (Def: The false appearance of being in agreement) (a new take on an old word--spread the, well, word)
Or if he was just blowing smoke... When one considers that, in the March 13, 1970 edition of Medical World News, in which it was noted that the Clark Panel was convened "to allay public skepticism over the Warren Report," Fisher ran down a laundry list of excuses for the "errors" made at the autopsy, it seems likely he was more concerned about these "errors" than he would subsequently acknowledge. These excuses, moreover, were not real excuses, but entirely false ones made up from either Fisher's incredible ignorance, or his fertile imagination. He told the medical world that, among the reasons for the "confusion" at the autopsy, were:
- "The original x-rays and photos were not seen by the autopsy team in Washington or even by the Warren Commission until the time that our committee was convened..." (While it's true the doctors were unable to look at the x-rays and photos while writing the autopsy report, they had inspected the x-rays and photos in November 1966 and January 1967, prior to the Clark Panel's inspection, and had publicly proclaimed that these inspections had confirmed both the findings of their report, and the testimony and exhibits provided the Warren Commission. As Warren Commission counsel Arlen Specter had similarly admitted in both U.S. News (in 1966) and the Saturday Evening Post (in 1967) to seeing a photo of Kennedy's back wound on the day of the assassination re-enactment, furthermore, Fisher was doubly in error.)
- "skull fragments found on the street, which would have permitted a more accurate reconstruction of the skull and hence a clearer notion of the path of the bullet, were not seen by the Washington examiners..." (This claim is equally bogus. The recovered skull fragments seen by Fisher were x-rays taken at the autopsy of fragments studied and handled by the doctors during the autopsy. It was beveling on the largest fragment, moreover, that convinced the autopsy doctors the bullet exited from the top of the head--the exact same conclusion reached by Fisher. While there were two fragments found in Dealey Plaza not returned in time for the autopsy, one being the Harper fragment, neither of these fragments were seen by the Clark Panel, and neither of these could have convinced the autopsy doctors a bullet entered high on the back of Kennedy's head, where Fisher claimed it had entered, as they'd both come from further forward on the skull.)
- "for several hours the local coroner was not told that a tracheostomy had been performed at the place where one bullet emerged, and this helped to cloud the issue of how many bullets had been fired and from what direction." (This claim is just strange. The confusion was not caused by the emergency room doctors' failure to tell Dallas coroner Earl Rose about the tracheostomy, but the autopsy doctors' failure to call the emergency room doctors prior to commencement of the autopsy, and the failure of anyone present at the autopsy to tell the autopsy doctors that, oh yeah, by the way, the emergency room doctors called a press conference this afternoon and told the world the president had a small bullet wound in his throat that appeared to be an entrance.)
In any event, the Clark Panel studied the medical evidence on
February 26 and 27, 1968. Although their subsequent report would not be completed and signed by Dr.s Fisher, Morgan, Moritz, and Carnes until March 28, March 28, April 6, and April 9, 1968, respectively, Dr. Fisher admitted, in a March 4, 1970 letter to Harold Weisberg, that they'd actually "drafted" their report on February 27, and that the rest was just editing, and re-editing, and then mailing the report around and about to get signed. They never met, after February 27, to work on the report together.
Well, this suggests that they really studied the evidence ONCE, and only once, on February 26, without studying anything beyond the original autopsy protocol, and that February 27 was mostly taken up with the drafting of their report.
Now, note those dates. There is no record of which I am aware in which the planning for the Clark Panel's inspection is detailed. For all we know, it was put together in a hurry. It is undoubtedly intriguing then that on February 14, 1968--less than 2 weeks before the Clark Panel's inspection--Josiah Thompson's publisher, Bernard Geis, sent former Warren Commissioner John McCloy a copy of Thompson's Six Seconds in Dallas, along with some of the reviews it had garnered, and implored "We earnestly hope that you will be moved to urge the formation of a Congressional body or an independent committee of scholars, critics, pathologists, and criminologists empowered to probe these hypotheses, refuting them if additional evidence warrants, or expanding upon the original report if that should prove necessary."
Hmmm. Did McCloy read the book, see its merits, and strong-arm Attorney General Ramsey Clark into setting up a secret panel to inspect the evidence, and "refute some of the junk" in the book? Was Fisher's claim Clark viewed the galleys of Thompson's book just a cover story put out by Clark? To hide that McCloy was really the one behind the inspection?
There is reason to believe so. Consider that barely a year before, McCloy had been asked by CBS to arrange an inspection of the evidence by the autopsists, and that he'd traveled to Washington that very day, and that an inspection had occurred within days.
Consider also McCloy's response to Geis' letter. Did he ignore it? No, not exactly. On July 15, 1969--almost a year-and-a-half later--he wrote Geis a letter saying he had "not been impressed" with the book's "contents nor its conclusions." He then sent this letter to Chief Justice Warren, asking for his input. Warren then responded by suggesting he not send the letter, as it could only be used to stir up controversy. The letter was not sent. (Geis' letter, and the letters of McCloy and Warren in response, can be found on researcher Denis Morrissette's website, jfkassassinationfiles.com.)
This raises a question, however. Why did McCloy wait so long to respond? Well, the thought occurs that he was waiting for something. Was he waiting for the public release of the Clark Panel's report, so he could cite it in his response? There is reason to suspect so.
Now, admittedly, this is a bit of a stretch... But it's undoubtedly intriguing that, yes indeed, McCloy cited the Panel's report in his response. He wrote Geis "The expert panel which examined the x-rays under the auspices of the Department of Justice last year clearly disprove the main Thompson contentions and certainly the original autopsy report even if it is somewhat less exacting and comprehensive than one might have wished it to be does so as well."
Note that McCloy is deferential to the Clark Panel's report, yet somewhat critical of the original autopsy report. This suggests he knew the two reports were in conflict, a conflict un-reported in the press at the time. Hmmm... Had McCloy discussed the Panel's report with Clark? Or Fisher?
The timing of the report's release is also intriguing. It was released on January 16, 1969, just in time to throw a monkey wrench in Jim Garrison's trial of Clay Shaw. Garrison had been trying to gain access to the medical evidence for use in the trial, as he thought an independent study of the medical evidence by non-military medical experts might prove shots had been fired from multiple locations, and thus, more than one shooter. It appeared, moreover, that Garrison, and his chosen expert, Dr. Cyril Wecht, were about to succeed in gaining access to these materials. This then led the Justice Department to offer up what could only have appeared to be a compromise--it would release an already-completed top secret study of the medical evidence by non-military medical experts--the Clark Panel's report from the year before.
That the timing of the report's creation and release was no coincidence was confirmed, moreover, by Ramsey Clark himself. In David Lifton's book Best Evidence he recounts a May, 1969, conversation with Clark. He relates that, when asked about the timing of the February 1968 inspection, Clark readily admitted that he "thought it unwise for the administration to go into an election year without anyone having examined the key evidence."
And that's not the only time Clark admitted the report served a political purpose. Within the HSCA's files is an outside contact report, summarizing a 5-6-78 phone call between Clark and an HSCA investigator. Well, it's right there in black and white. According to this summary, Clark admitted he was "relieved" when his "experts corroborated" the "Warren Commission findings," but that he nevertheless "delayed issuing" their report, only to "use" the "Garrison case" as a "vehicle" for putting their report "in the public record."
And so it came to be: the January 16, 1969 release of the panel's report. The print media’s
ineptness and distaste for the whole matter is revealed in their headlines
regarding the release of the panel's report, e.g. “JFK Autopsy Facts Bared;
Findings Claimed Correct;” “Autopsy
Report Backs JFK Data.” I have yet to
find one newspaper article about the release of this report to mention the
amazing migration of the entrance wound on Kennedy's head.
This was apparently by design. In Harold Weisberg's 1975 book Post Mortem, he discusses the Clark Panel report in great detail, and re-prints a number of internal government memos he received in response to his many Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. One of these is a Jan 18, 1969 memo from Frank Wozencraft, of the Office of Legal Counsel, to archivist Marion Johnson of the National Archives. It is entitled "Authentication of Autopsy Pictures," and provides Johnson with a statement he is to give any member of the news media inquiring whether the photos and x-rays studied by the Clark Panel have been authenticated by the autopsists. The statement itself is not surprising, as it refers back to the November '66 inventory, and the signed statements by Humes, Boswell, Ebersole, and Stringer, that none of the photos or x-rays are missing. What is surprising, however, is the final paragraph, which reads:
"In addition, requests to see any documents which contain descriptions of the autopsy pictures should be denied on the ground that we agreed with Burke Marshall not to disclose such descriptions, for much the same reasons that the pictures themselves are not available for non-official access at this time."
This statement is quite interesting. There is nothing in the signed agreement between Burke Marshall, the Kennedy family's representative, and the government prohibiting the dissemination of descriptions of the autopsy photos. Such a provision, if actually considered, would have been of questionable legality anyhow. I mean, just think about it. Nellie Connally has testified to Mrs. Kennedy's holding President Kennedy's brains in her hands. Dr. Humes has testified to tearing Kennedy's skull apart in order to remove his brain. The autopsy report, in which the President's wounds are discussed in detail, has been part of the public record for years. So how can Wozencraft justify withholding reports in which mere photos of the President's wounds are described?
I mean, let's get serious. Burke Marshall has just signed off on the release of the Clark Panel's report, in which the photos and x-rays of Kennedy's wounds are inventoried and discussed in detail. So how could Wozencraft possibly believe he'd have an objection to anyone reading the November, 1966 inventory of the autopsy materials, or the January, 1967 review of those materials?
He couldn't. So what was Wozencraft up to? Well, unfortunately it appears that what he was up to was no good... Here, but a few days before the end of the Johnson Administration, is one of Johnson's top legal advisers pressuring the National Archives to withhold reports from the press in which the autopsy photos are discussed...under the guise that this would somehow be in poor taste. Never mind that these same legal advisers--the Office of Legal Counsel--have just released a new and improved report--the Clark Panel Report, in which these very photos are discussed in gruesome detail.
This, to me, is highly suspicious, and leads me to suspect that Wozencraft, and by extension the Johnson Administration Justice Department, were trying to keep from the press that the earlier descriptions of the photos both claimed a bullet entrance low on the back of the head was readily apparent...and that the Clark Panel reported no such wound, and was now claiming there was a wound high on the back of the head.
And, should one consider it unlikely that a prominent government attorney would do such a thing--would twist or bury the truth for political purposes--one should consider that that is PRECISELY the role of the Office of Legal Counsel. In an ideal world, the Office of Legal Counsel functions as an adviser to the president...telling him when his actions are at odds with the constitution. But the reality is essentially the opposite. Like a good mob attorney, the Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Office of Legal Counsel finds ways to justify whatever the heck the President wants done and has already decided to do. General Counsel for The President's Commission, commonly known as the Warren Commission, J. Lee Rankin, had run the Office of Legal Counsel for President Eisenhower. The instigator of the Warren Commission, Nicholas Katzenbach, had run the office for President Kennedy. Both men knew how to spin the truth to please a president, and considered it a privilege to do so. In subsequent years, right wing political operatives such as William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Ted Olsen, (three of the main movers and shakers behind the successful assault on democracy known as Bush v. Gore) and Jay Bybee (The author of a notorious memo telling the Bush Administration torture was permissible) would do their duty and spin their truths for their presidents as the Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Office of Legal Counsel for Nixon, Ford, Bush I, and Bush II, respectively. Wozencraft would serve President Johnson in this role from 1966-1969, a time of great political turmoil. There is no reason to believe he was of stronger stuff than the right-wing operatives that followed him. There is every reason, in fact, to believe his actions regarding the Clark Panel report were of a political nature, and that the Clark Panel Report served a political purpose.
There's also this: Wozencraft was a senior partner in the Texas law firm Baker & Botts, the family law firm of Bush family adviser James A. Baker III, who not only found time to serve as Reagan's Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Treasury, and Bush I's Secretary of State, but was also the man chosen to run the aftermath of the 2000 election for the Bush family, which led up to the aforementioned successful assault on democracy known as Bush v. Gore. So there's every reason to believe ethics was not Wozencraft's strong suit, and that he would have little problem burying some problematic reports written by some doctors who could very well have been wrong anyway.
I mean, it seems more than a coincidence that, in the aforementioned 1970 article in Medical World News, neither Dr. Fisher, nor his fellow Clark panel member Dr. Moritz, mentioned their re-appraisal of the head wound location. Dr. Moritz's words, in fact, revealed a deliberate caution, as if he knew people would someday realize the location of the entrance wound on Kennedy's head had migrated, and didn't want them to think he was unaware of how disturbing this was. Here are his words: "the findings of the Warren Commission are not inconsistent with the facts as presented to us." This is far from a ringing endorsement of the original autopsy report.
In any event, it was more than 3 years before the Clark Panel's drastic re-appraisal of the entrance wound location was reported. This second series of articles was written as a response to an address by Dr. Russell Morgan, the Clark Panel's radiologist, to a conference of fellow radiologists, and indirectly confirm the role of Thompson's book in the formation and conclusions of the panel. The articles below were found
in the August 18, 1972 Denver Post and the August 19, 1972 New Orleans States-Item, respectively. This was but a few days before Dr. Cyril Wecht was to become the first Warren Commission critic to view the autopsy materials. Perhaps Morgan wanted to lessen the impact should Wecht come out of the Archives and announce that the autopsy x-rays didn't show what the Clark Panel claimed, by putting on the record that they were over-developed and hard to read. Perhaps not. In a letter to researcher Harold Weisberg, Morgan claimed "I do not know why the press picked up my talk as a news item at this time. Apparently, they have nothing better to print."
(Sections indicating that Morgan in particular, and the Clark Panel in general, were far from unbiased in their analysis and had a clear-cut agenda to refute Thompson and derail Jim Garrison's trial of Clay Shaw are highlighted in bold.)
EXPERT AFFIRMS 1-BULLET VIEW
A radiologist who examined the X-rays of President Kennedy's fatal head wound said in Denver Friday they prove conclusively that only one bullet--fired from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository building in Dallas--caused his death.
Dr. Russell H. Morgan, dean of the medical school at Johns Hopkins University, said the films--could they be released by the Kennedy family--would effectively remove all doubt and controversy that the assassination may have been the result of shots from more than one direction.
However, because the films haven't been released for publication and because a report on their examination wasn't included in the Warren Commission study, the controversy has continued, Dr. Morgan said.
The medical school dean made his remarks in an interview prior to speaking to some 300 physicians, attending the 34th annual mid-summer meeting of the Rocky Mountain Radiological Society in the Brown Palace Hotel. The meeting, which began Thursday, continues through Saturday.
Dr. Morgan was the only radiologist on a panel of four persons asked by then Attorney Gen. Ramsey Clark to review the X rays because of controversies surrounding the autopsy report.
But because the panel's report, released in April 1968, largely supported the conclusions of the Warren Report. Morgan said, it failed to receive much circulation. His talk here Friday on the subject was the first outside University organizations. The other members of the panel, all pathologists, have never spoken on the matter.
He said the X rays in conjunction with an analysis of the movie shot by amateur photographer Abraham Zapruder, show "rather conclusively" that the path of the fatal bullet--because the President's head was bowed and tilted to one side--was consistent with being fired from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository building.
Further, he said, the X rays show the path of the bullet was strewn with thousands of bone fragments and that no other bullets entered from either the right or left sides of the skull, as some critics of the Warren Report have maintained.
Had other bullets entered the right or left side of the skull, they would have left paths of bone fragments, and no such paths were indicated. In addition, the entrance of a bullet is small, the exit point much larger, the doctor added, and both the entrance and the exit of the fatal bullet are characterized by this fact.
Morgan said his study of the X rays and the movie film also disprove the theory that another shot struck Kennedy from an overpass under which the president's car was preparing to pass.
The Zapruder film shows Kennedy's body lurching forward from one shot and then lurching backward, as though from a second.
Morgan said the backward lurch was a reflex action of Kennedy's shattered brain, which caused the president's muscles to tense, and react in a spasm. It was this sudden straightening of the body which was interpreted as being the result of a second shot, he declared.
The fatal bullet killed Kennedy instantly, Morgan said, and the subsequent emergency action at Parkland Memorial Hospital was in response to purely reflex activity.
Morgan speculated that the reason the X rays weren't included in the Warren Commission Report is that when doctors first examined Kennedy, they thought the bullet entered lower in Kennedy's head.
Had their assumption been correct, the bullet would have to have been fired from below the level of the presidential limousine, he said.
Morgan said the X rays can now be studied with permission of the Kennedy family, though the photographs of the injury, which he described as "pretty gory," are still closed to examination. He said he feels publication of the X rays has been prohibited because the Kennedy family equates them with the photographs.
To date, he said, the X rays have been studied by only one person since being released for study last November, and that was by a urologist from Columbia University interested in the phenomenon of assassination.
Should the X rays ever be released for publication, he explained, great care and special techniques would be required before they would show the conclusive evidence, because they were produced in a hurry under extremely trying conditions and were over-exposed.
EXPERT SAYS 4-INCH ERROR LED TO FALSE SPECULATIONS IN JFK DEATH DENVER
(AP) — A leading medical expert says a four-inch mistake by a pathologist who examined the body of John F. Kennedy after he was shot to death in Dallas produced a series of false speculations about the assassination.
Dr. Russell H. Morgan said the bullet actually entered the president's skull some four inches higher than initially reported, but the Warren Commission's detailed report on the assassination failed to clarify this point.
Morgan, dean of the medical school at Johns Hopkins University, is the only radiologist to examine the X-ray photographs of the slain president's skull.
The matter became an issue of great importance in New Orleans between 1967 and 1969 when Dist. Atty. Jim Garrison was attempting to prove that the slaying of Kennedy was plotted here.
Garrison contended that Kennedy was shot from the front, rather than from behind as the Warren Report concluded, and that the X-rays would prove it. He made many legal attempts to gain access to the X-rays examined by Dr. Morgan, but failed.
The D.A.'s probe died after Clay L. Shaw was acquitted March 1, 1969, of charges of conspiring to kill the president, though legal maneuvering continued long after that and only recently did the U.S. Supreme Court uphold an injunction prohibiting further prosecution of Shaw by Garrison.
In an address to the 34th midsummer conference of the Rocky Mountain Radiological Society here, he gave X-rays the credit for finally revealing the pathologist's error and disproving many of the more extreme speculations spawned by the mistake, which is included in the Warren Commission report.
Morgan's four-year investigation of the photographs and the Abraham Zapruder film of the assassination led him to several conclusions, he said.
The most important finding was that one of the pathologists who examined Kennedy's body in Washington the night of the assassination erred in saying the fatal bullet entered the "occipital protuberance," or the bulge at the lower section of the back of the skull.
This statement, which Morgan said later proved to be false, was included in the Warren report. Critics of the report immediately noted a major inconsistency between that alleged entry point and several features of the Zapruder film which showed a frame-by-frame sequence of the shooting. Critics said the film showed the president's head in a near vertical position when the bullet hit and also showed him lurching backward, leading to speculation the bullet came from the front.
The angle of the bullet became controversial. Some contended it couldn't have been fired from Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle in the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and entered the skull where the pathologist said it did.
Morgan said Friday the Warren Commission, which named Oswald as the assassin, made no effort to explain the contradiction, allowing it to provide controversy for several years.
When he was given two days to examine the X-ray photographs, Morgan found them of poor quality, severely over-exposed. Of the 14, he said, only three were of the head wound. He said one had pencil marks on the negative itself showing "where somebody thought the bullet had gone."
(The remaining paragraphs were found in the version of the article published by the Galveston Daily News the next day.)
The penciled line corresponded to the mistaken pathologists' conclusion that the bullet entered the base of the skull and exited at an upward angle out of the right of the forehead. But Morgan said he found the actual entry wound was 120 millimeters away from the penciled line, more than four inches higher on the back of the head.
The lurching of the president's body backward, he said, was caused by
body spasms after the massive wound was inflicted.
said the Zapruder film, the ballistics tests, the projected line of
fire and the angle of entry of the fatal bullet all were consistent
with the explanation that a single shot fired from above and behind
killed the president.
"The Warren Commission's diagnosis was correct," he, said, "even though the evidence cited was inconsistent."
And it's not as if these articles went unnoticed... On November 22, 1972, (note the date) a UPI article found in the Lodi News-Sentinel announced that the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to review a lower court ruling that Jim Garrison not be allowed to proceed with the prosecution of Clay Shaw for perjury. The article noted further that when interviewed Shaw "waved a newspaper clipping in which Russell H. Morgan, Dean of John Hopkins Medical School, said following an examination of x-rays of Kennedy's body that one of the pathologists who examined Kennedy after the President was killed in Dallas made a four-inch mistake. Morgan said the bullet really entered Kennedy's skull four inches higher than first reported and that the Warren Commission never clarified the point, giving rise to what Morgan contended was false speculation about Kennedy's death."
Now, note the opening line of the article, the focus of the article according to the most basic rule of journalism... "Clay Shaw said Tuesday Jim Garrison's charges he conspired with Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate President John F. Kennedy may have been due to a pathologist's 'clerical error.'"
So, there you have it. The prosecution of Clay Shaw had nothing to do with Shaw's supposedly using the name of Clay Bertrand to represent Oswald when Oswald needed legal assistance in New Orleans, nor anything to do with the mysterious death of David Ferrie, a man with connections to Shaw, Oswald, the anti-Castro Cuban Community, and the New Orleans underworld. And, oh yeah, let's just forget that a friend of Ferrie's claimed to have seen Shaw at a party with Ferrie and Oswald, in which the assassination of President Kennedy was discussed. No. Those things had nothing to do with the prosecution (and possible persecution) of Clay Shaw. It was all just an innocent misunderstanding...
brought about by the incompetence of an unidentified pathologist at Kennedy's autopsy!
Wounds of Contention
Such was the Justice Department's own skepticism of the Clark Panel's conclusions, however, that Carl Eardley, who'd been working with the doctors on their reviews and reports for years, and who'd been one of the driving forces behind the Clark Panel, asked Dr. Boswell to participate in the autopsy of Dr. Martin Luther King. This was April 4, 1968, but 5 weeks after the Clark Panel had viewed the autopsy materials, and had questioned the competence of Boswell and his colleagues. Boswell, to his credit, refused. While one could make the argument that Eardley remained ignorant of the Clark Panel's findings until after it had been written up, reviewed, and signed, and that the last signature on the report was dated April 9, that still doesn't explain why Boswell's equally discredited colleague Dr. Finck was allowed to participate in the autopsy of Senator Robert F. Kennedy two months later, with no objection from the Justice Department. This also fails to explain why, even after the release of the panel's report, both Finck and Boswell were asked to help the government in the defense of Clay Shaw, and defend the Clark Panel's findings. Unless the government failed to fully trust the Clark Panel, there is a huge question as to why the government would continue to use Boswell and Finck as experts long after the Panel, in an official government report prepared on behalf of the Attorney General, had made them out to be total incompetents. For how else can one describe a doctor who mistakenly records a head wound high on the back of a man's skull as low on the back of his skull, creates a face sheet and autopsy protocol affirming this location, and then confirms this location again after reviewing the man’s autopsy photos...TWICE?
The possibility that Eardley and the Justice Department thought the autopsy doctors competent, but grossly mistaken on the location of the entrance into the skull, simply makes no sense in light of the doctor's subsequent reports claiming the autopsy photos supported their original findings. That is...unless...Eardley knew the subsequent reports were created for political reasons and not to be taken seriously. Hmmm...
An article in the 2-24-69 Manchester Union Leader helps shed some light on Eardley's mindset. The article reports that, while representing the government (in a hearing regarding Jim Garrison's quest to gain access to the autopsy materials), in which Dr. Cyril Wecht used the conclusions in the recently released Clark Panel report to question the competence of the original autopsists, Eardley snapped. He reportedly challenged Wecht: "But you weren't at the autopsy, were you? Have you ever attended the autopsy of a famous person like the President? You never have been surrounded by Treasury Agents, FBI agents, Admirals, and doctors, all asking to have this thing over with? It makes a difference, doesn't it?"
I'll give you a second to get over that one. Yep, the Justice Department, which from 1963-1969--the entire span of Lyndon Johnson's presidency--had insisted that Kennedy had received both an adequate and accurate autopsy, IMMEDIATELY changed tone after Johnson left office, and began touting that not only had the original autopsists made mistakes, but that these mistakes WERE NOT THEIR FAULT, but the fault of the Johnson Administration, which had failed to ensure the doctors were allowed the peace, quiet, and solitude necessary to distinguish a bullet entrance near the top of the head from one four inches away. What nonsense!!!
Of course, the Justice Department was not alone in pretending that one could both claim the original autopsy was authoritative and that the head wound location was incorrectly recorded, and off by four inches. They had plenty of support from an unsurprising source...former counsel for the Warren Commission. In May 1975, former Warren Commission counsel W. David Slawson and Richard M. Mosk wrote an article for the L.A. Times arguing that any re-investigation of the assassination be restricted to the behavior of the FBI and CIA, and that there was no need to re-investigate the actual crime. This was a flip from Slawson's position in 1966 that a re-investigation of the medical evidence could prevent an investigation of the behavior of the FBI and CIA. Anyhow, in this article the dynamic duo made the amazing claim that "The evidence concerning the wounds conclusively dispels the idea of shots from the front...The wounds both slanted downward from Kennedy's back. This is clear beyond doubt from the autopsy and from the photographs and X rays of the body...to doubt the evidence of the wounds is to label as liars the doctors who examined the body, the pictures and the X rays for the commission."
Well, this was more disgusting nonsense. Pure horseshit... 1) The wounds did not both slant downward. The head wound, as originally interpreted, slanted upward. The wound was then re-interpreted, and re-located, so that the wound could slant downward. 2) Claiming that doubting the medical evidence is to label the autopsy doctors "liars" is hypocrisy at its worst. Did Slawson and Mosk forget that the government itself doubted the interpretations of the autopsy doctors, and embraced a review of their work in which it was declared they'd incorrectly recorded and remembered the location of the fatal head wound? If not, then why did they not only not denounce this outrage, but embrace the review themselves, by claiming the head wound slanted downward? 3) Slawson and Mosk knew DAMN WELL that the doctors were forbidden from examining the body, pictures and X rays for the commission, and their pretending they were not is offensive. No, more than offensive. The rapid fire assault on the truth by these men is so brazen, in fact, that their own words label themselves as "liars" and hypocrites, for then and evermore.
And they were far from alone... A June 2, 1975 article in Medical World News on the Rockefeller Commission Panel included a few choice quotes from Dr. Fisher. On the possibility congress would open its own investigation of the assassination, and conduct a thorough re-examination of the medical evidence, he whined: "I think it would be a waste of time and taxpayers' money...And it implies that people who did previous work were dishonest." Wow. What a freakin' hypocrite! He had no problem second-guessing the autopsy doctors, and re-interpreting the location of the entrance wound on Kennedy's head, but felt insulted congress might not just take his word on it.
His campaign dragged on for years. The March 1977 article on Fisher in the Maryland State Medical Journal and a March 22 1977 article on Dr. Lattimer carried by the Ridder News Service revealed that although they each had come to conclusions contrary to those of the autopsy doctors while performing their own limited examinations of the medical evidence, they felt no further investigation was necessary. Even more disturbing, a September 16, 1977 article distributed by UPI reported that Dr. Russell Morgan had spoken at Michigan State University the day before, and had told reporters that "Mr. Kennedy's X-rays showed conclusively that a single-bullet fired from behind was the cause of death" and that "Congressional investigators should concentrate on other elements in their inquiry into the assassination."
Well, this is quite interesting. The last time Dr. Morgan had been quoted in the press about the assassination was but days before Dr. Cyril Wecht was to become the first non-government-affiliated pathologist to view the assassination materials at the archives, and in effect review his findings. And now, on the day before 6 members of the HSCA pathology panel were to visit the archives and review his findings, and meet with Dr. Humes (whose findings he'd refuted), Morgan re-appears, urging that no new study of the X-rays be conducted. In this context, his words read like a threat. Should everyone to look at the autopsy materials in between these two appearances have confirmed his findings, that would be one thing...but in 1975, Dr. Fred Hodges, a Professor of Radiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where Morgan served as Dean, was asked to study Kennedy's X-rays on behalf the Rockefeller Commission, and had provided them a report which directly contradicted Morgan's re-interpretation of the head wound location. Yes, in a little discussed report long withheld from the public, in a passage rarely if ever quoted before I started broadcasting it all over the internet, Hodges refuted the findings of the Clark Panel, noting instead that "a small round hole visible from the intracranial side after the brain was removed is described in the autopsy report in the right occipital bone, and many of the linear fracture lines converge on the described site." Even worse, for Morgan, was the next line: "The appearance is in keeping with the colored photographs showing a large, compound, comminuted injury in the right frontal region, and a small round soft tissue wound in the occipital region." Morgan, of course, had claimed there was no wound in the occipital bone on the X-rays or photographs, and had pushed the Clark Panel into concluding the wound was actually four inches or more higher on the back of Kennedy's skull, in the parietal bone.
Hodges' then still-secret report was thus bad news for Morgan. And seeing as Morgan was Hodges' boss, it was bad news that Morgan would almost certainly have discovered. It follows then that Morgan's urging congressional investigators to forget about the X-rays and focus on other matters may not have been so innocent, and was instead a plea designed to protect his own reputation. While this might seem a little harsh, let's remember Morgan's viewpoint but five years earlier. While he once was reportedly of the opinion that the X-rays were "produced in a hurry under extremely trying conditions" and were of "poor quality" and "severely over-exposed.," and that "great care and special techniques would be required before they would show the conclusive evidence," he now claimed they "showed conclusively that a single-bullet fired from behind was the cause of death" and that no further investigation was necessary. Perhaps he'd simply changed his mind and no longer felt the cowlick entrance he'd thought he'd "discovered" was a necessary ingredient to the single-assassin conclusion, and worth verifying. Or perhaps he simply didn't care if Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy or not, as long as his own reputation was protected.
While one might assume from all this that Morgan and the
Clark Panel, in their zeal to refute Thompson, had made a mistake in moving the head wound, the HSCA pathology panel, which corrected the Clark Panel's
misrepresentation of the back wound when compared to the neck wound, nevertheless
confirmed the Clark Panel's new and improved location for the head wound.
This amazing migration is still much-discussed among students of the assassination...and largely ignored by most everyone else. Vincent Bugliosi, in his monster tome Reclaiming History, repeats without comment the claim by Dr. Werner Spitz, a colleague of Dr. Fisher's who served on both the Rockefeller and House Select Committee panels, that "It's just a red herring. We know from the autopsy photos and X-rays that there was only one entrance wound to the back of the president's head. The only significance this matter has is academic. If the bullet had entered where the autopsy surgeons said it did—and we know from the photos and X-rays they were wrong—it would have been an unusual deflection for the bullet to have exited where it did. This was a military-type bullet and it is unlikely that it would be deflected so sharply upwards." That Bugliosi--who prides himself on his cool-headed logic--lets Spitz get away with such nonsense is embarrassing. I mean, shouldn't he have noticed that Spitz, as Fisher and the Clark Panel before him, was working backwards--that his conclusion that the trajectory for a single bullet entering low on the head and exiting high on the head didn't work had led him to believe the bullet must have entered higher on the head, and reject the statements of everyone who'd actually seen the entrance? I mean, really, is it actually possible Bugliosi thinks such a massive dispute over the president's wound locations is merely "academic"?
I suspect not. It follows then that he was blowing smoke at his readers in his lawyerly manner and hoping they wouldn't notice that "Hey, something's wrong here!"
But at least Bugliosi talked to a doctor before claiming the migration was meaningless. In 2006, former
detective Mark Fuhrman wrote a much-publicized book, A Simple Act of Murder, in
which he investigated and dismissed the single-bullet theory using arguments
similar to those provided in the previous chapters. He concluded, nevertheless,
that Oswald acted alone. While barely dealing with the head wounds, Fuhrman
mentioned in passing that the HSCA forensic medical panel, after viewing the autopsy
photos and x-rays, concluded that the entrance wound on Kennedy's skull was “four inches higher
than originally believed by the Warren Commission.” In what has become a typical gesture among those claiming Oswald acted alone, however, he made up an excuse for this, and claimed that the Warren
Commission had not actually seen the autopsy materials. This, of course, was nonsense. Not only had Justice Warren admitted viewing the materials, but the autopsy doctors had twice viewed the materials and confirmed the entrance wound location prior to Morgan and the Clark Panel's re-interpreting the wound location. Fuhrman’s treatment of the
head wounds was thus shallow and deceptive.
Which was pretty much par for the course...
HSCA Ida Dox Drawings
With the re-opening of the investigation by the HSCA, there was great optimism that this time the medical experts would get things right and not present the American people with anything as misleading as the Rydberg drawings. But this was not to be. When one compares the HSCA’s drawings of the damage to the President’s skull with the HSCA’s drawing of the back of the President’s head taken from what is purported to be an actual autopsy photo, it is easy to discern that something is wrong. While the first depicts an explosion of bone fragments from the back of the head, the drawing from the autopsy photo depicts this portion of the head as intact, with the only area missing bone a line of fracture from the top of the President’s head down towards his right temple. While the argument could be made that the first drawing depicted bones from the back of the head blown out of the hole by the temple, the testimony of the autopsy surgeons reflected that the skull high on the back of the head near the new Clark Panel-determined in-shoot, although badly fractured, remained beneath the scalp. It makes little sense then that the skull fragments exploding from just in front of the entrance in the cowlick in the first drawing represent fragments which the second drawing demonstrates came from the front half of Kennedy's skull. That the drawing depicting the fragments fails to depict the blown-out “wing” of bone near Kennedy’s temple, which is clearly evident on the autopsy drawing, is yet further testament to its inaccuracy.
So how did this inaccurate drawing come to be? Helpfully, HSCA medical illustrator Ida Dox testified “a skull was
used that had the dimensions of the President’s and the photographs of the
retrieved bone fragments were traced to get the outline. This paper was cut out along the outline and
taped on the skull in the position that the x-rays indicated there was bone
missing, and from this paper and skull reconstruction I made my drawing.” Sounds pretty scientific. Unfortunately, the aforementioned x-rays in
fact showed there was plenty of skull left towards the back of the head, and
that the recovered fragments must have come from somewhere closer to the wound
of exit near the President’s right ear.
This is no simple mistake, mind you. This is a real whopper. From this one can only conclude that the HSCA medical panel, and its chief spokesman Dr. Michael Baden, were fairly clueless, that they were deliberately trying to deceive, or that they were both fairly clueless and deliberately trying to deceive.
I'm leaning to the last one.
While it’s true that soft-nosed bullets are designed to
gradually peel back as the bullet traverses flesh, as this gives the bullet
more stopping power, full metal jacket bullets like the ones purportedly fired
from Oswald’s rifle are designed not to break-up at all. As a result, it takes a tremendous impact to
break-up such a bullet. The bullet striking Kennedy was shattered and scattered. While Warren Commission defenders have
argued that this break-up could have occurred as the bullet crossed the
brain, they usually ignore the fact that no wound track connecting the entrance wound and exit wounds cited at autopsy could be identified within the brain, and that the bullet fragments supposedly marking the Warren Commission's proposed path from the entrance observed at autopsy to the large defect presumably of exit were later revealed to have been inches above this trajectory.
This "mistake" on the part of the autopsists, furthermore, was a major factor in the HSCA's rubber-stamping of the Clark Panel conclusions.
When discussing why his panel had rejected the findings of the autopsists, who'd actually seen Kennedy's body, on the location of the entrance wound on the skull, Dr. Baden explained: "In discussions with the three doctors and looking together at the same
photographs, the doctors who did the autopsy feel that what we identify
as an entry wound is an artifact, perhaps dried blood, and not a
perforation. I think that the committee will have opportunity to hear
testimony from Dr. Humes, who did perform the autopsy, later today, and
he can give you his reasoning. We, as the panel members, do feel after
close examination of the negatives and photographs under magnification
of that higher perforation, that it is unquestionably a perforation of
entrance; and we feel very strongly, and this is unanimous, all nine
members, that X-rays clearly show the entrance perforation in the skull
to be immediately beneath this perforation in the upper scalp skin; and
further, although the original examination of the brain was not
complete, photographs of the brain were examined by the panel members,
and do show the injury to the brain itself is on the top portion of the
brain. The bottom portion or undersurface of the brain, which would have
had to have been injured if the bullet perforated in the lower area as
indicated in the autopsy report, was intact. If a bullet entered in this
lower area, the cerebellum portion of the brain would have had to be
injured and it was not injured. So that is the basis for what remains a
disagreement between our panel and the original autopsy doctors."
The panel's unanimous conclusion, moreover, was echoed by the Committee's wound ballistics expert, Larry Sturdivan. When shown the skull x-rays, and asked to comment on the location of the wound track, Sturdivan testified: "There is extensive deformation at the top of the skull which indicates that the radial velocity that was imparted to the tissue, broke it open and, therefore, relieved the pressure at the top, well, either to the right or the left, since you can't distinguish on an X-ray. You would presume, then, that the soft tissue, which was badly damaged, would have moved somewhat in the direction of that relieved pressure and, therefore, would be displaced somewhat upward from the original track. So, I would place the original track as being somewhat lower than that trail of fragments indicated through there; certainly not much lower...there is no indication of any track in the lower half of the skull. It definitely was in the upper part."
Well, this pretty much
destroys the bullet trajectory as outlined by the Warren Commission, and
suggests that the Clark Panel and HSCA were correct in searching for another entrance. The controversy can then be concluded in their favor. Right?
Well, not so fast... Unfortunately, there are problems with their proposed location as well. Since the damage to the upper brain started just left of the new-found entrance in the cowlick and led straight across the skull to the forehead, and since the expected trajectory through Kennedy would have been an ever-widening cone of fragments centered around an out-shoot above the temple, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel should have suspected that something was not quite right. I mean, why didn't any of the fragments from this ever-widening cone embed within the brain on a level below the trajectory from the sniper's nest?
There is reason to suspect someone asked this question. And found no answer. It seems more than a coincidence that not one HSCA exhibit depicts the break-up of the bullet as it traversed the skull from its entrance near the cowlick. Curiously, the drawings used by the HSCA to depict beveling on the skull, the analysis of which led both the autopsy doctors and the HSCA to conclude the fatal bullet was fired from behind, depicted an intact bullet like those used in Oswald’s rifle entering and exiting a skull, even though, according to the HSCA’s own findings, which held that there was a circular bullet fragment embedded on the back of Kennedy's head, this did not happen. This is undoubtedly confusing.
There is reason to suspect, then, that Exhibit F-66, made to the specifications of Dr. Michael Baden, was inaccurate and deceptive. But what about the tracing of the autopsy photo? Was that also deceptive?
Now You See it! Now You Don't!
When the HSCA forensic pathology panel showed Dr. James
Humes a photo displaying what they believed was the actual entrance hole on the
back of the head, the small oval shape in the cowlick, Dr. Humes, who’d led
the autopsy of President Kennedy and had repeatedly asserted that the hole was
near the President’s hairline, responded “I don’t know what that is. Number one, I can assure you that as we
reflected the scalp to get to this point, there was no defect corresponding to
this in the skull at any point. I don’t
know what that is. It could be to me
clotted blood…it certainly was not any wound of entrance.”
While Dr. Humes’ irritation was spurred no doubt by the Clark Panel’s decision to change the location of the entrance hole, when one compares the HSCA drawing of the autopsy photo to the original autopsy photo, there’s reason for us all to be irritated, even outraged.
One source of anger comes from
looking at the mark in the cowlick, which was repeatedly re-drawn to look more like a bullet entrance by medical artist Ida
Dox, at the request of pathology panel spokesman Dr. Michael Baden. At Cyril Wecht's 2003 conference on the assassination, Dr. Randy Robertson showed the audience a 5-9-78 memo from Baden to Dox found in the National Archives. This memo was a photocopy of a page from Dr. Spitz's book Medicolegal Investigation of Death, with a drawing of a typical entrance wound. Beside the drawing, Dr. Baden had written "Ida, you can do much better." Apparently, Dox's early versions of the "bullet hole" were still too close to the original photo, and made the "bullet hole" appear more like the “clotted blood” Dr. Humes
described, than the bullet hole Dr. Baden wanted to be there.
And the re-drawing of this "hole" was not the only suspicious action undertaken by Baden's panel in order to sell that the bullet entered by the cowlick...
One Out of Three is Bad
Nope, not at all. The 1979 Report of the HSCA's Forensic Pathology Panel claimed:
The panel examined photographs of the back of the head, including: Black and white negatives and prints Nos. 15 and 16; color transparencies Nos. 42 and 43; and correspondingly numbered color prints of the back of the head. These were studied with both the naked eye and 10X magnification. The photographs again all appear to have been taken from approximately the same position, and stereoscopic visualization of the two 4 by 5 inch color transparencies enables three dimensional perception. In the center of the photographs is a vertical centimeter ruler, which, by stereoscopic visualization, is demonstrated to be slightly closer to the camera than the adjacent skin surface. The upper portion of the ruler, which is in sharpest focus, is adjacent to a slightly oval scalp defect located in the "cowlick" area of the scalp just above or superior to a line drawn between the superior or upper margins of the area. (See fig. 13, a drawing of the back of the President's head.) This defect is partially covered by hair and dried blood. This wound is located considerably above the occipital protuberance, slightly to the right of the midline, and approximately 13 centimeters above the most prominent neck crease. It has a maximum vertical diameter in the photograph of approximately 1.5 to 2 centimeters, and maximum transverse diameter of approximately 0.9 centimeter.
Now, that's a lot to take in, and we'll be going back to this from time to time...
But, for now, let's just focus on one simple claim: a ruler was at the center of the autopsy photos of the back of the head and this ruler was "adjacent" to an oval defect--what the panel presumed to be the entrance of a bullet on the back of Kennedy's head.
Well, there's a problem with this. As demonstrated on the slide above, three of the four photos of the back of Kennedy's head have been published since the time of the panel's report, and only one of them shows a ruler close to the oval defect presumed to have been the bullet hole. The HSCA published a tracing of a photo in which the ruler was by the presumed bullet hole. The color print from which this was traced was subsequently published by HSCA photo analyst Robert Groden in his book The Killing of The President, and is shown on the slides above. But Groden also published a cropped version of the other colored print. The ruler in this photo was an inch or so away from the supposed bullet hole. And this was years after David Lifton published one of the black and white photos. Well, there was no ruler at all in this black and white photo.
Now, it's always possible the photo Lifton published had been cropped. And it's possible the ruler in the second photo published by Groden was supposed to demonstrate the size of the supposed bullet hole, but was held too far away. But that doesn't excuse the HSCA panel for pretending the ruler was by the supposed hole in all these photos, and in the center of the frame. This clearly wasn't true. And their presenting it as such can be taken as a by-product of their determination to sell that the autopsy doctors were wrong, and that the bullet really entered where Dr. Fisher had told them it had entered--by the cowlick.
This proved to be a big problem...for Dr. Humes. In 1996 HSCA counsel Andy Purdy told the ARRB that after Humes made his comments about the panel's presumed bullet hole being nothing but "clotted blood," Dr. Charles Petty took Humes outside and yelled at him. And this wasn't just Purdy's fantasy. In a 2-20-2000 meeting with researchers, Dr. Michael Baden not only confirmed Purdy's story, but built upon it. He re-constructed Petty's words to Humes for dramatic effect, and had Petty call Humes a "God-damned jackass."
This is most intriguing. Was Humes a "jackass," to Petty's eye, because he'd been unwilling to admit he'd made a horrendous mistake, and had placed the entrance wound on Kennedy's skull four inches from its actual location, on the wrong bone? Or was Humes a "jackass," to Petty's eye, because his refusal to acknowledge this supposed mistake was sure to open doors neither Petty nor Humes wanted opened--namely, that there had been a government-ordered cover-up of the medical evidence? That Petty's instincts were to obfuscate is supported, moreover, by a 1993 letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In this letter, Petty defended Humes, and even claimed "There were no bullet defects other than those described by Humes in his report." Hmmm... Petty had either forgotten that he'd previously claimed Humes had made one of the biggest blunders in medico-legal history, or had thought this information better left unsaid in a trade mag sure to be read by his fellow pathologists.
In any event, Humes' problems extended way beyond his being yelled at by Petty. His subsequent problems would, in fact, make those problems look--eegads--petty in comparison. In his 1998 book Real Answers, HSCA Counsel Gary Cornwell admits that, as a result of Humes' failure to agree with the new and improved entrance location, he was all set to treat Humes as a hostile witness and aggressively question him about the problems with the autopsy during his September 1978 testimony before the committee. (Cornwell believed that Humes, "in an apparent attempt to cover up his own mistakes" had "not told the truth" to the Warren Commission, and that he--Cornwell--could "prove it".) Cornwell then explains that his plans were thwarted after the "committee's doctor" (most probably Dr. Baden, but possibly a reference to Petty) went behind his back, and warned Humes of Cornwell's plans, essentially telling Humes that if Humes agreed to pretend the entrance wound was in the cowlick he could survive Cornwell's questioning with his reputation intact.
Baden's (or Petty's) plan was successful. A year after Dr. Humes called the supposed entrance in the cowlick "clotted blood" he testified that he had been mistaken and that he now thought it was the entrance wound described in the autopsy report.
But this wasn't the end to Humes' humiliation. In what may have been an attempt to hide Humes' description of the supposed wound in the cowlick as "clotted blood," the report of the HSCA forensic pathology panel, in its discussion of the controversy over the wound location, noted that, when discussing the proposed cowlick entrance, "Dr. Humes first suggested that it might represent an extension of a more anterior scalp laceration, incident to the exit wound, in spite of the fact that within the photograph the margins of the wound appear to be intact around the entire circumference." Well, this, as we've seen, is not true. It was, in fact, Dr. Boswell who said it could have been the end of a scalp laceration, and not Humes. Still, this may have been an innocent mistake.
But then again, perhaps not. When the panel was working on its report, they may very well have been under the assumption their interview with Humes and Boswell would be locked up for 50 years, a la their interviews with their colleagues Finck and Ebersole. As a result, their attributing an easily disproved theory to Humes may not have been an innocent mistake at all, but a conscious (or semi-conscious) decision to damage his credibility, and hide his initial objections to their dubious re-interpretation of the entrance wound.
That Humes was not pleased with this, and was pressured into acting as though he'd changed his mind, when he never really had, is supported, moreover, by the strange fact that in 1992, when he next spoke of the entrance wound location on Kennedy's skull, he’d "changed" his mind back.
No one else claiming to have seen the entry wound even pretended to change their minds. Humes’ colleague
from the autopsy, Dr. Boswell, never wavered in his recollection of the entrance location being in the area of the brain matter low on
the skull. Not surprisingly, he was never called before the committee. The third autopsist, Dr. Finck, was interviewed by the medical panel on March 11 and 12, 1978 and put under tremendous pressure to change his interpretation of the entrance wound's location and agree with the panel that the real wound was in the cowlick. Apparently they felt that Finck, as a forensic pathologist, would be more understanding of their plight, and more agreeable to their points of view.
They were, as it turned out, barking up the wrong tree. Finck had been consistent in his previous statements, in that he'd always said he'd arrived after Kennedy's brain had been removed, and that he'd soon thereafter examined a 15 by 6 entrance wound low on the intact skull. Well, think about it. How could a wound in the location of the red spot in the cowlick still be on the skull AFTER the brain had been removed? And how could Finck suddenly turn around and say "Oh yeah, the wound I thought I saw on the skull was really on a piece of bone removed by Dr. Humes before my arrival"? Finck's previous statements and the pathology panel's contention the wound was in the cowlick were thus hopelessly at odds.
In any event, in a section of the pathology panel's interview of Dr. Finck (conveniently excluded from the official transcript, and found only on the tape), Dr. Weston kept asking Finck if it was possible there'd been some sort of transcription error when the autopsists reported that the wound was near the EOP. Finck admitted that yes, it was possible. Dr. Baden then pounced and tried to sway Finck by telling him that the wound in the cowlick in the photos was determined to be 15 mm by 6 mm--the same size of the wound measured at autopsy. He also told Finck that the x-rays showed an entrance wound exactly where the mark is in the cowlick. (Neither of these assertions was true or repeated in the panel's final report.) Baden then remarked that everything mentioned in the autopsy report pointed to the wound being in the cowlick. Well, this proved too much for those not accustomed to swallowing such stuff. At this point, Dr. Wecht and Dr. Petty jumped in and disavowed Weston's and Baden's "cross-examination" and "badgering" of Finck. Ultimately, Finck held firm and said he believed the wound was as measured
at autopsy, and beneath the white gob of matter in the autopsy photos. No surprise, he was also never called before the committee.
And the HSCA staff's treatment of the other autopsy witnesses wasn't much better. Dr. David Osborne, Bethesda's Chief of Surgery in 1963, who would later become an Admiral, was yet another autopsy witness to claim he saw the "low" entrance wound. His presence at the autopsy is confirmed by the FBI's report on the autopsy, and his assistance in closing the head wounds after the autopsy is confirmed by the testimony of Dr. Humes before the ARRB. Osborne was interviewed by HSCA staff member Mark Flanagan on June 20, 1978, two months after the HSCA medical panel interviewed Dr. Finck and found itself at an impasse regarding the location of the entrance wound on Kennedy's head. To repeat--those present at the autopsy insisted this wound was near the EOP low on the head, while the members of its medical panel were pushing that it was really in the cowlick near the top of the head. And yet, amazingly, Flanagan's report on his discussion with Dr. Osborne never mentions any discussion of the precise wound location, and instead relates that "Osborne said that there was no question that the bullet entered the back of the head and blew off the top of the head." Well, this was chickenshit, at best. If Osborne had said his colleagues were in error, and that the bullet entered near the top of the head, why not say so? And if he supported his colleagues, and claimed the bullet entered low on the head--in opposition to what the medical panel was preparing to claim in its report--well, why not say so? Unless, of course, someone had already decided to downplay all support for the statements of Humes, Boswell, and Finck, and had already decided to hang them out to dry and claim they'd been mistaken. In any event, a researcher named Joanne Braun was able to get Osborne's recollections on paper, and he told her in a 4-5-90 letter that a bullet "hit in the occipital region of the posterior skull which blew off the posterior top of the skull." He had thereby supported the original recollections of his close friend, Dr. Humes. Osborne, as you've probably guessed, was never called before the House committee.
Autopsy photographer John Stringer, autopsy radiologist John Ebersole, and Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman also claimed to see a small entrance wound low on Kennedy's skull, and were similarly brushed aside. This means that Dr. Humes was the ONLY autopsy witness or participant to say the cowlick mark in the photos was the entrance wound, and he said so exactly ONCE, while under duress, in the ONLY testimony of an autopsy witness before the committee, and retracted it afterward.
Of course, that doesn't stop the most ardent single-assassin theorists from trying to claim otherwise. In his 1993 book Case Closed, single-assassin theorist Gerald Posner claimed he'd spoken to both Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell, and that they'd both told him the HSCA had convinced them they were mistaken in their original identification of the wound location, and that they both now believed it had been 10 cm above the EOP, in the cowlick. They both denied telling this to Posner, of course. But the damage had already been done. In a March 1993 letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Robert Artwohl, while trying to refute the claims of conspiracy theorists angry over the magazine's recent articles supportive of Dr.s Humes, Boswell, and Finck, exposed his true agenda by first admitting that "for a bullet to enter just above the EOP and exit the right frontotemporoparietal area, it would have had to travel in an upward direction, fired from inside the limousine's trunk," and then twisting Dr. Boswell's statements into somehow confirming that the wound was actually 4 inches higher. The spin was dizzying, nauseating even; Artwohl actually dismissed the evidence for the lower entrance by claiming "Boswell's testimony and autopsy drawing refutes such a low entry point." He then spun that since Boswell told the HSCA that the entry wound was at the posterior edge of the large defect, and since the X-rays showed the posterior edge of the large defect to be near the top of the head, close to the HSCA's cowlick entrance, that Boswell's statements were actually more "consistent with an entry wound 10 cm above the EOP at the posterior edge of the large skull defect."
This was absolute rubbish, of course, and mighty strange rubbish at that. First, Artwohl overlooked that the posterior edge of the large defect changed locations after the scalp was peeled back and skull fell to the table, and that Boswell was almost certainly referencing the posterior edge of the second much larger defect. Second, he was willfully avoiding that the lower wound location was not just Boswell's recollection, but that of the rest of the autopsy team. And third, he was boldly ignoring that Humes and Boswell, in the very article under attack by the conspiracy theorists--the very article he was supposedly defending--had confirmed their original impression of the entrance wound by claiming the wound was "slightly above" the EOP, and that his letter was therefore as much an attack on their competence as anything published by what he condescendingly called the "conspirati."
But the dishonesty and/or hypocrisy of those claiming the bullet wound was higher is not the only reason to believe the autopsy's description of the entrance wound was correct, and that the Clark Panel and HSCA's proposed entrance "clotted blood" of some sort. When one considers that Humes, Boswell, and Finck not only observed this wound, but measured its size on the scalp, noted tiny skull fragments near its entrance, and removed the skin surrounding its entrance as a specimen, it becomes truly hard to believe they'd all recall the location of this wound incorrectly, and be off by four inches.
And, should that not be enough, there's this: NOT ONE of the dozens
of medical personnel and government employees viewing the President's body after the assassination recalled seeing the entrance wound in the cowlick proposed by the Clark Panel. Well, heck. This makes the non-existence of such a wound, other than as a myth spread by the Clark Panel and its minions, startlingly clear, correct?
I'll let you answer that one. But for me the answer is a resounding "Yep!"
So what happened to the wound described by the doctors? While in the Dox Drawing there seems to be no trace of a bullet entrance anywhere near the splash of white matter (where the autopsy doctors placed the entrance), on the original photograph there appears to be a small hole just above and to the right of this matter. I suspect this is the entrance hole observed at the autopsy. That this hole was added to this never-officially released photo by someone from the research community is refuted by the simple fact that before I started doing so no one from the research community of whom I was aware had ever acknowledged its existence, and that this shape is indeed apparent on the Dox drawing, once one notices it in the autopsy photo.
Well, why hasn't anyone noticed this before? That an entrance hole in the hairline vindicating Humes’ testimony runs counter to three of the most widely held conspiracy theories on the assassination, i.e. that the bullet striking the President in the head came from the front and exited from the back of his head, that the autopsy doctors were, of necessity, party to the conspiracy, and that the autopsy photos were altered to hide an exit hole in the back of the head, could very well be a factor in many a conspiracy theorist's failure to notice the hole. But there are many single-assassin theorists out there on the constant lookout for anything that will support the findings of the original autopsy. Why can't they see it?
Well, perhaps they are afraid to acknowledge that the autopsy doctors were correct, and that the wound was not only low on the skull, throwing the head shot trajectory into doubt, but as little as 6 mm in its smallest dimension, suggesting that a bullet smaller than 6.5 mm could have been responsible. It WAS undoubtedly helpful to the lone nut cause, after all, to claim the entrance on the skull was really 9 mm in its smallest dimension, a la the HSCA pathology panel, than that it was only 6 or 7 mm, and possibly even smaller than what was believed to be the fatal bullet, a la Humes in his Warren Commission testimony. This 6 or 7 mm measurement was so problematic, in fact, that the author of chapter 3 of the Warren Report, presumably Arlen Specter, chose to lie about it.
Here is the discussion of the wound in the autopsy report:
"Situated in the posterior scalp approximately 2.5 cm. laterally to the right and slightly above the external
occipital protuberance is a lacerated wound measuring 15 x 6 mm. In the underlying bone is a corresponding wound through the skull which exhibits beveling of the margins of the bone when viewed from the inner
aspect of the skull."
And here is how Dr. Humes testified regarding this wound: "The size of the defect in the scalp, caused by a projectile could vary from missile to missile because of elastic recoil and so forth of the tissues. However, the size of the defect in the underlying bone is certainly not likely to get smaller than that of the missile which perforated it, and in this case, the smallest diameter of this was approximately 6 to 7 mm., so I would feel that that would be the absolute upper limit of the size of this missile, sir."
Note that Humes now suggests that the wound on the skull could be as much as 7 mm wide, slightly wider than the bullet. But the impact of a high-velocity bullet on a skull would almost certainly leave a hole measurably larger than the bullet itself. So how does the commission deal with this problem?
They don't. Instead, they blow smoke. Here is the discussion of this wound on page 129 of the Warren Report:
"The smaller hole on the back of the President's head measured one-fourth of an inch by five-eighths of an inch (6 by 15 millimeters). The dimensions of that wound were consistent with having been caused by a 6.5-millimeter bullet fired from behind and above which struck at a tangent or an angle causing a 15-millimeter cut. The cut reflected a larger dimension of entry than the bullet's diameter of 6.5 millimeters, since the missile, in effect, sliced along the skull for a fractional distance until it entered. The dimension of 6 millimeters, somewhat smaller than the diameter of a 6.5-millimeter bullet, was caused by the elastic recoil of the skull which shrinks the size of an opening after a missile passes through it."
Yes, you got it. Humes testified that a hole on the scalp might shrink but that a hole on the skull would not, and the author of the report instead claimed a hole on the skull would shrink. This served to cut off any speculation regarding the small size of the bullet entrance on the skull. Now isn't that special?
And it's not as if Humes was off-base, or saying anything new, in suggesting the wound on the skull would not shrink, and would be expected to be larger than the diameter of the bullet. Principles of Forensic Medicine, by William Guy, one of the oldest books on wound ballistics, indirectly compares the bones of the skull to an iron plate, and notes that the bullet holes on iron plates are always larger than the diameter of the bullet due to the "compression" of the bullet upon impact.
And Humes was not the last to suggest as much, either. The Clark Panel, after all, presumed that the wound on the scalp was as measured at autopsy, 15 mm by 6 mm, but concluded the entrance on the outside of the skull itself was 8 mm, 33% greater in diameter than the wound on the scalp, and 23% greater than the diameter of the bullet.
And they were far from alone... As reported in Mortal Error (1992), researcher Howard Donahue, a professional gunsmith, contacted the members of the HSCA's pathology panel to ask them about the small size of the entrance wound measured at autopsy, and received an interesting response. Dr.s Rose, Spitz, and Davis agreed that a 6.5 mm missile would leave a larger than 6 mm entrance wound on the skull, but assumed the autopsy doctors erred when measuring the wound. Dr. Wecht agreed that such a small wound was unlikely, but was unwilling to just assume the problem away by assuming the doctors erred. Dr.s Petty, Loquvam, Weston and Coe either failed to return phone calls or declined to comment on the record. Only Dr. Baden, in his usual dismissive manner, made out as though there was no problem at all, reportedly telling Donahue that "I think you're over-reaching if you think that the difference between six millimeters and six point five millimeters is a significant difference when you're measuring from an x-ray...It is not uncommon at all to have bullet (holes) going through bone measured slightly smaller than the bullets."
Now, let's read that carefully. First of all, Baden seems to be claiming that the autopsy doctors got their measurement for the hole from the x-rays. This makes little sense. The radiology consultants to Baden's own panel could find no such hole. Second of all, by specifying that it is not uncommon for bullet holes as measured to be smaller than the bullet, Baden was not actually disagreeing with his colleagues. The problem, after all, could be that the measurement was in error. In light of the statements of his colleagues, then, it seems likely that Dr. Baden--yes, even Dr. Baden--felt a 6.5 mm bullet would leave a larger than 6 mm hole on the back of the skull.
And Larry Sturdivan, the HSCA's wounds ballistics expert, agreed. In his chapter on wound ballistics in The Forgotten Terrorist, 2007, Sturdivan claimed "Bone has much greater strength than soft tissue, but no elasticity, so the entry hole on the front table (hard surface layer) must be as large or larger than the size of the bullet as it penetrates, including expanded diameter (from penetrating skin) or change in orientation (no longer point first)."
But I digress. We were discussing the unwillingness of those claiming Oswald acted alone to acknowledge the round wound I've spotted in the autopsy photos--right where the doctors said it was.
Well, perhaps they just haven't spent as much time looking at these photos as I. I studied the photos for a year or more before noticing what I now believe to be the hole.
And there's also the possibility that--dare I say it--I have a heightened ability when it comes to interpreting certain kinds of images. I recall a gator watch on the bayou during a vacation in New Orleans. There were roughly 25 people on the boat. Out of the roughly 20 gators spotted by this group, I was the first to spot 12-15 of them. I have no idea why. People on the boat were laughing, and accusing me of being some sort of ringer, or of having Superman's eyes.
But, fortunately, there's no need to propose any special abilities on my part. For the proper answer to the question of why hasn't anyone noticed this before is this...THEY HAVE.
In 2010, I discovered an
image in the collection of researcher Anthony Marsh in which the dark
oval above the white substance was circled, and on which someone had
written that this was the entrance described at autopsy. While Marsh
couldn't remember where he got this image, he was able to relate that
this image pre-dated my interest in the assassination by several years.
So I wasn't the first to spot this alligator...
No, not by a long shot...
Above or Below?
Only adding to my suspicion that the dark shape on the autopsy photo is the entrance observed at autopsy is that when one compares the dark shape with the entrance location marked on a skull by the autopsy doctors, they nearly overlap. While the autopsy report and the marked skull depict the wound as being slightly above the EOP—the external occipital protuberance, the bump at the back of Kennedy’s head--and the photos indicate it was slightly below, the doctors were inconsistent in their testimony as to whether the entrance was above or below. During Dr. Humes’ discussion with the HSCA, for example, he told them that after looking at the autopsy photos he now believed the wound was slightly below the EOP.
So why couldn’t the doctors from the autopsy successfully point out the low entrance wound when shown the autopsy photos by the HSCA in 1978 and The Assassinations Records Review Board (The ARRB) in 1996? After all, they’d found it twice before. Twice…
As discussed, when the Kennedys turned the autopsy materials photos over to the National Archives, the Archives arranged for Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell, the autopsy radiologist John Ebersole, and the autopsy photographer John Stringer to catalog the photographs and x-rays and create a Report of Inspection on November 1, 1966. This was the first time the autopsists had been allowed to see the photographs. Their report, signed November 10, 1966, describes photos 15 and 16 as “depicting a wound of entrance in right posterior occipital region” and transparencies 42 and 43 as “color prints of the missile wound in right occipital region.”
Similarly, on the January 26, 1967 report prepared for the Justice Department, Humes, Boswell, and (a rushed-back-from Vietnam ) Finck assert that “the autopsy report states that a lacerated entry wound measuring 15 by 6mm (.59 by 0.24 inches) is situated in the posterior scalp approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) laterally to the right and slightly above the external occipital protuberance” and that “Photographs No.s 15, 16, 42, and 43 show the location and size of the wound.”
Were they lying when they said they saw the entrance wound?
Were they scared to point it out after the Clark Panel and the government “officially” decided this entrance didn’t exist?
Or were the photos in the archives “doctored” between 1967 and 1977?
If so, it would most probably have taken place after 1975.
Let's recall that, in 1975, Dr. Fred Hodges, when discussing the color back of the head photo on the slide above, claimed it showed "a large, compound, comminuted injury in the right frontal region, and a small round soft tissue wound in the occipital region" which was "in keeping" with the wound "described in the autopsy report in the right occipital bone."
Well, what other small round soft tissue wound in the occipital region could he be talking about? As the "cowlick" entrance was not what one would call a soft tissue wound, and was not even in the occipital bone, it follows that Hodges was thinking of the dark round shape I've identified.
So, yeah, if the official photos were doctored to hide the small entrance wound I've identified, it would have to have been after 1975.
Or more probably not at all... Doug Horne, a member of the ARRB staff, is reported to have told a crowd at a 1998 assassination conference that he witnessed both Humes and Boswell point out where they believed the entrance to be during their ARRB testimony, and that this entrance was the same for each man. According to Joe Backes’ notes on the conference, Horne then said the spot they selected was a spot behind the right ear “that seemed dark and intact in the photo.” While this could be a reference to the entrance proposed above, the transcripts of the doctors’ testimony do not reflect they ever pointed out such a spot to their interviewer Jeremy Gunn. Hmmm. If Backes’ notes and Horne’s words are to be trusted, this suggests that either Gunn failed to make a note of where the doctors pointed (which seems strange considering that that they were interviewed, in no small part, so that he could record their impressions of the wound locations) or that even the ARRB transcripts have been “doctored.”
HSCA Figure 15/Fox Autopsy Photo Comparison
In any event, as a result of the doctors’ failure to point out the entrance wound they'd observed on the photos (outside of vague comments that it was near the splash of
mysterious gray matter) the HSCA’s pathology panel opted to confirm the
findings of the Clark Panel. This, in effect, meant that, in the judgment of the panel, the three doctors who actually
inspected President Kennedy on the night of the autopsy--Humes, Boswell, and Finck--were all incredibly mistaken as to the entrance wound's location and had even placed the wound's location on the wrong
There are reasons to doubt the integrity of the panel, however. In the panel’s report, they mentioned that they searched the area around the splash of
gray matter near the hairline but were convinced there was no wound at that
location. What was not stated was that
the close-up of the gray matter they placed in their report was a close-up of
gray matter taken from a different photo than the one they had traced for their other exhibits--the one in which I first noticed the entrance wound. The photo they took the close-up
from can be found on the internet, however. While the entrance wound is less
apparent in this photo, it is still visible, which further suggests that it is in fact the entrance noted at autopsy and not just an aberration on the other autopsy
photo. In fact, the only real aberration
seems to be that the HSCA medical panel cropped this photo just below the
presumed bullet hole, so that the bullet hole can not be seen on the close-up image shown the autopsy doctors, and subsequently published.
Or was this just another coincidence?
That this hole near the EOP was deliberately hidden from the autopsists
because it was inconsistent with the damage done to the President’s brain and
skull, and would therefore necessitate an additional shot, is lent credence by
the testimony of Dr. Humes before the HSCA. Oddly, it is the testimony where he "admits" he was wrong and confirms
that the hole in the cowlick was the real entrance. He says: “We described the wound of entrance in the
posterior scalp as being above and to the right of the external occipital
protuberance…it is obvious to me as I sit here how…the upper defect to which
you pointed or the upper object is clearly in the location of where we said
approximately where it was, above the external occipital protuberance;
therefore, I believe that is the wound of entry…By the same token, the object
in the lower portion, which I apparently and I believe now erroneously
identified before the most recent panel, is far below the external occipital
protuberance and would not fit with the original autopsy findings..”
Hmmm... Humes’ contention that the gray matter’s
location was ruled out because it was a centimeter or so below the original measured position by the EOP, and that therefore
the wound in the cowlick 10 centimeters above
the EOP must be the real location, is one of the strangest statements of
all time. It’s akin to someone viewing a
police line-up where the perpetrator was believed to look like Mel Torme, and
choosing Shaquille O’Neal because Mickey Rooney was just too damned short. Humes’ focus on the EOP is nevertheless a red
flag indicating there was great concern that his saying the entrance wound was below the EOP would bring the medical panel’s findings there was one
shooter firing from behind into question. Notice the way he says “clearly in the
location of where we said approximately where it was” when it was four inches
away on a different bone. Clearly,
wrongly admitting a colossal error didn’t
come easy to the man. David Lifton, who spoke to Humes afterward, claims Humes’ hands were
trembling when he went outside. Perhaps Humes lost his memory along the way. When before the ARRB, Dr. Boswell testified that he once asked Humes if it was true he'd changed his impression of the entrance wound location, and was told a flat "No."
When the ARRB asked Humes about his "change," however, he only got himself in deeper, stating “I experienced great difficulty in interpreting the location of the wound of entrance in the posterior scalp from the photograph. This may be because of the angle from which it was taken, or the position of the head, etc. It is obvious that the location of the external occipital protuberance cannot be ascertained from the photograph. I most firmly believe that the location of the wound was exactly where I measured it to be.” Oh, my...this fails to pass the test, right? I mean, could it really have been that difficult to distinguish between the position of the EOP, near the middle of Kennedy’s head, in the occipital bone, and the purported in-shoot in the cowlick, 4 inches away near the top of Kennedy’s head in his parietal bone...when you have a photograph of his entire head and neck???
Eye of the Beholder
When I compare the photos of the back of Kennedy's head, I find it remarkable that what appears to be a small hole appears in each photo slightly above and to the right of the gray matter, Even more remarkable is that this hole is in the exact same spot in each photo, and precisely where the doctors said there was a bullet hole. To me, this is clearly the wound described at autopsy. But that's just me. Now years after I first came forward to promote this round shape as the long-lost entrance on the back of Kennedy's head, I've found few theorists of any stripe willing to abandon their pre-conceptions.
But the wound is there, nevertheless, plain as day. It really makes me wonder if truth, much as beauty, is purely in the eye of the beholder.
When I compare the cowlick entrance in the photos, I find something else to shake my head about. For here, it seems equally clear that the purported hole in the cowlick is much fainter on the black and white photo, and almost
certainly not a bullet entrance.
I'm not the first to notice this. Dr. Humes noticed this as well, and pointed this out in his discussion with the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. He explained that he rejected the mark in the cowlick as an entrance because: “despite the fact that this upper point that has been the source of some discussion here this afternoon is excessively obvious in the color photograph, I almost defy you to find it in that magnification in the black and white.”
And he wasn't the only doctor to make such an observation. Within the Harold Weisberg Archives (in a book on the photographic evidence by John Woods, included in the "White Files") is an unpublished article by Mark Crouch, the researcher who befriended former Secret Service photographer James Fox, and who subsequently made the back and white autopsy photos developed by Fox available to the research community. Well, in this article Crouch relates that he didn't stop there, and that "On 5 separate occasions" he masked out the scalp and tissue surrounding the supposed entry wound on the black and white autopsy photo of the back of the head and asked doctors if they could tell what kind of wound was depicted. According to Crouch, "4 said the wound appeared to be a burn while the 5th said it appeared to be a skin rash." When told it was purported to depict a penetrating wound, moreover, all 5 were reported to scoff at the notion, and tell Crouch "no doctor could make that statement to any degree of certainty."
And Crouch wasn't the only one showing these photos to doctors and asking them what they saw. In 1996, the Assassination Record Review Board asked three experts in the fields of Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Radiology, and Forensic Pathology to look at all the photos and x-rays, and describe what they saw. First up was Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Douglas Ubelaker. On 1-26-96, Ubelaker was shown all the back of the head photos. The notes on this interview reflect that Ubelaker "observed that the red spot in the upper part of the photo near the end of the ruler did not really look like a wound. The red spot looks like a spot of blood--it could be a wound, but probably isn't. The white spot which is much lower in the picture, near the hairline, could be a flesh wound, and is much more likely to be a flesh wound than the red spot higher in the photograph." The next to be interviewed was Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, a Forensic Radiologist. On 2-29-96 he was shown the photos and x-rays. The notes on this interview reflect that he said he could "not determine, without the body present to examine, what the red spot and white spot are in back of the head photos." The final consultant to be interviewed was Dr. Robert Kirschner, a Forensic Pathologist. The notes on this interview reflect that on 4-11-96 he saw the back of the head photos and said "the so-called red spot in the upper part of the photo near the end of the ruler has an appearance consistent with a bullet wound, and probably represents an entrance wound. On those same photographs, the so-called white spot near the hairline appears to be a small piece of fat, or brain tissue, and not a wound."
For those keeping track, that's one out of three. So, yeah, the further we get away from the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, the less sure the experts are that the red spot is a bullet entrance.
That the mark seen on the black and white photo is so clearly not a bullet hole, unfortunately, has led still other doctors to push that the entrance wound on the Dox drawing was completely fabricated. This is not remotely fair, and is yet another reminder that conspiracy theorist doctors are every bit as capable of deception as single-assassin theorist doctors. Incredibly, in two separate articles in the collection Murder in Dealey Plaza, published 2000, Dr.s Gary Aguilar and David Mantik place the Ida Dox drawing (copied from the color photo of the back of the head) by the black and white photo for comparison. Dr. Aguilar’s caption reads: “…The small spot towards the top of the skull, which appears red in color photographs, was said to be an entrance location…The wound described is not evident in the actual photo.” By his use of the phrase “actual photo,” Aguilar had implied that the color photo was but a color version of the black and white. This was not true.
Fortunately, he tried to correct this mistake. In September 2006, when challenged online by an irate single-assassin theorist about this caption, Dr. Aguilar readily admitted his error, stating “it appears that I did indeed use the wrong image of the back of JFK's head. The only one I had was from a high quality black and white, 8x10 set that I'd gotten from Tink Thompson and used for this image. My error was in not realizing that there was a tiny change in perspective in the correct image vs. the one I showed.” Dr. Aguilar has in fact used the color photo in subsequent comparisons. He has also disavowed his use of the term “actual photo”. He related “I never noticed that phrasing before and I don't think I'd write it that way today, if I actually wrote it originally, as opposed to the editor's having written it. I simply don't now recall.”
Intriguingly, this last statement suggests that the misleading caption was written by the editor of Murder in Dealey Plaza, Dr. James Fetzer. If true, this might help explain why a nearly identical mistake was made in Dr. Mantik’s article in the same book. Dr. Mantik’s caption reads: “Ida Dox inexplicably enhanced the red spot in her drawing. The actual entry is not visible; no other photograph shows it either."
Dr. Fetzer, however, would later insist that both captions were written by the authors. In a January 2010 post on the Education Forum, he explained:"I shall have more to say about this, but
Speer appears to have noticed something that has escaped the rest of
us. These captions were the author's own. Notice that Gary's captions
tend to be rather longer and more detailed than my captions in the
Prologue, for example, where only rarely do I offer more complex ones.
I have no doubt the captions were authored by Gary and by David
themselves. If they were missing from the original manuscripts, I may
have called them to compose them."
Fetzer's explanation was not entirely satisfactory, however, in that he failed to acknowledge that he not only published what he now acknowledges was a misleading comparison in two different chapters of Murder in Dealey Plaza, published 2000, but that he repeated this misleading comparison in a chapter all his own in 2009. Fetzer's mistake, moreover, was actually worse in that he compared the wrong part of the scalp in the black and white photo to the part of the scalp showing the supposed cowlick entrance in the color photo, and then claimed the supposed cowlick entrance could not be seen at all in the black and white photo. (One can see this for oneself on page 357 of his chapter, here.) And so it appears that two respected writers made an identical mistake, and that their editor not only failed to catch it, but repeated it and amplified it.
Still, whenever one points out the mistakes of researcher/writers such as Aguilar, Mantik, and Fetzer, one should also inject some perspective, and note that, while their mistakes may mislead a few unsuspecting readers, they positively pale in comparison to the mistakes made by the mainstream media most every time they write a bout the assassination. In a May 20, 1992, AP article reporting on a press conference held by Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell, for example, the AP printed drawings of an entrance wound on the back of a head and beveling of the skull. Hundreds of thousands of readers were fooled into thinking these drawings supported the statements of the doctors, who, in an effort to combat some of the assertions in Oliver Stone’s film JFK, had asserted “The second, fatal shot entered the back of this head and exploded the right side of the skull.” The problem was that the drawing provided by the AP depicted the bullet entering near the top of Kennedy’s skull, in the HSCA entrance, when the doctors were describing the wound as measured at autopsy, 4 inches below this entrance. This “mistake” by the mainstream press thus effectively hid from the public that the doctors were not only arguing against Oliver Stone, but also EVERY government panel to look at the assassination since 1968. Apparently, the AP didn't consider that news worth reporting.
And, oh yeah, should one still think I'm seeing things, one should take a
look below. It is a gif file by single-assassin theorist John Mytton
posted on the JFK Assassination Forum in 2013. It morphs the two back of
the head photos back and forth, and creates a 3-D image. Mytton posted
it because he thought it proved there was a hole by the cowlick. He's
wrong. It proves that
there really was a mark--most probably the entrance hole observed at autopsy--near the hairline (at the one o'clock position from the dab of brain matter)...exactly as I'd been claiming
Back of the Head Comparison
An additional reason to believe our proposed hole in the
hairline is Dr. Humes’ long-lost entrance near the EOP comes from the fact
that, when one looks at the gruesome autopsy photo of the back of the
President’s head once his brain was removed, and compares it with the photos taken with his scalp still intact, one can see that the hole is right where
you’d expect it to be, low on the back of the skull. (This is shown above.)
That these photos matched up in this manner is confirmed, moreover, by the November 1, 1966 inventory of the autopsy photos performed by Dr.s Humes and Boswell, along with autopsy radiologist John Ebersole and autopsy photographer John Stringer. Both photos were purported to show the entrance wound in the occipital region.
Significantly, if one matches the open-cranium photograph
and the back of the head photo one can use the ruler in the latter to measure
the size of the wound in the former. If
one estimates that the camera was 12 inches from the ruler, and that the wound
was 1 inch beyond that, then
one can guesstimate that the wound was 8 percent larger in reality than
measured on the ruler. This makes the
wound approximately 16 mm wide. The
entrance wound measured by the doctors was 15 mm wide. It clearly could have been this wound.
A Matter of Proportion
In fact, a comparison of the mark in the cowlick on the back of the head photo and the wound at the back of the base of the skull in the open cranium photo leads in but one direction: the wound described by the autopsy doctors is the wound at the base of the skull. The doctors described a wound at the base of the skull. Well, duh. Check. This wound measured 15 by 6, with a relative proportion of 2 1/2 to 1. Hmm... The mark in the cowlick has a relative proportion of approximately 1 1/4 to 1, roughly half the width (or height) required, while the wound at the base of the skull has a relative proportion of, yes indeed, 2 1/2 to 1. Check.
And it doesn't stop there. On the face sheet, Dr. Boswell described the small entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head as "ragged" and "slanting." In keeping with this description, the autopsy protocol written over the next two days by Dr. Humes said it was a "lacerated wound tangential to the surface of the scalp." He then shortened this description. The typed-up version of the protocol signed by Dr.s Humes, Boswell, and Finck, described it simply as a "lacerated wound." After studying the autopsy photos in January, 1967, however, the doctors wrote (or at least signed) a report in which this wound was described as a "laceration and tunnel." Now, this can only be the wound we've identified in the base of the skull in the open cranium photo. The supposed wound in the cowlick shows no evidence of being a slanted entry. It shows no evidence of running tangential to the surface of the scalp, or of tunneling. In fact, when one thinks of it, this is not surprising. The thinner the bone, the less likely a bullet is to "tunnel" through the bone. I mean, that's just common sense. Well, the parietal bone at the site of the purported cowlick entry is only 50-70% the thickness of the occipital bone at the site of the wound described in the autopsy protocol. It seems far more likely, then, that a wound exhibiting the tunneling described by the doctors would be an occipital wound.
And, apparently, I'm not the first one to think so. In it's final report, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel claimed that from 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock along the outer margin of the purported wound in the cowlick there was a "suggestion of undermining, that is, tunneling of the tissue between the skin surface and the skull." They thought they saw tunneling. Oh, my, this seems a bit of a coincidence. The autopsy doctors described the wound as a tunnel, and the HSCA panel says the wound is really on a different bone, but that, gee whiz, the wound at this location also shows evidence of "tunneling." So, yeah, wink, wink, it's gotta be the same wound, right?
Wrong. The 1967 report signed by the autopsy doctors claimed that when looking at the photos of the back of Kennedy's head (those taken prior to the removal of his brain) the entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head is "not recognizable as a penetrating wound because of the slanting direction of entry." Well, hello. That means the entrance in the scalp not only failed to directly overlay the entrance into the skull, it failed to overlay it at all. I mean, not even one bit. And that means the bullet creating the entrance to Kennedy's skull didn't just "tunnel" through a tiny bit of tissue from 12 to 3 along its outer margin, as suggested by the pathology panel, but for a distance longer than the width of the bullet, and almost certainly through bone. Well once again, it's hard to see how this could be a description of the purported wound in the cowlick. There's far more skin, and far thicker bone--through which to tunnel--low on the back of the head, than high on the back of the head. And, besides, the wound low on the back of the head in the open-cranium photo appears to be a tunnel, of sorts, with its roof removed. Check.
So, there it is. The entrance wound observed and described by the autopsy doctors is the wound shown in the open-cranium photo. It was in the right place; it's the right size, and it sure as heck looks like it.
Since this autopsy photo of the cranial cavity has never been officially acknowledged or released, however, the possibility exists it's a fake. A look at the history of this photo, and of its use by conspiracy theorists, however, should lay these concerns to rest. While the open-cranium photo has been published in the books of David Lifton, Robert Groden, Harrison Livingstone, and Walt Brown, none of these books mentioned the bullet hole. While Noel Twyman, in his book, Bloody Treason, acknowledges that something is there, his drawing of the photo suggests the hole is the external occipital protuberance, the bump on the back of Kennedy’s head.
On November 20, 2004, I met Robert Groden in Dealey Plaza and asked him about the autopsy photographs’ depiction of a hole in the hairline. Surprisingly, he readily agreed that the hole near the hairline in the open cranium photograph was an entrance wound. Even more surprising, he insisted that he’d always acknowledged it as so. In The Killing of a President, in which Groden summarized his views on the assassination, Groden described 8 likely shots, none of which entered low on the President’s skull from behind. One hopes this was just a misunderstanding.
On January 25, 2006, via personal correspondence, David Lifton similarly agreed that the proposed bullet hole on the open cranium photograph was the entrance wound described at autopsy. Consistent with his theory that the body was changed between Dallas and Bethesda, Lifton explained that in his opinion the men who faked the bullet entries on Kennedy’s body created two false entries on the back of Kennedy’s head, one low and one high. He theorized that Dr. Humes was pressured into acknowledging only one of them in his autopsy report. From this it appears that Lifton has made some subtle changes to the theory he first presented in his best-seller Best Evidence.
And, oh yeah, FWIW, pretty much everything-is-fake theorist Jack White told me multiple times that he believed the presumed bullet hole in the black and white photo of the open cranium was the bullet hole described at autopsy.