Why I can't buy what so many others are selling
Who to Believe?
When I first started presenting my evidence for a new perspective on the President's wounds in 2004, I expected there to be a tremendous amount of resistance from single-assassin theorists, and a moderate amount of acceptance from conspiracy theorists. Boy, was I wrong. The single-assassin theorists I've encountered refuse to deal with the evidence beyond repeating what they've read in books by the Warren Commission, Lattimer, Posner, and Bugliosi, or the website of John McAdams. Anything outside of that they pretty much tell you you are lying, and ignore. No, the most resistance I've received has not been from those opposed to my conclusion more than one shooter fired on Kennedy on 11-22-63, but from those who agree with that conclusion.
You see, many conspiracy theorists are, in the words of Bono, "stuck in a moment and they can't get out of it." That moment, to be clear, is the one in which they first realized the majority of those observing Kennedy's wounds at Parkland Hospital claimed to see an open wound on the back of Kennedy's head. Such a wound, of course, is not shown in the autopsy photos, nor reported in the autopsy report, which details a number of significant scalp lacerations, but none on the back of the head. My suspicion is then that the majority of those experiencing this moment,--an epiphany as Doug Horne calls it--have come to believe either that the autopsy photos showing no wound on the back of the head are fake, and the autopsy a lie, or that someone altered Kennedy's body between Dallas and the beginning of the official autopsy at Bethesda.
Many doing so claim the autopsy face sheet supports their conclusion, and note that Dr. Boswell's description of a 17 by 10 cm wound encompassing the majority of the right side of the President's head is far larger than the wound observed in Dallas, and suggests the wound as seen at Bethesda included the back of the head wound seen at Parkland. Those doing so, however, are engaged in self-deception. As stated, no large scalp lacerations in the occipital region of the skull were noted at autopsy. The autopsy protocol signed by Boswell, moreover, explains: "Upon reflecting the scalp multiple complete fracture
lines are seen to radiate from both the large defect at the vertex
and the smaller wound at the occiput. These vary greatly in length
and direction, the longest measuring approximately 19 centimeters.
These result in the production of numerous fragments which vary
in size from a few millimeters to 10 centimeters in greatest
Note that the large defect is at the vertex--the top of the head. Note also that the "multiple complete fractures lines...result in the production of numerous fragments." In other words, the right side of Kennedy's head was smashed to pieces. The 17 by 10 measurement is therefore most obviously the measurement of the large head wound after the scalp was reflected, and numerous bone fragments stripped from the skull. The inability of so many to grasp something so obvious is a bit maddening, to say the least.
In any event, while still others believe the autopsy photos of the back of the head are not fake, but reflect instead the appearance of the body at the end of the autopsy and not the beginning, the fact is that all of these theories--which are collectively held by the vast majority of conspiracy theorists--are built around a core belief: the Parkland witnesses COULD NOT be mistaken. This belief is, in my opinion, a mistaken one.
To best explain my lack of faith in the accuracy of the Parkland witnesses, we need to go back to the beginning...
At approximately 12:45 P.M., within 15 minutes of Kennedy's being shot, assassination witness William Newman, who was less than 30 feet to the side of Kennedy when the fatal bullet struck, was interviewed live on television station WFAA. This was 45 minutes before the announcement of Kennedy’s death. Newman told Jay Watson: “And then as the car got directly in front of us, well, a gun shot apparently from behind us hit the President in the side, the side of the temple.” As he said this, he pointed to his left temple, with his only free hand. (This image is reversed on the slide above.)
At 1:17, about a half hour later, Watson interviewed Gayle Newman, who'd been standing right beside her husband and had had an equally close look at the President's wound. She reported: "And then another one—it was just awful fast. And President Kennedy reached up and grabbed--it looked like he grabbed--his ear and blood just started gushing out." (As she said this she motioned to her right temple with both of her hands. In 1969, while testifying at the trial of Clay Shaw, Mrs, Newman would make the implications of this even more clear, and specify that Kennedy "was shot in the head right at his ear or right above his ear…")
Okay so that's two for two. Two witnesses, BOTH of whom saw the bullet impact by Kennedy's ear. But they only saw Kennedy for a second. Maybe they were mistaken. If they were correct, certainly someone seeing Kennedy at Parkland Hospital would have noticed the wound they describe by Kennedy's temple, and have mentioned it on 11-22-63.
Someone did. At 1:33 p.m. on November 22, 1963, Assistant Press
Secretary Malcolm Kilduff announced President Kennedy’s death from Parkland Hospital. He told the country: “President John F. Kennedy died at
approximately one o’clock Central
Standard Time today here in Dallas.
He died of a gunshot wound in the brain…Dr. Burkley [Kennedy's personal
physician] told me it is a simple matter…of a bullet right through the head. (At this time, as shown on the slide above, he pointed to his right temple) . . . It is my understanding that it
entered in the temple, the right temple.” As Dr. Burkley had seen Kennedy in the Dallas emergency room and was later to
tell the HSCA that Kennedy’s wounds didn’t change between Dallas and Bethesda,
the site of the autopsy, Kilduff’s statements are a clear indication that the large head wound depicted
in the autopsy photos is in the same location as the large head wound seen at
Parkland Hospital. That no one at the time of Kilduff's statement had noted a separate bullet entrance anywhere on Kennedy's head, moreover, suggests that Burkley had seen but one wound, a wound by the temple, exactly where Newman and his wife had seen a wound.
But wait, there's more... Less than forty minutes after the announcement of Kennedy's death, eyewitness Abraham Zapruder took his turn before the cameras on WFAA, and confirmed the observations of Burkley and the Newmans. Describing the shooting, Zapruder told Jay Watson: “Then I heard another shot or two, I couldn't say it was one or two, and I saw his head practically open up, all blood and everything (at this time, and as shown on the slide above, Zapruder grabbed his right temple), and I kept on shooting. That's about all, I'm just sick, I can't…”
This means that there were four witnesses to comment on the location of Kennedy's head wound prior to the approximately 2:16 press conference at Parkland Hospital, in which Dr. William Kemp Clark claimed the wound was on the "back of his head," and all of them had specified the wound to have been on the side of Kennedy's head, where it was later shown to be in the autopsy photos and Zapruder film. Now ain't that a humdinger!
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking, "but Pat you're cherry-picking witnesses to support your silly notion that the Parkland witnesses were wrong and that the bullet striking Kennedy at frame 313 did not exit the back of his head." Well, first of all, I don't believe my noting that the earliest witnesses all said that a bullet hit Kennedy by the temple is silly, particularly in that three participants to Kennedy's autopsy--radiologist Dr. John Ebersole, radiology technician Jerrol Custer, and autopsy assistant James Curtis Jenkins--all left the autopsy with a similar impression a bullet struck Kennedy by the temple. And second of all... Well, have it your way. Let's go through the statements of the best witnesses to the shooting.
By Way of Illustration
But first, a confession. I
was once one of you... Yes, that's right. When I first began my
personal investigation of the evidence, I suspected much of the medical
and photographic evidence had been altered. But this passed with time. It just
didn't make any sense to me that if the Zapruder film, the autopsy photos and the
x-rays were faked, that they would so clearly demonstrate that Kennedy was
killed by a conspiracy. I mean, if the conspirators were slick enough to kill Kennedy and get away with it, wouldn’t they be slick
enough to create autopsy photos that show a brain with damage consistent with
an entrance by the EOP? Wouldn’t the
doctored x-rays show the trail of fragments where Dr. Humes said it was, corresponding with a line joining the entrance by the EOP and the right
supra-orbital ridge? I mean, wouldn't they?...Then why didn't they?
This led me to take a much closer look at the back of the head photo, the one photo I felt positive had been faked. Not only did this photo not jive with the Parkland doctors' description of Kennedy's head wounds, it didn't appear to jive with the other photos. It was then that I realized this photo was taken after the establishing shots of Kennedy on the table, and after the wing of bone had been pulled from the scalp flap by his temple, and after the blood had been rinsed from his hair. I still suspected that the large defect in the photo was in a different location than the other photos, however. I tried to think of ways to compare the large head wound's location with its location in the other photos. I ended up looking at photos of tattoos on the top of the head when taken from different angles, to see if a wound above the ear would even be seen in a photo taken from the angle of the back of the head photo.
In time, I concluded the large defect in the back of the head photo was in the same location as in the other photos.
I still had questions, though. Big ones. Why didn't this photo show the large head wound on the back of the head described by the Parkland witnesses?
Were ALL the photos faked to show the large head wound described by the doctors at a point higher up on the skull? And, if so, why did the very first witnesses to describe the wound place it where it is on the autopsy photos, in front of and above Kennedy's right ear? Were these witnesses lying?
The Invisible Hole
I think not. Not only did the earliest witnesses to describe the location of the large wound on Kennedy's head seem to believe it was on the side of his head, the vast majority of the witnesses seeing the bullet's impact would continue to claim it struck Kennedy on the side of his head, and fail to note any explosion whatsoever from the back of his head.
As we've seen, the Newmans and Zapruder, standing on Kennedy's right side, all thought the bullet struck Kennedy on the right side of his head, by his right temple. But they weren't the only witnesses on the right side of Kennedy to note an impact on the side of his head.
Dealey Plaza groundskeeper Emmett Hudson, who was standing on the steps to the right and front of Kennedy at the moment of the fatal head shot, also discussed its impact. In his testimony before the Warren Commission, Hudson asserted: "it looked like it hit him somewhere
along a little bit behind the ear and a little bit above the ear." While this is a few inches back of the location described by the Newmans and Zapruder, it is more significantly not a description of a bullet exit on the far back of Kennedy's head, where most conspiracy theorists have long held the large head wound was located.
"Well, wait a second"--I'm sure some of you are thinking--"maybe Hudson, along with the other witnesses, saw the bullet's entrance, and missed seeing the exit of this bullet from the back of Kennedy's head due to their being slightly in front of Kennedy." Well, no, that doesn't work, either.
In 1966, Marilyn Sitzman, Abraham Zapruder’s secretary, who'd stood beside him on 11-22-63, confirmed his observation of the wound location. To writer Josiah Thompson, she related: “And the next thing that I remembered correct ... clearly was the shot that hit him directly in front of us, or almost directly in front of us, that hit him on the side of his face ...” When asked then by Thompson to specify just where she saw the large head wound, she continued: “I would say it'd be above the ear and to the front…Between the eye and the ear…And we could see his brains come out, you know, his head opening. It must have been a terrible shot because it exploded his head, more or less”. Hmmm... Sitzman, as Zapruder, was almost directly to the right of the President at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact. This put them in perfect position to note an explosion from the back of Kennedy's head. And yet neither of them saw such an explosion.
Even worse, at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact, the Newmans were approximately 6-8 feet behind the President, and about 20 feet to his right. Kennedy, at this time, was turned slightly left. This means the Newmans were looking directly at the back of Kennedy's head at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact... And yet both of them noted that this impact was by his ear!
Still, that's just four witnesses in a strong position to note whether the bullet exploded from the side or back of Kennedy's skull, all of whom said "side." What about the closest witnesses in the motorcade behind Kennedy? Didn't any of them see an explosion from the back of his head?
Uhhh...nope. Motorcycle officer James Chaney, riding just a few yards off Kennedy's right shoulder, was interviewed by WFAA on the night of the shooting. He reported: "We heard the first shot. I thought it was a motorcycle backfiring and uh I looked back over to my left and also President Kennedy looked back over his left shoulder. Then, the, uh, second shot came, well, then I looked back just in time to see the President struck in the face by the second bullet." Wait... What? Struck in the face? Apparently, Chaney, as Sitzman, considered the space between the eye and the ear the side of the face. While some might wish to believe Chaney was describing the impact of a bullet entering Kennedy's face and exiting from the back of his head, this in fact makes little sense, as Chaney said in this same interview that he thought the shot had come from "back over my right shoulder." We should also consider that WFAA's interview of Chaney took place on the night of the assassination...in the hall of the Dallas Police Station as Oswald was being questioned. By that time, Chaney had to have been told a rifle had been found in the depository behind Kennedy's position at the time of the shooting. If Chaney believed Oswald had fired the shots, as one would suspect since he thought the shots came from behind, and had seen an explosion of any kind from the back of Kennedy's head--entrance or exit--wouldn't he have said so?
And shouldn't the motorcycle officer riding directly to his right, Douglas Jackson, also have reported such an explosion? Jackson's notes, written on the night of the assassination and published in 1979, relate: "I looked back toward Mr. Kennedy and saw him hit in the head; he appeared to have been hit just above the right ear. The top of his head flew off away from me."
Well then, what about the officers riding on the other side, unable to see the right side of the President's face? If there had been an explosion from the back of Kennedy's head, entrance or exit, they would not have been distracted by an entrance or exit by Kennedy's ear. So what did they see?
While the motorcycle officer on the far left of the limo, B.J. Martin, said he did not even see the head shot, the officer to his right, Bobby Hargis, riding off Mrs. Kennedy's left shoulder, was not so lucky. In an 11-24-63 eyewitness account published in the New York Sunday News, he wrote: "As the President straightened back up, Mrs. Kennedy turned toward him, and that was when he got hit in the side of the head, spinning it around. I was splattered by blood." In 1968, in an interview with Jim Garrison's investigators, Hargis would later confirm: "If he'd got hit in the rear, I'd have been able to see it. All I saw was just a splash come out on the other side."
Okay, now, that's eight witnesses, all of whom said the kill shot impacted on the side of the President's head, and none of whom noted an explosion or wound on the back of his head.
We now move to the witnesses directly behind Kennedy, in perfect position to note an explosion from the back of his head. These witnesses rode in the Secret Service back-up car, trailing the limousine by just a few yards. Sam Kinney, the driver of this car, wrote a report on the night of the assassination which asserted "At this time, the second shot was fired and I observed hair flying from the right side of his head…" Sitting next to Kinney was Emory Roberts, sitting directly behind Kennedy. If a bullet hit Kennedy on the back of the head, or erupted from the back of his head, he would have been the one to notice. Instead, in an 11-29-63 report, he wrote "I saw what appeared to be a small explosion on the right side of the President’s head, saw blood, at which time the President fell further to his left."
On the left running board of the back-up car were two agents, neither of whom commented on the bullet's impact or wound location in their initial reports.
One of the agents on the right side of the limo, Paul Landis, however, described the impact in a graphic manner. In a report written 11-29-63, he noted "I heard a second report and saw the President’s head split open and pieces of flesh and blood flying through the air." While vague, this might indeed suggest a bullet's exploding from the back of Kennedy's head.
But between the agents on the left and right sides of the limo sat four more witnesses, two on the jump seat, and two on the rear seat. While Kennedy's close aide Kenneth O'Donnell failed to describe the impact of the fatal bullet or head wound location in his Warren Commission testimony, he and the man sitting next to him on the jump seat, Dave Powers, would in 1970 publish a book on Kennedy, which described: "While we both stared at the President, the third shot took the side of his head off. We saw pieces of bone and brain tissue and bits of his reddish hair flying through the air..." These were Kennedy's friends, both of whom felt one or more shots came from the front, and yet neither of them claimed to see an explosion from the back of Kennedy's head. Years earlier, in fact, Powers had provided a statement to the Warren Commission, which described: "there was a third shot which took off the top of the President’s head..." Thus, O'Donnell and Powers felt the explosion was on the top and side of the President's head--and not on the far back of his head, where so many conspiracy theorists fervently believe the wound was located.
Their impression was shared by George Hickey, one of the two Secret Service agents on the rear seat of the back-up car. On the night of the assassination, he wrote a report on what transpired in Dallas, and noted: "it seemed as if the right side of his head was hit and his hair flew
forward." Next to Hickey sat Glen Bennett, who noted, in a handwritten 11-22-63 report, that the fatal bullet "hit the right rear high of the President’s head." While some might take Bennett's statement to indicate he saw the entrance of a bullet near Kennedy's cowlick, the entrance location later "discovered" by the Clark Panel, a more logical assessment would be that he saw an explosion of brain and blood from the right side of Kennedy's skull, to the rear of his head, as in not on his face, and high, as in the highest part of his head visible from behind. This, not coincidentally, would be the top of Kennedy's head above his ear, the location of the impact shown in the Zapruder film. (Should one not agree with this assessment one should feel free to explain how Bennett could have seen an impact at the small red shape seen in the autopsy photos, and fail to note the massive explosion from the gaping hole on the right side of Kennedy's head seen in the Zapruder film, especially when no blood can be seen exploding from the back of Kennedy's head in the film.)
In sum, then, none of the closest witnesses to the side or back of the President saw a bullet impact on or explode from the back of his head. So why is it, again, that so many believe there was a wound on the back of his head? Oh, that's right. ALL those who saw Kennedy at Parkland Hospital said the wound they saw was on the back of his head.
Well, not all... As we've seen, Dr. Burkley, long before the Dallas doctors convened their press conference and told the world the large head wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, had already explained to press secretary Malcolm Kilduff that the wound was in fact by the temple.
And he wasn't the only one at Parkland to make this assessment. Hurchel Jacks, the driver of Vice-President
Johnson's car in the motorcade, arrived at the hospital just moments
after the limousine, and witnessed the removal of the
President's body from the limo. On 11-28-63, less than a week after the
assassination, he filed a report (18H801) and noted: "Before the President's body was covered it appeared that the bullet had struck him above the right ear or near the temple."
And Smith wasn't the only one viewing the President at this time. While I've yet to find a direct description of Kennedy's head wound from Senator Ralph Yarborough, a passenger in the car driven by Jacks to Parkland Hospital, reporter Charles Roberts, who arrived just a few minutes after Jacks and Yarborough, was later to describe Yarborough's response to his questions about the nature of Kennedy's head wound. In his 1967 book The Truth About the Assassination, Roberts recalled that as a horrified Yarborough responded "'I can't tell you," he unconsciously held "his hand to the right side of his head,
where he had seen blood streaming from the President."
And, should one wish to write-off Roberts' reporting on Yarborough as unreliable, seeing as he was by 1967 a vocal defender of the Warren Commission, one should take into account that Merriman Smith, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the assassination, actually saw Kennedy outside Parkland, and had a similar appreciation of his wound. Now, to be clear, he never saw the wound, and his initial reporting that "President Kennedy was shot in the right temple" undoubtedly came from Kilduff. But his early reports--sent across the wires before he arrived at Air Force One about 2:30--nevertheless made clear where the wound was not. In papers such as the Milton Evening Standard, Smith reported that as he approached the limousine outside Parkland "The President was slumped over in the backseat of the car face down. Connally lay on the floor of the rear seat. It was impossible to tell at once where Kennedy was hit, but bullet wounds in Connally's chest were plainly visible, indicating the gunfire might possibly have come from an automatic weapon." If the President was lying face down, and there was a gaping wound on the back of his head, as so many have come to believe, well then why didn't Smith see it, and report it? That Smith was just reciting an official lie he'd been told doesn't hold water. He had, within this same paragraph, after all, suggested that Connally had been wounded by someone firing an automatic weapon. That someone, it follows, could not have been Oswald.
And Smith wasn't alone when he observed the President's wounds. Standing near him, if not beside him, was his competitor, Jack Bell of the Associated Press. So how did Bell describe the wound? Much as Smith, he didn't. Not directly. Instead, the AP's earliest articles on the assassination, such as that found in the 11-23-63 Spokane Spokesman-Review, reflect that "At the hospital emergency entrance, AP reporter Jack Bell saw the President stretched out, face down at full length, motionless on the back seat of the car. His suit still looked neat--but there was blood on the floor." Well, if he was willing to conjure up the gruesome image of blood pooling up on the floor, wouldn't he have been willing to say he saw a hole on the back of Kennedy's head, should he actually have seen one? The article also reports: "As the shots reverberated, blood sprang from the President's face." Hmmm... By claiming blood sprang from Kennedy's face, and then indicating there was no wound apparent on the back of Kennedy's head, Bell and the AP had clearly suggested that the fatal bullet had entered from in front of Kennedy, and had failed to exit. Well, would they have done that if they were part of some grand conspiracy to hide that Kennedy had a large wound on the back of his head? I suspect not.
And then there's the driver. When testifying before the Warren Commission on 3-9-64 (2H112-132), William Greer, the driver of Kennedy's limousine, also claimed to have seen Kennedy's head wound upon arrival at the hospital. He even pointed out its location. Since this gesture would not show up on the record, however, counsel Arlen Specter asked "Indicating the top and right rear side of the head?" To which Greer responded "Yes, sir; it looked like that was all blown off." They later discussed the wounds observed at the autopsy. There, Greer reiterated that the wound was on the "upper right side" of the head and that the skull in this location was "completely gone." The wound proposed by many if not most conspiracy theorists is, of course, not even partially on the upper right side of the head, but entirely on the far back of the head below the top of the ear.
There is still another witness confirming the impressions of Jacks, Yarborough, and Greer. As we've seen, the 11-22-63 diary entry of motorcycle officer Douglas Jackson reflects that he saw Kennedy hit in the head above the right ear. Well, he also saw Kennedy's body as it was removed from the limo at Parkland Hospital. He wrote "I got off my motor, stepped over to the presidential limousine. An agent opened the car door and started to get Mrs. Kennedy out but Mrs. Kennedy said no. It's no need she said and raised up from over Mr. Kennedy. I could see the top of his head was gone, his left eye was bulged out of socket. The agent said "Oh no!" and started crying, pulled his coat off and placed it over Mr. Kennedy's head."
Well, then, what gives? Didn't any of the closest witnesses to the shooting or Kennedy's body before it entered the hospital say anything suggesting they saw a large wound on the far back of Kennedy's head?
The Fog of War
Yeah...one did... Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent riding to the hospital on the back of the limo, while making no initial comment on the impact location of the fatal bullet, would later describe the appearance of Kennedy's head wound both en route to the hospital in Dallas, and then later, after the autopsy in Bethesda. An 11-30-63 report written by Hill relates: "As I lay over the top of the back seat I noticed a portion of the President's head on the right rear side was missing and he was bleeding profusely. Part of his brain was gone. I saw a part of his skull with hair on it lieing in the seat." Hill returned to this later. When describing the aftermath to Kennedy's autopsy in his report, Hill relates "At approximately 2:45 A.M., November 23, I was requested by ASAIC to come to the morgue to once again view the body. When I arrived the autopsy had been completed and ASAIC Kellerman, SA Greer, General McHugh and I viewed the wounds. I observed a wound about six inches down from the neckline on the back just to the right of the spinal column. I observed another wound on the right rear portion of the skull." Well, this once again, is vague. A wound, whether on the "right rear side" of the head, or simply in "the right rear portion of the skull," could be most anywhere in back of the face, including the area above the ear.
So what about Hill's testimony, you might ask? Did he clear this matter up when testifying before the Warren Commission? Some would say so. In testimony taken nearly four months after the shooting, Hill told the Warren Commission: "The right rear portion of his head was missing. It was lying in the rear seat of the car. His brain was exposed. There was blood and bits of brain all over the entire rear portion of the car. Mrs. Kennedy was completely covered with blood. There was so much blood you could not tell if there had been any other wound or not, except for the one large gaping wound in the right rear portion of the head." Hill's testimony, then, first reflects that the wound was not on A portion of the right rear side, or merely ON a right rear portion of the skull, but instead covered THE entire right rear portion. It then reverses course, and reflects merely that it was IN the right rear portion, which could, of course, be anywhere in back of the face.
So, despite the widespread claims that Hill's testimony is proof the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, it is, in reality, a confusing mess. With his statements and testimony, Hill had made four references to Kennedy's head wound--three that were unduly vague, and one that was overly expansive, as not even the looniest of conspiracy theorists believes the entire right rear portion of Kennedy's skull was missing. Perhaps Hill, then, when claiming "THE right rear portion" was missing, meant simply to repeat his earlier statement that "A portion of the right rear side was missing," and mis-spoke. While this may be stretching, it explains Hill's subsequent claim, in a 2004 television interview, that, when he first looked down on the President, he saw "the back of his head, And there was a gaping hole above his right ear about the size of my palm" better than that he had forgotten what he had seen, or that he had suddenly, for the first time, more than forty years after his original testimony, decided to start lying about what he saw.
(In 2010, while promoting The Kennedy Detail, a book written by his fellow agent Jerry Blaine, Hill would repeat many more times that the wound was above Kennedy's right ear. Sometimes he would add-in that it was "to the rear." In the book, it said it was "fist-sized." Well, this was all some conspiracy theorists, including James Fetzer, needed. In January 2011 Fetzer started pretending that Hill's comments supported not only that the Zapruder film and autopsy photos are fake, but that Hill's description supported the wound as described and depicted by Dr. Charles Crenshaw in Fetzer's 1998 book Assassination Science. Apparently, it never registered with Fetzer that Hill had also pointed out exactly where he meant when he said the wound was above the ear to the rear, and that, as shown on the slide above, the location pointed out by Hill was much closer to the wound depicted in the autopsy photos than the wound on Crenshaw's drawings...)
"But the men behind Kennedy were all government employees!", some might claim. "What about the witnesses in back of Kennedy on the south side of the street? Certainly, they saw an explosion from the back of his head..." No, no such luck. There were three witnesses behind Kennedy on his left who would have been in a position to see an explosion from the back of his head, should a shot from the grassy knoll truly have exploded from the back of his head, as so many believe. Mary Moorman, whose photo of Kennedy taken just after the shot's impact shows no evidence for such a wound, was interviewed numerous times on the day of the shooting, and would say only that she saw Kennedy grab his chest and slump down in the car. Her friend, Jean Hill, moreover, the woman in red in the Zapruder film, said much the same thing on the day of the shooting. Four months later, however, after much more spectacular reports had been printed, Hill claimed to have seen "the hair on
the back of President Kennedy’s head fly up." Note that she still was not claiming to have seen an explosion from the back of his head. No, she didn't even claim such a thing when tracked down and interviewed decades later by conspiracy writer Jim Marrs. Instead, she told Marrs simply that "a bullet hit his head and took the top off." "Top." Not "back." Ms. Hill, in fact. made no claims of seeing the explosion from the back of Kennedy's head so many conspiracy theorists assume she saw until her book The Last Dissenting Witness appeared in 1992. It related "The whole back of his head appeared to explode and a cloud of blood-red mist filled the air." That this was "poetic license" inserted by her co-writer, Bill Sloan, should be readily apparent. If not, one should take into account that by 1992 Ms. Hill was still so confused by what she saw that she told interviewer James Earl Jones and a national television audience that, as "shots rang out", Kennedy "grabbed his throat, and that was the horrible head shot." Kennedy, of course, grabbed his throat long before the head shot.
Well, what of the third witness, then? Well, in his earliest interviews, Charles Brehm claimed to see Kennedy really get blasted and get knocked down in the car. No mention of an explosion from the back of his head. A few days later, however, newspaper accounts of the shooting quoting Brehm claimed he saw "the President’s hair fly up." In 1966, when interviewed by Mark Lane, moreover, he filled in the details, and claimed "When the second bullet hit, there was—the hair seemed to go flying. It was very definite then that he was struck in the head with the second bullet…I saw a piece fly over in the area of the curb…it seemed to have come left and back." While some might wish to take the flight of this one piece of skull as an indication the fatal shot came from the front, they really shouldn't rush to such a judgment. You see, not only did Brehm long claim he thought the shots came from behind, but he paused before he told Lane "the hair seemed to go flying." During this pause, in an obvious indication of where he recalled seeing a wound, he motioned not to the back of his head but to...his right ear.
Well, were there any other known witnesses to the shooting to report on this wound? Yes. Railroad worker James Simmons, who'd watched the shooting from the railroad bridge on the west side of the plaza, testified during the the 1969 trial of Clay Shaw that it looked "like the top of his head blew off and went up in the air." Top. Well, then what about from further back? Marilyn Willis, standing quite some distance behind Kennedy, told the FBI in June, 64 that she saw the "top" of Kennedy's head blown off, only to turn around and tell a TV audience in 1988 that she saw brain matter blown out the "back of his head," only to turn around yet again and tell Robert Groden in 1993 that the wound she saw was on "this side," while grabbing the right side of her head above her ear.
But no matter how one takes her statements, one should recall that Mrs. Willis was about 50 yards behind Kennedy when he received his fatal bullet, and that should she have actually seen his head wound it was but for a second. This makes her seeing blood and brain blown out the back of his head, when no credible witness closer to him saw any such thing, quite unlikely. In fact, when one considers the numerous eyewitness statements claiming the bullet impacted on the right side or top of Kennedy's head, the Zapruder film's confirmation of a wound in this location, and the autopsy photos' additional confirmation of a wound in this location, one might rightly conclude that the only thing solid
about the Kennedy assassination medical evidence is that there was a large
wound above and in front of Kennedy's right ear.
But, should one think as one should, ironically, one
would be wrong. The initial statements and reports of the doctors attending Kennedy at Parkland reflected an almost universal belief the large head wound was rearward of Kennedy's right ear. In
1967, Josiah Thompson published his book Six Seconds in Dallas. This featured an artist's impression of Parkland doctor Robert
McClelland’s description of Kennedy's large head wound. As shown on the "Who to Believe?" slide above, the wound in this drawing was on the far back of the right side of Kennedy’s
head. Such a wound is, of course, thoroughly incompatible
with the autopsy photos showing the back of Kennedy's head.
In 1979, the HSCA Authenticity Report attempted to smooth this over by
declaring: “In disagreement with the observations of the Parkland
doctors are the 26 people present at the autopsy. All of
those interviewed who attended the autopsy corroborated the general location of
the wound as depicted in the photographs; none had differing accounts.” But this declaration proved too little too late. David Lifton would shortly thereafter publish Best Evidence, a book holding that the
descriptions of the Parkland witnesses differed from those of the Bethesda witnesses because the President’s body had been altered while en route to the autopsy. Others, such as Harrison Livingstone and Robert Groden, (the latter of whom had worked as a photo analyst for the HSCA), then responded to Lifton's book with theories of their own. No, they claimed, in books showing the autopsy photos illicitly obtained by both Lifton and Groden, it's not that the body had been altered, a la Lifton, it's that the autopsy doctors had lied and that the back of the head photos had been faked.
Then thunder struck. In the late 1990’s, after a number of new "back of the head" witnesses came forward, and a number of previously withheld HSCA interviews were ordered released by the ARRB, it was learned that many of these Bethesda witnesses had actually told the HSCA's investigators they'd seen a large wound on the back of Kennedy’s head, and that a still unnamed person had lied about this in the HSCA Authenticity Report.
With that, all faith in the photographic evidence was shattered. Many, if not most, researchers, came to accept Groden's proposition that it was the photos that had been altered and not Kennedy's body. Some, however, came to reject Groden's proposition that the Zapruder film showed the occipital wound described by the Parkland witnesses, and embraced instead Lifton's suspicion that the Zapruder film--which had led many to suspect a conspiracy in the first place--had in fact been altered to, among other things, move the hole on the back of JFK's head to a more acceptable location in front of his right ear.
This led still others, such as ARRB analyst Doug Horne, to come up with their own unique hybrid theories. In his 5 volume work, Inside the ARRB, Horne explains that, in his view, the body, autopsy photos, x-rays, and Zapruder film were all altered in one way or another. He explains, furthermore, that the body alteration Lifton believed was performed BEFORE the body arrived at Bethesda was in fact performed at Bethesda by Dr. Humes, and that the Bethesda witnesses seeing a large wound primarily on the back of JFK's head saw this wound BEFORE Dr. Humes had altered the wound, and expanded it to include the wound on the top of Kennedy's head more consistent with an assassin's having shot him from behind. In still further opposition to Lifton, Horne holds that the wound on the back of the head was not reconstructed for the autopsy photographs. In opposition to Groden, however, Horne holds that the back of the head autopsy photos were not actually altered, but taken after the FBI had left, with the scalp stretched to hide the true dimensions of the hole. He holds, furthermore, that the x-rays were altered to hide this same hole.
So, in Horne's theory, the autopsy physicians were not deceived, as in Lifton's theory, but were instead prime deceivers.
Now, to give Horne credit, he developed his theory, and published his books, and then stepped back and let others figure out whether he was right or not. This left it to his #1 cheerleader, Dr. James Fetzer, to push his theory online, and bully his fellow conspiracy theorists into seeing the one true light. Well, Fetzer, no surprise, added some of his own bits to Horne's theory, and began pushing that those altering the Zapruder film screwed up and failed to remove the purported blow-out wound on the back of Kennedy's head from frame 374 of the Zapruder film. Fetzer held, furthermore, that the "cashew-nut-like shape" apparent on this frame "corresponds very closely to “Area P” (for “patched”) in Mantik’s analysis." Area P is, of course, the "white patch" identified by Dr. Mantik on the x-rays.
Well, as shown above, this is total nonsense. The "white patch" (which is really the wing of bone shown on the autopsy photos) and "cashew nut-like shape" (which is presumably the reflection of the sun on Kennedy's hair) are in fact inches apart. Now, I'm tempted to make a joke about this--something like "Fetzer's clearly nuts when he talks about the cashew nut-like shape," or "Fetzer's got nuts not only on his brain, but Kennedy's"-- but such a joke would be in poor taste.Wouldn't it?
Views on the Views
And yet, in light of the fact that none of the closest witnesses saw an explosion from the back of Kennedy's head, Horne's and Fetzer's belief the autopsy team conspired to hide such a wound is indeed a bit nutty. (Sorry, Doug.) If the Newmans, Burkley, Zapruder, Sitzman, Hill, et al were all lying about what they saw on November 22nd, they wouldn’t have described the wound near the right ear as an entrance, now would have they? They saw one large wound and assumed it to be an entrance. Later, Dr. Humes found a small entrance on the back of Kennedy’s head and decided the large head wound was an exit. It was logical, and almost correct. What isn’t logical is to accept that the body was changed between Dallas and Bethesda, or that the statements of the Parkland witnesses prove the autopsy photos a fraud. To trust the words of so many at Parkland Hospital that the only large head wound was on the far back of Kennedy’s head, after all, would mean (if one is to be consistent and trust the earliest witnesses, e.g. Newman and Zapruder) that the wound was first altered en route to the hospital, only to be changed back a few hours later on Air Force One en route to Washington.
Bunkum. Let's remember the words of Mrs. Kennedy. While many have used her statement "from the front there was nothing" as evidence the bullet erupted from the back of her husband’s skull, they largely ignore the context of her statements. When describing the fatal shot, she told the Warren Commission “just as I turned to look at him, I could see a piece of his skull, sort of wedge-shaped like that, and I remember it was flesh colored.” (The words "sort of wedge-shaped like that" were in the court reporter's transcript but never published. They are presumably a reference to the bone flap visible in the right lateral autopsy photos.) She then described cradling her husband in her arms, and getting a closer look at the wound. She said: “from the front there was nothing. I suppose there must have been. But from the back you could see, you know, you were trying to hold his hair on, and his skull on.” Her words do not describe the wound's exact location, and suggest merely that the gaping wound on President Kennedy's head did not extend as far as his face. They do not detail an exit on the back of his head, as mistakenly purported by Dr. James Fetzer in his January 12, 2010 radio interview of Doug Horne, in which he claimed she had testified that "she had a terrible time holding the back of his head and skull together," an assertion, by the way, to which Horne readily agreed. Still, one might wonder about the exact location of this wound.
Fortunately, only a week after the assassination, in a conversation with historian Theodore White, Mrs. Kennedy was far more descriptive. According to White's notes, released to the public in May 1995 and subsequently published in the September 1995 Kennedy Assassination Chronicles, she said: “I could see a piece of his skull coming off…this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head; then he slumped in my lap.” Now, this would seem to be a reference to the detachment of skull seen in frame 314 of the Zapruder film, and can be taken as an indication of the film's legitimacy.
But that's not all she had to say. According to White's notes, she also said: "All the ride to the hospital, I kept bending
over him saying, 'Jack, Jack, can you hear me, I love you, Jack.' I
kept holding the top of his head down trying to keep the..." White's notes then detail that when discussing her husband's condition at the hospital, Mrs. Kennedy said "From here down"--and here she made a gesture indicating her
husband's forehead--"his head was so beautiful. I'd tried to hold the top of his head down, maybe I could keep it in...I knew he was dead." Thus, according to White, she said the wound was at the "top" of her husband's head--not once but twice...
And that wasn't the last time she described the wound in such a manner. In her interview with White Mrs. Kennedy worried that the history of her husband's Presidency would be written by the likes of AP correspondent "Merriman Smith, that bitter man," who, irony of all ironies, would soon thereafter win a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the assassination. This no doubt contributed to her subsequent decision to hire an historian of her own, William Manchester, to write an authorized book on the assassination. She was interviewed by Manchester on 4-7-64, 5-4-64, 5-7-64, 5-8-64, and 7-20-64. While Manchester's notes on these interviews have never been released, it's clear she told him, as White, that the fatal wound was at the top of Kennedy's head. In late 1966, she had a falling out with Manchester over his use of these interviews. His book could not be released without her approval. This, then, led to her reading a draft of his book, The Death of a President, and giving it her personal approval. Here is how the final draft described her husband's death: "The First Lady,
in her last act as First Lady, leaned solicitously toward the President.
His face was quizzical. She had seen that expression so often, when he
was puzzling over a difficult press conference question. Now, in a
gesture of infinite grace, he raised his right hand, as though to brush
back his tousled chestnut hair. But the motion faltered. The hand fell
back empty. He had been reaching for the top of his head. But it wasn't
there any more."
Now this can't be any more clear. Mrs. Kennedy had told Manchester that the fatal wound she saw was at the top of her husband's head.
That the descriptions of Kennedy’s head wound by the First Lady and the earliest descriptions of the wound and/or impact location by Newman and Zapruder and so many others match the wound seen in the Zapruder film, autopsy photos, and X-rays leads me to suspect that the large head wound observed at Parkland was on the top of Kennedy's skull in front of his ear, and not on the back of his head as suggested by the Parkland witnesses.
We get letters...
Here are two responses to my mere suggestion that the Parkland witnesses could be wrong...and that the autopsy photos and x-rays of Kennedy are unaltered...
From a January 16, 2006 e-mail from David Lifton:Pat,
A professor friend of mine attended this past year's Lancer conference and was highly critical of your presentation. He was incredulous that people would pay money to fly to Dallas and stay in a hotel—being there because they wanted information about the conspiracy that took JFK's life--and then be presented with a lecturer who tells them that the body had not been altered, when, in this case, the alteration of the body is the key to the case. I had never heard of you before, but followed a link he sent. Either in your presentation or at your website, you stated something to the effect that "I think too much is made of the Dallas doctors' observations."… From my brief reading of your material, your entire analysis is based on these wrong-headed and mistaken notions; e.g., the notion that the Dallas observations can be dismissed. In addition, there are any number of other mis-statements that are made and follow from that false premise, or foundation. Of course, it’s a free country and anyone is free to assert whatever they wish about anything… My history professor friend was astounded that Lancer would present this sort of thing as a "serious" analysis of the medical evidence. I'm sure you won't be happy with these comments, but that's my opinion.
You say your background is in music. Were you to attend law school, and take a course in evidence, you would immediately see that you cannot approach the medical data as you do--you might still not agree with my analysis, but I don't think you would ever publicly present this sort of reasoning as the basis for a medical analysis in this case. In fact, contrary to your assertions, the primacy and importance of the Dallas doctors observations cannot be overemphasized.
From an online discussion on The Education Forum:QUOTE(James H. Fetzer @ Jan 17 2006, 04:19 AM)
I had heard you were arrogant but hadn't noticed myself until now. You are suggesting that you have the competence and the expertise to interpret X-rays; in particular, that your competence and expertise is even greater than that of David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D.? I am astounded. Let me ask: How many trips into the National Archives have you made? How extensively have you tested the "original" X-rays using optical densitometry? Have you ever even studied David's chapters on the X-rays in ASSASSINATION SCIENCE? And is your vast competence supposed to extend to issues of alteration of the Zapruder film as well? You must be some kind of mental giant! Why don't you explain to us how optical densitometry works and how David was able to ascertain empirically that the X-rays were altered? I would like to see a demonstration of your expertise. Believe it or not, I actually asked him to come to this forum and review claims that have been made about the X-rays. He has scanned many posts but has yet to find something that merits comment. So why don't you make a condensed case for your own views and I will share them with him, right after you show us the extent of your own competence to render these findings. Are you aware that David is Board Certified in Radiation Oncology? Are you Board Certified in Radiation Oncology? Frankly, I think all these issues are far beyond your competence, that you are completely out of your depth, but that some fantastic egoistic motivation drives you to pretend that you know things you don't and possess skills you never had. That is simply stupifying. And are you implying that you can understand the alteration issues with regard to the film WITHOUT studying Costella's work, which is visually displayed on my web site? You are truly an amazing guy! You appear to be ignorant of the most basic issues.
From reading the comments of Lifton and Fetzer, not to mention the 20 or so equally nasty emails and comments I've received in the years since for--gasp--daring to suspect that the observations of some doctors who didn't even take notes could be wrong, and that the Zapruder film, autopsy photos, and x-rays could be legitimate, one might assume I've violated some unwritten code among conspiracy theorists.
And indeed I have. By proposing that one can't simply cherry-pick one group of witnesses and say they are right, while ignoring both the first witnesses (the Dealey Plaza witnesses, the Zapruder film) and the best witnesses (the autopsy doctors, the autopsy report, autopsy photographs, and x-rays), I have shat upon the altar before which many conspiracy theorists genuflect. To conspiracy theorists of a particular bent, this is every bit as sacrilegious as my suggestion Dale Myers' animation is a fraud is to single-assassin theorists.
I mean, let's be consistent. If there is an incident--let's say a fatal car accident--in which both the statements of those witnessing the event and the statements of the tow truck drivers removing the wreckage confirm that the event occurred at the location depicted in the police photographs, you assume the location in the photographs to have been correct, even if the paramedics and first police responders, when asked about it later, some many years later, recall the accident as happening half way down the block.
So how is this any different?
Well, according to David Lifton, it's very different...
From a 1-27-11 post on the Education Forum (The atypical mis-spellings on this message are Lifton's, and are preserved for the sake of accuracy. Apparently he was falling asleep or in a hurry...or in a hurry to fall asleep.)
"Dr. Peters gave me a most vivid description. . . . trying to impress upon me the locaton of the wound he saw, Dr. Peters said: "I'd be willing to swear that the wound was in the occiput, you know. I could see the the occipital lobes clearly, AND SO I KNOW IT WAS THAT FAR BACK, ON THE SKULL. I could look inside the skull, and I thought it looked like the cerebellum was injured, or missing, because the occipital lobes seemed to rest almost on the foramen magnum. . . [it] looked like the occipital lobes were resting on the foramen magnum." (For readers of this thread who may not be all that familiar with anatomic terminology, the "foramen magnum" is the hole in the base of the skull, in that part of the occiptal bone that wraps around and forms the base of the skull, through which the spinal cord enters and then connects to the brain.). It was as if something underneath them, [something] that usually kept them up from that a little ways, namely, the cerebellum and brainstem, might have been injured or missing." There can be no doubt about what part of the head Dr. Peters looked at, or how far down the back of the head the fatal wound he saw was located. Dr. Peters statement that he saw the occipital lobes resting on the foramen magnum was not the description of a casual observor."
Dr. Peters corroborated five Dallas doctors' testimony in the Warren Commisson records that erebellar tissue was visible in the sull wound. These observatons clearly indiated where the Dallas wound was located.
(Of course, do keep in mind that Dr. Jack Harper, who actually examined the bone, said it was occipital bone--and said so (as I recollect) on November 25, 1963, per the FBI interview.)
There is no comparison between an "eyewitness to the shooting"--who may have had a fleeting glimpse of the President (and his wounding), a glimpse lasting a few seconds, and the observations of someone like Dr. Peters, who was in the Emergency Room, and had a chance to observe the wounds at close hand (just inches away), and with the experience of a trained physician.
Yet you continually invoke the "Dealey Plaza witnesses to the shooting" as if their observations should (or do) carry the legal weight comparable to those of the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room. That's just plain wrong. Its apples and oranges. You should not be doing that, yet you continually do so.
The proper and legitimate comparison should be between observations made in the Parkland Emergency Room (or even in the Parkland Hospital parking lot, if someone got a good look at JFK's wounds there) and the reports from Bethesda. That is reasonable and legitimate. But to start by creating (and then invoking, as you do) a data base consisting of "eyewitneses-to-the-shooting" observations, and comparing them to those of the doctors actually in the emergency room, is not just of dubious value; its completely wrong, and represents a very serious analytic error. No wonder your conclusions are so completely off the mark, if they are based on "reasoning" like that. I appreciate all the pretty graphics (obviously, you are talented in that regard) but its the reasoning that counts, and I find this kind of reasoning deeply flawed.
When I have more time, I'll try to critique the lengthy posting you have made (and addressed to me), but again and again, I find you traveling down this same false path, mixing apples and oranges, and drawing all kinds of unjustifiable inferences, based on this flawed methodology. That pervades your entire analysis of the medical evidence, and results in a mistaken view of what the President's body actually looked like, after the shooting; what wounds it contained; a flawed view of Dealey Plaza, and--perhaps most important of all--an inability to discern whether "the medical evidence" has been altered.
And that is really the key: because if your methodology is so flawed as to not be able to perceive the evidence that the wounds on the body were altered between Parkland and Bethesda, then you have lost sight of THE major issue in this case.
1/27/11; 11:50 AM PST
Los Angeles, CA
PS: Also remember what Dr. Charles Baxter (I think it was he) who said that the President's brain was "lying on the table." What veteran JFK researcher Wallace Milam concluded--decades ago (and I agreed with him)-was that this was Baxter's less than optimal way of describing the brain at the back of JFK's head (when JFK was lying face up) protruding through the wound, and touching the surface of the hospital cart. Again, more evidence as to the rearward location of the wound.
I share Lifton's posting in total so the reader can see what I'm up against. In five years, I've made absolutely no head-way with him. He still claims the recollections of the Parkland witnesses are consistent and of prime importance and pretty much all that matters. He now adds, however, that the recollections of the eyewitnesses to the shooting--who, from Lifton's perspective, uniformly noted a wound on the right side of Kennedy's head before it even existed--are of no importance and can be dismissed with the wave of a hand.
Well, this is pretty silly, wouldn't you say? The recollections of a patient's wounds made by emergency room personnel days, months, and even decades after observing the patient are of infinitely more value than the descriptions of the patient's wounds given by eyewitnesses to his shooting only minutes or hours afterward? Says who? Pathologists are the doctors normally used in a court of law to establish the extent and location of a wound, not emergency room doctors and nurses, most of whose job it is to react, and not inspect...and who don't even take notes.
Now, IF the Parkland witnesses all claimed to get a good look at the wound, and all claimed to see a wound in the same location, and had all been willing to swear on a stack of Bibles that their recollections were correct and that the autopsy photographs were fake, I'd be tempted to change my mind.
But they didn't. And those telling you they did are as mistaken as those calling the single-bullet theory a "fact."
But I can't expect you to trust me on this. Not after mountains of malarkey have been dumped upon our heads for forty years...
So let's go through the statements of some of those considered key "back of the head" witnesses.
Starting with Dr. Boswell...
Boswell and Johnson
Now, to be clear, Lifton never claimed Boswell as a "back of the head" witness...
Lifton holds, to this day, that the hole on the back of Kennedy's head observed at Parkland had somehow been repaired by the time Dr. Boswell saw his head at Bethesda, and that a wound in front of Kennedy's ear had been added.
In postings found online, in fact, he's made it more than clear he has little respect for researchers, such as Robert Groden and Dr. Gary Aguilar, who cite a number of Bethesda "back of the head" witnesses as evidence the wounds were unaltered between Parkland and Bethesda.
And he actually has good reason to be angry. As we shall see, the descriptions of the Parkland "back of the head" witnesses differ from those of the Bethesda "back of the head" witnesses on a number of key points.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves... For now, we need only realize that the use of Dr. Boswell as a "back of the head" witness is a bit bizarre on its face, seeing as he signed off on the autopsy report in which no scalp lacerations on the back of the head were noted, and seeing as he never ever said anything indicating he'd seen an entrance wound on the front of the head.
But when one looks at his statements to the ARRB--the statements usually quoted by those claiming him as a "back of the head" witness--it becomes even more bizarre.
Here is one of the key statements used by back-of-the-head wound theorists to sell Boswell as a "back of the head" witness:
BOSWELL: There was a big wound sort of transverse up like this from left posterior to right anterior. The scalp was separated, but it was folded over, and you could fold the scalp over and almost hide the wound. When you lifted the scalp up, you could really lay it back posteriorally, and there was a lot of bone still attached to the scalp but detached from the remainder of the skull. And I think these parts back here probably reflect that.
And here is Boswell's response to a follow-up question by Jeremy Gunn:
BOSWELL: The left occipital area, and that wound extends to the right frontal area. And what I meant was that the wound in the scalp could be closed from side to side so that it didn't appear that there was any scalp actually--scalp missing.
Yep. That's right. Those pushing Boswell as a witness for the wound described by the Parkland witnesses--a gaping EXIT wound of both scalp and skull on the RIGHT back of the head--are using Boswell's recollection of a scalp LACERATION on the LEFT side of the head, (a scalp laceration that could be closed from side to side so that one could not tell any scalp was missing, mind you), as evidence.
Now, even if one were to accept the ridiculous notion that his statements support there was a gaping wound missing both scalp and skull on the right back side of the head, how reliable are Boswell's recollections?
Not remotely, as it turns out.
More from his ARRB deposition with Gunn:
BOSWELL: Right across here and--
GUNN: Approximately across the midline?
BOSWELL: What I previously described, post-occipital, and on the left, across the top, and then down to the right frontal area, and then the laceration extended into the right eye.
GUNN: Okay. Could you make another drawing--and we'll put Line No. 2 on this--to show the approximate direction of the large laceration that you just referred to?
BOSWELL: Well, it's not a--I can't say what direction, but--and then this came on down like so, and--actually, I think it came right into here.
GUNN: Okay. I'm going to put a 2 in a circle right next to that line, and the 2 will signify the approximate direction and shape of the large laceration. Would that be fair?
GUNN: Just so I'm clear--and we'll be looking at the photographs in a few minutes, and you can maybe clarify it there. But at least with some of the photographs, is it your testimony that the scalp was pulled in a way different from how it was when you first saw it in order to better illustrate either wound of entry or exit?
BOSWELL: Yes. The scalp was essentially loose. In the usual autopsy, you have to cut underneath the scalp in order to reflect it. In this case, the scalp was mobile so that you could pull it forward to obscure the wound or pull it back to make the wound completely lucid.
GUNN: Okay. Was the hair cleaned in any way for purposes of the photographs?
BOSWELL: No, I don't think so. There was not a lot of blood, as I remember, and I think he had been pretty well cleaned up in the operating--in the emergency room. And I don't think we had to do much in the way of cleansing before we took photographs.
Well, wait right there. Boswell spoke to the ARRB in 1996. When asked the preceding questions by Jeremy Gunn he had not been shown the autopsy photos since 1977, and had not been shown the establishing shots taken at the autopsy--the photos showing Kennedy lying on the table before an inspection of his wounds had begun--since 1967. Clearly, he had forgotten that these first shots show the President's hair to be matted with blood and brain. His response then shows that he lacked a clear recollection of Kennedy's original appearance when interviewed by the ARRB. He was in his seventies, after all, discussing something he'd seen more than 30 years before. So why should we believe his latter-day recollections are accurate?
We shouldn't. The scalp laceration stretching to the left occipital region suddenly recalled by Boswell 33 years after performing the autopsy was not only not mentioned in the autopsy protocol, it was specifically ruled out by Boswell in his 9-16-77 interview with the HSCA pathology panel.
When asked about the red spot the HSCA panel presumed to be the bullet entrance, and which Dr. Humes presumed was dried blood, Boswell replied:
"It's the posterior-inferior margin of the lacerated scalp." When one of the HSCA panel, Dr. Petty, expressed doubt about this, Boswell then repeated: "It tore right down to that point. And then we just folded that back and this back and an anterior flap forward and this exposed almost the entire--I guess we did have to dissect a little bit to get to."
If, in Boswell's mind, the scalp laceration ended at the red spot, high on the back of the head on the parietal bone, in 1977, there was no way it could possibly have stretched all the way to the occipital bone 19 years later. It seems clear, then, that Dr. Boswell was seriously confused.
But those pushing Boswell as a back of the head witness will never admit this.
Let's take, for example, Doug Horne. Horne had fed Gunn questions during the ARRB's questioning of Boswell. On page 111 of his opus, Inside the ARRB, Horne, who by his own admission had pursued a job with the ARRB in hopes of proving fraud in the medical evidence, quotes Boswell's response after being asked if his
17 by 10 measurement for the large skull defect reflected missing bone or fractured skull.
Boswell responded: "Most of that space, the bone was missing. There were a lot of small skull fragments attached to the scalp as it was reflected,
but most of that space, the bone was missing, some of which--I think
two of which we subsequently retrieved."
Now look what Horne writes but
four pages later, when discussing Dr. Boswell's approximation of the
borders of this defect on a skull model: "The 3-D skull drawing by
Boswell was critical, because his autopsy sketch of the top of the
skull had by its very nature not shown the condition of the rear of the
head. Boswell's 3-D skull diagram completed the rest of the picture. And he wasn't depicting fragmentation or areas of broken bone, he was depicting areas of the skull denuded of bone. It was electrifying."
GUNN: Just one last point that I would like to just clarify in my one mind is: On the piece for the markings for the 10 by 17 centimeters that were missing, would it be fair to say that when you first examined the body prior to any arrival of fragments from Dallas, the skull was missing from approximately those dimensions of 10 by 17?
Well, the word "approximately" is, in this instance, tragically vague. It allowed Horne to presume the back of Kennedy's skull was missing--as in gone--when the bulk of Boswell's statements over the years make clear it was badly fragmented and attached to the underside of the scalp. It bears repeating that NONE of the other back of the head witnesses described so much skull missing. Clearly Boswell had no idea how big the hole on the skull was before the scalp was peeled back. Clearly he measured the skull defect after the scalp had been pulled back and skull had fallen to the table. Clearly, the best indicator of the size of the hole on the back of the head, then, would be the x-rays, which fail to depict a large hole on the back of the head where Horne and others presume there was a hole...where the Parkland witnesses told them there was a hole...
But, wait, some of those believing Boswell to be a back of the head witness have found a novel way to undermine the credibility of the x-rays...provided, not surprisingly, by Gunn's questioning of Boswell:
BOSWELL: I think before we took the--the ones that came from Dallas were never put back in except to try and approximate them to the ones that were present. But I think all the others were left intact.
GUNN: So, for example, was there a fragment that had fallen out at any point that you then put back into its place before a photograph or X-ray was taken?
GUNN: What size fragments and where did you place them at the--
BOSWELL: Well, the one that's in the diagram on Exhibit 1, that 10-centimeter piece I'm sure was out at one time or another. And I think maybe some of these smaller fragments down at the base of that diagram also were out at one time or another. But those were all put back.
So, from leading the clearly elderly and confused Boswell through a series of strange questions designed to support or refute the body alteration theory of David Lifton, Gunn got Horne the answer some conspiracy theorists were looking for...that bone was put back in the skull BEFORE an x-ray or photograph was taken. Never mind that Boswell at first specified that the large pieces of missing bone were not put back in the skull, and only said so after being asked the same question a second time. Never mind that the bone Boswell thinks they are talking about did not arrive until near the end of the autopsy, and that NOT ONE witness to the autopsy--let alone, x-ray tech or radiologist--recalled a skull x-ray being taken after the beginning of the autopsy.
And never mind that Horne himself dismisses this possibility... That's right, in Volume 2 of his 5 volume opus Inside the ARRB, Horne concludes that by the time the skull was reconstructed, the only men able to operate the portable x-ray machine had been sent home, and that no x-rays were taken during or after the re-construction of Kennedy's skull.
Even worse for those trying to twist Boswell's ARRB testimony into something it was not...Horne also concludes the skull x-rays were taken as a series at the beginning of the autopsy.
And it's no wonder. In The Assassinations, an anthology published in 2003, Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. David Mantik jointly confirmed that the brain, although badly damaged, is nevertheless apparent on the x-rays. This means the x-rays were taken at the beginning of the autopsy, not the end.
Dr. Mantik, to whom many, including Doug Horne, defer on all matters x-ray, has also concluded in his many papers and articles that the bone at the back of JFK's head in his post-mortem x-rays is consistent with the bone at the back of his head in his pre-mortem x-rays.
As a result, one can not reasonably propose, a la
some of the wilder conspiracy theorists, that Boswell's confused
testimony suggests that the 10cm fragment recovered from the floor of
the limousine was placed back into Kennedy's skull to hide a hole on
the back of his head on the x-rays and autopsy photographs. The presumed hole was, after all, in the occipital region. The 10cm fragment was, on the other hand, parietal bone (according to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel), or frontal bone (according to Dr.s Angel and Mantik).
So why play with Boswell's words to suggest such a thing?
Let's be clear. Mantik has concluded that the skull in the lateral x-ray is JFK's, but that a white patch has been super-imposed on the right side of the skull on the x-rays. Horne accepts this conclusion. Horne also accepts that the back of the head photos are unaltered, and that the hole he believes should be shown in the photos was obscured through some clever manipulation of the scalp by the autopsy doctors. Neither Mantik nor Horne, then, believe, nor indicate in any of their writings, that a hole on the back of the head was disguised through the insertion of a piece of recovered bone, nor that doing so would create the white patch apparent on the x-rays.
So why do some theorists, purportedly impressed with Mantik's research, Horne's analysis, and Wecht's credentials, suggest that the intact skull on the back of the head on the x-rays and back of the head photos reflects not that the back of the head was intact, or even made to look intact via manipulation of the scalp, but that the x-rays and back of the head photos were taken towards the end of the autopsy, after the recovered bone fragments provided by the Secret Service were stuffed back into the skull?
I mean, that's not only silly, it's in opposition to the findings of the most prominent members of the "hole-in-the-back-of-the-head" gang. It is, in other words, too silly for men not remotely scared of looking silly.
But there's a reason for this silliness. And that's that Boswell himself provided the fodder for this silliness. In his 1977 interview with the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, Dr. Boswell revealed that he now remembered the story told the Warren Commission of the doctors' pairing up the internal beveling on the small wound on the back of the head with the external beveling on the largest fragment found in the limousine to conclude the bullet traveled from back to front, as them matching up a beveled semi-circle of entrance on the largest fragment with beveling on the intact skull. While discussing the back of Kennedy's head and the bone fragments brought in during the autopsy, he said: "this bone was all gone and actually the smaller fragment fit this piece down here-there was a hole here, only half of which was present in the bone that was intact. and this small piece then fit right on there and the beveling on those was on the interior surface."
In 1994, when asked by Dr. Gary Aguilar if Rydberg drawing CE-388 shows the largest of the late-arriving fragments (the one with the beveling) placed back on the skull, moreover, he said: "Yeah, the eh -- that fragment -- the defect -- the wound of entrance was at the base of that defect and, eh, the shelving on the inner surface of the bone was half on the intact portion of the skull and half on that fragment that we received from Dallas and replaced."
Well, heck. Boswell had thereby confirmed that the source of much of his (and subsequently our) confusion: in his old age he'd come to believe the beveling on the largest fragment was entrance beveling--which was at odds with the autopsy report he swears by--and this, in turn, led him to think the largest fragment x-rayed at autopsy--which even CTs like Mantik agree derived from the front of the head--derived from the back of the head. There is no corresponding blow-out on the back of the head on the x-rays, of course. And this, in turn, led Boswell to muse that the x-rays were taken with the largest skull fragment flown in from Dallas placed back into the head.
By the end of his 1996 ARRB testimony, for that matter, Boswell had confirmed this explanation for his confusion.
BOSWELL: At the time of autopsy we didn't. But then when we reviewed the photographs, some of that beveling in the skull is equivocal, and obviously we weren't able to tell.
GUNN: So would it be fair, then, to say that you determined during the course of the autopsy where the beveling was at the entrance wound, but you could not determine any beveling at the exit wound?
BOSWELL: That's true.
So there you have it. Over time, Boswell had come to remember the beveling discovered on the late-arriving fragment as entrance beveling, not exit beveling. And this was refuted by the autopsy protocol both signed by Boswell and upheld by Boswell as the only document related to the medical evidence worth spit.
If ONLY someone had stepped in and reminded Boswell that the beveling on this largest fragment was, according to both the autopsy report he swears by, and his colleagues, EXIT beveling, not entrance beveling, a lot of confusion could have been avoided. But, alas, most interviewers see their job as recording the recollections of aged observers, and not correcting them (or giving them the chance to correct themselves) when they've strayed far far far from the well-worn path.
Still, Boswell is not the only purported back of the head witness whose muddy recollections have been further muddied up and then spun into conspiracy gold.
The Two Johns
He wasn't even the only member of the autopsy team to have his words cherry-picked in such a manner. On March 8, 1978, radiologist John Ebersole was interviewed by Gil Dulaney of the Intelligencer Journal of Lancaster (Pa.). He was quoted as saying "It was the back of the head that was blown off." And this wasn't a one-time slip-up. According to writer David Lifton, who was shown a transcript to this conversation by Dulaney, Ebersole further described the wound as "a very obvious horrible gaping wound at the back of the head." Well, that's all it took for some to claim Ebersole as a back of the head witness. Never mind that he, as Boswell, had signed off on the authenticity of the autopsy photos and x-rays in 1966. Never mind that the full context of Ebersole's statements to Dulaney ran counter to the narrative pushed by those claiming a bullet entered from the front and blew out the back of Kennedy's head. According to the March 9, 1978 AP article (found in the Gadsden Times) on Dulaney's interview of Ebersole, Ebersole claimed "I would say unequivocally the bullet came from the side or back. The front of the body, except for a very slight bruise above the right eye on the forehead, was absolutely intact. It was the back of the head that was blown off. There is no way that I can see on the basis of the x-rays that the bullet came from anywhere in the 180-degree angle to the front, assuming Kennedy was facing forward. It looked to me like an almost right to left shot from the rear." And never mind that Ebersole repeated these claims in his 3-11-78 testimony before the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. When discussing Kennedy's wounds on 11-22-63, he offered that "The back of the head was missing..." After being shown Kennedy's x-rays and asked if he could identify an entrance location for a bullet, however, he asserted: "In my opinion it would have come from the side on the basis of the films. I guess that is all that can be said about the films at this time... I would say on the basis of those x rays and x rays only one might say one would have to estimate there that the wound of entrance was somewhere to the side or to the posterior quadrant." When then shown an autopsy photo and asked if the head wound depicted correlated with his recollections, he answered "You know, my recollection is more of a gaping occipital wound than this but I can certainly not state that this is (not) the way it looked. Again we are relying on a 15 year old recollection. But had you asked me without seeing these or seeing the pictures, you know, I would have put the gaping wound here rather than more forward." When then shown another photo and asked to compare the location of the wound in the photo to his recollections, he replied that the wound in the photo was "More lateral. Much more lateral and superior than I remembered."
Note that he was consistent in claiming there was no entrance wound on the front of the head. Note as well that he had said nothing about an entrance wound by the EOP. Ebersole had recalled one wound, and he had recalled it as residing further back on the head than it was shown to be on the x-rays and autopsy photos, to which he deferred.
An article in the 7-22-78 issue of The
Continuing Inquiry provides further illumination. Built around an interview with Art Smith on
3-28-78, 3 weeks after Ebersole had spoken to Dulaney, the article relates that Ebersole was by then claiming that when he told Dulaney "It was the back of the head that was blown off," he "really meant the side of the head." According to Smith, Dr.
Ebersole stated further "that the wound was located on the side of the head above
the ear, approximately 2 x 3 inches in diameter" and that "no bone in the back of the skull was missing." Of course, that wasn't good enough for all too many, including Smith. In his article, Smith sought to undermine Ebersole's credibility by writing that when he confronted Ebersole with his statements to Dulaney about the back of the head, that Ebersole claimed "It was a misquote. I really meant side of the head." Smith then claimed he'd called "Delaney" to see if he had misquoted Ebersole, and was assured by "Delaney" that the conversation had been taped, and that Ebersole had not been misquoted. Smith then argued that Ebersole, if he really thought he'd been misquoted, had had plentiful opportunity to complain to "Delaney" about the misquote prior to Smith's call, but had failed to do so.
This, however, was grossly unfair. Smith made a tape of his phone call to Ebersole, which he shared with writer David Lifton. This tape, as quoted in Lifton's book Best Evidence, shows that after Ebersole said he'd been misquoted about the back of the head, Smith asked "That was a misquote?" It shows further that Ebersole then replied "Yes. Misquoted" but then corrected himself and said "I really, ah, I may have said that--what I meant was, the side."
Ebersole had not denied that he'd told Dulaney the wound was on the back of the head. And Smith knew it before writing his article suggesting as much. Ebersole had said the word "back" instead of "side" before being shown the x-rays and autopsy photos he had long claimed to be authentic, and that was all it took for him to be forever painted as a "back of the head" witness, who'd tried to lie his way out of it.
Autopsy photographer John Stringer is yet another autopsy participant to wrongly be characterized as a "back of the head" witness. Stringer, along with Boswell, Ebersole, and Humes, signed the November 1, 1966 inventory of the autopsy photos and x-rays, in which these materials were claimed to be authentic. The final page of this inventory bearing their signatures claimed that it listed "all the x-rays and photographs taken by us during the autopsy." Although Stringer and the others have since indicated they weren't so sure about the word "all," they have never retreated from their claim the x-rays and photos they observed were ones they'd taken. It is almost certain, moreover, that these are the x-rays and photographs in the archives today. And yet, when testifying for the ARRB in 1996, Stringer failed to recognize the photos of Kennedy's brain as photos he'd taken at the supplementary examination of Kennedy's brain. He thought he would have done a better job identifying the photos themselves when taken; he thought he'd have used a different kind of film; and he didn't remember taking one of the views. Well, this, of course, is interesting.
But conspiracy theorists of all stripes have taken from this that the photos were switched out to hide a hole on the back of the brain, a hole proving once and for all that the shot killing Kennedy came from the front and blew out the back of his head. Many assert that this makes Stringer--yep, you guessed it--a "back of the head" witness...
And that's just nonsense. I mean, if the 78 year-old Stringer could tell by looking at the photos in 1996 that they were not taken by him, wouldn't he have been much better able to tell in 1966, just a few years after their taking, when he was but 48? Well, then why didn't he say so, or remember his thinking so? In 1977, moreover, the HSCA asked the then 59 year-old Stringer to go to the archives and look at the autopsy photos. The report on his doing so reflects that, while he was uncertain he'd taken the black and white photos of the brain, the brain itself gave the appearance of the brain he'd photographed, and that the brain, as Kennedy's brain, was not sectioned (cut into quarters). While some, including Doug Horne and writer Jim DiEugenio, are fond of pointing out that Stringer told the ARRB that autopsy photographers who objected to things, such as rushing through the autopsy, didn't "last long," this by no means suggests he would have readily gone along with someone switching out his photos, as they so ardently believe.
Nor does it make much sense. By Horne's own admission, the 78 year-old Stringer's memory had by 1996 faded so badly that he couldn't even remember being contacted by the HSCA, let alone visiting the archives on their behalf. It follows then that the confusing aspects of his ARRB testimony may simply have been a reflection of his age, and the passing of time. It makes little sense, after all, to assume Stringer would readily admit what all too many now perceive as as an important truth--that he did not take the brain photographs--but then lie about the nature of Kennedy's head wounds in order to "get along." What, are we to believe Stringer was so stupid he didn't realize his disowning the brain photos was bound to raise some questions?And yes, you read that right. Those holding that Stringer was a bold and fearless truth-teller when discussing the brain photos inevitably hold he was a cowardly liar when discussing Kennedy's head wounds.
Consider... When first contacted by Doug Horne on behalf the ARRB, and asked to describe the large head wound, Stringer told Horne "there was a fist-sized hole in the right side of his head above his ear...It was the size of your fist and it was entirely within the hair area. There was a sort of flap of skin there, and some of the underlying bone was gone." When under oath in his ARRB testimony, moreover, Stringer further confirmed that, no matter who took the brain photos, there was NO large blow-out wound on the back of Kennedy's head. When asked to describe Kennedy's head wounds, he at first described a small wound on the occipital bone near the EOP, "about the size of a bullet, from what you could see." He then described the large head wound: "Well, the side of the head, the bone was gone. But there was a flap, where you could lay it back. But the back - I mean, if you held it in, there was no vision. It was a complete head of hair. And on the front, there was nothing - the scalp. There was nothing in the eyes. You could have - Well, when they did the body, you wouldn't have known there was anything wrong."
He was thereby describing the wound depicted in the autopsy photos and not the wound on the far back of the head proposed in books such as Horne's. Which only made sense... Stringer had, after all, signed an inventory in 1966 in which it was claimed the autopsy photos were those he'd taken, and had, upon studying these photos a second time in 1977, confirmed this by explaining to the HSCA's investigators what he was trying to portray as he took each shot. He had, moreover, told an interviewer from the Vero Beach Press-Journal in 1974 that the fatal bullet "had entered the right lower rear" of Kennedy's head and had come "out in the hair in the upper right side, taking with it a large chunk of his skull."
While Mr. Stringer had also intimated (in a 1972 phone call with David Lifton) that the "main damage" was on the "back part" of Kennedy's skull, it's not entirely clear that Stringer was describing the damage to the skull apparent before the reflection of the scalp, or after. It's fortunate then that Stringer got a chance to clarify this issue in his ARRB testimony. He explained that when he first saw the skull, the scalp at the back of the head "was all intact. But then they peeled it back, and then you could see this part of the bone gone."
Now, should one believe I'm cherry-picking here, and wrongly accepting Stringer's latter-day recollections over his much earlier statements to Lifton, one should go back and read the transcript of Stringer's conversation with Lifton, as released by the ARRB. It's confusing to say the least. After Stringer told Lifton the wound was on the "back part" of the skull, Lifton sought further clarification. He asked "In other words, there was no five-inch hole in the top of his head?" To which Stringer replied "Oh, it was...ahh some of it was blown off--yeah. I mean, ahh...towards out of the top, in the back, yeah." Apparently unsatisfied with that answer, Lifton later returned to this question, and re-framed it in one of the most confusing series of questions I've ever read. He asked "If you lie back in a bath tub, just in a totally prone position and your head rests against the bath tub, is that the part of the head, you know, is that the part of the head that was damaged?" To which Stringer replied "Yeah." (Now, I'm already lost. If you're laying back in a bath tub, you're not really prone, are you? Does Stringer's response then indicate that the top of the head was damaged? Or the back of the head?) Lifton then sought further clarification--with an equally confusing question. He asked "the part that would be against the tile of the bathtub?" To which Stringer replied "Mm-hmmm." (I'm still lost. Isn't the "tile of the bathtub" normally the tile on the back wall of a bathtub? And, if so, doesn't Stringer's response suggest the top of the head was damaged, and not the back?) Lifton then tried again: "Whereas the part that would be straight up ahead, vertically in that position--was undamaged?" To which Stringer replied "Oh, I wouldn't say--undamaged--no. There was---some of it was gone--I mean--out of some of the bone." (Now, I'm not exactly sure what this means. But it seems clear, nevertheless, that Stringer thought he'd observed a hole on the top of Kennedy's head, where so many assume no hole was found. And that's not all that seems clear. In his book Best Evidence, Lifton re-writes this last question, and changes the context of Stringer's reply. He claims he asked Stringer "about the part of the head which in that position would be straight up and down, the vertical part, the 'top.' Was that undamaged?" His actual words, of course, were not so clear. According to his transcript, he not only failed to specify that he was talking about the top of the head, but said "straight up ahead" instead of "straight up and down." And that's confusing as heck. There is reason to believe then, that Stringer was confused by Lifton's questions, and just played along to get him off his back, not realizing his answers would be quoted in a best-selling book 8 years later, and cited as evidence for a massive conspiracy.)
And should one still have doubts Stringer failed to see a large hole on the back of Kennedy's head where conspiracy theorists believe it to have been, Stringer explained under further questioning by the ARRB that the occipital bone was "intact" but fractured, and that he could not recall any of it missing upon reflection of the scalp.
So, yes, it's clear. Those believing Stringer to be honest and credible when telling the ARRB he didn't take the brain photos, and then using this to suggest there was a blow-out wound to the back of Kennedy's head, are behaving like the Warren Commission in reverse: taking snippets of someone's testimony, propping these snippets up as proof of something, and then finding ways to hide or ignore that the bulk of the witness' statements suggest something other than what they are trying to prove.
Now, this is fairly common behavior, on all sides of the discussion. But what is unusual in this circumstance is the strength with which those pushing this view hold onto two mutually exclusive ideas: 1) Stringer is a brave truth teller, and PROOF the brain photos are not of Kennedy's brain, and 2) Stringer is a gutless liar, out to protect the status quo by pretending there was no hole on the back of Kennedy's head.
I trust I'm not alone in finding this a problem. As far as Doug Horne, not only does he push in his book that Stringer lied about Kennedy's head wounds to the ARRB, he asserts that Stringer first publicly reversed himself from the descriptions he'd provided Lifton (in the 1972 phone call) in 1993. This avoids that in the 1993 article cited by Horne, Stringer's 1974 comments, in which he'd accurately described the wounds depicted in the autopsy photos, were discussed, as well as the fact that a TV crew inspired by Lifton's book interviewed Stringer in 1988, only to shelve the footage when Stringer told them the autopsy photos were accurate depictions of Kennedy's wounds. This, then, raises as many questions about Horne's integrity as Stringer's. That Stringer was describing the wounds shown in the autopsy photos as early as 1974, after all, cuts into Horne's position that Stringer reversed himself on the nature of these wounds as a response to Lifton's book, published seven years later, in 1981.
Of course, Stringer's not the only witness to be abused in such a manner.
Harper, Lee, and Tom Robinson
Nor the most ridiculous. One of the strangest "back of the head" witnesses, in my opinion, is Tom Robinson, one of Kennedy's morticians. The stealth with which conspiracy theorists, in an attempt to acquit Lee Harvey Oswald, present Robinson's words to suggest Kennedy was shot from the front, is truly a wonder to behold.
This is how researcher Michael Griffith presents Robinson in his online essay The Head Shot from the Front.Tom Robinson the mortician. He reassembled the President's skull after the autopsy. He reports that there was still a visible defect in the back of the head even after the inclusion of some late-arriving skull fragments from Dallas.
After discussing Dr. Burkley's claim the bullet entered Kennedy's temple, and pretending that Burkley's words suggest a separate exit on the back of the head, Griffith further discusses Robinson: "This was very probably the same small temple-entry hole that was described by some of the Parkland doctors and that was filled with wax by Tom Robinson."
Well, this suggests that Robinson not only saw an exit on the back of the head and an entrance on the front, but that the Harper fragment--the only large bone fragment not recovered by the end of the autopsy--was occipital bone, correct?
Well, maybe, but what Griffith presents is not a fair presentation of Robinson's words.
When asked, on 1-12-77, by HSCA counsel Andy Purdy if he could tell what percentage of the large hole on the back of Kennedy's head he'd observed had been caused by bullets, as opposed to the doctors, he responded: “Not really. Well, I guess I can because a good bit of the bone had been blown away. There was nothing there to piece together, so I would say probably about [the size of] a small orange.”
He is basing his guess, then, on the size of the hole left on the back of the head after reconstruction. He doesn't even realize that three large bone fragments had been retrieved and added back into the skull, and that the size of the hole after reconstruction does not reflect what he thinks it does...
He also offers no reason to believe the reconstruction was accurate. Morticians are not forensic anthropologists. They are not trained to piece shattered skulls back together. They are cosmeticians. They stretch and sew torn scalp together to hide head wounds. They use packing material and rubber to reconstruct skulls, not super glue. In this case, moreover, they were hired to make the body presentable at a State Funeral. So, OF COURSE the hole left over at the end of the initial phases of reconstruction -- which Robinson did not even perform, nor pay much attention to (he observed the autopsy from a location on the left side of the President's body and had no recollections of a large wound on the right top side of the President's head)--was on the back of the head (where it could be hidden in a pillow should the President have been given an open-casket funeral), and not the right top side of the head, from whence the Harper fragment almost certainly derived.
That the wound during the autopsy was not where Robinson saw it at the end of the autopsy is supported, moreover, by Robinson himself. Consider the summary of Robinson's interview with the ARRB, written by Doug Horne, which reveals: "Robinson said he had a '50 yard line seat' at the autopsy...He said the President's head was to his right, which means that he was on the anatomical left of the president during the autopsy. He said that most of the pathologists and their assistants were opposite him, on the anatomical right of the president during the autopsy." Well, why would the autopsy team be standing on the right side of the body, if the wound was at the middle of the back of the head?
But that's not the only reason to doubt the hole in the middle of the back of the head seen by Robinson was the exit wound seen at Parkland. For one, he said this hole on the skull was "circular." Well, who believes the triangular Harper fragment--as stated, the only large bone fragment still missing by the end of the autopsy--would leave a circular hole on the skull? No one. When asked by Doug Horne and the ARRB in 1996 to further describe this hole and mark the location of this hole on a drawing, moreover, Robinson contended that he believed this hole was an entrance wound, and placed it in the middle of the occipital bone, inches away from where conspiracy theorists Robert Groden and David Mantik hold the Harper fragment erupted.
The strangeness surrounding Robinson's testimony, or at least most theorists' interpretation of his testimony, however, is best illustrated through a discussion not of Robinson's ARRB testimony, but Saundra Spencer's ARRB testimony. In Volume 2 of his 5 volume opus, Doug Horne writes: "Before the photograph that Saundra Spencer developed was exposed, a head-filler...was used to restore shape and structure to the severely damaged cranium; after a 'rubber dam' was located to help seal the large cranial defect and prevent body fluids from leaking from the cranium inside the casket, the remaining scalp was stretched back into place as much as possible and sutured together (as well as into the rubber dam material) outside the now hardened and reconstructed skull. The two-inch diameter 'wound' that Saundra Spencer recalls seeing squarely in the middle of the back of the head in one photograph, high in the occipital bone, simply represented the small area that the undertakers could not repair and close."
Robinson's fellow mortician John Hoesen described a similar hole on the back of the head. According to Horne, Hoesen claimed "it was roughly the size of a small orange...located in the center of the back of the head." Horne then proceeds to assert that Hoesen, as Spencer, was describing the small hole remaining after skull reconstruction.
And yet he maintains that Robinson, who described a hole in the exact same location, in nearly identical terms, (it was the size of a "small orange") was describing the head wound at the beginning of the autopsy! What? Where does he get that?
He gets that from Robinson's HSCA and ARRB interviews, and his claim the head wound was enlarged by Dr. Humes to remove the brain (something Humes actually testified to). Apparently, Horne assumes Robinson's description of the wound prior to being enlarged was based upon an independent observation, and not on speculation derived from its appearance during reconstruction. Well, as we've seen, this just isn't true. When asked if he could estimate the size and location of the wound at the beginning of the autopsy, before the enlargement of the wound and removal of the brain, Robinson told the HSCA's Andy Purdy: “Not really. Well, I guess I can because a good bit of the bone had been blown away. There was nothing there to piece together, so I would say probably about [the size of] a small orange.”
"Not really. Well, I guess I can because..." Horne's "Epiphany" that Robinson saw an orange-sized hole on the back of Kennedy's head, and that Dr. Humes then enlarged this wound to hide its real size (as opposed to simply pulling out the brain), is thus exposed as smoke. If the hole started out as orange-sized, and was then expanded for the taking of the autopsy photos, and then reconstructed with the addition of the three large skull fragments flown in from Dallas, how could it be orange-sized at the end?
No. Nothing strange there.
Well, then, what about the entrance on the front of the head observed by Robinson? Certainly, Robinson's recollection of THAT wound is important. Well, WHAT entrance on the front of the head? He saw no such thing.
Here is his discussion with Purdy of the wound he observed.
PURDY: Did you notice anything else unusual about the body which may not have been artificially caused, that is caused by something other than the autopsy?
ROBINSON: Probably, a little mark at the temples in the hairline. As I recall, it was so small it could be hidden by the hair. It didn't have to be covered with make-up. I thought it probably a piece of bone or a piece of the bullet that caused it.
PURDY: In other words, there was a little wound.
PURDY: Approximately where, which side of the forehead or part of the head was it on?
ROBINSON: I believe it was on the right side.
PURDY: On his right side?
ROBINSON: That's an anatomical right, yes.
PURDY: You say it was in the forehead region up near the hairline?
PURDY: Would you say it was closer to the top of the hair?
ROBINSON: Somewhere around the temples.
PURDY: Approximately what size?
ROBINSON: Very small, about a quarter of an inch.
PURDY: Quarter of an inch is all the damage. Had it been closed up by the doctors?
ROBINSON: No, he didn't have to close it. If anything, I just would have probably put a little wax in it.
When asked later what he thought caused this wound, moreover, he claimed "I think either a piece of bone or a piece of the bullet. Or a very small piece of shrapnel." When asked one last time what he thought caused the wound, furthermore, he reiterated "A piece of the bone or metal exiting."
So, Robinson did not call this wound an entrance, nor think it was an entrance. No, he believed it to have been an exit for a very small fragment of some sort, or perhaps even a mark created by shrapnel. This is NOT the description of an entrance hole for an explosive round so many pretend it is, nor a bullet hole of any kind.
Heck, it was a wound so small that Robinson wasn't even sure he put wax in it.
So why pretend otherwise?
I mean, Griffith, a fairly conservative researcher, has presented the exact same nonsense spewed by the far from conservative James Fetzer in his online posts, and has indicated that Robinson saw 1) an exit on the back of the head (when he in fact said he thought it was an entrance), and 2) an entrance on the front of the head (when he in fact said it was to his mind an exit for a small fragment, and possibly even a nick from shrapnel).
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Robinson is far from the only "back of the head" witness whose stories fail to support what is claimed of them.
And he's not even close to the worst. No, the worst "back of the head" witness, beyond doubt, is Joe O'Donnell. Now, O'Donnell, a former photographer for the U.S. Information Agency, never claimed to see Kennedy's body. But, starting in the early nineties, he did claim that a friend, White House photographer Robert Knudsen, showed him autopsy photos of Kennedy within days of the shooting, and that these photos showed a large grapefruit-sized wound on the back of JFK's head and another much smaller wound in JFK's forehead above his right eye... Now that would have been the end of it--an old man telling tall tales. But the ARRB's Doug Horne, hearing of this story, helped arrange for an official interview of O'Donnell in 1997, and O'Donnell repeated his claims.
Horne found support for these claims, moreover, when the family of the no longer available Knudsen told him that yessirree, he'd claimed he'd taken photos of the autopsy. Horne even found an article on Knudsen from 1977 in which Knudsen claimed he'd taken photos of the autopsy. His claim was dubious at best, however, as he claimed he was the only photographer at the autopsy--an assertion no one, including Horne, believes.
But that's as far as it goes. From there it dissolves into nothing.
You see, Knudsen was interviewed for the HSCA in 1978, well after the article in which he claimed he'd taken the autopsy photos had been published. He told the HSCA he'd helped DEVELOP the autopsy photos, and confirmed he'd not been present at the the autopsy itself by admitting he'd first became aware of the photos the morning after the autopsy. There is NO evidence he was at the autopsy. Not one person known to be present at the autopsy, including those suspecting a conspiracy, such as Paul O'Connor and Floyd Riebe, had any recollection of his being at the autopsy. Knudsen was a White House photographer--who took pictures of Mrs. Kennedy shaking hands and that sort of thing. He didn't belong at the autopsy and he clearly wasn't there.
Well, okay, then perhaps he showed the photos he'd developed to O'Donnell.
Unfortunately, that collapses, too.
You see, O'Donnell murdered his credibility by also telling Horne he'd been friends with Mrs. Kennedy and had convinced her to bury her husband at Arlington National Cemetery. He said, as well, that he'd held a private screening of the original Zapruder film for Mrs. Kennedy a few weeks after the shooting. Just the two of them, of course, calmly watching the murder of her husband when it was undoubtedly the last thing she'd want to watch... But it gets worse. He told Horne that Mrs. Kennedy convinced him to edit TEN FEET from the film, to remove the halo of debris from around the President's head at the moment of the fatal head shot. Well, golly. The entire length of the known film is about six feet.
Then, in 2007, after O'Donnell died, the other shoe dropped. The papers printed his obituary, along with a list of some of the famous photos he'd taken. They then got letters from men claiming that no, they had taken these photos. This led to a brief investigation, and an article in The New York Times. It was then revealed that O'Donnell had been suffering from dementia since the early 1990's, and that he'd claimed to have taken many famous photos of the Kennedys, including the famous one of John-John saluting his father's casket--and that he had even been selling prints of these photos at galleries--but that he, in fact, had taken none of them. As you can imagine, this caused quite a ruckus in the photo world.
I became aware of this ruckus, and posted several articles on this scandal on JFK Forums--hoping word would spread and that conspiracy theorists would stop citing O'Donnell's claims as evidence for anything. In one of these articles, it was revealed that Cecil Stoughton, the main White House photographer at the time of the assassination and a close colleague of Knudsen's, had said he'd never heard of O'Donnell, and had doubted O'Donnell's claim his job as photographer with the U.S. Information Agency had brought him into regular contact with Knudsen. As O'Donnell had, admittedly, never met Knudsen's family, this left conspiracy theorists with NO support for O'Donnell's claims. None that he'd seen photos. None that he'd even known Knudsen. For all they knew, he'd read the 1977 article on Knudsen somewhere or had simply remembered his name from his days with the USIA, and had invented his story from whole cloth. He was a proven liar...who'd told numerous lies in which he'd placed himself close to the Kennedys...and who, in the interview in which he described the autopsy photos showing a wound on the back of the head, had told a couple of whoppers--which few, if any, conspiracy theorists take seriously--in which he and Jacqueline Kennedy were the best of pals and where she convinced him to edit the Zapruder film.
And so, in December 2009, when I first received my copy of Doug Horne's Inside the Assassination Records Review Board Volume 2, I immediately turned to the section on O'Donnell. I was aghast. Horne wrote that he was "personally inclined" to accept O'Donnell's recollections, and presented him as support for the possibility Knudsen took a second set of super secret autopsy photos never put into the Archives. No mention of O'Donnell's dementia. No mention of his obvious obsession with the Kennedys. No mention that, oh yeah, by the way, there's a strong likelihood this old guy's story is bullshit.
Horne had either fallen asleep for two years, or had thought his readers need not know that O'Donnell--a man whose story had gained quite a bit of traction among those thinking Kennedy's body had been altered--was, quite literally, demented.
JFK and the Unthinkable
In his best-selling and highly-influential book High Treason, published 1989, Robert Groden held that the wound location depicted in the "McClelland" drawing "was verified by every doctor, nurse, and eyewitness as accurate," and that these witnesses described an "exit wound... almost squarely in the back of the head (the occiput)."
In his more photo-intensive follow-up, The Killing of a President (1993), moreover, Groden appears to back up this claim. The photographs of 18 witnesses pointing to their heads are presented, accompanied by the following text:
"The Parkland Hospital doctors were the best eyewitnesses to the President's wounds. They had at least 20 minutes, and some had longer, to examine the President's injuries immediately after the shooting. The doctors' oral and written statements provided the only reliable clues to the snipers' locations and bullet trajectories..."
From this one might assume the witnesses presented were at Parkland and had 20 minutes or more in which they viewed the President's wounds. But this is far from the case. Only 10 of these witnesses were at Parkland and very few of these witnesses got much of a look at the President.
When one studies the photos of these witnesses, moreover, there's a bigger surprise. Many of these purported "back of the head" witnesses are not actually pointing to a wound location on the back of their heads, as one would guess, but are instead pointing out a wound location on the top or side of the head, at locations just as close or closer to the wound location depicted in the autopsy photos and x-rays as the wound location depicted in the so-called "McClelland" drawing...the drawing they'd purportedly "verified."
(Although Groden, in The Killing of a President, claims Dr. McClelland himself made this drawing, he is clearly mistaken. In June, 2010, Josiah Thompson, who first published the drawing, wrote me and confirmed that while this famous drawing--which has come to represent the "actual" location and appearance of the president's large head wound to many, if not the majority, of conspiracy theorists--was based upon Dr. McClelland's description of the large head wound to the Warren Commission, Dr. McClelland had in fact "had nothing to do with the preparation of the drawing.")
And it's not as if Groden is the only one making false claims about these witnesses... Here is how Dr.s Mantik and Wecht address this issue in The Assassinations, published 2003: "The compilations of Gary Aguilar, M.D., have convincingly shown that the Parkland Hospital physicians and nurses, and even the Bethesda autopsy personnel themselves, almost unanimously recalled a large hole at the low right rear of Kennedy's head." And, as if to prove their calling this wound "low" was not a mistake, they later ask "Was cerebellum missing at the low right rear, where the Parkland medical witnesses (including six physicians) saw massive trauma?" Now, look back at the photos in Groden's book reproduced on the previous slides... Is it a true statement that these witnesses "almost unanimously" pointed out a wound location at the LOW right rear of their heads? NO. NO. And HELL NO.
Let's count then and make it official. First of all, we need to
define our terms. For a wound to be LOW on the back of the head, it
would have to be at the level of the ear or below, in the location of the wound in the "McClelland" drawing, correct? So let's
run back through the photos and note which ones show someone pointing
out a wound below the top of their ear.
Beverly Oliver points out a large wound at the level of the ear and above. She represents 1 witness whose recollections are consistent with a wound at the low right rear.
Phil Willis points out a wound above the level of his right ear. This means only 1 of 2 witnesses so far discussed have had recollections consistent with a wound at the low right rear.
Willis points out a wound on top of her head. This lowers the ratio to 1 of 3 witnesses.
Ed Hoffman points out a wound at the top of the back of his head. This lowers it further to 1 of 4 witnesses.
Ronald Jones points out a wound above and in back of his ear. This means the recollections of but 1 of 5 witnesses so far discussed are consistent with what Groden, Aguilar, Mantik, and Wecht have been feeding us.
Carrico points out a wound on the back of his head above his ear. The ratio drops to 1 of 6 witnesses.
Dulaney points out a wound at the top of his head. It spirals downward to 1 of 7 witnesses.
Peters points out a wound above his ear. It's clear now that only 1 of 8 witnesses had
recollections consistent with what so many have long claimed.
Kenneth Salyer points out a wound
on the side of the head, by the ear. It bottoms out at 1 of 9 witnesses.
Robert McClelland points out a wound on the back of his head, both below and above the top of the ear. This means but 2 of 10 witnesses so far discussed had recollections consistent with a wound at the low right rear.
Crenshaw points out a wound mostly behind the ear. He lifts the ratio back to 3 of 11 witnesses.
Bell points out a wound at the level of her ear. The ratio soars to 4 of 12 witnesses...1 in 3.
Ward points out a wound by the ear. It drops back to 4 of 13 witnesses.
Rike points out a wound on the back of the head above the ear. The ratio drops to 4 of
Paul O'Connor points out a wound behind the ear. The ratio rises back to 5 of 15 witnesses.
Riebe points out a wound behind the ear. Now, 6 of the 16 witnesses have depicted a wound at the low right rear.
Jerrol Custer points out a wound behind the ear. Now, 7 of the 17 witnesses have depicted a wound consistent with the wound described in the conspiracy literature.
Frank O'Neill points out a wound on the back of his head above the ear.
But it's actually worse than that... FAR worse than that. Now, let's go through Groden's "witnesses" again, taking into account circumstances and statements not provided those relying on Groden's book.
Groden starts out with the photos of four witnesses who claimed to have seen the shooting.
While Beverly Oliver claims to have been one of the closest witnesses to the shooting, many if not most long time researchers doubt her claims, as she only came forward years after the shooting, and told some pretty wild stories. Even so her description of a wound on the back of the head is in keeping with the wound described by Dr. McClelland, and the drawing prepared by Phillip Johnson. Back of the head witness.
Although Phil Willis made several statements over the years indicating he thought the fatal shot blew out the back of Kennedy's head, he was clearly repeating what his wife and daughters had told him. You see, he'd testified before the Warren Commission that he was not looking at Kennedy at the time of the head shot. Not actually a witness.
Although Marilyn Willis, Phil's wife, was a witness to the head shot, and said the wound was on the "back" of Kennedy's head, when ultimately asked to point out the location of the wound she saw from 50 yards or so away, she pointed to a location high on the top of her head above her right ear. Top of the head witness.
While deaf-mute Ed Hoffman only came forward years after the assassination, and while his stories of watching the shooting from a nearby freeway and then seeing Kennedy's wounds as the limo passed underneath were never fully accepted, he was at least consistent on one point: he always placed the head wound on the top of Kennedy's head. Not always in the same way, mind you. While the photo in Groden's book shows Hoffman with his hand over the crown of his head, and his fingers over the wound location shown in the autopsy photos, other photos found online show him with his hand forward of this location, and more in line with the wound seen on the autopsy photos. Top of the head witness.
Groden then presents the photos of ten witnesses observing Kennedy's wound at Parkland Hospital.
The Impersistence of Memory
As one might expect, the head wound location pointed out by Dr. Robert McClelland is fairly consistent with the head wound location depicted in the drawing by Johnson based upon McClelland's Warren Commission testimony. Fairly consistent but not fully consistent. McClelland's hand in the photo is, in fact, on the back of his head almost entirely above his ear, which places the wound about two inches higher on the back of the head than in the drawing. This is not surprising. As previously mentioned, Josiah Thompson, who'd arranged for the drawing's creation, insists that Dr. McClelland had actually had "nothing to do with" its creation. What is surprising, however, is that, shortly before Dr. McClelland pointed out the wound location in the footage used by Groden, Dr. McClelland had pointed out the wound location for the 1988 documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy, and had at that time placed his hand on the top of his head, above and behind his right ear, perhaps two inches to the rear of the wound's location in the autopsy photos, but at least three inches away from its location in the so-called "McClelland" drawing.
Or maybe this isn't surprising. I mean, it's not as if McClelland's recollections are all that reliable...
Although he stood at the head of Kennedy in the ER at Parkland and was thus well-positioned to note his fatal wounds, McClelland's initial report claimed the fatal wound was on Kennedy's left temple, and not his right. While he would later claim he wrote this after Dr. Jenkins led him to believe there was a separate entrance on the left temple, this fails to explain why Dr. McClelland wrote that "The cause of death was due to
massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple." By writing "of the left temple," as opposed to "to the left temple," McClelland had failed to indicate there was any wound anywhere but on the left temple. This suggests that, perhaps just perhaps, Dr. McClelland actually thought the large head wound was near Kennedy's right temple, and that he'd confused his right with his left after looking at Kennedy upside down.
Now, this might seem unfair. Dr. McClelland appears to be a very nice man, and has been most helpful to researchers and writers. But some of his claims are clearly wrong. On November 4, 2009, he told Canadian radio personality Brent Holland that the "massive" wound on the back of Kennedy's head was "at least five inches in diameter." Such a wound would, of course, envelop the entire head. When discussing the drawing made for Thompson with the ARRB in 1998, moreover, McClelland noted that "the edge of the parietal bone was sticking up through the
scalp. And that's not on this picture" and that the location of the wound in the drawing compared to its actual location was "a little bit lower or it doesn't
indicate that there was still a - you know, maybe a shelf of bone left below
that." He also made a monstrous gaffe, explaining "but what we were trying to depict here
was what the posterior part of the wound looked like. In other words, it's not the
entire wound. It's simply the posterior part of it and what I thought of as the
critical part of it at that time and still do." Yep. That's right. Dr. McClelland had admitted both that the wound stretched further forward than depicted in the drawing, and not as low on the back of the head. And had added as a bonus that he'd helped create the drawing.
It's actually worse than that. Since at least his appearance in the 1988 Nova program Who Shot President Kennedy?, McClelland has claimed a connection to the "McClelland" drawing that simply does not exist. (In the program McClelland claims "I find no discrepancy between the wounds as they're shown very vividly in these photographs and what I remember very vividly" but then observes that, on the autopsy photos he'd just studied in the archives, "there doesn't seem to be any sort of wound in the area where I had drawn the picture that showed this large hole.") Now, admittedly, that statement by itself is confusing.
But his subsequent statements and actions are not. In Robert Groden's 1993 documentary JFK: The Case for Conspiracy, McClelland holds up a copy of the drawing for the camera and declares "This is the drawing I had made for Josiah Thompson's book." In 1994, even worse, he signed a copy of the "McClelland" drawing for researcher Brad Parker and indicated that he'd personally created the drawing. According to Thompson, of course, McClelland had nothing to do with the drawing's creation. He did not draw it. He was not consulted on its creation. Nothing... Ouch.The impersistence of human memory. Back of the head witness who does not support the accuracy of the McClelland drawing.
Dr. Paul Peters, on the other hand, has tried to have it both ways. Although he had repeatedly claimed the wound he saw was in the "occiput" or the back of Kennedy's head, and is pictured in Groden's book pointing to this location, he also told the producers of the PBS program Nova, after viewing Kennedy's autopsy photos in 1988, that the autopsy photos were "pretty much as I
remember President Kennedy at the time." He then confirmed his support for the legitimacy of the autopsy photos by telling Gerald Posner in 1992 that the "head wound is
more forward than I first placed it. More to the side than to the
rear." When interviewed by the ARRB in 1998 and given yet another chance to claim the autopsy photos and x-rays were fake, moreover, he claimed instead that "I was amazed when I saw the first x-ray of the skull — the lateral skull--of the extent of the fragmentation of the skull. I did not appreciate that I think because a lot of it was covered by scalp at the time we worked on him. We were doing a resuscitation, not a forensic autopsy." He had thereby deferred to the accuracy of the x-rays. When discussing the location of the wound in the McClelland drawing, for that matter, he shared: "It looks a little further down in the occiput in this picture." When trying to explain the intact back of the head in the back of the head photo, on the other hand, he claimed: "It
was my thought exactly that they just kind of pulled that flap back into place
and took a picture so they could show how it looked with things restored as much
as possible and it just -- a flap just kind of -- had been torn back and now
they were just kind of putting it back and snapping a picture. For what reason,
I don't know. But I'm certain there was a hole there, too. I walked around right
and looked in his head. You could look directly into the cranial vault and see
cerebral injury to the cerebral cortex and I thought at the time to the
cerebellum. So I know the hole was big enough to look into. I estimated it at
seven centimeters at that time, and I don't know what the actual measurements
were when they took the radiographs, but I thought just exactly what Bob, did.
They were probably making a series of pictures and they had just pulled that
flap back up there to cover it up and took a picture of that to show the head
with the flap restored, so to speak, for whatever reason. I'm sure there were
many other pictures that were made at the same time." Back of the head witness who does not support the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, and presumes the authenticity of the autopsy photos.
Fortunately, Dr. Kenneth Salyer was a little more consistent. But only a little. From his Warren Commission testimony to the present day, he always claimed the wound was primarily a temporal wound...on the side of the head. The photo in Groden's book, moreover, shows him grabbing the side of his head, just above his ear, an area at least as suggestive of the wound in the photos as the one in the "McClelland" drawing. Side of the head witness.
Dr. Charles Crenshaw, of course, became a star witness for the supposed wound on the "back of the head" when he wrote a book on his experiences in the early nineties. The problem with Crenshaw as a witness, however, is that, not only did he fail to see Kennedy for more than a few seconds, his recollections were not recorded prior to the publication of the "McClelland" drawing showing him how other Parkland witnesses purportedly recalled the wound. Back of the head witness.
Dr. Ronald Jones, as Peters, has claimed many times over the years that the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head. In the photo in Groden's book, however, he points to a wound location slightly to the side of the wound on the "McClelland" drawing. In 1992, even stranger, he described the wound as a "side wound." In 1997, in a letter to researcher Francois Carlier, Jones tried to explain his confusion; he insisted that although he observed a wound on the "posterior aspect of the skull," he was "unable to observe the exact extent or dimensions of this wound" because of his "position at the table on the left side of the President below his arm" while the President was lying "flat on his back." When interviewed by the ARRB in 1998, for what's worse, he offered more excuses, insisting "it was difficult to see down through the hair," and admitting "All my view was from the President's left side." He then clarified this position to researcher Vincent Palamara, first admitting that he really didn't have "a clear view of the back side of the head wound. President Kennedy had very thick dark hair that covered the injured area" and then offering "In my opinion it was in the occipital area in the back of the head." He had thereby confirmed that he'd failed to see the large hole missing scalp and bone depicted in the "McClelland"drawing. Back of the head witness who does not support the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, and defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.
As the first doctor to inspect Kennedy upon his arrival at Parkland, Dr. Charles Carrico would certainly have been in good position to accurately note the wound location on Kennedy's head. While the wound location he points to in Groden's book is actually a bit too high for anyone to claim he confirmed the "McClelland" drawing, it's really academic. You see, on January 11, 1978, Dr. Carrico was interviewed by the HSCA staff, and specified that the head wound was "five to seven centimeters, something like that, 2 1/2 by 3 inches, ragged, had blood and hair all around it," and was "located in the part of the parietal occipital region...above and posterior to the ear, almost from the crown of the head." Uhhh, this is clearly NOT the wound depicted in the McClelland drawing. In 1981, when the Boston Globe asked him specifically about the "McClelland" drawing, moreover, Carrico replied "it was a very large wound as indicated in the drawing.
However, I do not believe that the large wound was this far posterior
since, one thing I can be certain of, is that we were able to see the
majority, if not all of this wound, with the patient laying on his
back on a hospital gurney. The location of the wound represented in
the drawing suggests that it would barely have been visible, if
visible at all, with the patient laying in such a position." When asked to comment on the HSCA's tracing of the back of the head photo, in which the back of the head is intact and the wound is above the ear, moreover, he told them there was "nothing incompatible" between what he remembered and the drawing. Well, that oughta seal it, but if that's not enough, Dr. Carrico eventually made his rejection of the McClelland drawing's accuracy crystal clear. In 1992, he told single-assassin salesman Gerald Posner that if he and his colleagues had initially claimed the head wound was in the occipital bone, instead of the parietal bone, they "were mistaken." Yep. It's a slam dunk case. Dr. Carrico rejected the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, and deferred to the accuracy of the autopsy photos. Back of the head witness who does not support the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, and defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.
Although Dr. Richard Dulaney made a number of statements over the years suggesting the large head wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, the wound location he points to in Groden's book and video is up at the top of the head...as close to the wound depicted in the autopsy photos as the one depicted in the "McClelland" drawing. Only making matters worse for those claiming him as a "back of the head" witness, moreover, is that, in 1988, after viewing the autopsy photos, he told the producers of the television program Nova "I don see any evidence of any alteration of his wound in these pictures from what I saw in the emergency room."
Top of the head witness who defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.
Nurse Audrey Bell is similar to Dr. Crenshaw in that, while she has been consistent in her claim that the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, there is no record of her making this claim prior to the 1980's, long after the "McClelland" drawing was published in Six Seconds in Dallas. Back of the head witness.
Justice of the Peace Theran Ward is also similar to Dr. Crenshaw, in that he really didn't get much of a look at the head wound. Even so, when one looks at the interview with Ward in Groden's Case for Conspiracy video, and in the image on the slide above, it's clear that Ward, much as Dr. Salyer, felt the wound was on the side of Kennedy's head, and not the back. Side of the head witness.
This brings us to the final Parkland witness presented in Groden's book. And he wasn't even a witness... While ambulance driver Aubrey Rike claimed to feel a hole in the back of Kennedy's head as he helped put his body in its casket, he has always admitted the head was covered at the time, and that he never actually saw the wound. As a result it's possible Rike was mistaken, or merely confused by the fractured bone on the back of the skull seen on the x-rays. Not actually a witness.
We now move to the Bethesda "back of the head" witnesses... The statements of these witnesses, purported to confirm the Parkland doctors' account of the wounds, should seal the deal if there was really a wound on the back of the head behind the ear.
Unfortunately, they do no such thing. While radiology tech Jerrol Custer made many statements over the years indicating that he thought the autopsy photos and X-rays were faked, he actually told the ARRB, after having finally been shown the original X-rays, that they were indeed the ones he took on 11-22-63, and that he had been in error. This, of course, was years after the publication of Groden's book. Even so, when one watches Groden's video, JFK: The Case For Conspiracy, one can see that Custer was never really a "back of the head" witness, as he does not point out a wound on the back of Kennedy's head, as suggested by the frame used in Groden's book, but drags his hand across the entire top of his head while claiming the wound he saw stretched "From the top of the head almost to the base of the skull..." He was thereby describing the wound's appearance after the scalp was reflected, and the brain was removed. (In support of this proposition, it should be noted that he'd also claimed there was no brain in the skull that he could remember.) Entire right side of the head witness. Defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.
Ditto Paul O'Connor. While O'Connor, as Custer, had made many statements over the years suggesting the autopsy photos and X-rays had been faked, his credibility, seeing as he'd depicted the wound location in the upper right quadrant of the back of the
head in a drawing he'd created for the HSCA, and then moved it to beneath the top of the ear years
later, was questionable. In Groden's video The Case for Conspiracy, moreover, O'Connor repeated Custer's performance almost word for word, stating there was "an open area all the way across into the rear of the brain right there," while pointing out the dimensions of this hole--basically the dimensions of the hole after Kennedy's scalp had been reflected, and his brain had been removed. O'Connor, as Custer, also claimed no brain was in the skull when he observed the large defect. He was thereby, like it or not, supporting the accuracy of the autopsy photos and the official story of the wounds. Entire right side of the head witness.
Ditto ditto assistant autopsy photographer Floyd Riebe. Much as Custer, Riebe made many statements suggesting the autopsy photos were fake--in Groden's book, he even pointed at the location of the wound in the "McClelland" drawing. Once shown the original photos by the ARRB, however, he, too, deferred to their accuracy. Back of the head witness who defers to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.
This leaves us with Frank O'Neill, one of the two FBI agents to observe Kennedy's autopsy. While O'Neill told pretty much anyone with an interest--the HSCA, the ARRB, and a string of independent researchers from the 80's to the 00's--that the large head wound included part of the back of Kennedy's head, he always placed this wound at the top of the back of the head, inches above the wound in the "McClelland" drawing. He also claimed, in his official report on the autopsy, that a "high velocity bullet had entered the rear of the skull and had fragmentized prior to exit through the top of the skull." This wound was thus, to his understanding, both an entrance and an exit. On April 4, 1992, for that matter, O'Neill participated in a panel discussion before an audience at the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, New Hampshire, and both confirmed that he thought this wound was both an entrance and an exit, and explained why he thought the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head. (A transcript for this discussion was placed online by Allan Eaglesham. Thanks, Allan.) O'Neill reported that "during the autopsy,
later stages of the autopsy" the Secret Service brought in a fragment "of a
skull, which was found in Dallas in the car. And it turns out that it could be matched perfectly
with part of the missing, part of the missing skull in the head—and there’s beveling on that
which coincides with the beveling on the eh, the eh, on the back of the president’s head here." He then pointed to the back of his head, by the EOP.
Well, this was where the autopsy report placed a through and through entrance wound. According to their initial reports and testimony, the doctors found exit beveling on the fragment found in the car, and this confirmed to them that the exit wound was at the top of the head. This convinced them then that the bullet entered low and exited high. Apparently, however, O'Neill was never told of the through and through entrance wound by the EOP. As a result, he couldn't properly understand how the doctors came to the conclusion the bullet entered low and exited high. Presumably, then, he came to conclude that the beveling on the late-arriving fragment completed the entrance wound by the EOP. And this, in turn, led him to believe the late-arriving fragment derived from the back of the head. While this is undoubtedly intriguing--particularly in that, from the seventies on, Dr. Boswell remembered this fragment fitting into the skull in the same manner--it also underlines the reality of O'Neill's recollections. The man felt certain the wound was entirely above the EOP, and felt sure it was both an entrance and exit wound, NOT an exit wound for a bullet hitting Kennedy on the front of his head. Top of the head witness.
now a final tally... Of the 18 witnesses presented by Groden to demonstrate that the bulk of the Parkland and Bethesda witnesses believed there was an exit on the far back of the head--an exit purported to be centered in the occipital bone--2 never saw the wound, 2 depicted a wound encompassing the entire right side of the head, 2 depicted the wound on the side of the head, 4 depicted the wound on the top of the head, and 3 depicted a wound on the back of the head, but apparently came to accept they were mistaken, and deferred to the accuracy of the autopsy photos. This means that only 5 witnesses actually believed the wound was on the far back of Kennedy's head, and 2 of these--Peters and McClelland, were inconsistent in their statements but ultimately claimed they believed the wound to be further forward than in the "McClelland" drawing. This means that but 3 witnesses felt comfortable asserting the large head wound was really behind the ear in the occipital bone, as purported by most conspiracy theorists and as presented in the "McClelland" drawing: Crenshaw, Bell, and Oliver.
Well, Crenshaw, Bell
and Oliver never described the wound location until many years after the "McClelland" drawing was published. And Oliver, when describing the wound to Robert Groden for his video, JFK: The Case for Conspiracy, told him "The whole back of (Kennedy's) head went flying out the back of the car," something no one--not even Groden--honestly believes.
This leaves Crenshaw and Bell as the only two witnesses presented by Groden who can reasonably be taken as confirming the wound depicted in the "McClelland" drawing.
And their credibility--already questionable due to the many years between the time of the shooting and the time they first began describing the wound--was pretty much eradicated by the ARRB.
It is important here to recount Dr. Crenshaw's previous descriptions of Kennedy's head wound. (Most of these were drawn from JFK: The Medical Evidence Reference, by Vincent Palamara.)In 1992, Dr. Crenshaw's book Conspiracy of Silence arrived on the scene and claimed that the "entire right cerebral hemisphere appeared to be gone...From the damage I saw, there was no doubt in my mind that the bullet had entered his head through the front, and as it surgically passed through his cranium, the missile obliterated part of the temporal and all the parietal and occipital lobes before it lacerated the cerebellum." Well, this doesn't sound like the exit wound on the back of the head purported by most conspiracy theorists, now does it? It sounds more like a giant wound enveloping a large portion of the top, side, and back of the head.
But no, Crenshaw was describing a wound on the far back of the head. On April 2, 1992, he appeared on ABC's 20/20 news program, and pointed to his hairline above his right eye, and explained that, in his opinion, the bullet went "from here through," whereby he pointed to the back of his head behind his ear. He then finished the interviewer's sentence, explaining that this bullet took out "The back or the occipital part--the back of your head." He then reiterated, while pointing to a location behind and well below the top of his right ear that "This was gone, in our view. And we could see the cerebellum." He then explained that if the bullet had come from behind, it would have exploded from the top of Kennedy's head, whereby he pointed out the wound location shown on the autopsy photos and Zapruder film. This made it clear he recalled no such wound.
Now watch how things get muddy, real muddy. This same month, April 1992, Crenshaw wrote a letter to writer Harrison Livingstone, in which he claimed the bullet striking Kennedy "to the right rear side of his head, obliterated part of the parietal, part of the temporal, and all of the occipital area. This resulted in a gaping hole, the size of a baseball, in the back of the head, and the cerebellum was hanging on a thread of tissue outside the wound." Note that he has now retreated from his conjecture the bullet entered the forehead. Note also that he has stopped musing on the damage to the parietal and temporal lobes of the brain, which could not be readily observed through the hole on the back of the head.
In June, moreover, Crenshaw spoke at the First Midwest Symposium, a conference on the Kennedy assassination. Here, he reported that the wound he saw was in the "parietal occipital area" and was "an obvious exit wound." This is slightly above the wound he described on 20/20, and is more in line with the wound described by his fellow doctors. Perhaps Dr. Crenshaw was growing more cautious.
On July 22, 1992, Dr. Crenshaw was finally interviewed by the FBI. The report on this interview asserts that Dr. Crenshaw claimed that "The head wound was located at the back of the President’s head and was
the approximate size of Doctor CRENSHAW’s fist. It extended from the
approximate center of the skull in the back to just behind the
right ear, utilizing a left to right orientation, and from a position a
couple of inches above the right ear to the approximate middle of the
right ear utilizing a top to bottom orientation." The report further explained that Dr. Crenshaw’s "description which indicates that the wound extended from the hairline
back behind the ear and to the back of the head was ‘poorly worded" in
his book and that "The correct description indicates that the wound was located
entirely at the rear of the head behind the right ear.” Okay, so here we finally get some clarification. Crenshaw has indeed retreated from the descriptions of brain damage in his book, and is now claiming, in opposition to what he told 20/20, that the wound stretched from the right top of Kennedy's head behind his right ear to the middle of the back of his head.
He has thereby described the wound shown on the autopsy photos, only inches further back.
He has retracted his claims in smaller, less noticeable, ways as well. While he'd previously said "all" the occipital lobe and "all the occipital area" were obliterated, he now said there was a loss of "most of the occipital lobe."
Now, perhaps Crenshaw's memory was not at fault. Perhaps, instead, he was merely prone to exaggeration. One notes that the damage that had once engulfed part of the temporal, all of the parietal and all the occipital has over a fairly short time morphed into damage engulfing part of the temporal, part of the parietal, and most of the occipital.
Still, this doesn't make Crenshaw so unreliable that one can readily dismiss his claim some occipital was involved, does it? This last description, after all, was fairly consistent--meaning within an inch or so--with the wound location presented by Crenshaw in The Killing of a President, which is itself fairly consistent with the McClelland drawing.
So, what's the problem?
The problem is that, in 1997, when asked by the ARRB to mark the head wound location on an anatomy drawing of a skull viewed from behind, Crenshaw placed this wound almost
entirely on the occipital bone, behind and almost entirely below the top of Kennedy's
ear. This is about two inches below and further back from the location he'd described to the FBI. More telling, when asked to mark the wound location on a lateral drawing of the skull,
Crenshaw placed the wound on the occipital and parietal bone, an inch or so lower, and perhaps as much as two inches forward, from the location he'd marked on the
drawing from behind. Something is just wrong here. While the upper margin of the wound location depicted by Crenshaw in The Killing of the President was roughly at the level of the middle of the forehead, the upper margin of the wound on this lateral drawing was roughly at the middle of the eye socket. This raises serious, and I mean serious, questions not only about Dr. Crenshaw's memory, but his grasp of basic anatomy.
But what about Nurse Audrey Bell? Well, first of all, there are reasons to doubt she even saw Kennedy's head wound. While she told Jeremy Gunn and Doug Horne of the ARRB on 3-20-97 that she spent 3-5 minutes in Trauma Room One, and had been shown Kennedy's wound by Dr. Perry during this short period, not one of the doctors and nurses filing reports
on Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of the assassination, or testifying before the Warren Commission, mentioned her
presence in the room. There's no record, moreover, of her talking about what she saw in the years immediately following the assassination. Beyond telling David Lifton in 1982 that the head wound was so localized on the back of the head that she couldn't see it from Kennedy's right hand side, in fact, she made few comments on the wound location over the years, prior to being interviewed by Gunn and Horne.
Apparently, this was for good reason. When asked by the ARRB to depict the wound location on an autopsy drawing of a skull viewed from behind, sadly, she depicted the wound even lower on the occipital bone than Crenshaw. She depicted it so low, in fact, that, it was in clear contradiction with the earliest reports and statements of Dr. William Kemp Clark, the only doctor at Parkland to actually examine the wound, and even Dr. McClelland, who told the Warren Commission that "the parietal bone was protruded up through the scalp and seemed to be fractured almost along its right posterior half."
As a result, her recollections regarding this wound have zero credibility. Much as Crenshaw, she couldn't even be consistent from one drawing to the next. While she depicted the wound both above and below the level of the External Occipital Protuberance on the anatomy drawing presenting the skull as seen from the rear, she presented the wound entirely above the EOP on the drawing of the lateral view. (This is seen more clearly in Volume 1 of Doug Horne's Inside the ARRB than on the slide above.)
Thus, Crenshaw and Bell were not only inconsistent with each other, and the only doctor to examine the wound at Parkland, but with themselves. While they might have been the most fabulous people on God's green Earth, their decades-after recollections of Kennedy's head wound location are clearly just not credible.
So much for the oft-repeated claim that the Parkland staff were "trained witnesses" and could not mistake a wound on the top of the head for a wound on the back of the head... Crenshaw and Bell either couldn't orient a simple anatomy drawing, or were unable to remember where they'd marked the wound only a few seconds earlier.
Still, even if one were to pretend Crenshaw and Bell were credible, one can't simply assume the wound was where they said it was, when so many equally or more credible witnesses, when later put to the test and asked where they saw the wound, either pointed to a location NOT on the far back of the head behind the ear, OR deferred to the accuracy of the autopsy photos.
Or, to put it another way... For years people have been getting
away with insinuating that all witnesses describing a large head wound
different than the one seen in the autopsy photos were really describing the
wound on the back of the head in the location of the wound in the
"McClelland" drawing, a wound on the occipital bone from which
cerebellum flowed....when in reality many of these so-called "back of
the head" witnesses were "NOT on the back of the head"
Now, I am far from the first to notice this. Not only have single-assassin theorists such as John McAdams taken the time to point out that many of the Parkland witnesses described a wound not on the back of the head, but conspiracy theorists such as the late Hal verb have done so as well. In fact, in 1998, Verb aroused the ire of the same clique as I when he pointed out in a series of articles and letters in the assassination journal The Fourth Decade that the eyewitnesses suggested there was in fact no blow-out on the back of the head.
I do suspect, however, that I am the first to point out that the photographs of the witnesses pointing out the wound location--the very photographs purported to PROVE there was a wound on the far back of the head--prove no such thing. And, thankfully, I'm no longer the only one noticing this.
On December 12, 2010, on the Education Forum, my contention that the location of the wound described and depicted by the witnesses failed to match the descriptions of the wound location provided by most conspiracy theorists received some much appreciated support. In response to a post by Dr. James Fetzer, in which he claimed I was wrong and that the "McClelland" drawing really was drawn by Dr. McClelland, Six Seconds in Dallas author Josiah Thompson wrote:
"It is one of the oldest mistakes in JFK research to ascribe the the sketch in Six Seconds[u]
to Dr. McClelland. I've been telling people for years that McClelland
had nothing to do with the preparation of this sketch. I took a
Polaroid photo of the right back of my head and sent it to a medical
illustrator in Philadelphia. I included the actual text of McClelland's
description of the Kennedy back of the head wound and paid the medical
illustrator to draw it. Hence, it is just false that Dr. McClelland
made the sketch. I never even asked him for his opinion on the sketch.
The sketch then is the interpretation of a medical illustrator of what
Dr. McClelland described.
Pat Speer "comes up with this stuff" by doing what a good researcher ought to do: asking questions and getting direct answers from people who are in a position to know.
His analysis of the various descriptions of damage to the back of Kennedy's head is quite illuminating. He should be praised for not accepting the usual superficial interpretations of these witness reports. So fume as much as you like, but Pat Speer is 100% correct and you are 100% incorrect.
Josiah Thompson "
SO...let's be honest here. The mythical wound at the "low right rear" of Kennedy's head is not the only deception regarding the medical evidence cultivated by sellers of conspiracy. For years, conspiracy theorists have been misled into believing not only that the statements of the "back of the head witnesses" were incredibly consistent, but that the location for the wound they were describing overlay the "white patch" on Kennedy's lateral skull x-ray, the shadowy area on the back of Kennedy's head in the Zapruder film, the location proposed by Dr. Cairns for the Harper fragment, and the hole seen in the "McClelland" drawing. This just isn't true.
Beyond that many of the purportedly back of the head witnesses were actually describing a wound on top of the head, and that some of these witnesses, including head nurse Doris Nelson, who told researchers the wound was on the back of the head but then pointed to the location shown on the autopsy photos when posing for Life Magazine (as shown here), were clearly unreliable, the head wound described by most witnesses was toward the top of the head, mostly above the white patch on the x-ray, and the purportedly painted-in area on the Z-film frames. This area, moreover, was largely on the parietal bone, above the area depicted in the "McClelland" drawing, and inches away from where the Harper fragment purportedly exploded from the occipital bone.
This, then, raises a question...have we been conned? Have those claiming elements of the government conspired to deceive us about the President's wounds been involved in a conspiracy of their own, namely, to make us think there was a hole in Kennedy's occipital bone?
Mr. Livingstone, I Presume
When one looks at the history of the controversy, that is, the history of the purported Parkland/Bethesda divide on the location of Kennedy's large head wound, one finds that much of it was stirred up by writer Harrison Livingstone in the years 1979-1981. In 1979, on a trip paid for by the Baltimore Sun, he went to Dallas and asked a number of witnesses to Kennedy's wounds a series of questions about them, and showed them the HSCA's tracing of the back of the head photo--the photo illicitly copied by Livingstone's soon-to-be-partner Robert Groden. While the Sun never published a detailed article on these encounters, Livingstone did publish his version of such an article in the 11-22-81 issue of The Continuing Inquiry newsletter.
Here are the sections of the article on the witnesses:
- "'That's not the way I remember it,' said Dr. Richard Dulany, a medical resident who was on duty in the emergency room when Kennedy was brought in, after looking at a copy of an offical autopsy photograph. According to Dr. Dulany, there is a 'definite conflict' between the wounds as portrayed in the photo and the wounds which he observed in the emergency room. There were at least 22 witnesses in Dallas who have described a 'large hole in the back of the head.' Dr. Dulany insists that the photo does not show the large, gaping wound which had blown out the back of the president's head." (Note that Livingstone fails to reveal the degree of this 'conflict'--was Dulaney told that the autopsy photo he was shown was genuine? Was he willing to sign an affidavit saying the photo was a fake? Or did he simply assume he was mistaken?)
- "Dr. Paul Peters, professor and chairman of the Urology Department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Parkland, also questions the accuracy of the disputed photograph. Dr. Peters told the Warren Commission: 'We saw the wound of entry in the throat and noted the large occipital wound.'' After seeing the pictures, he said, 'I don't think it's consistent with what I saw. There was a large hole in the back of the head through which one could see the brain. But that hole does not appear, in the photograph.'" (Note the lack of certainty. Peters 'questions.' Peters doesn't 'think' it's consistent. In other words, Peters, as Dulaney, was unwilling to say he thought the photo was a fake.)
- "The president's widow also described a severe wound at the back of the head to the Commission: 'But from the back, you could see, you know, you were trying to hold his hair and his skull on...''' (This, as we've seen, was a misrepresentation of her statements, which in fact suggested the wound was at the top of the head, and more readily viewed from behind.)
- "Doris Nelson, a Dallas nurse who was the supervisor of the emergency room when Kennedy was brought there, and who helped to treat the dying president, said that government autopsy photos of the skull are 'not true. There was no hair.' She said, while disputing the most controversial photograph, which merely shows a small entry wound in the cowlick area, which is four inches from where the autopsy report itself describes it, 'There wasn't even any hair back there, on the back of the head. It was blown away. All that area was blown out.'" (Well, here's a decent witness. Of course, she later showed Life Magazine where she thought the wound had been--and it was what most of us would call the top of the head.)
- "Claiming that the Photographs were too 'gory,'...the (HSCA) actually published exact tracings of them. It was these tracings, which are described as being accurate down to the last detail, which the Dallas medical witnesses recently evaluated for this report. (One witness, however. Dr. Malcolm Perry of the Cornell Medical Center, was shown prints of the actual photographs by Sun reporters in 1979, and also strongly denounced them as being inaccurate.)" (Hmmm...Perry was Kennedy's primary physician in the ER, why not quote him directly? Could it be that Perry was not shown the photo by the reporters, as claimed, but by Robert Groden, who kept no notes?)
- "The list of medical witnesses who have challenged the autopsy photos includes Dr. Robert McClelland, professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical School in Dallas. Seventeen years ago, he told the Warren Commission that he stood at the head of the operating table in the emergency room 'in such a position that I could very closely examine the head wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been extremely blasted. It had been shattered, apparently, by the force of the shot...in such a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity.'' Recently, after viewing a sketch of the gaping head wound which had been drawn by an independent investigator, Dr. McClelland said that it accurately portrays what he 'vividly remembers' seeing on the operating table after the president was rushed into emergency. He firmly rejected the autopsy photos." (Livingstone failed to reveal that McClelland's initial report on his 'vivid' recollections of the wound on the back of the head...placed the wound in the left temple.)
- "Margaret Hood (Margaret Henchllffe at the time) had been an emergency room nurse for 12 years prior to the assassination. The nurse, who helped wheel the wounded president into the room and later prepared his body for the coffin, recently drew a sketch of the wound on a skull model provided by reporters. That sketch also showed a large wound at the back of the head. 'You couldn't see much of the wound,' said Ms. Hood. 'It didn't affect his face or ears at all. it was more to the back.' Ms. Hood also strongly disavowed the photographs." (Well, once again, what does that mean-- 'disavowed'? Did she say they weren't consistent with what she remembered? Or did she accuse the government of misconduct?)
- "Dr. Ronald C. Jones, a professor of surgery who was Parkland Hospital's chief resident in surgery at the time of the murder, originally described for the Warren Commission 'what appeared to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull.' He also rejected the autopsy photos, and drew an outline with his finger of a large hole at the back of an imaginary head. In addition, he described the drawing which Dr. McClelland had approved as 'close.'" (Once again, this was too vague. Is it really a story when someone remembers something a bit differently than it is depicted in some photographs? No, I don't think so. The story comes when that person is willing to swear on a stack of Bibles their recollections are correct, and publicly accuse someone of faking the photographs. None of Livingstone's witnesses have gone that far.)
- "Patricia Gustafson (then Patricia Hutton), another emergency room nurse at the time of the shooting, helped to wheel the president from the limousine into treatment. Ms. Gustafson, testifying before the Warren Commission, outlined a 'massive opening on the back of the head.' Recently, describing an effort to place a pressure bandage on the head wound, she said: 'I tried to do so, but there was really nothing to put a pressure bandage on. It was too massive. So he told me just to leave it be.' Asked if she was sure about the location of the wound, she said yes: ''It was the back of the head,' she said, while rejecting the autopsy photos." ("Rejecting"? What does that mean? I reject what looks back at me in the mirror each morning, but that doesn't mean I think it's fake, and part of some massive conspiracy.)
- "Fouad Bashour was an associate professor of medicine in cardiology at the time of the shooting. Interviewed by this reporter at his office in 1979, Dr. Bashour insisted that the official photo which he was being shown did not accurately depict the location of the major wound. 'Why do they cover it up?' he asked several times. 'This is not the way it was.'" (Livingstone hid that Bashour only saw Kennedy's wound for a few seconds.)
- "Dr. Charles Baxter, interviewed the same day, who had earlier told the Warren Commission 'There was a large, gaping wound in the back of the skull,' also questioned the autopsy photos." (Well, wait a minute. Baxter had told the Warren Commission "There was a large gaping wound in the skull." He had said nothing about the "back of the skull." In fact, it's worse than that. Baxter at first exclaimed "literally, the right side of his head had been blown off," but then later specified that the wound was in the "temporal parietal plate of bone laid outward to the side." This was a wound on the side of the head, and not the back of the head, as claimed by Livingstone. And "questioned?" What's that mean? And why not quote Baxter from his most recent interview? It seems likely from this that Baxter was mostly supportive of the photos in his interview with Livingstone, and that Livingstone didn't want to admit as much in his article.)
- "After being shown the most controversial photo. Dr. Marion Jenkins (he told the Warren Commission, 'There was a great laceration on the right side of the head (temporal and occipital) . . . even to the extent that the cerebellum had protruded from the wound'), blurted: 'No, not like that. Not like that, because... No, you want to know what it really looked, like? Well, that picture doesn't look like it from the back.' Dr. Jenkins demonstrated several times, on his own and a reporter's head, that the large exit wound had been located on the back of the skull: 'You could tell at this point with your fingers that it was scored out (that the edges were blasted out).'" (It seems likely from this that Jenkins didn't trust Livingstone's assertion the photo was an official photo, and was simply trying to show them what he remembered. He was certainly much more cautious in his subsequent interviews. This highlights the problem with the article--it shows that the memories of Kennedy's wounds of some witnesses are inconsistent with what is shown in the autopsy photos, but fails to explore the strength of their recollections, or even what this means...if this is in fact unusual for people trying to remember the specifics of something that happened 16 years prior.)
- "Dr. Charles Carrico, now a professor of surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle, was a general surgeon in residency at Parkland when the president was shot--and the first doctor to reach him. He told the Warren Commission about a large gaping wound, a five-by-seven-centimeter defect in the posterior skull, which he observed in the occipital region. But he has not been interviewed since." (Is it a coincidence that Livingstone failed to interview Carrico, and that Carrico would come to totally reject Livingstone's claims?)
- "In addition to these medical figures, three other physicians who were involved in treating the , stricken president-Doctors Gene C. Akin, Jackie Hunt, and Adolph Giesecke, have not fully endorsed the autopsy pictures." (In other words, they partially endorsed the autopsy pictures. Well, what part? Since, if they'd said the head wound was wrong, Livingstone would most certainly have let his readers know about it, it seems likely they said they thought the photos of the head wound looked pretty good to them...and that Livingstone didn't want us to know about this.)
- "Two crucial medical witnesses, meanwhile, have not yet been interviewed about the case. Dr. Kemp Clark, who was the senior physician on duty in the Parkland 'trauma room' when the wounded president was brought in, refuses to comment--although he described for the Warren Commission '... a large wound in the right occiput, extending into the parietal region.'' (Livingstone hid from his readers that Clark accepted the conclusions of the autopsy report and Warren Commission.)
- "Diana H. Bowron, a British nurse who worked in the Parkland emergency room in 1963, could not be located as of this writing. However, Ms. Bowron did tell the Warren Commission: 'the president was moribund. He was lying across Mrs. Kennedy's knee, and there seemed to be blood everywhere. When I went around to the other side of car, I saw the condition of his head...the back of his head...it was very bad; I just saw one large hole.''' (Aha! A good, credible witness...whom Livingstone hadn't even spoken to...or shown the autopsy photo...)
It seems clear from this, then, that Livingstone was pushing an agenda in his article, and that he wasn't particularly interested in telling his readers the whole story. I mean, why else short-change the recollections of those "not fully" endorsing the photos, and emphasize the recollections of several others--including Mrs. Kennedy--whom he didn't even interview?
And here are some more reasons to believe he cherry-picked his quotes to push a fantastic theory he knew few would buy if he was more forthcoming...
First of all, he claimed, in the article, that "According to the recently interviewed medical witnesses, the president had been shot in the throat, from in front, in addition to the head shot." Well, this was just not true. Few of the witnesses interviewed by Livingstone even saw the throat wound before it was expanded by Dr. Perry, and those that did never told anyone else that the throat wound they saw WAS in fact an entrance wound...only that it appeared to be one. Now, this is an important distinction. These witnesses made observations, and formed recollections, and may or may not have formed opinions based upon these recollections. But Livingstone claimed they'd both presented these opinions as facts, which would have been thoroughly unprofessional, and universally shared the same opinion. It seems clear, then, that he was putting words in their mouths, and that he was exaggerating, or worse.
Secondly, a 6-11-80 article on Livingstone by Maureen Williams found in the Bangor Daily News suggests Livingstone was not a healthy camper. I know this seems a cheap shot, but stick with me here. This article was on Livingstone at a time virtually no one knew who he was, written in his local paper. The article, it follows, was his idea, or at least written with his full cooperation. And yet, look what it reveals: "The federal government has stipulated that certain sensitive material concerning the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 cannot be released to the public and media until the year 2039. One man who claims to be living in secrecy and fear for his life in eastern Maine, claims to have gotten some of that material through an underground source with connections in the Pentagon. Harrison Edward Livingstone, one of hundreds of private citizens who are involved in researching the assassination, carries his completed but rough manuscript of his book with him wherever he goes...He has kept on the move in recent years in several states, because he said he believes he's a 'hunted man.' In one of those states, he says, his car was fitted with an explosive device. In July 1979, a plane was to carry a team of reporters of the Baltimore Sun to Dallas, where they were to rendezvous with Livingstone. The plane was accidentally rammed by a jet fuel delivery truck on the airport apron. Livingstone says this was no accident. The incident caused the occupants to be confined in the plane for three hours, but what is stranger is that neither the newspaper or Livingstone could locate the investigative team for two days. In July and November 1979, the Baltimore Sun published two stories, containing purported new information and a lot of speculation, which Livingstone claims to have stimulated. 'But nobody read it...the wire services probably didn't pick it up, and one of the stories ran on a Sunday features page,' Livingstone said. Livingstone is convinced that some of the government's official autopsy photographs have been forged by an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency so they would be consistent with the so-called 'single-bullet, single-gunman' theory. Livingstone said that on July 30, 1979, he traveled to Dallas where he interviewed various physicians who attended the dying president at Parkland Hospital. In tape-recorded and transcribed interviews, Livingstone said, medical doctors Adolph Giesecke, Robert McClelland, Malcolm Perry, Charles Baxter, Fouad Bashour, Jacqueline Hunt, and Marion Jenkins, indicate that the official government photo shown them may have been fake, because it shows an entrance wound in the occipital-parietal section of the president's head. Livingstone says they all told him that when the president was wheeled into Parkland's emergency room for initial medical treatment, the wound they saw in the back of his head looked like an exit wound...Robert Groden of Hopelawn, N.J., a photographic consultant to the House Assassinations Committee, said 'My visual inspection of the autopsy photos and X-rays reveals evidence of forgery in four of the photographs..."
The article then proceeded to quote Jack White on the possibility the photos had been faked, and Dr. Cyril Wecht on the probability there was more than one shooter. It then reported: "On the other hand, Dr. Paul C. Peters, professor and chairman of the Division of Urology, University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas, told the NEWS that he has never seen any of the official government autopsy photos. He was one of the many doctors and nurses who tried to revive the dying President 17 years ago. But after studying the forensic observations of Dr. John Lattimer, a retired Columbia professor, he believes that the gaping hole he saw in the right rear of the felled President's head should not be considered a true exit wound, but a 'tangential' wound, caused by a shallow bullet entry at the back of his neck."
Well, where do we begin? Hmmm... Livingstone had either presented himself, or had allowed himself to be presented, as a man on the run from dark forces--all because he had copies of the autopsy photos. He then hid that he'd received these copies from Robert Groden, by claiming he'd gotten them from some mysterious figure in the Pentagon. This allowed, as well, for Groden to serve as an additional source for the reporter. Well, this was pretty sneaky, no? And then there's the matter of Peters, who was not listed as one of Livingstone's interviewees, but nevertheless ended up getting called by Williams, only to shoot down the possibility the Parkland doctors' disagreement with the photos suggests a second shooter, by claiming single-assassin theorist Dr. John Lattimer had convinced him otherwise. Pretty wacky.
And from there it only got wackier. By June of 1981, Livingstone had convinced Ben Bradlee, Jr. of the Boston Globe to pick up where he'd left off, and interview the Parkland witnesses for himself. Bradlee's summary of these interviews can be found in the Weisberg Archives. They reveal that Bradlee focused on the recollections of 16 witnesses, and that 8 of the 14 he interviewed for the story cast doubt on the authenticity of the photos, and 6 largely supported their authenticity. This was a journalist at work, and not a theorist. And he believed barely more than half the witnesses suggested the photos were at odds with the wounds. This was far from the ALL claimed by Livingstone.
The witnesses Bradlee thought disagreed with the official description of the head wound were:
- Dr. Robert McClelland, who is reported to have claimed that the drawing he approved for book publication is still how he "vividly remembers" the wound appearing.
- Dr. Richard Dulany, who is reported to have "told the Globe that he recalled seeing a wound four to six inches in diameter squarely in the back of the head, in a location quite distinct from that depicted in the official autopsy report and photograph."
- Patricia Gustafson, who repeated what she'd earlier told Livingston, that the wound she'd observed was at the "back of the head."
- Doris M. Nelson, who "drew an illustration of the head wound that placed it high on the back, right side. The wound she drew was in the parietal area, but it extended well toward the rear of the head and appears to conflict with the autopsy photograph. Shown the tracing of that photo, Nelson immediately said: 'It isn't true.' Specifically, she objected to the photograph showing hair in the back of the head. 'There was no hair,' she said. 'There wasn't even hair back there. It was blown away. All that area was blown out.'" (Note: Bradlee was more specific than Livingstone regarding Nelson's recollections, and reveals that, while disputing the accuracy of the autopsy photos, she nevertheless felt the wound was at the top of Kennedy's head, and not on the far back of the head, where Livingstone and others placed the wound.)
- Margaret Hood, who "sketched a gaping hole in the occipital region which extended only slightly into the parietal area."
- Dr. Ronald Jones, who "refused to make a drawing of the wound on a plastic skull model, saying he never had an opportunity to define the wound's margins. With his finger, however, he outlined the wound as being in the very rear of the head. He said the official autopsy photograph of the back of the head did not square with his recollection, but that the McClelland drawing was 'close.'" (Well, this is interesting. Jones clearly saw where this was headed, and tried to make clear that his recollection wasn't worth all that much.)
- Dr. Paul Peters, who "made a drawing that appeared to place the head wound entirely in the parietal region, but he insisted that he meant for it to overlap into the occipital region as well. 'I think occipital–parietal describes it pretty well,' he remarked. He said he had a good opportunity to examine the head wound. Shown the official tracing of the autopsy photograph, Peters remarked: 'I don't think it's consistent with what I saw.' Of the McClelland drawing, Peters said: 'It's not too far off. It's a little bit (too far) down in the occipital area, is what I would say...But it's not too bad. It's a large wound, and that's what we saw at the time.'" (Well, this is also quite intriguing. Peters placed the wound in the parietal area, but, one can only presume, recalled Clark's description of it as occipito-parietal, and thought better of it. Note also that two of the witnesses disputing the accuracy of the autopsy photos--Nelson and Peters--had disputed the accuracy of the McClelland drawing as well.)
- Diana H. Bowron: A British registered nurse. Bradlee couldn't find her but quoted her testimony before the Warren Commission.
- Dr. William Kemp Clark. Clark refused to be interviewed but Bradlee quoted his previous reports and testimony.
- Dr. Gene C. Akin, who "at first recalled that the head wound was 'more parietal than occipital'" but who equivocated after being shown the McClelland drawing, and said "Well, in my judgment at the time, what I saw was more parietal. But on the basis of this sketch, if this is what Bob McClelland saw, then it's more occipital.'" (Holy smokes. This confirms that at least one back of the head witness deferred to the accuracy of McClelland's drawing, without realizing the drawing had not been made by McClelland, and without the foresight to realize McClelland himself would come to dispute its accuracy. There's also this. Of the 8 witnesses disputing the accuracy of the autopsy photos, three--Nelson, Peters, and Akin--also initially disputed the accuracy of the McClelland drawing.)
This, then brings us to the six witnesses Bradlee spoke to who "tended to agree with the official description of the head wound that emerged from the autopsy and Warren Report."
- Dr. Charles Baxter, who, despite his earlier statements and testimony, drew "a large wound in the parietal region" on a model skull, and "said the official autopsy photo of the back of the head did not conflict with his memory."
- Dr. Adolph Giesecke, who "placed the head wound in the right parietal region, saying it extended about three or four centimeters into the occiput. Though this would appear to make the wound visible in a rear-view photo, Giesecke said the official autopsy photograph was nonetheless 'very compatible' with what he remembered. He explained this by saying that in the photograph it appeared to him that a flap of scalp blown loose by a billet was being held in such a way as to cover the rear-most portion of the skull wound. Giesecke said the McClelland drawing did not reflect what he remembered of the wound." (So Giesecke was being reasonable; the photo didn't reflect exactly what he remembered but it was close enough for him to assume it was legitimate. Meanwhile, he totally dismissed the McClelland drawing.)
- Dr. Charles Carrico, who was not interviewed, but answered questions by letter, and said in his first letter "that the official autopsy photograph showed 'nothing incompatible' with what he remembered of the back of the head. But he conceded that 'we never saw, and did not look for, any posterior wound.' In his second letter, Carrico said he agreed with the size of the wound shown in the McClelland drawing, but not its location, since '...we were able to see the majority. if not all of this wound, with the patient laying on his back in a hospital gurney.'"
- Dr. Malcolm Perry, who, like Carrico, declined to be interviewed, but responded by letter. "In the first letter. Perry said that while he gave only a 'cursory glance at the head wound...not sufficient for accurate descriptions,' the autopsy photograph 'seems to be consistent with what I saw.' In his second letter, Perry simply-reiterated that he had not made a careful examination of the head wound. and that in his opinion, the only person qualified to give a good description of the wound was Dr. Clark."
- Dr. Marion T. Jenkins, whose earlier claims he'd observed cerebellum had been widely quoted "told The Globe he had been mistaken in his statements on this. 'I thought it was cerebellum, but I didn't examine it,' he said. Jenkins refused to draw a picture of the head wound on a plastic skull model, insisting instead that a reporter play the part of the supine Kennedy so he could demonstrate what he saw and did. Asked to locate the large head wound, Jenkins pointed to the parietal area above the right ear. He said he had never looked at the back of the head."
- Dr. Robert G. Grossman, who "said he took up a position next to Dr. Clark at the right of Kennedy's head. In contrast to Jenkins, Grossman said the president's head was picked up by Clark. 'It was clear to me that the right parietal bone had been lifted up by a bullet which had exited,' Grossman said. Besides this large parietal wound, Grossman went on to say that he had noted another separate wound. measuring about one—and—a-quarter inches in diameter, located squarely in the occiput. Grossman was the only doctor interviewed who made such a reference to two distinct wounds. Though no occipital wound such as he described is apparent in the official autopsy photograph, Grossman nevertheless said 'it seems consistent' with what he remembered. He said the large wound depicted in the McClelland drawing 'is in the wrong place.'"
Let's reflect. Ben Bradlee and the Boston Globe interviewed 14 Parkland witnesses in 1981. Of these 14, 8 strongly questioned or rejected the accuracy of the autopsy photo showing the back of Kennedy's head, and 6 supported or failed to question the accuracy of the photo. This is indeed interesting. But what's just as interesting, and just as telling in the long run, is that NINE of these 14 rejected the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, which those focusing on this issue nevertheless propped up as a depiction of the one true wound.
Feel free to scream. And let's reflect that when ultimately reporting on these interviews, in his 1989 best seller High Treason, Livingstone and his co-author Robert Groden claimed that the "McClelland" drawing "was verified by every doctor, nurse, and eyewitness as accurate."
So, I ask again, were we conned?
I mean, it's not as if Livingstone didn't know these witnesses had discounted his theory. Here is Bradlee's 6-21-81 article on the head wounds:
Dispute on JFK assassination evidence persists
'There's a definite conflict'
"There's a definite conflict," commented Dr. Richard B. Dulany when shown the official tracing. "That's not the way I remember it."
In testimony before the Warren Commission or in earlier written reports. all the Dallas doctors and nurses who made specific reference to the location of the head wound either said it was squarely in the occipital area (back of the head) or that it extended from the right parietal area (side of the head) into the occiput.
NOTE ON SOURCES
The autopsy and its failures have been discussed in books and articles such critics as Edward Epstein, Harold Weisberg, Sylvia Meagher, Vincent Salandria and Cyril Wecht.
Harrison Livingstone, a Baltimore researcher, first showed the official tracing of the autopsy photograph of the back of President Kennedy's head to several of the Dallas doctors, and elicited doubts from them as to the tracing's accuracy.
McClelland told the Warren panel he stood at the head of the operating table and thus was in "such a position that could very closely examine the head wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been extremely blasted. It had been shattered, apparently, by the force of the shot so that the parietal bone was protruded up through the scalp and seemed to be fractured along its right posterior half, as well as the occipital bone being fractured in its lateral half, and this sprung open the bones that I mentioned in such a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself and see that probably a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue, posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue, had been blasted out."
Controversial artist's drawing
One of the many amateur investigators of the assassination who has published a book about the event, Josiah Thompson, a former professor of philosophy at Haverford College. commissioned an artist to prepare a drawing based on the McLelland description. The drawing, approved by McClelland prior to its publication in the book, depicts a fist-sized wound with edges scored out in the lower right rear of the head.
McClelland reaffirmed in a recent telephone interview that the drawing was what he "vividly remembers" the head wound looking like.
Some Warren Commission critics and other researchers have erroneously cited this drawing as representing the Dallas doctors' and nurses' sole view of the head wound.
Actually, according to Globe interviews, they are not unanimous in their opinions or recollections. Five of the doctors and nurses agree with McClelland on the drawing and strongly assert that the wound was in the back of the head; four other doctors say that the tracing of the autopsy photograph shown them by The Globe Is "consistent" with their recollection of the head wound.
Disagreement on wound's visibility
But others, like Dulany and Grossman. said the head at some point was lifted up, thereby exposing the rear wound. Added Gustafson: "One of the doctors asked me to put a pressure bandage on the head wound and I tried to do so. (but) there was really nothing to put a pressure bandage on. It was too massive. So he told me just to leave it be." The wound, she said, was in "the back of the head."
"Definitely in the back?" she was asked.
"Yes," she said.
To critics of the official investigations, it is inconceivable that the presumably skilled Dallas doctors, conversant with anatomical terms, would consistently misuse words like "cerebellum" and "occipital" and say that the wound extended into the back of the head if, in fact. it did not.
Until now, to critics, the most plausible explanation for the discrepancy between the Dallas observations and the autopsy photograph of the rear of the head was that the photo was a forgery.
Some of the critics, notably the House Assassinations Committee's own photographic consultant, Robert J. Groden of Lodi. N.J., have argued that the failure of the Warren Commission and the House committee to show the autopsy photographs to the Parkland doctors and nurses cast doubt on the House committee's conclusion that the photos were authentic. The question of authenticity was not addressed by the Warren panel.
In a little-noticed dissent published in one of the appendices to the House committee report, Groden, who did the original optical enhancement work of Abraham Zapruder's now-famous home movie of the assassination, asserted that four.of the autopsy photographs (two In color, two In black and white) showing a similar view of the back of the President's head had been altered to eliminate evidence of a gaping hole in the back of the head.
All of the photo consultants concluded that the photographs were authentic. (See accompanying article).
Author David Litton, in his new book, "Best Evidence." published by Macmillan, advances a different, far more radical explanation for the discrepancies between the observations of the Dallas doctors and the autopsy photographs: that between the time Kennedy's body left Dallas and the time it arrived in the autopsy room at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland some six hours later, the wounds on the corpse were surgically altered to change the evidence concerning the number and direction of shots, as part of a plot to support the single-assassin theory.
Lifton cites an FBI report prepared by two agents who attended the autopsy. James Sibert and Francis O'Neill. The report, declassified and released years after the Warren report was published, states that "... it was also apparent that a tracheotomy had been performed, as well as surgery of the head area, namely in the top of the skull." No surgery other than the tracheotomy was performed by the Dallas doctors. In subsequent memoranda. Sibert explained that his statement was based on remarks made at the time by the lead autopsist, Dr. James J. Humes.
A variation of the mistaken hypothesis is that, as Dr. Grossman suggested, the Dallas doctors erroneously described the head wound. The autopsy photograph of the right side of Kennedy's head, seen by The Globe at the National Archives but not shown to the Dallas doctors, depicts a massive wound which extends about two inches behind the ear toward the back of the head. It is possible, according to Grossman, that the doctors loosely used the word "occipital" in describing a wound that extended to the back fifth of the head, or that they assumed, without lifting up the head, that the defect did reach the back.
Whatever the answer, it is likely that few will be satisfied, and that The Globe's Dallas interviews add up to another mysterious footnote to the Kennedy legacy.
The Blame Game
Well, Bradlee's article was quite fair, wouldn't you say? It described the controversy without taking sides. Still, that wasn't good enough for Livingstone.
Here is the bulk of a press release (found in the Weisberg Archives) prepared by Livingstone on June 27 1981, attacking Bradlee's June 21, 1981 article:
"I, Harrison E. Livingstone, mentioned in the article as first interviewing the Parkland doctors concerning the autopsy photos, motivated the Globe and prepared them for their 'investigation", during which time I was severely mistreated by them. The Globe claims that the majority of doctors and nurses whom they interviewed disputed the autopsy photos.( as did the autopsists themselves 7 HSAC), but that some doctors say that the photo is consistent with the wounds as they recall them. This is doubtful or not true. The Globe has perhaps-one witness of the 14 they interviewed that might positively say this. The Globe has not documented their work, not named the doctors whom they claim support the picture. The reason is that we proved that the doctors did not tell the Globe this, but that the Globe in an excess of zeal tried to get each witness to change what they said to the Globe, to the Sun previously, and to me. Previously, 100% of all witnesses interviewed by the Sun and myself said the pictures did not show the wound as they recall them. Both myself and Sun reporters have re-interviewed some of the Globe witnesses whom the Globe said agree with the pictures and find that this is simply not true. One of the doctors whom the Globe counted as reversing his testimony to me, then wrote me after the Globe visited him, and repeated what he told me, that the large gaping hole in the back of the-head extended into the occipital area. My original tapes of him and the other doctors are in the JFK Library. The Globe attempted to tell people that what I said was on the tapes was not on them, but then discovered that the Sun and the Library and others have these tapes and that they are valid and unassailable. Nevertheless, the Globe counted among their negative witnesses several of mine. Why they have fabricated evidence in this case, I do not know. I am sorry I went to them. It has taken me two years to try to establish this major evidence in this case. It was clear to me from an early stage that the Globe's intent was to either destroy my evidence, and Bob Groden's claim that the pictures are forged, or water it down. They could only water it down by the use of fraud.The doctors and nurses made no mistake as to the wounds. The nurses had plenty of time to study the body as they washed it."
Livingstone then added: "I ask that the above not be printed until I have completed certain work. The Globe has promised to allow me to listen to all of their tapes, and state that they will be placed in the JFK Library soon. I forced them to do this. I have also been able to trap these papers into doing some sort of an investigation. The Baltimore Sun has major evidence in the case, has in fact had access to the autopsy photos in 1979, as they admitted in an article Nov 18, 1979 by Steve Parks, and the Globe knows this and has talked to Parks. Why have they lied about so much? The Sun is working on the case now, and does not like both the Globe's fabrications and private accusations that the Sun has lied about the testimony it took, which both Groden and I are familiar with."
Well, this is pretty clear. Livingstone felt Bradlee had burned him, and had picked up his story in order to water it down, or destroy it. What he needed to do, then, in order to prove Bradlee incorrect in claiming nine witnesses rejected the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, was listen to Bradlee's tapes, and show where Bradlee had turned some of these witnesses against him, and misrepresented what they had said about the McClelland drawing.
He would have to do as much, or something equally dramatic, before he could possibly claim every doctor had verified the accuracy of the McClelland drawing, correct?
Circumnavigating the Globe
Wrong. Let's explore then how Livingstone handles Bradlee's 1981 interviews in High Treason, co-authored by Robert Groden, and published in 1989... In a footnote on Bradlee's article, he relates "I am grateful for the work that the Globe people contributed to this investigation, and for turning it over to me. I earned it."
Hubba..whaa? Did Livingstone forget how their work helped undercut his own?
Or had he decided to just ignore the interviews they'd obtained that ran counter to his thesis?
Neither, actually. In High Treason, it was advanced that "Livingstone, The Baltimore Sun, and Ben Bradlee, Jr. of The Boston Globe have compiled the testimony of a number of additional witnesses, and the startling conclusion of their work is clear: the autopsy pictures are fake" and that, furthermore, "upon seeing the official government autopsy photograph of the back of the head for the first time, each witness independently denounced it."
Well, heck, that's quite a statement, particularly in that Bradlee thought the evidence inconclusive, and far from "clear." So what was Livingstone up to?
Apparently, a good old-fashioned whitewash...
Here's how he explained the Globe's failure to replicate his results... He offered "Just prior to Ben Bradlee's Boston Globe trip to Dallas, the evidence he was about to gather was subject to a powerful negative influence, which changed the results he might otherwise have collected. A book was published by David Lifton--Best Evidence--which revolved around the question we are dealing with in this book: why the alleged autopsy photograph does not show the wounds as they were described by all of the witnesses. In addition to the theory it propounded, the book gave the erroneous impression that there was a flap of scalp on the President's head which covered up the large hole in the back. This book promptly became a best-seller for five months. The flap of scalp story convinced some of the doctors co-author Livingstone and The Baltimore Sun had interviewed to change their feelings about the picture..."
Yes, you read that right. Rather than acknowledge the obvious--that the Parkland witnesses were not in total agreement--Livingstone claimed David Lifton had convinced "some of the doctors" that the hole they'd seen was covered up by a flap by the time of the autopsy, and that the autopsy photos were therefore authentic, but misleading. Well, this avoids the inconvenient truth these witnesses not only said the photos looked legit, but also said the McClelland drawing was inaccurate.
I mean, really... As if these doctors would have claimed the photos were fake if that spoil-sport Lifton hadn't convinced them otherwise... This is silly in the extreme... There's no evidence any of the doctors interviewed by the Globe ever subscribed to Lifton's theory, or looked to him for guidance when interpreting the autopsy photos...
Feel free to laugh...
And observe how Livingstone further dispenses with the Globe's article in High Treason...and scream...
(His words in bold.)
Ben Bradlee, Jr. wrote co-author Livingstone, "Dear Harry: Here is the story as it appeared yesterday. It is not as I wanted it, as the enclosed copies of my original drafts will attest. There was so much haggling over the piece, however. I was glad just to be done with it and get it in the paper. Note your acknowledgement at bottom left. Thanks for the book. Best regards, Ben."
Of all the many witnesses, the Globe counted four who they felt supported the picture. Three of the four had made strong statements denouncing the picture at one time.
(Note: it wasn't four; it was six.)
The Globe wrongly interpreted the data on doctors Giesecke, Jenkins, Perry, and Carrico, for they all had been led to believe--after their interviews with the author and the Sun-- that there was a flap of scalp on the back of the head which was pulled down to show an alleged entry wound. We have already seen that the autopsists hotly denied that there had been an entry wound in that region, and they said, like many other Dallas witnesses, that there was no scalp there to be pulled down, Lifton's theory notwithstanding.
(So, Livingstone had decided to ignore Baxter and Grossman... His failure to acknowledge their statements supporting the photo to The Globe is indeed suspicious. Baxter's Warren Commission testimony described a "temporal parietal plate of bone laid outward to the side" and he told The Globe the tracing of the autopsy photo "did not conflict with his memory." And yet, in his 1981 article describing his interview with Baxter, Livingstone had at first misrepresented Baxter's testimony before the Warren Commission, claiming he'd told them "There was a large, gaping wound in the back of the skull," when he'd actually said "There was a large gaping wound in the skull," and then claiming he "questioned" the photos. Elsewhere in High Treason, Livingstone claimed that when he interviewed Baxter in 1979, Baxter told him that "without question the back of the head was blown away" (his interpretation of Baxter's words), and that Baxter had actually said "It was a large gaping wound in the occipital area." Well, hold it right there. Livingstone's article on his 1979 interviews reported merely that Baxter had "questioned the autopsy photos," and not that he'd said the wound was in the occipital area--which would have been a change from his Warren Commission testimony. It seems likely then that Livingstone was lying and trying to hide that Baxter was not a "back of the head" witness--I mean, why not admit that Baxter had told The Globe the photo didn't conflict with his memory? As for Grossman, well, he said that the large wound of exit was in the parietal area--where it is depicted in the autopsy photos. This was, of course, most inconvenient for Livingstone and Groden's position this wound was low on the back of Kennedy's head.)
Dr. Giesecke confirmed to The Globe that the back of the head was missing, but he had been told—after Livingstone had spoken to him and before The Globe's visit--about the alleged flap of scalp. The Globe erroneously interpreted this as meaning that he no longer felt there was a large hole in the back of the head. Trying to explain this, Dr. Giesecke later wrote co-author Livingstone: "in doing so (pulling down the flap), the underlying bony defect is obscured,'" making clear that the large hole was still there.
(This hides that Giesecke placed the wound at the top of the back of the head, and not low on the back of the head where Livingstone claimed it was, and that Giesecke had told The Globe the McClelland drawing was inaccurate.)
The Boston Globe completely ignored the evidence co-author Livingstone had obtained from Dr. Jenkins, and claimed that the doctor agreed with the autopsy photographs (without being shown them by the Globe). Dr. Jenkins is not quoted or mentioned in the Globe article, but the following statement is used by him to discredit what Jenkins had said before: "I thought it was cerebellum, but I didn't examine it." They wrote in their notes that he was therefore mistaken in his statements concerning the hole in the back of the head, and they presumed that he had never looked at the back of the head. It was this, and only this, that the Globe used in their rejection of Jenkins' clear position that the large hole was above and posterior to the right ear, which he in fact pointed out to Bradlee, whom he made lie down for the demonstration.
The House Assassinations Committee interviewed Dr. Jenkins in November 1977. He told the investigator that he "was the only one who knew the extent of the head wound." "His location was customary for an anesthesiologist. He was positioned at the head of the table so that he had one of the closest views of the head wound. Regarding the head wound, Dr. Jenkins said that only one segment of bone was blown-out--it was a segment of occipital or temporal bone. He noted that a portion of the (lower rear brain) cerebellum was hanging out from a hole in the right--rear of the head."' They did not show him the autopsy photographs.
(This was a bit silly. Why would any paper accept "the evidence" obtained by someone else, while working for another paper, and ignore their own interviews? Jenkins said he didn't see cerebellum, and that he'd never looked at the back of Kennedy's head. That was a retraction from his earlier statements, and confirmed that he'd rejected the accuracy of the McClelland drawing. If he'd pointed to a spot on the parietal bone slightly behind Kennedy's ear, when the wound in the photos was slightly in front of Kennedy's ear, it was of little matter. Livingstone could no longer claim him as a "back of the head witness." And his attempt at keeping him in the flock reeks of desperation.)
The Sun published the fact that Dr. Malcolm Perry hotly denounced the picture, but The Globe, although they did not interview him, said that he supported the autopsy photograph. They did not print the denial or any reference to this doctor. In any event, The Sun's intensive interview with Dr. Perry was conducted in front of witnesses, and the results corroborated the testimony of every other witness who had been interviewed up to that time.
The Assassinations Committee interviewed Dr. Perry in 1978, but did not show him the autopsy photographs. Perry told the interviewer that he had looked at the head wound and that it "was located in the 'occipital parietal' region of the skull and that the right posterior aspect of the skull was missing." It does not make sense that Dr. Perry and the only other two Parkland doctors (Jenkins and Carrico) the Committee interviewed would have somehow changed their observation that the back of the head was missing for the Boston Globe.
In addition, the testimony of Dr. Perry to the Warren Commission, and his extensive first-hand experience with the wounds, makes any later retraction attributed to him not credible.
(This was equally silly. Livingstone asserts that Perry's retraction can be ignored because he--Livingstone--finds it not credible. Perry was Kennedy's main physician at Parkland, and Livingstone's claims we can dismiss his most recent recollections on the wounds are nonsense.)
The fourth witness, Dr. Carrico, made such contradictory statements to the Globe that it would be inaccurate to count him as supporting the picture. Dr. Carrico told the Warren Commission: "The wound that I saw was a large gaping wound, located in the right occipitoparietal area. I would estimate it to be about 5 to 7 cm. in size, more or less' circular, with avulsions of the calvarium and scalp tissue. As I stated before, I believe there was shredded macerated cerebral and cerebellar tissues both in the wounds and on the fragments of the skull attached to the dura.""
When interviewed in January 1978 by the House Assassinations Committee, Dr. Carrico repeated the same thing: "The other wound was a fairly large wound in the parietal, occipital area. One could see blood and brains, both cerebellum and cerebrum fragments in that wound....The head wound was a much larger wound than the neck wound. It was five by seven centimeters, something like that, 2 1/2 by 3 inches, ragged, had blood and hair all around it, located in the part of the parietal occipital region...above and posterior to the ear, almost from the crown of the head," that is, just where the small entry wound shows in the alleged autopsy photograph. It would have been impossible for this to be true without showing on the photograph.
Dr. Carrico was not interviewed by the Globe, but he wrote them two contradictory letters. In nearly all other cases, the witnesses have just as clear a picture of the events of November 22, 1963 today in 1988 as they did then.
(Livingstone thereby demonstrates his lack of understanding of a topic he really should have studied: the reliability of eyewitness testimony. In reality, the clarity of the picture has almost nothing to do with the accuracy of the picture.)
The first spontaneous, emotional response of a witness is the most credible. In legal terms, such evidence bears the indicia of truth and reliability, before the witness has a chance to be subjected to conflicting influences and pressures, and/or reflect on his own self-interest. Eyewitnesses can be very wrong, depending on the circumstances, but the medical witnesses at Parkland, the President's wife--who held his head in her lap--and other officials and agents present in Dallas cannot all be wrong.
(More nonsense. Mrs. Kennedy's statements did not suggest a wound on the far back of her husband's head. And the part about emotional responses being the most credible--is GARBAGE!)
Dr. Robert Grossman, now a Professor and Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, had just joined the staff at Parkland at the time of the assassination as an Instructor in Neurosurgery. He never testified to the Warren Commission or to the Assassinations Committee. He said that he saw two large holes in the head, as he told The Globe, and he described a large hole squarely in the occiput,' far too large for a bullet entry wound, which would have shown in the disputed picture. It does not.
(Seriously? Grossman said the large hole was at the top of Kennedy's head, exactly where it is shown in the autopsy photos. Livingstone and Groden's pretending the entrance wound he claimed to see on the back of Kennedy's head was the same wound described by others, and proof the photos are fake, is deceptive, to say the least.)
Since the Globe did not take into account the previous testimony taken by Livingstone and the Baltimore Sun, it would seem that by their own standards, any testimony or position on the issue of the validity or lack of validity of the autopsy photographs should be discounted--especially if they did not actually speak to the witness. The Globe and Ben Bradlee, Jr. had no contact whatsoever with Dr. Kemp Clark or Nurse Diana Bowron, yet the Globe placed them on their chart ranking as 9s on a scale of 1 to 10, ten meaning total disagreement with the autopsy photographs.
(This is a bit bizarre. He's attacking the Globe for doing exactly what he did in his article for the Sun--including the statements and testimony of witnesses before the Warren Commission that SUPPORT the possibility there was a large wound on the back of the head. And his description of the interviews he'd conducted for The Sun as "testimony" is both self-serving and deceptive.)
Dr. David Stewart wrote Livingstone on DeCember 11, 1981: "I enjoyed our phone conversation and I appreciate your sending the material. I'll try to answer your questions as well as I can.
"On the Joe Dolan radio show, I meant to indicate that there was no controversy concerning the wounds between the doctors in attendance. I was with them either separately or in groups on many occasions over a long period of time.
"Concerning exhibit F-48, there is no way the wound described to me by Dr. Perry and others could be-the wound shown in this picture. The massive destructive wound could not remotely be pulled together well enough to give a normal contour to the head that is present in this picture." We would have to say that if Dr. Stewart did not actually see the wound, then this is hearsay evidence insofar as what he saw or did not see. What is admissible in evidence here is what he was told by Dr. Perry, the wound described to him.
Dr. Jackie Hunt, like Dr. Bashour, was not interviewed by The Globe, but Livingstone showed her the picture in 1979 and she instantly denounced it. She did not see the back of the head because she was standing directiy over the President, but she insisted that the back part of the head was blown out and rejected the official picture. "That's the way it was described to me," she said, saying that the back of the head was gone." Had the large defect been anywhere else, she would have seen it and described it. Dr. Akin said that if you looked directly down on Kennedy, you could not see the large hole." Therefore, Dr. Hunt's testimony is significant.
Dr. Hunt responded to Livingstone's question: "So, the exit wound would be in the occipital-parietal area?" "Yeah, uh-huh. It would be somewhere on the right posterior part of it...." She pointed to the sketch from Six Seconds In Dallas: "That's the way it was described to me." "I went around this way and got the equipment connected and started--but I saw the man's face like so, and I never--the exit wound was on the other side--and what was back there, I don't know. That is the way it was described to me," she said, pointing to the sketch showing the large hole in the back of the head. "I did not see that. I did not see this part of his head. That would have been here," she said, and put the palm of her hand on the back of Livingstone's head. She did this before Livingstone showed her the sketch from Thompson."
(Well, that's a bit deceptive, wouldn't you say? Livingstone included the statements of two witnesses who admitted they'd never seen the wounds they were describing and that what they were saying was hearsay. Well, no one--most certainly not The Globe--disputed that some of the doctors thought the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, and that others thought that at one time but had now changed their minds. So what was the point in finding a witness to their saying so, beyond skewing the numbers and giving the impression a higher percentage of the doctors thought the wound was on the far back of the head? I mean, REALLY? We're expected to dismiss the most-recent statements of Jenkins, Perry, and Carrico--three doctors who'd actually worked on Kennedy--and accept the second-hand recollections of Stewart and Hunt, who didn't even see his wounds? And speaking of Hunt, let's recall that in his rejected article for The Sun, Livingstone claimed that she didn't "fully endorse" the autopsy photos. Well, no wonder. She hadn't even seen Kennedy's wounds!)
It seems likely, in fact, that Livingstone has come to doubt the accuracy of the "McClelland" drawing. In High Treason 2, published 1992, he cited a 7-21-81 interview of Parkland Nurse Doris Nelson conducted as a response to The Globe's article the month before, in which she firmly rejected both the autopsy photo of the back of Kennedy's head and the "McClelland" drawing. She told Livingstone: "All I saw was missing skull and brains on the back of his head right there...There wasn't any bone there where that entry hole shows in the picture." When then shown the McClelland drawing, she claimed "It looked like that, but it's too low. It was where the cowlick is in this picture. There was nothing there...The hole in the drawing was too low. It was right there, in the right rear." Well, heck, this confirmed for Livingstone what she'd previously suggested to Bradlee--that the McClelland drawing was inaccurate.
But it's worse than that. When discussing Nelson's rejection of the McClelland drawing, Livingstone added "She said the same thing about that drawing which Dr. McClelland had told me." Oops. Keep in mind that this interview was in 1981 and that High Treason, co-authored by Robert Groden, was not published until 1989. In High Treason, Livingstone (and Groden) claimed Nelson disputed the accuracy of the autopsy photo, but said nothing of her opinion of the McClelland drawing. In it, they claimed McClelland had told the Baltimore Sun and Boston Globe the drawing was "accurate." In the photos section of High Treason, moreover, they claimed that the "McClelland" drawing "was verified by every doctor, nurse, and eyewitness as accurate." Now here was Livingstone, in 1992, admitting that this claim was untrue, and that at least two of the witnesses he'd interviewed in '79 and '81 had told him the wound in the drawing was too low. It's also of interest, then, that Livingstone's 1981 article on his 1979 interview with McClelland claimed "Dr. McClelland said that it (the drawing) accurately portrays what he 'vividly remembers' seeing on the operating table after the president was rushed into emergency." Perhaps, then, Livingstone (and Groden) considered a witness' saying the wound in the McClelland drawing resembled Kennedy's wound a "verification" of its accuracy, even if they said it was in the wrong spot.
If so, then, well, this was something they should have told their readers.
The Case For Conspiracy
When one compares the interviews presented in Robert Groden's 1993 video JFK: The Case For Conspiracy with the synopsis of these interviews presented in his 1993 book The Killing of a President, moreover, one can find clear-cut evidence for deception.
In the video, Dr. Paul Peters points out his recollection of the head wound location. As shown on the slide above, it was at the crown of Kennedy's head. So why does Groden, in his book, present a photo of Peters pointing to the far back of his head, barely above his ears? Was Groden pulling a fast one in order to help sell that Peters' recollections were consistent with the proposition the Harper fragment was occipital, and that the "McClelland" drawing was accurate?
If so, then the irony is palpable. David Lifton, in the 2011 forum post cited above, cited Peters' 1966 recollection of looking down into Kennedy's wound and seeing cerebellum as evidence the wound was low on the back of Kennedy's head on the occipital bone, and the Harper fragment was occipital bone. Lifton hates Groden...so much so that he wrote a near-book length article on Groden's deceptions for the 2003 book The Great Zapruder Film Hoax.. Well, here was Peters, in a 1993 Groden video, claiming the head wound was 4 inches or so above where Lifton still claims Peters thought it was. This blows Lifton, who boasted, after all, that "There is no comparison between an "eyewitness to the shooting"--who may have had a fleeting glimpse of the President (and his wounding), a glimpse lasting a few seconds, and the observations of someone like Dr. Peters, who was in the Emergency Room, and had a chance to observe the wounds at close hand (just inches away), and with the experience of a trained physician" completely out of the water.
The irony, then, is that Groden, in his book, presents an image of Peters (from apparently the same interview as the one shown in his video) pointing to the far back of his head, suggesting the possibility Peters DID say something to indicate the wound was on the far back of his head at one point in the interview.
Of course, if he HAD actually pointed to the far back of his head in the interview, and indicated this was the exit location, it only makes sense that Groden would have used that footage in his video. The likelihood, then, is that Peters was, in the image used by Groden, pointing out the occipital region of the skull, and NOT where he thought he saw the exit wound...and that Groden pulled a switcheroo.
That Groden would willfully misrepresent Peters' recollections is not just speculation, by the way. As we've seen, in Groden's previous book, High Treason, he and his co-author Livingstone told their readers that the accuracy of the "McClelland" drawing had been verified by every doctor. Seven pages later, they presented a photograph of a 1979 letter from Dr. Peters to Livingstone, accompanied by a copy of the "McClelland" drawing with an "X" marked on it by Peters. In his letter, Peters explained "I have marked an 'X' on the picture which more accurately depicts the wound, although neither is quite accurate. There was a large hole in the back of the head through which one could see the brain." Then, twenty-four pages later, Groden and Livingstone discussed this letter. They reported: "Co-author Livingstone first showed the official picture to Dr. Peters in 1979, along with the sketch approved by Dr. McClelland. He returned them, marking with an X the sketch of a large exit wound on the back of the head as being accurate, and rejected the official picture."
Yep. You read that right. Peters told Livingstone the drawing wasn't "quite accurate," and Groden and Livingstone turned around and claimed he'd verified its accuracy.
The next two deceptions have already been touched upon and are slightly more nebulous.
In the interviews presented in Groden's video, Jerrol Custer and Paul O'Connor demonstrate on themselves the dimensions of a wound stretching from the right front of Kennedy's head across the top and down along the back of Kennedy's head. Where Custer starts the wound and where O'Connor presents the wound at its widest is presented on the slide above. In Groden's book, however, he presents an image from the interview with Custer grabbed just as Custer's hand reaches the base of his skull to demonstrate the lowest part of the wound. He then quotes Custer, not quite accurately, saying that "From the top of the head almost to the base of the skull, you could see where that part was gone." Well, this is quite deceptive. When put right next to the photo of Custer with his hand at the base of his skull, Custer's use of the word "top" implies the top of the back of the head, not the front of the head, as shown in the video.
Groden's presentation of O'Connor is even more suspicious. While the quote attributed to O'Connor in The Killing of a President comes directly from the interview presented in Groden's video, the photo of him pointing to the back of his head comes from a different interview entirely. This suggests that a decision was made not to use an image from the interview in which O'Connor depicted the dimensions of the wound with his index fingers, and to instead present a photo of O'Connor pointing to the back of his head. This, of course, is deceptive. While the reader has no idea what O'Connor was saying when he pointed back behind his ear for that photo, it's clear he was NOT saying there was a fist-sized wound back behind the ear, a la Dr. Crenshaw, whose placement of the wound would otherwise appear to be identical.
From "mistakes" such as these, in which Groden misrepresented the statements of Custer and O'Connor to insinuate that the wound they saw was similar to the one observed by Crenshaw, it's easy to see why Lifton, whose own theory requires they saw a quite different wound, holds Groden in such low regard.
Head Scratcher #1001
Here's a quick aside, which I believe is both illustrative and entertaining. On May 17, 2011, while discussing Kennedy's head wounds on the Education Forum, an online forum to which I regularly contribute, I posted The Case for Conspiracy slide above to demonstrate Groden's misrepresenting the recollections of the witnesses to suggest there was little difference between the recollections of the Parkland and Bethesda witnesses. This met with the following response from Dr. James Fetzer: "The man is perpetrating a fraud. O'Connor and Custer were describing the wound AFTER HUMES HAD ENLARGED IT. Peters and McClelland were describing it AS IT WAS OBSERVED AT PARKLAND. David Lifton selected the wrong target when he went after me about 9/11. He should instead be gutting this guy regarding JFK!"
Well, the "man" in the post was me. Fetzer had misunderstood the slide and had thought it was I who was proposing the descriptions matched, and not Groden. Well, this was incredibly ironic. You see, the "fraud" I was accused of perpetrating--trying to convince people the wound descriptions of the Parkland and Bethesda witnesses were actually quite similar--was one of the main thrusts of a 43 page article by Dr. Gary Aguilar in Murder in Dealey Plaza, a book conceived and edited by...Dr. James Fetzer!
Yep... On page 187, before describing the statements of the many witnesses, Dr. Aguilar claims "In sum, on the location of, if not the exact size of, the major portion of JFK's skull defect--right rearward--there is NO disagreement between the autopsy report and both the Dallas witnesses and the autopsy witnesses." And, should one thnk this a typo, on page 197, after discussing a few of the Parkland witnesses who'd recently changed their story, he claims that the early accounts of these witnesses "were ONE with the reports of over 40 witnesses who saw JFK both at Parkland Hospital and in the morgue at Bethesda." (Emphasis added).
And yet this was all news to Fetzer, who ultimately undermined the authority of his book (and indirectly himself) by acknowledging Aguilar was mistaken.
Sleight of Hole?
Unfortunately, it appears that Groden is more than mistaken.
As discussed, in his best-selling and highly-influential book High Treason Groden held that the wound location depicted in the "McClelland" drawing "was verified by every doctor, nurse, and eyewitness as accurate," and that these witnesses described an "exit wound... almost squarely in the back of the head (the occiput)." Now, as we've seen, the photos in his subsequent book, The Killing of a President, prove this wasn't true.
But I guess that never sunk in... By the time of the interview presented in the 2008 documentary, Frame 313: The JFK Assassination Theories, Groden's story had sprouted wings. Where his claims had once had a kernel of truth--the witnesses he spoke to did indeed think the wound was further back on Kennedy's head than shown in the autopsy photos--he now claimed that of the witnesses he'd spoken to "Every single one--not one, not two--more than 20 have said the photographs that show the rear of the head intact are forgeries." Well, this wasn't true. While Groden may have come to believe from the statements of these witnesses that the photos were forgeries, most of them never said anything about the photos being forgeries. Many of them, in fact, specified that they thought the photos were accurate depictions of Kennedy's wounds, and that they were simply mistaken about what they'd remembered.
And yet, as recently as his 11-18-10 appearance on Black Op Radio, Groden was still claiming that he'd interviewed about 20 Dallas doctors, and that "every single one of them, without exception, said that the shot that killed the President--the fatal shot--came from the right front--entered the right temporal area--and blew out the back of his head."
Well, hell's bells. He's just wrong. Very very wrong. Wrong as wrong can be. Not only did few if any of these witnesses claim the official autopsy photos are forgeries, very few if any of these witnesses described an exit wound that anyone could honestly claim was "almost squarely in the back of the head" and NONE of these witnesses said they saw an entrance wound in the right temporal area.
Now, to be fair, Groden's not the only one spreading this nonsense. In his 2010 book Hear No Evil, Don Thomas claims "The opinions of the Parkland Hospital doctors that Kennedy was shot in the right temple was based largely on the blown out condition of the occiput, which they knew to be characteristic of an exit wound."
But Groden, who has only been studying the case for forty years, and has spoken to the Parkland doctors, ought to know that none of these witnesses saw an entrance by Kennedy's right temple, and few, if any, have ever said they suspected there'd been such an entrance.
Now, one might take from this that the man's a big liar...
But when one watches his video, JFK:The Case for Conspiracy, it's hard not to conclude that he's simply stuck in a groove, and that he's a much better salesman than truth-teller.
In this video, to be clear, Groden pulls off quite a trick. First, while the "McClelland" drawing is shown the audience, the narrator claims "The doctors from Parkland Hospital ALL described a massive exit wound on the President’s head…" A skull sculpture showing a wound from front to back is then shown, and the narrator finishes “…behind the right ear and extending into the occipital area which is at the extreme rear of the head.” Hmmm…Groden can't be trying to imply the Parkland witnesses saw a wound this massive, can he?Groden then proceeds to discuss Dr. Cairns' conclusion the Harper fragment was occipital bone. He shows his viewers where this would place the wound--on the far back of his head. Then, while discussing Jackie Kennedy's testimony about holding her husband's skull on, he puts his hand to the back of his head at the level of his ear in the occipital region. Well, this suggests the large head wound was in this location, correct? Low on the back of the head in the occipital bone...
Uh, not entirely... Only moments later, after discussing the statements of the Bethesda witnesses, two of whom, Custer and O'Connor, described a wound stretching from the front of Kennedy's head to the back and down to the base of his skull (in other words, the state of Kennedy's head AFTER the scalp was reflected and skull fell to the table) Groden officially introduces the sculpture of Kennedy's damaged skull briefly shown earlier; this sculpture depicts a large head wound stretching all the way from the right temple to the occipital bone. Well, this is a bit strange. This sculpture, in effect, combines the wounds apparent on the Zapruder film and autopsy photos with the wounds described by the Parkland witnesses--the wounds most believe are in conflict. Groden then tells his audience “A bullet striking the president in the right temporal
area would have exited in the occipital region in the rear of the head,
and this would be completely consistent with the wound seen by the
Dallas doctors.” Yikes. Is he really suggesting the wound observed at Parkland--which the witnesses for the most part claimed was on the back of the head--was the massive wound described by Custer and O'Connor? Apparently, so. Never mind that none of the Parkland witnesses saw an entrance in the right temporal area. Never mind that none of them recalled seeing the large wound in front of the ear described by Custer and O'Connor, and depicted on the sculpture.
But I digress. Back to Groden's trick. After presenting a few more interviews with "back of the head" witnesses such as Robert McClelland and Charles Crenshaw, and showing some of them an autopsy photo with a wound added-in on the back of Kennedy's head in the parietal region, and getting them to AGREE that this was close to what they saw, Groden sums up their statements by presenting an autopsy photo of the back of the head and claiming "Everyone said the area within this circle was gone." Hmmm...now what area was this, you might ask? Well, as shown on the slide above, the area within the circle--the area Groden was NOW claiming was, according to the Parkland witnesses, missing--was an area on the right side of the back of Kennedy's head, mostly above his ear, primarily in the parietal region, stretching almost all the way to the large defect in front of Kennedy's ear. It was not "almost squarely on the back of Kennedy's head," as Groden had long claimed. It was not a wound primarily on the back of the head, as depicted on the autopsy photo with the wound added-in. It was not a wound beginning in front of the ear, where Groden had implied it was in his video only minutes before. It was not even centered in the occipital region, and consistent with a blow-out of the occipital bone, where Groden had implied it was before that.
So, what's the trick? Well, think about it. Whether by accident or design, Groden had presented a few Parkland witnesses claiming Kennedy's head wound was toward the back of his head, mostly above his ear, and mixed them in with a few Bethesda witnesses describing a much larger wound, and somehow ended up convincing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people (at one point including myself), this wound was 1) a large wound stretching from the front of the head to low on the back of the skull, 2) consistent with the wound seen in the Zapruder film, and 3) consistent with a blow out low on the back of the head in the occipital bone, when it was really 4) none of the above.
He had, in effect, presented three different versions of the wound--an occipital wound from whence the Harper fragment exploded, a mostly parietal wound of the back of the head seen by the Parkland witnesses, and the large wound on top of the head shown in the Zapruder film and seen at Bethesda--and convinced his audience the witnesses presented in his video supported all three...when they did not. Not even close.
Mr. Groden's Wild Ride
Now, to be fair, it seems more than likely that Groden, in his pretending the wound described by Custer and O'Connor was the wound observed at Parkland, did not think he was deceiving anyone, and that no one has been more victimized by Groden's deceptions than Groden himself.
I write this, in part, because I've met the man, and believe him sincere. For many years, on weekends and holidays, he has stood on the grassy knoll, talking to tourists and those with an interest in the assassination. He has spent much of this time correcting misconceptions about the assassination. Apparently, however, he has spent so much time and energy defending his own take on the medical evidence, that the facts have, for him, become somewhat blurred. While he once noted inconsistencies between what the Parkland witnesses described and what is apparent in the Zapruder film, he has, over time, come to ignore these inconsistencies. Perhaps to simplify things for those looking for a quick explanation... Perhaps to simplify things for himself...
This is best demonstrated by retracing Groden's steps. In his first book on the assassination, JFK: The Case For Conspiracy, published 1976, before he'd gained access to the autopsy photos, Groden and his co-writer F. Peter Model followed Josiah Thompson's lead and proposed that Kennedy had been hit twice in the head, first from behind and then from the front, and that the difference between the head wound as described by the Parkland doctors and Bethesda doctors was largely a difference of perspective, with the Parkland doctors describing the large hole on Kennedy as an exit on the back of the head, and the Bethesda doctors describing this same hole as an exit on the top of the head.
With the publication of Lifton's Best Evidence in 1981, and its focus on the incongruity of the Parkland and Bethesda descriptions of the head wound, however, such a position was no longer practical. So, with High Treason, published 1989, Groden and his co-writer Harrison Livingstone presented a bit of a compromise. As shown on the slide above, they presented the "McClelland" drawing created for Thompson as a depiction of the ONE WOUND observed at Parkland, as the exit wound of a bullet entering at the large defect in front of Kennedy's ear shown on the Zapruder film and autopsy photos. They claimed the autopsy photos failing to show this wound had been "forged." They claimed, furthermore, that the top of the head wound shown on the Zapruder film was "easily overlooked" by the Parkland doctors after Mrs. Kennedy closed up her husband's head. Now, when one looks at the autopsy photos showing a gaping hole at this location, this claim is awfully hard to believe. But they had an explanation for this as well. Yes, in the photo section of the book, in a caption to the autopsy photo of the top of Kennedy's head, they asserted, "The conspirators sawed off the top of the head and removed the brain and bullets before the autopsy."
Well, this, right there, revealed the incredible sloppiness of Groden and Livingstone's theories. When discussing the "back of the head" photo, they reported that all the witnesses said it failed to show what they remembered, and that the photo must therefore be a fake. They then wrote that the failure of "some" of the witnesses to stand by their earliest impressions the photo was a fake, was because they'd become aware of David Lifton's theory the body had been altered, and had concluded the hole on the back of Kennedy's head had been covered by a flap for the photo. They then spent two whole pages (49-51 in the paperback) explaining why Lifton's theory made no sense, in large part because they'd spoken to Kennedy's friend, David Powers, and he'd assured them that he and others loyal to Kennedy had kept watch on Kennedy's casket for the whole trip from Dallas.
So when, exactly, did THEY propose "the conspirators sawed off the top of the head?"
In any event, with The Killing of a President, published 1993, Groden further distanced himself from Lifton's "body alteration" theory, and wrote it off as an "assassination myth." This left him with no explanation for the Parkland witnesses' failure to note the large hole on the top of Kennedy's head seen in the Z-film. No matter. None offered. Second, where he once presented a drawing showing two large head wounds--an entrance on the top of the head by the temple, and a blow-out in the occipital region--by artist Ed Chiarini, as a depiction of "what the head wounds looked like," he now presented a sculpture by Chiarini of one large wound stretching from front to back. Never mind that none of the Parkland witnesses described such a wound. Never mind that the Bethesda witnesses describing such a wound were almost certainly describing the wound after the scalp was reflected, and skull fell to the table.
From these changes then, I think it's fair to assume that Groden, like so many of us, has trouble making sense of all this, and that his deceptions are rooted in his fervent desire to reconcile the Parkland eyewitness evidence with the Zapruder film, the recollections of the Bethesda witnesses, and his understandable reluctance to accept Lifton's "body alteration" theory.
This is perhaps best illustrated by taking a closer look at one of his more consistent claims.
From High Treason to the present time, Groden has repeatedly claimed there is a "volcano-shape" on the back of JFK's head apparent in the Zapruder film. He claims, furthermore, that this "volcano-shape," apparent for but a fraction of a second, represents a blow-out on the back of JFK's head. In The Killing of a President, moreover, he falls prey to exaggeration, and claims that the "McClelland" drawing depicting a blow-out wound mostly below the top of the ear "exactly matches the volcano image appearing in Zapruder frames 335 and 337" mostly above the top of the ear.
What he fails to perceive or acknowledge, however, is that this "volcano-shape" only becomes apparent when Jackie Kennedy runs her hand across her husband's back, from his right shoulder back toward his head, and that the "volcano-shape" is almost certainly an illusion created by her white glove blocking out part of her husband's head. (This is shown below, in a GIF file created by Bill Miller).
Now, this error by Groden--his thinking a blow-out is apparent on the Z-film and that the statements of the Parkland witnesses are therefore not at odds with the film--is highly suggestive that he is prone to suggestion, and has a desperate desire to believe both that the film is accurate and that the head shot came from the front.
Now, to be fair, Groden's far from alone in seeing things in the film that really just aren't there. In Head Shot, published 2010, research physicist G.
Paul Chambers once again demonstrated what we should already know--that
having an education is not all it's cracked up to be. In his effort to
demonstrate that the medical evidence is hopelessly conflicted, and
therefore of little help in understanding what actually happened, Chambers both ignores important evidence and makes a number of strange claims about the evidence he does acknowledge. Astoundingly, not only does he fail to mention that the Dealey Plaza witnesses supported the accuracy of the Zapruder
film and autopsy photos, he insisted that the Zapruder film, autopsy
photos and autopsy report were in conflict, as the Zapruder film failed
to show a wound on the top of the head.
This is nonsense of a supreme order. While watching the film, or while looking at the Gif file above, a disruption of the outline of the top of Kennedy's head is painfully obvious. A bone flap angled down near his face is even more obvious... Well, where does Chambers think this bone flap came from? Amazingly, the side of Kennedy's head. Yep, while discussing Zapruder frame 333, towards the end of the sequence above, he not only claims that "No visible damage of any kind is apparent at the top of the head, from the right ear to the top of the sagittal crest" but that "The only visible damage is to the right side of the head."
Chambers' clear mistake puts Groden's mistake in context. One might even venture that everyone to study this case in detail has come to have a theory, and that having a theory has led them to seek support for their theory, and occasionally see things that just aren't there.
The Slippery Slope
Groden's mistake regarding the "volcano-shape" would be less troublesome, however, if Groden hadn't
also--through his presentation of Ed Chiarini's sculpture in The Killing
of a President, and in his pamphlets for sale in Dealey Plaza--suggested what anyone who's studied the case knows just isn't true: that the large
head wound above and in front of the ear shown in the Zapruder film was
readily observed at Parkland. This just ain't so. None of the Parkland
witnesses described an entrance on the front of Kennedy's head, and none
of them noted the large defect in front of Kennedy's ear readily
apparent in the Zapruder film.
Not that Groden will admit as much. Nope, in one of his worst mistakes or biggest lies, take your pick, Groden implies in The Killing of a President that the wound shown on the Zapruder film was observed at Parkland, by claiming "Dr. McClelland, who had been called to the Trauma Room when Mr. Kennedy was admitted to Parkland Hospital, said that the cause of death was attributable to "a massive head and brain injury to the right temple." Right temple. He wrote "right temple." Only that's the wrong temple. Yep. As we've seen, McClelland, in what he would later admit was a mistake, actually wrote "The cause of death was due to
massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple." Groden had completely misquoted him, and changed the meaning of his words.
While I acknowledge it is possible McClelland did see the wound shown on the Zapruder film, and meant to say the wound he saw was on the right temple, Groden certainly should not have presented him saying as much in an exact quote, and his doing so is highly deceptive. His presenting Jerrol Custer and Paul O'Connor in his book as witnesses to a wound on the far back of the head when they in fact described a wound stretching from the front to the rear is, of course, also problematic. A more conservative researcher/writer would not have written, as Groden did in The Killing of a President, that the wound seen at Parkland was a "large hole in the right rear of the head," and then offer that "The autopsists also described the wound as such, but larger," without admitting that the recollections of the Bethesda witnesses actually differed substantially from the Parkland "back of the head" witnesses. A more conservative, and reliable researcher, for that matter, would NEVER present a colorized version of an autopsy photo--with a large head wound added onto the photo stretching from front to back--and then claim this was the "original" photo, "according to nearly thirty witnesses," as Groden does in a pamphlet for sale in Dealey Plaza. I mean, that's just not true. One can only wonder how many of those buying or even browsing through this pamphlet and seeing this photoshop of horrors have walked away from Groden's table in Dealey Plaza thinking they'd seen the original autopsy photo without realizing that none of the Parkland witnesses Groden implies had verified this photo had actually done such a thing.
"Groden's "mistakes," in sum, lead me to suspect that, in his desperation to refute Lifton's theory the body was altered between Parkland and Bethesda, he has taken some serious short-cuts, and inadvertently deceived his readers. One simply can't trust him on this stuff.
And yet... it cannot be ignored that the locations given for the head wound by the "back of the head" witnesses seem to group around the "area within the circle" discussed by Groden in his video...a few inches higher and forward of the wound in the "McClelland" drawing, and a few inches back of the wound in the autopsy photos.