Why I believe the autopsy photos are authentic, and the Parkland witnesses were wrong
The Missing Mark
Since so many witnesses thought Kennedy's large head wound was further back on his head than the wound depicted in the photos, what can we take from this fact, if not that the wound was really on the back of his head, and the photographs fakes?
Well, as strange as it may seem, the fact that so many described a wound further back on the skull than is depicted on the autopsy photos and x-rays has actually solidified my conclusion that the wound was as depicted in the autopsy photos and x-rays.
The keys to this admittedly
strange conclusion are the Rydberg drawings made under the supervision
of the autopsy doctors, and admitted into evidence by the Warren
Commission as Exhibits 385, 386, and 388.
one compares the face sheet created at Kennedy's autopsy with CE 386,
the assumption the back of the head witnesses were mistaken takes root.
Since the evidence is clear the back wound has been moved between these
two drawings, and since our study of the back wound suggests this was
no accident, it only makes sense that, should the autopsy doctors have
had concerns about there being a large exit wound on the back of
Kennedy's head, they would have moved that, too.
Hmmm...let's put on our thinking caps.
Hmmm...does the absence of the large head wound from a face sheet marking every other incision and wound suggest that this wound was not readily visible from the front or behind? Possibly.
Hmmm...is this possibility supported by the autopsy photos, which, strikingly, show the large head wound to be nearly invisible when viewed from behind. Yes, absolutely.
Hmmm...since there is hair on the president's head in the other drawings created for the Warren Commission, CE 385 and CE 388, is the lack of hair on his head in CE 386 suggestive that this was how the doctors thought his skull might appear beneath his hair and scalp? Yeah, sure.
Reason to Believe
Hmmm...since the depiction of the damage to the back of the head on 386 is essentially the same as on 388, in which hair is presented, is it fair to assume from this that the autopsy doctors, and by extension the Warren Commission, were largely unconcerned about how having an exit on the back of Kennedy's head might appear? Yep. You got it.
Well, this, then, supports that there was no mass conspiracy to hide the wound on the back of the head suggested by the Parkland witnesses, and that the autopsy photos were not faked, and that, instead, the Parkland witnesses were simply --er, rather, not so simply -- mistaken.
If the wound was on the back of the head, after all, and the face sheet the accurate depiction of the President's wounds conspiracy theorists believe it to be (because it is so problematic for the single bullet theory), well, then, why isn't the wound on the face sheet?
the doctors were willing to move the back wound to help support the
single assassin theory, after all, then why not move the head wound to
support this theory? As we've seen, they exaggerated Kennedy's forward
lean in 388, and helped sell that the fatal shot came from above. So
why, if there were concerns about a wound on the back of Kennedy's
head, not just move the wound forward of its location in 386 and 388?
Hmmm...since it makes no sense whatsoever for
the government to fake top secret photos to hide a wound in the location
described by the bulk of the back of the head witnesses, and then
publish drawings of a wound in that same location, we can rightfully assume those
claiming the wound was further back than in the photos...were mistaken.
But if this is so--if the head wound did not in fact stretch to the back of the head where so many claimed to have seen it...well, then, why? How could they be so mistaken?
Hmmm...let's put back on our thinking caps...
Well, one possible factor in so many of the Parkland witnesses thinking the wound was further back than as shown in the autopsy photos has to do with the way people perceive the human face. While recollections of the exact location of the President’s head wound varied from being on the top of his head to being at the very back of his head, all the witnesses remembered clearly and correctly that the wound was not on his face. It seems likely then that the main focus of everyone’s attention was in fact the President’s face. When one considers that most people perceive their ears as representing the far sides of their face, it’s possible to understand how a witness to a wound not on a face could remember it as being a wound behind the ear. And once someone remembers something incorrectly they will usually continue to remember it incorrectly, as their mind loses its original impressions and becomes instead a memory of what they most recently remembered.
The research of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus provides us with a model for this kind of argument. On Table 3.1 of her book Eyewitness Testimony she presents a chart demonstrating memory accuracy in relation to saliency or importance. This shows that when it came to salient details, (what was determined after the event to be most frequently discussed or noticed) the recollections of the eyewitnesses to the event used as a test were up to 98% accurate, while the recollections of the details that were less widely noticed were as low as 64% accurate. Since no one at Parkland Hospital had a clue where the shots came from, or what the position of the limousine was on Elm Street when the shots were fired, there is no reason to believe the exact location of the President’s head wound would have been considered a salient detail. What one might assume was a salient detail was whether or not the President’s handsome face had been damaged, since on that detail the witnesses were 100% accurate. Admittedly, this is working backwards. Perhaps someone can design a test to see if people used to looking at something in an upright position, such as the President’s face, will remember a defect on the top of that object while it is lying flat, as a defect on its back.
Professor Barbara Tversky of Stanford University has conducted a number of tests similar to the one I’ve proposed. In her articles and papers, available online, she describes studies that demonstrate:
1) People engage in selective rehearsal when they retell events, leaving out certain details to accomplish a maximum effect. The re-telling of these events reinforces certain aspects of the event and downplays others. Over time, the original memory is replaced by the memory that has been re-told. (This could help explain why so many witnesses’ stories have changed.)
2) When people talk about their emotional response to a traumatic event, they encode a better memory of their emotional response to the event, but make more mistakes in free recall. (This could help explain why the stories of the most passionate witnesses have changed the most.)
3) When people are forced to take a position of advocacy on an event on which they initially had no bias, their memories become biased as a result. (This might help explain the behavior of Earl Warren and Arlen Specter.)
4) People tend to describe environments as if they were viewing them from above. (Since Kennedy’s wound on the top of his head was on the far side of those standing at the foot of his bed, this might cause them to remember it as being on the back of his head, the far side when viewed from above.)
5) Mental rotation of an image is one of the most difficult transformations made in the human mind. (Dr. Robert McClelland, who stood at the head of the table looking down on Kennedy and whose later statements and drawings have been used by conspiracy writers to support that the President’s large head wound was on the back of his skull, originally stated “The cause of death was due to massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple.” There were others who remembered the head wound being low on the back of the head, where they couldn’t have even seen it.)
6) People make small corrections in their memory. Nearly symmetric items are remembered as more symmetric than they really are. When people are shown two outlines of South America, for instance, one as it appears on a map and one as it would appear if its northern-most point was directly in line with its southern tip, people incorrectly pick the “corrected” version when asked to pick the actual shape of the continent. (Perhaps this explains why some of those who remembered the wound as being on the back of Kennedy’s head had clear memories of it being smack dab in the middle of the back of his head.)
Unfortunately, regular contact with researchers, who’ve tracked down eye witnesses years after the fact and asked questions about details that witnesses would normally not remember even the next day, has almost certainly added to the decay in eyewitness reliability. When attempting to remember things so far in the past, witnesses are likely to inadvertently mix together their memories with suggestions offered by the researchers, and accidentally create false memories. While a question such as “Did you see any men behaving strangely?” might illicit a simple “no” for an answer, a question such as “You know there are a lot of us who believe there was a headshot from the area of the grassy knoll, and the Zapruder film reveals the shot came from the front…A number of others recall seeing a man in a hat. I was wondering if you saw anyone running in that direction…” might illicit “Y’know, I think maybe there was someone. It seems I recall a man in a hat running over there. Yeah, I remember.”
While not making a specific reference to the Kennedy assassination, a July 2009 segment on CBS' 60 Minutes dealt with this very issue. Iowa State University Professor Gary Wells, interviewed by Leslie Stahl, detailed a study in which people were shown a tape of a crime, and then asked to identify the perpetrator in a line-up. Despite the fact the perpetrator was not in the line-up, most selected the suspect bearing the closest resemblance to the perpetrator. Now, this would be bad enough, but Wells studied the effect of positive re-enforcement on this identification, and received some startling results. He found that when his subjects were lied to and told they'd made a correct identification, they were more than 6 times as likely to say they'd had a good look at the suspect. He also found a more than 350% increase in those claiming they were "certain" of their identification in those who'd been told they'd been correct. This, of course, not only suggests that the memories of many of the eyewitnesses "friendly" to conspiracy theorists have been tainted, but that the memories of many of the witnesses "friendly" to the position Oswald acted alone, who continue to be convinced of his sole guilt without ever studying the case, are equally tainted.
Perceptions of Perception
But how can this be, you might ask? Can the memories of doctors, seasoned professionals, while on the job, be as unreliable as that of an average Joe witnessing a crime?
Absolutely. The more I have read of cognition and memory, the more I have become convinced that the Parkland witnesses who remembered seeing one large wound on the back of Kennedy’s head were mistaken, and that they had mis-perceived or mis-remembered a wound that was in fact in front of Kennedy’s ear. One’s perception of reality is highly subjective, a mixture of what one expects to see, what one wants to see, and what is actually there. Magicians and illusionists have known this for centuries. TV producers are aware of this as well (see the chapter entitled Bullshit and Beyond).
A discussion of cognition and memory follows…
The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal notes that “We all have a blind spot in our visual fields that our brains fill in. In the area of the retina where the branches of the optic nerve collect to exit the eyeball all visual receptors are pushed aside. Thus there is no registration of stimuli from the corresponding area in space. Yet none of us notices the gap—the brain fills it in by extrapolating the scene on all sides of the blind spot.” (This means that a certain percentage of what we actually see is invented in our minds based upon what we expect to see. This has implications for memory as well. FWIW, I also read about this in a Time/Life book on the senses.)
Additionally, Blackmore, in Dying to Live, notes that “under severe psychological stress, physiological trauma, or attentional manipulations such as meditation, sensory deprivation or hypnosis the brain’s representational apparatus may lose access to the sense data that are ordinarily its most predictive and useful inputs. So deprived, it begins to search for the next best alternative, usually images stored in memory banks.” (This leads me to believe that watching the death of a much-loved or respected person might hinder a witness’ ability to accurately remember the fatal wounds. More specifically, the sight of Kennedy lying dead on his back may have led some or all of the Parkland witnesses to remember images of him while he was alive, and standing up. These images of an erect Kennedy may have led to their remembering the wounds on his body as though he were standing up. A wound behind his ear while he lay on his back--at the top of his head-- might thereby have been transposed to a wound behind his ear while standing--at the back of his head. Admittedly, this is reaching...)
Even so, a 1992 article in Memory and Cognition by Reinitz, Lammers, and Cochran confirms: “Miscombination of stored stimuli features can produce illusions of memory.” They then break down that: 1) “research has supported the notion that memories are sometimes reconstructed at the time of retrieval;” 2) “research has clearly demonstrated that subjects mistake their inferences for material that they had actually experienced;” 3) “Underwood (1969) proposed that memory for an event consisted in a collection of quasi-independent attributes such as spatial relations between stimulus items, stimulus frequency, etc;” 4) “findings demonstrate that in many situations, subjects can retrieve some stimulus features in the absence of others.” They then summarize their findings by stating “previously encountered stimuli that cannot be consciously remembered can unconsciously affect judgments by producing a feeling of familiarity…in the current experiments, the subjects were unable to explicitly remember all of the stimuli they had seen during study. Instead, the subjects based their recognition responses partly on the degree to which the stimuli seemed familiar. Since conjunction stimuli contained more old features than did feature stimuli, they produced greater overall familiarity and so were judged as old (familiar) more often.” (From this it seems likely that, in opposition to the beliefs of most researchers, the Parkland doctors would be more likely to remember the locations of Kennedy’s wounds incorrectly than would laymen. They knew what the President looked like. They knew what a gunshot wound on the back of the head looked like. Thus, a mental image of the president with a wound in this location would feel more familiar to them than to non-medical personnel.)
Still, researching how doctors might remember a wound incorrectly is probably beside the point. Since most of the doctors at Parkland reported Kennedy’s head wound incorrectly from their earliest reports, we need to explore whether so many could logically perceive something incorrectly in the same manner (or nearly the same manner—the exact location of the rear head wound as depicted by the Parkland witnesses in Robert Groden’s book the Killing of the President varies slightly from photo to photo). A 1979 article in Cognitive Psychology by Nickerson and Adams demonstrates that often people will recall items they look at every day incorrectly and in a fairly uniform manner. They found that of the eight features (front and back) of four U.S. coins--pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters--the average American could accurately recollect only three of them. A 1983 article in Memory and Cognition by Rubin and Kontis followed up on this and found that when asked to draw the front sides of these four coins from memory, the drawings most frequently created by the participants in their study depicted the President’s left profile (the penny, in fact, depicts Lincoln’s right profile), centered (the dime, in fact, displays Roosevelt’s head to the right of center), with the words IN GOD WE TRUST across the top (the penny, in fact, is the only coin with those words across the top), the value of the coin, i.e. one cent, five cents, etc., across the bottom (none of them, in fact, have the denomination on the front side of the coin) and the year written horizontally on the right (the quarter displays the year on the bottom and the nickel has it vertically on the right). None of the coins as most commonly recalled had the word LIBERTY on the front of the coin, when, in fact, it is on the front of every single one of them. When Rubin and Kontis asked their subjects to suggest a design for a new coin, moreover, they found that the most common design suggested was identical to the most common representation of the other coins—a left profile with IN GOD WE TRUST across the top, the year on the right and the denomination on the bottom. (This suggests that people’s visual memories are not like cameras and that the specific features of an image can be altered in one’s memory to fit a pre-conception of the image. More importantly, it suggests that these pre-conceptions are not random and that there is something about the way we process information that distorts the substance of the information we process.)
This last point is re-enforced by the following exercise.
Count every ' F ' in the following text:
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
Now, how many were there?
For some reason, when people are asked to look for "F"s they almost
always overlook the "F"s in words where the "F" makes the sound of a
"V", such as the "F" in "of". There are three "of"s in the above text.
The correct answer is therefore six. That we can be blind to letters
right in front of our face simply because the words containing these
letters use these letters in unorthodox ways undoubtedly supports that
we can be confused by the appearance of an object, and think something
on the top of someone's head, was on the back of his head. I mean, I
looked at the above text three times before I spotted the three "of"s.
And I was looking for the "F"s.
Should one doubt that eyewitnesses could uniformly misinterpret something as basic as the location of a head wound, however, one should look at the illusion below created by Edward Adelson. Square A is darker than square B, right? I mean, we can all tell dark from light, right?
Wrong again. When one follows a line the shade of square A down to square B, one can see that square A and square B are indeed the same shade, and that our brain has adjusted for the shadow coming from the cylinder by perceiving square B at a shade lighter than its actual shade.
So, could the "shadows on a checkerboard", so to speak, lead the Parkland witnesses to improperly recall the location of Kennedy's head wound?
Or is there something intrinsically different about improperly perceiving shades of gray and improperly perceiving the appearance of another human being?
A Matter of Perspective
The Einstein-Monroe illusion, in which an image of Albert Einstein becomes an image of Marilyn Monroe as it grows smaller to the eye, demonstrates that the fine details of an image that can not even be seen from distance can drastically change one's perception of the image when viewed from up close. This should make us wonder if there were some minor details visible in the autopsy photos--which show the large head wound to be on the front half of Kennedy's skull--which escaped the attention of the eyewitnesses claiming the wound was on the back of the head.
In the Einstein-Monroe illusion the addition of crinkly hair, crinkly eyebrows, and a mustache, which can only be seen when viewing the image up close, changes the image from one of Monroe to one of Einstein. Was there a detail missing from the Parkland witnesses' recollections that led them to improperly recall the location of the large head wound?
Rotation and Perception
I suspect there was. When I began researching facial recognition I was surprised to find that there has been a substantial amount of research on the difficulty of properly interpreting faces when seen upside down. The results of this research support the conclusion that the Parkland doctors’ seeing Kennedy solely while he was lying on his back--and thus in a rotated position-- played a factor in their subsequent confusion about the exact location of his wounds.
In an article in the Journal of Vision entitled “Are Faces Processed like Words?” Marialuisa Martelli, Najib J. Majaj, and Denis G Polli decided yes, they are. They also noted that just as we have trouble reading words upside down we have great trouble reading faces upside down. This is significant as Kennedy’s head wound could not have been viewed while looking at his face from the front. As he was lying on a stretcher, a wound on either the top or the back of his head could only have been viewed with his face in profile or upside down. A 1986 article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology by Diamond and Carey indicates that expertise has little bearing on this issue. Their studies showed that dog experts had as much trouble identifying upside down photos of individual dogs as non-experts. A 1987 article by Young, Hellawell and Hay in Perception is also helpful. They found that when they made photographic composites of famous faces their subjects had more trouble recognizing the faces when looking at them right side up than when looking at them upside down. They concluded that when faces are viewed right side up people interpret them as a whole, but when turned upside down they recognize them based upon their isolated features. This research was supported by a 1993 study reported in Cognitive Psychology by Bartlett and Searcy. Their research indicated that altered faces with inverted eyes and mouths were perceived as being far less grotesque when viewed upside down than when viewed right side up.
A 1998 article in Perception by Dominique Valentin, Heve Abdi, and Betty Edelman further tracked the accuracy of facial recognition against rotation. They found that people were more than twice as likely to identify a face incorrectly when it was rotated 90 degrees. They also found that people use two strategies in facial recognition. When rotated less than 30 degrees, faces are identified by their configuration, i.e. how the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears all fit together. (Thus, they process the features collectively, or “wholistically”.) Faces rotated more than 30 degrees, however, are identified by their peculiarity, i.e. their distinctive marks.” (Thus, they process the features separately.) Those seeing Kennedy in the crowded emergency room, therefore, would most logically have recorded the images of his head wound without a specific reference point. Upon recall, however, they might very well have remembered that the wound was surrounded by hair and in back of the ear. The wound described by the doctors and the wound seen on the photos are both in the hair and behind the right ear, when viewed from different angles. If a doctor remembered the location incorrectly, and discussed its location with his colleagues afterward, he might very well have influenced their memories as well.
The effect rotation or inversion of an image has on our ability to measure spatial differences has also been studied. A 2000 article in Perception by Freire, Lee, and Symons noted that “accuracy in detecting spatial differences among faces fell from 81% with upright presentation to 55% with inverted presentation. By contrast, accuracy in detecting featural differences was unaffected by inversion (91 vs. 90).” Here once again, we see that people are more than twice as likely to make mistakes when reading a face that’s been rotated away from the upright position. A 1990 study reported in Perception by Kemp, McManus, and Piggott had achieved similar results. It concluded that “subjects are significantly less sensitive to the displacement of features in negative or inverted faces than they are in normal faces…” Their study also measured recognition errors related to the horizontal movement of features against recognition errors related to the vertical movement of features. They concluded that when photographs are altered via the movement of the eyes further apart, closer together, further up, or further down, people will fail to notice the vertical movement almost three times as often as they will fail to notice the equivalent horizontal movement.
If one is to take these last two studies in tandem, therefore, and assume that half the spatial differences reported in the 2000 study were vertical differences, then one might venture that a person is more than 3 ½ times more likely to make a mistake involving the vertical location of a wound on a man’s head when he is lying down than when upright. Is it just a coincidence then that this is the mistake suggested? Is it so illogical to assume that such a mistake occurred? Further support comes from Perception of Faces, Objects, and Scenes, edited by Mary Peterson and Gillian Rhodes. This article summarizes much of the recent research on face recognition and reinforces that we identify faces based upon the relative positions of its features, that we do this best when the face is upright, and that when we identify faces piecemeal, such as when it’s been rotated more than 30 degrees, we make mistakes.
In 2009, while browsing through a 1964 book entitled Perception, edited by Julian E. Hochberg, I realized why none of this research regarding facial recognition should come as a surprise. From our youngest days, we learn to recognize people even when they are at a distance... Even when they are at an angle... Even when they are upside down... We don't look at a far off man and say "Wow! Look how small he is!" We don't look at an upside down face and say "Holy moly, that man has his mouth where his eyes should be!" No, we look at the upside down face, compare it to what in our mind's eye we THINK his face would look like if turned upright, and compare it to faces known to us. We then recognize the face as dad looking down at us in our crib.
continue to do this in adulthood. As a result, when we look at faces at
angles other than the upright position in which we normally identify
them, we don't actually SEE them as they are. We INTERPRET them in our
mind's eye, and compare them to faces we've seen before...in the
upright position. It only makes sense then that those looking at
Kennedy while he lay on his back would be looking at his face, and
identifying his face based upon 1) their interpretation of what his
face would look like when upright, and 2) their recollection of what
Kennedy looked like when upright. They were not studying his face or
his head wounds as they were in three dimensional space. It should not
be surprising, then, that some confusion would result...
Should one still doubt that our perceptions are so erratic that people might remember a wound behind the ear while lying flat (a wound on top of the head) as a wound behind the ear while standing (a wound on the back of the head) one should contemplate a happy face. Literally. We perceive happy faces and caricatures as representing human faces, but they do not resemble us at all. Our nose is not in the middle between the tops of our heads and our chins, our eyes are. Our foreheads are the same size as our mouth, nose, and chin combined, and yet we scarcely even notice them, let alone represent them accurately on stick figures or gingerbread men... Our acceptance that happy faces resemble faces suggests that we pay little attention to the relative positions of our ears and forehead to our face, and that any wound remembered in relation to our ears and forehead is a wound likely to be remembered incorrectly.
But do the Dallas doctors’ earliest statements support this conjecture? Is there anything in their words to suggest they inspected the back of the head, or located the wound in comparison to the hairline or neck?
Statements and Questions
one reads the following statements, one should keep in mind the manner
in which these statements have been presented by conspiracy theorists
of all stripe and color. In his 2006 book The JFK Assassination
Debates, historian Michael Kurtz relates that "Every physician and
nurse at Parkland Hospital who examined the President's head wounds
described a large wound in the right rear of the head. In other words,
they described a bullet wound of exit in the back of the head, which
meant that the bullet came from in front of Kennedy because he faced
forward. In their original descriptions of the wound in Kennedy's head,
Dr.s Malcolm Perry, James Carrico, Robert McClelland, Paul Peters,
Ronald Jones, and others clearly described a large wound of exit in the
occipital region. In addition, they observed both cerebral and
cerebellar tissue coming from the wound."
This passage, then, implies that all the doctors and nurses saw the same thing: an exit wound in the occipital region oozing cerebellar tissue. Let us see, then, how many doctors, on the day of the assassination, actually claimed 1) the wound was in the occipital region, 2) this wound was an exit wound, and 3) they saw cerebellar tissue coming from this wound.
Appendix VIII - Medical Reports from
Doctors at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas, Texas
Commission Exhibit No. 392
The President arrived in the Emergency Room at exactly 12:43 p. m. in his limousine. He was in the back seat, Gov. Connally was in the front seat of the same car, Gov. Connally was brought out first and was put in room two. The President was brought out next and put in room one. Dr. Clark pronounced the President dead at 1 p. m. exactly. All of the President's belongings except his watch were given to the Secret Service. His watch was given to Mr. O. P. Wright. He left the Emergency Room, the President, at about 2 p.m. in an O'Neal ambulance. He was put in a bronze colored plastic casket after being wrapped in a blanket and was taken out of the hospital. He was removed from the hospital. The Gov. was taken from the Emergency Room to the Operating Room.
The President's wife refused to take off her bloody gloves, clothes. She did take a towel and wipe her face. She took her wedding ring off and placed it on one of the President's fingers.
The President arrived at the Emergency Room at 12:43 P. M., the 22nd of November, 1963. He was in the back seat of his limousine. Governor Connally of Texas was also in this car. The first physician to see the President was Dr. James Carrico, a Resident in General Surgery.
Dr. Carrico noted the President to have slow, agonal respiratory efforts. He could hear a heartbeat but found no pulse or blood pressure to be present. Two external wounds, one in the lower third of the anterior neck, the other in the occipital region of the skull, were noted. Through the head wound, blood and brain were extruding. Dr. Carrico inserted a cuffed endotracheal tube. While doing so, he noted a ragged wound of the trachea immediately below the larynx.
At this time, Dr. Malcolm Perry, Attending Surgeon, Dr. Charles Baxter, Attending Surgeon, and Dr. Ronald Jones, another Resident in General Surgery, arrived. Immediately thereafter, Dr. M. T. Jenkins, Director of the Department of Anesthesia, and Doctors Giesecke and Hunt, two other Staff Anesthesiologists, arrived. The endotracheal tube had been connected to a Bennett respirator to assist the President's breathing. An Anesthesia machine was substituted for this by Dr. Jenkins. Only 100% oxygen was administered.
A cutdown was performed in the right ankle, and a polyethylene catheter inserted in the vein. An infusion of lactated Ringer's solution was begun. Blood was drawn for type and crossmatch, but unmatched type "O" RH negative blood was immediately obtained and begun. Hydrocortisone 300 mgms was added to the intravenous fluids.
Dr. Robert McClelland, Attending Surgeon, arrived to help in the President's care. Doctors Perry, Baxter, and McClelland began a tracheostomy, as considerable quantities of blood were present from the President's oral pharynx. At this time, Dr. Paul Peters, Attending Urological Surgeon, and Dr. Kemp Clark, Director of Neurological Surgery arrived. Because of the lacerated trachea, anterior chest tubes were placed in both pleural spaces. These were connected to sealed underwater drainage.
Neurological examination revealed the President's pupils to be widely dilated and fixed to light. His eyes were divergent, being deviated outward; a skew deviation from the horizontal was present. Not deep tendon reflexes or spontaneous movements were found.
There was a large wound in the right occipito-parietal region, from which profuse bleeding was occurring. 1500 cc. of blood were estimated on the drapes and floor of the Emergency Operating Room. There was considerable loss of scalp and bone tissue. Both cerebral and cerebellar tissue were extruding from the wound.
Further examination was not possible as cardiac arrest occurred at this point. Closed chest cardiac massage was begun by Dr. Clark. A pulse palpable in both the carotid and femoral arteries was obtained. Dr. Perry relieved on the cardiac massage while a cardiotachioscope was connected. Dr. Fouad Bashour, Attending Physician, arrived as this was being connected. There was electrical silence of the President's heart.
President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1300 hours by Dr. Clark.
Kemp Clark, M. D.
cc to Dean's Office, Southwestern Medical School
(Note: this summary was written by Dr. Clark. Here he describes the head wound as right occipito-parietal, which would place it above and behind the right ear. As no notes were taken in the ER, however, it seems clear Dr. Clark was relying solely on his memory of a wound seen hours before. As a result, it is not unreasonable to suspect he made a rotation error.)
PARKLAND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
J. F. KENNEDY
DATE AND HOUR 11/22/63 1620
When patient entered Emergency room on ambulance carriage had slow agonal respiratory efforts and scant cardiac beats by auscultation. Two external wounds were noted. One small penetrating wound of ant. neck in lower 1/3. The other wound had avulsed the calvarium and shredded brain tissue present with profuse oozing. No pulse or blood pressure were present. Pupils were dilated and fixed. A cuffed endotracheal tube was inserted and through the laryngoscope a ragged wound of the trachea was seen immediately below the larynx. The tube was passed past the laceration and the cuff inflated. Respiration using the resp assistor on auto-matic were instituted. Concurrently an IV infusion of lactated Ringer solution was begun via catheter placed in right leg and blood was drawn for type and crossmatch. Type O Rh negative blood was obtained as well as hydrocortisone.
In view of tracheal injury and decreased BS a tracheostomy was performed by Dr. Perry and Bilat. chest tubes inserted. A 2nd bld infusion was begun in left arm. In addition Dr. Jenkins began resp with anesthesia machine, cardiac monitor, and stimulator attached. Solu cortef IV given (300mg), attempt to control slow oozing from cerebral and cerebellar tissue via packs instituted. Despite these measures as well as external cardiac massage, BP never returned and EKG evidence of cardiac activity was never obtained.
Charles J. Carrico M.D
(Note: Dr. Carrico was the first doctor on the scene. Here he fails to specify the exact location of the
head wound. But, on 3-25-64 he told the Warren Commission that "The wound that I saw was a large gaping wound, located in
the right occipitoparietal area. I would estimate to be about 5 to 7
Kurtz score: Carrico does not describe the location of the wound in his original report, although its location can be inferred from his reference to cerebellum. He does not, however, describe this wound as a wound of exit. Kurtz's summary of Carrico's statement is therefore accurate on 2 of 3 points. Somewhat misleading.)
PARKLAND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
J. F. KENNEDY
DATE AND HOUR 22 Nov 1963 DOCTOR: PERRY
At the time of initial examination, the pt. was noted as non-responsive. The eyes were deviated and the pupils were dilated. A considerable quantity of blood was noted on the patient, the carriage and the floor. A small wound was noted in the midline of the neck, in the lower third anteriorly. It was exuding blood slowly. A large wound of the right posterior cranium was noted, exposing severely lacerated brain. Brain tissue was noted in the blood at the head of the carriage.
Pulse or heartbeat were not detectable but slow spasmodic respiration was noted. An endotracheal tube was in place and respiration was being assisted. An intravenous infusion was being placed in the leg.
At this point I noted that respiration was ineffective and while additional venisections were done to administer fluids and blood, a tracheostomy was effected. A right lateral injury to the trachea was noted. The tracheostomy tube was put in place and the cuff inflated and respiration assisted. Closed chest cardiac massage was instituted after placement of sealed drainage chest tubes, but without benefit. Electrocardiographic evaluation revealed that no detectable electrical activity existed in the heart. Resuscitation attempts were abandoned after the team of physicians determined that the patient had expired.
Malcolm O. Perry, M.D.
(Note: Perry simply
describes the large head wound as posterior. Within a few days of the shooting, Dr. Perry was the source for an article by Jimmy Breslin in the New York Herald-Tribune which was not so vague, claiming "The occipito-parietal, which is a part of the back of the head, had a huge flap." This flap, of course, is readily apparent on the autopsy photos but is nowhere to be seen on the "McClelland" drawing purported to represent the wound as seen by Perry. When testifying before the Warren Commission's attorneys on 3-25-64, for that matter, Perry would further describe the wound as being both in the "right posterior parietal area of the head exposing lacerated brain" and as a "large avulsive injury of the right occipitoparietal area." On 3-31-64, when testifying before the Commission itself, he would again describe the wound as "a large avulsive wound of the right parietal occipital area,
in which both scalp and portions of skull were absent" with "severe laceration of underlying brain tissue." The
wound described was, no surprise, higher on the skull than
the wound depicted in the "McClelland" drawing. While Dr. Perry told the HSCA's Andy Purdy in 1978 that "some cerebellum" was seen, moreover, he either changed his mind about this or was referring to what someone else claimed to see, as he was reported to have told Gerald Posner in 1992 that he'd never actually seen cerebellum. In support that he'd actually told Posner such a thing, an article in the 4-5-92 Ft. Worth Star-Telegram had Perry rejecting Dr. Charles Crenshaw's assertion Kennedy was shot from the front; it quoted him as claiming "There were no wounds at the
front of the head at all." It also had Perry claiming that most of the doctors who'd seen Kennedy at Parkland failed to talk much about the shooting not because they'd been silenced, but because it was "a painful experience most of us don`t want to relive." This, in turn, led to a 5-27-92 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in which Dr. Perry further denounced Dr. Crenshaw and his belief Kennedy was shot from the front. This time he went a bit further, however. To counter Crenshaw's claim that his fellow Parkland physicians, including Perry, had participated in a "conspiracy of silence" about Kennedy's wounds, in order to save their careers, Perry responded by saying that, if Dr. Crenshaw had truly felt Kennedy's wounds were evidence of a conspiracy, and had kept his silence for 29 years, then that was "despicable." In 1997, in a letter to single-assassin theorist Francois Carlier, subsequently posted online, moreover, Perry made his total rejection of the conspiracy theorist claim Kennedy's head wound was on the back of the head at Parkland, but on the top of the head at Bethesda, crystal freaking clear. When asked by Carlier if he was familiar with David Lifton's theory the body was kidnapped and altered, Perry responded "I didn't know this--what a joke!" When then asked what he thought of Lifton's theory, he responded "Don't know or care what he says. He wasn't there." And it's not as if Perry was just telling Carlier what he wanted to hear. When, in 1998, conspiracy theorist Vincent Palamara similarly pushed Perry for clarification on Kennedy's wounds, Perry wrote him back and insisted he'd made "only a cursory examination of the head" and that both his findings and those of his colleague Dr. Clark were "consistent with those described by Dr. Humes et al during the autopsy." Yes, it's more than clear. Perry, as Carrico, felt the wounds he saw at Parkland were consistent with the wounds observed at Bethesda. He was not a conspiracy theorist. And conspiracy theorists should stop pretending he was.
Kurtz score: Perry does not mention the occipital bone, nor cerebellum, in his original report. Nor does he describe the wound as a wound of exit. In fact, in the initial press conference in which Kennedy's wounds were discussed, Perry said "The nature of the wound defies the ability to describe whether it went through it from either side." Kurtz's summary therefore is inaccurate on all 3 points. Misleading.)
PARKLAND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
DATE AND HOUR NOV 22, 1963 DOCTOR: BAXTER
Note of Attendance to President Kennedy
I was contacted at approx 12:40 that the President was on the way to the emergency room having been shot. On arrival there, I found an endotracheal tube in place with assisted respirations, a left chest tube being inserted and cut downs going in one leg and in the left arm. The President had a wound in the mid-line of the neck. On first observation of the remaining wounds the rt temporal and occipital bones were missing and the brain was lying on the table, with extensive lacerations and contusions. The pupils were fixed and deviated lateral and dilated. No pulse was detectable and respirations were (as noted) being supplied. A tracheotomy was performed by Dr. Perry and I and a chest tube inserted into the right chest (2nd intercostal space anteriorally). Meanwhile, 2 pts of O neg blood were administered by pump without response. When all of these measures were complete, no heart beat could be detected. Closed chest massage was performed until a cardioscope could be attached which revealed no cardiac activity was obtained. Due to the excessive and irreparable brain damage which was lethal, no further attempt to resuscitate the heart was made.
Charles R. Baxter M.D.
is a bit strange. If “the rt temporal and occipital
bones were missing”, as Baxter claimed, there would be a huge hole on
the side and back of Kennedy’s head. Perhaps then, he meant only that
parts of the temporal and occipital bones were missing. Baxter's
testimony is even more intriguing. When he testified before the Warren
Commission, at a time long before anyone was talking about the
difference in the wound descriptions of those viewing Kennedy in
and Bethesda, he testified that he observed a "temporal parietal plate of bone laid outward to the side," and that
"the right side of his head had been blown off." He was also asked to
read his earlier report into the record. While doing so, however, he
read the line "the rt temporal and occipital bones were missing" as the
"temporal and parietal bones were
in effect, moved the wound from the side and back of
the skull, to the side and top of the skull. Now, while some might
claim he was pressured into doing so by Warren Commission Counsel Arlen
Specter, who took his testimony, this seems a bit far-fetched seeing as
none of the other doctors recalled receiving any similar pressure
regarding their own descriptions of the head wound. The probability,
then, is that Baxter was "correcting" his earlier statement on his own.
If so, then he was relatively consistent from that point onward. In 1992 alone, he is
reported to have told writer Gerald Posner that "The wound was on the right
side, not the back," to have told a writer for the Journal of the American Medical Association that he defers to the findings of the autopsy report, and to have told Tom Jarriel on the news program 20/20 that it was impossible to tell the direction of the bullet from what he observed. He would eventually tell the ARRB,
while sitting with some of his fellow Parkland witnesses, that "None of
us at that time, I
don't think, were in any position to view the head injury. And, in
fact, I never saw anything above the scalpline, forehead line, that I
could comment on.” And should that seem too clear, Baxter wrote single-assassin theorist Francois Carlier in 1997 and once again revealed his confusion. While answering a series of questions (the same questions Carlier asked Perry) Baxter told Carlier both that the wound was in the "occiput" and that his initial suspicion was that the shot came "from the rear." He then clarified his position, forevermore, by insisting that Lifton's theory the wounds were altered was "Bull!" Now, that's three for three. Three Parkland doctors. Three men who failed to believe the wounds they saw indicated Kennedy was shot from the front.
Well, that settles it. While David Lifton, in the
2011 forum post cited in chapter 18c, presented Baxter as
one of two Parkland witnesses suggesting the head wound was low on the
back of the head, and that the Harper fragment was occipital bone, it's
clear Baxter, based on his testimony and subsequent statements, would
NEVER agree to such nonsense. As Dr. Paul Peters, the other doctor
cited by Lifton, repeatedly pointed out the location of the wound at
points higher than the occipital bone (as shown in The Men Who Killed Kennedy, here),
it's clear Lifton has carefully selected statements and testimony to
convince himself of something that the people making these statements never believed was true. While all researchers willing to think outside
the box, including this one, are at risk to wind up in this position,
it is at least a wee bit hypocritical for Lifton to claim "the primacy and importance of the Dallas doctors observations cannot be
overemphasized," while ignoring observations, such as Baxter's observation of a 'temporal parietal plate of bone laid outward to the side," and demonstrations, such as Peters' demonstration of the wound location, that contradict his theory.
Kurtz score: by his inclusion of the temporal bone, it is clear Baxter was describing a wound on the side of the head, not the rear of the head. While he mentioned cerebellum in his 3-24-64 testimony, he made no mention of cerebellum oozing from the wound in his original report, nor that this wound was an exit wound. Kurtz's summary of Baxter's statements therefore is inaccurate on all 3 points. Misleading.)
DATE AND HOUR 22 Nov 1963
12:20pm to 13:00 hrs
Called by EOR while standing in (illegible) Laboratory at SWMS. Told that
the President had been shot. I arrived at the EOR at 1220 - 1225
A tracheostomy was being performed by Drs. Perry, Baxter and McClelland. Exam of the President showed that an endotracheal tube was in place and respiratory assistance was being given by Dr. Akins and Jenkins. The pupils were dilated, fixed to light and his eyes were deviated outward and the right one downward as as well .
The trach was completed and I adjusted the endotracheal tube a little bit. Blood was present in the oral pharynx. Suction was used to remove this. Levine Catheter was passed into the stomach at this time.
He was (illegible) that I (illegible) no carotid pulse. I immediately began closed chest massage. A pulse was obtained at the carotid and femoral pulse levels.
Dr. Perry then took over the cardiac massage so I could evaluate the head wound.
There was a large wound beginning in the right occiput extending into the parietal region. Much of the skull appeared gone at brief examination. The previously described lacerated brain was present.
By this time an EKG was hooked up. There was no electrical activity of the heart and no respiratory effort - He was pronounced dead at 1300 hrs by me.
W. Kemp Clark
22 Nov 1963 1615 hrs -(Note: although Clark describes cerebral and cerebellar tissue on the cart, a number of his colleagues would subsequently come to claim that macerated brain tissue is difficult to distinguish from cerebellar tissue, and that he, as they, could have been mistaken. His statement that “much of the skull appeared gone” is problematic, moreover, for those who try to make the Dallas doctors' descriptions of a wound on the back of the head jive with the Zapruder film and autopsy photos' depiction of a wound on top of the head by speculating that the Dallas doctors did not see the large head wound on top of the head because Mrs. Kennedy had put the bones back in place, and that they instead saw the posterior aspect of this wound behind the ear, which was not recorded in the autopsy photos due to the autopsists' closing of the bone flaps on back of the head. Clark claimed to see a large hole in the skull, and not a hole beneath some bone flaps. This means that either the large head wound was on the top of the head and Clark was mistaken as to its exact location, or it was on the back of the head as described by Clark and the Zapruder film and autopsy photos have been faked. I select the first alternative.
Clark's March 21, 1964 testimony for the Warren Commission offers some support for this selection. He testified: "I then examined the wound in the back of the President's head. This was a large, gaping wound in the right posterior part, with cerebral and cerebellar tissue being damaged and exposed." Later, however, when Warren Commission Counsel Arlen Specter referred to this wound as a wound "at the top of the head," and asked if Clark saw any other wounds, he replied "No sir, I did not." When then asked if his recollections were in conflict with the autopsy report's description of an entrance wound slightly above and an inch to the right of the EOP, he replied "Yes, in the presence of this much destruction of skull and scalp above such a wound and lateral to it and the brief period of time available for examination--yes, such a wound could be present." He had thereby claimed the wound he examined was entirely above the EOP, and more than an inch to its right. Well, this would be well above and to the right of where so many theorists propose the wound to have been located. It would, in fact, rule out the Harper fragment's being occipital bone. Clark was then asked if his observations were consistent with the autopsy report's conclusion of a bullet entering near the EOP, and "exiting from the center of the President's skull." He replied: "Yes, sir." When brought back four days later, and asked about a February 20 article in the French paper L'Express, where it was claimed he'd told the New York Times the first bullet entered at the knot of Kennedy's tie and penetrated Kennedy's chest, and that the second bullet hit "the right side of his head" and caused a "tangential" wound of both entrance and exit, furthermore, Clark disagreed with its characterization of his statements regarding the first bullet, but said nothing about its characterization of the second. In sum, then, while Clark's report and testimony suggest he saw a wound on the back of the head, a closer look at his testimony shows he was agreeable that this wound was at the top right side of the head, and consistent with the wound described in the autopsy report.
While some might take from this that Clark had sold out, and had testified in opposition to his original report, they would be undoubtedly wrong to do so. Before writing his report, we should remember, Clark had spoken to the press...twice. In the official press conference, he had claimed the wound was "principally on the right side." While speaking to Connie Kritzberg, about an hour later, moreover, he reiterated that it was on the 'right rear side." He had never claimed, nor would ever claim, the wound was on the far back of the head, below the top of the ear, in the location depicted in the "McClelland" drawing. This was something many had assumed based upon his mention of cerebellum. But it was never supported by the sum total of his statements.
While some have taken Clark's post 1964 silence as confirmation he believed the fatal shot exited from the far back of Kennedy's head, furthermore, a more complete look at the record suggests otherwise. A November 22, 1983 UPI article (found in the Ellensburg Daily Record) boasts an interview with Clark, and he claims "The only regret I have is that I'm constantly bothered by a bunch of damn fools who want me to make some kind of controversial statement about what I saw, what was done, or that he is still alive here on the 12th floor of Parkland Hospital or some foolish thing like that. Since these guys are making their money by writing this kind of provocative books, it annoys me, frankly." This was, strikingly, less than a year after Clark at first expressed interest in looking at the autopsy photos in David Lifton's possession, and then refused to even open the envelope containing these photos when Lifton arrived at his office. This was, just as strikingly, more than a decade after Clark first consulted with single-assassin theorist John Lattimer, and helped Lattimer develop a scientific and "innocent" explanation for Kennedy's back-and-to-the-left movement in the Zapruder film. It follows, then, that Clark was no friend of conspiracy theorists, and that he'd picked his side on the matter--the side in which Oswald acted alone. Well, for me, it's hard to believe he'd have done this if he'd actually felt certain Kennedy's head wound was an occipital wound oozing cerebellum. But the reader may wish to think otherwise.
Kurtz score: by mentioning the parietal bone, Clark was describing a wound higher on the skull than the one implied by Kurtz, and depicted in the McClelland drawing. Even so, Clark does mention the occipital bone, and the oozing of cerebellar tissue from the wound. He does not, however, describe the wound as a wound of exit. In fact, Clark, a man from whom all the other doctors would take their cue, made clear in the initial press conference that the wound could be either an exit for a shot fired from the front OR a wound of both entrance and exit for a shot fired from the rear. Kurtz's summary of Clark's statement, then, is accurate on 2 of 3 points. Somewhat misleading.)
PARKLAND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
DATE AND HOUR Nov. 22, 1963 4:45 P.M. DOCTOR: Robert N. McClelland
Statement Regarding Assassination of President Kennedy
At approximately 12:45 PM on the above date I was called from the second floor of Parkland Hospital and went immediately to the Emergency Operating Room. When I arrived President Kennedy was being attended by Drs Malcolm Perry, Charles Baxter, James Carrico, and Ronald Jones. The President was at the time comatose from a massive gunshot wound of the head with a fragment wound of the trachea. An endotracheal tube and assisted respiration was started immediately by Dr. Carrico on Duty in the EOR when the President arrived. Drs. Perry, Baxter, and I then performed a tracheotomy for respiratory distress and tracheal injury and Dr. Jones and Paul Peters inserted bilateral anterior chest tubes for pneumothoracis secondary to the tracheomediastinal injury. Simultaneously Dr. Jones had started 3 cut-downs giving blood and fluids immediately, In spite of this, at 12:55 he was pronounced dead by Dr. Kemp Clark the neurosurgeon and professor of neurosurgery who arrived immediately after I did. The cause of death was due to massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple. He was pronounced dead after external cardiac message failed and ECG activity was gone.
Robert N. McClelland M.D.
(Note: in this, his earliest statement on the assassination, Dr. McClelland
reveals that he was easily confused and prone to speculation. First of all, he gets himself all turned
around and mistakenly says there was a wound in the left temple. He says
nothing of a wound on the back of the
head or behind the ear. As but one head wound was noted at Parkland, and as no competent doctor would mention a wound he did not see while failing to mention the one he did, it seems probable McClelland meant to say this wound was of the right temple, not left. Second of all,
he states, without offering any supporting evidence, that the throat wound was
a fragment wound. This shows he was prone to speculation.
In light of the fact many conspiracy theorists cite McClelland as the most reliable of the Parkland witnesses, McClelland's next statements are even more intriguing. McClelland was the prime source for the 12-18-63 article by Richard Dudman published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in which the Secret Service's visit to the Parkland doctors, and its attempt to get them to agree Kennedy's throat wound was an exit, was first revealed. And yet McClelland told Dudman that after being told of the wound on Kennedy's back "he and Dr. Perry fully accept the Navy Hospital’s explanation of the course of the bullets." And yet he told Dudman "I am fully satisfied that the two bullets that hit him were from behind." And yet he told Dudman "As far as I am concerned, there is no reason to suspect that any shots came from the front." Repeat...NO reason to suspect any shots came from the front... That's right...in the very article most conspiracy theorists believe first exposed the government's cover-up of Kennedy's wounds, Dr. McClelland, the man they consider the most credible of the Parkland witnesses, spelled out--and made CRYSTAL CLEAR--that he did not think the large head wound he observed was an exit wound on the far back of the head.
This is confirmed yet again by the first article on the wounds published in a medical journal. Three Patients at Parkland, published in the January 1964 Texas State Journal of Medicine, was based upon the Parkland doctors' 11-22 reports, and repeated their descriptions of Kennedy's wounds and treatment word for word. Well, almost. In one of its few deviations, it changed Dr. McClelland's initial claim Kennedy was pronounced dead "at 12:55" to his being "pronounced dead at 1:00." This was an obvious correction of an innocent mistake. In what one can only assume was another correction of an innocent mistake, moreover, it re-routed Dr. McClelland's initial claim "The cause of death was due to
massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple" to the more acceptable "The cause of death, according to Dr. McClelland
was the massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of
the right side of the head." Right side of the head. Not back of the head. While some might wish to believe the writer and/or editor of this article took it upon himself to make this change without consulting Dr. McClelland, and that he'd changed it to fit the "official" story, the fact of the matter is there was NO official story on the head wounds at this point, beyond the descriptions of the wound in the reports of McClelland's colleagues published elsewhere in the article. And these, in sum, described a wound on the back of the head. It seems likely, then, that McClelland himself was responsible for this change.
In any event, on March 21, 1964, Dr. McClelland, testified before the Warren Commission. In contrast to his earlier statements, he now claimed: “As I took the position at the head of the table that l have already described, to help out with the tracheotomy, I was 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 ... the parietal bone was protruded up through the scalp and seemed to be fractured almost along its right posterior half, as well as some of 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.”
Since Kennedy was by all reports lying on his back, it is impossible to understand how McClelland could look down into a wound on the back of Kennedy’s head. It seems likely then that McClelland, as Clark, was confused by the rotation of Kennedy’s skull.
And it seems just as likely McClelland is not the man many if not most conspiracy theorists assume him to be. Notes on a 12-1-71 interview of McClelland by researcher Harold Weisberg reveal that McClelland "volunteered at some length about Garrison's men, describing Garrison as a psychopath, and seemed proud that he had talked them out of calling him as a witness...McC was quite bitter about Garrison and Lane, but he was without complaint about Specter and the Warren Commission..."
So there it is. Dr. Robert McClelland--whom many conspiracy theorists believe an unshakeable truth-teller--was a supporter of the Warren Commission's for years and years after the assassination--to such an extent even that he refused to cooperate with Jim Garrison's attempts to re-open the case. Well, is it any wonder then that McClelland, while continuing to insist he saw a wound on the back of Kennedy's head, repeatedly defended the legitimacy of the autopsy photos? And that he told the producers of the television show Nova in 1988 that "I find no discrepancy between the wounds as they're shown very vividly in these photographs and what I remember very vividly?" And is it any wonder then that in both his Nova appearance and ARRB testimony McClelland ventured that the back of the head photo depicts sagging scalp pulled over a large occipito-parietal wound? I mean, the man clearly has problems separating fact from fiction. (McClelland's assertion a large hole on the back of Kennedy's head could be covered up by stretched scalp is, of course, utterly fantastic and unsupported by every book on wound ballistics I have ever come across. Scalp overlying explosive wounds to the skull does not stretch and sag, it tears. No such tears were noted on the back of Kennedy's head at autopsy, and none are shown in the autopsy photos whose legitimacy McClelland defends.)
Kurtz score: McClelland's original statement said none of the things Kurtz claims it did. Kurtz's summary of McClelland's statement is therefore inaccurate on all 3 points. Misleading.)
PARKLAND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
DATE AND HOUR Nov. 22, 1963 4:45 P.M. DOCTOR: BASHOUR
Statement Regarding Assassination of the President of the U.S.A., President Kennedy At 12:50 PM, we were called from the 1st floor of Parkland Hospital and told that President Kennedy was shot. Dr. D ?? and myself went to the emergency room of Parkland. Upon examination, the President had no pulsation, no heartbeat, no blood pressure. The oscilloscope showed a complete standstill. The president was declared dead at 12:55 P.M.
F. Bashour M.D.
(Note: there is not
much to say about Dr. Bashour’s report. His Warren Commission
testimony, in which he described the head wound as "massive," is not
much better. But the next statement, in my analysis, holds the key.)
OF TEXAS SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL SCHOOL, DALLAS
To: Mr. C. J. Price, Administrator Parkland Memorial Hospital
From: M. T. Jenkins, M.D., Professor and Chairman Department of Anesthesiology
Subject: Statement concerning resuscitative efforts for President John F. Kennedy
Upon receiving a stat alarm that this distinguished patient was being brought to the emergency room at Parkland Memorial Hospital, I dispatched Doctors A. H. Giesecke and Jackie H. Hunt with an anesthesia machine and resuscitative equipment to the major surgical emergency room area, and I ran down the stairs. On my arrival in the emergency operating room at approximately 1230 I found that Doctors Carrico and/or Delaney had begun resuscitative efforts by introducing an orotracheal tube, connecting it for controlled ventilation to a Bennett intermittent positive pressure breathing apparatus. Doctors Charles Baxter, Malcolm Perry, and Robert McClelland arrived at the same time and began a tracheostomy and started the insertion of a right chest tube, since there was also obvious tracheal and chest damage. Doctors Paul Peters and Kemp Clark arrived simultaneously and immediately thereafter assisted respectively with the insertion of the right chest tube and with manual closed chest cardiac compression to assure circulation.
For better control of artificial ventilation, I exchanged the intermittent positive pressure breathing apparatus for an anesthesia machine and continued artificial ventilation. Doctors Gene Akin and A. H. Giesecke assisted with the respiratory problems incident to changing from the orotracheal tube to a tracheostomy tube and Doctors Hunt and Giesecke connected a cardioscope to determine cardiac activity.
During the progress of these activities, the emergency room cart was elevated at the feet in order to provide a Trendelenburg position, a venous cutdown was performed on the right saphenous vein, and additional fluids were begun in a vein in the left forearm while blood was ordered from the blood bank. All of these activities were completed by approximately 1245, at which time external cardiac massage was still being carried out effectively by Doctor Clark as judged by a palpable peripheral pulse. Despite these measures there was no electrocardiographic evidence of cardiac activity.
These described resuscitative activities were indicated as of first importance, and after they were carried out attention was turned to all other evidences of injury. There was a great laceration on the right side of the head (temporal and occipital), causing a great defect in the skull plate so that there was herniation and laceration of great areas of the brain, even to the extent that the cerebellum had protruded from the wound. There were also fragmented sections of brain on the drapes of the emergency room cart . With the institution of adequate cardiac compression, there was a great flow of blood from the cranial cavity, indicating that there was much vascular damage as well as brain tissue damage .
It is my personal feeling that all methods of resuscitation were instituted expeditiously and efficiently. However, this cranial and intracranial damage was of such magnitude as to cause the irreversible damage. President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1300.
Sincerely, M. T. Jenkins, M.D .
The Trendelenburg Position
first glance, Dr. Jenkins’ statement is not
particularly eye-opening. As with Baxter, he describes the wound as
“temporal and occipital.” As with Clark he makes sure we know there is
missing bone, describing “a great defect in the skull plate”
incompatible with the “sprung-bone theory” so popular with so many
conspiracy theorists and later pushed by McClelland.
But that's just the beginning of Jenkins's journey. Although an
11-10-77 report on an interview with Jenkins conducted by the HSCA
staff specified that "Dr. Jenkins said that only one segment of bone
was blown out--it was a segment of occipital or temporal bone" and that
"a portion of the cerebellum (lower rear brain) was hanging out," he was soon thereafter shown the error of his ways (apparently by Dr. Lattimer), as a 3-4-81 transcript of an interview with the Boston Globe found in the Weisberg Archives has him saying both that the wound was "above the ear, parietal...about the size of the palm of your hand" and that he knew he hadn't actually seen cerebellum.
He continued in this vein ever after. In 1988, he told the producers of the television program NOVA that, upon finally viewing the autopsy photos, he'd come to believe his earliest descriptions of the wound location were incorrect, and that he did not see
cerebellum protruding from the large defect. Four years later, in the 5-27-92 issue of the Journal of the
American Medical Association, moreover, he would reiterate this position,
not only questioning his original descriptions of Kennedy's head wounds but those of his fellow
Parkland witnesses. He declared: "I was standing at the head of the
table... My presence there and the President's great shock of hair and
the location of the head wound were such that it was not visible to
those standing down each side of the gurney where they were carrying out
their resuscitative maneuvers."
And he didn't stop there. In 1992, in what was apparently a busy year for Jenkins, he is reported to have told writer Gerald Posner that "The description of the cerebellum was my fault…When I read my report over I realized there could not be any cerebellum. The autopsy photo, with the rear of the head intact and a protrusion in the parietal region, is the way I remember it. I never did say occipital." (Oh yes, you did.) A 6-6-92 article in the Dallas Morning News, reporting on a Dallas Forum on Kennedy's wounds, moreover, further claimed that Jenkins, along with Dr.s Carrico and Peters, had told those in attendance that they'd confused cerebrum for cerebellum "in part because the brain was so mangled by the bullet." Jenkins' exact words were printed in Harrison Livingstone's Killing the Truth the next year. He'd told the audience "In my official report, I said the cerebellum was hanging out, and I thought it over after I turned it in. Well, I confused my three lums at times. I'd call one by the other one's name. I'd call cerebrum cerebellum. When I looked at the photographs again, I can see why we did that, because this coming out of the temporal-parietal area, brain was so convoluted right there, that the cerebrum had a cerebellum look. But it wasn't cerebellum..."
Jenkins was thus not only not a back-of-the-head witness, as many claim, but an ardent defender of the authenticity of the autopsy photos.
I looked up the term "Trendelenburg Position", and found this description: “In the Trendelenburg position the body is laid flat on the back with the head lower than the pelvis in contrast to the reverse Trendelenburg position. This is a standard position used in surgery in gynecology. It allows better access to the pelvic organs as intestines move cranially by gravity. It was named for the German surgeon Friedrich Trendelenburg.” Elsewhere, I found an even better description: “Tren·de·len·burg position n. A supine position with the patient inclined at an angle of 45 degrees; so that the pelvis is higher than the head, used during and after operations in the pelvis or for shock.”
Well, this surprised me, as no one else had mentioned that
Kennedy was not only flat on his back, but topsy-turvy. Perhaps they’d simply
forgotten. If so, it may not have
occurred to them that a wound on the top of the head slightly in front of the
ear would appear posterior to the ear if the patient was in the Trendelenburg
position. This problem with orientation,
moreover, would help explain how Dr. Robert McClelland could testify he “could
actually look down into the skull cavity itself” whilst simultaneously
embracing the contradictory attitudes that the wound was on the back of
Kennedy’s head and that Kennedy was lying on his back. It would also be consistent with Dr. Ronald Jones' statements to researcher Brad Parker in 1992, where he is reported to have claimed both that the wound was behind Kennedy's right ear and that "a lot of that injury was on the downside with him flat on the table." It seems more than a coincidence, after all, that if the wound was on top of Kennedy’s
skull, as presumed, while Kennedy was in the Trendelenburg
Position, as claimed by Jenkins, the wound would have been observed as claimed by McClelland, and would appear to have been behind Kennedy's right ear, on the downside, as claimed by Jones.
(FWIW, in 1981, in an interview with the Boston Globe, Dr. Paul Peters claimed "the President was lying in the supine, slight Trendelenburg position," which both confirmed Jenkins' report and challenged it, in that it suggested Kennedy's feet were not raised as much as they would be if he were in the normal Trendelenburg position.)
Should one still be skeptical that the confusion over the location of Kennedy’s head wound came from the rotation of his body when observed by the doctors, however, one should feel free to go back to the Lincoln/Kennedy comparison slide here , and take a closer look at the locations of the red stars over President Lincoln.
September 2008, I put this slide up on an online forum, and asked if
anyone noticed anything. After a few days passed, and no one responded,
I offered the hint that there was something odd about the red stars I'd
placed on the images of President Lincoln. Finally, after more than 500
views, a member offered that the red stars were not in the same
location on the images of Lincoln, and that one was above Lincoln's
ear, and the other was on the back of his head. That it took so long
for someone to state something so obvious, once one compares the red
stars to the top of the ear, supports my suspicion that the majority of
those viewing this slide did not perceive the red stars in relation to
the top of the ear, but to the middle of the ear. This, in turn,
supports my suspicion that the Parkland witnesses were similarly
"Well, hold on right there," you must be thinking, "is it really likely every doctor
seeing Kennedy at the hospital on 11-22 would make this same mistake, and confuse a wound high on the head above the ear with a wound on the back of the head oozing cerebellum?"
No, probably not. Which is why it's important to recall that every doctor
didn't. As discussed, Dr. Burkley was aware of but one wound on
Kennedy's head, a large wound by his temple. As far as the Parkland
staff, well, Dr. Baxter testified before the Warren Commission that the
wound was temporal and parietal, and thus near the ear, and not on
the back of the head. Dr. Salyer, as well,
testified that the wound was in the "right temporal area," and thus near
the ear, and not on the back of the head. While
Dr. Giesecke testified before the Commission that the wound was on the left side of the head, he also claimed that it was a large
wound stretching from the vertex to the ear, and the brow-line to the
occiput, and thus not the hole on the back of the head recalled by
others. In fact, he later admitted to Vincent Palamara that although he "did not examine the President's head and should never have said anything about the wounds," he had nevertheless concluded "all entrance wounds were from the rear."
And then there's the Johnny-come-latelys--doctors only marginally involved in Kennedy's treatment whose statements regarding the head wound location came many years later... While Dr. Don Curtis did in fact testify before the Warren Commission his recollection as to the head wound location was not recorded till many years later, when he at first told researcher Brad Parker the "McClelland" drawing was "essentially" correct, and then specified to researcher Vincent Palamara that the wound was on the "posterior lateral surface of the skull," the side of the head. Dr. William Midgett's story is similar. While his presence in the emergency room was confirmed by the Warren Commission testimony of several nurses, his impressions were not recorded until decades later when he was interviewed first by Gerald Posner and then Wallace Milam. He is reported to have told Posner the wound was "more parietal than occipital" and to have told Milam it was an approximately 6 cm wound in the parietal area behind the ear. This is NOT a wound on the far back of the head oozing cerebellum.
Nor was the wound described by Dr. Donald Seldin. When contacted by researcher Vincent Palamara in 1998, Seldin is reported to have claimed that the bullet exploded the skull, and that the "frontal, parietal, and temporal bones were shattered." No mention of the occipital bone. While Seldin, apparently, was somewhat confused, telling Palamara the bullet struck Kennedy in the forehead (perhaps he meant upon exit), he was most adamant that his recollections not be used to spread doubts, telling Palamara "I believe that the official story is accurate in all details."
And then there's Grossman... While there is almost no record of Dr. Grossman's presence in Emergency Room One on 11-22-63, he emerged in 1981 with claims of having been at Dr. Clark's side when Kennedy's wounds were studied. His statements and articles not only reflect that he alone, of all the doctors to work on or inspect Kennedy at Parkland, noted an entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head in his hair, but that he also recalled seeing a large exit wound on the right side of Kennedy's head above his ear. Although this supports my conclusions regarding the wound locations, I nevertheless suspect Dr. Grossman is full of hooey. It just smells to high heaven that the only Parkland doctor claiming to see an entrance wound on the back of JFK's head was a doctor no one else remembered even being there, who failed to come forward for 17 years or more. There's also this: while Dr. Grossman reportedly told the ARRB in 1997 that the entrance wound he saw was "a circular puncture in the occipital region...approximately 2 cm in diameter, near the EOP, centerline, or perhaps just right of center, through which he could see brain tissue which he believed was cerebellum" (which is in the same location as, but much larger than, the wound described in the autopsy report), a November 22, 2003 article by Frank D. Roylance in the Baltimore Sun based upon an interview with Grossman reported that "Grossman and Clark saw a small wound about an inch in diameter on the upper part of the back of his head, just to the right of the midline...filled with damaged brain tissue" (which would appear to be a reference to the supposed cowlick entrance). So, did Grossman move the location of the entrance wound he and he alone "saw" to kiss up to those holding the wound was in the cowlick? I don't know but it's just hard to believe anything he says...
And that's not the end of the Parkland witnesses claiming the wound was NOT on the back of the head. Should one choose to look beyond Grossman, one can find Sharon Calloway. Calloway, an x-ray intern at Parkland on the day of the shooting, performed an oral history interview for the Sixth Floor Museum on 1-27-02, and claimed she saw the back of Kennedy's head in the hallway before he was moved into Trauma Room One. She claimed: "The top of his head was gone... One of the doctors came down the hall shaking his head and he said it looked like someone had dropped a ripe watermelon on the floor. This is what the top of his head looked like. And we could see that. We could see his head. It wasn't draped yet."
one still refuse to believe that there was no large exit wound low on the back of Kennedy's head and that the rotation of Kennedy on the
hospital stretcher led to confusion about his head wound
location, one should know that, no matter the explanation, such
confusions occur. In the early 1990's, now Associate Professor Daniel
Simons of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana created a
video of six people passing basketballs back and forth, while moving
around in a circle. Simons played this video to unsuspecting subjects,
asking them how many passes were made, or whether the women in the
video made more passes than the men. No matter. The passing was just a
distraction. During the middle of the short video-taped passing
demonstration, a man in a gorilla suit walked into frame and stood in
the middle of the basketball players. What Simons really wanted to know
was if anyone counting the number of passes would notice this man in
the gorilla suit. He got his answer, which continues to confound people
to this day. He found that, upon first viewing, only about 50% of those
looking straight at--no, actually studying--a video of a man in a
gorilla suit, had any recollection of seeing him, when their attention
was drawn to unrelated details. One can view this video, here. http://viscog.beckman.illinois.edu/flashmovie/15.php
The application of Simons' experiment to the Kennedy case should be obvious. From the failure of so many to note the gorilla in the room one can easily extrapolate that the team trying to save Kennedy's life was so focused on trying to save his life that the exact location of his head wound was only a fuzzy afterthought...prone to manipulation...
No, not deliberate manipulation, but accidental. As the testimony of the Parkland witnesses, which came after Dr. Clark's observation of cerebellum had been made public, reflected a greater degree of cerebellum sightings than the original statements of these witnesses, and as the location of the wound described by the witnesses coming forward in the 80's, which came after the publication of the so-called McClelland drawing showing an occipital wound, were centered on the occipital bone to a greater degree than the wound described previously, it's reasonable to assume that social pressures, "groupthink," if you will, was in part responsible for so many of these witnesses thinking the wound was further back on the skull than as shown in the autopsy photos.
A study reported in the July 2011 issue of Science Magazine supports this probability. In this study, participants were 1) shown an eyewitness-style documentary in groups of five, 2) brought back individually three days later and asked questions about what they'd observed, 3) brought back four days later and shown the answers of those tested at the same time as them, 4) asked the questions again, 5) brought back again 7 days later and told that the answers of the others they'd been shown the week before had been random answers, and may or may not have been the actual answers of those with whom they'd originally viewed the documentary, and 6) asked the same questions again, after being told to rely on their original memories. The participants were then debriefed, with the results of those suspicious they were being manipulated thrown out.
The results were impressive. While some of the answers of others shown the participants a week after viewing the documentary were 100% wrong, and not even the real answers given by the others, 68.3% of the participants answered these questions in accordance with how they'd been told the others had responded, even though they'd answered these questions correctly only four days before. That this wasn't simply a failure of memory is proven by a control test, in which only 15.5% of those getting an answer right three days after viewing the documentary got it wrong 14 days after viewing the documentary. This suggests that over 50% of the participants changed their answers to fit in with the crowd.
That this wasn't just a change of answer, but an actual change of memory, for many of those tested, moreover, was demonstrated by the results of the final test. 40.8% of the participants who got a question correct, and then changed it to fit in with the crowd, stood by their incorrect answer after being told the answers of others they'd been shown had been randomly generated, and that they were now to rely exclusively upon their original memories. Disturbingly, this suggests that the memories of a significant percentage of the public can be changed, permanently, by being told what their peers remember, even if what they're told is something they at one time knew was untrue.
Memories are fragile. The recollections of the Parkland witnesses, co-workers who undoubtedly discussed what they saw with other co-workers, most if not all of whom would have been familiar with Dr. Clark's description of the wound, are just not as reliable as many would like us to believe.
And should this explanation not suffice, and should one still refuse to believe that the excitement of a trauma room can
lead to mistakes in bullet wound
identification (and/or that trauma room physicians are not properly
trained to judge the direction of bullet wounds) one should know that
Wake Forest University indirectly studied this from 1987-1992, by
comparing the reports of trauma specialists with the corresponding
reports of forensic pathologists. This study, as described in an April
28, 1993 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
found that, with multiple gunshot wound victims, trauma specialists
mistakenly identified the number of shots or the direction of fire 74%
of the time, and that, even with single shot victims with through and
through wounds, they were mistaken 37% of the time. Doctors make
mistakes. Lots of 'em...
As do historians...
Kurtz score on Jenkins: The wound described by Jenkins was along the right side of the head, not back of the head. While Jenkins mentioned cerebellum, he did not describe the wound as a wound of exit. Kurtz's summary of Jenkins' statements is therefore inaccurate on 2 of 3 points. Misleading.
Final Kurtz score: Kurtz has misrepresented every initial statement to some degree. Four of the six doctors to comment on the head wound on 11/22/63 mentioned locations more to the side of the head and/or top of the head than the wound described by Kurtz. Others made no mention whatsoever of the occipital bone or the cerebellum. None described the wound as an exit. Even worse, Kurtz has deliberately ignored Clark's and Perry's statements suggesting the wound could be a wound of both entrance and exit, and the likelihood that ALL the other doctors would defer to this analysis. By including Ronald Jones and Paul Peters in his list of doctors making these statements, moreover, Kurtz implied they'd made statements in the days after the assassination that could be considered "fresh" when, in fact, Dr. Jones' 11-23 handwritten report (Jones Exhibit No. 1) said merely that Kennedy had suffered a "severe skull and brain injury" and the earliest statements one can attribute to Peters were made several months later, after no doubt dozens of discussions on the assassination with his fellow Parkland physicians and nurses. Kurtz's summary, then, which was accurate on only 6 of 18 points in the initial statements of the Parkland doctors, can only be considered misleading.
I wouldn't want to be accused of being unduly arbitrary, so let's see
if adding Jones' and Peters' subsequent testimony into the mix improves
things for Kurtz.
When Dr. Ronald Jones testified on 3-24-64 he said Kennedy had "a large wound in the right posterior side of the head" and then further described "There was a large defect in the back side of the head as the President lay on the cart with what appeared to be some brain hanging out of this wound with multiple pieces of skull noted next with the brain and with a tremendous amount of clot and blood." He later discussed "what appeared to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull." He had thereby described the wound as a probable exit. But he'd failed to mention "occipital" and "cerebellum." Kurtz was therefore inaccurate on 2 of 3 points. Misleading. As discussed, Jones would later defer to the accuracy of the autopsy photos, and tell the ARRB that "it was difficult to see down through the hair." He then clarified his 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."
brings us once again to Dr. Peters...When Peters testified on 3-24-64
he described "a large defect in the occiput" and then explained "It
seemed to me that in the right occipitalparietal area that there was a
large defect. There appeared to be bone loss and brain loss in the
area." He then described it as "a large occipital wound," and admitted
to wondering, as Jones, if the head wound wasn't an exit for the bullet creating the presumed entrance wound in the throat. Although Peters would later tell David Lifton that he looked down into the skull and saw cerebellum, he failed to claim that cerebellum was oozing from the wound, and, in fact, told the Bangor Daily News in 1980 that he'd come to believe the wound was a tangential wound of entrance and the Boston Globe in 1981 that the cerebellum had been intact. After being shown the autopsy photos for the Nova program in 1988, moreover, Peters asserted that he'd been wrong about both the location of the wound and his seeing cerebellum, and then offered that "that shows how even a trained observer can make an error in a moment of urgency." He then confirmed this position at a Dallas Forum put together by Dr. Lattimer in 1992, at which he, along with Dr.'s Carrico and Jenkins, were reported to have insisted that they'd confused cerebrum for cerebellum "in part because the brain was so mangled by the bullet." And this wasn't just Carrico speaking for Peters. For his 1993 book Killing the Truth, writer Harrison Livingstone obtained a copy of the tape of this forum, and revealed that Peters, when asked if he had changed any of his impressions over the years, had indeed admitted that after viewing the autopsy photos in 1988 he'd changed his mind about seeing damage to the cerebellum. In 1998, when testifying for the ARRB, however, Peters admitted that he, as McClelland, still thought the large wound observed at Parkland to have been at the back of Kennedy's head, and that it was covered in the autopsy photos by a flap of some sort. He covered himself, just in case, however, by explaining what he'd come to accept were mistakes by asserting "We were doing a resuscitation, not a forensic autopsy." Peters had thereby retreated from his statements to Lifton. Still, in his original statements, Peters had indeed described a presumed wound of exit at least in part on the occipital bone, which means Kurtz was accurate on 2 of 3 points. Somewhat misleading.
So, even with Jones and Peters added back in, Kurtz was accurate on but 9 of 24 points, and was undoubtedly misleading. While he, as Groden, as Lifton, as...you can pretty much fill in the blank...indicated that the original statements and testimony of the Parkland witnesses universally described an occipital wound from which cerebellum was flowing, this is a conspiracy myth, as pervasive and deceptive, in this writer's opinion, as the single-bullet theory, which some claim as a fact.
I'm serious about this. While many of those pushing the single-bullet theory claim their theory is in line with Governor Connally's statements and testimony, when it is not, conspiracy theorists pushing the "back-of-the-head blow-out" theory are no better, as they claim their theory is in "support" of the Parkland witnesses, when it is not. In fact, when one looks back through ALL the statements of the eight doctors most involved with Kennedy's treatment at Parkland, one finds that six of the eight (Perry, Carrico, Baxter, Jenkins, Jones, and Peters) let it be known that they deferred to the accuracy of the autopsy report and autopsy photos, and one (Clark) rarely spoke on the subject beyond his Warren Commission testimony, where he deferred to the conclusions of the autopsists. This leaves but one conspiracy theorist in the bunch (McClelland), and even he admitted he'd seen nothing at Parkland to convince him shots had been fired from in front of Kennedy, and that his suspicions stemmed largely from his interpretation of the Zapruder film.
Sadly, however, Kurtz's misrepresentation is typical of what one finds in the conspiracy literature. While I don't expect to change the minds of those utterly and permanently convinced there was an exit wound on the back of Kennedy's head, I do hope to curtail the spread of such smoke. Please help me in this cause.