Chapter 16c: Brain Exam
Now, the thought occurs that all this discussion of Kennedy's skull and scalp bypasses Exhibit A for the argument Kennedy was killed by a tangental gunshot wound--Kennedy's brain.
Now, this should not be controversial, but, unfortunately, it is. The vast majority of single-assassin theorists find discussion of Kennedy's brain injuries revolting, and blindly defer to the experts whose bias and/or complicity we've exposed in the preceding chapters.
And a large percentage of conspiracy theorists think such a discussion a total waste of time. Autopsy photographer John Stringer told the ARRB he failed to recognize the photos of Kennedy's brain as photos he was purported to have taken, and this allows these theorists to both reject the veracity of the photos currently in the archives, and reject the descriptions of the brain included in the Supplementary Autopsy Report, which correspond to these photos.
And that's too bad...as a close reading of the brain damage described by the doctors in the Supplementary Autopsy Report is strongly suggestive---that the doctors got it wrong.
Some Thoughts About the Brain
One of the great complaints about the medical evidence is that the weight given for Kennedy's brain at the Supplemental Exam--1500 gms--is just too much. Some take from this that Kennedy's brain had been swapped out, and that a substitute brain had been studied in its place.
Such thoughts go too far, in my opinion. In The Assassinations (2003) Dr. David Mantik and Dr. Cyril Wecht argued that this brain weight was much too heavy, while supplying data suggesting it may very well have been correct. They wrote that the upper limit of normal for an adult male brain is 1605 gms. Kennedy was a larger than average man, whose brain could very well have been at that limit, or perhaps even larger. (The brain of William Pitzer, a Bethesda Hospital employee whose death aroused much speculation, is reported to have weighed 1625 gms upon removal.) Mantik and Wecht then wrote that soaking the brain in formalin would increase its weight by a mean of 8.8%, and that injecting the brain with formalin would increase its weight by a mean of 5.7%. Both procedures were purported to have been performed on Kennedy's brain.
Well, let's do the math. If these procedures increased the weight of the brain by 14.5% (8.8 plus 5.7), as seems reasonable, Kennedy's presumably 1605 gm brain would have weighed as much as 1837 gms. But it only weighed 1500 gms. This suggests then that roughly 18% of the brain was missing.
Now, this is where it gets tricky. The autopsists, when asked for an estimate, said that roughly 33 % of the brain was missing. Something seems to be awry. But then look again. Although the means of the weight increase from formalin soaking and infusion were 5.7 and 8.8%, respectively, the highs were 19.2 and 31.8%, respectively. That's a 50% increase, when taken together. A 1605 gm brain, if soaked and infused with formalin, then, could have weighed as much as 2400 gms, more than the 2250 gms needed to correlate to the 1500 gm weight of the brain with the doctors' recollection a third of the brain was missing.
But was there so big an increase? Almost certainly not. It seems likely that the two procedures would overlap somewhat, and that the largest increase from performing both procedures would be smaller than the sum of the largest increase from performing each of the procedures. The fact remains, however, that a perfectly reasonable combination of a larger than average beginning weight for Kennedy's brain, a smaller than estimated 33% loss of brain matter from the shooting, and larger than expected weight increase from the formalin can be found, and that this combination of factors makes the 1500 gm weight provided for Kennedy's brain, well, perfectly reasonable.
Let's try these on for size.
Suppose Kennedy's pre-mortem brain weighed 1500 g. This is not unreasonable in that the brains of some famous and semi-famous men were reported to have weighed as follows:
Roger Craig (1300 g), Vladimir Lenin (1340 g), J.D. Tippit (1350 g), Michael Jackson (1380 g), Corey Haim (1390 g), Ron Goldman (1400 g), Martin Luther King (1400 g), Lee Oswald (1450 g), Dale Earnhardt (1450 g), David Ferrie (1480 g), Christopher Wallace (1490), Dylan Klebold (1500 g), Chester Bennington (1530 g), River Phoenix (1540 g), Russell Armstrong (1600 g), William Pitzer (1625 g), and Andy Irons (1664 g).
Suppose the doctors over-estimated the amount that was missing, and that only 20% was actually missing. That's a 1200 gm brain. (James Jenkins, Humes' and Boswell's assistant, who handled the brain and infused it with formalin, told a 1991 conference hosted by Harrison Livingstone that the brain he infused was approximately the size of a woman's brain, and weighed 1200 or 1300 gms.)
Suppose then that the formalin procedures added 25% onto this weight.
These are all reasonable adjustments. And yet they arrive at the supposedly impossible number of 1500 gms.
Now consider that 1500 is a nice round number and that it seems possible, even likely, that whoever weighed Kennedy's brain rounded up.
Well, this means the formalin procedures would only have to have added 20% onto the weight of Kennedy's pre-formalin-infused brain.
Sometimes what seems impossible is well within the grasp of the possible.
So let's continue on this path, then, and examine Kennedy's brain injuries to see if if they conform with what we've come to suspect from studying his skull and scalp injuries.
But first, let's go back, and remind ourselves why these injuries are inconsistent with the conclusions of those who've come before us.
Brain Trajectory Comparison
While one of the reasons given by the HSCA pathology panel for rejecting the autopsists' description of the entrance wound was that they determined by looking at the autopsy photos that “the posterior-inferior portion of the cerebellum” was “virtually intact… It certainly does not demonstrate the degree of laceration, fragmentation, or contusion (as appears subsequently on the superior aspect of the brain) that would be expected in this location if the bullet wound of entrance were as described in the autopsy report,” the location they proposed was far far worse.
There are a number of problems with the cowlick entrance beyond that no one saw a wound in this location...
For one, a bullet entering the cowlick with the skull leaned as far forward as at Z-312 would have to traverse the brain just beneath the skull for a distance before exploding upwards; this seems unlikely, as the strong impact of a fragmenting bullet with the skull almost on edge would almost certainly guarantee a large “gutter” wound of both entrance and exit and rule out the small oval entrance identified in the autopsy photos.
For two, a bullet entering the HSCA’s entrance when Kennedy was leaning forward to the degree he was leaning at frame 312 of the Zapruder film would enter the skull at a point further forward than 20% of the brain, on the parietal lobe. Well, this makes no sense seeing as the bullet is purported to have created a channel running to the right of the mid-line of the brain for the length of the brain beginning on the tip of the occipital lobe, and ending on the frontal lobe.
For three strikes and out, the greatest damage apparent in the only released drawing of the brain appears to the left of the HSCA trajectory, with the largest section of intact brain directly in its path. As a fragmenting bullet is reputed to leave a trail the shape of an ever-widening cone, this makes no freaking sense.
Now let's presume our catcher dropped the ball, and that he now has to throw the batter out at first.
Let's look, then, at the HSCA tracing of the brain as viewed from above, when matched up with a normal brain as viewed from above.
Well, heck, the occipital lobe has been disrupted, and presumably partially shredded.
This is bad news for the cowlick entry folks. The occipital lobe in their take was inches away from the bullet's trajectory.
And here's more bad news for the cowlick entry folks.
Now, I know we already looked at this skull at the beginning of the last chapter. It's the skull of a prisoner shot while escaping, from a distance of 90 feet, by a guard using a rifle and cartridge more powerful than the rifle and carriage purported to kill Kennedy. But what I didn't tell you at that time was that in Louis Anatole La Garde's book Gunshot Wounds, from which this image was obtained, La Garde provided some info about the injury to the brain as well.
Keep in mind that the bullet through this skull traveled a trajectory almost identical to what the HSCA's Forensic Pathology Panel claimed for the bullet killing Kennedy. Here's La Garde: "On the calvarium being removed the surface of the dura mater presented a state of intense congestion. To the right of the longitudinal fissure it was torn through for a distance of about 4 inches, about one inch from and parallel to it. A furrow corresponding to the injury of the dura was ploughed through the right hemisphere in the region of the superior frontal convolution about 1/2 inch deep."
Well, how about that? The Supplementary Autopsy Report of President Kennedy claimed a "longitudinal laceration" (which has long been presumed to be a bullet track, and is often described as a furrow) through Kennedy's brain ran "approximately 4.5 cm. below the vertex in the white matter."
A half-inch deep is about 12 mm. 4.5 cm is 45 mm. The furrow through Kennedy's brain was almost 4 times as deep as the furrow through the dead prisoner's brain, even though the bullets creating these furrows, according the HSCA FPP, sped along a nearly identical trajectory.
The HSCA's trajectory is nonsense.
Now, La Garde said a bullet entering the skull at a lower point than the bullet entered the prisoner's skull would expend more of its energy upon entrance and make a more explosive exit from the top of the skull.
So maybe there's something to this lower furrow. Maybe Humes got it right, after all.
The Canal Canal
In August 2006, while browsing the many online forums devoted to the assassination, I was surprised to find that John Canal, an ardent believer in the low skull entrance measured at the autopsy, was citing Dr. Humes' assertions about the laceration supposedly 4.5 cm below the vertex as evidence he was correct about the low entrance on the skull. Now, this was surprising to me at that time, because, as we've seen, the HSCA medical panel listed the lack of damage to Kennedy’s brain at the location of the low entrance as a reason to believe the actual entrance was four inches higher.
I re-read the autopsy report to see if Canal had any basis for his statements.
The supplementary autopsy report signed by Dr. Humes on December 6, 1963 reports the damage to Kennedy’s brain as follows: “Following formalin fixation the brain weighs 1500 gms. The right cerebral hemisphere is found to be markedly disrupted. There is a longitudinal laceration of the right hemisphere which is para-sagittal in position approximately 2.5 cm. to the right of the midline which extends from the tip of the occipital lobe posteriorly to the tip of the frontal lobe anteriorly. The base of the laceration is situated approximately 4.5 cm. below the vertex in the white matter. There is considerable loss of cortical substance above the base of the laceration, particularly in the parietal lobe. The margins of this laceration are at all points jagged and irregular, with additional lacerations extending in varying directions and for varying distances from the main laceration.”
Sure enough, by claiming that the laceration began 2.5 cm to the right of the mid-line, the same distance from mid-line as the bullet entrance to the right of the EOP, the supplementary report supported that the laceration 4.5 cm below the vertex came from the bullet entering to the right of the EOP.
Something felt off, however. I looked up the word “longitudinal.” “Longitudinal: The word comes from the Latin longitudo meaning length. Hence, longitudinal means along the length, running lengthwise.”
Now this, at first, confused me. But with some time, years actually, I came to understand that doctors use "longitudinal" in place of "vertical," and that a "longitudinal laceration" would be one that has a vertical aspect to it, that is, it runs up or down within the body.
So this was a vertical laceration that ran from the posterior tip of the occipital lobe to the anterior tip of the frontal lobe... Well, this was just a fancy way of saying the upper lobes of the brain--the cerebrum--had been separated down the middle, and that the processes holding the hemispheres together had been torn.
Well, right there, there's a problem, a red flag, if you will. If this laceration represents a bullet track, as per Canal, what are the odds this bullet track would run straight down the middle of the brain?
And yeah, I know that the Supplementary Autopsy Report suggests it was not right down the middle, but approximately 2.5 cm to the right of the middle. Well, that's an inch. If this were true, one would expect to see some of the right cerebral hemisphere to the left of the laceration. But, as demonstrated by the HSCA tracing of the photo taken from above, there was none. When moving from left to right, there's the intact left hemisphere, the laceration, and then the badly disrupted right hemisphere.
When one re-reads the original autopsy report, signed on 11-24-63, moreover, one can see that the 12-6-63 placement of the para-sagittal laceration at a point matching the small entrance 2.5. cm to the right of mid-line was an afterthought, and perhaps even a deliberate deception. Here's the initial description of the damage to Kennedy's brain in the 11-24 report: "Clearly visible in the above described large skull defect and exuding from it is lacerated brain tissue which on close inspection proves to represent the major portion of the right cerebral hemisphere. At this point it is noted that the falx cerebri is extensively lacerated with disruption of the superior sagittal sinus." And here it is again in the summary: "The fatal missile entered the skull above and to the right of the external occipital protuberance. A portion of the projectile traversed the cranial cavity in a posterior-anterior direction (see lateral skull roentgenograms) depositing minute particles along its path. A portion of the projectile made its exit through the parietal bone on the right carrying with it portions of cerebrum, skull and scalp. The two wounds of the skull combined with the force of the missile produced extensive fragmentation of the skull, laceration of the superior saggital sinus, and of the right cerebral hemisphere."
It's clear, then, that the laceration at this point was of the sinus, not the cerebrum an inch to the right of the sinus.
But that's not the only thing that changed between 11-24 and 12-6. Within the original autopsy report, the doctors claimed that upon entrance the bullet broke into two portions, and that there were two bullet tracks within the brain--one that ran straight across the brain from back to front (apparently along the superior sagittal sinus) that did not exit, and one that exited from the top of the right side of the head. Well, no evidence for this second trajectory was offered in the 12-6 Supplementary Autopsy Report.
Now, this is confusing. The autopsy report proposed an entrance location, point A, and two bullet tracks, point B (the beginning of the laceration along the sinus) to point C (the end of the laceration along the sinus), and point A (the entrance 2.5 cm to the right of the EOP) to point D (the large defect). The supplementary autopsy report then moved point B to a location the same distance from the mid-line as post A. It's not surprising then that Canal assumed the 2.5 cm from mid-line laceration discussed in the 12-6 report connected the supposed entrance location 2.5 cm from the mid-line (point A) with the large defect (point D).
Where Canal's supposition falls flat, however, is right there in his source material, the 12-6-63 Supplementary Autopsy Report on Kennedy's brain prepared by Dr. Humes. It provided but one measurement for the longitudinal laceration they presumed to be a bullet track. This suggests this laceration not only ran straight across the brain, but that it did not ascend or descend within the brain, a la the trajectory proposed by the autopsists.
Well, this proves it. The end of this track was not point D.
And that's not the worst of it. As we've seen, the lone measurement provided was for the distance of the laceration's base beneath the vertex (i.e. highest point) of the brain within the skull: 4.5 cm. This 4.5 cm measurement is, however, far too small to support the bullet trajectory pushed by the autopsists, Canal and Sturdivan. An entrance by the EOP would be around 12 cm below the vertex.
Hmmm. The only possible explanation I can come up with that would make the brain damage described by Humes compatible with the low bullet entrance he'd described is that Humes and Boswell, career pathologists, became confused as to the location of the vertex, and incorrectly assumed the far back part of the parietal lobe was the vertex.
Let's see if this makes sense.
The exhibit below is an attempt to depict the HSCA and Warren Commission trajectories through the brain, along with the presumed canal through the brain.
Well, heck, the trajectory proposed by the Warren Commission, that is, the trajectory proposed by the autopsy doctors, who actually handled the brain, in Exhibit 388, runs along the top of the cerebellum.
Now, as shown in the HSCA's drawing of the superior view of the brain, the top of the cerebellum was intact, but the occipital lobe was disrupted.
So...were the autopsists correct about the bullet trajectory? And brain damage? But wrong about the placement of the wound track at 4.5 cm below the vertex?
No, it appears not. While their trajectory is roughly consistent with the posterior part of the brain--assuming, that is, that a high-velocity bullet could pass so close to the cerebellum without causing any damage--it is thoroughly at odds with the anterior part of the brain.
Here, see for yourself:
Note that the right frontal lobe (on the upper left side of the drawing) has been disrupted, all the way to the front tip. Now this is in keeping with the doctors' description of the brain in the Supplementary Autopsy Report. But this is bad news for those believing the autopsists got it right. The bullet, in their take, erupted from the skull two inches or so rearward of this damage. While a few small fragments are presumed to have continued forward from the exit location, and to have embedded themselves in the vicinity of the right eye socket, it seems most unlikely these small fragments would do as much or more damage to the frontal lobe as the nearly intact bullet appears to have done to the parietal lobe.
Something's just wrong.
The laceration noted at autopsy fails to align with any of the trajectories proposed by the government. Not with the trajectory pushed in the autopsy report prepared by the military. Not with the trajectory pushed in the Clark Panel's report prepared for the Justice Department. And not with the trajectory pushed in the Forensic Pathology Panel's report prepared for the U.S. House of Representatives.
This is quite the quandary.
Let's re-read some descriptions of the brain wounds, then, and see if we can make sense of this.
The first person to observe the damage to Kennedy's brain was Secret Service agent Clint Hill, who looked down into Kennedy's head while spread out atop the limousine, mere seconds after the shooting. Hill would later note that there was a skull piece about the size of his palm missing from above Kennedy's right ear, and that "It looked like an ice cream scoop had gone in and removed the brain from that area."
Now, this would seem to be a reference to a "gutter wound." It is not a reference to a normal exit, nor to a longitudinal laceration more than two inches deep in the brain.
Well, then, what did it look like at Parkland? We've already been over this, but it bears repeating that Dr. William Kemp Clark, the only Parkland doctor to closely inspect the surface of Kennedy's brain, said the wound resembled a tangential wound of both entrance and exit. Now this confirms Hill's impression. The wound he saw was on the surface.
Well, then, what did it look like at autopsy? Upon first inspection? Quotes along this line are hard to come by, but James Curtis Jenkins, an assistant to Dr.s Humes and Boswell, told writer William Law in 1993, that, after inspecting Kennedy's brain "My impression of the brain was that the damage to the area of the brain, the extensiveness of it, did not quite match the extensiveness of the wound. In other words, the damage to the brain seemed to be a little less than you would expect from (the damage to the skull)." Now, the words "the damage to the skull" were in parentheses in Law's book, In the Eye of History, and presumably reflect that Jenkins ended his thought without ending his sentence. It should be added then that Jenkins spoke at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas on November 22, 2013, and said much the same thing he'd told Law 20 years before. He reported that the "damage to the brain did not correlate to the damage to the skull," and that the brain (if it were truly an exit for a bullet entering the skull behind and below this large hole, as subsequently proposed by Dr.s Humes, Boswell, and Finck), should have been "butterflied"--which one can only assume means spread outward--but was not.
And this wasn't something on which Jenkins changed his mind... Yep, he returned to speak at the conference five years later, and once again reported that "The damage to the brain was nowhere close to what you'd have expected from looking at the damage to the skull."
So that's it. Before the brain was removed, observers noted a large hole on the skull, and a smaller gouge out of the underlying brain, but saw nothing to indicate this disruption derived from below.
Now let's take a look at the Clark and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panels' discussions of the canal Canal assumed to be a bullet track...
Groove is in the Brain (na na, na na, na na)
The Clark Panel: “The right cerebral hemisphere is extensively lacerated. It is transected by a broad canal running generally in a posterior-anterior direction and to the right of the midline. Much of the roof of this canal is missing as are most of the overlying frontal and parietal gyri. In the central portion of its base can be seen a gray brown rectangular structure measuring approximately 13 x 20 mm. Its identity can not be established by the Panel”.
The HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel: “On the right cerebral hemisphere is an anterior posterior cylindrical groove in which the brain substance is fragmented or absent. This groove extends from the back of the brain to the right frontal area of the brain and contains within the depths of its central portion a grey brown rectangular area. The majority of the panel considers this to be a blood vessel in the Sylvian fissure.”
Well, ain't that something? Neither panel provides a measurement for the distance of this canal or groove from the mid-line, and neither panel provides a measurement for the depth of this canal or groove from the vertex.
As both panels were pushing that the bullet entered at the cowlick, and exploded from a location near the coronal suture, moreover, it appears they were trying to sell that this canal/groove connected these locations. Even though the measurement and descriptions provided by the autopsists proved it did not... And the HSCA's drawing of an autopsy photo...proved it did not. (The HSCA's trajectory, let's recall, included that the bullet traveled considerably to the right within the skull, which was grossly at odds with both the description of the longitudinal laceration in the Supplementary Autopsy Report--"para-sagittal"--and the HSCA's Figure 32--a drawing of the brain as viewed from above.)
Well, what then of this canal, or groove? Its location fails to align with any of the trajectories proposed by the government. And is also inconsistent with its being a "gutter" wound of both entrance and exit...
Something's just wrong.
Now, the thought occurs that what's wrong is the assumption...first suggested by the autopsy doctors with their dubious claim the laceration/canal/groove began the same distance from the mid-line as the bullet hole near the EOP, and then propagated by men such as Dr. Michael Baden (in his HSCA testimony and 1989 book Unnatural Death), Dr. Michael Levy (in the November 2003 issue of Neurosurgery), Vincent Bugliosi (in Reclaiming History), and John Canal--that this laceration/canal/groove marked a bullet's passage through the brain.
I mean, think about it. No one noticed an entrance on the skull at the back of this canal or groove. And no one noticed an exit on the skull at the front of this canal or groove.
And, finally, get this--none of those studying the brain photos and identifying a laceration/canal/groove noted necrotic tissue along this laceration/canal/groove. Such tissue, of course, marks a bullet track through a brain in image after image, article after article, book after book.
Here are but a few examples.
From the University of Rochester Medical Center website.
From an online presentation of the European Society of Radiology.
From the Derek Mussen Healthcare website.
Now, to be clear, most of the examples found online fail to specify the kind of weapon involved. Bullet Injuries of the Brain by Dr. H Alan Crockard, published in the 1974 Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, however, was more thoughtful, and presented two brains in sequence to depict the damage one would expect from a high-velocity rifle, as opposed to the damage one might expect from a handgun. I present these below.
Note that these brains were all infused with formalin at autopsy, and that this process helped reveal the path of the bullet within the brain matter.
Note further that the first three examples more closely resembled the high-velocity wound presented by Crockard than the low-velocity wound, and that all three can probably be assumed to be high-velocity wounds.
Now note that the bullet track is readily apparent on these brains, and that no brain matter beyond an inch or so above and below the paths of these bullets has been pulpified, or turned to mush.
Now recall that Larry Sturdivan et al have claimed that a high-velocity bullet will pretty much explode the brain within the skull, and that this explosion will lead to an eruption of skull and brain midway through the bullet's trajectory.
Now realize this was bullshit.
Now remember that, at autopsy, on 11-22-63, the pathologists performing the autopsy of President Kennedy noted a laceration running the length of his brain along the longitudinal sinus from back to front.
And now recall that when they re-inspected the brain after formalin fixation on 12-6-63 they for the first time said this laceration was the same distance from the mid-line as the bullet entrance on the skull...but failed to note a line of damage within the brain matter itself that revealed the passage of the bullet.
Well, think about it. IF this had been a bullet track, wouldn't it have been discolored in comparison to the surrounding tissue--e.g. the posterior left hemisphere of the cerebrum, and the occipital lobe to the right of the supposed entrance--when the brain was inspected on 12-6?
The doctors viewed the brain from every direction. They viewed it from behind. If there was a black tunnel of damage rising from the occipital lobe up to the parietal lobe, the beginning of this tunnel should have been apparent from behind, and the end of this tunnel should have been apparent from above. So why didn't they find it? And why did they instead pretend the laceration at midline noted at autopsy marked the entrance of a bullet an inch to the right of midline?
The image below is borrowed from The Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine (2016) and is purported to represent an entrance of a low-velocity bullet on the left frontal lobe.
Note the black area surrounding the entrance location. This black area is reported to be "fracture contusions and subarachnoid hemorrhage."
Well, why didn't the autopsy doctors, or any of the subsequent panels, note "fracture contusions and subarachnoid hemorrhage" at any point on the back of Kennedy's brain? The Supplementary Autopsy Report noted subarachnoid hemorrhage in the frontal and temporal lobes, and the Clark Panel and HSCA mentioned the parietal lobe, but there was no mention whatsoever of "fracture contusions" or "subarachnoid hemorrhage" on the back of Kennedy's brain, in the region of either of the proposed bullet entrances.
Did the doctors realize something was wrong? And was this the real reason they failed to section the brain?
Consider. By 12-6, Kennedy was dead and buried, and Oswald, who'd been ID'ed as his assassin, was similarly dead and buried. The government, and the nation, were moving on. Now ask yourself, would three military doctors, sworn to secrecy, dare write up a report on 12-6 claiming the injuries to the President's brain were inconsistent with the shot sequence being pushed by the media? Oh, and let's not forget...the FBI?
Or would they just go along to get along?
I mean, truly, what could they learn from sectioning the brain that they wouldn't have to turn around and pretend they'd never learned?
So what was the point?
We have reason to suspect, then...that the laceration/canal/groove was NOT a bullet track...and the autopsy doctors suspected it was not a bullet track...and that that is why they added into the Supplementary Report that the laceration/canal/groove began 2.5 cm from midline...and that that is why they failed to section the brain.
Now, here's a surprise. Their subsequent statements only add to this possibility.
Finck on the Run I
From the 3-11-78 HSCA deposition of Dr. Pierre A. Finck.
Dr. PETTY. All right. Then there is just one other thing I would like to show you and that is the photographs of the brain which show you the cerebellum and of course the cerebellar hemispheres and the brain stem. Are these of any value to you in attempting to locate the area of the bullet perforation?
Dr. FINCK. I see extensive damage to the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. I see blood under the thin meninges but on the basis of the photograph of the brain I cannot show an entry or an exit in the brain if that is what your question is.
Dr. PETTY. No, that is not quite what I asked. Can you tell where the penetrating gunshot wound went? I am not asking for entrance or exit but the course.
Dr. FINCK. The track. I cannot identify a track.
Dr. BADEN. Dr. Finck has been referring to 46, 47, 48 and 50 photographs.
Dr. PETTY. Just one further question. Do you see any damage to the cerebellar hemispheres in these photographs that could have been caused by a missile?
Dr. FINCK. I don't know.
Dr. PETTY. All right. Now does anybody have any other question they would like to ask of Dr. Finck?
Dr. LOQUOVAM. If a missile had entered at this point, would it have entered the posterior cranial vault and produced subarachnoid hemorrhage in the cerebellar hemisphere? I have pointed to color picture No. 43 at the point of entrance that Dr. Finck is saying the entrance is and I am referring to the four color photographs of the brain in which I see no subarachnoid hemorrhage other than postmortem to the -- My question is, if this is the point of entrance, isn't that at the level of the posterior cranial vault where the cerebellar hemispheres lie and would we not see subarachnoid hemorrhage if a slug had torn through there?
Dr. FINCK. Not necessarily because you have wounds without subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Dr. LOQUOVAM. You can have wounds in the brain without a missile track slug tearing through brain tissue?
Dr. FINCK. I don't know. I cannot answer your question.
It appears from this that Finck, a supposed expert on gunshot wounds, agrees with my assertion the laceration or groove identifiable on the brain photos...was not actually a bullet track.
But is not remotely bothered by this.
This is truly hard to swallow.
As is this...
Humes on the Run
From the 9-7-78 HSCA testimony of Dr. James J. Humes, in which he was pressured into pretending he supported the HSCA Pathology Panel's conclusion the fatal bullet entered Kennedy's head at the "red spot" near the cowlick in the photos.
Mr. CORNWELL. And referring to JFK exhibit F-302--- Dr. HUMES. Which is?
Mr. CORNWELL. The one on the very left, the drawing of the brain, would you also agree that the disruption of the brain, as shown in that drawing, is also in the upper portion and therefore would also be roughly consistent with the same entry location?
Dr. HUMES. Yes, sir, I do.
While not 100% clear, it seems likely that the disruption of the brain to which Cornwell refers is the disruption of the right cerebrum, and that Humes hereby agrees that the disruption of the right cerebrum is restricted to the upper portion of the right cerebrum, and that this is in conflict with Humes' Warren Commission testimony the fatal bullet entered near the EOP.
Now, this is important for two reasons. For one, it shows that Humes saw no evidence the disruption on the surface of the right cerebrum erupted from below. For two, it suggests that Humes did not consider the para-sagittal laceration 4.5 cm below the vertex to be part of the disruption of the right cerebrum.
Well this, of course, supports that he did not see this laceration as a bullet track, and proof the bullet entered from below, and only pretended he did in the Supplementary Autopsy Report.
Humes Doubles Down
Now Humes kept his silence for some time after his HSCA testimony. After the release of Dr. Baden's book Unnatural Death in 1989, and Oliver Stone's film JFK in 1991, however, he was plenty pissed off and ready to fight. He had, after all, been attacked by both those defending his conclusion Kennedy had received two bullets, and those attacking this conclusion. A May 27, 1992 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association was meant to set things straight. But it only added to the confusion.
When describing the head wound, he related: "The head was so devastated by the exploding bullet and the gaping jagged stellate wound it created--it blew out 13 centimeters of skull bone and skin--that we did not even have to use a saw to remove the skullcap."
Apparently, Humes failed to realize that Dr. Baden and his colleagues had concluded the bullet exited intact but for a few fragments that had leaked from the rear of the bullet. Apparently, he failed to realize that the "solution" offered up by eight of the nine-man panel of forensic pathologists was that the bullet made but one track through the brain, and one hole upon exit, and that the "gaping jagged stellate wound" he'd observed was actually the exit of an intact bullet, followed by an explosion of the temporary cavity of the bullet. In other words, he'd failed to understand that his first-hand observations had been "explained" away through a bunch of mumbo jumbo designed to hide the true nature of Kennedy's wounds.
In any event, with his contention the bullet exploded, and created the large defect, Humes made clear that he had not, in fact, observed a bullet track through the brain from an entrance low on the head to an exit at the top of the head.
Humes Triples Down
From the 2-13-96 ARRB deposition of Dr. James J. Humes, when reviewing the photos of the brain... Jeremy Gunn does the questioning.
Q. Do you know how the left cerebellum came to be disrupted?
A. I would have to presume by the explosive force of the missile as it entered near there. There seems to be a laceration in the mid-brain here, see?
Q. Can you point out where the laceration in the mid-brain is?
A. Right there.
Q. Is the mid-brain above or below the cerebral cortex?
A. Oh, below the cerebral cortex.
Q. Was the--
A. This is basically probably the lesion that was fatal.
Q. The one to the mid-brain?
A. Yes. Presumably.
Q. Okay. Now, there is reference in that paragraph to a longitudinal laceration of the right hemisphere, and it then goes on to say that the base of the laceration is situated approximately 4.5 centimeters below the vertex. Is that laceration visible on the photographs of the basilar view of the brain?
A. Well, not very clearly. Not very clearly.
Q. Would you expect--
A. I presume it's in through here.
Q. Would you expect that laceration to be visible on the superior view of the brain?
A. I don't know. I can't tell from this.
Q: Could we have the photographs of the superior view, colors 50, 51, and 52?
Q. Is that laceration which is 4.5 centimeters below the vertex visible on the photograph of the superior view of the brain?
A. You know, laceration is a bad way to describe it. It's a big disruption. I guess we called it a laceration because that seemed like as good a word as any. But it significantly destroys much of that right cerebral hemisphere.
Q. So I'm clear, is there a laceration that comes down, that goes from what you're describing as back to front that is 4.5 centimeters below the top of the skull and a separate laceration that goes down near the mid-brain?
A. Yeah, I guess so.
Q. Do those two lacerations connect to each other?
A. I don't know. You can't tell from here.
Q. "From here," you're referring to this--
A. From the photographs.
Q. Dr. Humes, did you take a section from the right cerebellar cortex?
A. According to the supplementary report. I did.
Q. Why did you take a section from the right cerebellar cortex?
A. Just to be more all inclusive. For no particular reason.
Q. Did you take a section from the left cerebellar cortex?
A. It doesn't appear that I did.
Q. Is there a reason for not taking one from the left cerebellar cortex?
A. No. No. If there is, I certainly can't recall what it would have been.
Q. When you removed the brain, which part of the brain did you cut in order to remove it?
A. The brain stem.
Q. Was the brain--were you able to ascertain whether the brain stem had received any damage prior to the time that you made the incision?
A. It was my impression that it had, yes.
Q. Was the brain stem already disconnected at the time that you--
A. No, it was not disconnected.
Q. How was it that you had the impression that it was--that it had received some kind of laceration or injury?
A. Well, one of these photographs shows you, as I tried to point out earlier, the one that was here a few minutes ago--
Q. The basilar view?
A. Yeah, the basilar view shows this disrupted-looking area right there. That's the brain stem.
Q. Looking at the basilar view, are you able to ascertain whether either the left or the right cerebellum has been disrupted? We touched on this issue before, but I just wanted to return to that.
A. In this photograph, it would appear the right cerebellum has been partially disrupted, yes.
Q. But not the left cerebellum?
A. Not the left. The left seems pretty intact.
Q. From the superior view of the brain, are you able to identify any disruption of either left or right hemisphere of the cerebellum?
A. They both look pretty good from above. You can see both sides. That shows you why pictures don't always tell the whole story.
Q. What this seems to be pointing to is two separate lacerations of the brain, one going through the right cerebrum and the other one high along the--or 4.5 centimeters from the vertex, the other one going low and hitting the brain stem. Is that--
A. I object to the two separate. I think they're all extensions of one another.
Q. So it is one projectile going through that's causing--
A. Partially the projectile and partially the explosive force of the missile, and I can't evaluate with any certainty which is which. If you ever saw a high-speed photograph of a missile going through a block of wax--many times people use this to demonstrate speeds of missiles-- you'd see that the explosive force is much larger and destructive, really, than the single path--the path of the bullet is like an ice pick, relatively narrow in its effect, but it's the force that's expended as it goes through that is much more dangerous and disruptive.
Q. Was there a non-disrupted portion of the brain between the portion that was 4.5 centimeters below the vertex and the portion that goes through the brain stem? Or was it all--
A. I think there's very little of the right cerebral hemisphere that was not in some way damaged by this. Very little. Maybe the tip of the temporal lobe, possibly, was not particularly involved, but as you can see from the photographs, most of the right cerebral was very seriously injured.
So, there you have it. Humes--who had relatively little experience with gunshot wounds--was under the impression the bullet released such force that it essentially exploded the brain, and took from this that no track through the brain would be identifiable at autopsy.
While it's unclear just what Humes believed was the source of this force--his 1992 comments suggest it was the break-up of the bullet and his 1996 testimony suggests it was the velocity of the bullet (a la Sturdivan and Baden)--it really doesn't matter. No, what matters here is that he acknowledged no wound track was visible through Kennedy's brain.
And that the laceration along the mid-line was thereby not a wound track...
And he wasn't alone...
And So Does Boswell...
From the 2-26-96 ARRB deposition of Dr. J. Thornton Boswell, when reviewing the photos of the brain. Jeremy Gunn is once again the questioner.
Q. From that photograph, the way that it appears in the photograph, is the left hemisphere of the cerebellum disrupted?
A. A little bit. Certainly the midline is torn. See, the falx comes down between these two and then is connected to the skull above, and that's been torn away, and all this has been disrupted, the connections between the two lobes. And there's hemorrhage, fragmentation, a lot of fragmentation of the right lobe. The only part of the right lobe that's intact are these two areas right here, like this.
Q. Now, did the bullet wound--if we're thinking of President Kennedy standing erect or sitting erect, did the bullet wound go from a lower part of the brain--again, we're talking back 2.5 centimeters to the right of the EOP and then go in an upward direction out of the right temporal parietal area?
A. Yeah, the bullet entered probably behind the cerebellar pons here, back in there, and then it was coming back up this way and I guess it probably would have come through the brain at some point, through the brain, but it's going to hit the calvarium up right at the top. And then that explosion is the thing that's going to sort of disperse all the tissue here and bone and the scalp overlying. So it's coming from down here, up through.
Q. From a lay perspective, it would seem to me, based upon what you've said, that the disruption in the cerebrum would be more towards the point of entrance and lower.
A. I think it's probably going to be at the point of exit. I think when the bullet hits the calvarium above, that's when the explosion took place, because all the bone was just crushed at that point. And a lot of force is extended all the way throughout the calvarium--or throughout the cranial vault, and that's when a lot of this damage took place.
Q. Was there any disruption to the mid-brain?
A. Oh, it's totally demolished. This is mid-brain right here, and everything there is gone-- well, not gone, but it's stretched--but I don't know what caused that, whether that was the bullet hitting something or whether it was the tugging on the falx. You see, the falx is intimately associated with all the structures in the mid- brain, and between the two.
Q. What I'm not understanding--and this, I'm sure, comes from my lack of medical training--is that it seems as if there is a laceration that goes through the mid-brain, which I would characterize as the lower part of the brain.
Q. But there's also a laceration that goes near the vertex of the brain, which would strike me as being the upper. Also, it seems as if there is some suggestion that the portion between that upper and lower laceration is relatively more intact than the upper and lower portions. Is that correct or incorrect?
A. I think you're right, but the forces causing this are multiple: the explosive force of the bullet hitting the calvarium, the upper surface; the explosion of the falx, because that all stretched at the same time, and it is pulling brain against bone, and then separating from both eventually. And so all that trauma is taking place at the same time or in a very brief interval. But not much of this could be caused by bullet entering. Of course, fractures took place at two stages. A lot of fractures took place when the bullet entered the cranial vault, and then they really took place when the bullet went out.
Q. Could any of the left cerebellum have been disrupted by either the entrance or the exit?
A. Well, see, the dura encapsulates all the lobes of the brain, and they're all intimately attached. And when you start tugging on the dura in any one place, or especially in multiple places, is when the--that explosion really expanded the whole cranial vault. And those membranes are really being pulled and pushed in all directions, and they're going to do all kinds of--this kind of trauma.
Q. So, in other words, even though the bullet would have entered near the right cerebellum, the right cerebellum could emerge intact, whereas the left cerebellum could be disrupted? Is that fair?
Q. Could we look at the ninth view, please? This corresponds to black and white photographs Nos. 20, 23, 24, 25, and color photographs Nos. 50, 51, and 52. It's described in the 1966 inventory as the "superior view of the brain." The first question is: Do the photographs appear to you to be accurate representations of the brain as you observed it at the time of the supplementary examination?
Q. Dr. Boswell, I'd like to show you a document that is marked as Exhibit No. MI 12, which is one of the Rydberg drawings from the Warren Commission report. Notice that in Exhibit MI 12, the bullet appears to be going in a straight line through the brain. Are you able to tell by examining the superior view of the brain in the ninth view whether the bullet, in fact, proceeded in a straight line?
A. No. I don't think there's any way of making that determination.
Q. Was it possible to determine the course of the bullet through the skull by an examination of the brain?
A. Not of the brain. It was a little bit easier by examination of the skull, but the right hemisphere of the brain is just so torn up, and there's no way of determining a track. But we did find--we have a good wound of entrance, and then we have metallic fragments, I believe in the--around the right orbit. So that gives some sense of direction as far as the shooter.
Q. By examining the brain by itself, are you able to determine to a reasonable degree of medical
certainty whether there was one or more than one bullet wound to the head? Again, just by examination of the brain.
A. The only clue, I think, is the fact that the scalp is reasonably well intact, and we only have one wound of entrance on the scalp. And by the same token, we only have one wound of exit. It's huge, but--now, if he was shot with this one from behind first and then shot secondly in the same place with a second one, that would be impossible to tell. But then you would have to have another wound of exit someplace, which you don't have.
Well, well. Boswell knew nothing of wound ballistics. He, as Humes, appears to have been of the opinion that once a bullet enters a brain, all bets are off. The bullet tugs on the falx. The bullet tugs on the dura. The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone... It's crazy town. And it's a waste of time to try to figure out the bullet's trajectory.
He, as Humes, failed to appreciate the significance of the longitudinal laceration through the mid-brain. In other words, he didn't know enough to know what he was better off not knowing...or reporting...
This brings us back to Finck...
Finck on the Run II
From the 5-24-96 ARRB deposition of Pierre A. Finck. Jeremy Gunn is once again in the driver's seat.
Q. Can you tell anything about direction of wounds in a brain by looking at the brain in its fresh state?
A: Direction of the bullet path?
Q: Why is it that you would not be able to tell anything about bullet path by looking at a brain?
A: I don't know. Can you repeat your question?
Q: Sure. It's just, the question is - let me try a different question. What I am interested in knowing is what kind of information a competent prosector can determine by looking at a fresh brain when that brain has been subjected to a missile?
A: Well, it would depend upon the case and the degree of destruction of the brain, and I can't
answer yes or no.
Q: Sure. I just want to know what kinds of information and how you would be able to tell
information by looking at the fresh brain.
A: That would depend upon the case really. I can't answer by yes or no.
Q: I'm not asking you to answer yes or no, so it shouldn't be any question about that. But just what kind of information can be gained by looking at the fresh brain?
A: The extent of brain damage, that would be my answer.
Q: That's the only thing you would be able to tell us, the gross damage?
A: But again, it depends upon the case.
Q: Well, and I'm just - all kinds of cases, what other kinds of things might you be able to
determine? What's the range of possibilities?
A: I don't know about the range of possibilities.
Note that Finck is incredibly hesitant to say that one can sometimes determine the direction of fire by the damage to the brain. And that, even better, one can sometimes make this determination at autopsy--before the brain's been fixed.
We can suspect, then, that Finck was afraid he'd be asked to look at the brain photos, and defend his earlier conclusions re the location of the wound on the back of the head, and the bullet's trajectory through the brain. Piecing this stuff together had been his job, after all, at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
It seems more than a bit suspicious, then, that he avoided doing as much for the HSCA and ARRB...
And a bit strange that none of Kennedy's autopsists were willing to point out a bullet track on the photos they had taken to demonstrate the damage to Kennedy's brain...
And extremely telling that they, instead, relied upon their blind belief high-velocity bullets disrupted brains in incomprehensible ways...
The Tale of Two Hemispheres
They were wrong, of course. Dead wrong. As demonstrated in the Blasts From the Past section of the preceding chapter, and the Groove is in the Brain section above, a full-metal jacket bullet heading straight through the skull without significant deformation--and retaining the requisite energy to crack a windshield, dent a windshield strut, and chip a concrete curb hundreds of feet away after exit--would not explode the brain at the range from which Kennedy was presumed to have been fired upon, and would leave a readily identifiable track through the brain.
Now I know I'm no brain surgeon, so there's always the possibility I missed something that a brain surgeon wouldn't have missed. But, in the words of Nobel Prize-winner Robert Zimmerman, you don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows...
Here's how the wind is blowing--away from the conclusions pushed by Humes et al. And here's why: the explosive force he mentioned in his testimony--which he used as a one-size-fits-all explanation for the damage to Kennedy's brain--was the temporary cavity created by a high-velocity bullet as it passes through the brain. Now, he's right. Such a cavity could explode a skull. But here's the thing: the explosion of the skull is caused by the expansion of the brain...
Well, think about it. Which is more resistant to expansion? Brain matter? Or bone?
Bone, right? So why would Kennedy's skull explode BEFORE his brain had fully expanded. It wouldn't, right?
Well, then, how do we know that it didn't?
Because Humes' report on the brain PROVED it didn't. Here it is: "When viewed from the vertex the left cerebral hemisphere is intact. There is marked engorgement of meningeal blood vessels of the left temporal and frontal regions with considerable associated sub-arachnoid hemorrhage. The gyri and sulci over the left hemisphere are of essentially normal size and distribution. Those on the right are too fragmented and distorted for satisfactory description."
Are we really supposed to believe that the temporary cavity of a high-velocity bullet passing through the right hemisphere of the brain an inch or less from the mid-line would expand, and explode, the right hemisphere to such an extent it would blast off the roof of the skull several inches away, but fail to fully expand, and disrupt, and tear, the left hemisphere of the brain, an inch away?
I mean, how does that even make sense?
Well, the thought occurs that the expansion of the right hemisphere happened so rapidly that even a brief delay in its spreading to the left hemisphere would force an explosion of skull on the right side, which would release pressure and thereby spare the left side.
But what might cause this brief delay?
Well...the falx and corpus callosum--which, respectively, separate and connect the two hemispheres--were both lacerated. Could the increased intracranial pressure attendant to the bullet's passing through the right hemisphere spawn lacerations at the mid-line? And could this pressure dissipate with the explosion of the skull? Just in time to stop this pressure from ripping apart the left hemisphere?
I don't know.
Still, let's think up an analogy. You have an empty aquarium, with a glass lid. You stick a thin plastic divider in it to separate it into two halves. You fill both halves up with water. You add some green Jello mix into the left half. And make some green Jello. You add some red Jello mix into the right half. And make some red Jello. You then shoot a bullet through the red Jello, just to the right of the plastic divider.
Now, here's the thing. According to many of those studying the Kennedy assassination, there could be a small hole on the side of the aquarium where the bullet entered, a huge hole on the top of the aquarium where the bullet exited, and 25% of the red Jello splattered all over the wall, but no red Jello mixed in with the green Jello, and no significant disruption to the green Jello.
I don't buy it--even if the divider was torn... And here's one of the reasons why... The Army's study of wound ballistics conducted during the Bougainville Campaign actually touched on this issue, and suggested such a scenario was unlikely. While discussing the effects of 6.5 mm rifle ammunition upon the human brain, it reported: "Extensive damage was sometimes observed in one hemisphere of the brain, when the traversing missile track lay entirely in the opposite hemisphere."
Yeah, I know it says "sometimes." But, as we've seen, the damage to the right hemisphere of Kennedy's brain was on the extreme side for this kind of ammunition. Quite extreme. Tony Hawk extreme.
So why, since the opposite hemisphere to that in which the missile track lay entirely would sometimes suffer "extensive damage," did the left hemisphere of Kennedy's brain suffer so little damage?
Something doesn't add up...
Consider. Doctors have tracked the survivability of various head wounds, and have come to conclude that wounds involving one hemisphere are far more survivable than wounds involving both hemispheres. As but one example, Prognostic Factors and Treatment of Penetrating Gunshot Wounds to the Head, first published in the journal Surgical Neurology in 2003, tracked 265 penetrating gunshot wounds to the head. These had an overall mortality rate of 65% (172/265). The article reveals further that: 1) 53 of the bullet trajectories were bihemsipheric (involving both hemispheres of the brain), and that 96.2 of these wounds were fatal; 2) 35 of these bullet trajectories were transventricular (passing through a ventricle), and that 97% of these were fatal, and 3) 5 of these wounds involved the posterior fossa (the base of the skull at the back of the head), and that 100% of these were fatal.
Now, let's recall that neither of the proposed bullet trajectories through Kennedy's brain (from one inch to the right of the EOP to the large defect and from the supposed cowlick entrance to the large defect) involved the left hemisphere, the ventricles, or the posterior fossa.
So let's do the math. 96.2% of 53 is 51. 97% of 35 is 34. And 100% of 5 is 5. Well, this means that 97% (90 of 93) of the gunshot wound victims receiving a bullet on these three trajectories died. And that, conversely, 52% (90 of 172) of the remaining victims who'd received a penetrating gunshot wound to the head survived.
Well, this suggests that Kennedy, should he have actually been wounded in the manner suggested by the government (that is, by a bullet entering on the back of his head and exiting through the top of his head, with its passage restricted to his right hemisphere), had a roughly 50/50 chance at survival.
Now let's take a walk down Anecdotal Lane.
The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 1861–65, Part I, Volume II, published 1870, reports on dozens and dozens of skull and brain injuries. Well, one of these bears a close resemblance to Kennedy's injury--er, rather, what Kennedy's injury should have been if the trajectory pushed by the HSCA was accurate.
Case.—Private Patrick Hughes, Co. K, 4th New York Volunteers, aged 23 years, was wounded at the battle of Antietam, September 17th, 1862, in Simmer's attack on the right, near Dunker’s Chapel. Several special reports, at variance in regard to some particulars of the case, have been received. In the note book of Surgeon J. H. Brinton, U. S. V., it is stated that “two missiles had struck the back portion of his head, the one near vertex causing injury of greatest extent,” and that “he did not entirely lose his consciousness at time of injury.” But the field report, and the majority of the subsequent hospital reports, state very positively that the injury was a perforation of the skull by a single conoidal musket ball entering near the inner posterior angle of the right parietal, and emerging at a higher point of the left parietal, making, after traversing a portion of the brain, a large exit wound. Little is known of the early history of the case, except that the patient dragged himself from the field, and, after a preliminary dressing from Surgeon G. W. Lovejoy of his regiment, was conveyed to a field hospital in a barn near Iveedysville, where he remained until the 20th, when he was sent to Hagerstown. The regimental surgeon reports that the shock and depression from the injury was great, but that the patient was conscious and answered questions rationally. There is no report from the Hagerstown hospital, except that the patient was sent to Washington on the 24th. On the 25th, he was received at the Mount Pleasant Hospital. The following is an extract from the report of Acting Assistant Surgeon Thomas Carroll, who had immediate charge of the case, after the patient’s admission to Mount Pleasant Hospital 'The ball entered half an inch posterior to the junction of the coronal and sagittal sutures on the median line, passed backward under the scalp and escaped one inch above the occipital protuberance, inflicting a wound four inches in length, producing a compound comminuted fracture of the skull of the same extent. At the time of his admission to the hospital, eight days after the reception of the wound, so much tumefaction of the parts existed that it could not be ascertained whether or not the brain or its membranes were injured. The general condition of the patient was good; suppuration had commenced; no febrile action existed, the pulse was regular, sleep not materially disturbed, mind clear and manifesting no signs of compression of the brain, or inflammation of its membranes. Little,if any,change was perceptible for several days, when the swelling of the scalp and tissues subsided, leaving a prominence nearly, if not altogether, one inch in height, and two and a half or three inches in length of brain substance, in which the pulsation of the arteries could be distinctly observed. From the closest examination that could now be made, it was supposed that the membranes of the brain were not lacerated, though this supposition was by no means certain, as there was reason to believe the brain itself had been penetrated. The chief, and in fact, the only unpleasant symptom complained of by the patient, was an occasional paroxysm of giddiness that occurred at intervals of from ten to fifteen days; the paroxysms continued to return, though less frequently, while he remained in the hospital. Early in December, he was able to sit up and walk about the ward, and was never afterwards much confined to bed. The protuberance now began to subside, and was soon reduced nearly to a level with the skull; numerous pieces of bone were removed as they became detached from the tissues, leaving a complete channel in the cranium from the point where the ball entered to where it emerged. At the time this man was discharged from the service, January 26th, 1863, the wound was nearly healed. There was but little discharge of pus, and with the exception of an occasional recurrence of the paroxysms of giddiness, he suffered but slight inconvenience. The treatment consisted simply in cutting the hair short, and applying cold water dressing locally, paying strict attention to the diet, and administering a cathartic as often as symptoms seemed to indicate its use.' Assistant Surgeon C. A. McCall. U. S. A., in charge of Mount Pleasant Hospital, furnished a report of the case, from which the following extracts are made. “The ball passed from about one inch above and to the right of occipital protuberance into the cavity of cranium and emerged at a point on the left of the median line, about one and three-fourths inches from the point of entry; probably a conoidal ball. From the posterior margin of the inferior wound to anterior margin of superior was about four inches. At the time of his admission to hospital, eight days after the injury, so much tumefaction and hardened clot existed, that it was deemed inadvisable to make a very strict examination with a view to determine the extent of lesion. The hair was closely shaved, and cold water dressings applied and patient placed in a sitting posture." This report then goes on to describe Hughes' care up to his release from the hospital on January 26. 1963.
It then relates: "Shortly before the patient’s discharge from Mount Pleasant, an excellent picture of the aspect of the injury at that time was made in water color, under the direction of Surgeon J. H. Brinton, U. S. V., who was then in charge ot the Division of Surgical Records of the Surgeon General's Office, and had secured the services of an artist, Mr. Stauch."
This picture is provided below.
We now pick up the story in 1869, some 6 years after Hughes received his injury: "The patient went to Newcastle, Delaware, and was pensioned at four dollars a month, until June, 1869, when his pension was increased to eight dollars a month. Dr. D. W. Maull reports, at this date, that there was a loss of substance of the skull two inches wide and three inches long, leaving a large depression, covered only by the integuments of the cranium. 'Through this can be seen at all times the pulsations of the brain. About the cavity the bone is ridged by the union of the fractured margins. There is almost constant dull pain, some loss of hearing, and the sight of the right eye is impaired.' Dr. Maull regarded the disability as total. Yet the man worked afterwards in an iron foundry as puddler. On December 20th, 1870, this patient was examined by Doctors William Thomson and W. W. Keen of Philadelphia, who have published an interesting account of his condition at that time, with a photograph, of which a reduced copy is given in the annexed wood-cut, (Fig. 106.) I make the following quotations from this paper: 'His memory is quite good, but by no means so good as before the injury. He is rather easily bothered and confused, and more irritable than formerly. The sight of his right eye, he thinks, is poor. Whisky affects him as usual. Sexual power undiminished. He has no paralysis. The wound of entrance is marked by a slight depression in the bone, the wound of exit by a hollow two and a half by two inches, and one inch deep. No bone has closed this opening, but the scalp and hair dip down into the hollow. The arterial pulsations are barely perceptible. When recumbent the hollow is gradually obliterated and replaced, in about one minute, by a rounded protuberance. To prevent pain during this change, he supports the parts with his hand. When he coughs, even with moderate force, the depressed scalp instantly hedges up in a cone, which nearly reaches the general level of the skull and obliterates the depression, and then as suddenly subsides.”
It goes on from there. But here is Fig. 106.
Now I know the trajectory for the ball creating Hughes' injury was not on the exact same course as (what the HSCA presumed was) the trajectory for the bullet creating Kennedy's injury, but it's pretty damned close. And I know some are thinking the ball striking Hughes would not be as powerful as the bullet striking Kennedy...but they should think again. The most widely used rifle by the Rebs at the Battle of Antietam was an 1842 Springfield, which fired a 463 grain ball at approximately 1,400 fps. Now compare that to the Mannlicher-Carcano, which fired a 160 grain bullet at approximately 2,100. fps.
Now let's do a dumbed-down version of the math. The velocity is squared when figuring the relative power of a bullet. 1,400 is 2/3 of 2,100. And 160 is roughly 1/3 of 463. So the power of the M/C bullet is 3 x 3 x 1 = 9, as compared to the Springfield which is 2 x 2 x 3 = 12. The Springfield is therefore the more powerful weapon. Like 33% more powerful. And that doesn't even get into the shape of the projectile, with a ball expending more of its energy upon striking its target than a bullet (which will often pierce its target and expend the rest of its energy in the ground, or a tree, or even a second soldier).
Now, I know some will say, well, wait--how do we know the ball striking Hughes wasn't fired from a great distance, and traveling at a much lower velocity than its muzzle velocity? Couldn't a greatly reduced velocity account for the difference in the wounds? Well, no, and no. While the velocity for the ball striking Hughes was undoubtedly far less than the velocity of the bullet killing Kennedy, it could not have been greatly reduced compared to its muzzle velocity, lest the ball would not have exited.
So, yeah, it seems possible Kennedy could have lived if he'd been wounded as purported by the HSCA.
Now, some of you are thinking that's just one case. And a case in which the victim was wounded by a ball, as opposed to a full-metal jacket bullet. Fine. You asked for it.
More Boer War Gore Lore
In the last chapter we looked at the autopsy protocols of men killed by rifle fire in the Boer War, and demonstrated that the wounds received by these men were not remotely as severe as the wound received by Kennedy. Well, what was not revealed at that time was that some of those receiving a bullet similar to the bullet received by Kennedy...and traveling on a trajectory similar to that presumed of the bullet killing Kennedy...actually survived.
The 1905 Journal of the Royal American Medical Corps features Notes on Seven Cases of Perforating Gunshot Wounds of the Skull, by Major G.E. Moffett. For this article, Moffett recounted the details regarding seven gunshot wounds to the head received during the Boer War in which the victim survived, and then reported on the condition of these victims five years on.
Here is an edit of his discussion of Cases 1-4 (Cases 5-7 told the stories of two relatively minor gutter wounds and one shrapnel wound)...
(Note: all four of these wounds came courtesy a German Mauser.)
Case 1: "The wound of entrance, received while the man was retiring, was small and circular (half an inch in diameter), and was situated over the right parietal eminence, three and a half inches above Reid's base line, and three inches posterior to meatus. A piece of depressed bone could be distinctly felt beneath the margin of the bony aperture. The wound of exit, much larger than that of entrance, with irregular and jagged edges, was situated somewhat posteriorly to the right frontal eminence, about five and half inches above base line, and two inches anterior to meatus. A considerable quantity of brain substance protruded from this wound."
Now here is an exhibit created to demonstrate the approximate location of this man's wounds.
The operation to save this man's life was then detailed: "...a wide semi-circular flap including both wounds was deflected, and after removal of a large quantity of pulpified brain substance and some clots from the neighbourhood of both wounds, the trephine was applied at the posterior edge of the aperture of entrance, and a piece of deeply depressed bone, three quarters of an inch in diameter, was elevated and removed; some more clots and disorganized brain substance, together with several splinters of the inner table, which had been driven through the lacerated dura, were also removed. At the aperture of exit both tables were found much splintered, necessitating the removal of several small spicula and some pulpified brain substance. There was a considerable amount of fissuring in the neighbourhood of both apertures...One of the fissures from the aperture of exit extended anteriorly for a distance of two and a half inches, while the lateral radiations reached the temporo-parietal suture...Both apertures were well beveled, the wounds irrigated with a warm saturated boric solution, the deflected flap sutured into position..."
The man's present condition was then described: "General health excellent...mental condition quite normal...but on right side he is practically deaf...patellar tendon reflex...greatly exaggerated on left side...but he walks quite well without (although better with) the aid of a stick...muscles of both upper and lower limbs somewhat atrophied..."
(Note that the trajectory of this bullet was quite similar to the trajectory pushed by the autopsy doctors. And yet the top of this victims's head didn't explode across the plaza. And yet this victim survived...)
Case 2: "The wound of entrance, received while the man was retiring, was situated over the left parietal eminence, that of exit an inch to the left of the sagittal, and bordering on left coronal suture, a distance of four inches intervening between the wounds. A large quantity of pulpified brain matter protruded from the wound of exit."
Now here is an exhibit created to demonstrate the approximate location of this man's wounds.
The operation to save this man's life was then detailed: The surgeon "deflected a semi-circular flap including both wounds, and exposed a small depressed fracture at the wound of entrance, at the posterior angle of which the trephine was applied, and the depressed bone elevated and removed, together with some small fragments of the inner table more deeply embedded in the brain. From the aperture of exit a large quantity of pulpified brain substance and some small spicula were removed. Both bony apertures were bevelled, the scalp wounds, which were in an unhealthy condition, were incised, and after gentle irrigation with saturated boric solution, the flap was sutured into position..."
The man's present condition was then described: "When I last examined him he was to all appearance in robust health; speech perfect...walks without any halt whatsoever...He still has an epileptic form fit occasionally..."
(Note that the trajectory of this bullet is quite close to the trajectory pushed by the HSCA--from high on the back of the head to the top of the head along the coronal suture. And yet this victim survived.)
Case 3: "The wound of entrance was situated two inches above inner extremity of right orbit, that of exit, from which brain matter was protruding, four inches above right external auditory meatus, the track being through upper third of right ascending convolutions."
Now here is an exhibit created to demonstrate the approximate location of this man's wounds.
The operation to save this man's life was then detailed: The surgeon "explored the wounds by raising two small semi-circular flaps, embracing each wound separately. Several small loose fragments of bone, which had been driven into the brain at the aperture of entrance, were removed, the margins of the aperture having been enlarged for this purpose with gouge forceps. At the wound of exit a large quantity of protruding brain substance was removed, also some blood clots...no bony fragments could be detected, the wound in the dura was enlarged, and a small subdural clot removed, after which the brain pulsated freely. After gentle irrigation of the wound, both flaps were sutured into position..."
The man's present condition was then revealed: "He states he feels perfectly well, but occasionally experiences a peculiar sensation on the side of the head affected...He appears to be very nervous...The heart's action is somewhat disordered...Is very anaemic..."
(Although this bullet traveled from front to back rather than back to front, it nevertheless covered a similar distance through the upper brain as the bullet in the HSCA's trajectory. And yet this victim survived...)
Case 4: "The wound of entrance was situated two inches above and the same distance anterior to the left auditory meatus; that of exit five inches above and nearly an inch posterior to the meatus."
Now here is an exhibit created to demonstrate the approximate location of this man's wound.
The operation to save this man's life was then detailed: The surgeon "deflected a large semi-circular flap, including both wounds, and exposed a deep gutter fracture connecting the apertures of entrance and exit. There was considerable fissuring of both tables on either side of fracture. The jagged edges of the gutter were excised, and the opening in skull enlarged with gouge forceps, after which a large number of splinters which had been driven into the brain and some pulpified brain substance and clots were removed. The apertures and scalp incision were dealt with and dressed as in the previous cases."
The man's present condition was then revealed: "his general appearance (is) that of a man in perfect health, physique excellent...The aperture in skull caused by the fracture and enlarged at the operation has closed in very considerably."
(So here we have a gutter wound along the left side of the head. Once again, pulpified brain substance was apparent in the defect. And yet this victim survived.)
Now it should be acknowledged that there is a significant difference between the gutter wound just described and Kennedy's wound. And that is that the bullet creating this wound did not explode and leave bullet fragments in the brain...
And that a large piece of this victim's skull did not blow skywards in the process...
But that's a separate issue. No, what seems apparent here is that bullets traveling on the trajectory outlined by the HSCA Pathology Panel are not necessarily lethal bullets.
Unfortunately, however, it remains possible that the comparatively slight amount of damage created by the bullets in Cases 1-4 was a result of these bullets having been fired from hundreds of yards away from their victims. While Moffett reported that these wounds were Mauser wounds, after all, he never mentioned the range from which these Mausers had been fired.
So maybe that explains Cases 1-4.
But there's also this. In Gunshot Wounds (1908)--(yep, yet another book entitled Gunshot Wounds--I believe that makes three)--Dr. C.G. Spencer presents the following image.
Spencer then makes the argument that bullets traveling along trajectory A are far less lethal than those traveling along trajectory B. He writes: "Speaking generally, the nearer the bullet track is to the base of the brain, the more dangerous is the injury. Wounds in which the bullet has taken a long course deep in the brain are very fatal."
Well, this reinforces my impression the bullet trajectory proposed by the HSCA was a survivable bullet trajectory, yes?
And it's not just the books in the basement that support this probability. More recent studies involving military ammunition support this probability--the probability, to be clear, that the bullet trajectories described by the Warren Commission and especially the HSCA were not hopelessly lethal trajectories.
Here's one such study... Through and Through Wounds, by Dr. Griffith R. Harsh III, a chapter in the U.S. Army publication Neurological Surgery of Trauma (1965), relates that of the 65 patients with perforating injuries of the head admitted to the neurological service during the Korean War, 51 survived. Thirty-one of the thirty-six patients in which the missile traversed more than one cranial compartment from side to side survived, as did twenty-two of the twenty-eight patients in which the missile traversed more than one cranial compartment in an anteroposterior direction. (Based upon the subsequent study in which the vast majority of bihemispheric brain injuries proved fatal, it can be presumed that the vast majority of those receiving such a wound never made it off the battlefield and into this study.)
In any event, here's an illustration provided by Harsh for a bihemispheric wound.
And here's an illustration of a position to be used in the treatment of these wounds.
Well, heck, the trajectory presented for these wounds not only crossed hemispheres, but traveled a similar or greater distance within the brain as the bullet killing Kennedy was purported to have traveled. It appears then that these were more lethal trajectories than the supposed trajectory for the bullet killing Kennedy.
Of course, here, once again, we don't know the velocities of the missiles creating these wounds, so it's possible these missiles were traveling at a slower velocity than the bullet striking Kennedy. Some of them, anyway. But almost certainly not all of them. These were, after all, missiles creating perforating wounds, which, by definition, are wounds created by a high-velocity missile. (A low-velocity missile will not exit.)
There's also this--the Moisin's and Type 88 rifles used by the North Korean and Chinese troops in the Korean War fired roughly 10% larger bullets than the bullet presumed to have killed Kennedy, at a roughly 20% greater velocity. Such a bullet, it follows, would impart roughly 50% more energy into a target than the bullet presumed to have killed Kennedy, even when fired from twice the range. It seems clear, then, that some of the wounds observed by Dr. Harsh were wounds which should have been as lethal as Kennedy's wound (should the trajectory of the missile creating Kennedy's wound have been as presented by the HSCA.) But were not.
Let's reflect... 31 of the 36 American soldiers receiving a perforating wound to the head in Korea...who made it to a brain surgeon ...survived. (The surprising nature of this fact, moreover did not escape the attention of Dr. Harsh. He wrote: "Fifty-one survivors of sixty-five patients with through-and-through head injuries is in sharp contrast with the widely accepted belief that such injuries are almost always hopeless..." Yep.
And this was far from the only study to suggest the supposed trajectory for the bullet killing Kennedy was a survivable one.... Managing Military Penetrating Brain Injuries in the War Zone, in Neurosurgical Focus (2018), for example, shared the outcomes of 102 victims of brain trauma, that were either military bullet-related (60) or blast-related (42). This study found that 98% (40 of 41) of those within whom the offending projectile traversed the blue "danger zone" marked on the image below, died or remained in a vegetative state, while 64% (39 of 61) within whom the projectile avoided this region (marked by the cingulate gyrus on top and second cervical vertebrae on bottom, and anterior commissure at front and tentorium/posterior fossa at back) survived.
So, yeah, the passage of a military full-metal jacket rifle bullet on the trajectory proposed by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel was not the death sentence it is purported to have been. Kennedy may well have survived...if not for damage noted elsewhere in his brain.
Well, this brings us back...to the "laceration in the mid-brain...below the cerebral cortex" mentioned by Humes in his ARRB testimony--y'know, the one he said was "basically probably the lesion that was fatal."
This laceration was inches away from the bullet trajectories proposed by the government's experts.
So what caused it? Was such a lesion the inevitable result of the passage of a high-velocity bullet through the right hemisphere?
No. We've already seen that the majority of patients receiving a gunshot wound to the brain survived...provided that the offending projectile did not traverse the afore-mentioned "danger zone."
And this is backed up Pathology of Trauma (1955), by Dr. Alan Moritz (a mentor to Dr. Russell Fisher of the Clark Panel, and a member of the panel himself). Moritz claimed: "The essential characteristics of penetrating violence to the skull are high velocity, short time of effect, and high load per unit area. The impact area is usually small. The gunshot wound is the most frequent representative of this type of violence. Generally, the energy of the impact exceeds the breaking point of the skull and the striking object penetrates the dura and causes an open brain wound. The energy tends to be consumed by the destruction of tissue in the area of impact rather than to be transmitted to remote areas of the brain and therefore does not characteristically cause distant lesions."
Note: Moritz went on to describe coup contusions of the brain (which are contusions brought about by the in-bending of the skull at an impact location) and contre-coup contusions of the brain (which are contusions brought about by the crashing of the brain into the skull opposite an impact location). Now, contre-coup contusions are in fact distant lesions. So, in that regard, Moritz was incorrect. But look again. Contre-coup contusions are not caused by the bullet itself. Should a brain be encased in let's say, a thick gelatin, no contre-coup contusions would appear. So it appears that Moritz was drawing a distinction between lesions caused by the energy of the bullet--which was consumed within the area of its impact and passage--and lesions caused by the movement of the brain within the skull.
Think of it this way. Someone gets stabbed, and then falls back onto a marble floor. It appears that Moritz was distinguishing between the damage incurred by the stabbing, versus the damage incurred by the fall. To a laymen, it doesn't make a difference (the person doing the stabbing is responsible either way), but to a scientist this is the source of countless papers.
In any event, it seems likely Moritz would not have attributed the damage to Kennedy's corpus callosum to the inches-removed passage of a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet.
(Of course, he did just that as a member of the Clark Panel.)
Still, Moritz was not an expert on military rifle wounds.
Well, then what did Bergman et al have to say about this in A System of Practical Surgery Vol.1 (1904)? "In the case of short range up to a distance of 100 metres (325 feet) the entire brain is severely injured in the form of diffuse hemorrhages and areas of contusions."
Well, here, once again, the reference is to contusions. The bullet hits the skull which then comes in contact with the brain. This causes contusions near the bullet entrance (coup contusions) and on the opposite side of the bullet entrance (contre-coup contusions).
Hmmm... Nothing about lacerations to the corpus-callosum or mid-brain.
Well, then, was the laceration to Kennedy's corpus callosum and "mid-brain" caused by something other than the passage of a bullet through the right hemisphere?
Like the swelling of his brain after the passage of a bullet?
Nope. Here's Dr. C.G. Spencer, in Gunshot Wounds (1908), when describing the brain damage caused by rifles and ammunition like that used to kill President Kennedy: "Compression of the brain is rarely seen; there is seldom a large enough area of bone depressed to cause symptoms of general compression, and hemorrhage seldom causes this condition, as the wound acts as a safety valve. Symptoms of compression are more likely to occur when the external wounds are small."
Well, that makes it clear, then. The gaping hole on the top of Kennedy's head gave his brain a direction in which it could expand. And this, ironically, protected his lower brain from injuries related to this expansion.
Well, then, what about the impact of the bullet itself? Not the passage of this bullet through the brain, nor the subsequent swelling of the brain after this bullet had exited...but the tangential impact of a high-velocity bullet near the top of Kennedy's head?
Could that have torn the corpus callosum?
Shear Brain Attack
Shear Injuries of the Brain, an article in the 3-11-67 Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, provides strong support for such a possibility. It reports on the deaths of 37 men and women, 23 of whom were killed as the result of an auto accident, 11 of whom were killed as the result of falls from between 5 and 30 feet, and 3 of whom were killed as the result of a physical attack. None of their brains were lacerated, or displayed blood clots on their surface. Only 14 of them suffered a skull fracture. These 37 people died, essentially, because the central part of their brain got broke.
Here's the more scientific explanation offered in the article: "In all cases, the splenium of the corpus callosum and in most the superior colliculi were damaged...Scattered small hemorrhages, gliosis, and ruptured axons with secondary Wallerian degeneration were the principle pathologic features of all 37 patients. In all instances, the axonal and blood vessel damage was located in the diencephalon. It was always asymmetrical and rarely superficial."
Now, it might take awhile to figure out what all this means...but at least we have something to go on.
If Kennedy's death had been caused by the impact of the bullet on the skull, as opposed to the passage of the bullet through the brain: 1) The splenium of the corpus callosum would be damaged; and 2) the diencephalon would be damaged.
Well, first...where are they? And second...were they?
Here's an anatomy drawing in which the locations of the corpus callosum and diencephalon are revealed. Note that the diencephalon is just below the corpus callosum.
So what about the corpus callosum? Was it damaged?
While discussing the brain, the Supplementary Autopsy Report revealed: "there is a laceration of the corpus callosum extending from the genu to the tail. Exposed in this latter laceration are the interiors of the right lateral and third ventricles."
And this wasn't a one time thing. When discussing the president's wounds with the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel in 1977, Dr. Humes elaborated: "The corpus callosum was torn...And the mid-brain was virtually torn from the pons."
And, on this point, the autopsy doctors were not alone. After viewing the autopsy photos of the brain taken from above, the Clark Panel concurred: "it can be seen that the corpus callosum is widely torn in the midline."
And the HSCA panel agreed. Within its report on the medical evidence it noted that "Laceration of the corpus callosum within the deep margins of the wound of the right cortex is also evident."
So there it is. The corpus callosum was torn. But the Canadian study didn't just say corpus callosum, did it? It said the "Splenium of the corpus callosum." Well, multiple sources have it that the "splenium is the thickest and most posterior portion of the corpus callosum." So yes, I think the "tail" discussed in the autopsy report means the splenium. One down, one to go.
Still, this led me to wonder if a laceration of the corpus callosum was routinely encountered in gunshot wounds restricted to one side of the upper calvarium, where the HSCA placed the wound. The corpus callosum, after all, was at the center of the brain, below the location of both the HSCA's entrance and its exit. Would a bullet heading straight through the right cerebrum, a la the HSCA testimony of Baden and Sturdivan, widely tear what is purported to be one of the toughest parts of the brain, below its passage?
To be clear, the corpus callosum is not a single nerve, or fiber, that can be easily torn.
Here is the definition of corpus callosum, according to Wikipedia.
"The corpus callosum (Latin for "tough body"), also callosal commissure, is a wide, thick nerve tract consisting of a flat bundle of commisural fibers beneath the cerebral cortex in the brain...It spans part of the longitudinal fissure, connecting the left and right cerebral hemispheres, enabling communication between them..."
And here again is the corpus callosum in context. Note that the genu is far below and forward of where the Warren Commission and HSCA placed the exit for the fatal bullet. Now remember that the genu was torn and that this laceration extended back to the third ventricle and splenium.
Now let's reveal that the Supplementary Autopsy Report notes that "When viewed from the basilar aspect the disruption of the right cortex is again obvious. There is a longitudinal laceration of the mid-brain through the floor of the third ventricle just behind the optic chasm and the mammillary bodies. This laceration partially communicates with an oblique 1.5 cm tear through the left cerebral peduncle."
And now let's recall that Dr. Finck later added to this description of a wound extending vertically through the mid-brain, by telling General Blumberg that: "There is a parasagittal laceration of the right cerebral hemisphere, extending from the frontal to the occipital lobes, and exposing the Thalamus. The Corpus Callosum is lacerated."
And now note as well that the Clark Panel reported "the peduncles have been lacerated, probably incident to the removal of the contents from the cranium."
And that the HSCA pathology panel noted simply that "The cerebral peduncles are likewise lacerated."
Now let's review.
The posterior half of the corpus callosum sits above the diencephalon.
The corpus callosum was lacerated, exposing the thalamus.
The thalamus is part of the diencephalon and is separated from the hypothalamus, the other part of the diencephalon, by the third ventricle.
There was a laceration through the floor of the third ventricle.
The cerebral peduncles are directly below the diencephalon.
The cerebral peduncles were similarly lacerated.
Hmmm... The 1967 Canadian study said two areas of the brain were damaged in all 37 brains they'd dissected: the corpus callosum and the diencephalon. Both were damaged in Kennedy. These 37 brains, let's recall, were the brains of those who'd died from a blow to the head. The damage to Kennedy's brain, then, suggests the possibility he was killed by the impact of a bullet on his skull, and that the subsequent destruction of his right cerebrum was not the direct cause of his death.
Now, this led me to wonder if the Clark Panel in general, and Russell Fisher in particular, were trying to hide something. Why did they claim the lacerations on the peduncles were "probably" post-mortem injuries? Was a laceration of the peduncles inconsistent with a bullet's entrance in the cowlick?
I continued looking... I was determined to gain a better understanding of the significance of laceration of the corpus callosum...and below.
But what I found surprised me. Yes, really. After all this time digging through all this manure, I still can be surprised.
Above: Dr. Richard Lindenberg, every bit the German Scientist.
The Lindenberg Hindenburg
It was from researching lacerations of the corpus callosum that I stumbled onto the peculiar case of Dr. Richard Lindenberg, an expert on brains and brain damage, who'd emigrated from Germany to the U.S. after WWII, and was called upon to serve his Neu-Fatherland as a medical consultant to the Rockefeller Commission.
My quest led me to Trauma to the Corpus Callosum, an article published in the November 1988 American Journal of Neuroradiology, where the following lines jumped out at me: "The mechanism of callosal injury has been debated for a long time...Lindenberg (16-18) et al proposed that shear-strain forces, acting in conjunction with direct blows to the vertex of the head, superior to the level of the corpus callosum, were responsible."
Now, first of all, yes, this is the same Lindenberg who'd consulted for the Rockefeller Commission.... And second of all, yes, it turns out that he claimed damage to the corpus callosum could be linked to a blow to the top of the head in three separate articles published between 1955 and 1966.
Now, here's the crazy part. His co-author on the first of these articles (Lesions of the Corpus Callosum Following Blunt Mechanical Trauma to the Head--published in the 1955 American Journal of Pathology) was none other than Dr. Russell Fisher, leader of the Clark Panel, and a mentor and colleague to the majority of doctors on the Rockefeller and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panels.
This article revealed that injuries to the corpus callosum were often accompanied by lesions in subjacent structures (septum pellucidum, fornices, caudate nuclei, and dorsal thalami). It then argued: "the vertical alignment of all these lesions presupposes that the impact area on the skull must have been located above the horizontal level of the corpus callosum and the impact directed toward the base of the skull. Indeed this was true in 48 of our cases. In the cases in which the impact area was close to or within the midline, the lesions frequently extended over the entire cross section of the corpus callosum. In cases with more laterally located impact areas, the area of damage to the corpus callosum was usually smaller and asymmetric...In none of our cases was the impact directed against the lateral portions of the skull or against the occipital protuberance with spreading of the force in the horizontal plane." It then concluded: "In 51 cases, or 16 percent of our series of cases with blunt mechanical trauma to the head, the corpus callosum was found to be damaged...The extent of the lesions varied from involvement of the entire corpus callosum to small, single, traumatic hemorrhages or foci of necrosis confined to a circumscribed area. Only one case showed complete tearing. The lesions occurred with or without skull fracture. The most plausible theory as to their pathogenesis is that they are caused by sudden stretching and shearing forces due to elastic deformation of the skull and brain at the moment of the impact. In all cases, the force was vertically directed."
So, wow. Just wow. It appears that Lindenberg and Fisher knew damn well that the laceration to the corpus callosum observed at autopsy and depicted in the autopsy photos made no sense if the bullet impacted by the EOP, and probably knew it made little to no sense if the bullet impacted at Fisher's newfound location in the cowlick. In both cases, after all, the primary force upon the brain would have been forward, and not downward.
(Now, I suspect some are thinking I've pulled some sort of switcheroo here, as the lacerations discussed by Lindenberg and Fisher in their article were attributed to blunt mechanical trauma, as opposed to bullets. But I'm not the first to use their article in such a manner. Dr.s Joel Kirkpatrick and Vincent DiMaio, in their 1978 article Civilian Gunshots Wounds of the Brain, discussed 42 civilian rifle and handgun injuries to the brain. They noted that but three of the brains in their study showed no signs of increased intracranial pressure. They said the rest showed pressure marks on the underside of the brain. They then offered "Lindenberg states that such pressure marks occur acutely when the head is deformed by blows to the vertex. The findings here would support his contention..." So, there you have it. It's okay to use Lindenberg's observations about blunt mechanical injuries when discussing gunshot injuries. Just ask Kirkpatrick and DiMaio...)
In any event, one can't help but wonder if Lindenberg and Fisher ever offered up a reason to doubt the implications of their findings, that is, if they ever offered up an alternative explanation for the lacerations to Kennedy's mid-brain noted by Humes at the autopsy.
Maybe. Lindenberg was a contributor to the first edition of Spitz and Fisher's textbook Medicolegal Investigation of Death (1973). No, it was more than that; he wrote their chapter on brain trauma.
In any event, when discussing the contusions and lacerations one finds on the brains of gunshot victims, he presented this image...
He also provided this discussion... "Aside from hemorrhages in the vicinity of the wound track, there are often hemorrhages at a distance from it...Figure XVII-10 shows a large wound track through the frontal lobes...in addition to tonsilar herniation contusions (arrows), there are many other contusions. The large lesion in the area of the left lower central and adjacent temporal area resulted from craniotomy (b), but the contusions in both orbital lobes (c) and those in the unci (d), right pallidum (e) and near the mammilary bodies (f) are attributable to cavitation...The contusions in unci and adjacent deep structures were obviously caused by the brain suddenly pressing against the tentorium when the structures around the mammilary bodies attempted to shift into the tentorial opening. This is of interest because the same pattern of contusions will be described later as a result of a fall on the forehead or the vertex."
Now let's get this straight... The bullet enters the brain. This expands the brain. This expansion then causes additional contusions and even lacerations along the underside of the brain, where the brain has been pressed against a harder surface (the tentorium, a thick membrane covering the cerebellum) and even bone (the foramen magnum, the opening through which the spinal cord connects to the brain).
Hmmm. Did Lindenberg and Fisher believe the lesions to the corpus callosum and mid-brain observed on Kennedy's brain were caused by the expansion of a temporary cavity surrounding the fatal bullet as it passed through its right hemisphere...and the subsequent herniation (descent below the foramen magnum) of the cerebellar tonsils (the lowest part of the cerebellum).
It's hard to see how.
Here is the subsequent description promised by Lindenberg in the previous passage: "Tonsilar herniation contusions are frequently observed not only in gunshot wounds but also in blows to the head, causing only coup contusions...if contrecoup contusions are produced, tonsilar herniation contusions are absent...In general, falls on the back or on one side of the head seldom produce contusions in deeper structures of the brain. The same is true of blows to the head producing coup and contrecoup contusions. The situation is quite different, however, if the accelerated head strikes an unyielding object with the forehead or the convexity above the level of the corpus callosum...In these cases deformation of the forehead or convexity of the head shifts the brain along the line of the direction of the impact towards the tentorium and its opening. At the same time, elongation of the axis between both temples occurs, due to bulging of the temporal bones. The combined deformations often produce lesions in the corpus callosum ranging from hemorrhages to tears. Because of the shifting of the brain towards the tentorium, intermediary contusions may involve areas of the brain below the corpus callosum along the line of force (striate bodies, pallida, internal capsules and lower midbrain and pons)."
Well, that's a lot to take in. But it seems clear, nonetheless, that Lindenberg's Fig. XVII-10 and its discussion fail to explain Kennedy's wounds. Here's why...
The temporary cavity of the bullet through the frontal lobes in Figure XVII-10 was closer to areas e and f in that brain than the HSCA's trajectory for the bullet killing Kennedy was to the corpus callosum etc in Kennedy's brain.
There was no laceration of the corpus callosum and its underlying structures apparent in Figure XVII-10, only contusions believed to have been caused by the expansion of the temporary cavity.
No permanent cavity or wound track was actually found in Kennedy's brain.
No herniation contusions of the cerebellar tonsils were noted by anyone studying Kennedy's brain or photos of Kennedy's brain.
Contre-coup contusions were apparent on Kennedy's brain. Thus, the damage to the cerebral peduncles et al was not created via tonsilar herniation. (The incompatibility of the two comes from Lindenberg himself, in Fisher's book.)
Since there is no evidence the cerebellar tonsils were herniated, and no evidence a permanent cavity or wound track traversed the brain, it's supremely silly to assume the temporary expansion of this unobserved (and quite possibly mythological) cavity caused the lacerations noted at autopsy.
We have reason to believe, then, that the damage to Kennedy's brain was not what Dr. Russell Fisher and the Clark Panel, and subsequently Dr. Richard Lindenberg, would have expected should the bullet have actually traveled on the trajectory they'd proposed.
And that's probably understating things... I mean, seriously, how could they not have noticed that the damage to Kennedy's corpus callosum etc was reflective of a blow to the top of Kennedy's head, an elongation of the axis between his temples, and the subsequent shifting of his brain towards the tentorium?
And how could they have then dismissed the probability Kennedy was struck at the top of his head in favor of a trajectory in which a bullet entered at a location 4 inches away from that noted at autopsy, and traveled through a wound track unidentified at autopsy--and unobserved on the autopsy photos?
Did they simply wish to believe the bullet traveled on such a trajectory? And grant themselves that wish?
Or were they painfully aware of the problems with such a trajectory? Which they then covered up?
Now, I know this might seem far-fetched for those used to siding with doctors against the likes of moi. But the sad fact is that the descriptions of the damage to Kennedy's brain contained within the Supplementary Autopsy Report do not support the conclusions of the Warren Commission and HSCA. As reported in his best-seller Best Evidence (1980), David Lifton stumbled across this very fact in October, 1966. First, he read Dr. Humes' description of Kennedy's brain to a friend, who just so happened to be a neurosurgeon. His friend told him that the damage to the corpus callous and cerebral peduncles did not sound like a gunshot wound to him. Emboldened, Lifton then contacted his former college professor, Warren Commission attorney Wesley Liebeler, and told him of his theory the brain had been altered and what his neurosurgeon friend had told him. According to Lifton, Liebeler then called a pathologist ("Joe") in order to verify what Lifton's friend had told him. After reading the description of Kennedy's brain to a pathologist, Liebeler, at least according to Lifton, became red-faced. With the doctor still on the phone, he then turned to Lifton and whispered "He says it sounds like he was hit by an axe."
An axe! Hmmm... This suggests a blow to the top of the head, does it not?
So why did Fisher and Lindenberg--experts on the brain damage observed as a result of blows to the top of the head--fail to notice that the damage to Kennedy's brain suggested he'd received a blow to the top of his head?
Or is it that...jeez...they did notice, and failed to report as much?
Three excerpts from the report Lindenberg provided the Rockefeller Commission suggest that--yessiree--something was up, and that Lindenberg's report was designed to conceal more than reveal.
The first part is this: "Instead of leaving a distinct wound canal through the brain, the bullet produced a severe injury in the right cerebral hemisphere commencing in the posterior parietal region near the border of the occipital lobe, becoming larger anteriorly...Walls and floor of the large defect, essentially formed by deep white matter, reveal no hemorrhage..."
Well, wait a second. How can a high-velocity bullet tear through a brain and not leave a track? This goes against everything ever written on wound ballistics. It seems apparent then that Lindenberg knew full well the damage to the brain failed to align with the entrance in the cowlick proposed by his friend Fisher, and had decided to wave this off as no problem...when it was, in fact, a huge problem.
The second part is this: "The corpus callosum seen between the hemispheres is grossly intact."
Well, hold on. According to our old friend Merriam-Webster, the word "intact," when used in connection to a living body or body parts, means "having no relevant component removed or destroyed."
So... was Lindenberg trying to hide that the corpus callosum was, in Fisher's words, widely torn?
It appears so. Here was Lindenberg, the pre-eminent expert on brain injuries among those who'd inspected the autopsy photos, failing to note the laceration of the corpus callosum. And this even though he'd written numerous papers on lacerations of the corpus callosum...
And the third part is this: "At the base of the brain there are a small defect in the tuber cinereum and non-hemorrhagic tears in both peduncles of the midbrain. These alterations are probably postmortem artifacts."
Note the pattern. Fisher and Lindenberg both dismissed the tears in the peduncles as artifacts. Were they trying to avoid that having lacerations of the corpus callosum and peduncles was suggestive of a downward blow applied to the vertex of the skull, which in this situation would suggest the bullet impacted at the supposed exit defect?
I mean, think about it. Fisher and Lindenberg wrote an article together linking vertical tears through the central brain from the corpus callosum on down to blows at the top of the head, and then studied the photos of Kennedy's brain showing this pattern, and then separately but similarly reported that the lacerated peduncles were probably created post-mortem, i.e. that those incompetent military doctors probably created this damage--so we don't need to worry about the clear implications of this damage.
So...did they know what they were doing? That is, hiding from the record that the damage to the brain suggested a different scenario than what they were proposing?
I believe so. Look closely at the image below. I have added red stars to mark the location of lacerations in the central brain noted at autopsy, or by Lindenberg himself. (The location of the third ventricle and cerebral peduncles are approximated based upon other drawings.) I have added blue stars to mark the location of lacerations subjacent to the corpus callosum discussed in Lindenberg and Fisher's article. (The location of the caudate nuclei and dorsal thalami are approximated based upon other drawings.)
Well, the blue stars are all within the range of the red stars.
One should keep in mind, moreover, that Kennedy's brain was not sectioned, and that the damage noted by the doctors, and marked with red stars, was all viewed from above and below.
Hmmm... It seems certain then, or at least as near to certain as anything can be on this case, that the areas marked by the blue stars, which could only have been observed through dissection, were also damaged.
Well, from this it seems clear that Dr.s Fisher and Lindenberg should have suspected--and publicly raised--the possibility Kennedy was struck on the top of his head, at the location long presumed to be an exit....but opted to cover this up.
Now, that might seem unfair. But there's also this. Within Lindenberg's report to the Rockefeller Commission are a number of suspicious "mistakes" that only make sense when one assumes he was twisting the evidence to support the conclusions of Russell Fisher and the Clark Panel. As detailed in How Five Investigations into JFK's Medical/Autopsy Evidence Got It Wrong, by Dr. Gary Aguilar and Kathy Cunningham, Lindenberg 1) supported the single-bullet theory by insisting that Governor Connally gave no indication of being struck after frame 223 of the Zapruder film, 2) said the ring of abrasion around Kennedy's back wound indicated the shot came from above, and 3) claimed the trail of fragments visible on Kennedy's skull x-rays were "distributed along an axis extending from the entrance hole to the frontal region."
Now, none of these assertions were true. All were debunked by the HSCA, or by subsequent study of the Zapruder film and x-rays. They all lent credence to the single-assassin scenario pushed by Lindenberg's colleague Russell Fisher. And all were demonstrably false.
Now, this might go too far. But let's consider Lindenberg's background. For one, he was a Captain in the Luftwaffe during World War II. So he knew how to follow orders and not ruffle feathers. Even while working for monsters. For two, he came to the U.S. in 1947 as part of Operation Paperclip, a government program designed to herd Germany's top scientists over to the U.S. side of the America/Russia range war. Now, most of these scientists were former Nazis. This may not have been true for Lindenberg (Note: it probably is--a 2002 article in the Journal of Neuro-Opthalmology on Lindenberg's colleague J. Lawton Smith quotes Smith as saying Lindenberg was "a big Nazi" and "the Chief Pathologist for the German Air Force"), but it doesn't really matter. For the fact remains that Lindenberg owed his career to first the Nazis and then the American military, the first of which was pure evil, and the second of which was a suspect in the assassination of President Kennedy... Well, think about it. There was no upside in his saying anything that would cast doubt upon the single-assassin conclusion...such as, ding ding ding, that the damage to the brain suggested the bullet impacted at the top of the skull, and drove the brain down down down.
In any event, we can add Fisher and Lindenberg to the Finck column of doctors who presumably should have known better, but played along to get along. And even get ahead.
Back to Baden Baden
That the injuries to Kennedy's brain suggested he'd been at the receiving end of a violent downward force, moreover, might explain why the HSCA pathology panel rotated Kennedy's skull in its drawings, and misrepresented what would have been a slightly upwards bullet trajectory, as a slightly downwards bullet trajectory.
I mean, they must have known something was wrong.
Two photos of gelatin blocks from Dr. Olivier's 1964 tests are presented below. These photos were subsequently published as Figure A8 in Dr. Olivier's 1965 report, as Exhibit F-310 in Appendix I of the HSCA's 1979 report, and as Figure 25 in Larry Sturdivan's 2005 book The JFK Myths. Gelatin block A is the wound profile of a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet after piercing a simulated neck, in which the bullet remained stable. The permanent cavity is scarcely larger than the width of the bullet. Gelatin block B, on the other hand, is the wound profile of a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet after piercing a simulated neck, in which the bullet became unstable. The permanent cavity in this case was quite extensive.
Note that I have added a red line to designate the point (11 cm) at which the HSCA claimed the bullet exited Kennedy's skull.
Well, it seems clear from this that a stable M/C bullet would not explode a skull to the degree Kennedy's skull was exploded, but that an unstable bullet might.
Now let's look again at Sturdivan in The JFK Myths (2005): "Like the simulations at Edgewood Arsenal, the center of the blown-out area of the president’s skull was at the midpoint of the trajectory—not at the exit point. The midpoint is the point at which the bullet has fully deformed and is giving up the energy at the maximum rate—that is, pushing outward with the maximum force. At its actual point of exit toward the front of his head, the fragment had lost half its velocity and a small amount of mass (more than three quarters of its energy). His forehead was not torn open."
So let's sum this up. Both the Warren Commission and HSCA linked the explosion of Kennedy's skull to the velocity of the fatal bullet. Such an explosion might indeed be possible.
Almost certainly not at the range from which the fatal shot was fired, but possible...
But here's the thing. As shown in gelatin block A, and as subsequently acknowledged by Sturdivan, a stable Mannlicher-Carcano bullet does not create the large cavity necessary to explode a skull. The bullet killing Kennedy, should it have entered on the back of his head as proposed by the Warren Commission and HSCA, then, must have been an unstable (i.e. tumbling and fragmenting) bullet.
Only...yikes...an unstable bullet leaves a readily detectable permanent cavity in gelatin...and brain.
And yet no sign of such a wound track was found on Kennedy's brain!
Well, it follows, then, like night from day, that either the brain studied by the doctors and photographed during the supplementary autopsy was not actually Kennedy's brain...or that the bullet killing Kennedy did not travel 4 inches or more through Kennedy's brain, as proposed by both the Warren Commission and HSCA.
Now, this may be unfair to Dr. Baden, the leader of this panel, but we have reason to suspect even he knew the damage to Kennedy's brain was best explained by its having been the recipient of a violent downward force. To wit, when asked by Vincent Bugliosi (for his book Reclaiming History) to explain the 1500 gm weight for the brain listed on the Supplementary Autopsy Report, he replied:
“Basically, the president’s whole brain was still there...The right hemisphere was severely damaged and torn, but less than an ounce or two of his brain was actually missing from the cranial cavity. If you squash a tomato, some would look at it and loosely say that most of the tomato was missing, but actually it’s still all there, only it’s mashed. That’s the only explanation I can give you for how some people have said that a big part of the brain was missing. But they are wrong.”
So Baden's analogy for the wounding of Kennedy's brain was a man squashing a tomato. Interesting. Very interesting.
Well, this brings us back to autopsy assistant James Jenkins, and his observation the damage to Kennedy's brain was far less extensive than the damage to his skull...
Here is a more detailed quote from Jenkins' appearance at the JFK Lancer Conference on 11-22-13... "My first impression was the damage to the brain does not correlate with the extensive damage to the skull. And what I mean with that was the right interior portion of the brain was damaged and there was some tissue missing but the brain--due to the trauma apparently--was in that area kind of gelatinous, and that pretty much stands to reason because it's not like traumatizing a muscle or something like that where it would get bruising and so forth. The brain actually has a large amount of fluid, or water. So it kind of becomes mushy and gelatinous. That was what I saw."
So...the brain was kind of mushy...like it had been "mashed"?
Clearing up Confusion, Considering Contusions, and Coming to Conclusions
The closest eyewitnesses to Kennedy's assassination thought the fatal bullet impacted near his right temple or at the top of his head above his ear--at the location of what was later claimed to be the exit of this bullet.
The Zapruder film--which was withheld from the public for many years after the assassination--shows Kennedy getting knocked down upon impact. Well, this, too, suggests he'd received a blow to the top of his head, at the site of the supposed exit.
And the Harper fragment, which was withheld even from the doctors--and was presumed to have exploded from the exit location--well, it displays some internal beveling, which, in turn, suggests a bullet impacted at the supposed exit.
Now this brings us to the brain. As we've seen, neither of the two trajectories pushed by the government's experts makes any sense when one looks at the damage to the brain.
And we've unveiled as well that that the damage to the corpus callosum and subjacent structures most logically came from a blow from above.
Now, this would appear to support that Kennedy was killed in the manner suggested by the recollections of the witnesses, the downward snap of his head in the Z-film, and the beveling apparent on the Harper fragment.
When one accepts that this possibility is likely, and that the fatal bullet is likely to have impacted at the supposed exit defect, and created a tangential (gutter) wound of both entrance and exit, moreover, additional curiosities suddenly fall in line.
Here's Major Walter G. Haynes, from his November 1945 Journal of Neurosurgery article Extensive Brain Wounds, which was an analysis of 159 cases occurring in a series of 342 penetrating war wounds of the brain observed during the African, Sicilian, and Western European campaigns of Australian forces in WWII: "This analysis is confined to those patients in whom a cerebral lobe or a major portion of a cerebral lobe, has been destroyed, perforating wounds of the brain, and very large missile tracts penetrating deeply into or through the brain. Almost all of them represent transventricular wounds as well. The diffuse brain damage, at necropsy, was most marked in a gutter type of brain wound, but was well demonstrated in all brains where the missile was large and the striking force great. Multiple petechial hemorrhages were grouped throughout both the white and gray matter. They extended, in severe cases, throughout the midbrain, pons, and even the cerebellum. The diffuse pathology was evenly distributed in brains portraying great local brain damage. The contrecoup effect was usually notable in instances wherein the wave of force was transmitted through the skull and the brain but with little or no focal damage."
Well, wait a second. Haynes observed a correlation between contrecoup injuries, and injuries in which there was little focal damage, i.e. damage at the area of impact. Now, Jenkins has already told us there was little focal damage to Kennedy's brain. So...was there contrecoup damage to Kennedy's brain?
Contrecoup or Contra-coup bruises are found opposite the point of impact, to such an extent, even, that the prevalence of these bruises can be used to determine the direction of impact.
Here's Dr. Michael Baden, in his book Unnatural Death (1989): "If the back of the head strikes the pavement in a fall, there is a bruise on the back of the head and a fracture under it, but the bruise on the brain will be on the front, not beneath the others. The brain's momentum drives it against the front of the skull. This is a contra-coup injury."
And here's Dr. Vincent J.M. DiMaio, in Gunshot Wounds (1999): "Examination of the brain in gunshot wounds reveals contusions around the entrance site in about half the cases. These are probably due to inbending of the bone against the brain at the moment of the perforation. Contusions are equally frequent at the exit, although they do not necessarily occur in the same cases as entry contusions. Contusions can also be seen on the inferior surface of the frontal lobe."
(Now, curiously, Brock's Injuries of the Brain and Spinal Cord (1974) claims "Contre-coup lesions are almost non-existent in missile wounds," and cites a study by Dr. W. R. Russell on 185 WWII soldiers in support. Now that would be bad enough. Making this matter even more curious, however, is that Dr. Russell published this study in the May 1968 Johns-Hopkins Medical Journal, a journal whose contents would have been well familiar to both Dr. Russell Fisher and fellow Clark panelist Dr. Russell Morgan, the head of Johns-Hopkins Radiology Department. Now, admittedly, I can't make sense of this. Was Russell mistaken? Or Haynes and DiMaio?)
In any event, where were the bruises (or contusions) on Kennedy's brain?
According to the Supplementary Autopsy Report, there was "marked engorgement of meningeal blood vessels of the left temporal and frontal regions with considerable associated subarachnoid hemorrhage."
Now I know that subarachnoid hemorrhage is on the surface of the brain and is not necessarily an indicator of underlying contusion to the brain. But the brain itself, we should remember, was not sectioned, nor dissected. So we have no knowledge of what lay beneath the surface of the left hemisphere, and can only speculate based on what was on the surface.
It's a good thing, then, that we have Dr. Humes' word on it. When describing Kennedy's brain to the Warren Commission, he testified: "There were irregular superficial lacerations over the basular or inferior aspects of the left temporal and frontal lobes. We interpret that these later contusions were brought about when the disruptive force of the injury pushed that portion of the brain against the relative intact skull. This has been described as contre-coup injury in that location."
Now get ready for a surprise. The Clark Panel, in its report, provided far more detail on these contusions than Humes did in his testimony. (Perhaps this was because the panel, unlike Humes, was allowed to view the photos of Kennedy's brain). In any event, here is its description of the contusions visible on the underside of the brain: "Irregularly shaped areas of contusion with minor loss of cortex are seen on the inferior surface of the first left temporal convolution. The orbital gyri on the left show some contusion with underlying loss of cortex."
Now, before we go any further, we should demonstrate the location of the first left temporal convolution. It's fortunate, then, that I found this illustration online. (From the 1907 text The Eclectic Practice of Medicine, by Dr. Rolla L. Thomas.)
Note that this location would be slightly forward and opposite an impact on the right side above the ear, but totally out of line with an impact high on the back of the head near the mid-line.
In any event, here is the Clark Panel's description of the contusions visible on the brain when viewed from above: "The left cerebral hemisphere is covered by a generally intact arachnoid with evidence of subarachnoid hemorrhage especially over the parietal and frontal gyri and in the sulci."
And the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel concurred: "The left cerebral hemisphere is covered by intact arachnoid beneath which dark brown to black subarachnoid hemorrhage is most prominent over the frontal and parietal gyri and within the adjacent sulci."
Now let's recall that the gyri are the rounded ripples on the surface of the brain, and the sulci are the gaps between these ripples...and that the frontal and parietal lobes represent 100% of the upper part of the brain. Here, see for yourself.
Well, this suggests that the entire upper left cerebrum--the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, and even the top of the temporal lobe--was bruised. If this is so, well, this bruising would appear to be inconsistent with both the Warren Commission's claim the bullet entered low on the back of the head near the mid-line, and the Clark/HSCA FPP's claim the bullet entered high on the back of the head near the mid-line.
As this bruising was opposite the large defect above the right ear, moreover, it suggests as well that Dr. Clark was correct in his assessment the large defect was a tangential wound.
We should note here, for that matter, that these bruises were not the only bruises in the autopsy photos to be consistent with Dr. Clark's assessment. Forensic Neuropathology, by Jan E. Leestma (2008), relates: "Tangential wounds may cause significant injuries, especially from high-velocity missiles. These may produce gash-like wounds and form gutter-like depressed fractures in the skull. In such cases, the underlying brain will have extensive superficial contusions adjoining the fracture, even if the dura remains intact, which are caused by the slapping effect of the inbending bone." This suggests that, in opposition to the damage one would see on a brain that had simply exploded outwards, the cortex or outer layer of a brain that had received a tangential wound--where the skull had been pushed inward--would have severe contusions or even lacerations adjacent to the defect on the skull.
The broad point made by Leestma--that the damage to the brain beneath and adjacent to the large defect could reveal whether or not an impact occurred at this location--is supported by numerous articles, moreover. Dr. Charles Petty, a member of the HSCA pathology panel, in his 1980 book Modern Legal Medicine, Psychiatry, and Forensic Science, reported: "When a stationary head is struck by a firm, heavy object...the point of impact will be, to a greater or lesser extent, marked by abrasion, contusion or laceration of scalp...If the underlying brain is contused, the maximum point of superficial contusion will be immediately underlying the point of impact."
Hmmm. It would seem to be consistent with Clark's assessment then that both the Clark Panel (no relation) and the HSCA Pathology Panel, after studying the photographs of the brain, noted damage to its right side, below the large defect.
Here's the Clark Panel: The "photographs...of the inferior aspect of the brain...show extensive deformation with laceration and fragmentation of the right cerebral hemisphere...The mid-temporal region is depressed and its surface lacerated."
And here's the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel's echo of this analysis: "Color transparencies and prints... reveal the inferior aspect of the brain, with extensive fragmentation and laceration of the right inferior cerebral hemisphere...The surface of the mid-temporal region is lacerated and depressed."
Well, then what about the actual location of the bullet's impact? If the bullet impacted at the top right side of the skull above Kennedy's right ear it would have left an indication of this impact on the brain, correct?
So let's go back to descriptions of this location and compare them to the descriptions of tangential wound impact locations contained within the medical literature.
Here's Dr. Humes' description of this location in the 11-24-63 autopsy protocol: "Clearly visible in the above described large skull defect and exuding from it is lacerated brain tissue which on close inspection proves to represent the major portion of the right cerebral hemisphere.
And here's Humes' description of this location in the 12-6-63 Supplementary Autopsy Report: “The right cerebral hemisphere is found to be markedly disrupted. There is a longitudinal laceration of the right hemisphere which is para-sagittal in position...The base of the laceration is situated approximately 4.5 cm. below the vertex in the white matter. There is considerable loss of cortical substance above the base of the laceration, particularly in the parietal lobe. The margins of this laceration are at all points jagged and irregular, with additional lacerations extending in varying directions and for varying distances from the main laceration.”
So, is it possible these lacerations were created from above--by the tangential strike of a high-velocity bullet along the midline of the skull that drove the roof of the calvarium--a large portion of the parietal bone and frontal bone--down deep into the brain, before it snapped into pieces and, at least in part (the Harper Fragment), shot off through the sky?
It appears so.
The Army's Manual of Neurosurgery (1919) relates that with a non-penetrating tangential wound "of the scalp or skull there may be an extensive fracture of the inner table and the distance to which the inner table is bent determines the extent of damage to the brain." It then continues that even "with dura still intact there will be found often more or less extensive areas of damage to the cortex, perhaps extending cone-fashion a distance of 1 or 2 inches into the brain. Here will be found a mixture of pulpified brain and blood clot..."
So, yikes, that's the level of brain damage one might expect for a tangential wound of the scalp and skull, i.e., a tangential wound where the bullet never hits the brain. The damage to Kennedy's brain was purported to extend but 4.5 cm (less than 2 inches) into the cortex.
We can only imagine then the brain damage caused by a bullet striking such a blow, and breaking into pieces, whereby several pieces of this bullet cut along the surface of the brain. In such case there would be significant damage from the initial in-bendng of the skull into the brain, and then additional damage from the penetration of the brain by fragments of bone and bullet.
Y'know, like were found behind Kennedy's right eye...
So, yeah, it seems to be...that the damage to Kennedy's skull and brain...are both consistent with the fatal bullet's having impacted at the supposed exit location...
The tearing and loosening of the falx cerebri, a process of the membrane (the dura mater) that adheres to the inside of the skull, and stretches down between the brain's hemispheres, really nails this down, for that matter. This loosening, which was first noted by Dr. Boswell on the back of the autopsy face sheet, (“Falx loose from sagittal sinus from the coronal suture back”), and later described by Boswell when viewing the autopsy photos with the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel ("the dura--as you can see here--was completely destroyed practically"), proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the bullet creating the large head wound impacted near the top of the head, and not on the back of the head. War Surgery, one of the first books on wound ballistics, written by the French World War I surgeon Edmond Delorme, spells this out, moreover, declaring: “At the aperture of entry the dura mater is torn and loosened: at the exit it is perforated, but not loosened.” Delorme would almost certainly have seen dozens of head wounds caused by rifles similar to Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano. His observations should not readily be dismissed.
Especially when they make so much sense... The dura is not attached to the brain; it is adhered to the inner surface of the skull. It resides above the arachnoid, a thin membrane, which adheres to an even thinner membrane, the pia mater, which covers the brain itself. As a consequence, then, of this configuration, there are three separate levels of possible bleeding inside the cranium above the brain itself: epidural (between the skull and the dura); subdural (between the dura and the arachnoid); and subarachnoid (between the arachnoid and the pia mater).
Well, think about it. A bullet exploding upwards from the substance of the brain would tear through the pia mater and arachnoid as it exits the brain, and then tear through the dura as it hits the skull and tears through the skull. It would not come between the dura and the skull upon exit, and apply such force to the dura that it would be stripped from the skull.
But it would do so when entering the skull...especially if it entered on a tangent.
That laceration of the dura is symptomatic of tangential wounds of the skull (aka gutter fractures) has long been noted, moreover. Here's Dr. C.G. Spencer, when discussing gutter fractures in Gunshot Wounds (1908): "The dura is practically always lacerated, and in the deeper gutters there is a long rent in the dura mater..."
And no, this isn't outdated information. Mechanisms of Brain Impact Injuries and Their Prediction: a Review, an article in the September 2012 issue of Trauma, further makes the case. It reveals: "A direct impact to the skull produces local stress areas, causing a slight inbending of the skull bones that 'slap' the brain tissue directly underneath...The amount of this deformation of tissue underneath the impacted skull may be sufficient to create injurious strains to brain tissue as well as to cerebral vessels. The area of damage to the underlying brain may also spread laterally from the impact site. The rebound from this elastic deformation of the skulls as it returns to its original position can cause the dura to separate from the skull..."
So, yeah, a tangential impact of a bullet on a skull will lead to a greater area of elastic deformation of the skull than a through and through trajectory. And a larger amount of torn and loosened dura...
It was this last revelation, by the way--that the dura would not be loosened at exit--that pushed me past the tipping point to where I could no longer look myself in the eye and say I merely suspected the fatal bullet impacted at the supposed exit defect.
I have concluded as much. I have. I might doubt my own existence at times. But I feel quite confident the bullet killing Kennedy hit him on the top of his head, at the supposed exit defect.