Chapter 19f: Reason to Believe

What Most Everyone but the Doctors Saw

My View on the Views

When I first started presenting my evidence for a new perspective on the President's wounds in 2004, I expected there to be a tremendous amount of resistance from single-assassin theorists, and a moderate amount of acceptance from conspiracy theorists. Boy, was I wrong. The single-assassin theorists I've encountered refuse to deal with the evidence beyond repeating what they've read in books by the Warren Commission, Lattimer, Posner, and Bugliosi, or the website of John McAdams. Anything outside of that they pretty much tell you you are lying, and ignore. No, the most resistance I've received has not been from those opposed to my conclusion more than one shooter fired on Kennedy on 11-22-63, but from those who agree with that conclusion.

You see, many conspiracy theorists are, in the words of Bono, "stuck in a moment and they can't get out of it." That moment, to be clear, is the one in which they first realized the majority of those observing Kennedy's wounds at Parkland Hospital claimed to see an open wound on the back of Kennedy's head. Such a wound, of course, is not shown in the autopsy photos, nor reported in the autopsy report, which details a number of significant scalp lacerations, but none on the back of the head. My suspicion, then, is that the majority of those experiencing this moment--an epiphany as Doug Horne calls it--have come to believe either that the autopsy photos showing no wound on the back of the head are fake, and the autopsy a lie, or that someone altered Kennedy's body between Dallas and the beginning of the official autopsy at Bethesda.

Many doing so claim the autopsy face sheet supports their conclusion, and note that Dr. Boswell's description of a 17 by 10 cm wound encompassing the majority of the right side of the President's head is far larger than the wound observed in Dallas (Dr. Carrico said the wound in Dallas was 4-5, and then 5-7 cm, and Dr. Baxter said it was "6 by 8 or 10" cm). They then take from this huge discrepancy that the wound as seen at Bethesda was the back of the head wound seen by Carrico and Baxter, only expanded to include a hole on the top of Kennedy's head that was not seen in Dallas.

Those doing so, however, are engaged in self-deception. As stated, no large scalp lacerations in the occipital region of the skull were noted at autopsy. The autopsy protocol signed by Boswell, moreover, explains: "Upon reflecting the scalp multiple complete fracture lines are seen to radiate from both the large defect at the vertex and the smaller wound at the occiput. These vary greatly in length and direction, the longest measuring approximately 19 centimeters. These result in the production of numerous fragments which vary in size from a few millimeters to 10 centimeters in greatest diameter."

Note that the large defect is at the vertex--the top of the head. Note also that the "multiple complete fractures lines...result in the production of numerous fragments." In other words, the right side of Kennedy's head was smashed to pieces. The 17 by 10 measurement is therefore most assuredly the measurement of the large head wound after the scalp was reflected, and numerous bone fragments either fell from or were stripped from the skull. This seems obvious, at least to me.

And not just me. A video placed on Youtube on 11-22-18 featured an interview with Boswell's assistant on the night of the autopsy, James Jenkins. In this interview, Jenkins offered: "When the scalp was reflected back some of the bone that was adhered to it had fallen off it--and that's the measurement that's in the official autopsy."

Still, let's humor those for whom it isn't so obvious, and illuminate this fact from another direction. Those holding there was a 17 by 10 cm hole on the skull at the beginning of the autopsy accept, to a man, mortician Tom Robinson's 1977 estimation that the hole on the back of the head at the end of skull reconstruction was the size of a "small orange," which pre-cursed his co-worker John VanHoesen's 1996 recollection that this defect was the size of a "small orange," which we can presume to be roughly 5 cm in diameter. The approximate size of this hole is supported, moreover by Dr. Humes' assessment that the hole remaining at the end of the autopsy would have been almost entirely filled by the Harper fragment, a roughly 2 1/2 inch triangle of bone discovered after the end of the autopsy. If the wound was roughly 170 sq cm in size at the beginning of the autopsy, and the hole was no more than 5 by 5 at the end of the reconstruction, however, this means that more than 145 sq cm of bone had been added back on to the skull between the beginning of the autopsy and the subsequent reconstruction of the skull.

But nowhere near that amount was added back on. Three fragments were brought back from Dallas and purportedly added back onto the skull. These three fragments are demonstrated here: The three fragments from Dallas.

Now, the FBI's report on the autopsy claimed the largest of these fragments was 10 by 6.5 cm. This would make it 65 sq cm. But a close inspection shows that it was not exactly rectangular, and that a more accurate assessment would put it around 50 sq cm. Now look at the other two fragments. While their measurements--if they were measured--have never been revealed, it seems clear that the largest of the two is at best 5 by 3, or 15 sq cm, and that the other one is perhaps 2 by 1 1/2, or 3 sq cm. This makes the grand sum of recovered and replaced bone during the autopsy about 68 sq cm--less than HALF what was needed to fill the huge hole measured by Boswell, even after subtracting the size of the hole at the end of the autopsy from the size of the hole measured by Boswell.

Now, let's check the math. Dr. Humes told the Warren Commission: "I would estimate that approximately one-quarter of that defect was unaccounted for by adding these three fragments together and seeing what was left." Well, if these three fragments do in fact account for roughly 68 sq cm of bone, as I have proposed, then this defect was by Humes' estimation roughly 90 sq cm. And that means about 80 sq cm of bone was stripped from the skull during the autopsy. Almost certainly from the back of Kennedy's head.

Now, to be clear, an FBI document on the Harper fragment mentions a second fragment recovered by someone named David Burros, that was similarly not added back onto the skull. And FBI agent Vincent Drain told Larry Sneed about yet another. Now, one might want to believe these fragments account for 77 sq cm or so of missing bone (The 145 sq cm missing from the skull if the defect was 170 sq cm at the beginning of the autopsy, minus the 68 sq cm or so of the three fragments recovered by the Secret Service). Unfortunately, however, their exact size is not known. Drain said the fragment he saw was "about the size of a teacup, much larger than a silver dollar." Well, a silver dollar is about 3.8 cm. Let's say, then, that it was about 6 cm in diameter and that these two fragments account for 36 sq cm or so in area. That would still leave 41 sq cm unaccounted for. If this is so, then, around a fourth of the hole measured by Boswell was skull which was shattered beneath the scalp at the beginning of the autopsy, but which fell to the table during the reflection of the scalp and removal of the brain.

Of course, I don't exactly trust Drain's memory on this fragment. He spoke to Sneed some 30 years after the fact. He claimed he took this fragment with him when he flew back to Washington and gave it to the FBI laboratory on the morning of the 23rd. And yet, there is no record of him carrying a bone fragment on that date. And there is no record of the FBI lab receiving or testing a piece of bone on that date. There are, however, a number of records indicating that the FBI tested a piece of bone on the 27th. But this was the Harper fragment, which was sent to Washington via registered mail on the 25th. Perhaps, then, Drain had come to believe he'd taken the Harper fragment with him when he flew to Washington on the 23rd. Now that makes a lot more sense than Drain's accidentally telling Sneed about a fragment that was officially disappeared for one reason or another, and that Robinson, VanHoesen, and Humes were all seriously wrong about the size of the hole after the skull's reconstruction.

In any event, while still others believe the autopsy photos of the back of the head are not fake, but reflect instead the appearance of the body at the end of the autopsy and not the beginning, the fact is that all of these theories--which are collectively held by the vast majority of conspiracy theorists -- are built around a core belief: those viewing Kennedy's wounds at Parkland Hospital and claiming the head wound was on the back of Kennedy's head COULD NOT be mistaken.

This belief, in my view, is a mistaken one.

Over the next three chapters, I shall attempt to explain why.

Corroborators or Collaborators?

To best explain my lack of faith in the accuracy of the Parkland witnesses, we need to go back to the beginning...and look at what the earliest witnesses to Kennedy's head wound had to say about the location of the wound.

As we do this, for that matter, we should keep in mind how the recollections of these witnesses have been presented by people who ought to know better. Dr. David Mantik, for example, claimed, in his 2015 book John F. Kennedy's Head Wounds that "It has been long and widely known that witness after witness (from Dealey Plaza, from Parkland, and even from Bethesda) had consistently described a fist-sized blow-out at the back of the head." He then told interviewer Brent Holland in an interview put up on youtube on 11-22-15 that "The witnesses in Dealey Plaza and the doctors at Parkland Hospital are really quite unanimous that there was a big hole in the back of JFK's head." And he repeated this nonsense yet again in the opening lines to JFK Assassination Paradoxes: A Primer for Beginners, a 2018 article published in the Journal of Health, Science and Education. He claimed: "The Parkland medical staff in Dallas, TX--both nurses and physicians--clearly saw a large, baseball-sized hole at the right rear of JFK's head. So also did witnesses in Dealey Plaza."

And this, even though he's studied this page and knows his claim about the Dealey Plaza witnesses is inaccurate...

No matter what one thinks of me or Dr. Mantik (we seem to be having a feud of late) one should realize that in pretending the recollections of the Dealey Plaza witnesses corroborate the recollections of the Parkland witnesses Dr. Mantik was telling a lie. And a pretty big one at that...

Here, see for yourself...

At approximately 12:45 P.M., within 15 minutes of Kennedy's being shot, assassination witness William Newman, who was less than 30 feet to the side of Kennedy when the fatal bullet struck, was interviewed live on television station WFAA. This was 45 minutes before the announcement of Kennedy’s death. Newman told Jay Watson: “And then as the car got directly in front of us, well, a gun shot apparently from behind us hit the President in the side, the side of the temple.” As he said this, the interviewer was leaning over his right shoulder, so he pointed to his left temple, with his only free hand. (So, yes, the image is reversed on the slide above. It should also be noted that Newman never wavered from this impression. In 2013, at the Wecht Conference in Pittsburgh, Josiah Thompson told me that when he interviewed Newman in 1966, Newman told him that the one thing he still couldn't understand about the Warren Commission was their claim the bullet exited above Kennedy's ear, when Newman felt certain he saw it impact at this location.) 

Now, should one doubt that Newman believed it hit the right temple, as opposed to the left temple, where Newman initially pointed, one should realize that shortly after his initial interview, Newman was filmed by WFAA newsman Tom Alyea...demonstrating both the location of the impact and the subsequent explosion.  Three frames from this film follow... (A special thanks to Denis Morrissette for making this available on Youtube.)

Let us continue.  At 1:17, about a half hour later, Watson interviewed Gayle Newman, who'd been standing right beside her husband and had had an equally close look at the President's wound. She reported: "And then another one—it was just awful fast.  And President Kennedy reached up and grabbed--it looked like he grabbed--his ear and blood just started gushing out." (As she said this she motioned to her right temple with both of her hands. In 1969, while testifying at the trial of Clay Shaw, Mrs, Newman would make the implications of this even more clear, and specify that Kennedy "was shot in the head right at his ear or right above his ear…"

Okay so that's two for two. Two witnesses, BOTH of whom saw the bullet impact by Kennedy's ear. But they only saw Kennedy for a second. Maybe they were mistaken. If they were correct, certainly someone seeing Kennedy at Parkland Hospital would have noticed the wound they describe by Kennedy's temple, and have mentioned it on 11-22-63. 

Someone did. At 1:33 p.m. on November 22, 1963, Assistant Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff announced President Kennedy’s death from Parkland Hospital. He told the country: “President John F. Kennedy died at approximately one o’clock Central Standard Time today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain…The President was shot once, in the head...Dr. Burkley [Dr. George Burkley, Kennedy's personal physician] told me it is a simple matter…of a bullet right through the head. (At this time, as shown on the slide above, he pointed to his right temple). When then asked where the bullet entered, Kilduff specified "It is my understanding that it entered in the temple, the right temple.” As Dr. Burkley had seen Kennedy in the Dallas emergency room and was later to tell the HSCA that Kennedy’s wounds didn’t change between Dallas and Bethesda, the site of the autopsy, Kilduff’s statements are a clear indication that the large head wound depicted in the autopsy photos is in the same location as the large head wound seen at Parkland Hospital. That no one at the time of Kilduff's statement had noted a separate bullet entrance anywhere on Kennedy's head, moreover, suggests that Burkley had seen but one wound, a wound by the right temple, exactly where Newman and his wife had seen a wound.

And not only them, but Malcolm Kilduff himself. Kilduff discussed Kennedy's head wound in a 1966 interview released on the 1967 LP The Controversy. He related: "I saw the President's head which of course was in terrible condition. It was a mass of gore is what it was, to put it very bluntly...It was just blood. It was just a mess, just a terrible mess." And that wasn't the only time he discussed the wound. In his 3-15-76 oral history with the JFK Library Kilduff repeated his claim he'd gotten a look at Kennedy's head wound as Kennedy was removed from the limo outside Parkland. Kilduff then described this wound: "The left side of his head was a bloody mass." A 10-26-77 article found in the Michigan City News-Dispatch similarly reveals that upon his arrival at Parkland Hospital, Kilduff observed Kennedy’s head wound, and that, according to Kilduff “His head was just a mass of blood...It looked like hamburger meat." On 4-17-91, Kilduff was interviewed by conspiracy theorist Harrison Livingstone, moreover, and was quoted in Livingstone's book High Treason 2 as claiming the wound was on "the left side of his head...the left part of his forehead looked like--when I got over to the car--looked like two pounds of beef...the left part of his forehead." While it seems probable Kilduff was mistaken, and had confused his right with his left, it seems even more probable Kilduff did not see a wound on the back of Kennedy's head on 11-22-63. I mean, think about it, if he'd seen such a wound, wouldn't he have questioned Burkley's claim the wound was by the right temple, instead of claiming the wound was on the side of the skull, first right and then left? We should consider, as well, Kilduff's subsequent statements to Gary Mack, in which he confirmed that when he pointed to his temple during the 11-22-63 press conference he was pointing to, in Mack's words, "where the big hole was on Kennedy's head." (Note: I can't remember where I got this quote from Mack...via an article, a taped interview, or a personal email. If you know the answer, please remind me. As it stands, I've tracked down a 12-29-99 post from Mack on the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup in which he claims Kilduff told him but a month before that he didn't intend to specify the wound by the temple as an entrance or an exit in the 11-22-63 press conference, and that he was merely pointing out the location of the wound.)

But wait, there's more... Less than forty minutes after the announcement of Kennedy's death, eyewitness Abraham Zapruder took his turn before the cameras on WFAA, and confirmed the observations of Burkley and the Newmans. Describing the shooting, Zapruder told Jay Watson: “Then I heard another shot or two, I couldn't say it was one or two, and I saw his head practically open up, all blood and everything (at this time, and as shown on the slide above, Zapruder grabbed his right temple), and I kept on shooting. That's about all, I'm just sick, I can't…”

This means that there were four witnesses to comment on the location of Kennedy's head wound prior to the approximately 2:16 press conference at Parkland Hospital, in which Dr. William Kemp Clark claimed the wound was on the "back of his head," and all of them had specified the wound to have been on the side of Kennedy's head, where it was later shown to be in the autopsy photos and Zapruder film.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking, "but Pat you're cherry-picking witnesses to support your silly notion that the Parkland witnesses were wrong and that the bullet striking Kennedy at frame 313 did not exit the back of his head." Well, first of all, I don't believe my noting that the earliest witnesses all said that a bullet hit Kennedy by the temple is silly, particularly in that three participants to Kennedy's autopsy--radiologist Dr. John Ebersole, radiology technician Jerrol Custer, and autopsy assistant James Curtis Jenkins--all left the autopsy with a similar impression a bullet struck Kennedy by the temple. And second of all... Well, have it your way. Let's go through the statements of the best witnesses to the shooting.

By Way of Illustration

But first, a confession. I was once one of you... Yes, that's right. When I first began my personal investigation of the evidence, I suspected much of the medical and photographic evidence had been altered. But this passed with time. It just didn't make any sense to me that if the Zapruder film, the autopsy photos and the x-rays were faked, that they would so clearly demonstrate that Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. I mean, if the conspirators were slick enough to kill Kennedy and get away with it, wouldn’t they be slick enough to create autopsy photos that show a brain with damage consistent with an entrance by the EOP, and an exit at the top of the head?  Wouldn’t the doctored x-rays show the trail of fragments where Dr. Humes said it was, corresponding with a line joining the entrance by the EOP and the right supra-orbital ridge? I mean, wouldn't they?...Then why didn't they?

This led me to take a much closer look at the back of the head photo, the one photo I felt positive had been faked. Not only did this photo not jibe with the Parkland doctors' description of Kennedy's head wounds, it didn't appear to jibe with the other photos.

The thought occurred that this photo didn't match the others because it was taken at a different time, at a different point in the autopsy. This thought was supported, moreover, by books and articles on autopsy photography found in the stacks at the UCLA bio-med library. These explained that photographs are usually taken from above, right, left, and top at the beginning of the autopsy--to show the body's appearance as received. These are called establishing shots. For these shots, nothing on the body is altered.

The autopsists then proceed to inspect the wounds, one at a time. The photos taken during this inspection do not necessarily depict the body as received. If the wound is in the hair, hair can be washed or shaved to better reveal the wound. If it's on the skull, scalp can be reflected to show the fractures. If it's in a fold of fat, the skin can be pulled taught to better reveal the wound.

Now--here's the part overlooked by far too many researchers--it's not just that the photos taken during this inspection do not necessarily depict the body as received... it's that they do not depict the body as design. In Modern Legal Medicine, Psychiatry and Forensic Science (1980), in a chapter on medicolegal autopsies adapted from material first published in 1977, Dr. James Weston (of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel) explains: "when attempting to introduce photographs into evidence, one should be prepared to state not only that the photos are a reasonable representation of what was actually seen, but also a necessity because the photos represent the best way, perhaps the only clear way, to present the evidence. It is extremely important to have photographs in which the body has been cleansed and inflammatory evidence such as blood has been removed from the exterior of the body. Owing to jury prejudice, the use of either messy, bloody, photographs or photographs in which there are artifacts may preclude the utilization of this valuable form of evidence in court."

From this, then, it became clear to me that the "back of the head" photo was taken after the establishing shots of Kennedy on the table, and after the wing of bone had been pulled from the scalp flap by his temple, and after some of the blood had been rinsed and/or wiped from his hair. 

It still seemed as though the large defect in the photo was in a different location than in the other photos, however. I tried to think of ways to compare the large head wound's location with its location in the other photos. I ended up looking at photos of tattoos on the top of the head when taken from different angles, to see if a wound above the ear would even be seen in a photo taken from the angle of the back of the head photo.

My study of these photos (presented on the slide above) led me to conclude that I was wrong, and that the large defect apparent on the back of the head photo was actually in the same location in the other photos.

Now, this is where it gets weird. Or, should I say, weirder... There are those who claim my personal acceptance of the authenticity of the photos means nothing, and that the photos would be inadmissible in a court of law...since so many of the Parkland witnesses have expressed doubts about their authenticity.

But this is utter crappola. First of all, the number of Parkland witnesses expressing doubts about the authenticity of the autopsy photos has been greatly exaggerated. Second of all, their decades-later opinions regarding the authenticity of the photos is what actually means nothing, as the latter-day recollections of emergency room personnel are never, and I mean NEVER, taken into consideration by judges when determining the admissibility of medical evidence.

So what is taken into consideration?

Evidence for the Law Enforcement Officer, a McGraw-Hill textbook from 1968, relates: "Once a photograph is introduced to evidence, it speaks for itself. But it must be introduced through some witness who is in a position to attest to the accuracy of the photograph. There is no presumption that the photograph is a true and correct reproduction. This attestation of the correctness of the photograph is is known legally as 'verification' or 'authentication' of the photograph. This verification may be accomplished by any person who witnessed the scene and can testify to the accuracy of the photograph. It does not have to be done by the photographer who took the picture. The witness attesting to the accuracy of the photograph does not even have to have been present when the photograph was taken. The only thing necessary is that the witness should have seen the scene which is depicted in the photograph, and so is in a position to testify that it is an accurate reproduction of what he saw."

The autopsy photos were "authenticated" in documents written for the Justice Department, and re-authenticated in testimony before the HSCA and ARRB, on numerous occasions, and by numerous witnesses to the autopsy, including, Humes, Boswell, Finck, Stringer, Ebersole, Custer, and Riebe. Many of the Parkland witnesses have similarly vouched for their authenticity. It is simply ludicrous to pretend otherwise, and that the non-alignment between what is shown in the pictures and what some witnesses remembered seeing would have prevented, or still could prevent, them from being admitted into a court of law.

The Invisible Hole

Even after coming to the conclusion the photos were consistent, and legally admissible, I still had some questions, however. Big ones. Why didn't the back of the head photo show the large head wound on the back of the head described by the Parkland witnesses? Were ALL the photos faked to show the large head wound described by the doctors at a point higher up on the skull? And, if so, why did the very first witnesses to describe the wound place it where it is on the autopsy photos, in front of and above Kennedy's right ear? Were these witnesses lying?

I think not. Not only did the earliest witnesses to describe the location of the large wound on Kennedy's head seem to believe it was on the right side of his head, the vast majority of the witnesses seeing the bullet's impact would continue to claim it struck Kennedy on the right side of his head, and fail to note any explosion whatsoever from the back of his head.

As we've seen, the Newmans and Zapruder, standing on Kennedy's right side, all thought the bullet struck Kennedy on the right side of his head, by his right temple. But they weren't the only witnesses on the right side of Kennedy to note an impact on the side of his head.

Dealey Plaza groundskeeper Emmett Hudson, who was standing on the steps to the right and front of Kennedy at the moment of the fatal head shot, also discussed its impact. In his testimony before the Warren Commission, Hudson asserted: "it looked like it hit him somewhere along a little bit behind the ear and a little bit above the ear." While this is a few inches back of the location described by the Newmans and Zapruder, it is more significantly not a description of a bullet exit on the far back of Kennedy's head, where most conspiracy theorists have long held the large head wound was located.

"Well, wait a second"--I'm sure some of you are thinking--"maybe Hudson saw the bullet's entrance, and missed seeing the exit of this bullet from the back of Kennedy's head due to his being slightly in front of Kennedy." Well, no, that doesn't work, either. 

In 1966, Marilyn Sitzman, Abraham Zapruder’s secretary, who'd stood beside Zapruder on 11-22-63, confirmed his observation of the wound location. To writer Josiah Thompson, she related: “And the next thing that I remembered correct ... clearly was the shot that hit him directly in front of us, or almost directly in front of us, that hit him on the side of his face ...”When asked then by Thompson to specify just where she saw the large head wound, she continued: “I would say it'd be above the ear and to the front…Between the eye and the ear…And we could see his brains come out, you know, his head opening. It must have been a terrible shot because it exploded his head, more or less”.

And should that not be clear enough. Sitzman pointed out this location in a 1993 oral history interview conducted by The Sixth Floor Museum. This is shown here:

Hmmm... Sitzman, as Zapruder, was almost directly to the right of the President at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact. This put them in perfect position to note an explosion from the back of Kennedy's head. And yet neither of them saw such an explosion. 

Even worse, at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact, the Newmans were approximately 6-8 feet behind the President, and about 20 feet to his right. Kennedy, at this time, was turned slightly left. This means the Newmans were looking directly at the back of Kennedy's head at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact... And yet both of them noted that this impact was by his ear!

Well, then, what about those to the east of the Newmans along the north side of Elm? They, too, would have been looking at the back of Kennedy's head at the moment of the fatal shot's impact. Did they note an explosion from the back of this head? Or from the side or front of his head? 

Alan Smith was a 14 year-old kid who claimed he was one of the closest witnesses to the shooting. On 11-22 he told the Chicago Tribune the President was shot while riding down Main Street. Assuming then that he was largely unfamiliar with Dealey Plaza, and that his claim of being near Kennedy at the time of the shooting was true, one can only assume Smith was one of the two boys standing beneath the Stemmons Freeway sign a short ways behind Kennedy at the time the head shot was fired. If so, he would have had a similar angle on Kennedy at the time of the shot as the motorcycle officers behind Kennedy's limo. Well, did Smith see a blow out on the back of Kennedy's head? Nope. He told the Trib: "The car was about 10 feet from me when a bullet hit the President in his forehead.”

Now here's a recent addition to this list. On 11-28-17, witness Karen Westbrook, who'd been standing Just east of the Stemmons Freeway sign, and who told reporters on 11-22-63 that she'd witnessed the president's hair fly up, demonstrated the location of what she now described as an explosion. As shown below, she touched the top of her head above her right ear. 

Still, that's just six witnesses in a strong position to note whether the bullet exploded from the side or back of Kennedy's skull, all of whom said or indicated side or front. 

Well, then, what about the witnesses in back of Kennedy on the south side of the street? Certainly, they saw an explosion from the back of his head... No, no such luck. There were three witnesses behind Kennedy on his left who would have been in a position to see an explosion from the back of his head, should a shot from the grassy knoll truly have exploded from the back of his head, as so many believe. Mary Moorman, whose photo of Kennedy taken just after the shot's impact shows no evidence for such a wound, was interviewed numerous times on the day of the shooting, and would say only that she saw Kennedy grab his chest and slump down in the car. She would later say she saw his hair fly up. She never mentioned anything about a blow-out wound on the back of his head. Her friend, Jean Hill, said much the same thing on the day of the shooting. And she, too, would soon expand her account into one in which she saw "the hair on the back of President Kennedy’s head fly up." But note that she still was not claiming to have seen an explosion from the back of his head. No, she didn't even claim that when tracked down and interviewed decades later by conspiracy writer Jim Marrs. Instead, she told Marrs simply that "a bullet hit his head and took the top off." "Top." Not "back." Ms. Hill, in fact. made no claims of seeing the explosion from the back of Kennedy's head so many conspiracy theorists assume she saw until her book The Last Dissenting Witness appeared in 1992. It related "The whole back of his head appeared to explode and a cloud of blood-red mist filled the air." That this was "poetic license" inserted by her co-writer, Bill Sloan, should be readily apparent. If not, one should take into account that by 1992 Ms. Hill was still so confused by what she saw that she told interviewer James Earl Jones and a national television audience that, as "shots rang out", Kennedy "grabbed his throat, and that was the horrible head shot." Kennedy, of course, grabbed his throat long before the head shot.

Well, what of the third witness, then? Well, I'm glad I asked. In his earliest interviews, Charles Brehm claimed to see Kennedy really get blasted and get knocked down in the car. No mention of an explosion from the back of his head. A few days later, however, newspaper accounts of the shooting quoting Brehm claimed he saw "the President’s hair fly up." In 1966, when interviewed by Mark Lane, moreover, he filled in the details, and claimed "When the second bullet hit, there was—the hair seemed to go flying. It was very definite then that he was struck in the head with the second bullet…I saw a piece fly over in the area of the curb…it seemed to have come left and back." While some might wish to take the flight of this one piece of skull as an indication the fatal shot came from the front, and blew out the far back of Kennedy's head, they really shouldn't rush to such a judgment. Not only did Brehm long claim he thought the shots came from behind, but he paused before he told Lane "the hair seemed to go flying." During this pause, in an obvious indication of where he believed the wound was located, he motioned not to the very back of his head but to...just behind his his right ear.

So, then...what about the closest witnesses in the motorcade behind Kennedy? Didn't any of them see an explosion from the back of his head?

Uhhh...nope. Motorcycle officer James Chaney, riding just a few yards off Kennedy's right shoulder, was interviewed by WFAA on the night of the shooting. He reported: "We heard the first shot. I thought it was a motorcycle backfiring and uh I looked back over to my left and also President Kennedy looked back over his left shoulder. Then, the, uh, second shot came, well, then I looked back just in time to see the President struck in the face by the second bullet." Wait... What? Struck in the face? Apparently, Chaney, as Smith, was looking at the back of Kennedy's head and couldn't see the exact location of the impact towards the front of Kennedy's head.

Now I know some would like to believe Chaney was describing the impact of a bullet entering Kennedy's face and exiting from the back of his head. But this in fact makes little sense, seeing as in this same interview Chaney said he thought the shot had come from "back over my right shoulder." We should also consider that WFAA's interview of Chaney took place on the night of the the hall of the Dallas Police Station as Oswald was being questioned. By that time, Chaney had to have been told a rifle had been found in the depository behind Kennedy's position at the time of the shooting. If Chaney believed Oswald had fired the shots, as one would suspect since he thought the shots came from behind, and had seen an explosion of any kind from the back of Kennedy's head--entrance or exit--wouldn't he have said so?

And shouldn't the motorcycle officer riding directly to his right, Douglas Jackson, also have reported such an explosion? Jackson's notes, written on the night of the assassination and published in 1979, relate: "I looked back toward Mr. Kennedy and saw him hit in the head; he appeared to have been hit just above the right ear. The top of his head flew off away from me."

Well then, what about the officers riding on the other side, unable to see the right side of the President's face? If there had been an explosion from the back of Kennedy's head, entrance or exit, they would not have been distracted by an entrance or exit by Kennedy's ear. So what did they see?

While the motorcycle officer on the far left of the limo, B.J. Martin, said he did not even see the head shot, the officer to his right, Bobby Hargis, riding off Mrs. Kennedy's left shoulder, was not so lucky. In an 11-24-63 eyewitness account published in the New York Sunday News, he wrote: "As the President straightened back up, Mrs. Kennedy turned toward him, and that was when he got hit in the side of the head, spinning it around. I was splattered by blood." In 1968, in an interview with Jim Garrison's investigators, Hargis would later confirm: "If he'd got hit in the rear, I'd have been able to see it. All I saw was just a splash come out on the other side."

A photo becomes pertinent at this time. Take a gander.

This is a colorized, cleaned-up and un-cropped reproduction of the Moorman photo, taken a split second after Kennedy received his fatal blow. Hargis is the motorcycle officer closest to the camera. He is looking at the back of Kennedy's head. It appears that, yessiree, he probably would have noticed had a bullet exploded from the back of Kennedy's presumed by so many. 

Now, look at the right side of the photo--to the area cropped off most presentations of the photo--there's another officer, riding on the far side of the limo. That's James Chaney. He was even closer to Kennedy than Bill Newman, who can be seen on the street behind him. They were both looking at Kennedy at the time of the fatal headshot, right at the side and back of his head. And yet Chaney thought Kennedy was shot in the face from over his right shoulder and Newman thought Kennedy was shot in the temple from somehere in back of where he (Newman) was standing. Neither man thought the shot came from the picket fence. Neither man thought the shot came from the south knoll. And neither man saw an explosion from the back of Kennedy's head. They saw one wound. And it was on the right side of Kennedy's head towards the front. 

It's only logical, then, to assume they both observed the explosion on the right side of Kennedy's head depicted in films of the assassination, and that these films are accurate depictions of the President's murder. 

And, yes, that's eleven witnesses to the impact of the fatal bullet, all of whom claimed the bullet impacted on the side, top, or front of the President's head, and none of whom noted an explosion or wound on the back of his head.

We now move to the witnesses directly behind Kennedy, in perfect position to note an explosion from the back of his head. These witnesses rode in the Secret Service back-up car, trailing the limousine by just a few yards. Sam Kinney, the driver of this car, wrote a report on the night of the assassination which asserted "At this time, the second shot was fired and I observed hair flying from the right side of his head…" Sitting next to Kinney was Emory Roberts, sitting directly behind Kennedy. If a bullet hit Kennedy on the back of the head, or erupted from the back of his head, he would have been the one to notice. Instead, in an 11-29-63 report, he wrote "I saw what appeared to be a small explosion on the right side of the President’s head, saw blood, at which time the President fell further to his left."

On the left running board of the back-up car were two agents, neither of whom commented on the bullet's impact or wound location in their initial reports. 

One of the agents on the right side of the limo, Paul Landis, however, described the impact in a graphic manner. In a report written 11-27-63, he noted "I heard a second report and saw the President’s head split open and pieces of flesh and blood flying through the air." While vague, some might take from this that a bullet exploded from the back of Kennedy's head.

But they shouldn't. Here is Landis pointing out what he recalled as the wound's location in a 2016 Oral History performed for the Sixth Floor Museum. He is pointing at the top right side of the head just back of the ear--which is not the middle of the very back of the head at the level of the ear, where so many prominent "theorists" place the wound.

Still, between the agents on the left and right sides of the limo sat four more witnesses, two on the jump seat, and two on the rear seat. While Kennedy's close aide Kenneth O'Donnell failed to describe the impact of the fatal bullet or head wound location in his Warren Commission testimony, he and the man sitting next to him on the jump seat, Dave Powers, would in 1970 publish a book on Kennedy, which described: "While we both stared at the President, the third shot took the side of his head off. We saw pieces of bone and brain tissue and bits of his reddish hair flying through the air..." These were Kennedy's friends, both of whom felt one or more shots came from the front, and yet neither of them claimed to see an explosion from the back of Kennedy's head. On 5-18-64, in fact, Powers had provided a statement to the Warren Commission, which described: "there was a third shot which took off the top of the President’s head..." Thus, O'Donnell and Powers felt the explosion was on the top and side of the President's head--and not on the far back of his head, where so many conspiracy theorists fervently believe the wound was located.

Their impression was shared by George Hickey, one of the two Secret Service agents on the rear seat of the back-up car. On the night of the assassination, he wrote a report on what transpired in Dallas, and noted: "it seemed as if the right side of his head was hit and his hair flew forward." Next to Hickey sat Glen Bennett, who noted, in a handwritten 11-22-63 report, that the fatal bullet "hit the right rear high of the President’s head." While some might take Bennett's statement to indicate he saw the entrance of a bullet near Kennedy's cowlick, the entrance location later "discovered" by the Clark Panel, a more logical assessment would be that he saw an explosion of brain and blood from the right side of Kennedy's skull, to therear of his head, as in not on his face, and high, as in the highest part of his head visible from behind. This, not coincidentally, would be the top of Kennedy's head above his ear, the location of the impact shown in the Zapruder film. (Should one not agree with this assessment one should feel free to explain how Bennett could have seen an impact at the small red shape seen in the autopsy photos, and fail to note the massive explosion from the gaping hole on the right side of Kennedy's head seen in the Zapruder film, especially when no blood can be seen exploding from the back of Kennedy's head in the film.)

In sum, then, none of the closest witnesses to the side or back of the President saw a bullet impact on or explode from the far back of his head. So why is it, again, that so many believe there was a wound on the far back of his head? Oh, that's right. ALL those who saw Kennedy at Parkland Hospital said the wound they saw was on the back of his head.

Except that's just not true... 

Along Came Lawson

As we've seen, Malcolm Kilduff, long before the Dallas doctors convened their press conference and told the world the large head wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, had already shared that Dr. Burkley had said the wound was by the temple.

And Burkley and Kilduff weren't the only ones at Parkland to make this assessment. Hurchel Jacks, the driver of Vice-President Johnson's car in the motorcade, arrived at the hospital just moments after the limousine, and witnessed the removal of the President's body from the limo. On 11-28-63, less than a week after the assassination, he filed a report (18H801) and noted: "Before the President's body was covered it appeared that the bullet had struck him above the right ear or near the temple." 

And Jacks wasn't the last witness to view the President at this time. While I've yet to find a direct description of Kennedy's head wound from Senator Ralph Yarborough (a passenger in the car driven by Jacks to Parkland Hospital), reporter Charles Roberts, who arrived just a few minutes after Jacks and Yarborough, was later to describe Yarborough's response to his questions about the nature of Kennedy's head wound. In his 1967 book The Truth About the Assassination, Roberts recalled that as a horrified Yarborough responded "'I can't tell you," he unconsciously held "his hand to the right side of his head, where he had seen blood streaming from the President."

And, should one wish to write-off Roberts' reporting on Yarborough as unreliable, seeing as he was by 1967 a vocal defender of the Warren Commission, one should take into account that Merriman Smith, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the assassination, actually saw Kennedy outside Parkland, and had a similar appreciation of his wound. Now, to be clear, he never saw the wound, and his initial reporting that "President Kennedy was shot in the right temple" undoubtedly came from Kilduff. But his early reports--sent across the wires before he arrived at Air Force One about 2:30--nevertheless made clear where the wound was not. In UPI wire articles, and in papers such as the Milton Evening Standard, Smith reported that as he approached the limousine outside Parkland "The President was slumped over in the backseat of the car face down. Connally lay on the floor of the rear seat. It was impossible to tell at once where Kennedy was hit, but bullet wounds in Connally's chest were plainly visible, indicating the gunfire might possibly have come from an automatic weapon." If the President was lying face down, and there was a gaping wound on the back of his head, as so many have come to believe, well then why didn't Smith see it, and report it? That Smith was just reciting an official lie he'd been told doesn't hold water. He had, within this same paragraph, after all, suggested that Connally had been wounded by someone firing an automatic weapon. That someone, it follows, could not have been Oswald.

And Smith wasn't alone when he observed the President's wounds. Standing near him, if not beside him, was his competitor, Jack Bell of the Associated Press. So how did Bell describe the wound? Much as Smith, he didn't. Not directly. Instead, Bell, in an 11-22-63 eyewitness account found in the next day's New York Times, reported “For an instant I stopped and stared into the back seat. There, face, down, stretched out at full length, lay the President, motionless. His natty business suit seemed hardly rumpled. But there was blood on the floor." Well, if he was willing to conjure up the gruesome image of blood pooling up on the floor, wouldn't he have been willing to say he saw a hole on the back of Kennedy's head, should he actually have seen one? 

And Bell was not the only other newsman to report the blood but not the wound. Robert Baskin of the Dallas Morning News arrived on the scene at the same time as Smith and Bell. On the day of the shooting, Baskin prepared a first-hand account of the shooting that was published the next day. He reported that when he approached the limo outside Parkland Hospital "The scene there was one of horror. The President lay face down on the back seat of the car, with Mrs. Kennedy her hair disheveled and her hat gone, slumped over him. The bouquet of roses she had been carrying was on top of the President. There was blood on the floor." And that wasn't Baskin's only account of interest. On 7-23-64, he wrote a memo to his editor further describing the events outside Parkland. This account was published in part in 1978, and in total in the 2013 book JFK Assassination: The Reporters' Notes. Here, he added: "In the back seat, the President's body lay face down. Mrs. Kennedy, her pink hat gone and her hair disheveled, was bent over him. There was a large amount of blood on the floor and around the President's head." So, yeah, that's three reporters on the scene who got a look at the back of Kennedy's head, none of whom reported seeing a wound on the back of his head.

Make that four. The fourth reporter in the pool car--the only press car to arrive at Parkland before the President was lifted from his limousine and rushed into the hospital--was Bob Clark, of ABC News. Clark didn't say much about the scene he'd witnessed on the day of the shooting. Nor did he say much for many years afterwards. In 2003, however, he contributed to the book President Kennedy Has Been Shot! and confirmed what his colleagues had described decades earlier. He wrote: "We were standing literally a couple of feet from the car, staring down at Kennedy. He was stretched out in the back seat. He was lying with the side of his head exposed and his head in Jackie's lap. I was not conscious of any wound in the head, so that part of his head had to be hidden, probably deliberately by Jackie. It was just a frozen scene. Jackie was sitting there, saying nothing. We had to wait a minute or so for the stretchers to come out."

And then there's the driver. When testifying before the Warren Commission on 3-9-64 (2H112-132), William Greer, the driver of Kennedy's limousine, also claimed to have seen Kennedy's head wound upon arrival at the hospital. He even pointed out its location. Since this gesture would not show up on the record, however, counsel Arlen Specter asked "Indicating the top and right rear side of the head?" To which Greer responded "Yes, sir; it looked like that was all blown off." They later discussed the wounds observed at the autopsy. There, Greer reiterated that the wound was on the "upper right side" of the head and that the skull in this location was "completely gone." The wound proposed by many if not most conspiracy theorists is, of course, not even partially on the upper right side of the head, but entirely on the far back of the head below the top of the ear. 

And this wasn't the last time Greer spoke of the wound in this manner. As recounted in his book Best Evidence, David Lifton had a long talk with Greer on 1-18-71. According to Lifton, "Greer told me that President Kennedy's head, at Bethesda, 'looked like a hard-boiled egg with the top chopped off.'" Now, note the gamesmanship. Lifton was trying to sell his audience that Kennedy's wounds were altered between Dallas and Bethesda, and that a wound on the back of the head had been re-arranged to become a wound on the top of the head. Well, Greer's testimony claiming the wound was on the top of the head at Parkland is a problem for this theory. So Lifton fails to mention Greer's testimony and makes sure his readers know that Greer's recollection of the head looking like an egg with the top chopped off was his recollection of the wound as seen at Bethesda, and not Parkland. Now note that the words "at Bethesda" are Lifton's words, and not Greer's words. Since we know that Lifton would have told us if Greer had said the wounds he saw at Bethesda had changed from when he saw them at Parkland, moreover, we can assume that Lifton either failed to ask Greer about what he saw at Parkland (which is truly hard to believe) or had deliberately failed to reveal that Greer had said the wounds were unchanged. In either case, Greer's recollections are toxic to Lifton's theory.

There is still another witness confirming the impressions of Jacks, Yarborough, and Greer. As we've seen, the 11-22-63 diary entry of motorcycle officer Douglas Jackson reflects that he saw Kennedy hit in the head above the right ear. Well, he also saw Kennedy's body as it was removed from the limo at Parkland Hospital. He wrote "I got off my motor, stepped over to the presidential limousine. An agent opened the car door and started to get Mrs. Kennedy out but Mrs. Kennedy said no. It's no need she said and raised up from over Mr. Kennedy. I could see the top of his head was gone, his left eye was bulged out of socket. The agent said "Oh no!" and started crying, pulled his coat off and placed it over Mr. Kennedy's head."  

There are also some Johnny-come-latelys. In 1998, Larry Sneed published No More Silence, a collection of first-person accounts from a number of eyewitnesses to Kennedy's assassination and aftermath, taken from interviews conducted mostly in the nineties. Among these accounts were those of motorcycle officers James W. Courson and Bobby Joe Dale. Well, Courson told Sneed he arrived at Parkland with the President and helped lift his body from the limousine. He also told Sneed: "From what I was able to see of the wound, the damage seemed to be in the right rear of his head, but it was hard to tell because there was so much blood. The back part of the skull seemed to be laying over the forehead. I didn't actually see an exit wound since I saw only the back part of his head." So, strange as it may seem, considering Courson said he thought the wound was on the right rear of Kennedy's head, he was actually not a back-of-the-head witness. It's hard to be a witness for a wound on the back of the head, after all, when you specify that you saw the back of the head but saw no wound.

The statements of Bobby Joe Dale to Sneed are also intriguing. While arriving too late on the scene to see the President in the limo, he nevertheless arrived in time to see the back seat of the limo before it was cleaned up. (He actually specified that it wasn't cleaned up, but there's reason to believe he was wrong about that.) In any event, Dale claimed that "Blood and matter was everywhere inside the car including a bone fragment which was oblong shaped, probably an inch to an inch and a half long by three-quarters of an inch wide. As I turned it over and looked at it, I determined that it came from some part of the forehead because there was hair on it which appeared to be near the hairline. There were other fragments around, but that was the largest piece that grabbed my attention. What stood out in my mind was that there was makeup up to the hairline. Apparently he had used makeup for the cameras to knock down the glare. It was fairly distinct where it stopped and the wrap of skin took up." Well, think about it. None of the Parkland back-of-the-head witnesses described a wound anywhere near where Kennedy would have been wearing make-up. It seems clear, then, that this fragment--should Dale have been telling the truth and not just some BS war story--came from the front of the head by the right temple, where scalp and bone appear to be missing in the right lateral photo.

And then along came Lawson. On November 20, 2013, CBS6 in Richmond ran a story on Secret Service agent Win Lawson, who'd been in the advance car of the motorcade, and who'd observed the President's body at Parkland. He told reporter Greg McQuade that Kennedy had no real chance of survival, as there wasn't anything the doctors could do. While pointing to an area above and forward of his right ear, Lawson detailed "This area right here was all gone." 

Well, then, what gives? Didn't any of the closest witnesses to the shooting or Kennedy's body before it entered the hospital say anything suggesting they saw a large wound on the far back of Kennedy's head?

The Fog of War did... Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent riding to the hospital on the back of the limo, while making no initial comment on the impact location of the fatal bullet, would later describe the appearance of Kennedy's head wound both en route to the hospital in Dallas, and then later, after the autopsy in Bethesda. An 11-30-63 report written by Hill relates: "As I lay over the top of the back seat I noticed a portion of the President's head on the right rear side was missing and he was bleeding profusely. Part of his brain was gone. I saw a part of his skull with hair on it lieing in the seat." Hill returned to this later. When describing the aftermath to Kennedy's autopsy in his report, Hill relates "At approximately 2:45 A.M., November 23, I was requested by ASAIC to come to the morgue to once again view the body. When I arrived the autopsy had been completed and ASAIC Kellerman, SA Greer, General McHugh and I viewed the wounds. I observed a wound about six inches down from the neckline on the back just to the right of the spinal column. I observed another wound on the right rear portion of the skull." Well, this once again, is vague. A wound, whether on the "right rear side" of the head, or simply in "the right rear portion of the skull," could be most anywhere in back of the face, including the area above the ear.

So what about Hill's testimony, you might ask? Did he clear this matter up when testifying before the Warren Commission? Some would say so. In testimony taken nearly four months after the shooting, Hill told the Warren Commission: "The right rear portion of his head was missing. It was lying in the rear seat of the car. His brain was exposed. There was blood and bits of brain all over the entire rear portion of the car. Mrs. Kennedy was completely covered with blood. There was so much blood you could not tell if there had been any other wound or not, except for the one large gaping wound in the right rear portion of the head." Hill's testimony, then, first reflects that the wound was not on A portion of the right rear side, or merely ON a right rear portion of the skull, but instead covered THE entire right rear portion. It then reverses course, and reflects merely that it was IN the right rear portion, which could, of course, be anywhere in back of the face.

So, despite the widespread claims that Hill's testimony is proof the wound was on the back of Kennedy's head, it is, in reality, a confusing mess. With his statements and testimony, Hill had made four references to Kennedy's head wound--three that were unduly vague, and one that was overly expansive, as not even the looniest of conspiracy theorists believes the entire right rear portion of Kennedy's skull was missing. Perhaps Hill, then, when claiming "THE right rear portion" was missing, meant simply to repeat his earlier statement that "A portion of the right rear side was missing," and mis-spoke. While this may be stretching, it explains Hill's subsequent claim, in a 2004 television interview, that, when he first looked down on the President, he saw "the back of his head, And there was a gaping hole above his right ear about the size of my palm" better than that he had forgotten what he had seen, or that he had suddenly, for the first time, more than forty years after his original testimony, decided to start lying about what he saw.

Note: in 2010, while promoting The Kennedy Detail, a book written by his fellow agent Jerry Blaine, Hill would repeat many more times that the wound was above Kennedy's right ear. Sometimes he would add-in that it was "to the rear." The book described it as "fist-sized." Well, this was all some conspiracy theorists, including James Fetzer, needed. In January 2011 Fetzer started pretending that Hill's comments supported not only that the Zapruder film and autopsy photos are fake, but that Hill's description supported the wound as described and depicted by Dr. Charles Crenshaw in Fetzer's 1998 book Assassination Science. Apparently, it never registered with Fetzer that Hill had also pointed out exactly where he meant when he said the wound was above the ear to the rear, and that, as shown on the slide above, the location pointed out by Hill was much closer to the wound depicted in the autopsy photos than the wound on Crenshaw's drawings... 

And no, I'm not kidding. On a 2013 book tour, at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, Hill said the bullet "exploded out the upper right rear quadrant"...and pointed out the location as shown below. (If you know the name of the creator of this gif, please let me know so I can provide proper credit.)

Well, this is precisely where the wound is shown in the autopsy photos. Now, the wound had moved a bit from Hill's earlier recollections. But it's hard to believe he was lying. I mean, no matter what one thinks of Hill, it's beyond dispute that he loved the Kennedy family. And yet, here he is, sitting beside the limo in which Kennedy was killed, telling an audience the large head wound--the one he observed in Dealey Plaza--was at the top of Kennedy's head above his ear.

And this wasn't a one-time thing. In 2024, a deluded or dishonest person tried to rally his ignorant brethren by claiming I'd misrepresented Hill's actions, and that Hill had actually pointed to a location behind his ear as the location for JFK's least some of the time...enough so we should dismiss his recollections of the wound's being above the ear.  But this was a steaming pile of horse-pucky.  If you have the slightest supsicion he is correct, you should go to youtube or whatever and check it out for yourself. But you won't find Hill pointing to the back of his head when pointing out the exit wound location. Instead you will see him pointing to where he is pointing in the images above...and below. (The following image comes from a 10-23-18 Oral History performed by Hill for the National Law Enforcement Museum.) 

So, no, Hill is not the "back of the head" witness Fetzer et al like to pretend he is.

Now, let's go back for a second. In Hill's report, he said he viewed Kennedy's wounds at Bethesda alongside William Greer, Roy Kellerman, and General Godfrey McHugh. Greer, as we've seen, indicated the wound he saw at Parkland was on the top and right rear. He made no mention of viewing a different wound at Bethesda. Well, what of Kellerman and McHugh? 

Roy Kellerman testified before the Warren Commission on 3-9-64. Let's see that testimony.

Mr. SPECTER. I would like to develop your understanding and your observations of the four wounds on President Kennedy.

Mr. KELLERMAN. OK. This all transpired in the morgue of the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, sir. He had a large wound this size.

Mr. SPECTER. Indicating a circle with your finger of the diameter of 5 inches; would that be approximately correct?

Mr. KELLERMAN. Yes, circular; yes, on this part of the head.

Mr. SPECTER. Indicating the rear portion of the head.


Mr. SPECTER. More to the right side of the head?

Mr. KELLERMAN. Right. This was removed.

Mr. SPECTER. When you say, "This was removed," what do you mean by this?

Mr. KELLERMAN. The skull part was removed.

Mr. SPECTER. All right.

Representative FORD. Above the ear and back?

Mr. KELLERMAN. To the left of the ear, sir, and a little high; yes. About right in here.

Mr. SPECTER. When you say "removed," by that do you mean that it was absent when you saw him, or taken off by the doctor?

Mr. KELLERMAN. It was absent when I saw him.

Well, okay, Kellerman is describing a wound on the right back side of the head. But at what point was this in the autopsy? He doesn't seem to know whether or not this was how the wound looked at the beginning of the autopsy. This strongly suggests and pretty much proves this was not at the beginning of the autopsy. The wound at the beginning of the autopsy, after all, would have been partially obscured by hair and brain matter. Any good look at the skull wound would have to have come afterwards, which is to say after the scalp had been peeled back and the back of the head had caved in.

Mr. SPECTER. Fine. Proceed.

Mr. KELLERMAN. Entry into this man's head was right below that wound, right here.

Mr. SPECTER. Indicating the bottom of the hairline immediately to the right of the ear about the lower third of the ear?

Mr. KELLERMAN. Right. But it was in the hairline, sir.

Mr. SPECTER. In his hairline?

Mr. KELLERMAN. Yes, sir.

Mr. SPECTER. Near the end of his hairline?

Mr. KELLERMAN. Yes, sir.

Mr. SPECTER. What was the size of that aperture?

Mr. KELLERMAN. The little finger.

Mr. SPECTER. Indicating the diameter of the little finger.


Mr. SPECTER. Now, what was the position of that opening with respect to the portion of the skull which you have described as being removed or absent?

Mr. KELLERMAN. Well, I am going to have to describe it similar to this. Let's say part of your skull is removed here; this is below.

Mr. SPECTER. You have described a distance of approximately an inch and a half, 2 inches, below.

Mr. KELLERMAN. That is correct; about that, sir.

Well, this is a problem for back-of-the-head theorists. A big problem. Kellerman claimed he saw the small entry wound by the EOP described by Dr.s Humes, Boswell, and Finck. And that the large defect he saw was an inch and a half to two inches above this small hole. 

He did not see a blow-out wound on the middle of the back of the head, or low on the back of the head, as proposed by Mantik, Groden, et al. And the wound he did see was almost certainly the wound after the scalp had been peeled back and skull fell to the table.

Well, then, what of McHugh?

General Godfrey McHugh, unfortunately, never testified on this matter. But he did discuss Kennedy's head wounds with David Lifton on 11-19-67. As with Greer, Lifton spun his words into support for his outlandish theory. But McHugh's words told a different story. 

Here's McHugh's description of the head wound in Lifton's book, Best Evidence: "he was in absolute perfect shape except the back of the head, top back of the head, had an explosive bullet in it and was badly damaged...and that had blown part of his forehead, which was recuperated and put intact, back in his face was exactly as if he had been alive..." Lifton then asked what he meant by the forehead. McHugh responded: "the forehead, the bone of the forehead...The front. The top...No, not completely the top. The forehead...The back of the head was all smashed in...but that explosion there loosened a flat bone on the forehead...You know, between the eyes, but high up...and his face was not--you could just see that crack there, and as soon as they put back that bone there, it was just like his face had never been hurt." Lifton then asked him about the bone that was placed back in the skull. McHugh replied: "It was brought back. They found it in the car." 

Now, Lifton tries to make out that this is suspicious and all, but this is actually the official story. The back of the head was smashed, as if hit by an explosive bullet. And the gaping hole observed at autopsy was at the top of the head in back of the face. And, not only that, but a large triangular fragment, believed to have been frontal bone, was discovered in the car, and is believed to have been used in the reconstruction of Kennedy's skull after the autopsy. 

McHugh's statements to Lifton didn't support that there was a blow-out wound on the back of the head. Oh no, quite the opposite. 

And that wasn't the last time McHugh discussed Kennedy's head wounds. McHugh was interviewed for the radio show Thou Shalt Not Kill, broadcast 5-10-76 on Canadian radio station CTFR. He related: "a part of his skull had been blown off the front of his forehead. The wound in the back (that is, the back of his head) and the explosion in the back, and the shock in the back, blew a little plate off the forehead, which they replaced on his forehead. It was pushed out--not from the front in--but the inside out. I don't remember exactly where that portion was." 

McHugh was not a back-of-the-head witness. He was a bullet-from-the-back-shattered-the-back-of- the-skull-and-blew-a-plate-off-the-front-of-his-head witness. In other words, a "The-autopsy report is correct" kind of witness. 

Well, were there any other known witnesses to the shooting whose statements can help us determine the location of the fatal wound? 

Yes. Let's go back to the beginning. Within minutes of the shooting, an eyewitness account of the fatal shot was sent out on the newswire. This account came courtesy AP news photographer James Altgens. Altgens had been standing out on the grass infield in front of Kennedy when the fatal shot was fired. Altgens reported: "There was a burst of noise - the second one I heard - and pieces of flesh appeared to fly from President Kennedy's car. Blood covered the whole left side of his head." Now, this is confusing. The Zapruder film and autopsy photos suggest this blood would have been on the right side of Kennedy's head, not his left. Perhaps, then, Altgens was confused by his facing Kennedy, whereby the right side of Kennedy's head was aligned with the left side of Altgens' body. A 6-5-64 FBI report on an interview with Altgens relates: "He said the bullet struck President Kennedy on the right side of his head and the impact knocked the President forward. Altgens stated pieces of flesh, blood, and bones appeared to fly from the right side of the President’s head and pass in front of Mrs. Kennedy to the left of the Presidential limousine...Altgens said he also observed blood on the left side of the President’s head and face.” Hmmm. This is indeed strange. Did Altgens really believe the bullet caused pieces to fly from the right side of Kennedy's skull but left blood upon his left? On 7-22-64, Altgens testified: "What made me almost certain that the shot came from behind was because at the time I was looking at the President, just as he was struck, it caused him to move a bit forward...There was flesh particles that flew out of the side of his head in my direction from where I was standing, so much so that it indicated to me that the shot came out of the left side of his head. Also, the fact that his head was covered with blood, the hairline included, on the left side all the way down, with no blood on his forehead or face--- suggested to me, too, that the shot came from the opposite side, meaning in the direction of this Depository Building..."  Well, hell. It appears Altgens knew the road Kennedy was passing on was to his left and assumed from this that anything coming straight at him from Kennedy would have to have come from Kennedy's left side. But if this is so he was mistaken. Kennedy was facing to his left when shot. His limo was on an S-curve. As a result, Kennedy was facing Altgens at the time of the fatal shot. As a result, blood and brain exiting from the right front side of Kennedy's head would nevertheless fly in Altgens' direction along the left side of the road. 

But that's really beside the point, isn't it? What is important about Altgens isn't whether he saw or thought he saw blood on the right or left side of Kennedy's head, but where he thought the shot came from. He thought the bullet impacted on the right side of Kennedy's head. He saw a combination of flesh, blood, and bones erupt from the side of Kennedy's head and pass in front of Mrs. Kennedy towards himself. This is totally at odds with the widespread belief the shot came from the front and exploded out the back of Kennedy's skull away from Altgens. This is totally at odds with the statements of the Parkland witnesses suggesting there was but one observable wound on Kennedy's head--a large blow-out wound on the far back of his head.

And Altgens isn't the last of those in front of Kennedy suggesting the head wound was on the top or side of the head. Railroad worker S. M. Holland stood on the railroad bridge during the shooting and saw the limo pass beneath him. In 1966, he told Mark Lane that "I saw the effects of the next bullet that struck the President. Because it flipped him over almost on his stomach, and the side of his head..." Unfortunately he didn't finish the thought. Not so railroad worker James Simmons, who'd watched the shooting from the bridge nearby Holland. Simmons testified during the the 1969 trial of Clay Shaw. He said that it looked "like the top of his head blew off and went up in the air." Top.

Well, then what about from further back? Marilyn Willis, standing quite some distance behind Kennedy, told the FBI in June, 64 that she saw the "top" of Kennedy's head blown off, only to turn around and tell a TV audience in 1988 that she saw brain matter blown out the "back of his head," only to turn around yet again and tell Robert Groden in 1993 that the wound she saw was on "this side," while grabbing the right side of her head above her ear.

Still, no matter how one takes her statements, one should recall that Mrs. Willis was about 50 yards behind Kennedy when he received his fatal bullet, and that should she have actually seen his head wound it was but for a second. This makes her seeing blood and brain blown out the back of his head, when no credible witness closer to him saw any such thing, quite unlikely. In fact, when one considers the numerous eyewitness statements claiming the bullet impacted on the right side or top of Kennedy's head, the Zapruder film's confirmation of a wound in this location, and the autopsy photos' additional confirmation of a wound in this location, one might rightly conclude that the only thing solid about the Kennedy assassination medical evidence is that there was a large wound above and in front of Kennedy's right ear.  

But, should one think as one should, ironically, one would be wrong. The initial statements and reports of the doctors attending Kennedy at Parkland reflected an almost universal belief the large head wound was rearward of Kennedy's right ear. In 1967, Josiah Thompson published his book Six Seconds in Dallas. This featured an artist's impression of Parkland doctor Robert McClelland’s description of Kennedy's large head wound. Well, the wound in this drawing was on the far back of the right side of Kennedy’s head. Such a wound is, of course, thoroughly incompatible with the autopsy photos showing the back of Kennedy's head.

In 1979, the HSCA Authenticity Report attempted to smooth this over by declaring: “In disagreement with the observations of the Parkland doctors are the 26 people present at the autopsy. All of those interviewed who attended the autopsy corroborated the general location of the wound as depicted in the photographs; none had differing accounts.” But this declaration proved too little too late. David Lifton would shortly thereafter publish Best Evidence, a book holding that the descriptions of the Parkland witnesses differed from those of the Bethesda witnesses because the President’s body had been altered while en route to the autopsy. Others, such as Harrison Livingstone and Robert Groden, (the latter of whom had worked as a photo analyst for the HSCA), then responded to Lifton's book with theories of their own. No, they claimed, in books showing the autopsy photos illicitly obtained by both Lifton and Groden, it's not that the body had been altered, a la Lifton, it's that the autopsy doctors had lied and that the back of the head photos had been faked.

Then thunder struck. In the late 1990’s, after a number of new "back of the head" witnesses came forward, and a number of previously withheld HSCA interviews were ordered released by the ARRB, it was learned that many of these Bethesda witnesses had actually told the HSCA's investigators they'd seen a large wound on the back of Kennedy’s head, and that a still unnamed person had lied about this in the HSCA Authenticity Report.

With that, all faith in the photographic evidence was shattered. Many, if not most, researchers, came to accept Groden's proposition that it was the photos that had been altered and not Kennedy's body. Some, however, came to reject Groden's proposition that the Zapruder film showed the occipital wound described by the Parkland witnesses, and embraced instead Lifton's suspicion that the Zapruder film--which had led many to suspect a conspiracy in the first place--had in fact been altered to, among other things, move the hole on the back of JFK's head to a more acceptable location in front of his right ear. 

This led still others, such as ARRB analyst Doug Horne, to come up with their own unique hybrid theories. In his 5 volume work, Inside the ARRB, Horne explains that, in his view, the body, autopsy photos, x-rays, and Zapruder film were all altered in one way or another. He explains, furthermore, that the body alteration Lifton believed was performed BEFORE the body arrived at Bethesda was in fact performed at Bethesda by Dr. Humes, and that the Bethesda witnesses seeing a large wound primarily on the back of JFK's head saw this wound BEFORE Dr. Humes had altered the wound, and expanded it five-fold to include the wound on the top of Kennedy's head more consistent with an assassin's having shot him from behind. In still further opposition to Lifton, Horne holds that the wound on the back of the head was not reconstructed before the beginning of the autopsy. In opposition to Groden, however, Horne holds that the back of the head autopsy photos were not actually altered, but taken after the FBI had left, with the scalp stretched to hide the true dimensions of the hole. He holds, furthermore, that the x-rays were altered to hide this same hole.

So, in Horne's theory, the autopsy physicians were not deceived, as in Lifton's theory, but were instead the key deceivers.

A deep-in-the-weeds discussion of these theorists and their theories drags on over the next two chapters. Those already convinced of the legitimacy of the photos, due to their depiction of the wound as described by the Dealey Plaza witnesses, and their close correlation with what is shown in the assassination films and x-rays, should probably skip ahead to Chapter 19i, or even Chapter 20.