Chapter 13: Solving the Great Head Wound Mystery
Chapter 13: Solving the Great Head Wound Mystery
Making sense out of nonsense
Warren Commission Exhibit 388/Zapruder Frame 312 Comparison
While the early critics of the Warren Commission focused on discrediting the single-bullet theory, and using the location of the back wound on the clothing and face sheet to achieve this goal, by 1967 they'd begun questioning the official interpretations of the head wounds as well.
With perspective, it’s easy to see that there was something suspicious about the head wounds from the get-go. To prepare for their testimony before the Warren Commission, the doctors who'd performed Kennedy's autopsy were asked to prepare drawings depicting the trajectory of the bullet through the President’s skull. They did this by verbally describing the locations of the entrance and exit on the skull to medical illustrator Skip Rydberg, who then drew Kennedy bent over in the manner required so that his wounds could be connected by a straight line from above and behind. This drawing became Exhibit 388. What is wrong with this scenario is that the Warren Commission had blown up prints from the Zapruder film at their disposal, and Rydberg could have been given these in order to make his drawing as accurate as possible. Instead, the ever-wiley Arlen Specter, the Warren commission counsel leading this area of inquiry, flashed lead autopsist Dr. James J. Humes the prints of Zapruder 312 and 313 in the middle of his testimony, after 388 was already entered into evidence, and asked him if the prints depicted Kennedy’s head in “approximately the same position” as it had been in 388. To this, Dr. Humes replied “yes, sir.” As if to drive home the Commission’s lack of concern for accuracy, Commissioner Dulles continued in this vein moments later by asking Humes, who was never swore in as a photographic expert, by the way, if the posture of Kennedy’s head was “roughly the inclination that you think the President’s head had at the time.” To this, Humes repeated his response--“Yes, sir.” Amazingly, there is no evidence anyone on the Commission thought to compare the drawing to the photos themselves.
The testimony of Dr. Pierre Finck was equally odd. As the wound ballistics expert on the autopsy team, his testimony was needed to shore up that the bullets came from above and behind.As the drawings presented by the doctors depicted the back wound much higher than the exit in the throat, it was not hard for him to say as much regarding those wounds. As the skull entrance was, by the doctors’ own admission, lower than the exit at the top of the skull, however, there was no way he could reasonably assert that the fatal bullet would have to have come from above. When Finck testified that the exit wound was “so large that we can only give an approximate angle. In my opinion, the angle was within 45 degrees from the horizontal plane,” Specter most assuredly saw that this opened the door for a shot from someplace other than the sniper’s nest, even someplace on the ground. He immediately interjected “Is that to say that there was a 45 degree of declination from the point of origin…” to which Finck ultimately responded “I think I can only state, sir, that he was shot from above and behind.” This echoed the autopsy protocol’s over-zealous statement that “the projectiles were fired from a point behind and somewhat above the level of the deceased.” On what purely medical basis could these claims be made? If one ignores the eyewitnesses, the Zapruder film, and the rifle found in the school book depository, none of which belonged in the testimony of a doctor unfamiliar with such evidence, there was no reason for Finck to say the fatal bullet came from above. That Finck himself was uncomfortable with his testimony on this point can be inferred from the fact his report to his superior officer General Blumberg stated simply “I testified that Kennedy was shot from behind.”
"Behind"... No mention of "above." That the doctors knew they'd found nothing to suggest the shots came from above is confirmed, furthermore, by an unexpected source: Dr. Humes.When discussing the medical evidence with the HSCA Pathology Panel on September 16 or 17, 1977 (it's unclear), Dr. Humes was asked if he felt the essential findings were that two shots came from above and behind, or just behind. He responded, with all apparent candor, that "I think behind is the most one can say from the anatomic findings."
But the lack of evidence indicating that the shot came from above didn't stop it from becoming part of the official myth, mind you, or the script repeated ad nauseum by Warren Commission defenders. In late 1966, as a response to Mark Lane's best seller Rush to Judgment, former Warren Commission Counsel Wesley J. Liebeler took to the lecture circuit. An October 19, 1966 article in the L.A. Times, however, suggests that, in defense of the Commission, Liebeler, a UCLA Law Professor, was willing to also assault the truth. Liebeler was reported to have told 650 students at a Stanford University law forum that the "autopsy x-rays of assassinated President John F. Kennedy showed 'all shots' fired at him were 'from behind and above.'" What malarkey! The x-rays gave no indication whatsoever that the shots were fired from above. No one testified to as much; in fact, Dr. Humes discussed a trail of fragments leading from low on the back of the head to high on the head, suggesting the exact opposite. So what was Liebeler talking about? Not only had the radiologist present at the autopsy. Dr. John Ebersole, not been asked to testify before the commission, but the doctors who were asked to testify were prevented from reviewing the x-rays beforehand. Such was the secrecy regarding these x-rays, in fact, that the doctors were not even allowed to study them while writing the autopsy report. By October, 1966, moreover, NO ONE had studied the x-rays beyond looking at them in hopes of finding missing bullet fragments. One can only conclude then that Liebeler was either grossly misquoted, or desperately making stuff up. I propose we suspect the latter.
But I digress. The point I've been trying to make is that, while few had questioned the Warren Commission's conclusions regarding the head wound prior to November 1966, it wasn't long before the former members and counsel of the commission felt the need to clarify and revise their findings. Researcher David Lifton had written an article, subsequently published in Ramparts Magazine in January 1967, expressing doubt that the descriptions of Kennedy's head wound made by those viewing him in Dallas--which placed the exit wound on the back of Kennedy's head--could "be reconciled with the findings of the Bethesda autopsy"--in which the bullet entered the back of his head, and exited from the top of his head. He had shared his reasons for coming to this doubt, moreover, with his college professor, former Warren Commission counsel J. Wesley Liebeler. This then led Liebeler to write an 11-16-66 letter to Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin listing Lifton's reasons. Liebeler then mailed this letter to pretty much all the former counsel and members of the commission, along with a few other persons of interest, most significantly Acting Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
While Rankin ultimately responded to Liebeler, on 12-1-66, and made clear that no further investigation would be undertaken...by the former employees and members of the Warren Commission...it would be naive to accept that no response was forthcoming...by anyone.
Indeed, we should accept the opposite.
While the drawings created for the Warren Commission, consistent with Dr. Humes' testimony that skull fell to the table as he reflected Kennedy's scalp, depicted a large skull wound at the top of the head extending somewhat onto the back of the head, and while a report signed by Dr.s Humes, Boswell, and Finck in January 1967 confirmed the accuracy of these drawings, it wasn't long before someone decided something more supportive of Oswald's sole guilt, and more responsive to the points raised by Lifton, was needed. A May 29, 1967 memo written by Director of Public Information Cliff Sessions--outlining "talking points" that Dr. Humes should touch upon during his upcoming televised interview with Dan Rather--was sent to the Justice Department's Acting Assistant Attorney General Carl Eardley, and forwarded to Dr. Humes. Among these talking points was something new, that had not been previously touched upon; when asked about the bullets striking Kennedy, Dr. Humes was told to say that one of them "entered the back of the skull and exited through the front." The "front." The exit wound was no longer on the top of Kennedy's head, as depicted in CE 388, the drawing created for the Warren Commission under Dr. Humes' direction, but the "front" of the head. Dr. Humes was, in effect, being told to change his testimony.
So, did he follow his orders? You betcha. Loyal soldier to the end, when asked the location of the large exit wound by Rather, Dr. Humes said nothing about a wound on top of the head which could be an exit for a bullet entering from the rear or the front, and instead told the nation that the "exit wound was a large irregular wound to the front and side--right side of the President's head."
This verbal movement of the wound, however, proved too little, too late. With the publication of Josiah Thompson's Six Seconds in Dallas in late 1967, and its demonstration that the Zapruder film shows a wound on the top of the head, and not the front of the head, as claimed by Dr. Humes months earlier, the problems with the bullet's trajectory reached an even greater audience.
There was an exhibit in Thompson's book that was particularly problematic. Thompson placed frame 312 of the Zapruder film, the last frame before Kennedy's skull exploded, on the same page with the Warren Commission exhibit depicting the supposed path of the bullet through Kennedy's skull, CE 388. The effect was devastating. From a comparison of these two images it was obvious that Dr. Humes' testimony was inaccurate, and that Kennedy's head was actually bent further forward in the drawing than in the film and that, when the drawing was corrected to the actual forward tilt of Kennedy's head, the path back from his exit wound through his entrance wound led to the rear trunk of the limousine, a long, long way from the supposed sniper's nest. This proved that either the bullet fired from above and striking Kennedy low in the back of his head suddenly and illogically exploded upwards, or that the entrance wound was not as reported.
This led the Justice Department, now functioning as a de facto cover-up department, to take even more drastic measures. Putting Dr. Humes on TV to tell the public what the government thought they should hear would clearly no longer suffice.
In late February 1968, even though it had been but a year since the autopsy doctors had signed a report saying the wounds in the autopsy photos confirmed the accuracy of the drawings they'd created for the Warren Commission, a four-man secret panel supposedly made of random experts but actually made of close colleagues (Dr. Alan Moritz had been a mentor to the panel's leader, Russell Fisher, at Harvard, and Dr. Morgan--and presumably Dr. Carnes--had worked with Dr. Fisher at Johns Hopkins University) re-reviewed the photos and x-rays on behalf of Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Now, this was supposedly done at the urging of the autopsy doctors themselves, but there is reason to doubt this is true. (Dr. Boswell's testimony before the ARRB suggests that he was, in fact, manipulated by Clark's assistant Carl Eardley--the same Carl Eardley who'd forwarded the "talking points" to Dr. Humes in anticipation of his appearance on CBS--into making this request).
Now, here's a photo of Dr. Moritz, playing around a bit, I suspect.
And here's a photo of Dr. Fisher. I suspect this guy never played around.
And here's a photo of Dr. Morgan, a young Dr. Morgan, at that...
Now, I couldn't find a photo of Dr. William H. Carnes, the fourth member of the panel. As Carnes was a Professor of Pathology at the University of Utah in 1968, and then, later, UCLA, and as he never once served as a war surgeon, as far as I can tell, let alone a forensic pathologist, his presence on the panel is indeed confusing. I mean, really, did the Justice Department suspect Kennedy had cancer, or that he'd actually died from a rare blood disease? Well, then why put a Professor of Pathology on a gunshot case? This had been the mistake back in '63. Kennedy's autopsy had been run by pathologists (Dr.s Humes and Boswell), and not forensic pathologists (those knowledgeable about gunshot wounds and other means of murder). Now let's be clear. While the third member of the autopsy team, Dr. Finck, had been, yessiree, a forensic pathologist, he didn't arrive till well into the autopsy, after the removal of the brain, and was never put in charge, and did not write their report. So, yeah, the pathologists ran the show. And this was considered a mistake...
And yet here, with the creation of this panel (commonly called the Clark Panel) this mistake had been repeated!
Now get ready for a shock. This mistake was minor in comparison to the mistakes made by the panel itself. That's right, they made some boo-boos. Big ones. They not only made tremendous mistakes in their assessment of Kennedy's back wound location, which served to support the then-under-fire single-bullet theory, but solved the problem of the fatal bullet's trajectory, by "finding" a wound of entrance high on the back of Kennedy's head that had apparently been missed by everyone who saw the President in Dallas and Bethesda, including the autopsy doctors.
This new "find," moreover, made Thompson's comparison of CE 388 with Zapruder frame 312 irrelevant.
One might wish to think this a coincidence.
That this was not a coincidence was confirmed, however, by Clark panel ring-leader Russell S. Fisher when he told the Maryland State Medical Journal in March 1977 that Attorney General Ramsey Clark had seen the proofs of Six Seconds in Dallas, and that the Clark Panel report was released "partly to refute some of the junk" in the book.
Hmmm... Apparently, their way of "refuting" Thompson's comparison of CE-388 and Z-312 was by confirming he was right and by declaring instead that their esteemed colleagues, Dr.s Humes, Boswell and Finck, were badly mistaken as to the actual location of the entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's skull, and were off by...drum roll, please...4 inches! Even more amazing, Fisher told the Maryland State Medical Journal that this was only a “minor error.”
What the??? One ponders what Fisher would consider a "major error" under such circumstances...
Or if he was just blowing smoke...
Agreeance (Def: The false appearance of being in agreement) (Note this is a new take on an old word--so, uhh, spread the word...)
When one considers that, in the March 13, 1970 edition of Medical World News, in which it was noted that the Clark Panel was convened "to allay public skepticism over the Warren Report," Fisher ran down a laundry list of excuses for the "errors" made at the autopsy, it seems likely he was more concerned about these "errors" than he would subsequently acknowledge. These excuses, moreover, were not real excuses, but entirely false ones made up from either Fisher's incredible ignorance, or his fertile imagination. He told the medical world that, among the reasons for the "confusion" at the autopsy, were:
"The original x-rays and photos were not seen by the autopsy team in Washington or even by the Warren Commission until the time that our committee was convened..." (While it's true the doctors were unable to look at the x-rays and photos while writing the autopsy report, they had inspected the x-rays and photos in November 1966 and January 1967, prior to the Clark Panel's inspection, and had publicly proclaimed that these inspections had confirmed both the findings of their report, and the testimony and exhibits provided the Warren Commission. As Warren Commission counsel Arlen Specter had similarly admitted in both U.S. News (in 1966) and the Saturday Evening Post (in 1967) to seeing a photo of Kennedy's back wound on the day of the assassination re-enactment, furthermore, Fisher was doubly in error.)
"skull fragments found on the street, which would have permitted a more accurate reconstruction of the skull and hence a clearer notion of the path of the bullet, were not seen by the Washington examiners..." (This claim is equally bogus. The recovered skull fragments seen by Fisher were x-rays taken at the autopsy of fragments studied and handled by the doctors during the autopsy. It was beveling on the largest fragment, moreover, that convinced the autopsy doctors the bullet exited from the top of the head--the exact same conclusion reached by Fisher. While there were two fragments found in Dealey Plaza not returned in time for the autopsy, one being the Harper fragment, neither of these fragments were seen by the Clark Panel, and neither of these could have convinced the autopsy doctors a bullet entered high on the back of Kennedy's head, where Fisher claimed it had entered, as they'd both come from further forward on the skull.)
"for several hours the local coroner was not told that a tracheostomy had been performed at the place where one bullet emerged, and this helped to cloud the issue of how many bullets had been fired and from what direction." (This claim is just strange. The confusion was not caused by the emergency room doctors' failure to tell Dallas coroner Earl Rose about the tracheostomy, but the autopsy doctors' failure to call the emergency room doctors prior to commencement of the autopsy, and the failure of anyone present at the autopsy to tell the autopsy doctors that, oh yeah, by the way, the emergency room doctors called a press conference this afternoon and told the world the president had a small bullet wound in his throat that appeared to be an entrance.)
In any event, the Clark Panel studied the medical evidence on February 26 and 27, 1968. Although their subsequent report would not be completed and signed by Dr.s Fisher, Morgan, Moritz, and Carnes until March 28, March 28, April 6, and April 9, 1968, respectively, Dr. Fisher admitted, in a March 4, 1970 letter to Harold Weisberg, that they'd actually "drafted" their report on February 27, and that the rest was just editing, and re-editing, and then mailing the report around and about to get signed. They never met, after February 27, to work on the report together.
Well, this suggests that they really studied the evidence ONCE, and only once, on February 26, without studying anything beyond the original autopsy protocol, and that February 27 was mostly taken up with the drafting of their report.
Now, note those dates. There is no record of which I am aware in which the planning for the Clark Panel's inspection is detailed. For all we know, it was put together in a hurry. It is undoubtedly intriguing then that on February 14, 1968--less than 2 weeks before the Clark Panel's inspection--Josiah Thompson's publisher, Bernard Geis, sent former Warren Commissioner John McCloy a copy of Thompson's Six Seconds in Dallas, along with some of the reviews it had garnered, and implored "We earnestly hope that you will be moved to urge the formation of a Congressional body or an independent committee of scholars, critics, pathologists, and criminologists empowered to probe these hypotheses, refuting them if additional evidence warrants, or expanding upon the original report if that should prove necessary."
Hmmm. Did McCloy read the book, see its merits, and strong-arm Attorney General Ramsey Clark into setting up a secret panel to inspect the evidence, and "refute some of the junk" in the book? Was Fisher's claim Clark viewed the galleys of Thompson's book just a cover story put out by Clark? To hide that McCloy was really the one behind the inspection?
There is reason to believe so. Consider that barely a year before, McCloy had been asked by CBS to arrange an inspection of the evidence by the autopsists, and that he'd traveled to Washington that very day, and that an inspection had occurred within days.
Consider also McCloy's response to Geis' letter. Did he ignore it? No, not exactly. On July 15, 1969--almost a year-and-a-half later--he wrote Geis a letter saying he had "not been impressed" with the book's "contents nor its conclusions." He then sent this letter to Chief Justice Warren, asking for his input. Warren then responded by suggesting he not send the letter, as it could only be used to stir up controversy. The letter was not sent. (Geis' letter, and the letters of McCloy and Warren in response, can be found on researcher Denis Morrissette's website, jfkassassinationfiles.com.)
This raises a question, however. Why did McCloy wait so long to respond? Well, the thought occurs that he was waiting for something. Was he waiting for the public release of the Clark Panel's report, so he could cite it in his response? There is reason to suspect so.
Now, admittedly, this is a bit of a stretch... But it's undoubtedly intriguing that, yes indeed, McCloy cited the Panel's report in his response. He wrote Geis "The expert panel which examined the x-rays under the auspices of the Department of Justice last year clearly disprove the main Thompson contentions and certainly the original autopsy report even if it is somewhat less exacting and comprehensive than one might have wished it to be does so as well."
Note that McCloy is deferential to the Clark Panel's report, yet somewhat critical of the original autopsy report. This suggests he knew the two reports were in conflict, a conflict un-reported in the press at the time. Hmmm... Had McCloy discussed the Panel's report with Clark? Or Fisher?
The timing of the report's release is also intriguing. It was released on January 16, 1969, just in time to throw a monkey wrench in Jim Garrison's trial of Clay Shaw. Garrison had been trying to gain access to the medical evidence for use in the trial, as he thought an independent study of the medical evidence by non-military medical experts might prove shots had been fired from multiple locations, and thus, more than one shooter. It appeared, moreover, that Garrison, and his chosen expert, Dr. Cyril Wecht, were about to succeed in gaining access to these materials. This then led the Justice Department to offer up what could only have appeared to be a compromise--it would release an already-completed top secret study of the medical evidence by non-military medical experts--the Clark Panel's report from the year before.
That the timing of the report's creation and release was no coincidence was confirmed, moreover, by Ramsey Clark himself. In David Lifton's book Best Evidence he recounts a May, 1969, conversation with Clark. He relates that, when asked about the timing of the February 1968 inspection, Clark readily admitted that he "thought it unwise for the administration to go into an election year without anyone having examined the key evidence."
And that's not the only time Clark admitted the report served a political purpose. Within the HSCA's files is an outside contact report, summarizing a 5-6-78 phone call between Clark and an HSCA investigator. Well, it's right there in black and white. According to this summary, Clark admitted he was "relieved" when his "experts corroborated" the "Warren Commission findings," but that he nevertheless "delayed issuing" their report, only to "use" the "Garrison case" as a "vehicle" for putting their report "in the public record."
And so it came to be: the January 16, 1969 release of the panel's report. The print media’s ineptness and distaste for the whole matter is revealed in their headlines regarding the release of the panel's report, e.g. “JFK Autopsy Facts Bared; Findings Claimed Correct;” “Autopsy Report Backs JFK Data.” I have yet to find one newspaper article about the release of this report to mention the amazing migration of the entrance wound on Kennedy's head.
This was apparently by design. In Harold Weisberg's 1975 book Post Mortem, he discusses the Clark Panel report in great detail, and re-prints a number of internal government memos he received in response to his many Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. One of these is a Jan 18, 1969 memo from Frank Wozencraft, of the Office of Legal Counsel, to archivist Marion Johnson of the National Archives. It is entitled "Authentication of Autopsy Pictures," and provides Johnson with a statement he is to give any member of the news media inquiring whether the photos and x-rays studied by the Clark Panel have been authenticated by the autopsists. The statement itself is not surprising, as it refers back to the November '66 inventory, and the signed statements by Humes, Boswell, Ebersole, and Stringer, that none of the photos or x-rays are missing. What is surprising, however, is the final paragraph, which reads:
"In addition, requests to see any documents which contain descriptions of the autopsy pictures should be denied on the ground that we agreed with Burke Marshall not to disclose such descriptions, for much the same reasons that the pictures themselves are not available for non-official access at this time."
Interesting...very interesting. There is nothing in the signed agreement between Burke Marshall, the Kennedy family's representative, and the government prohibiting the dissemination of descriptions of the autopsy photos. Such a provision, if actually considered, would have been of questionable legality anyhow. I mean, just think about it. Nellie Connally has testified to Mrs. Kennedy's holding President Kennedy's brains in her hands. Dr. Humes has testified to tearing Kennedy's skull apart in order to remove his brain. The autopsy report, in which the President's wounds are discussed in detail, has been part of the public record for years. So how can Wozencraft justify withholding reports in which mere photos of the President's wounds are described?
I mean, seriously. Burke Marshall has just signed off on the release of the Clark Panel's report, in which the photos and x-rays of Kennedy's wounds are inventoried and discussed in detail. So how could Wozencraft possibly believe he'd have an objection to anyone reading the November, 1966 inventory of the autopsy materials, or the January, 1967 review of those materials?
He couldn't. So what was Wozencraft up to? Well, unfortunately it appears that what he was up to was no good... Here, but a few days before the end of the Johnson Administration, is one of Johnson's top legal advisers pressuring the National Archives to withhold reports from the press in which the autopsy photos are discussed...under the guise that this would somehow be in poor taste. Never mind that these same legal advisers--the Office of Legal Counsel--have just released a new and improved report--the Clark Panel Report, in which these very photos are discussed in gruesome detail.
This, to me, is highly suspicious, and leads me to suspect that Wozencraft, and by extension the Johnson Administration Justice Department, were trying to keep from the press that the earlier descriptions of the photos both claimed a bullet entrance low on the back of the head was readily apparent...and that the Clark Panel reported no such wound, and was now claiming there was a wound high on the back of the head.
And, should one consider it unlikely that a prominent government attorney would do such a thing--would twist or bury the truth for political purposes--one should consider that that is PRECISELY the role of the Office of Legal Counsel. In an ideal world, the Office of Legal Counsel functions as an adviser to the president...telling him when his actions are at odds with the constitution. But the reality is essentially the opposite. Like a good mob attorney, the Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Office of Legal Counsel finds ways to justify whatever the heck the President wants done and has already decided to do. General Counsel for The President's Commission, commonly known as the Warren Commission, J. Lee Rankin, had run the Office of Legal Counsel for President Eisenhower. The instigator of the Warren Commission, Nicholas Katzenbach, had run the office for President Kennedy. Both men knew how to spin the truth to please a president, and considered it a privilege to do so. In subsequent years, right wing political operatives such as William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Ted Olsen, (three of the main movers and shakers behind the successful assault on democracy known as Bush v. Gore) and Jay Bybee (The author of a notorious memo telling the Bush Administration torture was permissible) would do their duty and spin their truths for their presidents as the Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Office of Legal Counsel for Nixon, Ford, Bush I, and Bush II, respectively. Wozencraft would serve President Johnson in this role from 1966-1969, a time of great political turmoil. There is no reason to believe he was of stronger stuff than the right-wing operatives that followed him. There is every reason, in fact, to believe his actions regarding the Clark Panel report were of a political nature, and that the Clark Panel Report served a political purpose.
There's also this: Wozencraft was a senior partner in the Texas law firm Baker & Botts, the family law firm of Bush family adviser James A. Baker III, who not only found time to serve as Reagan's Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Treasury, and Bush I's Secretary of State, but was also the man chosen to run the aftermath of the 2000 election for the Bush family, which led up to the aforementioned successful assault on democracy known as Bush v. Gore. So there's every reason to believe ethics was not Wozencraft's strong suit, and that he would have little problem burying some problematic reports written by some doctors who could very well have been wrong anyway.
I mean, it seems more than a coincidence that, in the aforementioned 1970 article in Medical World News, neither Dr. Fisher, nor his fellow Clark panel member Dr. Moritz, mentioned their re-appraisal of the head wound location. Dr. Moritz's words, in fact, revealed a deliberate caution, as if he knew people would someday realize the location of the entrance wound on Kennedy's head had migrated, and didn't want them to think he was unaware of how disturbing this was. Here are his words: "the findings of the Warren Commission are not inconsistent with the facts as presented to us." I mean, wow, this guy really knew how to conceal while appearing to reveal. Maybe he should have written a book telling doctors how to protect themselves at all costs, even if it means lying to their patients.
Oh, that's right. He did.
In any event, it was more than 3 years before the Clark Panel's drastic re-appraisal of the entrance wound location was reported. This second series of articles was written as a response to an address by Dr. Russell Morgan, the Clark Panel's radiologist, to a conference of fellow radiologists, and indirectly confirm the role of Thompson's book in the formation and conclusions of the panel. The articles below were found in the August 18, 1972 Denver Post and the August 19, 1972 New Orleans States-Item, respectively. This was but a few days before Dr. Cyril Wecht was to become the first Warren Commission critic to view the autopsy materials. Perhaps Morgan wanted to lessen the impact should Wecht come out of the Archives and announce that the autopsy x-rays didn't show what the Clark Panel claimed, by putting on the record that they were over-developed and hard to read. Perhaps not. In a letter to researcher Harold Weisberg, Morgan claimed "I do not know why the press picked up my talk as a news item at this time. Apparently, they have nothing better to print."
(Sections indicating that Morgan in particular, and the Clark Panel in general, were far from unbiased in their analysis and had a clear-cut agenda to refute Thompson and derail Jim Garrison's trial of Clay Shaw are highlighted in bold.)
EXPERT AFFIRMS 1-BULLET VIEW
A radiologist who examined the X-rays of President Kennedy's fatal head wound said in Denver Friday they prove conclusively that only one bullet--fired from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository building in Dallas--caused his death.
Dr. Russell H. Morgan, dean of the medical school at Johns Hopkins University, said the films--could they be released by the Kennedy family--would effectively remove all doubt and controversy that the assassination may have been the result of shots from more than one direction.
However, because the films haven't been released for publication and because a report on their examination wasn't included in the Warren Commission study, the controversy has continued, Dr. Morgan said.
The medical school dean made his remarks in an interview prior to speaking to some 300 physicians, attending the 34th annual mid-summer meeting of the Rocky Mountain Radiological Society in the Brown Palace Hotel. The meeting, which began Thursday, continues through Saturday.
Dr. Morgan was the only radiologist on a panel of four persons asked by then Attorney Gen. Ramsey Clark to review the X rays because of controversies surrounding the autopsy report.
But because the panel's report, released in April 1968, largely supported the conclusions of the Warren Report. Morgan said, it failed to receive much circulation. His talk here Friday on the subject was the first outside University organizations. The other members of the panel, all pathologists, have never spoken on the matter.
He said the X rays in conjunction with an analysis of the movie shot by amateur photographer Abraham Zapruder, show "rather conclusively" that the path of the fatal bullet--because the President's head was bowed and tilted to one side--was consistent with being fired from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository building.
Further, he said, the X rays show the path of the bullet was strewn with thousands of bone fragments and that no other bullets entered from either the right or left sides of the skull, as some critics of the Warren Report have maintained.
Had other bullets entered the right or left side of the skull, they would have left paths of bone fragments, and no such paths were indicated. In addition, the entrance of a bullet is small, the exit point much larger, the doctor added, and both the entrance and the exit of the fatal bullet are characterized by this fact.
Morgan said his study of the X rays and the movie film also disprove the theory that another shot struck Kennedy from an overpass under which the president's car was preparing to pass.
The Zapruder film shows Kennedy's body lurching forward from one shot and then lurching backward, as though from a second.
Morgan said the backward lurch was a reflex action of Kennedy's shattered brain, which caused the president's muscles to tense, and react in a spasm. It was this sudden straightening of the body which was interpreted as being the result of a second shot, he declared.
The fatal bullet killed Kennedy instantly, Morgan said, and the subsequent emergency action at Parkland Memorial Hospital was in response to purely reflex activity.
Morgan speculated that the reason the X rays weren't included in the Warren Commission Report is that when doctors first examined Kennedy, they thought the bullet entered lower in Kennedy's head.
Had their assumption been correct, the bullet would have to have been fired from below the level of the presidential limousine, he said.
Morgan said the X rays can now be studied with permission of the Kennedy family, though the photographs of the injury, which he described as "pretty gory," are still closed to examination. He said he feels publication of the X rays has been prohibited because the Kennedy family equates them with the photographs.
To date, he said, the X rays have been studied by only one person since being released for study last November, and that was by a urologist from Columbia University interested in the phenomenon of assassination.
Should the X rays ever be released for publication, he explained, great care and special techniques would be required before they would show the conclusive evidence, because they were produced in a hurry under extremely trying conditions and were over-exposed.
EXPERT SAYS 4-INCH ERROR LED TO FALSE SPECULATIONS IN JFK DEATH DENVER
(AP) — A leading medical expert says a four-inch mistake by a pathologist who examined the body of John F. Kennedy after he was shot to death in Dallas produced a series of false speculations about the assassination.
Dr. Russell H. Morgan said the bullet actually entered the president's skull some four inches higher than initially reported, but the Warren Commission's detailed report on the assassination failed to clarify this point.
Morgan, dean of the medical school at Johns Hopkins University, is the only radiologist to examine the X-ray photographs of the slain president's skull.
The matter became an issue of great importance in New Orleans between 1967 and 1969 when Dist. Atty. Jim Garrison was attempting to prove that the slaying of Kennedy was plotted here.
Garrison contended that Kennedy was shot from the front, rather than from behind as the Warren Report concluded, and that the X-rays would prove it. He made many legal attempts to gain access to the X-rays examined by Dr. Morgan, but failed.
The D.A.'s probe died after Clay L. Shaw was acquitted March 1, 1969, of charges of conspiring to kill the president, though legal maneuvering continued long after that and only recently did the U.S. Supreme Court uphold an injunction prohibiting further prosecution of Shaw by Garrison.
In an address to the 34th midsummer conference of the Rocky Mountain Radiological Society here, he gave X-rays the credit for finally revealing the pathologist's error and disproving many of the more extreme speculations spawned by the mistake, which is included in the Warren Commission report.
Morgan's four-year investigation of the photographs and the Abraham Zapruder film of the assassination led him to several conclusions, he said.
The most important finding was that one of the pathologists who examined Kennedy's body in Washington the night of the assassination erred in saying the fatal bullet entered the "occipital protuberance," or the bulge at the lower section of the back of the skull.
This statement, which Morgan said later proved to be false, was included in the Warren report. Critics of the report immediately noted a major inconsistency between that alleged entry point and several features of the Zapruder film which showed a frame-by-frame sequence of the shooting. Critics said the film showed the president's head in a near vertical position when the bullet hit and also showed him lurching backward, leading to speculation the bullet came from the front.
The angle of the bullet became controversial. Some contended it couldn't have been fired from Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle in the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and entered the skull where the pathologist said it did.
Morgan said Friday the Warren Commission, which named Oswald as the assassin, made no effort to explain the contradiction, allowing it to provide controversy for several years.
When he was given two days to examine the X-ray photographs, Morgan found them of poor quality, severely over-exposed. Of the 14, he said, only three were of the head wound. He said one had pencil marks on the negative itself showing "where somebody thought the bullet had gone."
(The remaining paragraphs were found in the version of the article published by the Galveston Daily News the next day.)
The penciled line corresponded to the mistaken pathologists' conclusion that the bullet entered the base of the skull and exited at an upward angle out of the right of the forehead. But Morgan said he found the actual entry wound was 120 millimeters away from the penciled line, more than four inches higher on the back of the head.
The lurching of the president's body backward, he said, was caused by body spasms after the massive wound was inflicted.
Morgan said the Zapruder film, the ballistics tests, the projected line of fire and the angle of entry of the fatal bullet all were consistent with the explanation that a single shot fired from above and behind killed the president.
"The Warren Commission's diagnosis was correct," he, said, "even though the evidence cited was inconsistent."
And it's not as if these articles went unnoticed... On November 22, 1972, (note the date) a UPI article found in the Lodi News-Sentinel announced that the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to review a lower court ruling that Jim Garrison not be allowed to proceed with the prosecution of Clay Shaw for perjury. The article noted further that when interviewed Shaw "waved a newspaper clipping in which Russell H. Morgan, Dean of John Hopkins Medical School, said following an examination of x-rays of Kennedy's body that one of the pathologists who examined Kennedy after the President was killed in Dallas made a four-inch mistake. Morgan said the bullet really entered Kennedy's skull four inches higher than first reported and that the Warren Commission never clarified the point, giving rise to what Morgan contended was false speculation about Kennedy's death."
Now, note the opening line of the article, the focus of the article according to the most basic rule of journalism... "Clay Shaw said Tuesday Jim Garrison's charges he conspired with Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate President John F. Kennedy may have been due to a pathologist's 'clerical error.'"
So, there you have it. The prosecution of Clay Shaw had nothing to do with Shaw's supposedly using the name of Clay Bertrand to represent Oswald when Oswald needed legal assistance in New Orleans, nor anything to do with the mysterious death of David Ferrie, a man with connections to Shaw, Oswald, the anti-Castro Cuban Community, and the New Orleans underworld. And, oh yeah, let's just forget that a friend of Ferrie's claimed to have seen Shaw at a party with Ferrie and Oswald, in which the assassination of President Kennedy was discussed. No. Those things had nothing to do with the prosecution (and possible persecution) of Clay Shaw. It was all just an innocent misunderstanding... brought about by the incompetence of an unidentified pathologist at Kennedy's autopsy!
I'm joking, of course. But it seems clear I'm not the first to think Shaw's assertion was ludicrous. Or have doubts about the Clark Panel's conclusions...
Such was the Justice Department's own skepticism, for example, that Carl Eardley, who'd been working with the doctors on their reviews and reports for years, and who'd been one of the driving forces behind the Clark Panel, asked Dr. Boswell to participate in the autopsy of Dr. Martin Luther King. This was April 4, 1968, but 5 weeks after the Clark Panel had viewed the autopsy materials, and had questioned the competence of Boswell and his colleagues. Boswell, to his credit, refused. While one could argue that Eardley remained ignorant of the Clark Panel's findings until after it had been written up, reviewed, and signed, and that the last signature on the report was dated April 9, that still doesn't explain why Boswell's equally discredited colleague Dr. Finck was allowed to participate in the autopsy of Senator Robert F. Kennedy two months later, with no objection from the Justice Department. And this also fails to explain why, even after the release of the panel's report, both Finck and Boswell were asked to help the government in the defense of Clay Shaw, and defend the Clark Panel's findings. I mean, unless the government failed to fully trust the Clark Panel, there is a huge question as to why the government would continue to use Boswell and Finck as experts long after the Panel, in an official government report prepared on behalf of the Attorney General, had made them out to be total incompetents. For how else can one describe a doctor who mistakenly records a head wound high on the back of a man's skull as low on the back of his skull, creates a face sheet and autopsy protocol affirming this location, and then confirms this location again after reviewing the man’s autopsy photos...TWICE?
The possibility that Eardley and the Justice Department thought the autopsy doctors competent, but grossly mistaken on the location of the entrance into the skull, simply makes no sense in light of the doctor's subsequent reports claiming the autopsy photos supported their original findings. That is...unless...Eardley knew the subsequent reports were created for political reasons and not to be taken seriously. Hmmm...
An article in the 2-24-69 Manchester Union Leader helps shed some light on Eardley's mindset. The article reports that, while representing the government (in a hearing regarding Jim Garrison's quest to gain access to the autopsy materials), in which Dr. Cyril Wecht used the conclusions in the recently released Clark Panel report to question the competence of the original autopsists, Eardley snapped. He reportedly challenged Wecht: "But you weren't at the autopsy, were you? Have you ever attended the autopsy of a famous person like the President? You never have been surrounded by Treasury Agents, FBI agents, Admirals, and doctors, all asking to have this thing over with? It makes a difference, doesn't it?"
I'll give you a second to get over that one. Yep, the Justice Department, which from 1963-1969--the entire span of Lyndon Johnson's presidency--had insisted that Kennedy had received both an adequate and accurate autopsy, IMMEDIATELY changed tone after Johnson left office, and began touting that not only had the original autopsists made mistakes, but that these mistakes WERE NOT THEIR FAULT, but the fault of the Johnson Administration, which had failed to ensure the doctors were allowed the peace, quiet, and solitude necessary to distinguish a bullet entrance near the top of the head from one four inches away. What nonsense!!!
The Power of Suggestion
On August 23 and August 24, 1972, Dr. Cyril Wecht became the first fully independent pathologist to inspect the autopsy materials. He also became the first conspiracy theorist to see these materials. He reported his findings in a 1974 article in Forensic Science.
As a long-time critic of the original autopsy, and as a long-time proponent of forensic science, Wecht undoubtedly had a chip on his shoulder. He resented, justifiably, that military doctors with little forensic experience were chosen to perform the most important autopsy of the century. It was indeed an insult to his profession. When the Clark Panel, made up of better-qualified civilians, (Dr.s Fisher, Moritz, Carnes, and Morgan), had its report released in 1969 (and concluded that the autopsy doctors had indeed made major mistakes), moreover, one can only assume Wecht shouted "Told you so!" Well, it follows then like pee from drinking that when Wecht first saw the medical evidence in 1972, he was prepared to confirm the Clark Panel's basic findings.
Sure enough, in section 3.3 of the 1974 Forensic Science article discussing his findings, Dr. Wecht concluded "Generally speaking, the author's observations and measurements of the wounds and locations of bullet fragments are in agreement with the findings of the Clark Panel in 1968." At no point in his paper does Wecht side with the interpretations of the original autopsists over those expressed by the Clark Panel.
Wecht's failure to question the Clark Panel becomes painfully clear when one inspects Fig. 3 in his article. This is a drawing of a skull, purportedly showing the locations of the bullet fragments visible on Kennedy's x-rays. Wecht failed to properly assess the rearward tilt of the skull in the x-ray. As a result the fragment in the middle of the forehead on the x-rays was depicted just above the right eye on his drawing. Wecht described: "A fragment from this location is reported to have been removed surgically and later subjected to spectrographic analysis." Yikes! This helped fuel the mistaken and ongoing belief that the forehead fragment on the x-ray was the one recovered at autopsy. Far worse, Wecht's drawing depicted a large fragment on the back of the head by the Clark Panel's entrance. A close look at the x-ray purportedly studied by Wecht, however, shows THERE'S NO FRAGMENT THERE.
Even more intriguing, Wecht KNEW there was nothing there. In his best-selling book, Best Evidence, David Lifton reveals that he accompanied Dr. Wecht to the archives, and that they discussed Wecht's findings both during and after his examination. Lifton recalls: "During the afternoon session, it became quite obvious that Wecht had great difficulty reading the x-rays--that he couldn't find the entry wound reported by the Clark Panel or by Dr. Lattimer. There was no hole there at all, said Wecht." Lifton then recalls that he discussed this with others and told Wecht that he shouldn't be looking for a "hole", but for a "subtle shading". He then recalls that Wecht "was still not able to locate the entry wound." Lifton then recalls that he measured out the length of thread the supposed entrance would be from the external occipital protuberance and gave this to Wecht to help him find the entrance on the x-rays. He recalls "Wecht did this, and that was how he found the entrance wound in the back of President Kennedy's head." (Unstated by Lifton but clear from his account is that Wecht was unable to locate the large fragment purportedly just below this entrance wound; if he'd seen the fragment, after all, he would not have needed to use this thread to find the location of the "hole.") Lifton then cites Wecht's dictation on the "finding" of this entrance. Wecht said "This is a change in density which apparently is what is referred to in the previous panel as a 'hole.' This either takes imagination or some very sophisticated radiological expertise because it is difficult for me to consider this a hole. In any event, it has to be because it fits the measurements that they give about 100mm from the external occipital protuberance."
Thus, Dr. Cyril Wecht, under pressure from David Lifton to confirm that the autopsy doctors were wrong, and unable to conceive that the civilians on the Clark Panel were so badly mistaken, ignored his own better instincts and came to not only accept that the cowlick entrance he could not find was there, but to depict the bullet fragment purportedly just below this entrance in his exhibits.
But this was not the only point on which Wecht wrongly deferred to the Panel. When discussing the angle of descent from the back wound to the neck wound, Wecht announced "Adopting also the Clark Panel's measurement of the vertical position of the exit hole, namely 9 cm below the same crease (although the author was unable to corroborate this measurement from his own observations) we are able to compute the trajectory of the bullet relative to the horizontal and sagittal planes through the President's body at the time he was struck. The downward angle works out to be 11 1/2 degrees..." As a more accurate measurement would have helped Wecht in his efforts to debunk the single-bullet theory, Wecht's acceptance of the Clark Panel's measurements made little sense, and suggests he'd given the Clark Panel's measurements and conclusions undue weight.
Now, to be clear, I'm not the first person to go on a tirade about the medical evidence, and complain that doctors supposedly studying this evidence with an open mind were giving the findings of Russell Fisher and the Clark Panel undue weight.
Above: the relentlessly-animated Dr. Wecht.
Wecht v. World
An April 19, 1975 memo in the files of the Rockefeller Commission reveals that when Dr. Cyril Wecht spoke to the Commission's Robert Olsen, he voiced his displeasure with the make-up of the commission's medical panel. Olsen related "Dr. Wecht was very unsettled by the identity of the members of the panel. Indeed, he was very angry to the point of shouting and indulging in frequent profanity. He said that almost the whole panel is made up of people from the Washington-Baltimore community; that all of them are under the control and influence of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland, Dr. Russell Fisher; that we should have looked elsewhere for impartial experts; that Dr. Fisher is a very strong-willed and influential man who has succeeded in getting more Federal grants in the field of forensic pathology than all other doctors in the United States combined...Dr. Wecht readily acknowledged the professional qualifications of all members of our panel. He said that among their fellow professionals each enjoyed a high standing. He stated, however, that it was wholly unrealistic to expect that anybody on this panel would express views different from those expressed by the Ramsey Clark Panel in 1968, which included Dr. Fisher and a radiologist from Johns Hopkins, Dr. Russell Morgan."
It seems Wecht knew of which he spoke.
Perhaps Wecht was thinking of Paul L. Kirk. Kirk was a respected criminalist, whose post-conviction study of the blood-spatter evidence in the Sam Sheppard murder case (the basis for the TV show and movie The Fugitive) brought Sheppard a new trial, and release. Understandably, this greatly upset Samuel Gerber, the coroner whose work helped convict Sheppard in the first place. Gerber is reported to have been so upset by this, in fact, that he retaliated against Kirk by using his influence with his fellow coroners to deny Kirk membership in the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. (This blackballing was only partially corrected by the Academy's naming a yearly award for excellence after Kirk. The Paul Kirk award was first issued in 1979, at which point Kirk had been dead for nine years.)
Or perhaps Wecht was thinking of a more benign form of influence, that was used against himself. It goes without saying that people indebted to Fisher would be less likely to question his conclusions than those with a clean slate. It should also be evident that, once fed an interpretation of facts from someone one respects, it is difficult to completely shake off their interpretation and see this set of facts with fresh eyes.
In any event, Wecht's letter to Olsen was far from the only time he complained about the make-up of the panel. An interview of Wecht published in the October 1975 issue of Physician's Management shows that in the intervening months he had not only failed to cool down, but had actually heated up. He said the creation of the panel was "part of the cover-up" and described the panel's members as "government sycophants." He pointed out, and with good reason, that of all the lawyers in America who could be charged with heading an investigation into the CIA's illegal activities, and re-investigating the medical aspects of the Kennedy assassination, President Gerald Ford, the only member of the Warren Commission to write a book on his experience and tie his reputation to the single-bullet theory, picked David Belin, a corporate attorney from Iowa, whose only qualification came from his experience with the Warren Commission, and his being the only member of the commission's staff to write a book on his experience, and tie his reputation to the single-bullet theory.
And that wasn't the only reason for Wecht to be skeptical of Belin. The most revealing supposed fact at odds with the Warren Commission's findings to have emerged by 1975 was that the autopsy doctors had incorrectly recorded the location of the bullet entrance on the back of Kennedy's head, and had incorrectly presented this location on the commission's exhibits. And yet, Belin had not only made no mention of this in his defense of the commission, November 22, 1963: You are the Jury (1973) but had knowingly misrepresented this fact, falsely dramatizing, that, when describing the 15 by 6 mm entrance wound described in the autopsy report, Humes would be describing an entrance wound "at the top of the head." It seems clear, then, that Belin was out to conceal problems with the commission's investigation, and was one of the last men one would want to lead a re-investigation of its findings.
On May 5, 1978, moreover, Wecht issued a press release in which he once again attacked the make-up of the Rockefeller Commission's Panel. As three of the panel's members--Dr. Spitz, Dr. Lindenberg, and Dr. Wecht himself--had been trained by the Clark Panel's Dr. Fisher, and as Spitz had co-edited a book, Medicolegal Investigation of Death (to which Dr. Lindenberg had contributed), with Fisher, and as yet another panelist--Dr. Fred Hodges--was both a colleague of the Clark Panel's Dr. Morgan at Johns Hopkins University and the nephew of Morgan's mentor, Dr. Paul Hodges, it is easy to see Wecht's point. But it's worse than that. The other two members of the Rockefeller Commission panel were equally unlikely to question the conclusions of the Warren Commission and Clark Panel. One of these--Dr. Robert McMeekin--was a colleague of one of Kennedy's autopsists, Dr. Pierre Finck, at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and the other, Dr. Alfred Olivier, had actually been the Warren Commission's wound ballistics expert.
Not that Robert Olsen, to whom Wecht initially complained, was concerned about this, mind you. In the Rockefeller Commission's files there is a Memo to File by Olsen on the creation of the medical panel. It acknowledges that Olsen called an expert at NASA regarding the movements of Kennedy's head in the Zapruder film, and that this expert referred him to Dr. Charles Stahl at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and that Stahl, in turn, referred him to Dr. McMeekin. It was then decided that a panel should be formed. McMeekin suggested Lindenberg and Spitz. He also suggested Dr. Charles Petty. Olsen rejected Petty, however, as Petty was at that time the Chief Medical Examiner of Dallas, Texas, the scene of the assassination. Lindenberg then suggested Olivier and Hodges. Presumably, Olsen didn't realize that birds of a feather...well, you know.
In any event, Wecht wasn't the only one flying off on a rant in 1975, as the Rocky commission's re-examination of the medical evidence by government sycophants (or otherwise) ruffled a few feathers. In May 1975, former Warren Commission counsel W. David Slawson and Richard M. Mosk wrote an article for the L.A. Times arguing that any re-investigation of the assassination be restricted to the behavior of the FBI and CIA, and that there was no need to re-investigate the actual crime. This was a flip from Slawson's position in 1966 that a re-investigation of the medical evidence could prevent an investigation of the behavior of the FBI and CIA. Anyhow, in this article the dynamic duo made the amazing claim that "The evidence concerning the wounds conclusively dispels the idea of shots from the front...The wounds both slanted downward from Kennedy's back. This is clear beyond doubt from the autopsy and from the photographs and X rays of the body...to doubt the evidence of the wounds is to label as liars the doctors who examined the body, the pictures and the X rays for the commission."
Well, this was more disgusting nonsense. Pure horseshit... 1) The wounds did not both slant downward. The head wound, as originally interpreted, slanted upward. The wound was then re-interpreted, and re-located, so that the wound could slant downward. 2) Claiming that doubting the medical evidence is to label the autopsy doctors "liars" is hypocrisy at its worst. Did Slawson and Mosk forget that the government itself doubted the interpretations of the autopsy doctors, and embraced a review of their work in which it was declared they'd incorrectly recorded and remembered the location of the fatal head wound? If not, then why did they not only not denounce this outrage, but embrace the review themselves, by claiming the head wound slanted downward? 3) Slawson and Mosk knew DAMN WELL that the doctors were forbidden from examining the body, pictures and X rays for the commission, and their pretending they were not is offensive. No, more than offensive. The rapid fire assault on the truth by these men is so brazen, in fact, that their own words label themselves as "liars" and hypocrites, for then and evermore.
And they were far from alone... A June 2, 1975 article in Medical World News on the Rockefeller Commission Panel included a few choice quotes from Dr. Fisher. On the possibility congress would open its own investigation of the assassination, and conduct a thorough re-examination of the medical evidence, he whined: "I think it would be a waste of time and taxpayers' money...And it implies that people who did previous work were dishonest." Wow. What a freakin' hypocrite! Fisher had no problem second-guessing the autopsy doctors, and re-interpreting the location of the entrance wound on Kennedy's head, but felt insulted congress might not just take his word on it.
It's worse than that. Fisher knew full well that his 1968 examination of the evidence had been woefully inadequate. But he nevertheless sought to cut off a re-examination, almost certainly out of concerns for his own reputation. From the very same June 2, 1975 article in which Fisher denounced any further examination: “In 1968, when Fisher was on the Clark Panel, he and the other three doctors were permitted only to view available evidence concerning the President and not permitted to view any medical records or x-rays of John Connally. They concluded there was no significant error in the Warren Commission’s procedure or autopsy report. ‘It wasn’t the most accomplished procedure,’ admits Dr. Fisher. ‘But that’s not new. The worst has already been said about it. For instance, the president’s brain was missing. I hope they didn’t let it dry out.’”
Wait. What? Fisher acknowledges that his 1968 examination—which was used to support that two men were wounded by the same bullet—was confined to the records of one of the men, and that he was not shown the brain, which was not sectioned for the photographs taken at autopsy, of the death-by-gunshot-to-the-brain victim (namely, President Kennedy) whose records he did see. And yet this does not amount to a significant problem?
This boggles the brain (mine, not Kennedy’s). At the time of this article, 1975, Kennedy’s brain was thought to have been available. To be clear, the article relates: “The President’s brain, removed and set in formalin, was listed as missing from the archive for more than ten years. Just over a month ago it was found in the archives but not made available to the most recent panel of experts to visit there.” And yet Fisher thinks an examination of this newly found brain would be “a waste of time and taxpayers’ money”? This is the pre-eminent forensic pathologist in the country—who has been spending taxpayers’ money on brain examinations of all types—from homeless people to housewives—for decades. And here he is saying that performing an examination on the previously un-sectioned brain of someone who was shot in the brain would be a waste of time.
He’s lying. It’s disgusting to think about—more disgusting than a brain examination even. But he’s lying.
And he bloody well knew it. On 7-17-78 Fisher was contacted via telephone by HSCA counsel Andy Purdy. According to Purdy’s notes (which I was able to pry from the archives in 2022), Fisher asked for the brain in 1968 (“No brain—asked for it”) but was “Told not available.” Apparently, Fisher then expressed regret about this. The notes continue: “Examination of damage to head a lot less satisfying without brain than would have been with it.”
So, yeah, Fisher was a massive hypocrite, or major politician, take your pick. He told the public no further examination of the Kennedy medical evidence should be performed, even if the brain was now available, while secretly admitting he’d felt his own examination of the evidence was unsatisfying due to his inability to examine the brain.
His campaign to cut off a new examination dragged on for years, moreover. The March 1977 article on Fisher in the Maryland State Medical Journal and a March 22 1977 article on Dr. Lattimer carried by the Ridder News Service revealed that although they each had come to conclusions contrary to those of the autopsy doctors while performing their own limited examinations of the medical evidence, they felt no further investigation was necessary. Even more disturbing, a September 16, 1977 article distributed by UPI reported that Dr. Russell Morgan had spoken at Michigan State University the day before, and had told reporters that "Mr. Kennedy's X-rays showed conclusively that a single-bullet fired from behind was the cause of death" and that "Congressional investigators should concentrate on other elements in their inquiry into the assassination."
Well, this is quite interesting. The last time Dr. Morgan had been quoted in the press about the assassination was but days before Dr. Cyril Wecht was to become the first non-government-affiliated pathologist to view the assassination materials at the archives, and in effect review his findings. And now, on the day before 6 members of the HSCA pathology panel were to visit the archives and review his findings, and meet with Dr. Humes (whose findings he'd rejected), Morgan re-appears, urging that no new study of the X-rays be conducted. In this context, his words read like a threat. Should everyone to look at the autopsy materials in between these two appearances have confirmed his findings, that would be one thing...but in 1975, Dr. Fred Hodges, a Professor of Radiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where Morgan served as Dean, was asked to study Kennedy's X-rays on behalf the Rockefeller Commission, and had provided them a report which directly contradicted Morgan's re-interpretation of the head wound location. Yes, in a little discussed report long withheld from the public, in a passage rarely if ever quoted before I started broadcasting it all over the internet, Hodges refuted the findings of the Clark Panel, noting instead that "a small round hole visible from the intracranial side after the brain was removed is described in the autopsy report in the right occipital bone, and many of the linear fracture lines converge on the described site." Even worse, for Morgan, was the next line: "The appearance is in keeping with the colored photographs showing a large, compound, comminuted injury in the right frontal region, and a small round soft tissue wound in the occipital region." Morgan, of course, had claimed there was no wound in the occipital bone on the X-rays or photographs, and had pushed the Clark Panel into concluding the wound was actually four inches or more higher on the back of Kennedy's skull, in the parietal bone.
Hodges' then still-secret report was thus bad news for Morgan. And seeing as Morgan was Hodges' boss, it was bad news that Morgan would almost certainly have discovered. It follows then that Morgan's urging congressional investigators to forget about the X-rays and focus on other matters may not have been so innocent, and was instead a plea designed to protect his own reputation. While this might seem a little harsh, let's remember Morgan's viewpoint but five years earlier. While he once was reportedly of the opinion that the X-rays were "produced in a hurry under extremely trying conditions" and were of "poor quality" and "severely over-exposed.," and that "great care and special techniques would be required before they would show the conclusive evidence," he now claimed they "showed conclusively that a single-bullet fired from behind was the cause of death" and that no further investigation was necessary. Perhaps he'd simply changed his mind and no longer felt the cowlick entrance he'd thought he'd "discovered" was a necessary ingredient to the single-assassin conclusion, and worth verifying. Or perhaps he simply didn't care if Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy or not, as long as his own reputation was protected.
Wecht v. World 2
In 1993, in his book Cause of Death, Dr. Wecht once again questioned the impartiality of his colleagues. This time, however, it was the impartiality of his colleagues on the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, whose reports, much as the Rockefeller Commission Panel before them, pretty much rubber-stamped the findings of Dr. Russell Fisher and the Clark Panel. When discussing why he alone among the panel was willing to dispute the single-bullet theory, which he calls "absolute nonsense," and the concurrent conclusion that there was only one shooter, Wecht reveals: "I believe it's more of a pre-determined mindset that many of my colleagues have that a cover-up or conspiracy of this magnitude by the federal government is unthinkable, or, at the very least, unlikely. Just as lawyers disagree over what a particular law or court ruling means, forensic pathologists frequently have differences of opinion. I have no reason whatsoever to doubt my colleagues' sincerity. However, it should be noted that many of these same people had a long-standing involvement with the federal government--many had received federal grants for research and appointments to various influential government boards. To be highly critical of a government action could end that friendly relationship with Uncle Sam."
Wecht was actually being far too kind. It is incredibly suspicious that, of the nine pathologists on the HSCA panel, six had embraced a professional relationship with Dr. Russell Fisher, whose findings they would be reviewing. Dr. Spitz had not only been trained by Fisher, he'd been closely associated with Fisher since 1959. He had worked as Fisher's assistant or Deputy from 1965 to 1972, and had co-edited the widely-praised book Medicolegal Investigation of Death with Fisher.
And Spitz was not the only one reviewing Fisher's findings to have a clear-cut conflict of interest. Dr.s Baden and Weston had contributed articles to Medicolegal Investigation of Death.
And then there's Dr. Petty... Dr. Petty had not only worked for Dr. Nicholas Chetta, the coroner of Orleans Parish (who'd performed the 1967 autopsy on the central figure in Jim Garrison's investigation of Kennedy's assassination, David Ferrie, and who'd concluded Ferrie's suspiciously-timed death had been by natural causes), he'd studied poisons while working with him (as discussed in a 3-29-56 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune). By 1958, Petty had become an assistant to Dr. Fisher in the Maryland State Medical Examiner's Office. While there, moreover, he formed a long-lasting friendship with his future HSCA Pathology Panel co-panelist Dr. Werner Spitz. (An article in the June 1961 Journal of Forensic Science was, incredibly, attributed to Fisher, Spitz, and Petty--three colleagues who would somehow (by chance?) become the driving forces behind the Clark, Rockefeller Commission, and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panels--the three government-sanctioned civilian panels to investigate Kennedy's death. The Maryland Manual of 1965-1966, found online, moreover, lists the employees of the Department of Post-Mortem Examiners, and lists Fisher as Chief Medical Examiner, followed by three assistant medical examiners, two of whom were Werner Spitz and Charles Petty.)
But that wasn't the end of Petty's journey. In 1969--two years after he left Maryland for Indiana and the year after his mentor Dr. Fisher led the Clark Panel, Dr. Petty became the Chief Medical Examiner for Dallas. Yes, THAT Dallas. THE Dallas. Now, this made Petty's appearance on the HSCA Pathology Panel a conflict of interest...four times over: 1) his relationship with Chetta; 2) his relationship with Fisher; 3) his relationship with Spitz, who'd already confirmed Fisher's findings for the Rockefeller Commission; and 4) his relationship with the City of Dallas.
But it gets worse. Far worse. In July, 1977, Petty revealed his ongoing relationship with Fisher by co-editing a book with him, Forensic Pathology: A Handbook For Pathologists. This was published in July, 1977, only two months before Petty reviewed Fisher's findings for the House Select Committee. Even more shocking, Forensic Pathology was written under contract to the Justice Department, under whose guidance Fisher had made his findings in 1968. And even more shocking--but not all that surprising when one really stops to think about it--of the twelve contributors to Forensic Pathology beyond Fisher, four ended up on the HSCA panel reviewing Fisher's findings.
Now how can this be? Does it make any sense whatsoever that, of the six pathologists to enter the archives on 9-17-77 and review the medical evidence, four--Dr.s Petty, Baden, Coe, and Loquvam--had contributed to a book written for the Justice Department only months before? And that this book was edited by the prestigious Dr. Fisher, whose findings they would be reviewing? And that of the remaining two, one--Dr. Joseph Davis--was both trained under Stanley Durlacher, an early protege of Fisher's, and a former co-worker with Dr. Petty in the New Orleans coroner's office, and the other--Dr. Earl Rose--was the Medical Examiner for Dallas in 1963, and highly unlikely to say anything that might suggest a conspiracy, and cast doubt upon the "innocence" of his former home?
And what about the second part of the panel, made up of those who'd already studied the evidence? Does it make any sense whatsoever that Dr. Wecht was deliberately isolated on a panel in which the other two members--Dr.s Spitz and Weston--were not only close associates of Dr. Fisher's, but had already gone on record as saying the evidence supported Fisher's findings?
The answer, of course, is that it does make sense--but only if you accept that the membership of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel and its organization was designed to protect the reputations of Dr. Russell Fisher and the Clark Panel.
Not to mention the Justice Department, the creators of the Clark Panel...
I mean, let's get serious. Before they could be accepted to a panel reviewing Dr. Fisher's findings, Dr.s Spitz and Petty, at the very least, should have been asked to sign a statement saying they hadn't discussed the case with their colleague and mentor Dr. Fisher. That they were not asked to do so, and that, apparently, this issue never came up, speaks volumes and proves that the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel was infected from its onset.
This infection, moreover, was not limited to the pathologists on the HSCA's pathology panel. A quick google search of the panel's chief radiology consultant, Dr. G.M. McDonnel, reveals that he served as a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army Medical Corps throughout the 1950's, studying the effects of radiation on soldiers and civilians on behalf the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. It reveals further that by June 1960, while still in the Army, he'd become a member of the National Committee on Radiation Protection and Measurements. a committee set up to determine the safety (and danger) of various doses of radiation. It reveals also that in August 1961 a 195-page report on a 1957 project run by McDonnel, Effects of Nuclear Detonations on a Large Biological Specimen (Swine), was published by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, and that its corporate author was listed as the Walter Reed Institute of Research in Washington D.C.
Now this would be bad enough. McDonnel did not testify before the HSCA, so his background, outside his being a radiologist working at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, went largely unexplored. Few, if any, people studying the Kennedy assassination medical evidence realized he'd been aresearcher for the U.S. Army, who'd worked out of Washington, D.C.
But it's even worse than that. A 9-28-61 UPI article (found in the Lakeland Ledger) reveals that McDonnel was by that time teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles. This article did more than reveal McDonnell's latest position, however. It revealed that McDonnel had just spoken at the 62nd meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society, and had been part of a three member panel pushing that the "dangers to mankind because of atomic tests are 'highly exaggerated.'" This article reported further that Dr. "McDonnell said recent measurements have gone to 500 but they would have to go to 'several million' before there would be real concern. He said x-ray workers have been exposed to many times the present readings without ill effects...Dr. McDonnel said some people in India have lived for generations literally on top of a radium bed. 'I don't think they will be harmed at all until someone comes along and tells them they are in real danger,' he added."
And Dr. McDonnel wasn't the only member of the panel downplaying the harmful effects of radiation. Another member claimed: "I am much less concerned with the fallout than with the arms race behind it." This member was Dr. Russell Morgan, of Johns Hopkins University, the very doctor whose findings on Kennedy's x-rays Dr. McDonnel would later be called on to review. Johns Hopkins University is, by the way, only 40 miles from Walter Reed Hospital. The Johns Hopkins Radiology notebook, availableonline, reveals that Morgan served in Washington as a Commander in the U.S. Public Health Service during World War II, and that he conducted research at a special laboratory built for him in Rockville, Maryland, but 8 miles away from Dr. McDonnel's base of operations at Walter Reed. It seems likely, then, that Dr.s McDonnel and Morgan were well familiar with one another, and quite possibly close colleagues.
Now, can I prove this? No. But it can be shown they met more than once, as a government document found online reveals that on 5-18-61 McDonnel and Morgan served on an 11-member panel convened by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to discuss the building of an Environmental Center in, hmmm, Rockville, Maryland.
And it seems likely their government service overlapped... McDonnel was born in 1919. He was in his early 20's at the outbreak of World War II. While I have not found a record of his induction into the Army, it makes little sense to assume this occurred after the war. This, in turn, suggests he was on active duty during Morgan's stint with the Public Health Service from 1944-1946. Perhaps, then, they worked together. It's unclear what Morgan's work for the Public Health Service entailed, but his pre-war employer, the University of Chicago, studied the dangers of radioactivity for the Manhattan Project, thedevelopers of the atomic bomb, and he may very well have continued this study at his lab in Rockville. The earliest record I can find of McDonnel is a 3-26-50 AP newspaper article (found in the Daily Iowan). The article relates that "An Army doctor says many physicians have an exaggerated idea about the dangers of radioactivity in an atom-bombed area. Major G.M. McDonnel says it's safe to enter a bombed area two minutes after the blast of an air-burst bomb--and that doctors and everyone else should bear this in mind lest there be unnecessary delay in rescue work if atomic disaster strikes this nation. He said in an interview this would hold true for any A-bomb. He declared that this would be the most likely method used in any attack since an airburst causes the greatest amount of destruction. McDonnel is with the Armed Forces' 'Special Weapons Project.' If A-bombs are employed in an attack, said McDonnel, rescue workers should be prepared to go in fast with bandages, blood, and bulldozers--'and never mind waiting for a geiger counter to see if the radioactivity is within safe limits.'" This article was sent out of Washington.
So, yeah, Morgan and McDonnel knew each other, and may very well have worked together.
But, even if they didn't, what are the odds that, in 1961, at the height of the Cold War, three radiologists would appear before a meeting of their colleagues and try to convince them that the radiation released by the military's nuclear tests was of little or no danger to the public, and that 7 years later one of these radiologists would be called upon to study the x-rays of the murdered president who stopped these tests, and that, 10 years after that, another would be called upon to review his findings? I mean, could this really be a coincidence? Or was something else going on, whereby the consultants called upon by the government were not random, but were selected from a small pool of friends and associates known to be supportive of the government's objectives?
We have reason to suspect the latter.
HSCA Ida Dox Drawings
With the re-opening of the investigation by the HSCA, there was great optimism that this time the medical experts would get things right and not present the American people with anything as misleading as the Rydberg drawings. But this was not to be. When one compares the HSCA’s drawings of the damage to the President’s skull with the HSCA’s drawing of the back of the President’s head taken from what is purported to be an actual autopsy photo, it is easy to discern that something is wrong. While the first depicts an explosion of bone fragments from the back of the head, the drawing from the autopsy photo depicts this portion of the head as intact, with the only area missing bone a line of fracture from the top of the President’s head down towards his right temple. While the argument could be made that the first drawing depicted bones from the back of the head blown out of the hole by the temple, the testimony of the autopsy surgeons reflected that the skull high on the back of the head near the new Clark Panel-determined in-shoot, although badly fractured, remained beneath the scalp. It makes little sense then that the skull fragments exploding from just in front of the entrance in the cowlick in the first drawing represent fragments which the second drawing demonstrates came from the front half of Kennedy's skull. That the drawing depicting the fragments fails to depict the blown-out “wing” of bone near Kennedy’s temple, which is clearly evident on the autopsy drawing, is yet further testament to its inaccuracy.
So how did this inaccurate drawing come to be? Helpfully, HSCA medical illustrator Ida Dox testified “a skull was used that had the dimensions of the President’s and the photographs of the retrieved bone fragments were traced to get the outline. This paper was cut out along the outline and taped on the skull in the position that the x-rays indicated there was bone missing, and from this paper and skull reconstruction I made my drawing.” Sounds pretty scientific. Unfortunately, the aforementioned x-rays in fact showed there was plenty of skull left towards the back of the head, and that the recovered fragments must have come from somewhere closer to the wound of exit near the President’s right ear.
This is no simple mistake, mind you. This is a real whopper. From this one can only conclude that the HSCA medical panel, and its chief spokesman Dr. Michael Baden, were fairly clueless, that they were deliberately trying to deceive, or that they were both fairly clueless and deliberately trying to deceive.
I'm leaning to the last one.
Above: Dr. Michael Baden. Let's put him in the Moritz camp of pathologists who aren't afraid of looking goofy.
While it’s true that soft-nosed bullets are designed to gradually peel back as the bullet traverses flesh, as this gives the bullet more stopping power, full metal jacket bullets like the ones purportedly fired from Oswald’s rifle are designed not to break-up at all. As a result, it takes a tremendous impact to break-up such a bullet. The bullet striking Kennedy was shattered and scattered. While Warren Commission defenders have argued that this break-up could have occurred as the bullet crossed the brain, they usually ignore the fact that no wound track connecting the entrance wound and exit wounds cited at autopsy could be identified within the brain, and that the bullet fragments supposedly marking the Warren Commission's proposed path from the entrance observed at autopsy to the large defect presumably of exit were later revealed to have been inches above this trajectory.
This "mistake" on the part of the autopsists, furthermore, was a major factor in the HSCA's rubber-stamping of the Clark Panel conclusions.
When discussing why his panel had rejected the findings of the autopsists, who'd actually seen Kennedy's body, on the location of the entrance wound on the skull, Dr. Baden explained: "In discussions with the three doctors and looking together at the same photographs, the doctors who did the autopsy feel that what we identify as an entry wound is an artifact, perhaps dried blood, and not a perforation. I think that the committee will have opportunity to hear testimony from Dr. Humes, who did perform the autopsy, later today, and he can give you his reasoning. We, as the panel members, do feel after close examination of the negatives and photographs under magnification of that higher perforation, that it is unquestionably a perforation of entrance; and we feel very strongly, and this is unanimous, all nine members, that X-rays clearly show the entrance perforation in the skull to be immediately beneath this perforation in the upper scalp skin; and further, although the original examination of the brain was not complete, photographs of the brain were examined by the panel members, and do show the injury to the brain itself is on the top portion of the brain. The bottom portion or undersurface of the brain, which would have had to have been injured if the bullet perforated in the lower area as indicated in the autopsy report, was intact. If a bullet entered in this lower area, the cerebellum portion of the brain would have had to be injured and it was not injured. So that is the basis for what remains a disagreement between our panel and the original autopsy doctors."
Above: Dr. Michael Baden testifies before the HSCA. Here he is pointing out the location of what he has concluded was an entrance wound. Strangely, however, this entrance wound was not only not observed at autopsy, but was 4 inches or so above the entrance wound observed at autopsy.
The panel's unanimous conclusion, moreover, was echoed by the Committee's wound ballistics expert, Larry Sturdivan. When shown the skull x-rays, and asked to comment on the location of the wound track, Sturdivan testified: "There is extensive deformation at the top of the skull which indicates that the radial velocity that was imparted to the tissue, broke it open and, therefore, relieved the pressure at the top, well, either to the right or the left, since you can't distinguish on an X-ray. You would presume, then, that the soft tissue, which was badly damaged, would have moved somewhat in the direction of that relieved pressure and, therefore, would be displaced somewhat upward from the original track. So, I would place the original track as being somewhat lower than that trail of fragments indicated through there; certainly not much lower...there is no indication of any track in the lower half of the skull. It definitely was in the upper part."
Well, this pretty much destroys the bullet trajectory as outlined by the Warren Commission, and suggests that the Clark Panel and HSCA were correct in searching for another entrance. The controversy can then be concluded in their favor. Right?
Well, not so fast... Unfortunately, there are problems with their proposed location as well. Since the damage to the upper brain started just left of the new-found entrance in the cowlick and led straight across the skull to the forehead, and since the expected trajectory through Kennedy would have been an ever-widening cone of fragments centered around an out-shoot above the temple, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel should have suspected that something was not quite right. I mean, why didn't any of the fragments from this ever-widening cone embed within the brain on a level below the trajectory from the sniper's nest?
There is reason to suspect someone asked this question. And found no answer. It seems more than a coincidence that not one HSCA exhibit depicts the break-up of the bullet as it traversed the skull from its entrance near the cowlick. Curiously, the drawings used by the HSCA to depict beveling on the skull, the analysis of which led both the autopsy doctors and the HSCA to conclude the fatal bullet was fired from behind, depicted an intact bullet like those used in Oswald’s rifle entering and exiting a skull, even though, according to the HSCA’s own findings, which held that there was a circular bullet fragment embedded on the back of Kennedy's head, this did not happen. This is undoubtedly confusing.
There is reason to suspect, then, that Exhibit F-66, made to the specifications of Dr. Michael Baden, was inaccurate and deceptive.
The One Inch Deception
When one studies Dr. Baden's 9-7-78 HSCA testimony, moreover, one finds even more reason to distrust Dr. Baden and his panel. Within his testimony Dr. Baden had pronounced that the original autopsists had pulled a major blunder, and were 4 inches off on the vertical measurement of the entry wound on the back of Kennedy's head. He explained this, moreover, by offering that "preparing the autopsy report 24 hours after the autopsy was completed and after the body had been removed may have contributed to the more significant mistake of placing the gunshot wound of entrance 4 inches lower than it actually was. The description of the size and shape of the entry wound is correct, but the location of it is incorrect perhaps due to reliance on memory."
He also pronounced that the only problem with the location of the entrance wound was its vertical location, as its horizontal location matched that of the wound described in the autopsy protocol. To wit, while describing Exhibit F-66, Baden proclaimed that the drawing depicted "the path of the bullet entering the right upper head region approximately 1 inch to the right of the midline of the body." Well, this was essentially the same measurement (2.5 cm) provided in the autopsy protocol.
Now, this, no doubt, brought some solace to the committee. Yes, in telling the committee that the "cowlick" entrance discovered by his colleagues on the Clark Panel, and confirmed by his own panel was, yessiree, one inch from the midline, precisely as the Clark Panel claimed when they wrote that their study of of the photos x-rays led them to conclude a bullet "entered the occipital region 25 mm to the right of the midline," Baden was as good as saying that the proposed entrance in the cowlick "discovered" by the Clark Panel was the entrance wound described in the autopsy report, only 4 inches higher.
But he was lying. A close examination of the drawings created by Ida Dox, under Baden's direction, proves that the supposed entrance wound in the cowlick, in Baden's impression, was much much closer to the midline than the 2.5 cm measured at autopsy. It was, in fact, more like 1 cm from the midline. This is best demonstrated in HSCA Figure 24 (shown on the slide above). If one assumes the 2.5 cm measurement to the entrance location means to the closest part of the entrance hole, then the skull in this drawing would be about 18 inches wide. If one assumes the 2.5 cm to the entrance location means to the center of the entrance hole, on the other hand, it shrinks down to the much more reasonable 15 inches wide.
I'm joking, of course. A skull 15 inches wide is still a huge problem, seeing as the average skull is less than 7 inches wide.
And no, the drawings didn't misrepresent the location of the proposed wound in the cowlick. A close comparison of HSCA Fig. 13, a tracing of the autopsy photo in which the supposed cowlick entrance wound is depicted, proves both that the cowlick entrance was not an inch from the midline of the skull, and that the cowlick entrance "discovered" by the Clark Panel, and pushed by the HSCA pathology panel, was at odds with both measurements provided in the autopsy protocol for the wound's location. It was not "slightly above" the level of the External Occipital Protuberance, and it was not 2.5 cm to the right of this protuberance.
And it appears the panel knew this was the case. Yes, when the panel put out its final report, there was no rubber stamp of the Clark Panel's claim the wound was 25 mm to the right of the midline, nor of Dr. Baden's testimony the wound was approximately one inch from the midline. No, here, in their final report, published long after the committee had ceased to function, they quietly admitted that the entrance wound was only "slightly to the right of the midline."
And that wasn't the only point on which they contradicted Baden. They also claimed the entrance wound in the cowlick was 15-20 by 9 mm. This was 50% wider than the 15 by 6 mm wound described in the autopsy protocol. Well, so much for Dr. Baden's testimony assuring the committee his panel's proposed wound in the cowlick was the same size and shape as the wound measured at autopsy!
According to his own panel's final report, he had falsely testified regarding the size, shape, and location of the presumed wound in the cowlick.
And that was not the only bit of salesmanship performed by Dr. Baden...
One Out of Three is Bad
Nope, not at all. The 1979 Report of the HSCA's Forensic Pathology Panel also claimed:
The panel examined photographs of the back of the head, including: Black and white negatives and prints Nos. 15 and 16; color transparencies Nos. 42 and 43; and correspondingly numbered color prints of the back of the head. These were studied with both the naked eye and 10X magnification. The photographs again all appear to have been taken from approximately the same position, and stereoscopic visualization of the two 4 by 5 inch color transparencies enables three dimensional perception. In the center of the photographs is a vertical centimeter ruler, which, by stereoscopic visualization, is demonstrated to be slightly closer to the camera than the adjacent skin surface. The upper portion of the ruler, which is in sharpest focus, is adjacent to a slightly oval scalp defect located in the "cowlick" area of the scalp just above or superior to a line drawn between the superior or upper margins of the area. (See fig. 13, a drawing of the back of the President's head.) This defect is partially covered by hair and dried blood. This wound is located considerably above the occipital protuberance, slightly to the right of the midline, and approximately 13 centimeters above the most prominent neck crease. It has a maximum vertical diameter in the photograph of approximately 1.5 to 2 centimeters, and maximum transverse diameter of approximately 0.9 centimeter.
Now, that's a lot to take in, and we'll be going back to this from time to time...
But, for now, let's just focus on one simple claim: a ruler was at the center of the autopsy photos of the back of the head and this ruler was "adjacent" to an oval defect--what the panel presumed to be the entrance of a bullet on the back of Kennedy's head.
Well, there's a problem with this. As demonstrated on the slide above, three of the four photos of the back of Kennedy's head have been published since the time of the panel's report, and only one of them shows a ruler close to the oval defect presumed to have been the bullet hole. The HSCA published a tracing of a photo in which the ruler was by the presumed bullet hole. The color print from which this was traced was subsequently published by HSCA photo analyst Robert Groden in his book The Killing of The President, and is shown on the slides above. But Groden also published a cropped version of the other colored print. The ruler in this photo was an inch or so away from the supposed bullet hole. And this was years after David Lifton published one of the black and white photos. Well, there was no ruler at all in this black and white photo.
Now, it's always possible the photo Lifton published had been cropped. And it's possible the ruler in the second photo published by Groden was supposed to demonstrate the size of the supposed bullet hole, but was held too far away. But that doesn't excuse the HSCA panel for pretending the ruler was by the supposed hole in all these photos, and in the center of the frame. This clearly wasn't true. And their presenting it as such can be taken as a by-product of their determination to sell that the autopsy doctors were wrong, and that the bullet really entered where Dr. Fisher had told them it had entered--by the cowlick.
A Matter of Size
That the HSCA Panel was less than reliable can be demonstrated in other ways as well. Their claim the red spot in the cowlick was an entrance wound measuring as much as 20 mm in length is easily refuted. One can accomplish this in numerous ways. As shown above, one can match the width of the overexposed ruler in the back of the head photo with the width of the ruler as seen in other photos (and as made legible by researcher Martin Hinrichs)...and from this one can measure the red spot. Well, the length for the spot was 12 mm, not the 15-20 mm claimed by the panel.
One can then verify this by measuring the length of the red spot in comparison to the overall head. As shown on the slide above, the length of the red spot was 1/10th the distance from the top of the red spot down to the hairline. Well, do the math. If the red spot is 20 mm, this would make the distance from the top of the red spot to the hairline 200 mm--almost 8 inches. And this while the head is tilted backwards! Such a measurement is ludicrous on its face. And the proposal of such a measurement by a panel of prominent forensic pathologists--or even a panel of less than prominent garbagemen--is indicative of either their overall incompetence, or their refusal to take their responsibilities regarding the assassination seriously.
Or does that sound too harsh? Sometimes I do overstate the case. So let's look at this from yet another angle. The panel claimed the red spot was 100 mm above the EOP, a small bump on the back of Kennedy's head. IF the red spot was 20 mm long, well, then, the middle of the red spot was 190 mm above the hairline. Now, if the red spot was 100 mm above the EOP, as claimed by the forensic pathology panel, then this places the EOP 90 mm above the hairline. 90 mm is more than 3 1/2 inches. The EOP, of course, is at the middle of the back of the head. It sits just above the middle of the ear when the head is held erect. Well, measure this on yourself. And then ask yourself: did JFK's hairline reside 3 1/2 inches below his EOP? Because, to my mind, there's just no way. An inch, an inch-and-a-half tops.
So let's go back and plug in a more realistic number. If the red spot was 12 mm, as measured, then the hairline was 120 mm from the top of the red spot. The middle of the spot was thereby 114 mm from the hairline. This is roughly 4 1/2 inches. Well, if the red spot was 100 mm above the EOP, this puts the EOP about a half inch above the hairline. That's too small. Now, at this point we should recall that the head is tilted backward in the photo, and that this backward tilt would tend to reduce the size of the back of the head in comparison to the ruler. And that the ruler was held a bit above the back of the head, making the objects behind the ruler appear to be a bit smaller than they really were.
So let's plug in that the red spot was actually 13 mm, and that the EOP was actually 90 mm below the red spot. In such case, the middle of the red spot would be 123 mm above the hairline, and the EOP would be about 33 mm--an inch and a quarter--above the hairline. Now, this makes perfect sense. I'm a layman, without any real world experience in guesstimating the size of bullet wounds, and I figured this out in about 20 minutes. Are we really supposed to believe that nine of the top forensic pathologists in the country couldn't come up with something equally reasonable after viewing the autopsy photos at the national archives, and having a tracing of a back-of-the-head photo at their disposal, for months and months and months?
There is simply no way a competent body of medical professionals could conclude the so-called cowlick entrance was 20 mm long. It made no freakin' sense. And the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel's doing so is a significant problem for their reputations.
Wounds of Contention
The panel's blind support of the Clark Panel, and/or its refusal to take its responsibility regarding the assassination seriously, proved to be an even bigger problem, however...for Dr. James J. Humes.
Although the Clark Panel "moved" the location of the entrance on the back of JFK's head in 1968, and Dr. Morgan revealed this to the public in 1972, this re-location was little noted in the press, and apparently news to Dr. Humes in 1977.
Here's HSCA counsel Andy Purdy, in notes written after an 8-10-77 phone call with Humes: "I asked Dr. Humes about his knowledge of the Clark Panel Report. He said he knows some of the people that served on it and said his understanding is that they confirmed the essential findings of the autopsy doctors. I cited to him the Clark Panel's recitation of their determination that the autopsy doctors had miscalculated the location of the head wound by the vertical distance of approximately 100 millimeters (they said the autopsy doctors placed the wound that much lower than it really was). Dr. Humes stated categorically that his physical measurements are correct and emphasized that he had access to the body itself and made the measurements of the actual head region." (ARRB MD 19)
Dr. Humes was refusing to play ball.
On 9-16-77, when the HSCA forensic pathology panel showed Dr. Humes a photo displaying what they claimed was the one and only entrance hole on the back of the head, (that is, the small oval shape in the cowlick), for that matter, he responded “I don’t know what that is. Number one, I can assure you that as we reflected the scalp to get to this point, there was no defect corresponding to this in the skull at any point. I don’t know what that is. It could be to me clotted blood…it certainly was not any wound of entrance.”
Well, there he was again...refusing to play ball... Clearly, this was not what the panel wanted to hear.
What happened next was slow to bubble to the surface, but bubble it did.
Dr. Baden was the first to blow a bubble. In 1995, he told the audience of the COPA Conference in Washington that "after talking to Dr. Petty" Dr. Humes "recanted" his assertion the entrance wound was by the EOP.
Next came Andy Purdy. In 1996 HSCA counsel Purdy told the ARRB that after Humes made his comments about the panel's presumed bullet hole being nothing but "clotted blood," Dr. Charles Petty took Humes outside and yelled at him. And this wasn't just Purdy's fantasy. In a 2-20-2000 meeting with researchers, Dr. Michael Baden not only confirmed Purdy's story, but built upon it. He re-constructed Petty's words to Humes for dramatic effect, and had Petty call Humes a "God-damned jackass."
This is most intriguing. Was Humes a "jackass," to Petty's eye, because he'd been unwilling to admit he'd made a horrendous mistake, and had placed the entrance wound on Kennedy's skull four inches from its actual location, on the wrong bone? Or was Humes a "jackass," to Petty's eye, because his refusal to acknowledge this supposed mistake was sure to open doors neither Petty nor Humes wanted opened--namely, that there had been a government-ordered cover-up of the medical evidence? That Petty's instincts were to obfuscate is supported, moreover, by a 1993 letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In this letter, Petty defended Humes, and even claimed "There were no bullet defects other than those described by Humes in his report." Hmmm... Petty had either forgotten that he'd previously claimed Humes had made one of the biggest blunders in medico-legal history, or had thought this information better left unsaid in a trade mag sure to be read by his fellow pathologists.
In any event, Humes' problems extended way beyond his being yelled at by Petty. His subsequent problems would, in fact, make those problems look--eegads--petty in comparison.
In his 1998 book Real Answers, HSCA counsel Gary Cornwell admits that, as a result of Humes' failure to agree with the new and improved entrance location on the back of the head, he was all set to treat Humes as a hostile witness and aggressively question him about the problems with the autopsy during his September 1978 testimony before the committee. (Cornwell believed that Humes, "in an apparent attempt to cover up his own mistakes" had "not told the truth" to the Warren Commission, and that he--Cornwell--could "prove it".) Cornwell then explains that his plans were thwarted after the "committee's doctor" (most probably Dr. Baden, but possibly a reference to Dr. Petty) said he couldn't do that, as Humes was a "respected man." This doctor then warned Humes of Cornwell's plans, and convinced Humes to acknowledge he'd made a mistake regarding the entrance wound location (a confession he subsequently recanted) in exchange for Cornwell's taking it easy on him, and not attacking his reputation.
Well, if this doctor was Baden, as one might only assume, seeing as he was the only doctor on the pathology panel in regular contact with those running the committee, it seems certain that protecting Humes' reputation was actually the last thing on his mind, and that his true goal in warning Humes was to get Humes to back off his claim there was no entrance wound in the cowlick, and thereby prevent possible damage to the reputation of DR. RUSSELL FISHER.
This isn't as wild as it seems. In his book Unnatural Death (1989), Dr. Baden demonstrates little regard for Humes' reputation. No, check that--he TRASHES Humes' reputation. The autopsy conducted by Humes was a "disaster." Humes "had never autopsied anyone with a gunshot wound." Humes was "not competent for the job." Humes understood, without specifically being told, "that he wasn't supposed to do a full autopsy." "He was there to please his superiors." "He felt it was beyond his powers to describe the wounds." "The autopsy was woefully inadequate." "Humes couldn't understand what had happened to the head bullet..." "The autopsy is not finished until you work out the bullet tracks along with the exits and entrances. Humes explained that he was in a hurry, that the family was waiting for the body." Humes "burned his notes." "It is not clear what facts he used from his original notes." "The result was an autopsy report filled with errors, sins of omission and commission. Bullets weren't tracked, the brain wasn't sectioned, the measurements were inaccurate, the head wound wasn't described. The weights and measures of body organs made no sense."
Now this was not the random destruction of another man's reputation, mind you, but the willful destruction of a man's reputation in order to prop something up in its place. Having explained to his readers that Humes was incompetent and not to be trusted, Baden then thrusts upon them the one point he almost certainly knows they'd question if he was to tell them all the facts. Humes "didn't shave any hair from around the head wounds in order to examine them. The wounds were photographed through the hair." "The head is only five inches long from crown to neck, but Humes was confused by a little piece of brain tissue that had adhered top the scalp. He placed the head wound four inches lower than it actually was, near the neck instead of the cowlick." Baden never tells his readers that not only did Dr. Boswell, Dr. Finck, and autopsy photographer John Stringer also tell his panel the wound was where Humes said it was--and that there was no wound in the cowlick (where the great Russell Fisher said it was)--but that Finck had had a meeting with Baden's panel in an attempt to convince them of this fact, and had stuck to his guns despite Baden's badgering.
So, yeah, the military pathologists were just tossed to the side of the road by Baden and his buddies in their rush to support their civilian buddy Fisher.
Still, maybe this is just the way it's done in Washington.
In any event, Baden's (or Petty's) plan was successful. A year after Dr. Humes called the supposed entrance in the cowlick "clotted blood" he testified that he had been mistaken and that he now thought it was the entrance wound described in the autopsy report.
No, actually it was worse than that. He was actually asked to point out the entrance on an x-ray of Kennedy's skull, and pointed out an entrance he'd previously claimed was low on the back of the head at a location up near the top of the back of the head. This is shown below.
The Four-Inch Migration
But this wasn't the end to Humes' humiliation. In what may have been an attempt to hide Humes' description of the supposed wound in the cowlick as "clotted blood," the report of the HSCA forensic pathology panel, in its discussion of the controversy over the wound location, noted that, when discussing the proposed cowlick entrance, "Dr. Humes first suggested that it might represent an extension of a more anterior scalp laceration, incident to the exit wound, in spite of the fact that within the photograph the margins of the wound appear to be intact around the entire circumference." Well, this, as we've seen, is not true. It was, in fact, Dr. Boswell who said the red spot could have been the end of a scalp laceration, and not Humes. Still, this may have been an innocent mistake.
But then again, perhaps not. When the panel was working on its report, they may very well have been under the assumption their interview with Humes and Boswell would be locked up for 50 years, a la their interviews with their colleagues Finck and Ebersole. As a result, their attributing an easily disproved theory to Humes may not have been an innocent mistake at all, but a conscious (or semi-conscious) decision to damage his credibility, and hide his initial objections to their dubious re-location of the entrance wound.
That Humes was not pleased with this, and was pressured into acting as though he'd changed his mind, when he never really had, is supported, for that matter, by, of all people, Harrison Livingstone. Yep, in his 1995 book Killing Kennedy, Livingstone, who was not exactly a big supporter of the Warren Commission's findings or military, reported that he spoke to Humes on more than one occasion in December 1980, and that Humes, who was still alive in 1995 and could have denounced Livingstone as a liar should he have disagreed with Livingstone's assessment of his attitude, had at that time, made it clear he would "never retreat" from his position the entrance was low on Kennedy's head, and that he was "very strong on this issue."
And we needn't trust Livingstone on the issue of Humes' strength on this issue ...for Humes himself broke his silence on this matter in a 5-27-92 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, and asserted (along with Dr. Boswell) that a bullet had entered just where they'd claimed it had in their autopsy report, on the skull "slightly above the external occipital protuberance."
So, yeah, the evidence suggests that Humes didn't actually change his mind. And that, even worse, no one else claiming to have seen the entrance wound even pretended to change their minds. Humes’ colleague from the autopsy, Dr. Boswell, never wavered in his recollection of the entrance location being in the area of the brain matter low on the skull. Not surprisingly, he was never called before the committee. The third autopsist, Dr. Finck, was interviewed by the medical panel on March 11 and 12, 1978 and put under tremendous pressure to change his interpretation of the entrance wound's location and agree with the panel that the real wound was in the cowlick. Apparently they felt that Finck, as a forensic pathologist, would be more understanding of their plight, and more agreeable to their points of view.
They were, as it turned out, barking up the wrong tree. Finck had been consistent in his previous statements, in that he'd always said he'd arrived after Kennedy's brain had been removed, and that he'd soon thereafter examined a 15 by 6 mm entrance wound low on the intact skull. Well, think about it. How could a wound in the location of the red spot in the cowlick still be on the skull AFTER the brain had been removed? And how could Finck suddenly turn around and say "Oh yeah, the wound I thought I saw on the skull was really on a piece of bone removed by Dr. Humes before my arrival"? Finck's previous statements and the pathology panel's contention the wound was in the cowlick were thus hopelessly at odds.
In any event, in a section of the pathology panel's interview of Dr. Finck (conveniently excluded from the official transcript, and found only on the tape), Dr. Weston kept asking Finck if it was possible there'd been some sort of transcription error when the autopsists reported that the wound was near the EOP. Finck admitted that yes, it was possible. Dr. Baden then pounced and tried to sway Finck by telling him "In reading your autopsy report you specifically say that the entrance perforation that you're looking at is 15 by 6 millimeters...Which is the precise measurement of that area in the cowlick when you measure it out...(Which also) lays right over, what appears to be on X-ray, the entrance perforation in the skull...if maybe you put all that into consideration, because that may resolve (our disagreement over the entrance wound location)...the fact that you have a clear description of something that's, the way I read your report, matches that (a wound by the cowlick) and doesn't match that (a wound by the EOP)."
Note that Baden was essentially regurgitating the findings of the Clark Panel. As we've seen, Baden's own panel would come to conclude the red spot in the cowlick measured 15-20 by 9 mm, not 15 by 6. Note also that Baden's own panel failed to note the bullet hole on the x-rays the Clark Panel claimed they'd observed, and measured.
It's not a huge surprise, then, that Baden's pressuring Finck to kneel before the Clark Panel's findings proved too much for some of his colleagues on the panel. At this point, Dr. Wecht and Dr. Petty jumped in and disavowed Weston's and Baden's "cross-examination" and "badgering" of Finck. Ultimately, Finck held firm and said he believed the wound was as measured at autopsy, and beneath the white gob of matter in the autopsy photos.
It should not come as a surprise, then, that Finck, as Boswell, was never called before the committee.
And the HSCA staff's treatment of the other autopsy witnesses wasn't much better. Chester Boyers, the Chief Petty Officer present at the autopsy, was interviewed by HSCA staff member Mark Flanagan on 4-25-78. Flanagan's outside contact report on this interview was preserved as HSCA agency file 13614. There, Flanagan claimed: "In regard to the wounds Boyers recalls an entrance wound in the rear of the head to the right of the external occipital protuberance which exited along the top, right side of the head towards the rear and just above the right eyebrow. He also saw an entrance wound in the right shoulder blade, specifically just under the scapula and next to it." Boyers' recollections had thereby supported the recollections of the autopsy doctors, as opposed to the findings of the HSCA's panel.
And yet...this was not brought to the attention of the panel. No, instead, this outside contact report was re-transcribed on 5-10-78 and preserved as agency file 14462. Here, Flanagan claimed "Concerning the wounds of President Kennedy, Mr. Boyers stated that there was a large wound to the right side and towards the rear of the head. Another wound was located in the upper back just under the scapula." Well, you got it. There was no longer any mention of the external occipital protuberance. Such talk was, apparently, unfit for reporting.
But Boyers was not to be denied. On 12-4-78, with just weeks left in the life of the committee, he sent Flanagan a signed affidavit, in which he detailed: "In regard to the wounds inflicted upon President Kennedy, I recall an entrance wound situated near the external occipital protuberance in the rear of the head which exited on the right side of the head above the right eyebrow and towards the rear. Another wound was located near the right shoulder blade, more specifically just under the scapula and next to it." But this was too little, too late. The pathology panel had already come to its conclusions and was already working on its final report.
And this was not a one-time thing. Dr. David Osborne, Bethesda's Chief of Surgery in 1963, who would later become an Admiral, was yet another autopsy witness to claim he saw the "low" entrance wound, and have his recollections concealed, apparently on purpose. His presence at the autopsy is confirmed by the FBI's report on the autopsy, and his assistance in closing the head wounds after the autopsy is confirmed by the testimony of Dr. Humes before the ARRB. Osborne was interviewed by HSCA staff member Mark Flanagan on 6-20-78. This was three months after the HSCA medical panel interviewed Dr. Finck and found itself at an impasse regarding the location of the entrance wound on Kennedy's head, and a month after the report on Boyers was re-transcribed. And so it's not all that surprising that Flanagan's report on his discussion with Dr. Osborne never mentions any discussion of the entrance wound location, and instead relates that "Osborne said that there was no question that the bullet entered the back of the head and blew off the top of the head." Well, this was chickenshit, at best. If Osborne had said his colleagues were in error, and that the bullet entered near the top of the head, why not say so? And if he supported his colleagues, and claimed the bullet entered low on the head--in opposition to what the medical panel was preparing to claim in its report--well, why not say so? In any event, a researcher named Joanne Braun was able to get Osborne's recollections on paper. On 4-5-90, he responded to her inquiries and told her that a bullet "hit in the occipital region of the posterior skull which blew off the posterior top of the skull." He had thereby supported the original recollections of his close friend, Dr. Humes. But it was more than that. Osborne also told Braun: "I know this for a fact because I was the one who worked on his head."
Well, heck. From this it seems possible that by 1990 Osborne's memory was playing tricks on him. But, even so, that still doesn't excuse Flanagan for failing to note Osborne's recollections of the entrance wound location in 1978.
It seems evident, then, that shortly after the HSCA panel's meeting with Finck, and Flanagan's talk with Boyers, someone (or a group of someones named Blakey, Cornwell, Flanagan, Purdy, and Baden) decided to downplay all support for the statements of Humes, Boswell, and Finck, and decided to hang them out to dry and claim they'd been mistaken.
Autopsy photographer John Stringer, autopsy radiologist John Ebersole, and Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman similarly told the HSCA they saw a small entrance wound low on Kennedy's skull, and were similarly hung out to dry. FBI agent Frank O'Neill told the HSCA the doctors discussed a bullet's entering "the center, low portion of the head" and subsequently claimed he'd personally inspected this wound, and was similarly hung out to dry. This means that Dr. Humes was the ONLY autopsy witness or participant to say the red spot in the cowlick was the entrance wound, and he said so exactly ONCE, while under extreme pressure, in the ONLY testimony of an autopsy witness before the committee, and retracted it afterward.
Of course, that doesn't stop the most ardent single-assassin theorists from trying to claim otherwise. In his 1993 book Case Closed, single-assassin theorist Gerald Posner claimed he'd spoken to both Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell, and that they'd both told him the HSCA had convinced them they were mistaken in their original identification of the wound location, and that they both now believed it had been 10 cm above the EOP, in the cowlick. They both denied telling this to Posner, of course. But the damage had already been done. In a March 1993 letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Robert Artwohl, while trying to refute the claims of conspiracy theorists angry over the magazine's recent articles supportive of Dr.s Humes, Boswell, and Finck, exposed his true agenda by first admitting that "for a bullet to enter just above the EOP and exit the right frontotemporoparietal area, it would have had to travel in an upward direction, fired from inside the limousine's trunk," and then twisting Dr. Boswell's statements into somehow confirming that the wound was actually 4 inches higher. The spin was dizzying, nauseating even; Artwohl actually dismissed the evidence for the lower entrance by claiming "Boswell's testimony and autopsy drawing refutes such a low entry point." He then spun that since Boswell told the HSCA that the entry wound was at the posterior edge of the large defect, and since the X-rays showed the posterior edge of the large defect to be near the top of the head, close to the HSCA's cowlick entrance, that Boswell's statements were actually more "consistent with an entry wound 10 cm above the EOP at the posterior edge of the large skull defect."
This was absolute rubbish, of course, and mighty strange rubbish at that. First, Artwohl overlooked that the posterior edge of the large defect changed locations after the scalp was peeled back and skull fell to the table, and that Boswell was almost certainly referencing the posterior edge of the second much larger defect. Second, he was willfully avoiding that the lower wound location was not just Boswell's recollection, but that of the rest of the autopsy team. And third, he was boldly ignoring that Humes and Boswell, in the very article under attack by the conspiracy theorists--the very article he was supposedly defending--had confirmed their original impression of the entrance wound by claiming the wound was "slightly above" the EOP, and that his letter was therefore as much an attack on their competence as anything published by what he condescendingly called the "conspirati."
But the dishonesty and/or hypocrisy of those claiming the bullet wound was higher is not the only reason to believe the autopsy's description of the entrance wound was correct, and that the Clark Panel and HSCA's proposed entrance was actually "clotted blood" of some sort. When one considers that Humes, Boswell, and Finck not only observed this wound, but measured its size on the scalp, noted tiny skull fragments near its entrance, and removed the skin surrounding its entrance as a specimen, it becomes truly hard to believe they'd all recall the location of this wound incorrectly, and be off by four inches.
And, should that not be enough, there's this (I know I've already said this, but it undoubtedly bears repeating): NOT ONE of the dozens of medical personnel and government employees viewing the President's body after the assassination recalled seeing the entrance wound in the cowlick proposed by the Clark Panel. Well, heck. This makes the non-existence of such a wound, other than as a myth spread by the Clark Panel and its minions, startlingly clear, correct?
I'll let you answer that one. But for me the answer is a resounding "Yep!"
Now, to be clear, the amazing migration of the bullet entrance on the back of Kennedy's head from the EOP to the cowlick is still much-discussed among students of the assassination...
But it is largely ignored by most everyone else. That or treated as a so-what...
Vincent Bugliosi, in his monster tome Reclaiming History, repeats without comment the claim by Dr. Werner Spitz, a colleague of Dr. Fisher's who served on both the Rockefeller and House Select Committee panels, that "It's just a red herring. We know from the autopsy photos and X-rays that there was only one entrance wound to the back of the president's head. The only significance this matter has is academic. If the bullet had entered where the autopsy surgeons said it did—and we know from the photos and X-rays they were wrong—it would have been an unusual deflection for the bullet to have exited where it did. This was a military-type bullet and it is unlikely that it would be deflected so sharply upwards." That Bugliosi--who prides himself on his cool-headed logic--lets Spitz get away with such nonsense is embarrassing. I mean, shouldn't he have noticed that Spitz, as Fisher and the Clark Panel before him, was working backwards--that he'd first concluded there was only one entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head, and then had opted for an entrance location he believed to be consistent with a shot from the sniper's nest--even though this meant rejecting the statements of everyone who'd actually seen this entrance? I mean, really, is it actually possible Bugliosi thinks such a massive dispute over the president's wound locations is merely "academic"?
I suspect not. It follows then that he was blowing smoke at his readers in his lawyerly manner and hoping they wouldn't notice that "Hey, something's wrong here!"
But at least Bugliosi talked to a doctor before claiming the migration was meaningless. In 2006, former detective Mark Fuhrman wrote a much-publicized book, A Simple Act of Murder, in which he investigated and dismissed the single-bullet theory using arguments similar to those provided in the previous chapters. He concluded, nevertheless, that Oswald acted alone. While barely dealing with the head wounds, Fuhrman mentioned in passing that the HSCA forensic medical panel, after viewing the autopsy photos and x-rays, concluded that the entrance wound on Kennedy's skull was “four inches higher than originally believed by the Warren Commission.” In what has become a typical gesture among those claiming Oswald acted alone, however, he made up an excuse for this, and claimed that the Warren Commission had not actually seen the autopsy materials. This, of course, was nonsense. Not only had Justice Warren admitted viewing the materials, but the autopsy doctors had twice viewed the materials and confirmed the entrance wound location prior to Morgan and the Clark Panel's re-interpreting the wound location.
So, if the movement of this wound is suspicious, and the defense of this movement weak sauce, what happened to the wound described by the doctors?
Eye of the Beholder
Well, the thought occurs that it's been hiding in plain sight.
While there is no trace of a bullet entrance anywhere near the splash of white matter (where the autopsy doctors placed the bullet's entrance) on the drawing published by the HSCA, there appears to be a small hole just above and to the right of this matter on the photos published by Robert Groden. Perhaps, then, this is the entrance hole observed at the autopsy. That this hole was added to this never-officially released photo by someone from the research community is refuted by the simple fact that before I started doing so no one from the research community of whom I was aware had ever acknowledged its existence.
Well, why hasn't anyone noticed this before? That an entrance hole in the hairline vindicating Humes’ testimony runs counter to three of the most widely held conspiracy theories on the assassination, i.e. that the bullet striking the President in the head came from the front and exited from the back of his head, that the autopsy doctors were, of necessity, party to the conspiracy, and that the autopsy photos were altered to hide an exit hole in the back of the head, could very well be a factor in many a conspiracy theorist's failure to notice the hole. But there are many single-assassin theorists out there on the constant lookout for anything that will support the findings of the original autopsy. Why can't they see it?
Well, perhaps they are afraid to acknowledge that the autopsy doctors were correct, and that the wound was not only low on the skull, throwing the head shot trajectory into doubt, but as little as 6 mm in its smallest dimension, suggesting that a bullet smaller than 6.5 mm could have been responsible. It WAS undoubtedly helpful to the lone nut cause, after all, to claim the entrance on the skull was really 9 mm in its smallest dimension, a la the HSCA pathology panel, than that it was only 6 or 7 mm, and possibly even smaller than what was believed to be the fatal bullet, a la Humes in his Warren Commission testimony. This 6 or 7 mm measurement was so problematic, in fact, that the author of chapter 3 of the Warren Report, presumably Arlen Specter, chose to lie about it.
Here is the discussion of the wound in the autopsy report:
"Situated in the posterior scalp approximately 2.5 cm. laterally to the right and slightly above the external occipital protuberance is a lacerated wound measuring 15 x 6 mm. In the underlying bone is a corresponding wound through the skull which exhibits beveling of the margins of the bone when viewed from the inner aspect of the skull."
And here is how Dr. Humes testified regarding this wound: "The size of the defect in the scalp, caused by a projectile could vary from missile to missile because of elastic recoil and so forth of the tissues. However, the size of the defect in the underlying bone is certainly not likely to get smaller than that of the missile which perforated it, and in this case, the smallest diameter of this was approximately 6 to 7 mm., so I would feel that that would be the absolute upper limit of the size of this missile, sir."
Note that Humes now suggests that the wound on the skull could be as much as 7 mm wide, slightly wider than the bullet. But the impact of a high-velocity bullet on a skull would almost certainly leave a hole measurably larger than the bullet itself. So how does the commission deal with this problem?
They don't. Instead, they blow smoke. Here is the discussion of this wound on page 129 of the Warren Report:
"The smaller hole on the back of the President's head measured one-fourth of an inch by five-eighths of an inch (6 by 15 millimeters). The dimensions of that wound were consistent with having been caused by a 6.5-millimeter bullet fired from behind and above which struck at a tangent or an angle causing a 15-millimeter cut. The cut reflected a larger dimension of entry than the bullet's diameter of 6.5 millimeters, since the missile, in effect, sliced along the skull for a fractional distance until it entered. The dimension of 6 millimeters, somewhat smaller than the diameter of a 6.5-millimeter bullet, was caused by the elastic recoil of the skull which shrinks the size of an opening after a missile passes through it."
Yes, you got it. Humes testified that a hole on the scalp might shrink but that a hole on the skull would not, and the author of the report instead claimed a hole on the skull would shrink. This served to cut off any speculation regarding the small size of the bullet entrance on the skull. Now isn't that special?
And it's not as if Humes was off-base, or saying anything new, in suggesting the wound on the skull would not shrink, and would be expected to be larger than the diameter of the bullet. The 1895 edition of Principles of Forensic Medicine, by William A. Guy, David Ferrier, and William R. Smith, one of the oldest books to discuss wound ballistics, reports that "when a bullet strikes the skull transversely, it first causes a depression of the bone over an area greater than the diameter of the uninjured bullet..." It then indirectly compares the bones of the skull to an iron plate, and notes that the bullet holes on iron plates are always larger than the diameter of the bullet due to the "compression" of the bullet upon impact.
Nor was Humes the last to suggest as much... The Clark Panel, after all, presumed that the wound on the scalp was as measured at autopsy, 15 mm by 6 mm, but concluded the entrance on the outside of the skull itself was 8 mm, 33% greater in diameter than the wound on the scalp, and 23% greater than the diameter of the bullet.
And they were far from alone... As reported in Mortal Error (1992), researcher Howard Donahue, a professional gunsmith, contacted the members of the HSCA's pathology panel to ask them about the small size of the entrance wound measured at autopsy, and received an interesting response. Dr.s Rose, Spitz, and Davis agreed that a 6.5 mm missile would leave a larger than 6 mm entrance wound on the skull, but assumed the autopsy doctors erred when measuring the wound. Dr. Wecht agreed that such a small wound was unlikely, but was unwilling to just assume the problem away by assuming the doctors erred. Dr.s Petty, Loquvam, Weston and Coe either failed to return phone calls or declined to comment on the record. Only Dr. Baden, in his usual dismissive manner, made out as though there was no problem at all, reportedly telling Donahue that "I think you're over-reaching if you think that the difference between six millimeters and six point five millimeters is a significant difference when you're measuring from an x-ray...It is not uncommon at all to have bullet (holes) going through bone measured slightly smaller than the bullets."
Now, let's read that carefully. First of all, Baden seems to be claiming that the autopsy doctors got their measurement for the hole from the x-rays. This makes little sense. The radiology consultants to Baden's own panel could find no such hole. Second of all, by specifying that it is not uncommon for bullet holes as measured to be smaller than the bullet, Baden was not actually disagreeing with his colleagues. The problem, after all, could be that the measurement was in error. In light of the statements of his colleagues, then, it seems likely that Dr. Baden--yes, even Dr. Baden--felt a 6.5 mm bullet would leave a larger than 6 mm hole on the back of the skull.
And Larry Sturdivan, the HSCA's wounds ballistics expert, agreed. In his chapter on wound ballistics in The Forgotten Terrorist, 2007, Sturdivan claimed "Bone has much greater strength than soft tissue, but no elasticity, so the entry hole on the front table (hard surface layer) must be as large or larger than the size of the bullet as it penetrates, including expanded diameter (from penetrating skin) or change in orientation (no longer point first)."
But I digress. We were discussing the unwillingness of those claiming Oswald acted alone to acknowledge the round wound I've spotted in the autopsy photos--right by where the doctors said it was.
Well, perhaps they just haven't spent as much time looking at these photos as I. I studied the photos for a year or more before noticing the round shape circled on the slide above.
Or perhaps it's just that they're stuck on the more readily apparent red shape in the cowlick. It's shaped like a bullet wound. Some experts have said it's a bullet wound. So, it's gotta be a bullet wound, right?
Well, no. If it is a bullet wound--an actual hole in the skull from which blood and brain has leaked--it would give the appearance of a bullet wound on both the color and black and white photos. And guess what: the purported hole in the cowlick is much fainter on the black and white photo than in the color photos.
I'm not the first to notice this. Dr. Humes noticed this as well. He even pointed this out in his 1977 discussion with the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. He explained that he rejected the mark in the cowlick as an entrance because: “despite the fact that this upper point that has been the source of some discussion here this afternoon is excessively obvious in the color photograph, I almost defy you to find it in that magnification in the black and white.”
That the photos failed to demonstrate a wound in this location, moreover, proved to be the one point regarding the head wounds upon which Dr. Humes and Parkland witness Dr. Paul Peters readily agreed. In 1992, while speaking at a forum on Kennedy's head wounds in Dallas, Peters discussed his viewing of the original autopsy photos in 1988, and his search for an entrance wound in the cowlick. Researcher Wallace Milam, who attended the forum, reported on Peters comments in the Spring '93 issue of Dateline: Dallas. According to Milam, Peterstold the audience "there was a blemish scar, scratch, or something on the skin, but that he was never able to see any defect in the underlying bone."
And Humes and Peters weren't the only doctors unable to see this defect. Within the Harold Weisberg Archives (in a book on the photographic evidence by John Woods, included in the "White Files") is an unpublished article by Mark Crouch, the researcher who befriended former Secret Service photographer James Fox, and who subsequently made the back and white autopsy photos developed by Fox available to the research community. Well, in this article Crouch relates that he didn't stop there, and that "On 5 separate occasions" he masked out the scalp and tissue surrounding the supposed entry wound on the black and white autopsy photo of the back of the head and asked doctors if they could tell what kind of wound was depicted. According to Crouch, "4 said the wound appeared to be a burn while the 5th said it appeared to be a skin rash." When told it was purported to depict a penetrating wound, moreover, all 5 were reported to scoff at the notion, and tell Crouch "no doctor could make that statement to any degree of certainty."
And Crouch wasn't the only one showing these photos to doctors and asking them what they saw. In 1996, the Assassination Record Review Board asked three experts in the fields of Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Radiology, and Forensic Pathology to look at all the photos and x-rays, and describe what they saw. First up was Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Douglas Ubelaker. On 1-26-96, Ubelaker was shown all the back of the head photos. The notes on this interview reflect that Ubelaker "observed that the red spot in the upper part of the photo near the end of the ruler did not really look like a wound. The red spot looks like a spot of blood--it could be a wound, but probably isn't. The white spot which is much lower in the picture, near the hairline, could be a flesh wound, and is much more likely to be a flesh wound than the red spot higher in the photograph." The next to be interviewed was Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, a Forensic Radiologist. On 2-29-96 he was shown the photos and x-rays. The notes on this interview reflect that he said he could "not determine, without the body present to examine, what the red spot and white spot are in back of the head photos." The final consultant to be interviewed was Dr. Robert Kirschner, a Forensic Pathologist. The notes on this interview reflect that on 4-11-96 he saw the back of the head photos and said "the so-called red spot in the upper part of the photo near the end of the ruler has an appearance consistent with a bullet wound, and probably represents an entrance wound. On those same photographs, the so-called white spot near the hairline appears to be a small piece of fat, or brain tissue, and not a wound."
For those keeping track, that's one out of three. So, yeah, the further we get away from the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, the less sure the experts are that the red spot is a bullet entrance.
Setting It Straight
That the mark seen on the black and white photo is so clearly not a bullet hole, unfortunately, has led still other doctors to push that the entrance wound on the Dox drawing was completely fabricated. This is not remotely fair, and is yet another reminder that conspiracy theorist doctors are every bit as capable of deception as single-assassin theorist doctors. Incredibly, in two separate articles in the collection Murder in Dealey Plaza, published 2000, Dr.s Gary Aguilar and David Mantik place the Ida Dox drawing (copied from the color photo of the back of the head) by the black and white photo for comparison. Dr. Aguilar’s caption reads: “…The small spot towards the top of the skull, which appears red in color photographs, was said to be an entrance location…The wound described is not evident in the actual photo.” By his use of the phrase “actual photo,” Aguilar had implied that the color photo was but a color version of the black and white. This was not true.
Fortunately, he tried to correct this mistake. In September 2006, when challenged online by an irate single-assassin theorist about this caption, Dr. Aguilar readily admitted his error, stating “it appears that I did indeed use the wrong image of the back of JFK's head. The only one I had was from a high quality black and white, 8x10 set that I'd gotten from Tink Thompson and used for this image. My error was in not realizing that there was a tiny change in perspective in the correct image vs. the one I showed.” Dr. Aguilar has in fact used the color photo in subsequent comparisons. He has also disavowed his use of the term “actual photo”. He related “I never noticed that phrasing before and I don't think I'd write it that way today, if I actually wrote it originally, as opposed to the editor's having written it. I simply don't now recall.”
Intriguingly, this last statement suggests that the misleading caption was written by the editor of Murder in Dealey Plaza, Dr. James Fetzer. If true, this might help explain why a nearly identical mistake was made in Dr. Mantik’s article in the same book. Dr. Mantik’s caption reads: “Ida Dox inexplicably enhanced the red spot in her drawing. The actual entry is not visible; no other photograph shows it either."
Dr. Fetzer, however, would later insist that both captions were written by the authors. In a January 2010 post on the Education Forum, he explained:"I shall have more to say about this, but Speer appears to have noticed something that has escaped the rest of us. These captions were the author's own. Notice that Gary's captions tend to be rather longer and more detailed than my captions in the Prologue, for example, where only rarely do I offer more complex ones. I have no doubt the captions were authored by Gary and by David themselves. If they were missing from the original manuscripts, I may have called them to compose them."
Fetzer's explanation was not entirely satisfactory, however, in that he failed to acknowledge that he not only published what he now acknowledges was a misleading comparison in two different chapters of Murder in Dealey Plaza, published 2000, but that he repeated this misleading comparison in a chapter all his own in 2009. Fetzer's mistake, moreover, was actually worse in that he compared the wrong part of the scalp in the black and white photo to the part of the scalp showing the supposed cowlick entrance in the color photo, and then claimed the supposed cowlick entrance could not be seen at all in the black and white photo. (One can see this for oneself on page 357 of his chapter, here.) And so it appears that two respected writers made an identical mistake, and that their editor not only failed to catch it, but repeated it and amplified it.
Still, whenever one points out the mistakes of researcher/writers such as Aguilar, Mantik, and Fetzer, one should also inject some perspective, and note that, while their mistakes may mislead a few unsuspecting readers, they positively pale in comparison to the mistakes made by the mainstream media most every time they write a bout the assassination. In a May 20, 1992, AP article reporting on a press conference held by Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell, for example, the AP printed drawings of an entrance wound on the back of a head and beveling of the skull. Hundreds of thousands of readers were fooled into thinking these drawings supported the statements of the doctors, who, in an effort to combat some of the assertions in Oliver Stone’s film JFK, had asserted “The second, fatal shot entered the back of this head and exploded the right side of the skull.” The problem was that the drawing provided by the AP depicted the bullet entering near the top of Kennedy’s skull, in the HSCA entrance, when the doctors were describing the wound as measured at autopsy, 4 inches below this entrance. This “mistake” by the mainstream press thus effectively hid from the public that the doctors were not only arguing against Oliver Stone, but also EVERY government panel to look at the assassination since 1968. Apparently, the AP didn't consider that news worth reporting.
Above or Below?
Only adding to my suspicion that the dark shape on the autopsy photo is the entrance observed at autopsy is that when one compares the dark shape with the entrance location marked on a skull by the autopsy doctors, they nearly overlap. While the autopsy report and the marked skull depict the wound as being slightly above the EOP—the external occipital protuberance, the bump at the back of Kennedy’s head--and the photos indicate it was slightly below, the doctors were inconsistent in their testimony as to whether the entrance was above or below. During Dr. Humes’ discussion with the HSCA, for example, he told them that after looking at the autopsy photos he now believed the wound was slightly below the EOP.
So why couldn’t the doctors from the autopsy successfully point out the low entrance wound when shown the autopsy photos by the HSCA in 1978 and The Assassinations Records Review Board (The ARRB) in 1996? After all, they’d found it twice before. Twice…
As discussed, when the Kennedys turned the autopsy materials photos over to the National Archives, the Archives arranged for Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell, the autopsy radiologist John Ebersole, and the autopsy photographer John Stringer to catalog the photographs and x-rays and create a Report of Inspection on November 1, 1966. This was the first time the autopsists had been allowed to see the photographs. Their report, signed November 10, 1966, describes photos 15 and 16 as “depicting a wound of entrance in right posterior occipital region” and transparencies 42 and 43 as “color prints of the missile wound in right occipital region.”
Similarly, on the January 26, 1967 report prepared for the Justice Department, Humes, Boswell, and (a rushed-back-from Vietnam ) Finck assert that “the autopsy report states that a lacerated entry wound measuring 15 by 6mm (.59 by 0.24 inches) is situated in the posterior scalp approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) laterally to the right and slightly above the external occipital protuberance” and that “Photographs No.s 15, 16, 42, and 43 show the location and size of the wound.”
Were they lying when they said they saw the entrance wound?
Were they scared to point it out after the Clark Panel and the government “officially” decided this entrance didn’t exist?
Or were the photos in the archives “doctored” between 1967 and 1977?
If so, this would appear to have have taken place after 1975.
Let's recall here that, in 1975, Dr. Fred Hodges, when describing the color back-of-the-head photo for the Rockefeller Commission, claimed it showed "a large, compound, comminuted injury in the right frontal region, and a small round soft tissue wound in the occipital region" which was "in keeping" with the wound "described in the autopsy report in the right occipital bone."
Well, what other small round soft tissue wound in the occipital region could he be talking about? As the "cowlick" entrance was not what one would call a soft tissue wound, and was not even in the occipital bone, it seems apparent Hodges was thinking of the dark round shape I've identified.
HSCA Figure 15/Fox Autopsy Photo Comparison
In any event, as a result of the doctors’ failure to point out an entrance wound they'd previously observed on the photos (outside of vague comments that it was near the splash of mysterious gray matter) the HSCA’s pathology panel opted to confirm the findings of the Clark Panel. This, in effect, meant that, in the judgment of the panel, the three doctors who actually inspected President Kennedy on the night of the autopsy--Humes, Boswell, and Finck--were all incredibly mistaken as to the entrance wound's location and had even placed the wound's location on the wrong bone.
There are reasons to doubt the integrity of the panel, of course. We've already looked at a few of those.
And here's another... In the panel’s report, they mentioned that they searched the area around the splash of gray matter near the hairline but were convinced there was no wound at that location. What was not stated was that the close-up of the gray matter they placed in their report was a close-up of gray matter taken from a different photo than the one they had traced for their other exhibits--the one in which I first noticed the entrance wound. The photo they took the close-up from can be found on the internet, however. While the round shape I've presumed to be the entrance wound is less apparent in this photo, it is still visible, which further suggests that it is in fact the entrance noted at autopsy and not just an aberration on the other autopsy photo. In fact, the only real aberration seems to be that the HSCA medical panel cropped this photo just below the presumed bullet hole, so that the bullet hole can not be seen on the close-up image shown the autopsy doctors, and subsequently published.
Or was this just another coincidence?
That this hole near the EOP was deliberately hidden from the autopsists because it was inconsistent with the damage done to the President’s brain and skull, and would therefore necessitate an additional shot, is lent credence by the testimony of Dr. Humes before the HSCA. Oddly, it is the testimony where he "admits" he was wrong and confirms that the hole in the cowlick was the real entrance. He says: “We described the wound of entrance in the posterior scalp as being above and to the right of the external occipital protuberance…it is obvious to me as I sit here how…the upper defect to which you pointed or the upper object is clearly in the location of where we said approximately where it was, above the external occipital protuberance; therefore, I believe that is the wound of entry…By the same token, the object in the lower portion, which I apparently and I believe now erroneously identified before the most recent panel, is far below the external occipital protuberance and would not fit with the original autopsy findings..”
Hmmm... Humes’ contention that the gray matter’s location was ruled out because it was a centimeter or so below the original measured position by the EOP, and that therefore the wound in the cowlick 10 centimeters above the EOP must be the real location, is one of the strangest statements of all time. It’s akin to someone viewing a police line-up where the perpetrator was believed to look like Mel Torme, and choosing Shaquille O’Neal because Mickey Rooney was just too damned short. Humes’ focus on the EOP is nevertheless a red flag indicating there was great concern that his saying the entrance wound was below the EOP would bring the medical panel’s findings there was one shooter firing from behind into question. Notice the way he says “clearly in the location of where we said approximately where it was” when it was four inches away on a different bone. Clearly, wrongly admitting a colossal error didn’t come easy to the man. David Lifton, who spoke to Humes afterward, claims Humes’ hands were trembling when he went outside. Perhaps Humes was filled with rage. Dr. Boswell told the ARRB that he once asked Humes if it was true he'd changed his impression of the entrance wound location, and that Humes had told him "No."
When the ARRB asked Humes about his "change," however, he wasn't so clear, stating “I experienced great difficulty in interpreting the location of the wound of entrance in the posterior scalp from the photograph. This may be because of the angle from which it was taken, or the position of the head, etc. It is obvious that the location of the external occipital protuberance cannot be ascertained from the photograph. I most firmly believe that the location of the wound was exactly where I measured it to be.” Oh, my...this fails to pass the test, right? I mean, could it really have been that difficult to distinguish between the position of the EOP, near the middle of Kennedy’s head, in the occipital bone, and the purported in-shoot in the cowlick, 4 inches away near the top of Kennedy’s head in his parietal bone...when you have a photograph of his entire head and neck???
So now it's time for a closer look. The gif file below was first posted on the JFK Assassination Forum in 2013. It was posed by John Mytton. It morphs two of the back of the head photos back and forth, and creates a 3-D image. Mytton posted it because he thought it proved there was a hole by the cowlick. But he was wrong.
First, we should notice that the skull at the top of the head moves in relation to the rest of the head. It is a bone flap. This supports the authenticity of the x-rays, which similarly show a bone flap at the top of the head.
Second, this 3-D image shows no entrance in the cowlick. I mean, seriously, LOOK at the even more extreme close-up below. Is that oval in the cowlick a bullet hole? It's hard to see how. And WHY does the central part of the oval--that is supposed to be a hole--appear to hover over the rest of the oval? Aren't these blood-soaked hairs...clumped together--stretched down on top of the scalp?
And, really, doesn't the circular shape at the one o'clock position to the splash of brain matter below look more like a hole than the mark in the cowlick?
Or, failing that, doesn't the splash of brain matter itself look as though it may overlay a hole?
But wait, what's that shape to the right of the circular shape? Is that dark shape at the 2 o'clock position to the round shape (at the 1 o'clock position to the brain matter), the bullet hole observed at autopsy? Hmmm.... It's bigger than the round shape, which, come to think of it seems pretty small. It's also closer to the side of the skull, which actually makes sense seeing as the hole was supposedly 2 1/2 cm (1 inch) to the right of the middle of the skull, which is barely 2 inches wide in this region.
Well, gulp, this means that this shape is in the location measured at autopsy, and described by EVERYONE who saw a small entrance wound on the back of the head...
Here, see for yourself...
More Light! More Light!
Holy smokes! This is it! This is the entrance wound observed at the autopsy.
Let's take a closer look then...
Here again is what I've concluded is the long lost entrance wound in the color back of the head photo.
And here it is on the black and white photo, with the benefit of some added exposure.
And here it is in a hybrid photo, matched up by the splash of brain matter.
But it's best viewed on the image below, rocking back and forth.
It starts out here and ends up here.
It sure looks more like a bullet hole than the red oval in the cowlick.
Now, I may not be the first to have noticed this... Yes, it appears that on this one, I'm in some fairly surprising company. Consider....
In 1998, after his appearance at the 1998 JFK Lancer Conference, former ARRB employee Doug Horne received a letter from researcher Barb Junkkarinen, seeking clarification on some of the statements he'd made regarding the relatively recent testimony of Dr.s Humes and Boswell before the ARRB. Horne responded, and his letter was subsequently published in the Winter 1999 edition of the Kennedy Assassination Chronicles. Horne first discussed Dr. Humes' testimony. He continued:
"When the ARRB deposed Boswell on Feb 26, 1996 we took a different (i.e., better) approach with him when trying to make sense out of the back wound photo that includes the back of the head (# 38). We asked Boswell if he saw the entry wound described in the autopsy report ANYWHERE in that photograph. After careful consideration, he calmly said, “no.” He identified the “red spot” as the end of a long laceration, the white spot as some type of debris, and said that the actual physical location of the entry wound that he remembered would be located on transparency #38 approximately halfway between the “white spot” in the hairline, and the top of the right ear! In the prints made from the transparencies you cannot see anything in this area. However, in Rochester at Kodak’s research lab, after transparency #42 [the straight on photo of the back of the head] was digitized on the world’s best scanner, the Kodak techs and I (and later, Jeremy) looked at extreme blow-ups and enhancements of extreme blow-ups of this area (between the white spot and the top of the right ear) and lo and behold, there is a suggestion of a possible puncture in this area (unclear because the hair is thick and there is some shadow), clearly surrounded by a circular pattern of blood-spatter. This appeared to Jeremy and I to be a possible entry wound surrounded by bloody back-spatter from the entry. To summarize, we found photographic evidence of a possible entry wound in photo # 42 (we used the Nov 10, 1966 Inventory List for numbering) EXACTLY WHERE BOSWELL SAID IT REALLY WAS ON THE BODY."
Now, I'm not sure if Doug Horne and Jeremy Gunn noticed what I've more recently noticed or not. But Horne said he saw this shape about half-way between the white spot and the top of the right ear, and that is inconsistent with the round shape right next to the white spot I'd previously identified as the entry wound. It seems likely, then, that the shape noticed by Horne was closer to the ear, and quite possibly the dark shape I've more recently identified as the entry wound.
The Vanishing Act
Well, wait a second! If the bullet hole by the EOP was readily visible on the autopsy photos, when viewed at increased exposures, or scanned digitally, why didn't the HSCA say so? Surely, they must have studied the photos at increased exposures before claiming there was no wound in that location... They had after all, used a computer to enhance the contrast of the x-rays...to see if there was a wound where the doctors said there was a wound. Right?
Actually, no. The HSCA panel had the x-rays enhanced, but deliberately excluded the EOP area of the A-P x-ray from the enhancement. While on one level this smells to high heaven, and is suspicious as heck (assuming the two expressions are not mutually exclusive), there is a relatively innocent explanation for their failure to study the EOP area on the photos and x-rays that is worth our exploration.
It goes like this: confirmation bias. It seems perfectly possible the HSCA panel never enhanced the EOP area of the photos and x-rays because they'd already made up their collective mind that the red spot in the cowlick was the entrance wound described in the autopsy report, all evidence to the contrary. Dr. Russell Fisher, their highly esteemed colleague, had said so, after all, and had made it clear he found the very existence of their panel a personal and professional insult. It only makes sense, then, that his proteges and colleagues on the panel would be predisposed to embrace his most important conclusion, and spend little if any time humoring the possibility he was wrong about this conclusion, and that some under-trained military doctors whose basic competence they questioned were right.
But there's a problem with that, too. While one might forgive the HSCA panel for over-looking the eyewitness and photographic evidence supporting the original conclusions of the autopsy doctors, while favoring the contradictory conclusions of their esteemed colleagues on the Clark Panel, one should not be as forgiving of their deliberately juicing up evidence to support the Clark Panel.
And, yes, I'm accusing Dr. Baden, in particular, of juicing up the evidence...
On November 21, 2003, at Dr. Cyril Wecht's conference in Pittsburgh, Dr. Randy Robertson showed the audience a 5-9-78 memo from Baden to medical illustrator Ida Dox. This memo, which Robertson had discovered in the National Archives, was a photocopy of a page from Dr. Spitz's book Medicolegal Investigation of Death, with a drawing of a typical entrance wound. Beside the drawing, Dr. Baden had written "Ida, you can do much better." Apparently, Dox's early versions of the "bullet hole" were still too close to the original photo, and made the "bullet hole" appear more like the “clotted blood” Dr. Humes described, than the bullet hole Dr. Baden wanted to be there.
Only making matters worse--for Baden--is that this very same "tracing" in which liberties were taken to make the red shape in the cowlick look more like an entrance wound fails to present the dark shape present in the location described at autopsy. While this shape may have gone unrecognized, due to the darkness of the photos viewed by Baden's panel, it is nevertheless a problem that Baden and his panel failed to make the effort to find this shape (which was in the location described in the autopsy report), while simultaneously improving another shape (which was in the location described by Dr. Spitz and Dr. Petty's close colleague, Dr. Fisher.)
And no, this isn't some silly rant in which I unfairly single out some innocent guy and attack him for a mistake that no one else has even noticed. This has been clear for decades...to those willing to take a look. Mark Crouch, whose friendship with retired Secret Service agent James Fox led to the publication of the autopsy photos by Lifton, Groden and Livingstone, was at one time working on a book of his own. Parts of this book were sent to Harold Weisberg. They can now be found in the Weisberg Archives. Well, one part that survives is Crouch's inventory and discussion of all the black and white prints he'd obtained from Fox, in addition to the color prints he'd been shown by Groden. He wrote this inventory in 1991, mind you, before Groden published either of his color "back of the head" photos and before Livingstone published the black and white photos previously published by Lifton in Best Evidence. This was also long before people like myself started arguing that the HSCA's so-called "cowlick" entrance was a hoax. Here's what he wrote: "In black and white photography the color red goes towards black: A severe contrast anomaly exists in reference to the alleged entry wound for the fatal headshot. In Ida Dox's drawing HSC F-48 the entry wound is pictured as dark, well-defined and nearly dead center in the rear of the head. In F3 (Best Evidence Autopsy Photo 4) and in the actual photos G3 and G4 this "thing" is far less apparent as an entry wound. As can be seen in Best Evidence the wound appears very light and does not seem to penetrate the scalp. In G3 and G4 the wound is a light pinkish color and again does not appear to penetrate. Enhanced blowups of F3 reveal there is hair actually growing from this purported wound."
So, yeah, it's not just my opinion that the autopsy photos prove the cowlick entrance a hoax, and the Ida Dox tracing of the back of the head photo a fraud, but the opinion of the first non-government employee to have regular access to the photos, back in the 1980's.
It's a pity, then, that Crouch's book was never released, and that he parted ways with the research community. Perhaps he could have steered it away from the constant refrain of "Everything is fake" and back to the more productive track of "Look at this evidence; it proves they're lying."
And yes, I wrote "lying". Dr. Baden, after all, both failed to perform a proper examination of the evidence supporting the autopsy doctors' contention a bullet entered near the EOP, and deliberately slanted the evidence to support that a bullet entered near the cowlick.
Let us move on, then, to see what else he and his panel may have missed or concealed...
Back of the Head Comparison
When one looks at the gruesome autopsy photo of the back of the President’s head once his brain was removed, and compares it with the photos taken with his scalp still intact, one finds yet another reason to believe our proposed hole in the hairline is Dr. Humes’ long-lost entrance near the EOP. (This is shown on the slide above.)
That these photos matched up as shown above is confirmed, moreover, by the November 1, 1966 inventory of the autopsy photos performed by Dr.s Humes and Boswell, along with autopsy radiologist John Ebersole and autopsy photographer John Stringer. Both photos were purported to show the entrance wound in the occipital region.
Significantly, if one matches the open-cranium photograph and the back of the head photo one can use the ruler in the latter to measure the size of the wound in the former. If one estimates that the camera was 12 inches from the ruler, and that the wound was 1 inch beyond that, then one can guesstimate that the wound was 8 percent larger in reality than measured on the ruler. This makes the wound approximately 16 mm wide. The entrance wound measured by the doctors was 15 mm wide. It seems probable, then, that the two are one and the same.
A Matter of Proportion
In fact, a comparison of the mark in the cowlick on the back of the head photo and the wound at the back of the base of the skull in the open cranium photo leads in but one direction: the wound described by the autopsy doctors is the wound at the base of the skull. The doctors described a wound at the base of the skull. Well, duh. Check. This wound measured 15 by 6, with a relative proportion of 2 1/2 to 1. Hmm... The mark in the cowlick has a relative proportion of approximately 1 1/4 to 1, roughly half the width (or height) required, while the wound at the base of the skull has a relative proportion of, yes indeed, 2 1/2 to 1. Check.
And it doesn't stop there. On the face sheet, Dr. Boswell described the small entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head as "ragged" and "slanting." In keeping with this description, the autopsy protocol written over the next two days by Dr. Humes said it was a "lacerated wound tangential to the surface of the scalp." He then shortened this description. The typed-up version of the protocol signed by Dr.s Humes, Boswell, and Finck, described it simply as a "lacerated wound." After studying the autopsy photos in January, 1967, however, the doctors wrote (or at least signed) a report in which this wound was described as a "laceration and tunnel." Now, this can only be the wound we've identified in the base of the skull in the open cranium photo. The supposed wound in the cowlick is not "ragged," nor is it "lacerated." A "lacerated" wound, according to the Medline Medical Encyclopedia, is a wound produced by the tearing of soft body tissue, that is "often irregular and jagged." The oval shape in the cowlick is not such a wound. It shows no evidence of "slanting." It gives no indication of running "tangential to the surface of the scalp," for that matter, nor of tunneling.
In fact, when one thinks of it, it's really not surprising that the supposed entrance by the cowlick fails to resemble the description provided by the autopsy for a wound on the occipital bone. The thinner the bone, the less likely a bullet is to "tunnel" through that bone. I mean, that's just common sense. Well, the parietal bone at the site of the purported cowlick entrance is only 50-70% the thickness of the occipital bone at the site of the wound described in the autopsy protocol.
It seems far more likely, then, that the wound exhibiting the tunneling described by the doctors was an occipital wound.
And, apparently, I'm not the first to recognize this problem. In it's final report, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel claimed that from 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock along the outer margin of the purported wound in the cowlick there was a "suggestion of undermining, that is, tunneling of the tissue between the skin surface and the skull." Hmmm. They thought they saw tunneling. Oh, my, this seems a bit of a coincidence. The autopsy doctors described the wound as a tunnel, and the HSCA panel says the wound is really on a different bone, but that, gee whiz, the wound at this location also shows evidence of "tunneling." So, yeah, wink, wink, it's gotta be the same wound, right?
Wrong. The 1967 report signed by the autopsy doctors claimed that when looking at the photos of the back of Kennedy's head (those taken prior to the removal of his brain) the entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head is "not recognizable as a penetrating wound because of the slanting direction of entry." Well, hello. That means the entrance in the scalp not only failed to directly overlay the entrance into the skull, it failed to overlay it at all. I mean, not even one bit. And that means the bullet creating the entrance to Kennedy's skull didn't just "tunnel" through a tiny bit of tissue from 12 to 3 along its outer margin, as suggested by the pathology panel, but for a distance longer than the width of the bullet, and almost certainly through bone. Well once again, it's hard to see how this could be a description of the purported wound in the cowlick. There's far more skin, and far thicker bone--through which to tunnel--low on the back of the head, than high on the back of the head. And, besides, the wound low on the back of the head in the open-cranium photo appears to be a tunnel, of sorts, with its roof removed. Check.
And then there's Dr. Finck's February 1965 letter to his superior, General Blumberg, reporting on the autopsy. In this letter Dr. Finck revealed that the entrance wound was "transversal", heading side to side across the skull. Well, the red oval in the cowlick shows no signs of heading across the skull. If it were a hole, any bullet entering such a hole would appear to be heading forward within the skull, and not side to side.
So, there it is. The entrance wound observed and described by the autopsy doctors is the wound shown in the open-cranium photo, no matter what one thinks about the back of the head photo. It's in the right vertical location; it's in the right horizontal location; it's the right size; it's the right shape, and it sure as heck looks like it...as contrasted to the red shape in the cowlick, which is in the wrong vertical location, wrong horizontal location, and is of the wrong size and shape.
It's elementary, my dear. The bullet wound observed at autopsy is the one shown in the open cranium photograph.
Since this autopsy photo of the open cranial cavity has never been officially acknowledged or released, however, one might rightly wonder if the one found on the internet--the one shown on this website--is a fake.
Well, one need not actually worry. A close look at the history of this photo, and of its use by conspiracy theorists, should lay these concerns to rest. While the open-cranium photo has been published in the books of David Lifton, Robert Groden, Harrison Livingstone, and Walt Brown, none of these books even mentioned the bullet hole discussed throughout this text. While Noel Twyman, in his book, Bloody Treason, acknowledges that something is there, his drawing of the photo strangely suggests the hole is the external occipital protuberance, the bump on the back of Kennedy’s head.
So, no, I'm not the tip of some vast conspiracy designed to make you think the HSCA was wrong, and that the autopsy doctors were right...(about this one issue anyway).
On November 20, 2004, I met Robert Groden in Dealey Plaza and asked him about the autopsy photographs’ depiction of a hole in the hairline. Surprisingly, he readily agreed that the hole near the hairline in the open cranium photograph was an entrance wound. Even more surprising, he insisted that he’d always acknowledged it as so.
I decided to check this out. In The Killing of a President, in which Groden summarized his views on the assassination, he described 8 likely shots, none of which entered low on the President’s skull from behind. One hopes this was just a misunderstanding.
On January 25, 2006, via personal correspondence, David Lifton similarly agreed that the proposed bullet hole on the open cranium photograph was the entrance wound described at autopsy. Consistent with his theory that the body was changed between Dallas and Bethesda, Lifton explained that in his opinion the men who faked the bullet entries on Kennedy’s body created two false entries on the back of Kennedy’s head, one low and one high. He theorized that Dr. Humes was pressured into acknowledging only one of them in his autopsy report.(From this it appears that Lifton has made some subtle changes to the theory he first presented in his best-seller Best Evidence.)
And, oh yeah, FWIW, pretty much everything-is-fake theorist Jack White told me multiple times that he believed the presumed bullet hole in the black and white photo of the open cranium was the bullet hole described at autopsy.
So, I'm in...unexpected company on this...
And not just in my understanding of the photo...
Since late 1993, of all the doctors to study the medical evidence deposited at the archives--Dr. Randy Robertson, Dr. David Mantik, Dr. Gary Aguilar, Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, Dr. Robert Kirschner, Dr. James Humes, Dr. J. Thornton Boswell, Dr. Pierre Finck, Dr. Chad Zimmerman, Larry Sturdivan, Dr. Peter Cummings, and Dr. Michael Chesser--and all the doctors to present a major review of the medical evidence in a forensics journal (Dr.s Michael Levy and Robert Grossman in the June 2004 issue of Neurosurgery) only one has supported Fisher's finding the entrance wound was in the cowlick...just one--his fellow Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kirschner--the one most likely to be under the influence of Fisher's reputation....
Now ain't that a kick in the head!