Chapter 18: X-ray Specs
Chapter 18: X-ray Specs
The black and white on the black and white
Before one can properly evaluate the x-rays taken of President Kennedy's body on 11-22-63, one must acquaint oneself with a number of concepts. The first and foremost of these concepts is that an x-ray is a negative image reflecting the density of an object, and not its surface appearance. The areas of the x-ray film most exposed to x-rays are thereby the darkest, and the areas least exposed, the whitest. Dense matter, such as bone or metal, will, it follows, show up as white, while air will show up as black. A dark object or area is referred to as being radiolucent (meaning it is easily penetrable by x-rays), while a white object or area is referred to as being radio-opaque (meaning it is not easily penetrated).
This established, we can begin to discuss the autopsy x-rays of President Kennedy, probably the least understood and most controversial element of the medical evidence.
We should start by killing some myths about the x-rays. The widely-repeated conclusion of a number of conspiracy theorists--including Harrison Livingston--holding that Kennedy’s x-rays were inconsistent with the wounds described in his autopsy report, is nonsense. While Livingstone and others have insisted that the dark shadows on Kennedy’s right forehead area demonstrate that his right face was missing, air in the tissues is to be expected on the x-rays of gun shot victims. There is, in fact, an x-ray similar to Kennedy's A-P skull x-ray (that is, an x-ray taken from the front) n the March, 1990 American Journal of Roentgenology. (This is shown on the slide above.) The caption of this image reads: “Note the pneumocephalus, calvarial fractures, and loss of brain parenchyma.” Pneumocephalus means air in the brain cavity, calvarial fractures means fractures of the dome of the skull, and loss of brain parenchyma means a loss of the brain’s distinctive shape. In short, this victim, as Kennedy, had had the right half of his brain turned to mush by gunfire. And there's a black section on his x-ray as a consequence.
Should one think I'm exaggerating the obviousness of Livingstone's mistake, then one should consider that Dr.s Cyril Wecht and David Mantik offered a similar rebuttal to the "missing face argument" of Livingstone and others in The Assassinations, published 2003. They wrote: "most of the x-rays in the beam are absorbed not by the bone, but rather by the brain itself. The dark area should instead have suggested to them that brain, rather than skull, was missing in this area."
Now, to be clear, I'm not claiming Wecht and Mantik as unerring experts on the x-rays.
Actually, far from it. While Wecht and Mantik observed that Kennedy was laying on his back when x-rayed, and that the brain in such case would settle on the back of his head, they also expressed doubt that the damage to Kennedy's brain observed at autopsy was significant enough to explain this "settling". On this, however, I believe they are mistaken. The notes of Kennedy's autopsy doctors tell us that the falx cerebri, a covering of the brain, which helps keep it in place, was "loose" along the sagittal suture, which runs along the middle of the skull from the coronal suture on back to the occipital bone. And that's just the beginning. An article in the August 2006 Radiology written by doctors from Dr. Finck's employer, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, reports that "In eight of 10 subjects with gunshot wounds through the brain, the brain was settled in the dependent portion, and pneumocephalus was present in the nondependent portion of the calvarium... The brain in the remaining two subjects was extruded from the calvarium." Well, heck, this proves the air observed on the frontal area of Kennedy's x-rays is not as suspicious as claimed by Dr.s Mantik and Wecht.
The March 1990 American Journal of Roentgenology offers another x-ray of interest. This lateral skull x-ray (that is, an x-ray of a skull, taken from the side) depicts the remnants of a bullet in a victim’s forehead after traversing his skull. As predicted in Spitz and Fisher’s Medico-legal Investigation of Death, the copper jacket failed to exit. Of even more interest, however, is that there are a number of small fragments on the outside of the skull surrounding the bullet’s entrance.
This is a head-scratcher. As the bullet killing Kennedy is purported to have entered in this same region of the skull and to have broken up to a much greater degree, it makes little sense that the bullet supposedly making its entrance in the cowlick region of Kennedy's skull failed to leave small fragments around the outside of its entrance into the skull.
Of course, there are those who’ve convinced themselves a full metal jacket bullet can fracture upon impact and only begin to break up as it traverses the skull. But that’s like saying you can fire an egg through a window without getting any yolk on the window. No, it’s worse than that. It’s like saying you can fire an egg though a window and leave an egg-shaped hole in the glass, without getting any yolk, egg white, or shell on the window.
A second look at this lateral x-ray reveals that it is strikingly dissimilar to Kennedy’s lateral x-ray in at least one other way. While Kennedy’s lateral x-ray is black towards the front and whitest towards the back, the lateral x-ray in the periodical has a much smaller range of black and white. It looks normal, like an x-ray you might have seen in a hospital. While Kennedy's x-ray does not.
Now, this isn't something I stumbled upon. Oh no, far from it. In November 1993, Dr. David Mantik spoke at a press conference, and announced that he'd recently viewed the autopsy materials at the archives, and that the strange appearance of Kennedy's x-rays had led him to conclude they'd been altered.
Now, before one gets too excited about this, one should know that virtually every radiologist to comment on the x-rays, including those who believe the x-rays demonstrate the likelihood Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, disagrees with this conclusion. In Anthony Summers’ December 2001 Vanity Fair article The Ghosts of November, for example, he cited Radiologist Dr. Randy Robertson, Radiologist Patrick Burnett, and Neuroanatomist Dr. Joseph Riley among those concluding the x-rays have NOT been altered. There is no comparable list of radiologists expressing the opposite opinion, and confirming Mantik's conclusions.
Still, Mantik’s observations regarding the extreme contrast apparent in Kennedy's x-rays are valid and deserve some discussion.
To that end, we need to increase our understanding of how x-rays are created, and how Kennedy’s x-rays could be so strange in their appearance. Dr. John Ebersole, the autopsy radiologist, gave a partial explanation to the HSCA in 1978 when he told them “I would like to explain one thing. These films, these x-rays were taken solely for the purpose of finding what at that time was thought to be a bullet that had entered the body and had not exited. If we were looking for fine bone detail, the type of diagnostic exquisite detail we want in life, we could have taken the x-rays in the x-ray department, made the films there, but we felt that the portable x ray equipment was adequate for the purpose; i.e., locating a metallic fragment.”
So...hmmm... Was the strange appearance of Kennedy's x-rays a by-product of this decision?
It appears so.
The portable x-ray equipment used at Bethesda was reportedly an "old" General Electric 250. It was almost certainly of World War II vintage. The 1943 guidebook Medical Radiographic Technique by General Electric’s Technical Services Division explains "Defining contrast as the degree of difference in density between adjacent areas on the film, it is not difficult to recognize that gross-overexposure or under-exposure will affect this difference." It then offers: “Technics should not be used to produce maximum contrast, but rather technics which will give satisfactory contrast for maximum visibility of structure.” The book thereby presents three x-ray images of a human skull: one created with a short exposure that is too light; one created with a longer exposure that has an appropriate amount of contrast; and one created with an even longer exposure that is too dark.
These images are shown on the slide below.
Contrast and Exposure
Note that the most over-exposed x-ray in the book (at bottom right on the slide) is almost as black and white as Kennedy's right lateral x-ray (which is above it on the slide).
This is not something one claiming Kennedy's skull x-rays have been altered should ignore.
Since the x-ray equipment had a chart or manual which told the x-ray techs, Jerrol Custer and Edward Reed, how long to expose an image, based on the measurements of the object being x-rayed, however, one can't help but wonder how they could have screwed it up so badly. A partial excuse could be related to Reed’s admission to the ARRB that, in order to prevent his having to re-do his work should there have been a mix-up developing the x-rays, he exposed two x-ray films at the same time, and boosted the energy level to compensate.
This is not just my assumption. On page 96, Medical Radiographic Technic shows three chest x-rays taken with different energy settings (with peaks of 50, 60, and 80 kilovolts). As you might guess, they show "excessive," "satisfactory," and "insufficient contrast," respectively. The book then claims "Of the various factors affecting density and contrast in the radiograph, that most widely used is the x-ray tube voltage."
The thought also occurs that the unique structure of the skull, in which a fairly solid organ, the brain, is encased inside relatively thin layers of bone, only exacerbated the problems related to Custer and Reed's taking two x-rays at once.
I found confirmation for this in Manual of Roentgenological Technique, a textbook published in 1947. It notes that "The more nearly the density of the part examined approaches that of the surrounding tissues, the more precisely must the kilovoltage or penetrability of the rays be selected in order to give proper differentiation of the parts. While higher kilovoltage produces greater penetration, lower kilovoltage values produce a greater degree of contrast in the structure of varying density. Over-penetrated roentgenograms present a grey lack of contrast and under-penetrated films show a chalky increase of contrast which is equally objectionable." Well, it seems possible from this that Kennedy's skull x-rays were both under-penetrated and over-exposed, and that this unfortunate combination led to their strange appearance. Perhaps Reed had failed to properly set the energy level. Perhaps, should one study numerous x-rays made with similar equipment, at various settings, one would find the peculiar appearance of Kennedy's x-rays not so peculiar at all.
This possibility is further supported by a book I picked up at a thrift store, almost as a joke. Textbook of Veterinary Diagnostic Radiology (1986) relates: "The degree of blackening of the x-ray film is measured in terms of optical density. Optical density and film blackness are directly related...Of particular importance in patient radiography is the fact that x-rays are not absorbed homogeneously by the body; some tissues absorb x-rays more efficiently than others. This phenomenon is called differential absorption...it is important to recognize that the degree of differential absorption of x-rays by the patient is a function of x-ray energy. As the energy of x-rays increases, so does their penetrability. Thus, when higher energy x-rays are used, the lesser is the degree of differential absorption by the patient. When lower energy x-rays are used there is more difference between the radiopacity of bone and soft tissue."
And should one think my quoting a book on veterinary radiology inappropriate, one should know that I've confirmed this point in more appropriate textbooks as well. Limited Radiography (1999), for example, holds that:
"A diagnostic quality radiograph should have adequate density (blackness), good contrast (range of gray shades), clear recorded detail (definition and resolution), and no visual distortion or magnification (size and shape) of the anatomy being examined... Production of the visible radiographic image is controlled by the following exposure factors: milliamperage, kilovoltage peak, and source-to-image distance... The two major photographic factors of the image are 1) density and 2) contrast. Density is seen as the overall blackness of the total image. Density is controlled by milliamperage-seconds... The density of the radiograph is directly proportional to the amount of milliamperage used for exposure and length of time the exposure is delivered (referred to as milliamperage-seconds setting)...Density is directly proportional to milliamperage and time..."
So.. let's get this straight. The overall blackness of an image comes as a result of two factors--the strength of the exposure and the length of the exposure. Think of it like baking a cake. The hotter the oven, and the longer the cake is left in the oven, the more the cake gets baked.
But there's more to it, right? If you bake the cake on the shelf closest to the heat source it will cook faster but less evenly than if it were cooked on the shelf furthest from the heat source. Well, the same is true for x-rays. Here's Limited Radiography on this point.
"Distance, or source-to-image distance has a significant influence on density... Simply put, the radiation beam diverges and proceeds in a straight path... The area covered becomes increasingly larger with lessened intensity as the beam of radiation travels a greater distance from the source..."
Now, as we've seen, there is another major aspect of a radiographic image beyond the overall blackness, and that's the number of shades of gray within the image. And this is maximized by kilovoltage peak. It's hard to find a cooking analogy here, but let me try anyhow. When cooking a burger patty, it's not the degree of pinkness that determines if it has been properly cooked--the pinkness is a reflection of how long it's been cooked--but the peak temperature reached within the patty. It follows, then, that a patty cooked briefly at a high temperature will be more juicy and have more shades of pink and gray, than a patty cooked at a lower temperature for a longer time--which is gray through and through. Here's Limited Radiography on this point.
"Contrast is the second major photographic factor... Radiographic contrast results from the distribution of black metallic silver in the film emulsion and is directly controlled by the penetrating effects of kilovoltage. Radiographic contrast is visualized in the image as gray tones or degrees of gray that reveal the differences between body organs or tissues. Contrast enhances information... Contrast is controlled by the kilovoltage or, more technically, the quality of energy or wavelength (short or long)... A variety of long and short wavelengths (low and high energies) will demonstrate a range of shades from black to gray to white (gray tones) and their density differences. The differences are easily seen in the structures visible in the radiographic image... Radiographic contrast is generally referred to as the overall contrast seen in the image. It includes long-scale (more gray tones) contrast and short-scale (more black and white tones) contrast. Radiation of higher energy (shorter wave-length), 70 kilovoltage peak or more, will produce long-scale contrast with many gray tones..."
Okay. This is a lot. So let's take a time-out here to demonstrate the difference between long-scale contrast and short-scale contrast. (From Limited Radiography, of course.)
Now let us continue: "If there are large differences in the thickness of body structures, e.g., bone vs. soft tissue, or if 70 kilovoltage and lower is used, short-scale contrast with more pronounced black and white tones will be produced... the degree of density is proportionate to the milliamperage-seconds...By comparison, contrast is controlled by kilovoltage peak... It should be noted that although kilovoltage peak and milliamperage seconds have an interactive effect in increasing or decreasing contrast and density respectively, they may not be interchanged to compensate for the lack of one or the other... if structures are underpenetrated due to a lack of kilovoltage peak, no amount of milliamperage-seconds increase will improve the penetration; added milliamperage-seconds will only add density... Conversely, if an image is underexposed and lacks density, milliamperage-seconds must be added; kilovoltage peak would add only scattered radiation and thus cause the image to look gray and flat without clarity."
This long walk through the radiology literature, then, leads me to suspect that a combination of too much exposure and too little energy caused the strange appearance of Kennedy's skull x-rays.
I mean, honestly, just look at the examples above... and below. And then tell me there's no combination of settings and circumstances through which the range of black and white on Kennedy's skull x-rays could have an innocent explanation...
Power and Proximity
The two series of images presented on the slide above come from Radiologic Science for Technologists, a textbook first published in 1975.
The first of these is Figure 17.4. It presents an identical image created at 80, 70, and 60 kVp, respectively. As discussed, the greater the kilovoltage, the shorter the wavelength of the x-ray, the greater the penetration, and the greater the contrast between adjacent areas. The increase in kilovoltage is not directly proportionate to the increase in optical density, however. The 15% rule of radiology holds that a 15% increase in kVp (energy) results in a doubling of the optical density, that is, a doubling of the level of blackness within the image. Now, this stands in stark contrast to the Reciprocity Law, which holds that a 15% increase in milliampere seconds (mAs) results in a 15% increase in optical density. Well, this means that just a slight boost in energy can have a tremendous effect on the apparent contrast of an x-ray image. Edward Reed told the ARRB he boosted the energy 10 kilovolts beyond what was suggested by the measurements of Kennedy's skull, in order to better penetrate the two films he was exposing at once. This 10 additional kVp would, in accordance with the 15% rule, represent a roughly 15% increase in energy and a doubling of the density on the top film. But was that the right amount? Did one of the films receive too low a kilovoltage peak and one of the films receive too high? It's hard to say. Only one was retained.
The second series of images on the slide above is Figure 17.3. It demonstrates that the distance of the x-ray source to the image receptor (SID) is another key factor contributing to the optical density of the final image. Three images are present in Figure 17.3. These present an image created with an SID of 90 cm, 100 cm, and 180 cm, respectively. The first has too much contrast, the second has an acceptable level of contrast, and the third has too little contrast. Well, this suggests that the relative closeness of the SID inherent in the portable x-ray machine used on Kennedy contributed greatly to the over-exposure of the image Dr. Mantik finds so worrisome.
And that's far from the final factor affecting the image quality of the skull x-rays, which could help explain their strange appearance, which have never been addressed by Dr. Mantik. In 2015, while leafing through a book-form review for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists exam in a used book store, I discovered yet another series of x-rays in which one was too light, one was just right, and one was too dark. But this series had nothing to do with the voltage of the x-ray tube or exposure time of the x-ray, the development time of the film, or even the source to image receptor distance, and was instead a presentation of three images taken with the same voltage and exposure time, but developed at three different temperatures of 90, 95, and 100 degrees.
So, yes, it seems quite possible that the strange appearance of Kennedy's x-rays came as a direct result of the equipment used in their creation, and the unrecorded and quite possibly improper decisions of those involved in their creation. I mean, really, Dr. Mantik and his colleagues complain ad nauseum about the mistakes of the autopsy doctors and autopsy photographer, but act as though it is beyond the pale to assume any questionable decisions were made in the creation of the x-rays.
Comparing the Contrast
No, I'm not kidding. When one compares the three x-rays at the bottom of the Contrast and Exposure slide, above, and compares the contrast on the film receiving the longest exposure against the contrast on the film receiving the shortest exposure, it should be clear that there's an exposure setting at which the vast range of black and white on Kennedy's x-ray image would be expected.
And one can only imagine how the difference in image quality based upon the changing of this setting could be amplified by the changing of other settings, and circumstances.
An article by Dr. E. Robert Heitzman in the February 2000 issue of Radiology, gives us more cause for pause. In this article, Heitzman notes the major advances in radiology of the 20th century. He proceeds to explain "Another important advance in radiographic technique occurred in the 1940s. This was the development of the automatic film processor introduced by the PAKO Corporation of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1942...The automatic film processor was a great boon to the standardization of radiography. Prior to the advent of the automatic film processor, films were moved manually through the developing, fixing, washing, and drying cycles. Clothing was often destroyed by chemical stains. Radiographs were often of substandard quality. In fact, it was a frequent practice in radiography to overexpose the film when exposure factors were in doubt, the rationale being that one could always compensate by underdevelopment in the darkroom. Overexposed and underdeveloped films were commonplace."
Although Edward Reed told the ARRB he'd used an "M3 processor" to process the x-rays of Kennedy's body, and would only hand-develop the x-rays if the processed images were less than "technically satisfactory," it seems clear Kennedy's x-rays were not in fact "technically satisfactory," let alone "perfect" as claimed by Reed. And this should make us suspect that the hectic nature of the autopsy--and the fact they'd been tasked with simply finding bullet fragments-- had led Custer and Reed to settle on the grossly inferior images now in the Archives. One might wonder, even, if the M3 processor (or the "Payco" processor recalled by Jerrol Custer--assuming it's not one and the same) actually amplified the problems inherent in the use of the portable x-ray machine, at the settings used by Custer and Reed.
And this was not the only help offered by Heitzman. In his article, he further explains that in 1945 a device developed by Dr. Russell Morgan (yes, the very same Russell Morgan who would later serve on the Clark Panel) reached the market, and that this device--which Morgan called a phototimer-- "standardized radiographic exposures; previously, it had been common to see radiographs grossly overexposed or underexposed." So, hmm, was this device essentially an update of the film processor? Was it incorporated into the M3 processor? Or was it an additional device not available at Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1963?
While I have not yet answered this question, or fully grasped the process by which an x-ray image is formed, or the precise circumstances which could lead an image to look like Kennedy's skull x-rays, it seems quite possible, probable even, that the x-ray images of Kennedy were created at a less than ideal voltage setting (for one reason or another) and improperly exposed by Custer and Reed (for one reason or another), and then improperly developed (for one reason or another)... and that this led to the strange appearance of Kennedy's skull x-rays...
And yet Dr. Mantik has failed to address any of this in the numerous books and articles in which he's written about Kennedy's x-rays, and claimed they must have been altered. They look strange to him so they must have been altered. No innocent explanation is possible for their strange appearance. Period.
And no, I'm not kidding... Dr. Mantik, who is by trade a radiation oncologist, has thoroughly failed to address the reality Kennedy's x-rays were created using an old portable x-ray machine, or even the possibility mistakes were made in the creation and development of these x-rays. In a quick study of his statements on the the x-rays online and in books, I found a reference to his comparing the x-rays to one of Kennedy while alive, to those of his own patients, and to 19 x-rays of gunshot wounds to the head, courtesy Dr. Doug DeSalles. (Curiously, in his summary of Mantik's studies in his book Inside the ARRB, Doug Horne reports this last number as 9.) In all Mantik's writings, however, I found no reference to his ever attempting a comparison to x-rays taken with the equipment used on November 22, 1963, at various settings.
There's just no reason to believe that the non-Kennedy x-rays studied by Mantik, his controls per se, were created under similar circumstances to those created at Kennedy's autopsy. Dr. Ebersole, in his 1978 testimony before the HSCA, let's remember, testified that Kennedy's x-rays were created as part of a desperate attempt to find bullets in Kennedy's body, and were not an attempt to create a proper and thorough record of Kennedy's injuries. Medical Radiographic Technic explains the significance of this, moreover; it relates that it is often quite difficult to predict which factors will negatively affect the quality of an image "when the patient first presents himself" and that this necessitates "the acceptance of a 'first film' which may be markedly under or overexposed."
Well, were Mantik's "control" x-rays "first films"? We have reason to be skeptical.
While Mantik presents photos of Kennedy's computer-enhanced x-rays to make his claim there's too much contrast, after all, he fails to tell his audience that these x-rays were computer-enhanced for the HSCA. In fact, in looking back through a half dozen or so of Mantik's writings and appearances, including his 2004 TV appearance on the Bill Kurtis program Investigating History, I've been unable to find the slightest indication that the optical density measurements he finds so incriminating were taken from the original x-rays, as opposed to the computer-enhanced x-rays he shows his audience.
This, then, suggests the additional possibility that the unusual optical density measurements so decried by Mantik stem not from the x-rays having been altered, as he concludes, but from the computer-enhancement performed for the HSCA. As a consequence, then, of both Dr. Mantik's failure to address the possibility the x-rays were improperly created, and his failure to acknowledge that the x-rays he presents to his audience have been computer-enhanced, I must admit that I find Mantik's conclusion the x-rays have been altered premature, and unconvincing.
(Let's note here that Mantik has responded to my concerns and has assured me that the x-rays he measured were the original x-rays, and not the computer-enhanced x-rays. This may be true. His explanation for why he always shows his audience the computer-enhanced x-rays, however, is less believable, and is at the center of an extended discussion of Mantik and his claims in chapter 19a.)
Now, should one think I'm being too hard on Mantik, or simply don't know what I'm talking about, one should consider 1) that Mantik is by profession a radiation oncologist, who works with x-rays, but is not a diagnostic radiologist, who studies and interprets x-ray films; and 2) there is but one diagnostic radiologist member of the JFK research community, Dr. Randy Robertson, and he, unbeknownst to me until long after I first realized we shouldn't trust Mantik's findings, had dismissed Mantik's findings, for some of the same reasons I have come to dismiss them.
To be clear, there is a 2-4-94 letter from Dr. Robertson to Assassination Archives Research Center chief Jim Lesar that can be found in the Weisberg Archives. While discussing his concerns about Mantik's theories, Robertson concludes:
"Any number of problems with the processing of the films could be called upon to account for the back area of the film being light. These include film/screen contact, temperature and time of processing, how the films were held while they were being dried, the exposure factors of the particular film that was used that night, whether or not a phototimer was used when the films were taken, whether the films might have been fogged or any other defects in the film as well as numerous other technical factors. You may be getting a hint of the technical factors that could be responsible for the density readings that he has found. Any single one of these or any combination of these factors could be invoked to explain his findings...
I think that the totality of the evidence both on a technical and commonsense basis dictates that these are the original x-rays. Any attempts to discredit them as authentic are bound to end in failure. The x-rays demonstrate that JFK was shot twice in the head...It is unfortunate that someone went into the Archives with the supposition that the materials were fake and has committed himself to this position prematurely before thinking through-the material carefully. This position is readily accepted by many in the medical evidence area already and there is a large sympathetic audience for this position at the present time. There are popular authors who are also getting behind this new "evidence" even before it has been proven.
I have no intention now or in the future to be associated with this position. If David is actually able to prove that they are fake, I would obviously accept the fact at that time. It will be a bittersweet moment for us because we may have proven that there was a forgery perpetrated at some time in the past but we will have lost the only objective evidence from which to draw our conclusions on in the medical evidence area. I am not knowingly going to book passage on the Lusitania."
I am writing this in 2019, a quarter-century later. Mantis is still out there, making his claims. And Robertson is still out there, actively battling Mantik's claims...
Here's to you, Dr. Robertson...
When one studies the x-ray images of President Kennedy, taken during his autopsy, one must constantly remind oneself that these images were made using portable equipment, as the doctors performing the autopsy were in a bit of a hurry and were reluctant to move the President's body to the radiology department. Just as significant, these images were created not for diagnostic purposes, but to help the autopsy surgeons locate the bullet fragments within his skull and the bullet presumed to have been lodged within his body. The portable equipment used to create these images was not state-of-the-art, moreover. With that in mind, then, it’s easy to understand how the autopsy doctors missed out on some of the details we now find so compelling. It is less easy to understand how the Clark Panel--the panel of medical experts convened in secret by Attorney General Ramsey Clark in 1968--saw so much. For starters, the Clark Panel, presumably under the influence of Dr. Russell Morgan, their one radiologist, claimed: “a hole measuring approximately 8 mm in diameter on the outer surface of the skull and as much as 20 mm on the internal surface can be seen in profile 100 mm above the extreme occipital protuberance. The bone of the lower edge of the hole is depressed.” Well, why was the skull at the lower edge of the hole depressed? Since the Clark Panel proceeded to describe a large fragment at the back of Kennedy’s skull, claiming it was “embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole” and the subsequently convened House Select Committee on Assassinations' radiologists explained that this fragment, measured at exactly 6.5 mm, (the width of a bullet from Oswald’s gun), was 1 cm below the depressed fracture, it follows that the fragment was officially on a depressed section of bone as much as a centimeter below the alleged in-shoot on a non-depressed section of bone.
Well, how did this happen? Dr. Michael Baden's 1978 HSCA testimony holding that this fragment was a piece of metal that "rubbed off from the bullet on entering the skull and was deposited at the entrance site" is thoroughly inadequate.
Above: Dr. Michael Baden tells stories to the house select committee.
I mean, why wasn’t this fragment, the largest fragment visible on the x-rays, even mentioned in the autopsy report? The autopsy report mentioned two fragments removed from Kennedy's cerebral cortex but nothing about a a large fragment embedded on the back of the skull. Dr. Humes testified, moreover, that they'd removed two fragments from behind the right eye. It seems possible then that they believed the bullet fragment on the back of the skull was behind Kennedy's right eye, and stopped looking for it when they found a smaller fragment. This possibility is supported by the fact the club-shaped fragment in the forehead readily visible on the HSCA’s enhanced x-rays, which is widely believed to represent the fragment recovered at the autopsy, is basically invisible to the naked eye on the original, un-enhanced x-rays viewed by the doctors at the autopsy. The Clark Panel, for that matter, mentioned a large fragment on the back of the head but none near the forehead, specifying, in fact, that the trail of fragments in Kennedy's head ended "just anterior to the region of the coronal suture," inches away from the forehead fragment.
It's reasonable to assume, then, that the failure of the doctors to mention this fragment in the autopsy report was some kind of mistake. While some have claimed the FBI’s report of the autopsy proves the doctors lied about this fragment, a closer study of this report reveals this isn’t true. The 11/26/63 Report of Agents Sibert and O’Neil states that “X-rays of the brain…disclosed a path of a missile…the path of the disintegrated fragments could be observed along the right side of the skull…The largest section of this missile as portrayed by x-ray appeared to be behind the right frontal sinus…The next largest fragment appeared to be at the rear of the skull at the juncture of the skull bone.” Those who believe the doctors lied take from this that the second fragment mentioned is a reference to the large fragment or slice found on the x-rays.
But this is far from reasonable. To me, it's more than clear that the first fragment mentioned is a reference to the “slice,” and that the second fragment is a reference to a smaller fragment visible near the crown of the skull. I believe this for four reasons: 1) the small fragment near the crown is the second largest fragment visible on the x-rays; 2) it is indeed at the rear of the skull; 3) it is near a “juncture” in the skull, the sagittal suture along the midline, as revealed by the A-P x-ray; and 4) it is in the so called “path of disintegrated fragments” mentioned by the agents, while the large fragment is not.
Still, as the autopsy report failed to mention a large fragment on the far back of the head, and the Clark panel discussed such a fragment, some of those reading their report came to believe that this fragment had been “discovered” by the Clark Panel. An air of mystery developed around this fragment.
And this air grew thicker with time. One of the Rockefeller Commission’s consultants, Dr. Richard Lindenberg, amazingly, tried to dismiss the fragment as nothing unusual, reporting that “the bullet became deformed when it entered the skull and lead was squeezed out of its base. One larger fragment lies outside and next to the lower margin of the entrance wound” and then concluding “The presence of a distinct exit wound also suggests that the bullet did not disintegrate within the cranial cavity but was only somewhat deformed. Disintegration must have taken place as it exited the skull.” (Lindenberg was thereby asserting that there was a large bullet fragment on the outside of the back of the skull, but that the bullet didn’t in fact break up until it exited from the front of the skull! Huh? As we've seen, this line of bull-oney was later repeated by Dr. Baden.)
Others, including ballistics expert Howard Donahue, developed their own novel explanations of this fragment. Donahue believed, and convinced many others, that this fragment was the result of a ricochet.
When one reads about ricochets in such books as Vincent J. M. DiMaio’s Practical Aspects of Firearms: Ballistics and Forensic Techniques, however, one finds that the bullets are flattened length-wise and that there is no record of them breaking into narrow cross-sections, or slices. As non-jacketed, lead bullets have been found to on occasion “pancake” on the back of men’s skulls, however, some have said that the possibility remains that this “slice” on the back of Kennedy’s skull was not a slice but a lead fragment of a bullet that ricocheted. (It’s probably too small to be a “pancake” of a full-sized bullet.) Even this contention, however, is seriously undercut by DiMaio’s research. On page 90 of Practical Aspects he has a chart indicating the expected level of deflection of bullets fired from various angles. According to this chart, a 6.5 mm full metal jacket bullet like those fired in Oswald’s gun would have no appreciable deflection upon hitting smooth stone from 20-30 degrees above. If one is still convinced the fragment on the back of Kennedy’s skull came from a ricochet then one should reflect that any shot fired from the sniper’s nest towards President Kennedy and somehow ricocheting off the street to strike him would have to have magically avoided striking motorcycle officer James Chaney, riding slightly behind and to the right of the President.
Although he did not discuss this fragment in his 1978 HSCA testimony, HSCA ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan has in recent years developed his own theory about the fragment. He has concluded that, since it makes little sense for there to be a round fragment on the back of Kennedy's head, well, then there isn't one, and that what appears to be one is most probably an artifact, an error on the x-ray. (Sound familiar?) The one thing he says he’s sure of is that it isn’t a cross-section of a bullet, as he claims to have never seen a perfectly rounded piece of bullet jacket in a wound. He also shares the opinion of Dr. David Mantik (who, unlike Sturdivan, believes the fragment was deliberately added to the x-ray to make people think the shot came from behind) that the fragment seems to have greater optical density (whiteness, demonstrating thickness) when the x-rays penetrate its thin round face on the A-P x-ray, than when the x-rays penetrate it edge-wise on the lateral x-ray.
In 1979, however, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel concluded simply that "The small missile fragment present at the margin of the entrance wound was probably a portion of the missile jacket..." This avoided both the conclusion suggested by the circular shape of the fragment and the panel's conclusion that the nose and tail of the bullet ended up in the front seat. In other words, this avoided that this "small fragment" was just what their ballistics expert now swears it is not: a slice from the middle of the bullet sheared off upon impact by the oval entrance in the cowlick, 1 cm above, and lodged on the back of the President’s skull. When one considers that the fragment is, according to the reports of the Clark Panel and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, 6.5 mm in diameter, the same as a cross-section of the bullet, moreover, this unstated conclusion seems obvious.
That the panel was too scared to conclude what seems obvious, moreover, seems equally obvious. When one reflects that skull bone is made of three layers, an outer hard shell, a spongy middle, and a brittle inner lining, it becomes clear that no competent doctor would feel comfortable concluding that a slice from a high-velocity bullet was sheared off from the middle of the bullet upon the bullet's impact with a human skull...and that it ended up in the outer table of the skull adjacent to the entrance. That's just too much. Since the nose of the bullet had purportedly created beveling, where through the outward dispersion of energy the hole in the brittle inner table was (according to the Clark Panel) two and a half times the size of the entrance hole on the outside of the skull, moreover, one can only wonder how this bullet slice found its way onto the outer table on a different segment of bone. Did it Frisbee through space before lodging in the depressed segment of bone below?
That no doctor has ever uncovered a comparable case, whereby a slice of a metal-jacketed bullet has been found on the outside of a skull near the point of impact, is not surprising, moreover. It just doesn't happen.
And so the HSCA FPP pulled the chicken switch and failed to conclude that the fragment on the back of the head was a slice of a bullet, and instead mumbled (if written words could mumble) that the fragment was "probably" a portion of the missile jacket, which just so happened to be circular in shape, and just so happened to be, according to their colleagues on the Clark Panel, the same width as a cross-section of the bullet. And, oh, by the way, they also concluded that this bullet, now relieved of this circular bit of jacket, continued on largely intact until "striking the automobile, causing it to fragment into several pieces" one of which was the nose of the bullet, and one of which was the to-all-appearances-intact base of the bullet.
In other words, they'd made clear the fragment was a slice without having the guts to say as much.
Well, there are a number of problems with this--starting with the fact their proposed bullet flight accounts for but two portions of the bullet--the supposedly 6.5 mm fragment supposedly found on the back of the head, and the largely intact bullet which continued on to strike the automobile. Let's not forget that the autopsy report written by the doctors who'd actually inspected the skull and brain claimed the bullet "traversed the cranial cavity in a posterior-anterior direction depositing minute particles along its path" and then"made its exit through the parietal bone on the right carrying with it portions of cerebrum, skull and scalp." To be clear, then, the autopy report made out that a bullet broke up within the skull, and the HSCA made out that it left one big slice on the back of the skull, but did not actually break up until it exited the skuill and hit a chrome strip on the limousine.
That something is wrong is further confirmed by the fact that the most visible supporters of the HSCA FPP's conclusions--Dr. Baden and single-assassin theorist John McAdams--still refuse to admit what is obvious--that their conclusions suggest the fragment was a slice from the middle of the bullet. Instead, Dr. Baden, in a high-profile appearance at the 2003 Wecht Conference, claimed that the fragment simply "rubbed off" the open base of the bullet. Huh? Well, at least this spurious explanation, which is in direct opposition to the findings of Baden's Pathology Panel, by the way, acknowledged that the fragment was not a slice incorporating both jacket and lead. Meanwhile, McAdams, apparently unable to process that the base of the bullet was found intact in the front section of the limousine, claimed (in a September 17, 2010 post on the alt.assassination.jfk newsgroup) that the fragment "was almost certainly sheared off the base of the bullet." My God! What smoke!
While it seems possible McAdams meant to suggest, as Baden, that lead was squeezed out the back of the bullet upon the bullet's impact on the skull, and was somehow sheared-off by the skull as the bullet proceeded into the skull, and that this sheared-off piece of bullet just so happened to lodge between the walls of the skull below where the bullet entered, and give the appearance of a 6.5 mm cross-section of the bullet on the x-rays, well, this isn't much better. It's make-believe. It's a fairy tale. It's the Tooth Fairy on steroids.
Now let's use our eyeballs.
When one looks at the computer-enhanced prints of the x-rays released by the HSCA (or at least the photos published of these prints), one comes to a quick realization. There is a bullet fragment visible on both the AP x-ray and lateral x-ray, in the President's forehead, above his right frontal sinus. There were two fragments removed at autopsy, one large one from behind the right frontal sinus, and a smaller one nearby. Well, if this is the larger fragment, where's the smaller one? And, if this is that fragment, what of the even larger fragment seen on the A-P x-ray? In the sections above, I've surmised that the doctors went looking for that fragment, later determined to be on the back of Kennedy's head, and stopped when they found this club-shaped fragment in his forehead. Well, the enhanced x-rays show the two fragments to have been of radically different proportions. Could they really have been that mistaken? Or is there a better explanation?When one reads the reports of the HSCA's radiology consultants, Dr.s McDonnel and Davis, included in Vol. 7 of the HSCA's report, one finds even more to ponder. Much of what they said fails to support the conclusions of the forensic pathology panel. In fact, if one reads closely, one can find substantive support for our operating premise that a bullet broke up on the outside of Kennedy’s skull above his ear. First of all, neither of the two doctors mentioned the large entrance hole on the back of the skull described by the Clark Panel. Second of all, Dr. David Davis said he believed the fractures at the back of Kennedy’s skull emanated not from the HSCA’s in-shoot but from the bullet slice itself. Since it simply makes no sense for a bullet to enter half-way into a skull, break-up, and have a slice from its middle lodge within its in-shoot, (particularly as the tail of the bullet struck the windshield only a few feet from its nose), a better explanation is needed. Third, when Dr. Davis discussed what he proposed was a trail of fragments stretching from a location some 6 centimeters above and in front of the supposed entrance wound in the cowlick along the mid-line of the brain towards the President’s forehead, he admitted that the largest of this supposed trail of fragments (the one high up near the crown of his head) appeared to be “outside the intracranial space.”
Well, this makes absolutely no sense if the wounds were as claimed by the HSCA: a small entrance in the cowlick and a large exit by the temple. Think about it. That the fragment high up near the crown of Kennedy's head came as a result of the impact at the in-shoot is refuted by the small size of the entrance wound, which would have been truly impossible if the bullet had exploded in half on the outside of the skull at that location.
But, then again, it's just as silly to think this fragment came from the bullet upon exit. I mean, how could a fragment speeding through a skull at hundreds of feet per second upon exit near the temple reverse itself and attach itself to the outside of the skull at a location inches back towards the entrance? Dr. Davis himself admitted: “It is impossible to work this out entirely.”
So the HSCA FPP failed to try. Let's recall that they proposed the fatal bullet headed 18 degrees left to right within the skull and exited en masse (in order to create the large skull fractures apparent near the temple). Well, the reported trajectory of the small fragments within the brain doesn’t follow this trajectory. Not even close.
And we're just getting started. Take a close look at the lateral x-ray above. A fracture line running from the area of the supposed in-shoot in the cowlick confirms something happened in that area; this fracture line, however, comes to a complete stop after intersecting a fracture line coming from the large defect near the temple.
Well, what's the significance of this, you might ask? Well, only that the large defect preceded whatever occurred near the cowlick. Don't believe me? Then one should consider this passage by Dr.s James Messmer and B.G. Brogdon in chapter 18 of A Radiologic Atlas of Abuse, Torture, Terrorism, and Inflicted Trauma (2003): "Determination of entrance and exit wounds in the skull is assisted by the rule of intersecting fractures, which states that a linear fracture from an earlier blow will stop propagation of a fracture from a second blow."
And should that not be clear, one should also consider this passage from Forensic Neuropathology: A Practical Review of the Fundamentals (2007): "Cranial gunshot wounds produce primary (and sometimes secondary) radiating gunshot wounds that extend from the entrance wound outward. It has been established that these radiating fracture lines develop faster, and thus are already present, when a bullet exits the skull. Radiating fracture lines from the exit will, therefore, stop at the preexisting fracture lines caused by the entrance wound, allowing the entrance and exit wounds to be distinguished by this skull fracture pattern irrespective of beveling characteristics of the entrance and exit wounds."
When one studies other textbooks and forensics journals, moreover, one finds that the belief fractures stop when they encounter pre-existing fractures dates back to 1903, when first proposed by a German pathologist named Puppe. Puppe’s Rule, as it has come to be known, has been accepted ever since. There is nothing controversial about it. Dr. Joseph Davis, of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, wrote an article for the 1998 Wound Ballistics Review, in which he acknowledged "Multiple gunshot wounds of the skull may be sequenced on the basis that fracture lines do not cross prior fracture lines." Similarly, the Oxford Handbook of Forensic Medicine, 2011, notes "Puppe's Rule is that fracture lines resulting from the second injury will not cross those from the first, thereby helping identification of which fracture occurred first. The rule has been recently applied to analysis of radial fracture lines caused by multiple bullet wounds to the head."
And yet, not one of the Clark Panel, Rockefeller Commission, and HSCA’s forensic pathology and radiology consultants mentioned that, "Oh yeah, the x-rays demonstrate that Kennedy's supposed exit wound by his temple pre-existed his supposed entrance wound in the cowlick!"
Now, that's not to say that no one noticed. Letters and papers by Dr. Randy Robertson found in the Weisberg Archives prove that Robertson, a diagnostic radiologist, noticed the "intersection" on the right lateral x-ray as far back as the early 1990's, when he viewed the original x-rays at the archives. And that's not all. They prove that, long before I began my study of the evidence, Robertson had invoked Puppe's Rule to claim the large wound presumed to be an exit by the temple preceded the fractures near the cowlick, and that this suggested more than one bullet had been fired into Kennedy's skull.
Now, to his credit, Robertson didn't just sit back after making this discovery; he tried to write about it in Radiology, JAMA, and the Journal of Forensic Sciences. But get this--he was shot down all three times. Radiology Editor Stanley Siegelman violated standard protocol, for that matter, and publicly rejected Robertson's submission, citing the claim of one of his reviewers that an article by Smith et al in the September, 1987 Journal of Forensic Sciences had suggested that the transverse fractures Robertson had noted on the back of Kennedy's head were actually concentric fractures (fractures created by intracranial pressure subsequent to the radial fractures created by the initial impact).
Here, moreover, is the critical part of this critical review, as presented on the website of John McAdams: "For now, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of a bullet entering above and to the right of the eternal occipital protuberance. This bullet caused acutely increased intracranial pressure, propagation of radiating and heaving fractures, explosion of the right frontoparietal brain and skull, and loss of the President's life."
Well, for crying out loud! Siegelman received an article from a board-certified radiologist (Robertson) in which he claimed Kennedy's x-rays supported both that the fatal bullet entered near the EOP, and that there were two shooters, firing from different locations. And he rejected this submission based upon the recommendation of a more trusted radiologist...even though this radiologist admitted the evidence was "overwhelmingly in favor" of the first of Robertson's conclusions--that the HSCA pathology panel was wrong, and that the fatal bullet entered near the EOP!
Well, that's pretty gutless, wouldn't you say? Siegelman could have published Robertson's article along with a response written by the reviewer, and RE-OPENED the JFK medical case in the medical community, and presumably the mainstream media.
This makes the identity of the second "peer" to review Robertson's article for Radiology all the more intriguing. According to Robertson, who discussed this with Siegelman, the second "peer" consulted by Siegelman had previously been a consultant to the HSCA. (Robertson asked if this was Dr. David O. Davis, but Siegelman wouldn't tell.)
Well, for crying out louder! This more than suggests that Siegelman, after receiving a submission from Robertson calling the HSCA's conclusions into doubt, and then receiving a confirmation from an outside reviewer that, yes, Robertson is right, and the HSCA was wrong, sought a third opinion, and went straight to the source--to an HSCA radiology consultant who told him "Don't you dare publish this. It will make some good men look bad." And that Siegelman then responded "Okay."
The whole process was a bit of a joke, right?
And that's not even to get into the sad sad fact that the first radiologist lassoed by Siegelman to review Robertson's article was probably wrong in his assertion the 1987 article by Smith et al offered a "perfectly acceptable alternative explanation" for the fracture pattern noted by Robertson.
To be clear, when one reads the referenced article, one finds that concentric fractures are created slightly after a bullet’s impact as a result of increased intracranial pressure in the skull. Well, it's doubtful such pressure developed in Kennedy’s skull, seeing as there were either multiple exits created by a fragmenting bullet, or a much larger exit than expected, which would immediately release the pressure.
And that's not all. The article presents concentric fractures as long spokes which are linked together by smaller fractures, as internal pressure builds and radiates outwards from the in-shoot. Accordingly, the smaller fractures connecting the spokes are not found at the end of the spokes, like the rim of a bicycle tire, but are found lower in the spokes, like the strands of a spider web.
Well, this is simply not the case with Kennedy’s fractures, where the spokes presumably rising from the EOP entrance have but one transverse fracture connecting them, at the level of the supposed cowlick entrance...
In any event, Robertson was not the last to notice the "intersection" on the original x-rays. Doug Horne's notes on his discussion with Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, the forensic anthropologist consulted by the ARRB on 1-26-96, reflect that while viewing the x-rays, Ubelaker "observed that one fracture line occurred prior to the other, because the longer one stopped the shorter one." While Horne's notes failed to reveal which lines intersected, and which came first, one look at the x-ray makes this pretty obvious. (As Horne's notes quickly dismiss "But in and of themselves, 2 fracture lines occurring at different times do not indicate 1 bullet or 2 bullets to the head," it seems likely he failed to understand the importance of what Ubelaker was telling him, and that the order of these fractures could in fact help determine the direction of fire.)
And Ubelaker wasn't the last to notice, either. On November 13, 2013, PBS broadcast a new program on the Kennedy assassination, NOVA: Cold Case JFK. While much of the program was wasted trying to prop up the single-bullet theory, the ending of the program held a big surprise. Dr. Peter Cummings, a Massachusetts forensic pathologist, visited the National Archives to view the Kennedy assassination medical evidence. He came out with a surprising conclusion. He concluded that the x-rays suggested that the fatal bullet entered low on the head, as determined at autopsy. A quick graphic showed why he came to this conclusion. Cummings believed the large fracture running along the back of the skull derived not from the large defect, as I suspect, but from the entrance by the EOP, and that the lateral fracture heading from the supposed cowlick defect was a subsequent fracture, and part of an eggshell or spiderweb fracturing pattern, in which primary fractures from the defect are connected by secondary fractures running between them.
In other words...Cummings AGREED with Robertson, the reviewer of Robertson's article, and (presumably) Ubelaker that the lateral fracture from the supposed cowlick entrance came to a stop at the vertical fracture heading into the large defect! Well, this completely undercuts the long-held (supposedly official) conclusion the fatal bullet entered at the cowlick.
This should lead one, then, to consider the possibility the bullet entered near the EOP, sent fractures up the back of the head, and then exploded out of the large defect, pretty much as described in the autopsy report.
So let's take a closer look at Cummings' conclusions...
Changing Channels to The Cummings Show
As discussed, Dr. Cummings viewed the autopsy materials in 2013. As depicted on a subsequent NOVA program, this visit confirmed Cummings' conclusion a bullet struck Kennedy low in the back of the head prior to the creation of the fractures at the top of the back of his head, the supposed impact location. As a consequence, he decided that the HSCA and Clark Panel were incorrect, and that the bullet did in fact enter near the EOP where the autopsy doctors claimed it had entered.
But there were problems with his analysis.
Let's begin our dissection of these problems by noting that the fractures on the back and top of the head proposed by Cummings were presumed to be consistent with the concentric radial fractures described by Smith et al in 1987.
The image presented below, taken from Cummings' appearance on the NOVA program, shows why. In Cummings' analysis, all the large fractures apparent on Kennedy's right skull x-rays begin at an impact location low on the back of Kennedy's head.
But where would these fractures lie on an actual skull?
Cummings' answer is quite surprising.
Here is his depiction of these fractures on a skull model, as presented in a Boston Globe article on Cummings' appearance on NOVA:
Notice anything? I did. First, Cummings' proposed fractures extend all over the left side of the head as well as the right side.
Uhh, hello, the left side of the skull was not fractured in this manner. Not according to the autopsy doctors, anyway. Not even close.
And second, well second...look at Cummings' left index finger. He's pointing out the supposed entrance location, just above his finger. Now look at the bump on the skull below and to the left of his finger. That, my friends, is the EOP. The autopsy protocol placed this entrance wound an inch to the right and slightly above the EOP. And yet Cummings has it reversed, slightly to the right, and more than inch above.
In other words, his proposed entrance location is not where the autopsy doctors claimed it was.
Well, then what about third? Can I hear a third?
Yep. Here are some actual concentric radial fractures. This is as described by Smith et al in 1987, and as presented in Wound Ballistics: Basics and Applications (2008).
Well, think about it. This is not the pattern Cummings presents on the skull above. The fractures on Cummings' skull stretch in one direction--upwards--and do not run in all directions from the purported entrance defect. And that's just the half of it. There are no radial fractures on Cummings' skull connecting the spokes heading upwards, outside the one stretching from the cowlick, and ending at the large fracture. If he had connected them, moreover, it would have been clear to everyone that his analysis of Kennedy's x-rays was grossly at odds with the evidence.
Now, let's acknowledge that Cummings wasn't totally out to lunch.
A collage of the high-velocity gunshot wounds of the skull discussed in chapter 16b is presented below. These images were presented in the early wound ballistics texts as examples of the cranial damage created by small-calibre, high-velocity rifle ammunition, when fired from a close to medium range. The spider-web of fractures proceeding from entrance to exit on Kennedy's skull (proposed by Cummings) is present on the middle two of these skulls.
Or is it? In opposition to Cummings' analysis, the fractures on these skulls did not stretch across suture lines and head straight for the exit defect...
There's also this. In Dr. Olivier's report on the wound ballistics of the assassination rifle and ammunition he presented the x-ray below (subsequently published as Fig. 38 in Larry Sturdivan's 2005 book The JFK Myths). Now, at first glance, this would appear to show how the fracture patterns on the test skulls resembled the fracture pattern on Kennedy's skull.
But they don't actually match, do they? The largest of the fractures on Kennedy's skull as proposed by Cummings led straight to, or from, the large defect at the top of his skull. Not so the fractures on the test skulls, in which there was no large defect at the top of the skulls.
It comes down to this. While it seems unlikely a full-metal jacket bullet fracturing upon impact would create at its entrance the small hole and minor skull fractures noted in the autopsy protocol, it seems equally unlikely such a bullet, should it enter through such a hole, would create the huge fractures proposed by Cummings. Beyond that no fractures of this kind (stretching from the entrance defect all the way to the exit defect) were noted at autopsy, there is simply no support in the wound ballistics literature regarding Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition for a bullet creating such a small entrance defect, while simultaneously creating such large fractures.
Dr. Alan Moritz, a member of the Clark Panel, and a mentor to its leader Dr. Russell Fisher, addressed this very issue in his influential work, Pathology of Trauma. He reported: "If (a) force is applied at high velocity and over a small area, as is the case when a skull is struck by a bullet...the fracture may be entirely local...There may or may not be lines of fractures radiating from the defect. The occurrence of such radiating fracture lines depends upon the amount of resistance offered by the bone...The passage of a bullet through bone may be compared to the fall of a skater through thin ice. If the resistance is low, neither the bullet nor the skater makes a hole larger than necessary to permit penetration."
Now, to be fair, Cummings believes the bullet killing Kennedy entered the occipital bone, in bone far thicker than the parietal bone entrance location proposed by the Clark and HSCA panels. But would the resistance at this location be so great that fractures from this location would stretch across the skull?
I suspect the answer is no.
Here's a good reason why...
This diagram was found in one of the first books on the wound ballistics of rifles like the one used in the assassination. It has a really long name:
SURGICAL EXPERIENCES IN SOUTH AFRICA
BEING MAINLY A CLINICAL STUDY OF THE NATURE AND EFFECTS OF INJURIES PRODUCED BY BULLETS OF SMALL CALIBRE
GEORGE HENRY MAKINS, F.R.C.S
The caption to this diagram reads:
"Diagram of Aperture of Entry in Occipital Bone, showing radiating fissures exact length. The exit in the frontal region was of typical explosive character. Range '100 yards'"
The bullet creating this entry was, furthermore, a .276 in Mauser bullet, weighing 173.3 grains, fired at 2262 f/s. This is a larger bullet than the ones fired in the presumed assassination rifle...traveling at a greater velocity. Such a bullet would almost certainly have created a larger entry than the entry on the back of Kennedy's head, with larger fractures. If Cummings is correct, however, the opposite occurred.
When one looks back at the skulls used in Dr. Olivier's tests for the Warren Commission, moreover, one finds further reason to doubt Cummings' conclusions. As shown throughout Chapter 16, the bullets striking low on the backs of the skulls either left a small entrance hole or blasted off the whole right side of the head. On none of these skulls did the bullet leave a small entrance hole in the occipital region with fractures stretching upwards to a massive defect at the top of the skull. This fact was noted, moreover, by Larry Sturdivan, Cummings' fellow single-assassin/EOP entry wound theorist, in his 2005 book The JFK Myths. There, while arguing that the large fractures by the cowlick were created by the passage of the bullet, as opposed to the impact of the bullet on the skull, Sturdivan admitted that radiating from each of the entrance wounds on the back of the ten skulls fired upon for the Warren Commission, was, "at most, a single crack that ran across the entry hole." He then related: "None had multiple displaced cracks radiating from the entry hole."
In his report, furthermore, Dr. Olivier presented one photo from his skull tests to demonstrate the "typical" entrance defect on the skulls they'd tested. This photo was subsequently published in Sturdivan's 1978 HSCA testimony, and in Sturdivan's 2005 book, The JFK Myths, as a depiction of a typical entrance defect left by an M/C bullet after penetrating the occipital region of the skull.
Here is a close up of the entrance in this photo.
Now does this resemble the damage proposed by Cummings? No, of course not. A single fracture line emanates from this entrance, and it comes to a halt at the end of the occipital bone. Cummings, as we've seen, has concluded there were multiple fracture lines deriving from the entrance on the occipital bone, that then extended onto the neighboring bones, on both sides of the skull. The amount of force (and resistance) required to create five or more fracture lines that spread across the skull would be many times the amount of force (and resistance) suggested by Edgewood Arsenal's photo of a "typical" Mannlicher-Carcano bullet entrance on an actual skull.
It seems clear, then, that Cummings' interpretation of Kennedy's x-rays is not to be relied upon. He has giant fractures rising up from the small hole by the EOP, after all. And this is at odds with the autopsy protocol, which reads "Upon reflecting the scalp, multiple complete fracture lines are seen to radiate from both the large defect at the vertex and the smaller wound at the occiput. These vary greatly in length and direction...The complexity of these fractures and the fragments thus produced tax satisfactory verbal description and are better appreciated in photographs and roentgenograms..."
Now, should one still find oneself semi or even completely convinced Cummings was on to something, and that a bullet striking low on Kennedy's head really could have created all the fractures apparent on the right lateral skull x-ray, there's also this to consider...Kennedy's brain.
Yes, let's not forget that Cummings' (and Sturdivans') trajectory has the bullet entering low and exiting high, and blasting apart Kennedy's skull, while leaving no readily observable track through Kennedy's brain!
This was never mentioned in Cummings' appearance on NOVA, nor in related articles published on his findings, of course.
Cummings' belief that fractures from the entrance by the EOP radiated all the way up to the exit by the temple is almost certainly wrong. Clearly, a better explanation is needed!!
So here it comes... The fractures on the back of the head derived from an explosive impact at the large defect. Dr. Donald W. Marrion, in 1999's Traumatic Brain Injury, describes: "In some instances, a bullet disintegrates when it hits the skull at an angle, sending multiple fragments into the scalp and thereby having the appearance of a shotgun wound on plain skull radiographs." If we assume Kennedy was struck in such a manner at frame 313 of the Zapruder film, of course, it correlates Dr. Davis' observation that the fragments appeared to be in the scalp with Dr. William Kemp Clark's observation and testimony that Kennedy's large head wound appeared to be a tangential wound. It appeared to be because it was.
That Dr. Davis was agreeable to this conclusion is confirmed by a 12-22-78 letter written to the HSCA. In response to their question of whether the x-rays were consistent with a shot being fired from the grassy knoll, he wrote: "the only possible occurrence would have required President Kennedy's head to have been tilted to the left side, that is, with the right ear elevated and the left depressed...in order to justify our potential explanation that a tangential blow might have been struck to the right top of Mr. Kennedy's skull at about the same time the posterior missile entered." Dr. Davis then haggled about the exact trajectory needed for this to work, and concluded "If the films of Mr. Kennedy's head at the time of the impact do not show such a tilt, I think that it is completely reasonable to assume that there was no possible head wound from the right side." Dr. Davis had thereby confirmed that his problem with such a shot did not come from his study of the x-rays, but from the assassination films, and that the x-rays were completely consistent with the large defect's having been created by a tangential blow.
Those studying the x-rays at autopsy, in fact, suspected such a blow. On 3-11-78, the radiologist at the autopsy, Dr. John Ebersole, in testimony originally slated to be sealed for fifty years, discussed his opinions regarding the fatal head shot with the HSCA medical panel. He told them: "In my opinion it would have come from the side...I would say on the basis of those x rays and x rays only one might say one would have to estimate there that the wound of entrance was somewhere to the side or to the posterior quadrant." Such a wound is most assuredly not the small wound on the back of the head by the EOP.
There were others at the autopsy who shared this assessment. When discussing the back of the head in the lateral x-ray, radiology tech Jerrol Custer testified before the ARRB "you see the fragmentation, how it starts to get larger and larger and larger...The brain has been pushed back, and it pops the skull out." When asked then if this meant the trauma began at the front and moved towards the back of the head, Custer clarified "Yes, absolutely." An HSCA report on an interview with Dr. Humes' and Dr. Boswell's assistant at the autopsy, James Curtis Jenkins, reflects a similar opinion: "He said the wound to the head entered the top rear quadrant from the front side."
Jenkins would later clarify his thoughts. As recounted in High Treason 2, in 1990, he told Harrison Livingstone that "just above the right ear there was some discoloration of the skull cavity with the bone area being gray and there was some speculation that it might be lead." When then asked by Livingstone if this might have been an entrance, he replied: "Yes, and the opening and the way the bone was damaged behind the head (it) would have definitely been a type of exit wound." In an interview with William Law, published in Law's book In the Eye of History (2005), moreover, Jenkins stood by this assessment. About Humes and Boswell, he related "They were speculating about a lot of things." When asked about what, he continued "Well, about a hole actually above the right ear. The speculation was that it had some gray substance on it and of course the speculation at that point in time that it was from a bullet." When asked if they came to a conclusion regarding this hole, he responded "No, I think--from my assumption--that it was an entry wound." He then acknowledged that "Later on I was told there was a wound below the nuchal line on the back of Kennedy's head" and that even so "I came out of the autopsy that night and I was sure that the bullet entered the right side of the head and exited in this area" (at which point he pointed above his right ear).
As none of these men noted a separate entrance and exit for the large head wound they observed, it seems clear they were describing a tangential wound impacting on the side of Kennedy's head at the supposed exit defect. It follows then that they were either unaware of the small entrance wound near the EOP discussed in the autopsy report or were of the impression the small entrance wound near the EOP discovered at the autopsy did not correlate with the large defect more readily observed at the top of the head, and that there was more than one head wound.
While undoubtedly problematic for the single-assassin conclusion, the assumption that the shot striking Kennedy at frame 313 was a tangential blow nevertheless makes sense out of all sorts of nonsense. It explains why the President’s skull fragments shot upward from above and forward of Kennedy’s ear. It explains why the four major scalp lacerations described in the autopsy report all began at the large defect, and none at the supposed entrance. It removes the messy proposition that the bullet traversing Kennedy's skull changed directions upon exit before striking the windshield, and replaces it with the far more likely assumption that the bullet was deflected after breaking up on Kennedy's skull, and then struck the windshield. It explains, moreover, why the crumpled nose of this bullet was found to have been covered with human skin, a recently-discovered fact that is completely at odds with the official theory that this bullet entered through a small hole in the back of Kennedy’s head and tumbled through 4 inches of brain matter.
Well, then, it's time for a gut check. We've argued that the large fractures on the back of Kennedy's skull did not stretch from the small entrance by the EOP to the top of his skull, but from the top of his head skull to near the EOP. SO..are the large fractures seen on Kennedy's x-rays more rightly affiliated with a tangential wound to the top of his head, as opposed to a perforating wound to the back of his head?
Yep. Here's an x-ray of a high-velocity tangential wound to the vertex of the skull in Forensic Radiology (1981), by Dr.s Evans, Knight, and Whittaker.. Note the large fractures emanating from the primary defect.
And here's an even more revealing x-ray of a high-velocity tangential wound of the skull. This comes from Bullet Injuries of the Brain, by Dr. H. Alan Crockard (Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 1974). Note the massive fracture line stretching from the impact location.
So, yeah, the large defect and fractures on Kennedy's skull were not suggestive of the shooting scenario outlined by the Warren Commission and HSCA. And, yeah, they suggested instead that Kennedy's fatal wound was a tangential wound of both entrance and exit, located at the supposed exit location.
Now, should one remain unconvinced, and wish to believe that "experts" such as Dr. Baden nailed this all down decades ago, well, feel free to follow his bouncing ball of b.s.
BOING! Here it comes again!
X-ray/Ida Dox Drawing Comparison
When testifying before the HSCA, medical illustrator Ida Dox declared that the depiction of the skull fractures in the HSCA's medical exhibits was determined after “studying very carefully the x-rays…in close consultation with the medical panel, particularly Michael Baden.” As noted elsewhere, Baden had pressured her to change her drawing of the back of the head to make the red smudge in the cowlick look more like a bullet entrance, and thus sell that the bullet entered near the top of Kennedy's head, not near the bottom, as noted at autopsy. This alone should give us pause and make us double-check the accuracy of the fractures in these drawings.
Sure enough, when one compares the Dox illustration that details the skull fractures on Kennedy’s head, Exhibit F-66, to Kennedy's x-rays, one can't help but notice another one of Baden’s “improvements.” While there is a diagonal fracture heading towards the right at the back of the head on the Dox drawing, this fracture doesn’t appear on the x-ray. Although lateral x-rays are not expected to give clear images of fractures along the very back of the head, due to the density of the skull when looked at on edge, this fracture winds its way far enough to the side where it should be visible. So where is it? And, just as importantly, if it's not on the x-ray, why is it on the drawing?
And why are there fractures on the x-rays not depicted on the drawing? The large fractures originating near the President’s temple and running towards the back of his head were apparently overlooked by Dox and Baden. The intersection between the fracture originating near the purported in-shoot in the cowlick and the fracture coming from the wound near the temple, where it is made obvious that the temple wound pre-dates the cowlick wound, was also overlooked, apparently. But isn’t it a bit ridiculous to think that they also overlooked the two fractures running horizontally across the lower back portion of the skull? (The occipital region).
That these last fractures are troublesome is made clear when one reads the Clark Panel and HSCA reports and realizes that these fractures are never explained and are barely even acknowledged. While the Clark Panel, for instance, made the dubious claim that there was a hole 100 mm above the EOP and that “Immediately adjacent to the hole on the internal surface of the skull, there is localized elevation of the soft tissues,” they didn’t once mention the obvious and easy-to-distinguish fractures running horizontally across the back of the skull.
It seems quite possible then that Baden's failure to depict these fractures on the Dox drawing was not an accidental over-sight, but was, instead, a deliberate deception...
Consider: on Exhibit F-66, the bullet is depicted traveling straight through Kennedy’s head, down towards the seat in front of him. This would be Connally’s seat, where NO bullet fragments were found. The trajectory of this bullet through the skull is thereby deceptive.
That this deception was deliberate is supported, moreover, by the pathology panel’s report, which states “in the experience of the members, the estimated size of the principal exit defect is consistent with the size of a single exiting missile representing the mass of the two major fragments recovered outside the body”. Hmmm... Since the "two major fragments” were the nose and base of a bullet, and were thus not able to comprise a “single exiting missile,” and since more than half this bullet was never recovered, it appears the HSCA medical panel was blowing a little smoke, and avoiding admitting that their conclusions were reliant upon their unsupported assumption that 1) the missing middle of the bullet exited basically intact, or 2) the entire bullet exited basically intact, but broke up afterwards.
Let's be specific. The fragments found in the front compartment of the limousine weighed 44.6 and 21.0 grains. The largest fragment found in the skull weighed 1.65 grains. That's 67.25 grains. Total. An intact Mannlicher-Carcano bullet, we should remember, weighs about 160 grains. That means 92.25 grains were missing. Well, the Pathology Panel, without any foundation, assumed that 65.6 or more of this missing 92.25 grains was accounted for by one fragment! Hmmm... It follows then, that if no fragment of that size actually exited Kennedy's skull, the large size of the principal exit defect (and, by implication, the large skull fractures coming from this defect) made little sense...even to the Forensic Pathology Panel...
Well, then, what about the second option--that the panel was actually pushing that the entire bullet exited intact, only to break-up afterwards? This incredible scenario--that the bullet "leaked" lead from its base within the skull, but then broke up on the windshield strut--was, after all, pushed by Dr. Baden in his subsequent statements. Could the panel as a whole have signed off on such nonsense?
It appears so. That the panel's conclusions lacked a logical basis is further evidenced by their description of the bullet's path through the head. The report notes "The x-ray evidence indicates that the missile fragmented on impact, produced a number of outwardly radiating fractures, and proceeded in an essentially straight and forward path and to the right, paralleling the upper surface of the head. This type of missile fragmentation is consistent with a jacketed missile. The main core mass probably existed in a single fragment that remained intact until striking the automobile, causing it to fragment into several pieces."
Well...good golly. This is one of the most preposterous passages in the whole report. First, how does a bullet fragmenting upon impact with a skull remain intact until after exiting the skull, and then break up on a windshield or metal strut? Second, how does a "main core mass"--which by implication includes the nose and base of a bullet--leave a trail of pieces from its middle in a skull? I mean, are we really supposed to believe that "fragmented" bullets only leak lead from their base, as subsequently pushed by Dr. Baden?
And that's not even to mention James Tague, who was wounded by a speck of concrete broke off by a bullet ricochet while standing hundreds of feet from Kennedy's position at the moment of the head shot. The scar left by this ricochet was tested and showed signs of lead, but not copper. This suggests the fragment hitting the concrete by Tague was a fragment from the head shot, and not a copper-jacketed bullet striking the curb prior to the head shot, as purported by most current supporters of the Oswald did-it scenario. Well, how the heck could such a large fragment--because it would have to have been a large fragment to travel so far and still be able to chip concrete--get over the windshield of the limo, if the bullet exited intact and broke up after hitting the back of the windshield, as suggested by the panel in their report? What? Are we to believe an intact bullet broke up after hitting the windshield, and that one large section from this bullet flew up in the air, regained its momentum, and raced forward another couple of hundred feet towards Tague?
It would appear to be no coincidence, then, that Exhibit F-66, created under Dr. Baden's supervision, fails to depict 1) the horizontal fractures in the occipital region of Kennedy's skull, 2) the break-up of the bullet, 3) the size of the principal exit defect (the hole created by the bullet itself), and 4) the large skull fractures deriving from this defect. It didn't add up, so they performed subtraction.
It kinda makes one wonder whether Dr. Baden is a scientist or a salesman...
Or a mediocre combination of both, who was in way, way, over his head...
The “Trail of Fragments”
Should one still not be convinced the HSCA's explanation for Kennedy's head wounds is dog doo-doo, and that a tangential entrance on the skull makes far more sense, well, then, perhaps one should take a look at the bullet fragments in Kennedy's head more closely. Such an inspection will reveal, after all, that the bullet fragments purportedly leading across the brain appear to cluster in the upper right quadrant of the brain. The Clark Panel's report probably describes this best. It relates that a "cluster" of small bullet fragments "appears to end anteriorly immediately below the badly fragmented frontal and parietal bones just anterior to the region of the coronal suture."There's a huge problem with this, however. That part of the brain was missing. Dr. Humes, we should recall, had testified before the Warren Commission that "The greatest loss of brain substance was particularly in the parietal lobe, which is the major portion of the right cerebral hemisphere" and that "The base of the laceration was situated approximately 4.5 cm. below the vertex." More to the point, Dr. Boswell had testified: "the top of his head was blown off. A 14-centimeter segment of it was blown off. And it was on the right side of his brain that the brain was missing." That the supposed trail of fragments on the x-rays were not even in the brain, and appeared "to be suspended in midair," moreover, was proposed by Dr. Mantik long before I, and reported in Harrison Livingstone's 1993 book Killing the Truth. Got to give credit where credit is due
Of course, the x-rays were taken with Kennedy laying on his back. It seems possible, then, that gravity pulled the partially untethered brain downwards and outwards, and moved the fragments apparent on the x-rays across the tracks, so to speak.
When one looks real close, however, it appears that some of the fragments appear to be where even skull is missing. Since the ballistics expert at the autopsy, Dr. Finck, reported to his superiors in the Army that “many metallic fragments were seen on x-ray films, but only two were recovered,” and that his post-autopsy examination of the removed brain revealed no metallic fragments, only bone fragments, it seems reasonable to assume that the bulk of these bullet fragments were in the President’s scalp or hair, and not within his skull. As the doctors, under the reasonable impression the President was slated for an open-casket funeral, were understandably reluctant to shave his head, and as Dr. Finck, the one member of the autopsy team with experience with bullet wounds, arrived after the removal of the brain, it seems reasonable as well to assume that Humes and Boswell simply peeled back Kennedy’s scalp without inspecting it, and then rushed through the unappetizing business of searching the President’s skull for bullet fragments. When Humes’ testified about this inspection before the Warren Commission, after all, he admitted that: “in this area of the large defect we did not encounter any of these minute particles. I might say at this time that the x-ray pictures which were made would have a tendency to magnify these minute fragments somewhat in size and we were not too surprised in not being able to find the tiny fragments depicted in the x-ray.”
So, NO particles from the supposed “trail of fragments” were found on the interior of the skull near the supposed exit.
Unfortunately, Dr. Humes’ inability to find these fragments failed to prevent him from citing them as support for his theories. In the autopsy report Humes claimed that a bullet entering near the hairline deposited “minute particles along its path” from the entrance near the EOP to the right forehead.
And he wasn't the last to play pretend with these fragments. The Clark Panel and HSCA both claimed this same trail of fragments, when projected backwards, led to the in-shoot in the cowlick.
Here is the Clark Panel's fib... After discussing a "hole" supposedly apparent on the x-rays 100 mm above the EOP, their report reveals "The metallic fragments visualized within the right cerebral hemisphere fall into two groups. One group consists of relatively large fragments, more or less randomly distributed. The second group consists of finely divided fragments, distributed in a postero-anterior direction in a region 45 mm. long and 8 mm. wide. As seen on lateral film #2, this formation overlies the position of the coronal suture; its long axis, if extended posteriorly, passes through the above-mentioned hole. It appears to end anteriorly immediately below the badly fragmented frontal and parietal bones just anterior to the region of the coronal suture."
And here is the HSCA Panel's fib...
Now, first of all, they were lying. The fragments were not randomly distributed from front to back. They were clustered by the supposed exit.
And, second of all, there's this. Paragraph 335 claims the trail of fragments, if extended backward, "approaches" the supposed hole 100 mm above the EOP. But then Paragraph 336 says the panel "considered" the location of the fragments and "suggests" these fragments may not be in their original location. Are they saying then, that, the fragments may not have originally lined up with the supposed entrance defect, but that they currently do line-up on the x-rays? Or that the fragments do not currently line up with the supposed entrance defect on the x-rays, but that they assume they did at one point?
We should suspect the latter. The fact is that virtually all the fragments observable on the x-rays are well above both Humes’ proposed path and the path first proposed by the Clark Panel. It seems probable, then, that the HSCA realized the fragments did not align with the supposed entrance, but said they did under the assumption they had moved from their original location. And that they were thereby claiming to see something they didn't actually see.
And no, this isn't a reach on my part.
Dr. Werner Spitz was a prominent member of the HSCA's panel. He was both a former assistant to the Clark Panel's leader, Russell Fisher, and the co-author of Fisher's famous textbook, Medicolegal Investigation of Death. He was also a consultant to the Rockefeller Commission. After noting that the right side of the skull seemed displaced on the x-rays, Spitz reported to the Commission: “if this were all placed back in its original location…then that dispersion of metal fragments which indicates the wound track comes into perfect alignment…”
We can assume, then, that Spitz was the impetus behind Paragraph 336, and that he pushed upon the HSCA panel that the right side of the skull was displaced and that, if properly placed, the trail of fragments would indeed line up with the Clark Panel's proposed entrance, y'know, the one dreamt up by his pal Russell Fisher.
It's funny, moreover, how this displacement was not noted by the panel's radiology consultants...
And that one of them actually noticed something real (as opposed to Fisher and Spitz’s pretend trail of fragments on a pretend bullet path…heading across the brain from a pretend bullet entrance...)
Here’s HSCA radiology consultant Dr. David Davis in his 8-23-78 report: “the metallic fragment pattern that is present from some of the metallic fragments located superiorly in the region of the parietal bone, or at least projecting on the parietal bone, are actually in the scalp.”
And here's HSCA wound ballistics consultant Larry Sturdivan in his 9-8-78 testimony: "A very small fragment has very high drag in tissue...this case is typical of a deforming jacketed bullet leaving fragments along its path as it goes. Incidentally, those fragments that are left by the bullet...do not move very far from their initial, from the place where they departed the bullet. Consequently, they tend to be clustered very closely around the track of the bullet."
Well, hello, this suggests that the bullet impacted at the supposed exit. I mean, how else would a cluster of small fragments get onto the outside of the skull?
Now, to be fair, it's not as if the findings of Dr. Davis were totally ignored. In his 9-7-78 testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Dr. Michael Baden tried to have it both ways, by blending Spitz’s claims about the fragments with Davis’ observations. Baden rejected that the fatal bullet could have entered low on the back of Kennedy's skull as described at autopsy. He then asserted: "There is present evidence of a bullet track only in the upper portion of the skull; these metal fragments have moved a bit because some of the fragments are in the loose scalp tissues and soft tissues that are movable."
Well, whoa there, Doctor! Just how did these fragments get into these "loose scalp tissues"? Baden, we should recall, insisted that the bullet only leaked lead within the skull, and broke-up after hitting the windshield strut. Did he honestly believe this "leaked" lead dripped out on the scalp?
And it's not as if no one at the autopsy saw the metal fragments described by Davis and Baden. The radiology tech at the autopsy, Jerrol Custer, was interviewed by researcher Tom Wilson in 1995. The notes on this interview were published in A Deeper, Darker Truth, 2009. According to these notes, Custer told Wilson that when viewing the left lateral x-ray at the autopsy "You could see metal flecks in the top of the head expanding from front to back. They were resting on the bone itself and they were clearly visible." Custer said that he then told Dr. Ebersole that he thought Kennedy's x-rays depicted an entrance wound in the right temporal area, but that Ebersole responded "Just do what you're supposed to do."
And then there's Robinson... Mortician Tom Robinson, when asked about the fatal bullet by the HSCA staff during a 1-12-77 interview, stated his assumption that “It exited in many pieces,” and then explained, “They were literally picked out, little pieces of this bullet from all over his head.”
And Custer and Robinson weren't the only ones attending the autopsy to report signs suggesting the bullet broke up at the supposed exit. Autopsy assistant James Curtis Jenkins, we should recall, claimed the doctors discovered a gray discoloration of the skull on the right side of Kennedy's head, right by the supposed exit. A gray discoloration of the skull of course suggests the presence of lead. Lead is of course a metal. Two plus two equals four.
When one realizes that the largest fragments of an exploding bullet travel the furthest, and that the two largest fragments discussed at the autopsy were on the opposite ends of Kennedy’s skull and equidistant from the supposed exit, and adds this to the fact that, defying expectation, there were no small fragments surrounding the supposed in-shoot in the cowlick, then one should rightly conclude that the lateral x-ray demonstrates convincingly that a bullet broke up near the site of the supposed out-shoot, above the right ear. I’d bet everything I have on it. And have.
But there are always those who disagree. In the JFK Myths (2005), Larry Sturdivan offered an explanation as to how all the fragments from the bullet he had come to believe entered low on the skull ended up at the top of Kennedy’s head. He wrote: “Many of the fragments deposited in the President’s brain were flushed out, along with the brain tissue, as the large amount of blood flowed out of the explosive wound in the side of his head, in the car and in Parkland. It is evidently some of these that were deposited in the bone flaps by clotting blood that show as a “trail” of fragments near the top of the lateral view.” Sounds good. But does this really make sense? I mean, if these fragments were all on bone flaps, which is doubtful, and were held in place by “clotting blood,” wouldn’t these fragments slide to the back of Kennedy’s head once he lay firmly on his back? The x-rays, after all, were taken more than 8 hours after Kennedy’s head exploded. Certainly, Sturdivan doesn't believe Kennedy’s casket was shipped on end.
So, yeah, we can't let Sturdivan off the hook on this one.
Nor can we let Baden off the hook. Because the evidence is pretty darned clear he lied about some of the minute metal fragments observable on the x-rays.
Here is the original autopsy report: "Received as separate specimens from Dallas, Texas are three fragments of skull bone which in aggregate roughly approximate the dimensions of the large defect described above. At one angle of the largest of these fragments is a portion of the perimeter of a roughly circular wound presumably of exit which exhibits beveling of the outer aspect of the bone and is estimated to measure approximately 2.5 to 3.0 cm. in diameter. Roentgenograms of this fragment reveal minute particles of metal in the bone at this margin."
And here is Dr. Humes' 1964 testimony on this fragment: "To confirm that this was a missile wound, X-rays were made of that fragment of bone, which showed radio-opaque material consistent and similar in character to the particles seen within the skull to be deposited in the margins of this defect, in this portion of the bone."
Now, reflect that this was purported to be an exit defect...on a large bone fragment presumed to have resided at the top of Kennedy's head. And now add in that this fragment had minute particles of metal within the margins of this exit defect...
Well, think about it. The beveling upon a skull at exit is beveled outwards, i.e., more of the outside layer of the skull is missing than of the inside layer, with a crater on the outside of the skull surrounding the exit margin.
Well, golly gee...the radio-opaque material observed in the margins of the defect were thereby on the outside of the skull...
Well, this makes it clear--quite clear, IMO--that the bullet broke up at this location, and not inches away on the back of Kennedy's head.
I mean, think about it. If a minute particle of metal were to break off a full-metal jacket bullet as it exited a skull, would this particle get embedded on the outside of the skull at the exit defect?
I think not. That's just wacky. And, evidently, I'm not the only one who had a problem with this possibility.
Here are the three fragments x-rayed at the autopsy as depicted in HSCA Exhibit F-66. This drawing was prepared by Ida Dox under the direction of Dr. Michael Baden, based upon his interpretation of the x-rays. I have placed it alongside a blow-up from the x-ray of the largest of these fragments, as published by researcher John Hunt. Look closely.
The curvature apparent on the largest fragment in Baden's drawing proves we are looking at the inside face of the fragment...and yet look at the beveling apparent at the bottom right corner--it's beveled inwards, not outwards!
Now note the metal fragments apparent on the beveled edge! This edge, it bears repeating, should have been beveled outwards, not inwards. These fragments--some of which can be made out on the publicly available x-ray at right--are, in Baden's analysis, on the surface of the beveling--a surface, to be clear, Baden's panel concluded was on the outside of the skull!
Is it just a coincidence, then, that Baden reversed the beveling on the drawing made under his supervision, and placed the fragments Humes indicated were on the outside of the skull...on the inside? I suspect not.
So, there it is. The HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, under the direction of Dr. Michael Baden, was provided a strong scientific basis to conclude a bullet broke up on the outside of the skull at the supposed exit defect, and not only ignored this evidence, but deceived the public.
Shame on them...if they knew what they were doing...and shame on them...if they did not...
Lateral X-ray/HSCA Trajectory Comparison
When one compares the lateral x-ray to the trajectory drawings of the skull prepared for the HSCA trajectory analysis, one finds that not only is the supposed trajectory far below the purported “trail of fragments” but that the supposed outshoot, as discussed earlier, appears to be below the cluster of fragments, on bone. If this is true, of course, this means that the trajectory analysis plotted an in-shoot where there was no in-shoot, to an outshoot where there was no outshoot. I’m not kidding.
When one looks at the purported in-shoot near the cowlick on the trajectory drawing one can see that although the in-shoot was supposedly only 1.8 cm from the middle of the back of Kennedy’s head, this would still project slightly inwards from the back of Kennedy’s head when viewed laterally, due to the rounded nature of the skull. When one looks at the x-ray, however, one sees that there is no clear-cut entrance at this location. That this entrance was hard for even trained experts to locate can be revealed by reading the various reports written for the Clark Panel, Rockefeller Commission, HSCA, and ARRB. To put it mildly, they lack consensus. Here is a brief summary...
February, 1968. Dr. Russell H. Morgan, the radiologist on the Clark Panel notes in its report that "On one of the lateral films of the skull, a hole measuring approximately 8 mm in diameter on the outer surface of the skull and as much as 20 mm on the internal surface can be seen in profile approximately 100 mm above the external occipital protuberance. The bone of the lower edge of the hole is depressed." This places the hole in a section of parietal bone that presumably fell to the table when the doctors peeled back the scalp and NOT in the occipital bone near the hairline where the doctors claimed to have seen a beveled entrance. Morgan also notes that "embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole, a large metallic fragment" can be observed and that "on the antero-posterior film" this fragment "lies 25 mm to the right of midline." This suggests the fragment is in the depressed bone below the entrance. He then notes "This fragment as seen in the latter film is round and measures 6.5 mm in diameter." As the ammunition found in the assassination rifle measured 6.5 mm, this suggests the fragment was a cross-section of the bullet. Morgan then offers that "Immediately adjacent to the hole on the internal surface of the skull, there is localized elevation of the soft tissues. Small fragments of bone lie within portions of these tissues and within the hole itself."
January, 1972. Dr. John Lattimer, a urologist, becomes the first independent examiner of the autopsy photos and x-rays. He would later be asked to testify for the Rockefeller Commission. In his article on his examination, published in the May 1972 issue of Resident and Staff Physician, Lattimer presents his conclusions. These conclusions are not truly independent, however. In the article, he admits that a "top roentgenologist, Dr. Russell H. Morgan," had previously reviewed the x-rays, and had "issued a technical report about them, couched in proper medical terms." This is a reference to the report of the Clark Panel. Lattimer then adds "The author wishes to fully acknowledge this report by forensic experts." Throughout the article, moreover, Morgan's influence is obvious. In his depiction of Kennedy's wounds, Lattimer depicts a bullet entrance high on the back of the head and notes "The ovoid 'wound of entry' was fairly high up on the back of the skull, well above the hairline, where the skull was starting to curve forward, and about 10 cm above the occipital tuberosity... The bone at the lower margin of the hole was depressed slightly and the wound in the inner table was characteristically larger than the wound in the outer table (cone shaped), exactly as one would expect from a 'wound of entrance' into the back of the skull." He then asserts "A (6.5 mm diameter) fragment of the bullet had been shaved off by the sharp edge of the thick bone of the skull and was embedded in the margin of the wound of entrance." That Lattimer was simply regurgitating the Clark Panel's report is suggested, moreover, by the fact Lattimer changed his opinion late in life, and ended up believing the bullet entrance on the back of the head was low on the head, as proposed in the autopsy report.
August, 1972. Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist, becomes the first independent forensic pathologist to view the autopsy photos and x-rays. He would later testify for the Rockefeller Commission and function as a member of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. As reported by writer David Lifton, who accompanied Dr. Wecht to the Archives, Wecht can't find a bullet entrance on the back of the head on the x-rays. For his April 1974 article on his examination, however, Wecht appears to take a cue from Dr. Lattimer, and defers to Dr. Morgan. On Wecht's depiction of Kennedy's skull, as viewed from the side, he presents "a sizable fragment" on the back of the head "at the lower margin of the hole of presumed bullet entry." In the text he then claims that from viewing the autopsy photos and x-rays "one entry wound is definitely identifiable...high on the rear of the skull." That Dr. Wecht was not an expert on x-rays, and was simply deferring to Morgan, is supported, moreover, by the fact Wecht later co-wrote an article with Dr. David Mantik in which they claimed that the small fragment on the back of the head in the lateral x-rays was too small to be the large fragment on the A-P x-ray.
April, 1975. Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist closely associated with the Clark Panel's Dr. Fisher, and a member of both the Rockefeller Commission Panel and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, views the autopsy materials. In his report, he notes "The missile which struck the right side of the President's head penetrated approximately 10 cm above the occipital protuberance and 2 1/2 cm to the right of the midline." These are the exact measurements offered by the Clark Panel. As a result, it seems more than likely Spitz was yet another deferring to Morgan's opinion regarding the wound location. Even so, it's interesting that in Spitz's 6 page report for the Rockefeller Commission he never mentions the large fragment apparent on the x-rays. Instead, he claims, weakly, that "Nothing in the evidence which I have viewed tends to conflict with my opinion that the two shots which struck the president could have come" from the sniper's nest.
April, 1975. Dr. Richard Lindenberg, a neuropathologist on the Rockefeller Commission's Panel, and another close associate of Dr. Fisher's, views the autopsy materials. He appears to have been yet another to rely on Fisher's and Morgan's conclusions, and notes in his report that a "circumscribed defect in the posterior parietal bone which has the characteristic of an entrance hole" is apparent on the lateral x-ray. He then claims a bullet "hit the right side of the head of the president approximately 2.5 cm from the midline and 10 cm above the occipital protuberance." He notes further that the "bullet became somewhat deformed when it entered the skull and lead was squeezed out of its base. One larger fragment lies outside and next to the lower margin of the entrance wound." Apparently, he felt Lattimer's conclusion the fragment had been "shaved" from the bullet was inaccurate.
April, 1975. Dr. Fred Hodges, the sole radiologist on the Rockefeller Commission's Panel, views the materials. He notes that, although a bullet entrance is not "readily detected," many "linear fracture lines converge" on the site of the "small round hole...described in the autopsy report in the right occipital bone." He notes further that "one large metallic fragment is flattened against the outer table of the occiput." He concludes that "The x-rays and photographs are diagnostic of a gunshot wound in which the bullet struck the right occiput leaving a portion of itself flattened against the outer table before penetrating the bone, producing a small hole of entry largely obscured on the x-ray by the more extensive havoc caused in the brain and anterior skull represented by extensive fractures, missing bone, disrupted soft tissues and gas within the cranial cavity." By concluding there was a bullet entrance in the location "described in the autopsy report," Hodges appears to reject the conclusions of Dr. Morgan and the Clark Panel. Still, perhaps he was just playing it safe. Perhaps he wrote "described in the autopsy report in the right occipital bone" so he could get around admitting it was not in the occipital bone. But why would he do that when the autopsy doctors' supposed mistake had long been made public?
April, 1975. Dr. Robert McMeekin, a forensic pathologist on the Rockefeller Commission's Panel, views the autopsy materials. He is quite vague about what he observes, however. He reports simply that "The evidence presented is consistent" with the fatal bullet's being fired from the sniper's nest. He then notes that from studying the Zapruder film, he concludes that "The motion of the President's head is inconsistent with the shot striking him from any direction other than the rear." Note that he fails to say the medical evidence says as much. Note that he fails to support the wound location and fragment location offered by the Clark Panel. From this it seems reasonable to assume McMeekin believed the Clark Panel and/or the original autopsists had made some mistakes, but didn't want to get in the middle of it. Intriguingly, the man running the Rockefeller Commission's investigation, former Warren Commission counsel David Belin, had presented the members of its medical panel with fourteen points that should be addressed in their reports. Not among them was the actual location of the entrance on Kennedy's skull. Not among them was the actual location of the large fragment on the A-P x-ray. Apparently, Belin had no interest in solving these mysteries.
April, 1975. Dr. Alfred Olivier, a veterinarian, and a consultant on wound ballistics to both the Warren Commission and Rockefeller Commission, is shown the autopsy materials. His report on his examination is also vague, and notes merely that "It appears that the President was struck by two separate bullets that came from behind, somewhat to the right and above." He offers no clear support for the entrance wound location offered by the original autopsists, nor the one offered by the Clark Panel, but suggests he supports the former. When discussing the head wound he asserts "When that bullet entered the head the nose of the bullet erupted on the skull and expended a tremendous amount of energy. This caused what is known as a temporary cavity. Apparently, this cavity was nearer the side of the head so that it buried in that area, and say, took the path of least resistance. If the bullet path had been near the top of the head it could have burst through the top.” The so-called cowlick entrance, we should recall, is closer to the top of the head than to the side of the head. Olivier never mentions the mysterious fragment readily identifiable on the A-P x-ray.
October, 1977. Dr, Lawrence Angel, a forensic anthropology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, views the autopsy materials. In his report on his examination he notes that the fatal bullet's entrance "appears to have been just below obelion and 18 mm to the right of midline." Obelion is a point on the posterior parietal bone along the sagittal suture for which Angel gives no measurements. Angel also notes a "radiopaque lump behind obelion with which cracks appears to mark entry." In other words, he, like Hodges, does not see an entrance on the back of the head, but assumes the presence of one due to the fragment and fractures on the back of the skull. By claiming the entrance was below obelion and that the fragment was behind obelion, moreover, Angel also suggests that the fragment was above the bullet entrance, the opposite of what was suggested by Morgan and the Clark Panel.
February, 1978. Dr. Norman Chase, a radiology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, is interviewed by an HSCA investigator. The memo on this interview asserts that while viewing the x-rays, Chase notes that "The lateral skull x-ray indicated that the missile 'blew the top of the head off,' striking with enormous power. The wound was massive, not the kind he would expect for a single, jacketed bullet hitting straight on; it was possibly tumbling or hit on an angle. The entry point was visible on the upper rear head." He reportedly claims further that a "large metal fragment" is "prominent" on the A-P x-ray, and that he "believes it corresponds to the metal fragment in the rear of the head as evidence on the lateral view." Hmmm... Chase's observation that the bullet was possibly tumbling or hit on an angle suggests that he did not see the hole on the back of the head described by Morgan. Chase seemed hesitant, for that matter, to even say the large metal fragment was on the back of the head.
February, 1978. Dr. William Seaman, a radiology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, is interviewed by an HSCA investigator. The memo on this interview asserts that while viewing the x-rays, Seaman notes a "possible defect" in the "upper rear skull," and that it "could be an entrance wound and could not be a missile exit wound," but can not detect "beveling of the skull at that point." This beveling was not only supposedly detected by Morgan and the Clark Panel, it was measured down to the millimeter, and cited as proof the wound was an entrance wound. And that's not all... Seaman was a colleague of Dr. Lattimer's at Columbia University, and had assisted Lattimer in some of his experiments regarding the Kennedy assassination. (This was acknowledged in the May 1972 issue of Resident and Staff Physician, in an article on Lattimer accompanying Lattimer's article on the Kennedy medical evidence.) It seems quite likely, then, that Seaman was not an entirely unbiased party, as one should expect, but one who knew full well he was supposed to find an entrance at the "upper rear skull." And yet he only found a "possible defect." In the short report on the investigator's discussion with Seaman, for that matter, the large fragment is never mentioned.
March, 1978. Dr. John Ebersole, the radiologist at Kennedy's autopsy, is finally released from a military order of silence handed down within days of the autopsy. A March 9, 1978 AP article (found in the Reading Eagle) on an interview with Ebersole reports that he now admits "I would say unequivocally the bullet came from the side or back...There is no way that I can see on the basis of the x-rays that the bullet came from anywhere in the 180-degree angle to the front, assuming Kennedy was facing forward. It looked to me like an almost right to left shot from the rear." When, during his March 11, 1978 testimony before the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, Ebersole is shown Kennedy's x-rays and asked if he can identify an entrance location for a bullet, moreover, Ebersole responds "In my opinion it would have come from the side on the basis of the films. I guess that is all that can be said about the films at this time... I would say on the basis of those x rays and x rays only one might say one would have to estimate there that the wound of entrance was somewhere to the side or to the posterior quadrant." By saying that the x-rays only showed that the bullet came from the side or behind, Ebersole was acknowledging that he was unable to note a bullet entrance on the back of the head in the x-rays.
August, 1978. Dr. G.M. McDonnel, a radiology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, views the enhanced images of the x-rays. He had previously viewed the originals. In his report on these examinations, he fails to note a bullet hole on the back of Kennedy's head. Instead, he notes a depressed fracture with radiating fractures 10.6 cm above the EOP. He also notes a metallic fragment 1 cm below this fracture, on the outer table of the skull, above the mid-portion of the EOP, that is "nearly spherical" on the enhanced A-P image. As he proceeds to describe this fragment as a "spherical shaped contoured metallic fragment" it seems clear he either had trouble finding it on the lateral view, and just named it in accordance with its appearance on the A-P view, or that he thought he saw a corresponding "spherical shaped" fragment on the back of the head in the lateral view. No one else, of course, has claimed to see such a thing.
August, 1978. Dr. David O. Davis, a radiology consultant to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, views the enhanced images of the x-rays. In his report on his examination, he fails to note a bullet hole on the back of the skull, but says radiating fractures "seem to more or less emanate from" an "imbedded metallic fragment" 9-10 cm above the EOP on the outer table of the skull. He then notes that "On the frontal view, this metallic fragment is located 2.5 cm to the right of midline, and on the lateral view, it is approximately 3-4 cm above the lambda." As he later says the central point of the skull fractures is 3 cm from midline, this means that, in Davis' analysis, the large bullet fragment ended up to the left of the entrance.
September, 1978. Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist, testifies before the House Select Committee on Assassinations on behalf the HSCA forensic Pathology Panel, and its radiology consultants. He testifies: "The panel concluded, and all of the radiologist consultants with whom the panel spoke with and met with, all concluded that without question there is an entrance bullet hole on the upper portion of the skull at the area I am pointing to where the bone itself has been displaced, and that this corresponds precisely with the point in the cowlick area on the overlying skin, has the appearance of an entrance wound, that the track of the bullet then proceeded from back to front and toward the right causing extensive damage to the head." But he was lying, pure and simple. As we've seen, the panel's consultants did not all conclude without question that the red spot in the cowlick was an entrance wound that corresponded precisely with a bullet hole on the skull. Heck, his own panel failed to conclude as much.
March, 1979. The Report of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel does not note an entrance hole apparent on the x-rays, but claims the red spot apparent on the photographs is an entrance, and notes "The x-rays also locate the skull defect at this point." The report then describes this defect as a depressed fracture--a “sharp disruption of the normal smooth contour of the skull 10 cm above the EOP” (which places it higher than in the Clark Panel Report, whose measurement of 10 cm was the distance to the 8 mm hole above the depressed fracture). The report also mentions “suggested beveling” of the inner table and radiating fracture lines. In its section on the course of the bullet through the head, moreover, it notes that "embedded within the lower margin of this defect is a radiopaque shadow which, in the opinion of the panel, is a fragment of the missile. This shadow is 10 cm above the external occipital protuberance and 2.5 cm to the right of the midline" in the A-P x-ray. (If one is to assume they shared the trajectory panel's belief the entrance was 1.8 cm from mid-line, this means the Pathology Panel felt the bullet fragment ended up to the right and below the bullet's entrance.) The report then notes that "one surface of this fragment...is round. The maximum diameter of the fragment measures .65 centimeter." This last measurement was not provided by any of the panel's radiology consultants, nor was it mentioned in the testimony of the panel's spokesman, Dr. Michael Baden, before the committee. As a result, one can only assume it was added into the report at the last second, and was taken from the findings of Dr. Morgan and the Clark Panel.
March, 1979. The Report of the HSCA Trajectory Panel claims the entrance high on the back of Kennedy's head was 1.8 cm to the right of midline and 9 cm above the EOP. This places the entrance 1 cm below the depressed fracture observed by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, and on intact bone. This also contradicts the conclusions of the Clark Panel.
January, 1996. Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, a forensic anthropologist, is shown the autopsy materials and interviewed by the AARB. The report on this interview claims that "No entry wound could be located anywhere on the A-P x-ray" by Ubelaker. It notes further that he "could not locate any entry wound to the head on the lateral x-rays," and that he noted a large fragment visible on the A-P x-ray, but "could not find this object anywhere on the lateral x-rays of the head."
February, 1996. Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, a forensic radiologist, is shown the autopsy materials and interviewed by the ARRB. The report on this interview claims that "No entry wound was seen on the A-P x-ray" by Fitzpatrick. It notes further that he also claims "No entry wound can be found on the lateral head x-rays." It also reports that Fitzpatrick admits he's "puzzled by the fact that the large radio-opaque object in the A-P skull x-ray could not be located on the lateral skull x-rays."
April, 1996. Dr. Robert Kirschner, a forensic pathologist, is shown the autopsy materials and interviewed by the ARRB. The report on this interview notes that "No entrance wound could be located on either the two lateral x-rays, or the single-A-P x-rays..." by Kirschner. It then claims that he wonders if the supposed large fragment embedded on the back of the head was instead "a plug of bone forced forward into the skull by an entering bullet." This confirms that Kirschner saw no sign of this fragment or plug on the back of the head in the lateral x-rays.
There's also this. A November, 2003 review of the JFK medical evidence by Dr.s Michael Levy and Robert Grossman, neurosurgeons, (that was published in, appropriately enough, the June 2004 issue of Neurosurgery), complained: "Another objection is that the cranial x-rays do not clearly reveal a bone defect that is unequivocally an entry wound. Unfortunately, the x-ray view that might have revealed a 6.5-mm bullet wound in the cranium, an AP Townes view, does not seem to have been obtained, so the critical evidence is unavailable."
So, there it is. The x-rays taken of Kennedy at autopsy were not the x-rays one would take to depict an entrance wound on the back of the head. Well, this feeds back into what was claimed by the autopsists--that the x-rays were taken as part of an effort to identify bullets and bullet fragments in the body, and not to depict Kennedy's wounds.
The conclusions just discussed raise lots of questions.
First of all, how could the Clark Panel, using un-enhanced x-rays, “see” so much more than everybody else? Particularly when the panel's radiologist, Dr. Morgan, later complained that these x-rays were of "poor quality" and "severely over-exposed"?
I mean, c'mon, the Clark Panel not only provided precise measurements for an entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head unseen by most of the others, they provided precise measurements that made little sense. (While an entrance wound of 8mm on the outside of the skull, and 20mm on the inside of the skull might sound impressive, a German ballistics study published in the Sept/Oct 1979 issue of Archiv Fuer Kriminologie, and summarized on the website of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, established that "A large quotient between the outside and inside measurements of the bullet entry hole suggests slow shot velocity." SLOW SHOT VELOCITY! Oops!)
And that's probably the least of the questionable claims of the Clark Panel. They also claimed there was a 6.5mm bullet fragment embedded on the back of the skull near this hole, but noted no hole on the skull associated with this fragment. Well, ask yourself, does that make any sense? How did this fragment get on the back of the head, on the outside of the skull, on a different piece of bone than the bullet entrance? Did it frisbee downwards between two layers of bone?
Did the Clark Panel really see these things?
The likely answer, of course, is that they didn't actually see these things, and only said they did because it helped them shut down the "junk" in Josiah Thompson's book, and build support for their argument that the actual entrance on the back of the skull was four inches higher than determined at autopsy.
There's also this: Clark Panel radiologist Russell Morgan was a noted inventor, teacher, and administrator. But that doesn't mean he was a whiz at reading x-rays. Among the Clark Panel's many mistakes was that they claimed there were two left x-rays of Kennedy's head, when there was one right and one left. Perhaps, then, Morgan was in way over his head, and "saw" things no one else could see in order to impress his colleagues.
But what about the other radiologists? Shouldn’t an oval-shaped bullet entrance high on the back of someone’s head be readily identifiable to experienced radiologists and doctors using computer-enhanced x-rays?
Why is there no consensus on what is shown in the x-rays?
And why did Dr. Baden lie to the HSCA, and say there was?
It should be noted that the lack of a clearly identifiable hole on the back of Kennedy's head in the x-rays has led to some mighty strange speculation. While it was not my intent when writing these pages to go through every wrong or misguided statement made by a conspiracy theorist, Doug Horne's status within the so-called research community is of such a magnitude that I find it necessary to note some of his mistakes. Here is one such mistake...
On page 554 of his monster work, Inside the ARRB, Horne writes:
"Dr. Mantik believes that the apparent fragment trail seen in both lateral skull x-rays, high in the skull near the vertex, that appears to connect a point high in the forehead with the large displaced skull fragments high in the back of the head is real, and is evidence of a bullet's passage through the skull, as it disintegrated. If his definitive finding that there is no entry wound 1 centimeter above the so-called 6.5 mm object on the A-P x-ray is correct, and if the 3 pathologists are correct that the entry wound in the skull was really 4 inches lower than where the Clark Panel and HSCA tried to place it, then, as Mantik points out, the fragment trail near the vertex of the skull constitutes evidence of a second shot to the head, almost certainly entering high in the right front and exiting rather high in the rear of the skull, where the large displaced bone fragments are located on the right lateral x-ray. There is much evidence to support this placement of the entry for the missile which caused this fragment trail in the right front, and its exit in the rear..."
I'll give you a second to digest that. Yep, you got it... Horne is asserting that since Dr. Mantik believes there is no entrance high on the back of the head where the HSCA claimed it to be, that this then is evidence there was an entrance high in the right front and an exit high on the back of the head...
Uhhh, silly question...But IF there is a hole on the back of the head--which Mantik doesn't even claim to see--who's to say that it's not the entrance described by the HSCA, only not where they said it was?
Still, to be fair, Horne wasn't the first to speculate on large holes in the head unseen by others. I mean, at least he didn't claim to see such a hole on the x-rays. Not so, Dr. Michael Baden.
In his 1978 HSCA testimony, Dr. Baden pulled one of the all-time boners. (Excuse the pun).
If you look at the slide above, you'll see that the bone above the supposed cowlick entrance, at the crown of Kennedy's skull, is visible on the lateral x-ray. No one honestly disputes this. And yet, after entering this x-ray, Exhibit F-53, into evidence, Dr. Baden, the spokesman for the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, entered Exhibit F-66 into evidence. Exhibit F-66, a drawing which depicted both the location of the large defect and the skull fragments recovered from outside the skull, showed the crown to be missing.
While one might assume the artist creating this drawing had made a simple mistake, and had inaccurately placed the location of the large defect too far back on the skull, the testimony of the illustrator, Ida Dox, indicates she made these drawings under the close scrutiny of Dr. Baden. So was Baden the one at fault?
Undeniably, yes. During his testimony, when pointing to Exhibit F-55 and the bullet fragment supposedly on the back of Kennedy's head, Baden testified "there are fracture lines radiating from the point of entrance marked by the relatively large fragment and the x-ray lines extending from it." He then used his pointer to encircle the large dark area on the right side of the skull in the A-P x-ray, and continued "This corresponds precisely to the point of entrance beneath the cowlick area and shows the extensive loss of bone in that area." Baden had thereby supported the wound location in Exhibit F-66 and, in the process, revealed his inability to properly interpret x-rays. Although he spoke as a representative of a panel, furthermore, there is nothing to indicate his baffling conclusions were shared by anyone else. There is nothing in the Panel's report, nor in the report of any of the Panel's consulting radiologists, to indicate the dark area on the A-P x-ray represents a loss of bone "beneath the cowlick area" on the back of Kennedy's skull. The autopsy photos, moreover, show that the head "beneath the cowlick area" remained intact. Conspiracy or no conspiracy, Baden was clearly pushing nonsense in this part of his testimony.
But it was intriguing nonsense, nonetheless. Since the lateral x-ray was darkest towards the front of the skull, and reveals a large defect in that area, it would only have made sense, should someone believe the dark area of the A-P x-ray represented an "extensive loss of bone", that the missing bone be on the forehead. Although refuted by the radiology literature, which asserts that a large dark area on a skull x-ray may only signify that there's air in the underlying tissues, this has indeed been the conclusion of many conspiracy theorists. So why did Baden take the opposite route, and testify that the dark area on the A-P x-ray was evidence of missing bone on the back of the skull by the entrance? Was he trying to refute the report of HSCA forensic anthropology consultant Lawrence Angel, and Angel's conclusion frontal bone was missing? Was he trying to cut-off speculation about a frontal entrance? Or was he just confused?
Baden's bluff, or blunder, along with his previously-discussed inability to properly orient the "mystery photo," demonstrates beyond any doubt that his credibility is questionable, and not just questionable by conspiracy theorists scratching for something, anything, to question.
Or maybe I'm being too harsh. As it turns out, men more open-minded regarding the assassination and more competent regarding x-rays have come to a similar conclusion as Baden. Strangely, Dr. Randy Robertson, a radiologist convinced more than one shot hit Kennedy in the head, shares Dr. Baden's strange assessment of the back of the head in the x-rays.
Here is Robertson in a November 2015 article in which he denounced the accuracy of the so-called McClelland drawing and claimed the autopsy photos and x-rays are consistent and legit: "The autopsy radiographs and photographs clearly delineate the true extent of underlying bone loss. The documented bone loss in the rear of the head is in actuality higher than in Dr. McClelland’s diagram and is much more faithfully represented by Ida Dox’s HSCA diagram determined from the photographs and radiographs."
Strange, indeed. Not necessarily wrong, but undoubtedly unexpected and unusual.