Chapter2b: the Secret Service Secrets
Chapter 2b: The Secret Service Secrets
A peek behind the curtain
A Matter of Degrees
So now we’re working for the Warren Commission. We’ve been tasked with studying the statements of the eyewitnesses and coming to a conclusion about the shots independent of the FBI’s conclusions. We are also given access to internal Warren Commission documents and new Secret Service and FBI reports as they come in.
Our new job starts off with a bang as we get a look at a 12-10 FBI Report on Zapruder's camera and film. This report, by Frederick Webb, reveals:
"It has been determined that the normal operating speed of this camera is 18-1/3 frames per second. Applying this camera speed to the film recording the assassination of President Kennedy, it has been determined that 4.74 seconds elapsed from the third frame (A) after the President emerged from back of a sign to the frame (B) in which he is hit in the head. It is in this third frame (A) after emerging from back of the sign that the President first starts to fall forward. The time from a frame (C) where the President’s head disappears back of the sign, which is about halfway through the sign, to the frame (B) in which he is hit in the head is 5.57 seconds. In frames prior to this his head appears to be turned to the side and he appears to be waving to the crowd.
The time from the third frame (A) after the President emerges from back of the sign to a frame (D) where Governor John Connally makes a sudden move to turn back to face the front of the automobile was determined to be 3.49 seconds. In frames following the third frame (A) after the President emerges from in back of the sign, Governor John Connally turns and faces directly back toward the President until the frame (D) where Governor Connally makes the turn toward the front."
Well, yikes, trouble's-a-brewing. First of all, it's problematic that Webb is operating under the assumption the last shot struck Kennedy in the head, and the second shot struck Connally in the back as he was facing the President. It seems clear from this that the FBI is basing their findings on the recollections of Connally and ignoring the recollections of most all the closest eyewitnesses, who thought the third shot followed the head shot.
Second of all, look at the timing. Webb has the third shot strike Kennedy 5.57 seconds after Kennedy disappears behind the sign in the film, and the second shot strike Connally 3.49 seconds after the third frame after Kennedy came out from behind the sign in the film, which he'd previously claimed was .83 seconds after he'd disappeared behind the sign. Well, do the math. This means the second shot came 4.32 seconds after Kennedy disappeared behind the sign...and but 1.25 seconds prior to the head shot!
Now, the thought occurs that Webb, and if not Webb, his superiors, knows this isn't possible, should Oswald have been the lone assassin.
So why won't they say so? And yell out "Hey, fellas, we either need to re-think this thing or start looking for a second shooter"?
(It's curious, for that matter, that Webb's memo never made its way to the Warren Commission, and that it was only brought to the surface through the efforts of Harold Weisberg, and the HSCA. Props to Gary Murr for bringing this to my attention.)
Later that day, in the office of Secret Service Chief Rowley, we get a brief look at the 12-5 survey plat of Dealey Plaza, prepared by surveyor Robert West under the supervision of the Service's Elmer Moore. We compare this plat to the drawing of the plaza included in the FBI's 11-30 report on the first re-enactment. We see that the school book depository is now much closer to Elm Street, and that, as a result, the angles into the car from the sniper's nest are much less severe. This comes as a welcome relief, as the angles in the first drawing cast doubt on the FBI's conclusion Oswald fired the fatal head shot. It makes little sense, after all, for a bullet heading 17 degrees right to left to strike someone an inch to the right of the mid-line of the back of his skull and exit from the right side of his skull, with the left side undamaged.
Here, then, is the 12-5 plat of Dealey Plaza.
And here is a close-up of this plat, showing the presumed location of Kennedy at the time three shots were fired.
We note that, in this rendering, Kennedy was right in front of a street light when the second shot was fired, and 50 feet further down the road and half-way to the next street light when the third shot was fired.
We wonder if this is true...and that's not all we wonder about...
On 12-7-63 the Secret Service finalized its report on the book depository. In a section on janitor Eddie Piper, it revealed “His normal working hours are from 10:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., and he usually works until 7:00 or 8:00 P.M. Among his duties is to clean the offices and toilets of the Depository after all the employees have left for the day. He also checks to see that all the lights are out and doors locked before he leaves.” Now, that’s not surprising. But here’s the twist. “During the evening hours, and usually after Piper leaves the building, two employees of the Acme Building and Maintenance Company, 1901 Laws Street, Dallas, come to the Depository Building, and they clean the offices of the publishing companies and the toilets on the second, third, and fourth floors. These people usually leave the building around midnight. They are furnished with keys to the building and are required to lock the entrance when they leave. The building then remains unoccupied for the rest of the night.” But wait, it gets worse. “The Smith Detective Agency and Nightwatch Service, 610 N. Akard St., Dallas, makes periodic checks of the building during the nighttime hours, to determine whether all doors are locked and lights out.” (CD87 p776)
As it turns out, moreover, most of this information came not from Piper but from a signed statement by TSBD Superintendent Roy Truly. (CD87 p792) The one difference in his statement from the SS report, for that matter, is that Truly provided the schedule for the Acme employees who came in to clean the offices--and that was Sunday through Thursday.
Well, this would seem to be a huge door that no one would was willing to walk through. A rifle appeared in the depository on 11-22. The authorities assumed it was brought in by their by-now-long-dead suspect in a paper bag on the morning of 11-22. But the only witnesses to see him with a bag that morning have said the bag they saw was far too small to have held his rifle. Well, in most circumstances, this would raise the possibility someone else brought the rifle into the building the night before.
But no, not in this case.
There's also this. Although Truly failed to mention as to whether the “Smith Detective Agency” had keys to the building, we can only assume it did. I mean, if one of its patrolmen were to discover a light on in the building, what were they to do, go in and turn it off? Or wake up Truly, and ask him to get out of bed and drive on over to turn it off? We can suspect the former.
If this was true, then, we can only assume there were multiple employees of both Acme Building and Smith Detective with access to the keys to the depository.
And yet...apparently, none of these employees was ever interviewed to see if, you know, any of their keys were missing, or if, you know, they saw anything suspicious the night before the shooting.
No, actually, it's worse than that. As far as one can tell, no list of these employees was ever compiled, or requested!
The Secret Service Survey
A few days later we receive the 12-11-63 report by Secret Service Agent Elmer Moore on his 12-5 survey. He claims it depicts the "probable trajectory of the bullets." We decide to take a closer look.
Sure enough, across the bottom of the plat surveyor Robert West depicts the angles and distances of three shots fired from the sniper’s nest. The distance of the first shot is 184 feet. As the Warren Commission would eventually propose that the first shot was fired between frame 210 of the Zapruder film, from a distance of 176.9 feet, and frame 225, at a distance of 190.8 feet, this means the first shot proposed by Moore came around frame 217, when the President was behind the sign in the Zapruder film. The second shot, apparently the shot striking Governor Connally, is purported to have been fired from 242 feet. This is much closer to the first shot than the second shot described by the FBI's Gauthier in his memo of 12-9. Even so, this would correspond to a shot fired around frame 283 of the Zapruder film, long after it seems clear Connally has been shot. The final shot, which Moore describes in his 12-11 report as “the second bullet which struck the President (the third bullet fired)” is recorded as a shot of 294 feet. 294 feet is 34 feet farther than the distance from the sniper’s nest to Kennedy at the time of the head shot as determined by Agent Howlett on 11-27 (and 29 feet farther than the distance from the sniper’s nest to Kennedy determined by the Warren Commission). 294 feet, moreover, reflects the distance of the President from the sniper’s nest circa frame 343 of the Zapruder film, almost 2 seconds after the obvious head shot. This is no small mistake.
(When printed by the Warren Commission as Commission Exhibit 585, this plat will be nearly impossible to read. This may not have been a mistake. When Warren Commission counsel Melvin Eisenberg enters this plat into evidence during the 3-30-64 testimony of Ronald Simmons, who'd tested the accuracy of Oswald’s rifle, Eisenberg explains “I would like to introduce it into evidence solely to show the basis which Mr. Simmons was using in this test, and not for the truth of the measurements which are shown here.”)
Elsewhere in his 12-11 report, Agent Moore explains that the “precise trajectory of bullets striking President Kennedy cannot be positively ascertained by the resulting wounds” but that after studying the Zapruder film, still photographs, eyewitness statements, interviews with the emergency room doctors, the autopsy protocol, and the assassination scene “it is concluded that the wounds indicate that both of the two bullets which struck the President were fired from a position to the rear and above the level of the President.” In support of this, Moore goes on to describe the President’s wounds, boldly asserting that the missile path of the first bullet to strike the President “is from the upper right posterior thorax to the exit position in the low anterior cervical region and is in slight general downward direction.” This is a strange statement. The “cervical region”, by most every definition, is above, the “thorax.” Unless a body was doubled-over, it makes little sense for a bullet to travel “in a slight general downward direction” from the upper thorax to the lower cervical region.
On 12-12-63, we're told of an article by Gene Roberts in the Detroit Free Press. It mentions the paper bag presumably used by Oswald to transport the rifle in the building, and gives us good reason to believe Buell Frazier and his sister Linnie Mae Randle are still not convinced the bag they saw in Oswald's possession held his rifle. Roberts reports that on the morning of the shooting, while looking out her window, Mrs. Randle noticed Lee Oswald "carrying a package. It was something long--maybe two or three feet or more--and wrapped in brown paper, maybe a paper laundry bag. 'I noticed that,' said Mrs. Randle, 'but I didn't think much about it. A lot of people carry packages.'" A bag two feet long, of course, would be much too short to have held Oswald's rifle.
The next day later, we finally hear from two of the closest witnesses. Governor John Connally (12-13-63 FBI report CD188, p. 3-5) “Governor Connally stated “First sense or realization of anything unusual I became conscious of a shot or what sounded like a gunshot. I knew it came from my right rear. I instinctively turned to my right to look back and as I did so I sensed more than I saw that President Kennedy was hit. As I turned I realized something was amiss with President Kennedy and then I turned back to my left a little and as I did so I got hit with a bullet in my right shoulder…I believe I remarked “Oh my God, they are going to kill us all!” Realizing I had been hit I crumpled over to Mrs. Connally and she pulled me over towards her…I was conscious of a third shot and heard it…we were all splattered with what I thought was brain tissue from President Kennedy.” …When Governor Connally was asked about the elapsed time between the first and last shot he remarked “Fast, my God it was fast. It seemed like a split second. Just that quick” and he snapped his fingers three times rapidly to illustrate the time and said “unbelievably quick…Governor Connally felt the shots were fired so fast the assassin had hit him by accident on the second shot.” Nellie Connally (12-13-63 FBI report, CD188, p.6-7) “she was facing the front of the car when the first shot was fired and turned to her right towards President Kennedy and saw him with his hand at his throat and then slump down. …almost immediately Governor Connally recoiled in the opposite direction from her and was heard to remark “My God, they are going to kill us all.” She had feelings that buck shot was falling all around them and then she realized it was probably brain matter from President Kennedy’s head…When asked about the lapse of time between the first and last shots she replied “About like saying “crack, crack, crack.” She sensed that Governor Connally had been hit when she heard the second shot and she turned to hold him…The direction of all shots were from somewhere to the rear of the car.” Final shot head shot.
Later that day, we become aware of an article in that day's Dallas Morning News. This article begins: "Did a bullet from Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle chip the curb of Main Street overpass? That question remained unanswered yesterday. And it raised other questions: If one of the three shots from Oswald's mail order rifle struck the curb, is it possible that another bullet ranged through President Kennedy's body and then hit Gov. Connally? If the chip did not result from another bullet, how did it get there?" The article then relates the story of Dallas police investigator Buddy Walthers, who claims that a man came up to him in Dealey Plaza on the 22nd and claimed he'd been hit by something as he watched the motorcade. Walthers then relates that he'd found what appeared to be a freshly-made chip in the curb by where the man had been standing. The article then advises that Gov. Connally said the first and third shots hit the President, and that he'd been hit by the second shot. It then asks: "Was Governor Connally mistaken about what happened during the 10 second period in which the sniper shot him and the President? Did the rifleman fire two bullets into the car, with one striking both President Kennedy and Gov. Connally, and then hurriedly fire a third which passed over their auto? Or did the chipped shot have nothing to do with the shooting? Couldn't the motorist have been struck by a speck of gravel thrown up by a car? Couldn't the chip have been caused by other gravel? FBI and Secret Service agents may have the answer. But they haven't revealed what they have learned during their intensive investigation of the murder of President Kennedy."
Well, this is a bit embarrassing. No one in the FBI or Secret Service has learned anything about this because no one in the FBI or Secret Service has discussed this with anyone who wants to learn about this. Fortunately, the next day, the man who'd been hit by something calls the FBI and forces them to investigate. James Tague (12-16-63 FBI report, CD205, p31) “Mr. Jim Tague...was stopped in traffic at the Triple Underpass…He stood near the curb of Main Street waiting for the motorcade…When the motorcade was approximately 100 feet from him he heard a loud noise, and at that time he looked around as he thought someone had shot a firecracker. He then heard two more loud noises in quick succession…During the time of the shooting he felt something hit him on the right cheek….He thought that possibly one of the bullets had hit the curb near his feet and possibly a piece of the curbing had hit him on the cheek. He did look around the curb and near where he was standing there was a chip missing, which he stated looked fresh…He did not see the shots take effect and stated he could not furnish any information as to where the shots actually came from.” (This report is given to the Warren Commission as part of CD 205 on 12-23.)
Perhaps as a response to the questions raised by Tague, on 12-18-63 the Secret Service delivers a bare-bones report to the Warren Commission describing the shooting only in the statements of its agents, and a vague summary of events. Despite its multiple re-enactments and its extensive study of the Zapruder film, the Secret Service report comes to no official conclusions on the number and timing of the shots.
On this same day, the FBI's Alex Rosen sends a memo to Assistant Director Belmont stating "If approved, Mr. Rankin will be advised that the Bureau is in the process at the present time of preparing three-dimensional exhibits which will accurately portray the locations covering the assassination of the President along with other material which would be of considerable benefit to the Commission...Mr. Gauthier has assured us that the exhibits will be ready by 1/2/64." We can hardly wait.
And then we get another surprise from our old friends at the FBI. On 12-18, we see a strange airtel from Dallas (FBI file 105-82555, sec 39, p7). This airtel alerts us to the fact that the FBI is replacing page 129 of its 11-30 report to the Commission (CD5) with a different page. The airtel references two other documents, a 12-6 airtel from Washington to Dallas requesting a change be made (FBI file 62-109-060 sec 17 p 213), and a 12-11 response from Dallas noting that the "Necessary actions to correct inaccuracy" are "being taken" (FBI file 105-82555, sec 27, p44). Our curiosity aroused, we get a look at the old page before it is replaced. It is a report written by the Dallas FBI's Vincent Drain on the paper bag believed to have concealed the assassin's rifle. The bag was purportedly made by Oswald from materials at his work. His palm print and fingerprint have been found on this bag. The original report refers to a comparison between a paper sample taken from the shipping department of the depository and the paper used to make this bag, and reads: "This paper was examined by the FBI Laboratory and found not to be identical with the paper gun case found at the scene of the shooting." The new page reads "This paper was examined by the FBI Laboratory and found to have the same observable characteristics as the brown paper bag shaped like a gun case which was found near the scene of the shooting on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building."
Well I'll be. While the new wording matches the original reports from the lab, we're forced to wonder where Drain--who flew the bag back to Washington on the day after the shooting and may very well have observed the lab at work on the bag--got the idea the paper didn't match. We're also concerned that the FBI is changing the records of the Commission without making note of these changes. (The original document claiming the paper didn't match was actually uncovered by researcher Gary Shaw in 1977. He'd found it in the Warren Commission's sub-file on Dallas crime lab chief Lt. J.C. Day. In 1984, writer Henry Hurt contacted Vincent Drain and asked him if he had any idea why his report had been changed. Drain reportedly claimed "I am certainly as perplexed as you are," and asserted that he believed the correct report to be the one stating the paper was the same. He had previously said much the same thing to journalist Earl Golz. While this may very well be--all the other early reports claim the bag and paper matched--Drain's response is still suspicious, and suggests he was not telling the whole truth. In 1984, FBI Assistant Director William Baker admitted to researcher Ed Tatro that, sure enough, Drain had written an inaccurate report and that the FBI had ordered his report corrected. If, as it appears, either Drain or the person typing up his report had made a simple mistake, and had incorrectly claimed the paper didn't match, he most certainly would have heard about it, and would almost certainly have been punished. If so, it seems hard to believe he could forget such a thing. So then why lie about it to Golz and Hurt?)
While we're still puzzling over that, we get a look at the 12-20-63 FBI lab report on Zapruder's camera. (This report is officially provided the Warren Commission on 1-07-64 as part of CD206.) This report is a simplified summary of the 12-10 memo written by Frederick Webb. It relates: “Under date of December 20, 1963, the FBI Laboratory furnished the following information concerning a photographic examination requested by the Dallas Office, December 5, 1963: Specimens received 12-6-63…K51: One Bell and Howell Zoomatic 8mm motion picture camera SN AS 13486, obtained from Abraham Zapruder. Result of Examination: The K51 8mm motion picture camera has been tested to determine the running speed of this camera, and it has been determined that this camera when operated at normal “RUN” speed operates at 18 1/3 frames per second. While it is not possible to establish accurately from the film the moment of impact of the first two shots, applying the above camera speed to the film that was previously submitted which was exposed by Abraham Zapruder and which recorded the assassination, it has been determined that the best estimate of the elapsed time between the first and third shots lies between approximately five and six seconds. It is noted that the President's car moves behind a signboard at about the time of the first shot, and the President's movements during this period are not observable. However, he begins to fall forward immediately upon emerging from behind the sign."
Well, hell. Look what they've done. Webb's memo included a discussion of the presumed timing of a second shot hit on Connally. It made clear, without saying as much, that this was incompatible with a single assassin. To be clear, Webb had Connally turning back to the front but 1.25 seconds before Kennedy was struck in the head! And now look at what's been sent on the commission, in a memo written TEN days later. They've left all this out, and cover this not-so-little problem up by claiming one can't establish accurately the moment of the first two shots.
And yet...by indicating that one can establish accurately the moment of the third shot, the report indicates that the easily recognizable head shot was the third shot. This fact is further confirmed by the report's suggestion that this shot came but five to six seconds after the first shot (or, using the report's conclusion that the camera ran at 18.3 frames per second, 92-110 frames after the first shot). 92-110 frames prior to the head shot at frame 313, of course, places the first shot between 203 and 221, around the time Kennedy disappeared behind the sign, when the report claims the first shot was fired.
Yep, there can be no mistake: while covering up the problem observed by Webb--that Connally's claim he'd turned back to the front before he was shot...was incompatible with the lone nut conclusion, the FBI has nevertheless concluded that the first shot struck Kennedy and that the final shot was the head shot.
But does the Secret Service concur? Has it confirmed the study performed by the National Photo Interpretation Center, and the apparent findings of the FBI? Or has it come to conclude our earlier interpretation of the eyewitness evidence was correct, and that a shot was fired after the head shot?
The Secret Service Secrets
On 1-8-64, the Secret Service provides the Warren Commission photos of its 12-5 re-enactment. These photos, taken from the sniper’s nest, follow a car as it drives the motorcade route. A tree obstructs the sniper's nest view for part of the route on Elm.
When we look at the photos in the context of the original photo album, Commission Document 88, we see handwritten captions to three of these photos. These captions indicate that these three reflect the proposed locations for the limousine at the time of the first, second and third shots. (Rex Bradford, who placed Commission Document 88 online, confirms that he scanned the photos directly from the National Archives, and that the Warren Commission documents online on the Mary Ferrell website did not come from the files of a private researcher, who might otherwise be blamed.) Strangely, however, even though the Secret Service study of the Zapruder film at the National Photographic Interpretation Center had placed the first shot at frame 190 and the second at frame 242, and even though the 11-27 efforts of Agent John Joe Howlett had placed the second shot halfway in between the first shot, circa frame 200, and the third shot, at frame 313, the second shot depicted in these re-enactment photos comes much later, around Zapruder frame 283. The final shot also looks suspicious.
As these shots are presumed to reflect the distances recorded on the 12-5 plat, we begin to question both the accuracy and the integrity of the 12-5 survey.
(When published in the Warren Report’s 26 volumes of supporting evidence as Exhibit 875, these photos were, not surprisingly, published without these captions.)
More Secret Service Secrets
As we weed through Commission Document 87, an over-thousand page Secret Service report detailing their investigation, we find more reasons to doubt the accuracy of the Secret Service's reports. We find pictures of a Secret Service re-enactment, taken from the location of Abraham Zapruder's camera. These were, apparently, taken during the 11-27 re-enactment. The captions to these photos indicate that the Secret Service has indeed concluded that the first shot hit Kennedy when he was behind the sign, and that a second shot, presumably striking Connally, followed, which in turn was followed by the shot striking Kennedy's head. There is something wrong with these photos, however. The SS location for shot 2 seems way beyond the point where Connally is hit in the Zapruder film. The location for shot 3 is past Zapruder, when the head shot in the film comes just as the car pulls even with Zapruder.
As Simple as 1, 2...
We decide to super-impose some slides from the Zapruder film onto the photos taken from his location. While the first shot proposed by the SS takes place when Kennedy is behind the sign in the film, the second shot proposed takes place after Connally has obviously been hit, at a point when he is nearly facing Kennedy. It seems highly unlikely that a bullet coming from the sniper's nest at this moment could enter Connally's right armpit and exit the right front of his chest. We wonder why the Secret Service assumed Connally'd been turned to his right when hit. Perhaps they'd misunderstood his statements. If they had, they missed or ignored that he'd claimed to have yelled out after being shot, and that he'd already yelled out by frame 283.
When we super-impose Zapruder frame 313, the frame depicting the head shot, onto the Secret Service photo for shot 3 we find that the amount of grass behind Kennedy in frame 313 is inconsistent with the amount of grass behind his purported location in the re-enactment photo. We try to convince ourselves this is a result of a slight difference in camera elevation, but the angle of the back seat to the camera also appears wrong. This leads us to believe the 12-5 survey inaccurately recorded and measured Kennedy's position at the moment of the head shot. We now wonder if Agent Howlett's earlier measurement for the distance of this shot wasn't more accurate, and why someone decided to change it.
We also notice some traffic cones in the photo. We recall a passage in the Secret Service's investigative file, CD 87, describing a short film of the 11-27 re-enactment. It proclaims: "Immediately after the motorcade passes out of view, Lt. Day of the Dallas Police Department walks onto the street from the right-hand side and places a traffic cone at the point of impact of the third shot. He then walks forward and places a traffic cone at the point of of impact of the second shot and continues forward to place a traffic cone at the point of impact of the first shot and exits to the left." We recall also that Day had told the Dallas Times Herald that these locations had been established from watching a film, undoubtedly the Zapruder film. Well, this is a bit confusing. The cones in the 11-27 photos do not align with the shot locations Howlett reported to the FBI, nor to the shot locations determined by the Secret Service's 12-5 survey. We decide to ask a friend on the Dallas Police Department if he remembers what the cones in the photos were supposed to represent.
While looking through CD87, moreover, we find a related problem.
On page 297, we find the following description:
This is clearly a description on the back of a photograph. The problem is that page 296 is (as subsequently presented on the Mary Ferrell website) a completely illegible blizzard of white with a few black specks.
Well, wait a second. These black specks look familiar. These black specks, in fact, closely align with an 11-22-63 Dallas Police photo of the view from the sniper's nest down Elm Street (which was eventually published by the Warren Commission as CE 724). It seems clear, then, that the Secret Service has marked up a copy of this photo, and added in the locations of where they believe the shots were fired.
A Quick Trip Back to the Future
In 2019, I placed the nearly worthless image on CD87 p296 atop the image in CE724, and made the top image partially transparent so I could see the underlying image, with the the numbers 1, 2 and 3 from the top image projected onto the image below. I then cropped this combined image so that it was centered around the three cars in the photo. The result is presented below.
It then dawned on me that I'd spent some time studying CE 724 a decade to so before, and had myself used it to mark the approximate locations of four shots proposed by the government during its various investigations, along with the location of James Tague when he received a wound on his cheek, presumably from a speck off concrete kicked up by a stray bullet or bullet fragment.
So I placed the partially transparent image from CD87 atop my marked up version of CE 724.
This is presented below. James Tague's position is marked by a blue star. The four shots are marked by red x's. From left to right: a) the first shot miss as Kennedy goes beneath the tree at Z-160, as proposed by the HSCA in 1979, and as subsequently accepted by most single-assassin theorists; b) the first shot hit through a gap in the tree at Z-190, as proposed by the HSCA in 1979; c) the last possible moment for a hit that travels through both Kennedy and Connally, at Z-224/225, as proposed by the Warren Commission in 1964, and as subsequently accepted by most single-assassin theorists; and d) the fatal headshot at Z-313, as accepted by most everyone.
Well, this is quite eye-opening, isn't it? I mean, really. This photo was taken before the DPD knew anything of the films of the shooting. The alignment of the three cars in the photo was random. And yet, the Secret Service presented the Warren Commission with a copy of this photograph and told them, via a description written on its back, that their investigation has led them to conclude these cars are in the locations the limo was in when the three shots were fired.
Let this soak in. Nearly seven weeks after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the U.S. Secret Service provided the Warren Commission with a report on his death which included a photo depicting the locations of the president when three shots were fired at him...which indicated: 1) the President was first wounded at a location well beyond where the Warren Commission's investigation and all subsequent investigations would come to conclude both President Kennedy and Governor Connally had been wounded; 2) Governor Connally was wounded in between when the President was first wounded and when he received his fatal blow--by a bullet that did not strike the President; and 3) the President was fatally injured at a location far beyond where the Warren Commission's investigation and all subsequent investigations would come to conclude he'd been fatally injured.
In short, then, the Secret Service's Exhibit #3 in CD 87 was either 1) a beyond stupid screw-up--a sloppy piece of work reflective of an I-really-don't-care--the-president-is dead-what-does-it-matter? attitude among its members, which inadvertently told the Warren Commission the fatal shot was fired when the limo was down by the steps on the grassy knoll, and had already started to turn; or 2) Bluster Bullshit Balderdash--a deliberate deception, for what purpose, we may never know.
Meanwhile, back in our alternative history 1964, our feeling that something is suspicious about the FBI and Secret Service's ever-changing interpretation of the shot locations is growing by the hour. A 1-9-64 newspaper column by Robert Allen and Paul Scott only feeds this feeling. It reports: "The FBI has been asked to conduct further tests on the time required to fire three shots. Reason for this is new evidence that the second and third shots came in exceptionally rapid succession. It was the third shot that shattered the back of the President's head and fragmented. This has made very difficult determining whether that round was fired by the same rifle." Since it appears that someone either on the Commission or within the FBI has told Allen and Scott about this problem, we take heart that someone else has noticed what we thought only we had noticed--that the third shot in the re-enactment photos is much farther down the street than the actual location where Kennedy was struck in the head, and that using the actual location puts the second and third shots far too close together to have both been fired by Oswald. We hope things get straightened out before the FBI submits their impression of the shot locations.
A few more witnesses are located, one of whose statements further support the "new evidence" discussed by Scott and Allen, that is, that the last two shots came in rapid succession.
Cecil Ault (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H534) “After the presidential car had turned the corner onto Elm Street, Mr. Ault heard three loud reports…the first and second shots sounded to him to be close together and the third shot was spaced more after the second shot, the first two shots sounding close enough to be from an automatic rifle…Following the first shot Mr. Ault noted that President Kennedy appeared to raise up in his seat in the Presidential automobile and after the second shot the president slumped into his seat.” Shot after the head shot. Lillian Mooneyham (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H531) “Mrs. Mooneyham heard a gunshot and observed President Kennedy slump to the left of the seat of his car. At the time of the initial shot, Mrs. Mooneyham believed that a firecracker had gone off. Following the first shot, there was a slight pause and then two more shots were discharged, the second and third shots sounding closer together. Mrs. Mooneyham observed Mrs. Kennedy climb up on the back of the car…Mrs. Mooneyham estimated that it was a bout 4 ½ to 5 minutes following the shots fired by the assassin that she looked up towards the sixth floor of the TSBD and observed the figure of a man standing in the sixth floor window behind some cardboard boxes.” Double head shot.
On 1-11, Chairman Warren and General Counsel Rankin present their outline for the Warren Commission’s investigation and report. The pre-planned conclusion is that Oswald killed Kennedy and that he acted alone.
On 1-11, we learn that the FBI's exhibits are ready, and that the Director himself has inspected them and approved them. We wonder if they will satisfy the Commission, however. Apparently, someone on the Commission has read the eyewitness statements, and has realized that the last two shots were fired quite close together, and is openly talking about it. Today's syndicated newspaper column by Robert S. Allen and Paul Scott reports that "The commission also wants more information about the alleged murder rifle. The FBI has been asked to conduct further tests on the time required to fire three shots. Reason for this is new evidence that the second and third shots came in exceptionally rapid succession. It was the third shot that shattered the back of the President's head, and fragmented. This has made very difficult determining whether that round was fired by the same rifle."
On 1-13 exhibits section chief Gauthier visits with the Warren Commission's General Counsel Lee Rankin, and Rankin requests 28 copies of a brochure of photos taken of these exhibits. A 1-14 memo on this meeting by Gauthier tells us further that "The Director firmly believes that the FBI should turn over full custody of these visual aids to the Commission as soon as possible in order that inquiries concerning these exhibits can be referred directly to Chairman Warren, particularly requests from news media to publicize the "new development."
We're also shown the FBI's Supplemental Report of 1-13-64, reporting back on tests conducted since the 12-9 report. On page 3 it states “A motion picture of the assassination taken by an amateur photographer, Abraham Zapruder…was examined by the FBI Laboratory. The best estimate of the time interval of the shots fired is that approximately six seconds elapsed from the first to the final shot, with the second shot occurring approximately in the middle of the six second period. The firing period begins with the first shot, so that it is necessary to operate the rifle bolt only twice to fire three shots within a given period of time.”
This reinforces what we already know--that, for Oswald to have fired all the shots, the shot impacting Connally would almost certainly have been fired 50 frames or so after and before the shots hitting Kennedy in the Zapruder film. Kennedy is undoubtedly hit at frame 313. Should the Secret Service have honestly believed Connally was hit circa frame 283, then they should have concluded there had been more than one shooter. We hold out hope that the FBI's exhibits will prove more convincing.
From the Archives
Our friend sends us copies of the DPD's re-enactment photos. These photos are identical to the photos provided by the Secret Service, with one notable difference. The caption to these photos states that the cones in the photos reflect the locations of the shots. Well, this is mighty curious. As the second cone is just past the location of the head shot, and the third cone is far past this point, this suggests the Secret Service initially concluded the head shot was the second shot, precisely as concluded in our analysis of the eyewitnesses.
The Smell of Deception
On 1-20-64, we receive another shock. On the first page of a 65-page packet of visual aids and memos from the FBI’s Exhibits Section (CD 298) is a letter from J. Edgar Hoover himself, telling us that 28 copies of this packet have been sent out to Warren Commission counsel and staff per General Counsel Rankin’s request. This amounts to Hoover's personal seal of approval. When we look inside, however, we find that Gauthier's Exhibits Section has stood by the strange numbers reported in his 12-9 memo. We can’t believe it. His conclusions are similar to the original conclusions of the Secret Service, as depicted in the DPD photos. There is photo after photo of the FBI’s model of Dealey Plaza, and photo after photo depicting the limousine in front of the concrete steps at the time of the third shot. At the end of the packet, moreover, is a summary of the Exhibit Section’s findings. Under the heading “What was the aiming pattern of the assassin’s target?” it reads:
a. SHOT ONE hit the target from a distance of 167 feet, measured downward along a 23-degree angle from the horizontal.
(THIS IS THE LIMO’S APPROXIMATE POSITION AT FRAME 197 OF THE ZAPRUDER FILM, WHEN A TREE OBSCURED THE SNIPER"S NEST'S VIEW OF THE LIMOUSINE. THIS IS A BIT OF A SURPRISE AS GAUTHIER'S 12-9 MEMO MADE A POINT OF STATING THAT "IT APPEARS THAT SHOT ONE STRUCK THE PRESIDENT MOMENTARILY AFTER HE CAME WITHIN GUN RANGE WHEN HIS CAR MOVED PAST THE TREE TOP AS VIEWED BY THE ASSASSIN." IT WOULD LATER BE DETERMINED THAT THE PRESIDENT DIDN'T MOVE PAST THE TREE TOP UNTIL FRAME 207 OF THE ZAPRUDER FILM.)
b. SHOT TWO hit the target from a distance of 262 feet, measured downward along an 18-degree angle from the horizontal. The target moved forward 96 feet in 4.4 seconds at 15 mph (22 feet per second) or 5.5 seconds at 12 mph (17.6 feet per second). Line of sight change from shot one: 5 degrees upward, 4 degrees to the right.
(THIS WOULD SEEM TO BE A REFERENCE TO FRAME 313 OF THE ZAPRUDER FILM, THE MOMENT OF THE FATAL HEADSHOT, A SHOT DETERMINED TO HAVE BEEN 260 FEET IN DISTANCE ON 11-27-63 AND EVENTUALLY DETERMINED TO HAVE BEEN 265 FEET IN DISTANCE.)
c. SHOT THREE hit the target from a distance of 307 feet, measured downward along a 15 degree angle from the horizontal. The target moved forward 45 feet in 2.0 seconds at 15 mph (22 feet per second) or 2.5 seconds at 12 mph (17.6 feet per second). Line of sight change from shot two: 3 degrees upward, 1.5 degrees to the right.
(THIS IS KENNEDY’S APPROXIMATE POSITION AT FRAME 358 OF THE ZAPRUDER FILM, APPROXIMATELY 2 1/2 SECONDS AFTER THE FATAL HEADSHOT.)
d. ELAPSED TIME to hit targets two and three after hitting target one: 6.4 seconds at 15 mph (22 feet per second) or 8.0 seconds at 12 mph (17.6 feet per second).
(THIS PASSAGE IS MIGHTY CURIOUS. ON 1-07, THE FBI HAD PROVIDED THE COMMISSION CD 206, WHICH INCLUDED AN FBI LAB REPORT FROM 12-20, CLAIMING "The K51 8mm motion picture camera has been tested to determine the running speed of this camera, and it has been determined that this camera when operated at normal “RUN” speed operates at 18 1/3 frames per second.” FURTHERMORE, ON 1-13,, THEY'D PROVIDED THE COMMISSION WITH A SUPPLEMENTAL REPORT TO THEIR ORIGINAL SUMMARY REPORT. IT CLAIMED "The best estimate of the time interval of the shots fired is that approximately six seconds elapsed from the first to the final shot, with the second shot occurring approximately in the middle of the six second period." SO WHAT'S WITH THEIR OFFERING ELAPSED TIMES FOR TWO DIFFERENT DRIVING SPEEDS, AND THEREFORE TWO DIFFERENT RUNNING SPEEDS? COULD THEY REALLY NOT DECIDE WHICH WAS CORRECT--THAT THE LIMO WAS TRAVELING AT AN AVERAGE SPEED OF 12 MPH, OR 15 MPH? WELL, A CLOSE LOOK AT THE TESTIMONY OF THEIR CAMERA EXPERT LYNDAL SHANEYFELT 'S TESTIMONY ON 6-4-64 REVEALS THAT THE ESTIMATED RUNNING SPEED OF 18.3 FRAMES PER SECOND WAS AN AVERAGE. IN 1967, CBS PURCHASED FIVE IDENTICAL CAMERAS AND FOUND THAT THEY RAN 15.45, 17.7, 18.7, 19.25, AND 20.95 FRAMES PER SECOND, A SIMILAR AVERAGE OF 18.4 FRAMES PER SECOND. PERHAPS, THEN, THE FBI WAS HEDGING ITS BETS. IF THE FIRST SHOT FROM THE SNIPER'S NEST WASN'T FIRED UNTIL AFTER KENNEDY HAD EMERGED FROM BEHIND A TREE, AROUND FRAME 210, AND IF THE LAST SHOT WAS THE HEAD SHOT, AT FRAME 313, AND SHOULD THE CAMERA HAVE BEEN RUNNING AS FAST AS 20.95, CBS' FASTEST TIME, THE TIME-SPAN OF THE SHOOTING SEQUENCE WOULD HAVE BEEN UNDER 5 SECONDS, TOO SHORT A TIME-SPAN FOR OSWALD TO HAVE FIRED ALL THE SHOTS. HECK, EVEN IF ONE ACCEPTS THE FBI'S DETERMINATION THE CAMERA WAS RECORDING AT 18.3 FRAMES PER SECOND, THIS STILL MEANS THE ELAPSED TIME BETWEEN A FIRST SHOT WHEN KENNEDY WAS BEHIND THE SIGN IN THE ZAPRUDER FILM AND A THIRD SHOT HEAD SHOT AT FRAME 313 OF THE FILM WAS BUT 5.6 SECONDS. THIS WAS, ACCORDING TO THE FBI'S EXPERT ON THE RIFLE, ROBERT FRAZIER, THE FASTEST ONE COULD FIRE THIS RIFLE UPON A MOVING TARGET. ONE MIGHT SUSPECT THEN THAT THE EXHIBITS SECTION WAS WELL AWARE OF THIS PROBLEM AND THAT THIS INFLUENCED THEIR PLACEMENT OF THE FIRST AND THIRD SHOTS.)
e. CHANGE OF AIMING PATTERN from shot one to shot three: 8 degrees upward, 5.5 degrees to the right.
From this, we can see that the FBI's photos were not a mistake. The report of their Exhibits Section not only fails to mention the wounding of James Tague, if only to dismiss its relevance, but is in apparent contradiction with the 12-20 report on the Zapruder film by the FBI crime lab, which claimed the timing of the first two shots couldn't be established, but that the third shot was the head shot. This new report, conversely, and surprisingly, seems to be claiming there was a shot after the head shot.
The Third Shot Miss
When we superimpose frames from the Zapruder film onto the DPD photos, we discover that Lt. Day's and the Secret Service's original location for the second shot was circa frame 343, quite a bit past the head shot. The third shot, amazingly, comes at a point when Mrs. Kennedy is already on the trunk of the limousine. As Kennedy has been hit at least twice by this point, it seems likely the Secret Service concluded this third shot missed the President.
But then what happened to it? If Kennedy was hit in the back with the first shot, and hit in the head with the second shot, then this third shot MUST have hit Connally. Connally is laying down in his seat. His right armpit is exposed. A bullet hitting Connally at this moment MIGHT make sense. But that would mean Connally had misled the public on the very day of this re-enactment when he told a TV audience he was hit before the head shot. It would also mean that Connally, a former Secretary of the Navy, had crouched in self-protection a few feet from his President, when his President was under fire.
We re-inspect the film and spot blood near Connally's armpit as early as frame 340 of the Zapruder film, before either of the last two shots in the DPD and Secret Service re-enactment.
Well heck, did the Secret Service agent running this re-enactment, John Joe Howlett, even look at the film to double-check this theory?
Apparently so. We recall that this was the 11-27 re-enactment. FBI Agent Barrett, we remind ourselves, reported SS Agent Howlett's conclusions on this re-enactment in an 11-29 memo. Howlett's conclusions were reportedly that the first shot struck Kennedy at a distance corresponding to the limo's location circa frame 200 of the Zapruder film and that the second one to hit him did so from a distance corresponding to the limo's distance circa frame 313, with a shot hitting Connally in the middle.
This suggests then that Howlett used the cones during the re-enactment, watched or heard Connally's interview on TV, compared the locations of the cones in his re-enactment to the Zapruder film, and then decided the cones were placed in the incorrect locations.
Heck, this might explain why the SS re-did it all on 12-5.
The Missing Second Shot
We decide to check our theory--that on 11-27 Howlett concluded Connally was hit by the third shot, that Connally then told the nation he was hit by the second shot, that Howlett then changed his conclusions, and that this was why the SS returned on 12-5 to repeat their re-enactment.
We watch the 11-27 re-enactment film. Sure enough, while Barrett's 11-29 memo said the Secret Service was unable to identify a moment for the second shot hitting Connally, the film shows Lt. Day of the DPD marking a location for the second shot. And it is just past the location of the head shot. Close enough, even, where one would have to assume this was their proposed location for the head shot.
The third cone was placed just after.
Well, there were two problems then. Not only did this scenario place the Connally shot after the head shot--a politically incorrect conclusion seeing as Connally, a close personal friend to the new President, had just told the nation he was hit before the head shot--it also placed the second and third shots so close together it would require a second shooter.
It only makes sense then that the Secret Service decided to trash this conclusion. And start over.
The more we think of it, moreover, the more we come to trust that our theory is correct. We have seen no SS report on Howlett's 11-27-63 re-enactment, only an FBI memo on his re-enactment written days later--that failed to provide an approximate distance for the second shot. It seems clear, then, that Howlett either filed his report in the circular filing cabinet, or failed to put down on paper what he knew would be re-written.
Nix, Nix, Nix
Since the head shot in the Nix film (which was noted in the Exhibits Section's report) occurs when the limousine is in front of the pedestal, with Zapruder in the background, and since the Exhibits Section's report describes the Nix film as follows: "Nix, standing on the Plaza grass across the road from the Pergola (where Zapruder viewed the motorcade) photographed the motorcade as it approached the triple underpass" it certainly seems they knew Nix was standing across from Zapruder, and not far off to his right. As the third shot portrayed in their exhibits is considerably past Zapruder, and since Nix would have to have been in front of the limousine, with it heading his direction, in order for him to catch Zapruder in the background of his film at this time, it only makes sense that the FBI Exhibits Section believed the head shot captured by Nix came earlier, and was in fact the second shot.
This becomes even more clear when one realizes that the head shot in the Nix film occurs just after the limo passes William and Gayle Newman on the North side of the street. Shortly after the shooting, William Newman was interviewed on television station WFAA. He reported: "as the car got directly in front of us well a gunshot apparently from behind us hit the President in the side of the temple.”
So, establishing the location of Kennedy at the time of the head shot should have been a simple matter of establishing William Newman's location in the various films and photographs, and adding on 10-15 feet or so, based on Kennedy's distance from him at the moment of impact in the Nix film.
The Newmans Mark the Spot
Well, all the photos of Bill and Gayle Newman taken just after the shooting show them to be laying on the grassy knoll just west of the second lamp post. There is no evidence they ran after the shooting. Their statements indicate they dived down to cover their children where they'd been standing, and no one else ever claimed they'd ran before covering up their children. So, the Secret Service and FBI should have concluded the third shot struck Kennedy within a few feet of this location, should they have honestly believed the head shot was the third and final shot.
Since both the Secret Service and FBI concluded there was a shot after the shot fired when Kennedy was abreast of the Newmans, however, one might logically conclude that both agencies believed there to have been a shot fired after the head shot.
Or is that too logical?
The Question of Competence
Although, the photographic evidence seems overwhelming that the Secret Service and FBI at one time believed the head shot was the second shot, and that another shot followed, there is an equally compelling argument against this possibility. This argument is based upon the paper trail, and suggests that the Secret Service and FBI were simply incompetent.
Let's examine this first possibility. Could the FBI have concluded the second shot was the head shot?
Certainly not at first. Besides the 11-29 phone call from Director Hoover to President Johnson in which Hoover reported that Kennedy was "hit by the first and the third" shots, and that the "second shot hit the governor", and the 11-29 report by Agent Barrett on the 11-27 re-enactment, reporting that "Governor Connally was struck by the second shot", there is the 12-3 report by Agent Abernathy (CD385 p22), stating that the assassination sequence in Nix's film, which depicts the head shot, began "subsequent to the firing of the first two shots."
Well, then perhaps they came to this conclusion at a later date. The FBI's summary report of 12-9 (written around 12-4, after Gauthier's people had begun their work in Dallas) describes the shooting as follows: "As the motorcade was traveling through downtown Dallas on Elm Street about fifty yards west of the intersection with Houston Street (Exhibit 1), three shots rang out. Two bullets struck President Kennedy, and one wounded Governor Connally." Note that here Connally is mentioned last. This raises the possibility that, through their work in Dallas, the FBI's Exhibits Section Chief Leo Gauthier and his team had, if only for a spell, convinced the Bureau that the head shot was the second shot, and that Connally was wounded by the third shot. That the shot after the head shot didn't miss the car entirely is betrayed by the Exhibits Section's conclusion that each of the three shots "hit the target."
But then there's Gauthier himself, in his 12-9 memo, relating "Shot number two which is believed to have struck Governor Connally." And then there's the 12-10 memo from Webb and the 12-20 report from the FBI crime lab, which makes it clear they believed the head shot was the third and final shot.
And then there's this. In another section of Gauthier's 1-20 report, in a brief description of the Zapruder film, it's made fairly clear the writer believed Connally'd been hit before the head shot.It relates: “The car momentarily became obscured from Zapruder’s line of sight behind a road sign (refer to scale model). As it emerged from behind the sign, the Zapruder film reproduced the action of the occupants of the car as follows: The President is slumped forward in his seat with his right hand partly lowered from the previous waving position, he appears to be leaning toward his left nearer to Mrs. Kennedy; Governor Connally is seen turning his head to the right and rear, falling towards Mrs. Connally, as a circle of light resembling an explosive blast encircles the President’s head.” If the writer of this report felt Connally was not yet wounded and still under his own power at the moment of the head shot, it seems highly unlikely he'd describe him as "falling" towards his wife.
This convinces us that the first possibility is not true. Which leaves us with the second possibility: that the FBI of 1964 was largely incompetent...
And that the Secret Service was no better... Both the worksheets found at the National Photo Interpretation Center and the captions to the photos in the Secret Service's 1-8-64 report to the Warren Commission, after all, have shown us that the Service, too, has concluded that the final shot was the head shot.
Yes, as hard as this may be to accept, the bulk of the evidence suggests that the FBI and Secret Service always believed Connally was hit by the second shot, and meant to express this in their exhibits, but failed to do so due to their collective incompetence. While this might sound unduly harsh, what other "innocent" conclusion can be reached from the undeniable fact the FBI and Secret Service each took measurements in Dealey Plaza, and studied two films of the shooting taken from opposite angles, but were nevertheless unable to locate Kennedy's position at the time of the head shot within 25 feet of his easily recognized position? What other "innocent" explanation is there for the FBI's concluding the first shot was 17 feet closer, the second shot 20 feet farther, and the third shot 13 feet farther from the sniper’s nest than the Secret Service's "corrected" conclusions? While it seems possible that someone had fooled the FBI's Gauthier, a man of questionable competence (see below), with some "marks on the freeway" there can be no excuse for the Secret Service's similar mistakes. Someone's measurements were very wrong, or someone's eyesight was very bad, or both.
(In 1976, it would be revealed that FBI Exhibits Section Chief Leo Gauthier's job entailed such tasks as re-modeling FBI Director Hoover's home. This included replacing the patches of Hoover's lawn destroyed by doggy urine.)
The Question of Integrity
There is, of course, a third possibility, one not so "innocent." Perhaps the errors apparent in the 12-5-63 Secret Service Survey and the exhibits prepared by the FBI are not confusing at all, but clear reflections that the Secret Service and FBI were both trying to make sure that, no matter the speed of the camera, no matter the order of the shots, Oswald had enough time to fire the shots.
This makes a great deal of sense. Back in December, when the Secret Service and FBI created their horribly inaccurate exhibits, no one seriously considered that the Warren Commission would actually double-check their work. It was, in fact, widely assumed they'd rubber-stamp their findings. It was assumed, furthermore, that the Zapruder film would never be shown to the public. The combination of these assumptions, therefore, would make it mighty tempting for anyone trying to use the film to suggest Oswald acted alone to quietly fudge his findings. Particularly when there was already so much evidence to suggest Oswald's guilt. After all:
Most witnesses heard three shots.
Three shells were reportedly found in the sniper’s nest.
Three hits would help explain the two reported entrances on Kennedy and the three impact locations on Connally.
Oswald was a communist-sympathizer. Such a man, in the minds of many Americans, including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, was imbalanced. To their mind, Oswald didn’t need a rational motive for his actions because, as a communist sympathizer, he was inherently irrational.
President Johnson was anxious for the case to be settled. Johnson, the State Department, and the business community were all anxious to show the world that the United States was a stable and strong democracy. Dragging out a criminal investigation would hurt U.S. business interests, jeopardize the country’s international relations, and allow communists worldwide a powerful propaganda tool. A long and involved investigation could also be used by Johnson’s right-wing opponents to damage him domestically; it might even lead to his downfall. Word had to get out and get out quick that Johnson was definitely not involved, and the easiest way to do that was to say that Oswald acted alone, and concoct a scenario by which he may have acted alone.
Under such circumstances, it certainly seems reasonable to assume both the Secret Service and FBI were fudging their investigations to cover that Oswald may not have had enough time to have fired all of the shots. Consider that Gauthier's 12-9 memo was written under the assumption the limousine was traveling 15 mph, and that his final report included this assumption as a possible scenario. (The speed of the limousine was eventually determined to have been 11.2 mph.)
This raises the question of why Gauthier even considered the possibility the limo was moving at such a speed. Well, FBI agents Sibert and O'Neill's 11-29 report on an interview of the limo's driver, William Greer, indicated Greer had been driving 15-20 mph when the shots were fired. Their interview of Agent Kellerman, riding next to Greer on the limousine's front seat, furthermore, indicated that the limousine had been traveling "approximately 15 miles per hour." Well, this would make Gauthier suspect the limousine was traveling 15 mph, right? Now let's consider that agent Barrett's 12-4 report on an interview with Zapruder indicated that Zapruder's film of the assassination was recorded at 24 frames per second. This film shows the limousine traveling approximately 136 feet in the 152 frames between Z-162 and Z-313. This means that, if the camera was recording 24 frames per second, as claimed, then the limousine was traveling at just under...21.5 feet per second, or 14.65 mph, which rounds up to 15 mph. This approximation of 15 mph confirms Greer's and Kellerman's estimate. One can only assume then that Gauthier was well aware of these memos when conducting his tests. Now consider that the Secret Service's own undated report on Greer, written by Greer himself, indicated he'd been driving 12-15 mph, and was packaged together in the Secret Service report with reports written on 11-29 and afterward. This suggests that they too would be conducting their 12-5 re-enactment under the belief the limo was traveling approximately 15 mph, even if they were unaware of Barrett's 12-4 report suggesting the camera was recording 24 frames per second. (The test results demonstrating that the camera was recording 18.3 frames per second, and that the limo was therefore traveling approximately 11.2 miles per hour were not released until 12-20.)
This leads us to a disturbing possibility... If BOTH the FBI and Secret Service in the first weeks of December were operating under the assumption the limousine was traveling 15 mph and/or that the camera recorded 24 frames per second, as one might reasonably suspect, then they would BOTH have been conducting their investigation under the assumption the limousine traveled 21-22 feet per second. In such case, as the original reenactment by Howlett on 11-27 had determined that the third shot was fired when the limousine was but 90 feet farther down the road than its location at the time of the first shot, they would BOTH have been forced to conclude Oswald would not have had enough time to fire all the shots. 90 feet divided by 21-22 feet per second computes to 4.3-4.1 seconds, after all, presumably less than whatever time the Secret Service had determined Oswald would have needed to fire three shots and far less than the 5.6 seconds or so Agent Frazier had determined would be the minimum time required to fire Oswald's rifle three times at a moving object.
Well, is it really a coincidence then that BOTH the Secret Service and FBI rejected Howlett's conclusions and inaccurately represented the head shot location in their subsequent reports? On 12-5 the Secret Service inaccurately determined that the location formerly believed to be 260 feet from the sniper's nest was really 294 feet from the sniper's nest, and that the limo traveled roughly 110 feet between the first and third shots, not 90. 110 feet, not surprisingly, translates to a 5 second shooting scenario, should the limo have been traveling 15 mph as presumed. (While less than the 5.6 seconds later mentioned by Frazier in his Warren Commission testimony, this 5 second scenario was still more than the 4.6 seconds it took Frazier to fire at three stationary targets in his original tests with Oswald's rifle. It follows, then, that the Secret Service in December 63 would have believed 5 seconds to have been more than enough time for Oswald to have fired all the shots.)
But, should the Secret Service have deliberately fudged its numbers in order to buy Oswald more time, they were not to be outdone by the FBI, which actually claimed the limo traveled 140 feet farther from the sniper's nest between the first and third shots. This shooting scenario, which began and ended with the same shots described by Howlett in his 11-27 reenactment, was nevertheless determined to have involved more than 50% more of Elm Street. This translated to a 6.36 second shooting scenario, even if the limo was traveling 22 feet per second...
It would appear then that the Secret Service and FBI both deliberately fudged their numbers in order to conceal from the Warren Commission the probability Oswald could not have fired all the shots.
I mean, looky here. The following gif is a frame by frame re-constructed and stabilized version of the Zapruder film, prepared by antdavison. Consider what it would take to study this film, along with the plaza in which it was filmed, and come up with a location for the head shot 30 feet or more beyond where earlier studies and subsequent studies placed it. You'd have to be pretty dumb, right?
Especially when you also have the Nix film showing the assassination from the other side available...
I mean, Zapruder's location was known, and you can see him in the Nix film, with the white arcade in the background. Establishing the location of the head shot should have been easy. All that one would need to do was find out where Zapruder lined up with the arcade as he lined up in the Nix film. You would then have Nix's location. From his location, then, you could re-position someone standing out on the street until they were in the exact location of Kennedy at the moment of the fatal headshot. (Note that the Nix gif below has been angle-corrected by Robin Unger to reflect the 3 degree slope of the road.)
Much thanks to Ant and Robin. Hmmm...Ant and Robin--they sound like super-heroes. Maybe they are.
In sum, then, figuring out the location of Kennedy when he received his fatal headshot was fairly basic stuff. A high school kid could do it.
The probability, then, is that the Secret Service and FBI fudged their numbers when they placed Kennedy 29 feet and 42 feet, respectively, beyond his actual location.
If the FBI and Secret Service assumed the Warren Commission was not gonna double-check their work, however, they were sadly mistaken...
Within just a few days of receiving Gauthier's exhibits section's report the Warren Commission counsel tasked with investigating the shooting realized that the FBI had fed them a big steaming pile of nonsense. A 1-23 memo from Gauthier to his boss Nicholas Callahan reveals that on this day he met with Warren Commission counsels Ball, Belin, Eisenberg and Redlich, as well as Inspector Thomas Kelley of the Secret Service, and that the six men spent three hours "re-enacting" the shooting in Dealey Plaza using Gauthier's scale model of the plaza and model cars. (This memo can be found in FBI file 62-109090 Sec. 2 p 143-146). Gauthier reports that Kelley "stated that the versions of the FBI and Secret Service were good approximations" and that "The staff is hoping to eventually be in a position to say exactly where the shots occurred on the Parkway with a plus or minus factor of several feet." He then reports that they will meet again on 1-27, at which time they will view the Zapruder and Nix films and try to come to some sort of agreement on the location of the limo during the shots. Not surprisingly, given the FBI's concern about the Commission, in the comments section of this memo Gauthier (or is it Callahan?) tries to assure his superiors that no one is second-guessing their inept work, although, clearly, they were. He writes: "The points on the Parkway as defined by the FBI are considered to be the best approximations possible and in line with the Secret Service version. Inspector Kelley shares the same views. The FBI has the first shot occurring just before the President's head emerges from behind the sign while the Secret Service approximates the location moments after the President emerges. Approximately one second is involved between the two versions. The Commission realizes that there is no material difference between the FBI's and Secret Service's approximations; however, they wish to attempt to fix shooting sequence with a great degree of accuracy with a plus or minus factor of a few feet." (This is already surprising. How could the Secret Service NOT see that Kennedy was hit before he came out from behind the sign in the Zapruder film?)
Attached to Gauthier's memo is an extensive comparison of the FBI and Secret Service proposed shooting scenarios. It reads:
Shot One: It occurred when the Presidential car was unobserved by Zapruder for approximately twenty feet while moving behind a road sign. Shot one was approximately fixed on the model at a point directly behind the center of this sign. The movie reveals that prior to reaching this sign the President was seen waving and moments later after emerging from behind the sign he was slumped forward. The position on the Parkway where shot one occurred as approximated by the Secret Service varies about one car length (13 feet) or about one half second at 15 mph. The FBI's estimate places the President approximately one-half second nearer to the assassin when shot one was fired.
(THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FIRST SHOT ON THE 12-5 SECRET SERVICE PLAT AND GAUTHIER"S 1-20 EXHIBITS SECTION REPORT WAS 17 FEET, NOT 13 FEET. CLEARLY, GAUTHIER AND KELLEY ARE NOT RELYING ON THEIR PREVIOUS STUDIES. THAT GAUTHIER BELIEVES SHOT ONE RANG OUT WHEN THE MODEL WAS BEHIND THE CENTER OF THE SIGN, WHEN HE'D PREVIOUSLY APPROXIMATED THIS DISTANCE AS 167 FEET, SUGGESTS THAT HIS MODEL OF DEALEY PLAZA WAS INACCURATE. THE WARREN COMMISSION WOULD LATER DETERMINE THAT THE PRESIDENT WAS 167 FEET FROM THE SNIPER'S NEST BEFORE HE WENT BEHIND THE SIGN. IT IS ALSO INTRIGUING THAT HERE, A MONTH AFTER THE SPEED OF THE Z-FILM AND LIMO WERE RE-INTERPRETED, GAUTHIER IS STILL REPEATING THAT THE LIMO WAS TRAVELING 15 MPH.)
Shot Two: It occurred approximately at the time Governor Connally was turning his head to the right rear. This point was established through the interpretation of the relative location of trees, shrubs, street lights, curbing, etc, appearing in the movie. The position on the Parkway approximated by the FBI and the Secret Service varies about 1.5 car lengths (22 feet) or about one second at 15 mph. The FBI's estimate places the Governor approximately one second farther away from the assassin when shot two was fired.
(GAUTHIER HAD PREVIOUSLY SAID THIS SHOT WAS FIRED WHEN THE LIMO WAS 262 FEET FROM THE SNIPER'S NEST. ON 12-5 THE SECRET SERVICE HAD APPROXIMATED THE DISTANCE FOR THIS SECOND SHOT AS 242 FEET, 20 FEET CLOSER.. NOW, GAUTHIER TELLS US THAT THEY ARE EVEN FARTHER APART, 22 FEET. THIS IS INCREDIBLY PROBLEMATIC. IF ONE PROPOSES THAT GAUTHIER'S MEASUREMENTS ARE WRONG, IT STILL DOESN'T EXPLAIN WHY, EVEN AFTER COMPARING SHOOTING SCENARIOS ON HIS MODEL OF DEALEY PLAZA WITH THE SECRET SERVICE, HE STILL HOLDS THAT THIS SHOT WAS FIRED WELL AFTER THE SECRET SERVICE'S SHOT. EVEN STRANGER, GAUTHIER HAS ALREADY SAID THE FIRST SHOT WAS FIRED WHEN THE LIMO WAS BEHIND THE CENTER OF THE SIGN--WHICH IS AT APPROXIMATELY FRAME 210 OF THE ZAPRUDER FILM--AND HAS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED THAT THE SECOND SHOT WAS AT LEAST 4.4 SECONDS AFTER THE FIRST, WHICH WOULD EQUATE TO ABOUT 80 FRAMES. THIS PLACES THE SECOND SHOT IN GAUTHIER"S ANALYSIS AT FRAME 290--AT THE VERY EARLIEST. THIS, OF COURSE, IS WITHIN TWO SECONDS OF THE OBVIOUS HEAD SHOT AT FRAME 313, AND IS WAY TOO CLOSE IN TIME TO FRAME 313 FOR BOTH SHOTS TO HAVE BEEN FIRED BY OSWALD'S BOLT ACTION RIFLE. GAUTHIER'S INABILITY TO REALIZE THIS, OR HIS DELIBERATE IGNORANCE OF THIS FACT, DOES NOT REFLECT WELL ON THE BUREAU AND ITS COMMITMENT TO THE TRUTH.)
Shot Three: It occurred approximately at the time a circle of light resembling an explosive blast encircles the President's head. The position on the Parkway approximated by the FBI and the Secret Service varies about 2/3 car length (14 feet) or about 2/3 second at 15 mph. The FBI's estimate places the President approximately 2/3 second nearer to the assassin when shot three was fired.
(APPROXIMATELY? WHO IS HE KIDDING? THE MAN'S HEAD EXPLODES. AND WHAT'S ALL THIS ABOUT A "CIRCLE OF LIGHT"? IS GAUTHIER AFRAID TO REPORT THAT BLOOD AND BRAIN ARE VISIBLE IN THE FILM? WHY? AND WHY, WHEN THE SECRET SERVICE'S 12-5 PLAT HAS THE THIRD SHOT AT 294 FEET, AND GAUTHIER'S 1-20 REPORT HAS IT AT 307 FEET, DOES HE STATE THAT THE FBI'S THIRD SHOT IS 14 FEET CLOSER TO THE ASSASSIN THAN THE SECRET SERVICE'S THIRD SHOT? DOES HE MEAN BY THIS THAT THE SECRET SERVICE'S THIRD SHOT IS NOW 321 FEET FROM THE SNIPER'S NEST? OR THAT HE NOW BELIEVES THE THIRD SHOT WAS ABOUT 280 FEET FROM THE SNIPER'S NEST, JUST 18 FEET PAST HIS PREVIOUSLY DETERMINED LOCATION FOR THE SECOND SHOT? NEITHER OF THESE SCENARIOS, UNFORTUNATELY, MAKES MUCH SENSE.)
The final words of Gauthier's memo speak volumes, and reads like a really lame alibi, somewhat akin to "the dog ate my homework."
Comments: The FBI's analysis of the shooting sequence was determined independently of a similar study made of the movie by the Secret Service. "WHERE ON THE PARKWAY WAS THE PRESIDENTIAL CAR EXPOSED TO GUN FIRE?" The answer to this question is subject to varying factors such as the speed of the vehicle, the firing position of the assassin and the position of Zapruder. It is a matter of accepting the fact that there will be as many versions as there are analysis made of the shooting sequence. The FBI bases its approximations on an interpretation of the Zapruder movie re-enacted on a scale model, The Secret Service has also used the movie to approximate the shooting sequence; eyewitnesses may vary in locating the car at the time of the shooting; members of the Commission may also have differing opinions regarding this matter.
The Zapruder movie was utilized by the FBI s the best medium for approximating the points on the Parkway where the shooting occurred.
(IF THE ZAPRUDER FILM AND SCALE MODEL WERE USED AS PURPORTED, THEN WHY DID THE FBI EITHER 1) PLACE THE HEADSHOT FAR PAST ZAPRUDER, BY THE STEPS, WHEN THE FILM SHOWS KENNEDY TO BE ABREAST OF ZAPRUDER AT THE MOMENT OF IMPACT; OR 2) MISTAKENLY BELIEVE ZAPRUDER WAS FILMING FROM ON TOP OF THE BLOCK WALL CLOSEST TO THE STEPS, INSTEAD OF HIS EASILY ASCERTAINED ACTUAL LOCATION BY THE ARCADE? COULD THEY REALLY HAVE BEEN SO INCOMPETENT?)
While it's unclear if the commission really understood how incredibly daft or dishonest the FBI and Secret Service would have to have been to make the mistakes and errors just discussed, it is clear they were largely unimpressed with the work of the FBI and Secret Service. At a pivotal point in the 12-16 executive session, Congressman Hale Boggs voiced his disappointment with the FBI’s report of 12-9. He complained: “Everyone has all kinds of questions, reading that FBI report leaves a million questions.” After discussing the Commission’s need to interview the closest witnesses in order to determine which shots actually struck the President, Boggs returned to this theme, declaring “Well, this FBI report doesn’t clear it up.” To this complaint, Chief Justice Earl Warren chimed in: “It doesn’t do anything.” Boggs then observed: “It raises a lot of new questions in my mind.”
After reading such a discussion, one might assume that the Warren Commissioners would make certain that their report, issued over nine months later, would be clear about which shots hit the President. One might also assume that these conclusions would be in sync with the recollections of the closest eyewitnesses. But one would be wrong.