Chapter 3b: Men at Work
A look at the Commission's attempts to get their story straight...
The Smoking Chalk Mark
On May 24, 1964, we observe a re-enactment of the assassination in Dallas. Although this re-enactment is performed by the Secret Service and FBI, it is overseen by the Warren Commission, via junior counsel Arlen Specter. While watching this re-enactment, we note that the chalk mark representing the back wound on the back of the Kennedy stand-in is far lower than the neck wound presented in the Rydberg drawings. We wonder why this is so. We ask around and hear that yes indeed the hole on Kennedy's jacket has been consulted for the placement of this chalk mark. We hear as well that Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley has shown Arlen Specter an autopsy photo in which the location of President's back wound is depicted.
Time Out: The Warren Commission at Work Part II
We shall now take a look at how this re-enactment came to be...
Two FBI memos on an April 14 conference
April 15, 1964
To: Mr. Callahan
From: L.J. Gauthier
Subject: Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
Examination of Visual Aids by President's Commission
Reference memo Gauthier to Callahan 4-7-64
Staff members of the President's Commission and specialists of the armed services, Dr.s Humes, Heany, Fink, Light and Olivia (ph.) attended a conference on 4-14-64 for purposes of reviewing motion pictures and slides of the assassination site. Representatives of the Secret Service and FBI were present to assist in projecting the film and the use of the scale model.
Dr. Humes, U.S. Navy Commander, who performed the autopsy on the President, appeared to lead the discussion throughout the 4-hour session. All of his associates were generally in agreement with previous findings of the Commission as to where shots 1, 2, and 3 approximately occurred.
The most revealing information brought out by the doctors is as follows:
1. That Shot 1 struck the President high in the right shoulder area, penetrating the torso near the base of the neck damaging the flesh of the throat but not tearing the throat wall. This bullet, according to the doctors, continued and entered Governor Connally's right shoulder, emerging below the right nipple. The velocity of the missile, according to the doctors, apparently was snagged in the coat and shirt, eventually falling out on Connally's stretcher.
2. That Shot 2 struck the wrist of the Governor, continuing on into his thigh.
3. That Shot 3 struck the right side of the President's head, carrying much bone and brain tissue away, leaving a large cavity. There is nothing controversial about where Shot 3 occurred inasmuch as the Zapruder movie indicates with much clarity where this happened.
Heretofore it was the opinion of the Commission that Shot 1 had only hit the President, that Shot 2 had entered the Governor's right shoulder area penetrating his torso through the chest area emerging and again entering the wrist and on into his leg.
Staff attorneys of the Commission extensively questioned the doctors concerning their conclusions and their views were made a matter of record by Attorney Melvin Eisenberg.
Mr. Eisenberg advised that Governor Connally would be in Washington on Tuesday April 21, 1964, to assist the Commission in describing as to where the three shots occurred and that he, Eisenberg, would request that Shaneyfelt and Gauthier be available to assist them in handling visual aids while the Governor's views are obtained.
Mr. Eisenberg also inquired whether Special Agent Shaneyfelt of the FBI Laboratory, Special Agent John Howlett of the Secret Service and Gauthier would be able to arrange for a re-enactment of the shooting scene in Dallas using the data collected by the Commission, to make movies of the areas where each shot occurred using Zapruder's camera, to have people simulate the positions of the occupants of the President's car in a car similar to the one used by the President, which would be furnished by the Secret Service, to take ground measurements from the Texas School Book Depository from each points where shots occurred to determine the distances between gun muzzle and target, etc.
Mr. Eisenberg inquired as to whether I had any suggestions concerning his request. He was advised that, of course, the FBI would do whatever possible to assist in this matter; however, it was felt that as he, Eisenberg, had a good working knowledge of what the Commission desired it would appear to me to be the advantage to the Commission if he, Eisenberg, would be present in Dallas to insure the development of the desired technical data. He and his immediate superior, Attorney Norman Redlich, agreed to this suggestion. Without saying as much, it was felt that considerable publicity will definitely stem from this type of operation in Dallas and a representative of the Commission should be present to handle the inquiries of the press concerning the fact that this was a Commission field operation and not an operation of the FBI or Secret Service.
Mr. Eisenberg stated he would make his proposal for this field trip known to the members of the Commission recommending that the FBI and Secret Service assist the Commission's legal staff in gathering on-site data relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
RECOMMENDATION: None--for information only
SEE ADDENDUM PAGE THREE:
ADDENDUM: AHB:hw 4-15-64
It is questionable what the Commission expects to gain by an additional re-enactment of the scene of the assassination, bearing in mind that Secret Service has already gone through this exercise at least once, and Inspector Gauthier made actual models of the assassination area. It is inevitable that there will be considerable publicity attendant to the proposed re-enactment of the scene.
It is our opinion that it would be undesirable for the FBI to become involved as the speed of the car, protection measures, etc, were the basic responsibility of the Secret Service at the time. We would prefer not to become identified with the actual scene and happenings at the assassination in the minds of the public.
It is recommended that Inspector Malley advise Mr. Rankin that this proposal appears to be without merit; that the FBI has done its utmost to be of assistance by providing models of the area, technical data, and technical advice in assisting the Commission to interpret events as they occurred. Mr. Malley should advise Rankin that we suggest that if such a re-enactment of the scene is considered desirable by the Commission, it should be carried out by Secret Service which has already gone through this exercise at least once.
To: Mr. Belmont
From: A. Rosen
Subject: Assassination of President Kennedy
Request of the President's Commission
In accordance with the request of the President's Commission, Bureau personnel, including Mr. Shaneyfelt of the the Laboratory, Mr. Gauthier of the Exhibits section, and Mr. Malley were present at which time certain slides printed from the Abraham Zapruder movie film depicting the assassination of President Kennedy, which were obtained by the Bureau from "Life" Magazine, were shown. Also present at the Commission office were the following:
Commander James J. Humes, Director of Laboratories, Navy Medical School, U.S. Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland;
Commander J. Thornton Boswell, Chief Pathologist, U.S. Navy Medical School, Bethesda;
Colonel Pierre A. Finck, Chief of Wound Ballistics Branch, Pathology Branch of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C.
Dr. A.G. Olivier, Chief of Wound Ballistics Branch, Edgewood Arsenal;
Dr. F.W. Light, Jr., Deputy Chief, Biophysics Division, and Chief of Wound Assessment Branch, Edgewood Arsenal.
The purpose of the showing of this film, as it developed during the meeting, was to give the doctors present an opportunity to see the actual movie of the shooting of the President as well as the slides which had been made which were much clearer than the actual movies. The Commission desired the doctors present in order to obtain from them their views concerning the actual manner in which the President was shot.
During this session Commander James J. Humes advanced the theory that the first shot entered the President's body in the rear in the neck region a few inches below the head and followed a pattern through the neck and exited in the front without encountering any bone or other objects which slowed the bullet to any degree. Commander Humes was of the opinion the bullet continued and struck Governor Connally in the back on the right-hand side below the shoulder and exited on the right-hand side of Governor Connally in the chest area. Commander Humes stated that here again, based on medical reports received from doctors in Texas who examined Governor Connally, the bullet met with no serious obstruction and passed through the body, merely grazing one of the rib bones. It was Commander Humes' opinion that the bullet from the first shot apparently lodged in some manner in the clothing of Governor Connally, and this bullet is the one which was found on the stretcher on which Governor Connally was brought to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Commander Humes states this bullet was not damaged in any way and it is for this reason he feels that the first shot definitely passed through both the body of the President and Governor Connally.
In explaining his feelings concerning this theory, Commander Humes stated that another shot is believed to have hit the right wrist of Governor Connally with such an impact that it caused the bullet to break into many fragments and he noted that many fragments were found in the right wrist area of Governor Connally as well as in the thigh of the left leg.
Relative to the third shot which was fired, which based on the photographic material available is believed to be the one which hit the President's head, Commander Humes advised that there is no question that this bullet separated into many fragments upon impact and many fragments were found in the skull area of the President. He noted that one fragment had apparently struck the front windshield from the inside inasmuch as the examination of the windshield did detect some lead deposit where an object had struck the inside of the windshield. Commander Humes states that the fragment which struck the windshield could have been from this shot which struck the President's head or could have been a fragment from the shot which hit Governor Connally's wrist.
The other doctors present did not completely confirm the theory of Commander Humes but felt, based on their review of the pictures, noting the movements of Governor Connally in the President's automobile and the general location of the occupants in the car, that there was a possibility this theory was correct.
Staff members of the Commission gave no indication what additional action they planned relative to this theory. It is noted that any comments made in the past by the Bureau relative to the shots that struck the President and Governor Connally were based completely on medical reports furnished the Bureau by Doctors at Parkland Hospital and the results of the autopsy of (sic) the U.S.Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland.
The foregoing is submitted for information.
Melvin Eisenberg's Memo on the April 14 conference
April 22, 1964
MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD
FROM: Melvin A. Eisenberg
SUBJECT: Conference of April 14, 1964, to determine which frames in the Zapruder movies show the impact of the first and second bullets.
On April 14, 1964, a conference was held to determine which frames in the Zapruder film portray the instants at which the first and second bullets struck. Present were: Commander James J. Humes, Director of Laboratories of the Naval Medical School, Bethesda, Maryland; Commander J. Thorton Boswell, Chief Pathologist, Naval Medical School, Bethesda; Lt. Col. Pierre A. Finck, Chief of Wound Ballistics Pathology Branch, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology; Dr. F.W. Light, Jr. Deputy Chief of the Biophysics Division at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, and Chief of the Wound Assessment Branch of the Biophysics Division; Dr. Olivier, Chief of the Wound Ballistics Branch of the Biophysics Division at Edgewood Arsenal; Messrs. Malley, Gauthier, Shaneyfelt, and two other unidentified agents of the FBI; Messrs. Kelley and Howlett of the Secret Service; and Messrs. Redlich, Specter and Eisenberg of the Commission staff.
A screening was held of the Zapruder film and of slides prepared by LIFE from the film. Each slide corresponded with a separate frame of film, beginning with frame 171. The consensus of the meeting was as follows:
(a) The President had been definitely hit by frames 224-225,when he emerges from behind a sign with his hands clutching his throat.
Above: a snippet from the Zapruder film demonstrating Eisenberg's point (a).
(b) The reaction shown in frames 224-225 may have started at an earlier point - possibly as early as frame 199 (when there appears to be some jerkiness in his movement) or, with a higher degree of possibility, at frames 204-206 (where his right elbow appears to be raised to an artificially high position).
Above: a snippet from the Zapruder film demonstrating Eisenberg's point (b).
(c) If the reaction did not begin at 199 or 204-206, it probably began during the range of frames during which the President is hidden from Zapruder’s camera by a sign, namely, frames 215-24.
cc:Mr. Rankin Mr Belin
Mr. Willens Mr. Specter
Mr. Redlich Mr. Eisenberg
(d) The President may have been struck by the first bullet as much as two seconds before any visible reaction began. In all likelihood, however, the maximum delay between impact and reaction would be under one second, and it is possible that the reaction was instantaneous. Putting this in terms of frames, the President may have been struck as much as 36 frames before any visible reaction is seen. If the visible reaction begins at 199, the President may have been struck as early as 163, if the visible reaction begins at 204-206, he may have been strtuck as early as 168-170, if the visible reaction begins while the President is behind the sign, he may have been struck as early as 179-188.
(e) The velocity of the first bullet would have been little diminished by its passage through the President. Therefore, if Governor Connally was in the path of the bullet it would have struck him and (probably) caused the wounds he sustained in his chest cavity. Strong indications that this occurred are provided by the facts that (1) the bullet recovered from Governor Connally's stretcher does not appear to have penetrated a wrist and (2) if the first bullet did not hit Governor Connally, it should have ripped up the car, but apparently did not. Since the bullet recovered from the Governor's stretcher does not appear to have penetrated a wrist, if he was hit by this (the first) bullet, he was probably also hit by the second bullet.
(f) If Governor Connally was hit by the first and second bullets, it is impossible to say definitively at what point, or by what point, he had been hit by the second bullet.
(g) Governor Connally seems to straighten up at frames 224-226, and may be reacting to a wound at this point. (If so, it would be a wound from the first bullet).
(h) Governor Connally seems to begin showing an expression of anguish around 242. If he was hit with two bullets, this expression may have resulted from his second wound.
(i) After Governor Connally straightened up at frames 224-26, he starts to turn to the right. As a result of this turn, at no time after frame 236 was Governor Connally in a position such that a bullet fired from the probable site of the assassin would have caused the wound in his chest cavity which Governor Connally sustained--that is, after frame 236, the Governor presented a side view to the assassin rather than a back view.*
(j) It is not possible to say whether prior to 236 Governor Connally was ever in a position such that one bullet could have caused the five wounds he sustained.
(k) As in the case of the President, Governor Connally could have conceivably been hit two seconds before he begins to react, but the maximum likely time interval between hit and reaction is one second, and the reaction may have been instantaneous. The likelihood of an instantaneous reaction is particularly great in regard to the wrist wound, since pain is usually felt more quickly in a limb than in the torso.
*/ Mr. Specter disagrees with this, and feels the Governor was in position to receive the chest wound up to 242.
Above: a repeat of the snippet from the Zapruder film demonstrating Eisenberg's point (a). Only this time focus on Connally. After repeatedly viewing this film, Commission Counsel Arlen Specter was holding on to the idea Connally was in position to receive his wounds until frame 242. This was bizarre, to say the least. Not only is it obvious Connally has been hit by this point, it's incredibly obvious a bullet fired from the sniper's nest and striking him in the armpit at this point would not make a sharp turn in his body and exit below his right nipple, but would continue on into the center of his chest, and probably pierce his heart.
Analysis of the Memos on the April 14 Conference
These memos tell us quite a bit about the mindset of the Warren Commission attorneys and FBI. The stated reason for the conferences—to decide the impact times and locations of the first two shots—reveals a built-in bias. The eyewitness evidence available so far suggests that the head shot was the second shot heard by most witnesses, and yet this inconvenient truth is not even to be considered. The attitude of everyone at the conference seems to be that “We have a piece of film that may show three separate hits. Kennedy shows a reaction between 199 and 224, Connally shows one between 224 and 236, and Kennedy is hit at 313. Therefore, those are our three shots." Never mind that a number of witnesses heard a shot after the head shot. Never mind that the majority of witnesses indicated that the last two shots were bunched together. Never mind that our study of the rifle indicates that the first two shots would have to have been at least 51 frames apart…
The memos reveal a few other wet spots on the slow-motion whitewash. On “d” of the memo by Eisenberg, he writes that everyone agrees that Kennedy could have been hit 2 full seconds, as early as frame 163, before he reacted. This is nonsense. NOT ONE eyewitness reported a two second delay in Kennedy’s response to the first shot. Even worse, Kennedy is actively waving and smiling at the crowd after frame 163. It hardly seems likely he would be waving and smiling at the crowd if he’d even heard a loud shot, let alone been hit by one. It seems likely, therefore, that these 2 seconds are a “gift” to Arlen Specter, to give him some wiggle room should he need more time to have the shots make sense.
That Specter was looking for this wiggle room is demonstrated by his lone dissent in the memo’s “i.” Here he is bucking the crowd in an effort to pick up just 6 more frames. Is it just a coincidence that by Specter taking 163 as the earliest time for a hit on Kennedy, and by his insisting on 242 as the latest time for a hit on Connally, a first shot 163, second shot 242, and final shot 313 shooting scenario is made possible, and that this would place the last two shots closer together than the first two? Is it possible that Specter, who had counted interviewing all the bystanders as one of his earliest objectives was, in fact, acutely aware that the scenario accepted by the others after watching the Zapruder film failed to match the testimony of the eyewitnesses? Was he, in fact, looking for ways to make it all fit?
Also interesting is Specter’s selection of frame 242 as the frame by which Connally must have been hit. Frame 242 was, let’s remember, the frame selected as the moment of impact on Connally in the secret analysis of the film performed at the National Photographic Interpretation Center in November and December. It seems clear from this that someone from the Secret Service told Specter their findings. Specter did, in fact, work closely with the Secret Service throughout his investigation. He was later to admit that Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley showed him an autopsy photo, apparently without the knowledge of their superiors.
Point “e” in Eisenberg's memo is also intriguing. Eisenberg writes: “if the first bullet did not hit Governor Connally, it should have ripped up the car, but apparently did not.” As the limousine was cleaned up within days of the shooting, before anyone from the Warren Commission could ever get a look at its seats, Eisenberg’s skepticism is well-placed. While the Warren Report criticized the Secret Service and FBI’s performance in protecting the President, it offered few if any criticisms about their subsequent investigations of the assassination. Eisenberg’s “apparently,” however, can be taken as an indication that, behind the scenes, the Warren Commission’s counsel were less than pleased with the Secret Service’s willful destruction of evidence in the limousine.
The Gauthier memo to Callahan is also quite interesting in that it makes no secret of the FBI's deep-rooted apathy toward investigating the case. This apathy is first revealed by Gauthier's mention of a Dr. Heany, but no mention at all of Dr. Boswell; this suggests he wrote down the wrong name. It is also intriguing that Gauthier fails to report the commission's interpretation of the shooting scenario, which is quite different than the FBI's, and even notes that "There is nothing controversial about where Shot 3 occurred inasmuch as the Zapruder movie indicates with much clarity where this happened," knowing full well he'd previously placed this shot 40 feet further down the street than now proposed by the Commission. This apathy is further documented in the addendum, in which Assistant Director AHB (Alan Belmont) makes clear that the FBI feels quite comfortable with their own theory on the shooting, and would prefer not be associated with the Secret Service's solution, or the Commission's conclusion. As he specifies that establishing the speed of the limo is beyond the scope of the FBI's investigation, when this question is central to the question of conspiracy v. no-conspiracy, it seems likely he has concerns over the political ramifications of the Secret Service's having erred and driven the limousine too slow, and that this outweighs his interest in establishing if Oswald could have fired the shots as purported.
Assistant Director Alex Rosen's memo is also intriguing. Since this memo reads like a first person account, it would appear he was one of the two "unidentified agents" mentioned in Eisenberg's memo. He, as Gauthier, fails to note at which frames the attendees felt Kennedy had been hit. But he evades much more. While Gauthier admits Humes said the bullet entered "high in the right shoulder" Rosen instead claims the bullet entered the "neck region." Hmm. Mighty curious, that. And that's not the only head-scratcher. For some strange reason, Rosen not only fails to acknowledge that Eisenberg wants the FBI's help in performing a re-enactment, he claims "Staff members of the Commission gave no indication what additional action they planned relative to this theory."
This suggests either that the agents in attendance failed to tell Rosen of Eisenberg's plans, or that Rosen himself was in attendance and was trying to hide this from his immediate superior Belmont, and, by extension, FBI Director Hoover.
Excerpts from an April 16 memo of Arlen Specter
April 16, 1964
To: Mr. J. Lee Rankin
From: Mr. Arlen Specter
Subject: Remaining Work in Area 1.
1. Obtain accounts of the assassination from the eyewitness celebrities
2. Obtain further medical evidence
a. Photographs and x-rays of the autopsy should be examined to make certain of the accuracy of the artist's drawings of President Kennedy's wounds.
3. Plot the position of the President's automobile at the times of the three shots to calculate, as precisely as possible, distances and angles.
4. Present testimony on the clothing of President Kennedy and Governor Connally, and perhaps on the President's automobile.
5. Review and correct transcripts of my witnesses before the Commission.
6. Review, correct, and summarize transcripts of the depositions I have taken.
Analysis of Specter's April 16 Memo
It's clear from Specter's April 16 memo that he has no interest in interviewing the closest bystanders to the shooting, very few of whom have testified before the commission, and is only interested in interviewing the "celebrity" witnesses, whom he identifies as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Kennedy, Governor and Mrs. Connally, Senator Yarborough, Clifford Carter, David Powers, and Kenneth O'Donnell. This suggests, then, that he is not interested in determining what happened as much as he's interested in obtaining accounts of the shooting from the people whom the Washington press might expect him to interview. Point 2 is also of interest, as it reveals that Specter does not trust the Rydberg drawings to be accurate, and would like to have their accuracy double-checked. Point 3 is also intriguing, as it does more than suggest that Specter is unsatisfied with the mock-up of Dealey Plaza provided by the FBI, and would like to perform some sort of re-enactment.
The issues raised in Points 2 and 3 would rise and rise again.
FBI memo on the April 21 conference
April 22, 1964
TO: Mr. Conrad
FROM: W.D. Griffith
SUBJECT: Assassination of President Kennedy
Request of the President's Commission
At the request of the President's Commission, Inspector J.R. Malley of the General Investigation Division, Inspector L.J. Gauthier of the Administrative Division and Special Agent Lyndal L. Shaneyfelt of the Laboratory on 4/21/64 were at the Commission for a review of the Zapruder film of the assassination. Purpose of this review was to determine from Governor and Mrs. John Connally, who were present, whether or not it could be established at what point in the film the Governor was shot. The following individuals were also present:
Dr. Gregory and Dr. Shaw who examined Governor Connally at Parkland Hospital in Dallas
Dr. F.W. Light, Jr. and Dr. A.G. Olivier from the Wound Assessment and Wound Ballistics Department of Edgewood Arsenal
Dr. Joseph Dolce, consultant to the Biophysics Division of Edgewood Arsenal
It is noted that representatives of the Secret Service who have attended past reviews were not present.
The principal fact brought out by the Governor and Mrs. Connally was their selection of a portion of the film where "he has been hit"; however, they could not pin point the exact frame of the motion picture film where the bullet struck. The portion of the sequence they selected is only one-fourth to one-half second after the approximate point where the President was believed to have been shot at the base of the neck. Allowing for variations in reaction times, this lends support to the theory that one bullet passed through the President's neck, the Governor's chest, hit in the Governor's leg, and lodged in his clothing.
Both the Governor and Mrs. Connally stated that they heard the first shot and the second shot was the one that hit the Governor, however, neither of them saw the President between the first and third shots or can state that the President was actually hit by the first shot.
RECOMMENDATION: None. For information only.
Above: Warren Commission Counsel Melvin Eisenberg
Melvin Eisenberg's memo on the April 21 conference
April 22, 1964
MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD
FROM: Melvin A. Eisenberg
SUBJECT: Conference of April 21, 1964, to determine which frames in the Zapruder movies show the impact of the first and second bullets.
On Tuesday, April 21, 1964, a conference was held to determine which frames in the Zapruder film portray the instants at which the first and second bullets struck.
Present were: Dr. F.W. Light, Jr., Deputy Chief of the Biophysics Division and Chief of the Wound Assessment Branch of the Biophysics Division at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland; Dr. Olivier, Chief of the Wound Ballistics Branch of the Biophysics Division at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland; Dr. Joseph Dolce, Consultant to the Biophysics Division at Edgewood Arsenal; Dr. Charles F. Gregory and Dr. Robert Shaw of Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Texas; Messrs. Geuthier, Shaneyfelt, and one other unidentified agent of the FBI; and Messrs. Redlich, Specter, Belin and Eisenberg. Later in the proceedings, Governor and Mrs. Connally, Mr. Rankin and Mr. McCloy joined the conference.
A screening was held of the Zapruder film and of slides prepared by LIFE from the films. Each slide corresponded with a separate frame of film, beginning with frame 171. The consensus of the meeting was as follows:
(a) The President had been definitely hit by frame 224-225 when he emerges from behind a sign with his hands clutching at his throat.
(b) After the Governor Connally straightened up at frames 224-225 he starts to turn to the right. As a result of this turn, at no time after frame 236 was Governor Connally in a position such that a bullet fired from the probable site of the assassin would have caused the wound in the chest cavity which Governor Connally sustained -- that is, after frame 236 the Governor presented a side view to the assassin rather than a back view. (1) Mr. Specter disagrees.
(c) In many frames up to 250, the Governor's wrist is held in a position which exposed him to the type of wrist wounds he actually received.
(d) After viewing the films and slides, the Governor was of the opinion that he had been hit by frame 231.
(e) The Governor stated that after being hit, he looked to his right, looked to his left, and then turned to his right. He felt the President might have been hit by frame 190. He heard only two shots and felt sure that the shots he heard were the first and third shots. He is positive that he was hit after he heard the first shot, i.e., by the second shot, and by that shot only.
In a discussion after the conference, Drs. Light and Dolce expressed themselves as being very strongly of the opinion that Connally had been hit by two different bullets, principally on the ground that the bullet recovered from Connally's stretcher could not have broken his radius without having suffered more distortion. Dr. Oliver withheld a conclusion until he has had the opportunity to make tests on animal tissue and bone with the actual rifle.
Analysis of the memos on the April 21 conference
The memos on the April 21 meeting are also quite revealing. While Eisenberg noted the various impressions of the moment of impact on both Kennedy and Connally, the FBI agents in attendance once again failed to record anyone's thoughts on this subject, and instead spun the information to support the status quo. As a result, Connally's belief he was hit a quarter second after it's painfully obvious Kennedy was hit does not cast one bit of doubt on the single-assassin conclusion, but instead "lends support" to the single-bullet theory holding they were hit at the same time. This is more than a bit short-sighted. To make matters worse, the Griffith memo concludes by claiming neither Connally nor Mrs. Connally "can state that the President was actually hit by the first shot." This is grossly deceptive. Eisenberg's memo reflects that Connally felt the President was hit by the first shot. Far worse, Mrs Connally testified to the Commission just after the conference and related "I heard a noise...I turned over my right shoulder and looked back, and saw the President as he had both hands at his neck...he made no utterance, no cry. I saw no blood, no anything. It was just sort of nothing, the expression on his face, and he just sort of slumped down." She was thereby testifying that Kennedy was hit by the first shot. So why the deception? Why pretend the Connallys would be open-minded to the contention the President and Governor were hit by same bullet with the second shot, when Mrs. Connally had just testified that this wasn't true?
Well, one possibility is that the agent reporting to Griffith, presumably Shaneyfelt, had come to believe the only way to sell the single-assassin conclusion was to sell the single-bullet theory, and that the only thing preventing their successfully doing so was the testimony of the Connallys. John Connally felt positive he was not hit by the first shot. Nellie Connally felt positive the President WAS hit by the first shot. This put the FBI in a bind. What to do? Shaneyfelt would have known, after all, after studying the film with the commission's counsel, that the film does not support that three separate shots were fired and that three separate hits were created by Oswald's rifle. Perhaps then he lied about what Nellie said in order to pretend there was no conflict between the recollections of the Connallys and the single-bullet theory.
That Griffith or the man reporting to him was trying to hide problems with the theory is supported as well by his failure to mention Dr.s Dolce and Light's fervent belief Connally was hit by more than one bullet. Only the week before, we should recall, Dr. Humes pushed that Connally's back wound and wrist wound were brought about by separate bullets, and now here were two top wound ballistics experts claiming the same thing. But is this reported? No, not at all. Eisenberg's memo notes as well that Connally had insisted he was hit by but one bullet. But is this reported? No, not at all.
But the FBI's agents weren't the only ones failing to put on the record what they didn't want to hear... After complicating matters by insisting Connally must have been hit by two bullets, Dr. Dolce was cut out of the loop and never asked to testify.
(In 1976, Dr. Dolce wrote the HSCA and complained about his treatment. He noted that he was the pre-eminent expert on wound ballistics present at the 4-21-64 conference, and yet his impressions were ignored. He also complained that his colleagues, Dr.s Olivier and Dziemian, testified in a manner inconsistent with the tests they'd performed. He noted that the entrance wounds were smaller than the exit wounds on all the cadaver wrists they'd fired upon, but that Dr. Olivier ultimately accepted the word of Connally's physician, Dr.Gregory, that the larger wound in Connally's wrist was the entrance wound. Dolce concluded his letter by listing his interpretation of the shooting scenario: "1) The first bullet went through JFK's neck and this is the so-called pristine bullet. 2) The second bullet went through Governor Connally's chest and wrist and the film clearly demonstrates Connally's wrist against his chest wall. I feel that this is the bullet that is missing. 3) The third bullet struck JFK in the head and one fragment of this bullet struck Connally in the left thigh and also struck the windshield of the car." Apparently, Dolce just couldn't grasp that this scenario was, at least in the eyes of the commission, too reliant on Oswald's shooting ability, as it necessitated two shots being fired incredibly close together... Ironically, the HSCA, which ultimately concluded that Oswald WAS able to get two shots off within two seconds, also ignored Dolce; they failed to call him to testify, or even consult with their medical panel.)
Melvin Eisenberg and Norman Redlich memos proposing a re-enactment
April 24, 1964
TO: Messrs. Redlich, Specter, Belin
FROM: Melvin A. Eisenberg
SUBJECT: Determination of the Trajectories of the Three Shots
1. My memos of the conferences of April 14, 1964, and April 21, 1964, designate the frames in the Zapruder film which portray or may portray the impact of the first and second bullets. My memo of earlier conferences designated the frames in the Zapruder, Nix, and Muchmore films which portray the impact of the third shot. In order to translate these determinations into actual distances, it appears to me to be necessary to go to Dallas.
2. The first step to take in Dallas is to place viewfinders on the spots at which Zapruder, Nix and Muchmore were standing, and place a replica car, bearing six occupants on Elm Street. The replica car should then be positioned so that, viewed through the viewfinders, the relationship between the actual car and the landmarks on November 22, as shown in the designated frames.
3. Pictures should be made showing the car (positioned under paragraph 2) from the following vantage points: (a) the spots at which the photographers were standing; (b) a point in the TSBD approximating the point at which the muzzle of the rifle was located;and (c) several point on the overpass. Still pictures, and moving pictures taken through the cameras actually used by Zapruder, Nix, and Muchmore should be taken from vantage point (a). Two sets of still pictures, one through a 4x telescopic sight, should be taken from vantage points (b) and (c).
4. Tapes should then be laid on Elm Street over the points or ranges at which the President and Governor were located when the three shots struck. Each tape should be marked to show every designated frame, and at the first tape should also be marked at the point where the President first became visible from vantage point (b) after emerging from behind the tree. On-the-street measurements should then be taken of the distances (i) from the marked points on each tape to the marked points on every other tape and (ii) from the marked points on each tape to the mid-point of a line connecting the southeast and southwest curbs of Elm street.
5. The position of the tapes and all marked points thereon should then be mapped on a survey, and the lengths of the various possible trajectories should be measured by the surveyor on a trigonometric basis, measuring from the point at which the muzzle was probably located to the beginning, end, and marked points of each tape. The surveyor should also determine the angle each trajectory makes with the horizontal. Copies of the surveyor's work-sheets and calculations should be sent to us.
6. The steps outlined herein are not to be deemed as exclusive. In particular, an attempt should be made to photograph various relative positions of the persons simulating the President and Governor Connally with a view to determining whether the first bullet probably did or did not hit the Governor as well as the President.
Above: Warren Commission Assistant General Counsel Norman Redlich
April 27, 1964
TO: J. Lee Rankin
FROM: Norman Redlich
The purpose of this memorandum is to explain the reasons why certain members of the staff feel that it is important to take certain on-site photographs in connection with the location of the approximate points at which the three bullets struck the occupants of the Presidential limousine.
Our report presumably will state that the President was hit by the first bullet, Governor Connally by the second, and the President by the third and fatal bullet. The report will also conclude that the bullets were fired by one person located in the sixth floor southeast corner window of the TSBD building.
As our investigation now stands, however, we have not shown that these events could possibly have occurred in the manner suggested above. All we have is a reasonable hypothesis which appears to be supported by the medical testimony but which has not been checked out against the physical facts at the scene of the assassination.
Our examination of the Zapruder films shows that the fatal third shot struck the President at a point which we can locate with reasonable accuracy on the ground. We can do this because we know the exact frame (no. 313) in the film at which the third shot hit the President and we know the location of the photographer. By lining up fixed objects in the movie frame where this shot occurs we feel that we have determined the approximate location of this shot. This can be verified by a photo of the same spot from the point where Zapruder was standing.
We have the testimony of Governor and Mrs. Connally that the Governor was hit with the second bullet at a point which we probably cannot fix with precision. We feel we have established, however, with the help of medical testimony, that the shot which hit the Governor did not come after frame 240 on the Zapruder film. The governor feels that it came around 230, which is certainly consistent with our observations of the film and with the doctor's testimony. Since the President was shot at frame 313, this would leave a time of at least 4 seconds between the two shots, certainly ample for even an inexperienced marksman.
Prior to our last viewing of the films with Governor Connally we had assumed that the President was hit while he was concealed behind the sign which occurs between frames 215-225. We have expert testimony to the effect that a skilled marksman would require a minimum 2 seconds between shots with this rifle. Since the camera operates at 18 1/3 frames per second, there would have to be a minimum of 40 frames between shots.
It is apparent, therefore, that if Governor Connally was hit even as late as frame 240, the President would have to have been hit no later than frame 190 and probably even earlier. We have not yet examined the assassination scene to determine whether the assassin in fact could have shot the President prior to frame 190. We could locate the position on the ground which corresponds to this frame and it would then be our intent to establish by photography that the assassin could have fired the first shot at the President prior to this point. Our intention is not to establish the point with complete accuracy, but merely to substantiate the hypothesis which underlies the conclusions that Oswald was the sole assassin.
I had always assumed that our final report would be accompanied by a surveyor's diagram which would indicate the appropriate location of the three shots. We certainly cannot prepare such a diagram without establishing that we are describing an occurrence which is physically possible. Our failure to do this will, in my opinion, place this Report in jeopardy since it is a certainty that others will examine the Zapruder films and raise the same questions which have been raised by our examination of the films. If we do not attempt to answer these questions with observable facts, others may answer them with facts which challenge our most basic assumptions, or with fanciful theories based on our unwillingness to test our assumptions by the investigatory methods available to us.
I should add that the facts which we now have in our possession, submitted to us in separate reports from the FBI and Secret Service, are totally incorrect and, if left uncorrected, will present a completely misleading picture.
It may well be that this project should be undertaken by the FBI and Secret Service with our assistance instead of being done as a staff project. The important thing is that the project be undertaken expeditiously.
Analysis of the Eisenberg and Redlich memos proposing a re-enactment
These memos suggest that Specter did some talking after the showing of the Zapruder film, and convinced the others there were real problems with the shooting scenario if Connally was hit before frame 242. Their desire to test out the various scenarios is admirable. There is more (or less) to the story, however.
On point number 6 of the Eisenberg memo there is a curious statement. While it was his hope to measure the vertical angles into the car from the purported sniper’s nest (point 5) he expresses no interest in measuring the cross-angle of a trajectory connecting Kennedy’s throat wound with Connally’s wound in his right armpit; instead, he states “an attempt should be made to photograph various relative positions of the persons simulating the President and Governor Connally with a view to determining whether the first bullet probably did or did not hit the Governor as well as the President.” Surprisingly, he fails to mention comparing the positions of the men in the Zapruder film and other images of the motorcade to these “various relative positions.” It seems apparent from this that he has no plans of seeing if the single-bullet theory is likely, only possible.
The Redlich memo confirms this impression, and is interesting from start to finish. In the second paragraph, he reveals that, as late as this date, almost 5 months after the beginning of the Warren Commission, the intent of the Commission is to rubber-stamp the FBI and Secret Service conclusions. In the third paragraph, he tells Rankin, however, that the Zapruder film shows these conclusions were wrong. In the fourth paragraph, he makes the same mistake as the FBI and Secret Service, however, and assumes with little basis that the third shot was the head shot at frame 313. In the fifth paragraph, he displays his ignorance of the eyewitness evidence by accepting the testimony of the Connallys as the gospel truth. Ironically, by later accepting the single-bullet theory, he would show a distinct lack of faith. In the sixth paragraph, he incorrectly represents Frazier’s testimony as saying that a talented shooter could get off two shots in 40 frames, but correctly adds 10 frames to what could be expected of Oswald. In the seventh paragraph, he spills the beans, and admits that the whole proposed re-enactment is not to establish what DID happen, or even what most likely happened, but “merely to substantiate the hypothesis which underlies the conclusions that Oswald was the sole assassin.” In other words, he is telling Rankin not to worry, that no one has any intention of upsetting anybody by saying Oswald had assistance, but that in order for the Oswald-did-it theory to stick they would need to come up with a better story.
That "better story" was the single-bullet theory. It's mighty curious that Eisenberg's memo to his fellow counsel ends with his suggestion they test the feasibility of this theory, but Redlich's memo to Rankin never raises the issue, and pretends instead that the re-enactment will be testing whether or not Kennedy could have been shot prior to frame 190. From this, we might conclude that the FBI was not the only house divided, with junior members trying to get senior members to go along with Specter's theory.
Howard Willens' Diary Entry on a 4-28-64 Meeting With the FBI and Secret Service
At 2:30 p.m. I participated in a meeting with Mr. Malley and Mr. Gauthier of the FBI, Inspector Kelley of the Secret Service, Mr. Rankin and Messrs. Belin, Redlich, Eisenberg and Specter. The subject of the meeting was the problem of further work in Dallas to ascertain with greater precision the range of probabilities regarding the location and timing of the three shots fired by the assassin. Both the FBI and the SS prior to the meeting had indicated to Mr. Rankin (and the Chief Justice) their reluctance to go down to Dallas with any sort of further reenactment of the assassination. This meeting was the culmination of many months of work by members of the staff, particularly Mr. Redlich, Mr. Eisenberg and Mr. Specter, regarding the films and medical testimony. From the very beginning Mr. Rankin had been less persuaded than these that it was necessary to decide these problems with greater precision. Just prior to the meeting, however, Mr. Redlich had finally put his views into memorandum form which I believe persuaded Mr. Rankin that some effort was necessary if the Commission wanted to make assertions in its report which coincide with the physical facts. The greatest priority is to determine whether or not a shot at frame 190 in the Zapruder film could have been fired by the assassin from the 6th floor without interference from the tree. Until the testimony of Governor Connally it was not hypothesized that the first shot occurred at such an early point in the film.
The meeting went on for more than two hours, certainly twice as long as was necessary to set forth the issues. Every time Mr. Specter tried to emphasize what the important issues were, Mr. Eisenberg chose to elaborate and complicate the issues and suggested that he at least wanted to make more precise judgments concerning location and timing. Mr. Rankin emphasized the inability of the Commission to make such precise judgments. Every time Mr. Rankin made such an observation Mr. Malley confirmed this and generally expressed skepticism about the entire project. I expressed myself near the end of the meeting as being in favor of asking the FBI and/or the Secret Service to return to Dallas to ascertain an answer to the single question stated above. At the end of the meeting Mr. Malley informed us that the official Bureau position was opposed to such further investigation but that if the Commission were to request it the Bureau would consider doing the work. It was decided that a letter should be drafted requesting the work be done by the FBI, upon the basis of which Mr. Rankin could again approach the Chief Justice on the subject.
Above: Mr. Arlen Specter, the soon-to-be Philadelphia District Attorney.
April 30 memo of Arlen Specter
April 30, 1964
TO: Mr. J. Lee Rankin
FROM: Arlen Specter
SUBJECT: Autopsy Photographs and X-rays of President John F. Kennedy
In my opinion it is indispensable that we obtain the photographs and x-rays of President Kennedy's autopsy for the following reasons:
1. THE COMMISSION SHOULD DETERMINE WITH CERTAINTY WHETHER THE SHOTS CAME FROM THE REAR. Someone from the Commission should review the films to corroborate the autopsy surgeons' testimony that the holes on the President's back and head had the characteristics of points of entry. None of the doctors at Parkland Hospital in Dallas observed the hole in the President's back or the small hole in the lower portion of his head. With all the outstanding controversy about the direction of the shots, there must be independent viewings of the films to verify testimony which has come only from Government doctors.
2. THE COMMISSION SHOULD DETERMINE WITH CERTAINTY WHETHER THE SHOTS CAME FROM ABOVE. It is essential for the Commission to know precisely the location of the bullet wound on the President's back so that the angle may be calculated. The artist's drawing prepared at Bethesda (Commission Exhibit #385) shows a slight angle of declination. It is hard, if not impossible, to explain such a slight angle of decline unless the President was farther down Elm Street than we have heretofore believed. Before coming to any conclusion on this, the angles will have to be calculated at the scene; and for this, the exact point of entry should be known.
3. THE COMMISSION SHOULD DETERMINE WITH CERTAINTY THAT THERE ARE NO MAJOR VARIATIONS BETWEEN THE FILMS AND THE ARTIST'S DRAWINGS. Commission Exhibits Nos. 385, 386, and 388 were made from the recollections of the autopsy surgeons as told to the artist. Some day someone may compare the films with the artist's drawings and find a significant error which might substantially affect the essential testimony and the Commission's conclusions. In any event, the Commission should not rely on hazy recollections, especially in view of the statement in the autopsy report (Commission Exhibit #387) that:
"The complexity of those fractures and the fragments thus produced tax satisfactory verbal description and are better appreciated in the photographs and roentgenograms which are prepared."
When Inspector Kelly talked to Attorney General Kennedy, he most probably did not fully understand all the reasons for viewing the films. According to Inspector Kelly, the Attorney General did not categorically decline to make them available, but only wanted to be satisfied that they were really necessary. I suggest that the Commission transmit to the Attorney General its reasons for wanting the films and the assurances that they will be viewed only by the absolute minimum number of people from the Commission for the sole purpose of corroborating (or correcting) the artist's drawings, with the film not to become a part of the Commission's records.
Excerpt from the April 30, 1964 transcript of the Executive Session of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. (The Warren Commission).
Present: Chief Justice Earl Warren, Chairman; Senator John Sherman Cooper, member; John J. McCloy, member, Allen Dulles, member; J. Lee Rankin, General Counsel..
(Chairman Warren is going down a list of issues that need to be discussed.)
Warren: Five, autopsy pictures of President Kennedy.
Rankin: The staff feels that we should have some member of the Commission examine those pictures. We have a very serious problem in the record now that Dr. Humes testified, as you recall, that the bullet in his opinion probably passed through the President and then through Governor Connally. And we now have the testimony of Governor Connally that that couldn’t have happened. He is certain it didn’t happen. And that the bullet that struck him is one that did not hit the President…We also have some drawings of President Kennedy which are reconstructions by the men that participated in the autopsy. And these men have not seen these pictures of the autopsy, but they had these drawings made, and we don’t know whether these drawings conform to the pictures of the autopsy or not. Now I thought we could avoid having these pictures, possibly avoid these pictures being a part of the record, because the family has a strong feeling about them, and I think we should respect it insofar as can possibly be done, and carry out the work of the Commission—because they don’t want the President to be remembered in connection with those pictures. That is their basic thought. I know that the Commission would like to respect that and not have them in any way become a part of the records which the public would get to see. But I do feel that a doctor and some member of the Commission should examine them sufficiently so that they could report to the Commission that there is nothing inconsistent with the other findings in connection with the matter in those pictures. In that way we can avoid any question that we have passed anything up that the Commission should know or that we haven’t tried to take advantage of information that should be available to us.
Dulles: Would the people who made the pictures have access to these photographs—because they would be the ones to tell, as to whether the pictures were consistent with the drawings they made?
Rankin: We, they were made, as I understand it, under the supervision of the doctors conducting the autopsy. And so they just have never been developed because of the family’s wishes. And I think that the Attorney General would make them available now—although they were denied to us before because he said that he didn’t think there was a sufficient showing of our need. But upon a showing now, I think that he would recognize the need and permit that limited examination. And then I feel that in dealing with the Attorney General, however, we should make it plain to him that if the member of the Commission who examines them, with the doctor, feels the whole Commission should see them, that there would be that reservation—because I don’t know what might appear to some member of the Commission or the doctor in connection with them.
McCloy: There is this element. In the record there is an indication by the doctor that there was a certain—he would prefer to have the pictures in connection with the charts that he was representing to us. There was a certain little note of minor inadequacy in connection with the chart which he had, without the pictures.
Dulles: Which doctor was that?
Rankin: Humes—you remember it was the doctor that made the autopsy.
Dulles: Out at Bethesda?
Dulles: Yes, I remember that. As I recall the testimony, I think it was the doctor from Dallas.
Rankin: Dr. Gregory.
Dulles: The one who said that the bullet—I understood he said might have passed through President’s throat and then through Connally. But I didn’t think he said that he thought it did. I think he said he thought it might have. Is that correct?
Rankin: That is right.
Dulles: Could have.
McCloy: I thought the chief testimony on that came from the Bethesda doctor. I remember he said “I think I could show you this better on the photographs than I could through these charts.”
Rankin: That is right.
Warren: Well, I think you can work that out, Lee, to do that, but without putting those pictures in our record. We don’t want those in our record.
McCloy: Certainly not.
Warren: It would make it a morbid thing for all time to come.
Rankin: Is that effort to proceed in that manner, without having them in the record, and having an examination by the doctor and one of the members of the Commission satisfactory then?
Warren: Only for verification purposes. Yes, I think that would be all.
Dulles: By the doctor and a member of the Commission.
McCloy: Oh yes, you would need a doctor present to interpret it to you.
Warren: All right. If there is nothing further on that item, the next is interview of Mrs. Kennedy.
Analysis of the April 30 memo of Arlen Specter and the April 30 executive session of the Warren Commission
These memos and the subsequent session of the Commission reveal that the Commission was not the blatant white-wash many believe it to be. Here, Specter, who took the testimony of the autopsists on 3-16, even though they’d been inexplicably denied the opportunity to compare their memories to the autopsy photos and x-rays they’d created, finally steps up and tries to do what’s right. In light of his previous and subsequent actions, these memos are incredibly ironic. In point number 2 of the April 30 memo, Specter mentions that the angle of descent in the drawing is smaller than expected, and is suggestive that Kennedy was further down the street than believed. This indicates that Specter is convinced that Kennedy was sitting upright in the car and was not leaning over when shot. The irony of this is that, on May 24, 1964 Specter would see an autopsy photo of the back wound that showed the bullet entrance to be two inches lower than the wound in the drawing, and on a flat trajectory with the neck wound, but would say NOTHING about this to the commissioners. In 1978, the HSCA would not only decide the bullet entrance was two inches lower than in the drawing, but that Kennedy was significantly closer to the sniper’s nest when shot. For Specter’s single-bullet theory to have taken place under these conditions Kennedy would have to have been leaning quite far forward when shot. Specter knew this wasn’t true, but once again, said nothing.
Point number 3 in the April 30 memo is especially ironic. Here Specter observes (accurately as it turned out) that the inaccuracy of the drawings HE put into evidence may come back to haunt the Commission later. He admits “Commission Exhibits Nos. 385, 386, and 388 were made from the recollections of the autopsy surgeons as told to the artist.” This indicates that he knows measurements were not used. Specter prepared and received Dr. Humes’ 3-16 testimony, in which he said “We had made certain physical measurements of the wounds, and of their position on the body of the late President, and we provided these and supervised directly Mr. Rydberg in making these drawings.” And yet here Specter admits to his boss Rankin that the drawings were based on recollections, not measurements. Curiously, it appears that Specter knows Humes lied, but has failed to tell the Commission as much.
Specter’s final paragraph is also important, as it indicates his belief that Robert Kennedy will not interfere with this inspection, and that Thomas Kelley of the Secret Service has discussed it with Kennedy. In 1978, Nicholas Katzenbach testified before the HSCA that he discussed the Warren Commission’s use of the autopsy materials with Kennedy at one point, and that Kennedy gave his permission. Ironically, Specter told the doctors that it was Kennedy who forbade them from seeing the photos before their testimony, and they would repeat that story for many years to come, unaware that Kennedy had, in fact, granted them permission, once someone related to the commission had explained to him why it was necessary.
The April 30 executive session is even more revealing than Specter’s memo. Here, Rankin, McCloy, and Dulles argue for the necessity of having a DOCTOR review the photos, and Warren agrees. Warren even tells Rankin that he thinks it can be worked out where the photos are reviewed but not placed in the record. These statements take on added meaning when one considers what ultimately transpired.
Howard Willens' Diary Entry On a May 5 Conference Among the Warren Commission Staff
At the end of the day, prior to going home to vote, I joined a conference in Mr. Rankin’s office. Present were Mr. Rankin and Messrs. Belin, Redlich and Eisenberg. We were later joined by Mr. Ball and Mr. Stern. Most of the discussion centered about the need to return to Dallas for further investigative work to decide upon approximations of the distances and locations of the various shots. Mr. Rankin had not yet put this matter to the Chief Justice for decision. Mr. Belin expressed his strong view that our record on the firearms testimony, particularly as to the amount of time within which the shots could reasonably have been fired by Oswald, was not as good as we might have desired. In fact Mr. Belin stated that after reading our record on this subject he was inclined to believe that Oswald did not fire the three shots within the 5 1/2 second. Mr. Eisenberg, of course, took issue with this to some extent and stated that he believed that the testimony did show that it was possible for Oswald to have fired the three shots although it would have been a difficult assignment for someone with Oswald’s degree of marksmanship. Mr. Belin desired, and I concur, that further testimony on this subject be elicited particularly if the Dallas project is completed and produces some new facts which would be the basis upon which to conduct some additional tests.
Howard Willens' Diary Entry For May 6
On Wednesday, May 6, 1964, Mr. Belmont of the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified. I did not attend, among other reasons because apparently the Chief Justice had commented at my presence in the hearings the prior day. Sometime during the day, I believe in the morning, Mr. Rankin indicated that he had secured the approval of the Chief Justice for the Dallas project. During the day he tentatively decided that this work should be done in Dallas Monday and Tuesday, May 18 and 19. At the Chief Justice’s decision, however, Mr. Rankin was to take personal supervision of the project. He reserved decision as to whether anyone other than himself and Mr. Specter should be involved with the work on the scene.
May 7 letter of J. Lee Rankin to J. Edgar Hoover and May 12 memo of Arlen Specter
May 7, 1964
Mr. J. Edgar Hoover
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20535
Dear Mr. Hoover,
This commission has been making a careful study of the various motion picture films taken at the scene of the assassination. In this project we have had the valuable assistance of members your Bureau, particularly Inspector James Malley, Inspector Leo Gauthier and Special Agent Lyndal A. Shaneyfelt. As a result of the information obtained from these films, the Commission would like the cooperation of your Bureau in the performance of certain additional investigation at the scene of the assassination.
I will personally be available to supervise this work and will have such other staff members present as may be deemed necessary. We would hope to be able to perform this work in Dallas on May 18 and May 19. The purpose of this letter is to set forth the steps which we feel are necessary to properly complete this project.
I. PROBABLE RANGES FROM WHICH FIRST TWO SHOTS OCCURRED
Our examination of the Zapruder films indicates that Governor Connally was hit at some point prior to frame 240. (All references to frames in the Zapruder films are on the basis of a numbering system worked out with the FBI personnel who have been working on this project). Doctors familiar with the Governor's wounds concluded that after frame 236 his body was not in a position to have received the wound from a projectile fired from the sixth floor southeast corner window of the Texas School Book Depository Building. The Governor feels he was hit at approximately frame 230; some members of our staff feel that it could have been as late as frame 240. Governor and Mrs. Connally also testified that the Governor was hit by the second shot.
The FBI laboratory examination of the Zapruder camera establishes that it operates at a speed of 18 1/3 frames per second. Weapons experts have testified that the minimum time required to operate the assassination weapon is 2 1/4 seconds. It would appear, therefore, that a minimum of 41 frames would have to elapse between the first and second shots. (18 1/3 x 2 1/4).
The Commission is aware that it is impossible to determine the exact point at which the first two shots were fired. We request the following on-site investigatory steps, however, in order to determine whether it was possible for a person located on the sixth floor southeast corner window of the TSBD building to fire two shots at the Presidential car, the second of which occurred no later than frame 240:
(1) A point should be marked on the road corresponding to frame 199 on the Zapruder film, which is the last point at which the assassin could have fired from the window and still have been able to fire again by frame 240. A car should be photographed on this spot from the point where Zapruder was standing so that this photograph can be compared with frame 199 to make certain that the location is accurate. This should be done with the Zapruder camera, which has been retained for this purpose. A Polaroid should also be used for immediate comparison.
(2) After a car has been placed at this point on the road it should be photographed from the assassination window to determine whether the assassin had a clear shot at the occupants of the rear seat, with particular reference to the tree which at some point blocks the view from this window.
(3) If the car had passed the tree at frame 199, when viewed from the window, the car should be moved forward to the point at which there is a first clear view from the window and photographed at this point from both the window and at the place where Zapruder was standing so that we may determine what frame in the Zapruder films corresponds with this location.
(4) If the car has in fact passed beyond the tree at frame 199, it should be moved back to the point where it first cleared the tree and photographed from the window and the Zapruder location to establish the corresponding frame reference.
(5) The car should also be placed at the point where there is the last clear shot before it goes behind the tree and photographed from the window and the Zapruder location to determine the frame reference at this point.
(6) All the above points should be mapped on a survey. Lineal distances should be measured on the ground between these various points. Trigonometric readings should be taken to determine the distances from these various points to the assassination window and the surveyor should also determine the angle with the horizontal which is made when a line is plotted from each of these point to the assassination window.
II. PROBABLE LOCATION OF THE THIRD SHOT
Unlike shots one and two, the third shot has been fixed at a particular frame in the Zapruder films (frame 313), as well as a particular frame in the other two films (frame 24 of the Nix film and frame 42 of the Muchmore film). A car should be placed at the point which we believe to be the approximate location corresponding to these frames and then photographed from the point where the three cameramen were standing to establish the accuracy of this location. Distances should be measured from this point to the various points described in part I and angles and distances established between this point and the assassination window to establish the view which the assassin had when he fired the third shot.
III. PLOTTING TRAJECTORIES FROM THE RAILROAD OVERPASS
From each of the ground points established in parts I and II trigonometric readings should be taken from a point on either end of the overpass to chart the path which a bullet would travel if fired from those points on the overpass to the rear seat of the car. It should be determined whether a bullet could reach the rear seat without hitting the windshield, and the angle with the horizontal which would be made by a bullet fired from these points to a car located at each of the points to a car located at each of the points on the ground as determined in parts I and II.
A copy of this letter has been sent to Chief Rowley of the Secret Service with a request that the Secret Service provide such assistance in this work as the Commission and your Bureau may require. The Secret Service has furnished the Commission with photographs, surveys, and measurements which we have used in our examination of the films and which will no doubt be useful to your Bureau in completing this project.We would like your Bureau to make all necessary arrangements for this project. Members of the Bureau assigned to this project should contact either Mr. Norman Redlich or Mr. Melvin Eisenberg of the Commission staff if additional information is required.
Sincerely, J. Lee Rankin, General Counsel
cc: Mr. Rankin Mr. Redlich Mr. Willens
May 12, 1964
To: Mr. J. Lee Rankin
From: Arlen Specter
Subject: Examination of autopsy photographs and x-rays of President Kennedy.
When the autopsy photographs and x-rays are examined, we should be certain to determine the following:
1. The photographs and x-rays confirm the precise location of the entrance wound in the back of the head depicted Commission exhibits 386 and 388.
2. The photographs and x-rays confirm the precise location of the wound of entrance in the upper back of the President as depicted in Commission Exhibits 385 and 386.
3. The photographs and x-rays confirm the precise area of the President's skull which was disrupted by the bullet when it exited as depicted in Commission Exhibit 388.
4. The characteristics of the wounds on the President's back and on the back of his head should be examined closely in the photographs and x-rays to determine for certain whether they are characteristic of entrance wounds under the criteria advanced by Doctors Finck, Humes, Boswell, Gregory, Shaw, Perry, and Carrico.
The films and x-rays should be viewed in conjunction with Commission Exhibit 389 (a photograph of the frame of the Zapruder film immediately before the frame showing the head wound) and Commission Exhibit 390 (the frame of the Zapruder film showing the head wound) to determine for certain whether the angle of declination is accurately depicted in Commission Exhibit 388.
I suggest that we have a court reporter present so that we may examine Dr. Humes after the x-rays and photographs are reviewed to put on the record:
1. Any changes in his testimony or theories required by a review of the x-rays and films, and
2 Corroboration of the portions or all of his prior testimony which may be confirmed by viewing the photographs and x-rays.
Analysis of the May 7 letter of J. Lee Rankin and May 12 memo of Arlen Specter
The Rankin letter is fairly straightforward, and indicates that, since the writing of Redlich's April 27 memo to him, he has been convinced of the necessity of the single-bullet theory. Rankin mentions that they are trying to establish whether Connally was hit before frame 240 by the second of the three shots. He fails to mention that the eyewitness testimony suggests the second shot was fired after frame 240. It may very well be he has no idea that the statements of the bystanders, motorcycle cops, and Secret Service agents almost all disagree with the Connallys, and suggest the second shot was fired very close to frame 313. Rankin shows his bias in other ways as well. He tells Hoover that they need to show that the shots were 41 frames or more apart, saying that a weapons expert testified that the shots were no closer than 2 ¼ seconds apart. Apparently, he has forgotten that this “weapons expert” was one of Hoover’s own men and that he’d testified that a half second should be added onto his time of 2.3 seconds in order to estimate the time necessary to fire at a moving target. Rankin makes another mistake as well. Along with just about everyone else, he discusses a third and final shot at frame 313 as if it were an established fact, when it is in opposition to the bulk of the eyewitness evidence as well as the visual aids packet supplied by the FBI in January. On May 24, the proposed simulation took place. (It is discussed in more detail in the Back Wound in Motion section of the Examining the Examinations chapter.)
The Specter memo is far more intriguing. Here, Specter reveals that the examination of the autopsy photos discussed in the April 30th executive session is about to take place. Specter also expresses that he is now interested in determining the exact locations of the wounds. Especially ironic is his suggestion that Exhibit 388 be compared to Exhibit 389. Any layman could look at the two and see that they were not compatible. In 1967, the discrepancy between these two exhibits led researcher Josiah Thompson to print them side by side in his book Six Seconds in Dallas. This showed that for the purported entrance and exit wounds in Kennedy’s skull to be aligned as in Exhibit 388, the sniper would have to have fired from the trunk of the Presidential limousine. Specter seems to know this and is apparently hoping to get it straightened out.
The most shocking aspect of Specter’s memo, of course, is that the examination he found so necessary, and the examination agreed upon by Rankin, McCloy, Dulles, and Warren, NEVER HAPPENED. Dr. Humes was not permitted to look at the photos he’d ordered to be created. Specter was then forced to go to Dallas and analyze the trajectories without adequate knowledge of the entrance locations. The supposed reason for this is that Chief Justice Warren took a look at the photos by himself and found them so horrible that he shuddered at the thought of the photos becoming part of the public record. This is nonsense, however…a complete fairy tale. The transcript of the April 30 executive session shows that it was agreed that a doctor would be necessary to interpret the photos. The transcript shows that it was Warren’s belief that the photos could be analyzed without being entered in the record. Since Dr. Humes had already testified, and since doctors performing autopsies are routinely entitled to view (and quite frequently retain) the photos of the autopsies they perform, there would have been no reason for the photos to be entered into the record, simply because Humes had looked at them. The only possible reason they would be entered in the record would be if WARREN looked at them, which he later admitted doing. From this, Warren’s refusal to let Humes look at the photos can be interpreted in two ways: one, Warren was senile; and two, he knew that the wounds in the photos failed to match the wounds in the drawings, and lacked the nerve or desire to open up that door and see what lay inside. (This last possibility is discussed in more detail in the Examining the Examinations section of this website.)
As for Specter, he doesn’t exactly get away clean. He would later admit that the Secret Service showed him an autopsy photo of Kennedy’s back on the day of the re-enactment. As we will discuss later, this means he KNEW that the drawings of the President’s wounds he’d placed into evidence were incorrect. It also means he knew that the single-bullet theory he was pushing on the Commission was highly doubtful. And yet, by all accounts, he failed to tell the Commission that he’d even looked at the photo. Arlen Specter was, of course, a long-time member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One wonders if he’d have fired an underling who’d withheld such vital information.
Howard Willens' Diary Entry on a May 21 Meeting of the Warren Commission's Staff
On Thursday, May 21, after a 3-1/2 hour meeting, at which I was not present by choice, the decision was made on the matter which has been called the Dallas Project. It was agreed that Mr. Rankin, Mr. Redlich and Mr. Specter would go to Dallas to conduct an on-the-spot investigation designed to clarify the distances and locations at which the shots took place. Apparently it was a total victory for Mr. Redlich and Mr. Specter since the decision was also made to have the Secret Service ship the follow-up car there for use in the investigation.
The "Dallas Project" finally comes to fruition on May 24, 1964.
History in the Crosshairs
After viewing the re-enactment from ground level, and noting that the chalk mark designating the location of Kennedy's back wound was far lower than suggested by the Rydberg drawings, we go upstairs to the sixth floor sniper's nest, and see how things look from above.
We spot FBI photography expert Lyndal Shaneyfelt viewing the re-enactment through a camera attached to a rifle.
Here he is with his contraption... (Note: this image was provided to and published by the Warren Commission as CE 887.)
In any event, Shaneyfelt lets us take a look-see through the camera.
Shockingly, when viewed from the sniper's nest, the new and more accurate location for Kennedy's back wound aligns with the lower part of Connally's back, and not his right armpit, as anticipated. (This is demonstrated on the slide above.)
Although the Secret Service made some adjustments to the Presidential back-up car used in the re-enactment and tried to make the vertical alignment of the stand-ins correlate precisely with that of Kennedy and Connally on 11-22-63, we wonder if they screwed it up.
We go to a garage after the re-enactment, however, and watch as Specter confirms they didn't screw it up. A string is placed along the wall at the angle of a shot from the sniper's nest to Kennedy and Connally at the time Specter believes they were hit. A rod is then held up at the angle of the string, and placed in the Connally stand-in's armpit, and aligned with the Kennedy stand-in's throat wound. This rod was then compared to the location of Kennedy's back wound.
It passes inches above it. Although Specter has the Secret Service and FBI agents working as the stand-ins lean this way and that to try to make the wounds align, it just does't work.
We can hardly wait to see how Specter explains this one.
Questions are popping up everywhere. On May 24, 1964, the very day of the Warren Commission's re-enactment of the shooting in Dallas, The New York Journal-American runs an article on a photograph taken by James Altgens just after the first shot was fired on 11-22. Some have claimed a man in a doorway in the background of this photo is Oswald, proving Oswald's innocence. While the article features an interview with Billy Lovelady, who both claims and is claimed by others to be the man in this doorway, it raises more questions than it settles on other aspects of the shooting. It presents a series of "claims" and responds to these with "facts." Many of these facts are not quite accurate, however. Some, in fact, are absolute nonsense. To the claim more than one shooter must have fired upon Kennedy, as his neck wound was an entrance, while Oswald was shooting from behind, for instance, the article presents the "fact" that "films show that he had turned his body far around to the right to wave at someone in the crowd just as the first shot struck him. In that position, his throat was fully exposed to the sniper." Yikes. This was the bill of goods pushed by Life Magazine in early December, almost SIX months before. The FBI had long ago tried to replace this with its own bill of goods--that the throat wound was an exit for a fragment from the bullet creating the head wound.
This leads us to become even more cynical. If the press can't make sense of what happened, and continues pushing "facts" long since discredited, then what hope is there the public will suddenly see the "light" when all the evidence is before them?
And we soon find even more reason to be cynical. Commission historian Alfred Goldberg is beside himself. Warren has told Goldberg that, once the commission's report is published, he wants the commission's internal files shredded or incinerated. He doesn't want the public to ever know of the commission's internal battles. Goldberg is worried this will lead to even more suspicion than exists already. He talks to Senator Russell's assistant, who talks to Russell, who in turn talks to Warren, and convinces him to change his mind.
What's going on?
(Warren's decision to destroy the internal files was revealed by Philip Shenon in A Cruel and Shocking Act (2013). He relied upon interviews with Goldberg.)
On 5-27-64, General Counsel Rankin gets some interesting news of his own. Richard Helms of the CIA sends him a memo recounting a meeting between an unnamed source (columnist Drew Pearson) and Chairman Nikita Khruschev of the Soviet Union. According to Helms, when the unnamed source told Khruschev that Oswald had acted alone, Khruschev was “utterly incredulous.”The unnamed source described this attitude as “archetypical of every European I have ever talked to on this subject.” He “got the impression that Chairman Khruschev had some dark thoughts about the American Right Wing being behind this conspiracy." The unnamed source then “repeated that the reaction of Chairman Khruschev and his wife was one of flat disbelief and archetypical of the universal European belief that there was some kind of American conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of Oswald.” One can only speculate that news like this would inspire the Commission to re-double its efforts to convince the world that Oswald acted alone.
Here, by the way, is a picture of Helms. God only knows what was he was thinking, but you can be pretty sure it wasn't anything pleasant.
The next day, the commission receives another setback. A 5-28-64 report by Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley reveals that but the day before, 5-27-64, Commission Counsel Joseph Ball had telephoned him to request the Secret Service contact Oswald's landlady, Alice Johnson, and have her point out the arrangement of the furniture of her house on 11-22-63. The goal? To double-check the testimony of her former housekeeper, Earlene Roberts, who claimed she saw both a police car honking out on the street just after Oswald arrived home from work on the afternoon of 11-22-63, and Oswald standing by a bus stop out on the street a short time later. (These were, to be clear, problematic observations. The honking police car suggested a possible conspiracy, and Oswald's being at the bus stop supports that he'd transferred the bus transfer he'd received earlier into the shirt he claimed he'd just put on--which pretty much kills the proposition his having this transfer in his pocket when arrested proves he hadn't changed his shirt.)
In any event, Roberts passes this test with flying colors. As demonstrated by a drawing by SS agent Roger Warner, the lay out of the Johnson rooming house was such that the bus stop up the street was visible through a window just to the left of the television Roberts claimed she'd been viewing. Here's that drawing.
So what was Ball up to?
Well, it's both sad and obvious. Ball was trying to stain Roberts as a dumb or dishonest woman, who should not be relied upon. And failed.
(And no, I'm not being unfair to Ball. Near the end of his life, Ball would write a confession, of sorts, in which he shared some of his sneaky lawyer tricks, including that you could discredit a woman claiming to be a rape victim by pointing out that she was bad with numbers or had trouble reading a clock--as if a woman's ability with numbers and clock-reading reflected her ability to remember a physical assault. Well, it seems clear he was trying to do much the same with Roberts.)
On 5-29-64, we see a memo by J. Lee Rankin accompanying first drafts of the final report. It includes the following passage:
Attached, for your comments and suggestions, are first drafts of the following sections of the Report:
3. The Assassination: President Kennedy's Agenda and Activities from Planning Dallas Trip to Autopsy. This draft, prepared by Mr. Specter, is complete except for a description of on-site tests in Dallas which are to be integrated with wound ballistics experiments.
Well, this is not surprising. The "on-site tests in Dallas" observed by Specter took place on May 24, a Sunday. And here was Rankin passing on Specter's "complete" chapter on the assassination the following Thursday. Well, this was a week before any testimony on the re-enactment could be taken. It follows, then, that Specter's conclusions (which would soon become the conclusions of the commission), including his single-bullet conclusion, were not based upon evidence gained from the re-enactment that had been presented to the commission, or discussed with the commissioners.
Specter had had a "theory" and had decided to go with it...before it could be vetted by the men supposedly running the circus.
Meanwhile, across the Potomac... Kennedy's grave receives a surprise visitor.
Also on 5-29, Dallas station KRLD broadcasts a scoop related to the 5-24 re-enactment.
The Associated Press reports the details of this scoop the next day. "DALLAS, Tex. (AP) - Television station KRLD said Friday it has learned the Warren Commission's report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy will show that the first bullet hit both the president and Texas Gov. John B. Connally, and that the third shot went wild. In a copyright story, KRLD said this information came from a highly placed source to the Warren Commission following last Sunday's re-enactment of the assassination. Previous thinking had been that the first bullet hit the president, the second hit the governor, and the third fatally wounded Kennedy. KRLD said it also had learned the commission's report, which it said was to be released in a few weeks, will show the following: The first bullet entered the president's body slightly above the right collar bone and exited just to the left of the tie knot, then entered the body of Connally just above the fifth rib. The second bullet struck the president in the back of the head. The third bullet followed a much flatter trajectory than the first two, because the motorcade was moving down a sloping street, and it struck a manhole cover, then ricocheted off the curb and never was found. Medical opinion in the commission's report will show that chances for the president's recovery from the first wound would have been excellent. Also, had the first hit been a fraction lower, the force of the bullet probably would have knocked the president to the floor of the car and removed him from the line of sight for the second— and fatal — shot. The first bullet traveled 168 feet before it hit, the second 207 feet. There was an interval of 4 1/2 seconds between the first and second shots, and about 2 1/2 seconds between the second and third shots, and experts contend a crack marksman could have fired all three in the time it took the assassin to fire the first two."
Well, this is most interesting. The information provided is all garbled. The source reportedly said the commission concluded the third shot missed but the shot distances provided, with the first shot being fired from 168 feet and the second shot being fired from 207, suggests instead that the first shot hit Kennedy (167 feet was the distance for this shot in the FBI's 1-20 report) and that the second shot hit Connally. This inexplicably leaves out the headshot. The purported distance for the second shot--207 feet--correlates to frame 242 of the Zapruder film, the earliest point at which Kennedy and Connally could have been hit by separate shots, and the point which Specter had been holding out as the last moment Connally could have been shot. The reported 4 1/2 second gap between the first and second shots, furthermore, is clearly a reference to the shot at frame 242 and the head shot at frame 313, which comes about 4 1/2 seconds afterward. This then indicates that the source believed the final shot came two and half seconds after frame 313, at approximately frame 358. The final shot in the January report of the FBI exhibits section, we should recall, came at approximately frame 358. This suggests that the source for this article was not simply mistaken about the commission's concluding the first shot was fired from 168 feet, and that the last shot missed around frame 358, but was inferring as much from the FBI's earlier report. Since that report specified that the last shot hit Kennedy, moreover, this suggests that the source for this article was futilely trying to correlate the contradictory information contained in that report, with subsequent information derived from Specter and the re-enactment. The result was nonsense. Who was this source?
Leaks, Leaks, and More Leaks
On 6-1-64, more leaks reach the public. Anthony Lewis, a writer with a close working relationship with the Supreme Court, writes an article for the New York Times with the headline “Panel to Reject Theories of Plot in Kennedy’s Death. Warren Inquiry is Expected to Dispel Doubts in Europe that Oswald Acted Alone.” Lewis would go on to claim “The commission’s report is expected, in short, to support the original belief of law enforcement agencies in this country that the President was killed by one man acting alone, Lee H. Oswald…A spokesman for the commission said that none of the critical works, foreign or domestic, had come up with any new factual information. He said that the commission had found 'just a rehash of the same material. The same questions and each man’s conclusions.'…The commission’s spokesman expressed the conviction that its report, when issued, would completely explode the theories published (abroad). He said that not even the authors would stand by them. 'We’ll knock them out of those positions,' he said.” In its 6-12-64 issue, Time Magazine jumped on board and echoed the Times’ endorsement of the commission’s conclusions months before they were even released. An article on the attitudes of Europeans to the assassination began “The most myth-filled aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination is the stubborn refusal of many Europeans to accept the belief that the U.S. President could have been killed by a lunatic loner” and admitted “Last week word leaked from the Warren Commission that its report would spike each of the overseas theses and endorse with few changes the FBI’s original version that Oswald killed alone. However, this is hardly likely to end the myth-making in Europe.” From these articles, it seems likely the “spokesman” speaking to Lewis was either Warren himself or someone acting with his blessing.
If so, however, it's clear these leaks were not "authorized" by the full commission. The 6-4 executive session of the commission reflects that Congressman Ford, for one, is irritated by these leaks, as he is not at all convinced there was no foreign involvement in the assassination. He, furthermore, threatens Warren that if these leaks persist he will find it necessary to tell the press that "the Commission has not discussed these matters as a Commission" as yet, and that whoever is telling them otherwise is not to be trusted. Warren then interjects that he "personally cannot account for any of these stories", and that he has not spoken to any newspapers and that he has urged General Counsel Rankin to urge the staff not to do so as well. This, of course, leaves open the possibility that Warren nudged someone on the staff to make these calls behind Rankin's back. Perhaps sensing that Ford suspects as much, then, Warren adds "I have no knowledge of anybody talking to anybody...If I knew that anybody from the Commission or the staff has been discussing these things with the press, I would feel very badly about it. But I don't have any belief that they have." This leads Ford to refer back to the articles published around the time of the Commission's creation, and to Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach's request that they immediately release the results of the FBI's report, and the concurrent leak of this report to the press. It seems clear from this that Ford suspects Katzenbach.
In any event, after input from John McCloy, who offers "Until you complete the testimony, you cannot have a final conclusion" and voices his own suspicions of the Justice Department, it is decided that a statement should be issued announcing that the Commission is still taking testimony, and that therefore no conclusion has been reached. This, of course, is a bit disingenuous, as the commission, acting as both prosecutor and defense, has the option of taking only the testimony that will help support its already scripted conclusions.
And yet, there is something kinda noble about Ford's response to this situation. Not only did he threaten Warren about these leaks, but it seems quite clear he decided to follow through on his threats. A 6-5-64 date-lined article by Philip Warden in the Chicago Tribune reports "A suspicion that the administration wants to dictate the conclusions of the Warren commission on the Kennedy assassination is greatly disturbing commission members, it was disclosed today. The White House and state department, for diplomatic reasons, reportedly are adamant that the commission say when it issues its final report that: 1) Lee Harvey Oswald had no accomplices when the fatal shots were fired in Dallas, Tex., last Nov. 22, killing President Kennedy. 2) There was no foreign (Russia of Communist Cuban) involvement in the assassination plot. Newspapers frequently chosen by the Johnson administration for the hoisting of trial balloons began carrying stories that Oswald had no accomplices and that there was no foreign involvement before the Warren commission could even set up shop, members reported. The first of these stories which commission members said obviously had been planted, appeared last December before the commission completed the appointment of its staff. They have been appearing ever since. This week a rash of them appeared in newspapers from coast to coast. The commission met in special session and then issued this tersely worded statement: 'The commission is nearing the conclusion of the taking of testimony and is giving thought to the content and form of its report. The commission has reached no final conclusions and has not discussed final conclusions as a commission. Members said after the meeting that the commission was very disturbed over the appearance of the stories that it had reached certain definite conclusions. Some commission members suspect high officials of planting the stories as a part of the administration's present foreign policy of playing it 'cozy' with Soviet Russia."
(It would later become clear that in the Spring of '64 the writer of the New York Times' article, Anthony Lewis, was working on a book, Gideon’s Trumpet, whose main source was President Johnson’s closest adviser Abe Fortas. This, in turn, raises the possibility that Johnson and Fortas were behind the leaks. Perhaps Johnson, angered by the Commission's failure to meet its original June 1 deadline, had simply decided that enough was enough, and had decided to assure the world that neither he nor the Soviets had been involved in the assassination, and had asked Fortas to leak the story to Lewis. Or not. In his 2013 book on the Warren Commission, A Cruel and Shocking Act, Philip Shenon notes that J. Lee Rankin was another source for Gideon's Trumpet, and that he'd met with Lewis a few days before the publication of Lewis' article.)
Slips and Spills
On 6-4-64, Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley testifies about the May 24 re-enactment (5H129-134). Under Arlen Specter’s guidance, he tells the commission that the location of the chalk mark on President Kennedy’s stand-in (which was purported to represent the location of Kennedy's back wound) "was fixed from the photographs of a medical drawing that was made by the physicians and the people at Parkland and an examination of the coat which the President was wearing at the time.” Well, this is strange from the outset. The people at Parkland didn't make any medical drawings of the President and, with but one or two exceptions, never even saw his back wound. Maybe he meant Bethesda. Or maybe he meant only that the Parkland doctors helped with the description of the neck wound. And what does he mean by "medical drawing," anyhow? Does he mean the face sheet prepared by Dr. Boswell? Because, sure enough, the location of the hole on the face sheet matches up with the location of the hole on Kennedy's coat.
More telling, then, is that upon receiving Kelley's answer counsel Specter quickly inserts “Permit me to show you Commission Exhibit 386…I ask you if that is the drawing you were shown as the basis for the marking of the wound on the back of the President’s neck?” To which Kelley responds “Yes.” Later, Kelley slips up and says that “the wound in the throat was lower than the wound in the shoulder” and Specter leaps again--“By the wound in the shoulder, do you mean the wound in the back of the President’s neck, the base of his neck?” (5H175-176) Once again, Kelley agrees. The problem is that, while CE 386, one of the drawings submitted by Specter during the testimony of Dr. Humes, shows the wound to be on the base of the back of the neck and higher than the throat wound, Specter and Kelley (as they would subsequently admit) looked at a photo of this wound on the day of the re-enactment, and this photo showed the wound to be on the BACK, at the same level or lower than the throat wound. Specter was thus coaxing Kelley to mislead the commission, and hide that the wound was in fact on the President’s back, at the same level or lower than his throat wound.
That Specter and Kelley were conspiring on such a deed, unfortunately, seems clear. While trying to establish the alignment of Kennedy and Connally during the shooting--that is, while trying to establish that they were in the proper alignment to receive simultaneous wounds from the rear in Kennedy's neck and Connally's right armpit--Specter asks Kelley the distance of Connally's seat from the right door, and Kelley replies "There is 6 inches of clearance between the jump seat and the door." The problem here, once again, is that this just isn't true. (The schematic of the limousine proves this distance was 2.5 inches, not 6.) That Kelley misrepresents the facts on two key points, and that both of these misstatements (or lies, take your pick) just so happen to help Specter sell his theory that all the wounds save Kennedy's head wound were created by the same bullet, is undoubtedly suspicious.
After Kelley’s initial testimony, FBI Exhibits Section Chief Leo Gauthier testifies about the scale model he created of Dealey Plaza (5H135-138). Here Arlen Specter carefully avoids questioning Gauthier about Gauthier’s earlier conclusion, using largely the same tools used in the May 24 re-enactment, that the President was 307 feet from the sniper’s nest at the time of the head shot, 42 feet further than is now proposed.
Even so, Gauthier's testimony contains a suspicious error. While introducing a photo of the model, Gauthier claims: "Commission Exhibit No. 879 is a view of the scale model looking toward the southwest, in the direction of the Triple Underpass, from a position on the sixth floor in the southeast corner window." (Here it is...)
The problem is that this photo was not taken from the perspective of the sixth floor window, as claimed, but from the top of the Dal-Tex Building, across the street. This building lay directly behind the motorcade as it headed down Elm. As a consequence, there would have been far less left to right movement of the target to a shooter at this location than there would have been to someone firing from the sixth floor sniper's nest. We can only wonder, then, if this "mistake" was no mistake at all, but a deliberate misrepresentation.
After Gauthier testifies, the FBI’s photography expert Lyndal Shaneyfelt takes the stand (5H138-165). He testifies that the location of the President's back wound was, when viewed from the sniper's nest, obscured by an oak tree from frames 167 to 209 of the Zapruder film. When asked the last frame before Kennedy appears to be hit, Shaneyfelt testifies in accordance with this testimony. A hit on Kennedy before frame 210, after all, might suggest there'd been a shot fired from somewhere other than the sniper's nest. Shaneyfelt testifies: "Approximately--I would like to explain a little bit, that at frames in the vicinity of 200 to 210 he is obviously still waving, and there is no marked change. In the area from approximately 200 to 205 he is still, his hand is still in a waving position, he is still turned slightly toward the crowd, and there has been no change in his position that would signify anything occurring unusual. I see nothing in the frames to arouse my suspicion about his movements, up through in the areas from 200 on and as he disappears behind the signboard, there is no change. Now, 205 is the last frame, 205 and 206 are the last frames where we see any of his, where we see the cuff of his coat showing above the signboard indicating his hand is still up generally in a wave. From there on the frames are too blurry as his head disappears you can't really see any expression on his face. You can't see any change. It is all consistent as he moves in behind the signboard." (If Shaneyfelt sounds tentative, and unsure of himself, it's quite possibly because he's not used to perjuring himself in such a manner. In 1978, a panel of 20 photographic scientists studied these same Zapruder frames for the House Select Committte on Assassinations. Their report, included in volume Appendix number 6 of the HSCA's report, reflects "By a vote of 12 to 5, the Panel determined that President Kennedy first showed a reaction to some severe external stimulus by Zapruder frame 207, as he is seen going behind a sign that obstructed Zapruder's view.")
The Twilight Zone
Beyond providing the frames in the Zapruder film at which shots could have been fired (assuming, that is, that they were fired from the sixth floor sniper's nest), Shaneyfelt provides the distance of the limousine from the sniper’s nest at relevant moments of the film. He submits that Kennedy was 176.9 feet from the rifle at frame 210 of the film, and 190.8 feet from the rifle at frame 225, the frames book-ending Kennedy's disappearance behind the Stemmons Freeway sign, and representing the purported moment of the first shot. While discussing frame 313, the moment of the fatal headshot, he testifies that the “Distance to the rifle in the window is 265.3 feet. The angle to rifle in the window is 15’21’ and this is based on the horizontal.” (6-4-64 testimony of Lyndal Shaneyfelt before the Warren Commission, 5H139-164).
To support this last point--that Shaneyfelt had accurately measured the distance from the sniper's nest to Kennedy's location at Zapruder frame 313, moreover--Specter enters into evidence CE 902.
This showed that the FBI (under Specter's direction) had placed Kennedy's back-up car in a location matching up with the location of Kennedy's limo at the time of the fatal head shot, as depicted in the
and Zapruder film...
and that they had thrown in for good measure the Muchmore film...
And that they had then photographed the back-up car at this location from the sixth floor sniper's nest, and measured the distance and angle from the sniper's nest window to Kennedy's now-established location at the moment of the head shot.
Well, that wasn't so hard, was it?
(The establishment of this distance at 265 feet raises questions still not asked or answered. If Specter had looked back through the records he would have seen that on 11-27-63 Secret Service Agent Howlett, using the Zapruder film, determined this distance to be 260 feet. Close enough. He would also have seen that, on 12-5-63, just after the formation of the Warren Commission, Secret Service Agent Elmer Moore, using the Zapruder film and the same surveyor used for the previous re-enactment, determined this distance to have been 294 feet. Something’s beginning to smell. He then would have remembered that on 1-20-64 the FBI had provided him with exhibits indicating this distance was 307 feet. An even closer look would have indicated that, while the May 24 re-enactment determined the limo traveled no more than 88 feet further away from the sniper's nest between Kennedy’s receiving his two wounds, and may have traveled as little as 74 feet, the Secret Service on 11-27 indicated it had traveled 90 feet, before going back on 12-5 and deciding it had traveled 110 feet, only to have the FBI Exhibits Section, after surveying the plaza and studying the films for 5 weeks, raise it up to 140 feet. Was the inflation of this distance on purpose? Was it designed to increase the length of the shooting scenario, to make Oswald's purported shooting feat more palatable?
Specter must have considered this possibility. I mean, he and his fellow counsel must have wondered why the FBI and SS fought so hard against the May 24 re-enactment. They must have had discussions, conveniently kept off the record, of course, of whether the Secret Service and FBI were deliberately misleading the commission about the location of the limo at the time of the fatal shot...or whether they were merely incredibly incompetent. As Specter had called Dr. Malcolm Perry before the commission and forced him to explain why he had initially described Kennedy’s throat wound as an entrance wound, he should have asked Agent Moore of the Secret Service and Chief Gauthier of the FBI’s Exhibits Section how they could be so wrong about the distance of the sniper’s nest from Kennedy's position at the time of the head shot, when the location of Kennedy at this time is easily established by the Zapruder film, Nix film, and Moorman photograph.That he is willing to leave their phenomenal errors unexplained suggests the commission is scared of undermining the credibility of its prime investigators, the Secret Service and the FBI, and hopes no one will notice the contradictory conclusions contained within the Secret Service and FBI reports.)
Shaneyfelt also tells the commission what they need to hear before they can accept Specter’s theory Kennedy and Connally were hit by the same shot—that the angle from the sniper’s nest to Kennedy’s throat wound to Connally at the moment they both could have been hit “passed through a point on the back of the stand-in for the President at a point approximating that of the entrance wound.” To support this, Specter introduces Commission Exhibit 903 into evidence. Suspiciously, this re-enactment photo of Specter holding a rod at the angle from the sniper’s nest at the presumed moment Kennedy and Connally were hit against the stand-ins in the limo was taken from the front and fails to show the location of the back wound. In the FBI’s files, however, there are several photos taken from the opposite angle. These photos (shown on the History in the Crosshairs slide above) show the rod passing several inches above the location of the back wound, and suggest that Shaneyfelt committed perjury when he testified that the trajectory rod in CE 903 “passed through a point on the back of the stand-in for the President at a point approximating that of the entrance wound.”
(While one might wish to give Shaneyfelt a break, and insist his use of the word "approximating" was sufficiently vague to clear him of the charge of perjury, one should also consider the suspicious circumstance of Specter's failing to introduce a photo of the trajectory rod taken from behind the limo, which would show the location of the rod in relation to the chalk mark on the back of JFK's stand-in, when Specter himself had run this re-enactment, and a number of such photos were available. In such case, one might be tempted to not only charge Shaneyfelt with perjury, but Specter with subornation of perjury, and the two of them with conspiracy.)
After Shaneyfelt's testimony, the FBI’s ballistics expert Robert Frazier steps up to the plate. When testifying regarding the Z-film frames in which Governor Connally was best in position to receive his wounds, Frazier relates: “At frame 231 the Governor is, as I saw it from the window on that date, turned to the front to such an extent that he could not have been hit at that particular frame. In frame 235, which is Commission Exhibit no. 897, the Governor…was also facing too far, too much towards the front…In frame 240 the Governor again could not have been shot.” (6-4-64 testimony of Robert Frazier before the Warren Commission, 5H165-175).
A-ha! Frame 231 is 11 frames earlier than Specter had previously proposed Connally had received his wounds. This means that Connally must have been hit before this point, at a point too close to Kennedy’s being shot to have both shots fired by Oswald, unless...unless...they were in fact hit by the same shot.
Hmmm... This proves that Specter knew going in--prior to taking this day's testimony--that his single-bullet theory was essential to the Commission's single-assassin conclusion, and was fated to become the single-bullet conclusion.
Frazier drops another bomb as well. Under questioning by Commissioner Dulles (notably not Specter), he lets slip his recollection that the back wound location used in the re-enactment was established by the measurements taken at the autopsy. This contradicts the statement Specter drew from Kelley that the mark was established by looking at CE 386.
So which one’s telling the truth? Although Specter, as either a gross oversight or a deliberate deception, take your pick, failed to introduce a photo of this chalk mark into evidence, photos of the re-enactment, in which the chalk mark is shown, were published in some newspapers, including the 6-1-64 New York Times. These photos show the marked location of the President’s back wound to be…on the back, in line with the autopsy measurements and face sheet, as stated by Frazier, and inches away from the location at the base of the neck on CE 386, its source according to Kelley, as prodded by Specter.
Now, Specter knew the wound was marked in this location. He was, after all, the one running the re-enactment. And yet here he was, less than two weeks later, asking Thomas Kelley "Permit me to show you Commission Exhibit No. 386, which has heretofore been marked and introduced into evidence, and I ask you if that is the drawing that you were shown as the basis for the marking of the wound on the back of the President's neck."
Well, do you see it? Specter was asking Kelley if a drawing of a wound at the base of the neck was used to mark a jacket at a location several inches below the base of the neck. In the process he hid from the record that this mark was in fact several inches below the base of the neck. He also 1) failed to introduce any photos of this mark into evidence, and 2) made out as though this mark was "on the back of the President's neck?" That's suspicious as hell.
And that's not all that is suspicious. In our play-pretend role as an investigator given access to all the information, we ask Frazier if we can take a look at his notes on the May 24 re-enactment. (These notes were in fact retrieved from the archives by researcher Gary Murr, and brought to my attention via John Hunt and Stu Wexler.)
In any event, while leafing through Frazier's notes, we find that he has made a drawing of the sniper's nest, along with its view out the window, and that he has added to this drawing the location of the limo at specific frames of the Zapruder film. (This is shown below.)
Well, heck. Frazier's notes portray the limo as moving left to right at an inconsistent angle across the window, and not straight away from the sniper, as indicated by his fellow FBI-man Gauthier.
This does not come as a surprise, moreover, as the photos entered into evidence in Shaneyfelt's testimony prove the limo had changed angles on the street between when he'd concluded Kennedy may have first been struck, CE 894, corresponding to Zapruder frame 210...
and when Kennedy was struck in the head, CE 902, corresponding to Zapruder frame 313.
While reviewing this last photo, moreover, we notice something more than a bit disturbing. The JFK stand-in has moved across the back seat. WHY? The films used to establish the location of the limo show no such slide to the left by the President. So why have the re-enactors placed the stand-in several feet to JFK's left?
Unfortunately, it's obvious. A bullet fragment impacted the limo's windshield at the exact r to l location of the crosshairs presented in CE 902. It's clear, then. Two plus two kinda stuff. Specter and those running the May 24 re-enactment were concerned the crack on the windshield would become a crack in their facade. A bullet fragment's impacting the windshield out of line with a shot from the sniper's nest, after all, might be taken as an indication the bullet was fired from somewhere other than the sniper's nest, or at the very least, that the bullet did not exit on a straight line.
So they fudged their data, and moved the JFK stand-in several feet to his left... That solved it. (Not really.)
Well, what else was in Frazier's notes?
Hmmm... This is almost certainly a scribble created by Frazier to demonstrate the angle of a bullet fired from the sniper's nest into Kennedy's back at Zapruder frame 208 (which was then changed to 210 to account for the different heights of the re-enactment car as compared to the presidential limousine). Well, note the location of the back wound. It's on the...back. It's clear as day then that Frazier knew the wound was actually on Kennedy's back and not on his neck, and that the Rydberg drawings--which Specter and Kelley claimed were used to determine the location of the back wound--were grossly in error.
So why has Specter deceived the commission about 1) the angle of the shots into the limo; 2) the relative positions of Kennedy's back wound and throat wound; and 3) the relative positions of Kennedy and Connally within the limo?
Why was he insisting a square peg fit a round hole?
Well, when one considers that, by June '64, Specter knew that 1) the FBI and Secret Service had disregarded the evidence and come to questionable conclusions about the shooting scenario; 2) Dr. Humes had lied about the use of measurements in the creation of the Rydberg drawings, and 3) Chief Justice Warren had forbade the use of materials necessary to establishing the facts, perhaps he'd decided it was time he join the crowd.
The Home Stretch
The investigation reaches its final turn.
The Justice Department's man on the commission, Assistant Counsel Howard Willens, realizes that the commission's upcoming report will never be accepted without Attorney General Robert Kennedy's signing off on it in some way. On 6-4-64 he dashes off a memo to General Counsel Rankin in which he proposes Chief Justice Warren write Kennedy a letter asking if Kennedy has "any information suggesting that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a domestic or foreign conspiracy" and Kennedy respond with a letter stating "I know of no credible evidence to support the allegations that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a foreign or domestic conspiracy." Willens notes "The Attorney General would prefer to handle his obligations to the Commission in this way rather than appear as a witness." He presents full drafts for both Warren's letter, and Kennedy's response, noting "The proposed response by the Attorney General has, of course, not been approved by him, or on his behalf by the Deputy Attorney General. It represents a revision of an earlier letter which I did show to them during my conference with them earlier today. At that time the Attorney General informed me that he had not received any reports from the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the investigation of the assassination, and that his principle sources of information have been the Chief Justice, the Deputy Attorney General, and myself." (Willens' proposed drafts are discussed over the next week, and Warren sends "his" letter to Kennedy on June 11.)
Now six months after the shooting, the Commission finally gets around to questioning the closest eyewitness, the former First lady. Jacqueline Kennedy (6-5-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 5H178-181) “Well there must have been two because the one that made me turn around was Governor Connally yelling. And it used to confuse me because first I remembered there were three and I used to think my husband didn’t make any sound when he was shot. And Governor Connally screamed like a stuck pig. I heard Governor Connally yelling and that made me turn around, and as I turned to the right my husband was doing this (indicating with hand at neck). He was receiving a bullet. And those are the only two I remember.” Unsure. Only heard two clear shots.
On this same day, the FBI reports the recollections of another vital witness, whose photographs of the assassination were everywhere. Strangely, they had no intention of interviewing him until a 5-25 column in the Chicago American asked why he’d not been interviewed. James Altgens (6-5-64 FBI report, CD 1088 p.1-6) “at about the instant he snapped the picture, he heard a burst of noise which he thought was firecrackers…he does not know how many of these reports he heard…After taking the above photograph…he heard another report which he recognized as a gunshot. He said the bullet struck President Kennedy on the right side of his head and the impact knocked the President forward. Altgens stated pieces of flesh, blood, and bones appeared to fly from the right side of the President’s head and pass in front of Mrs. Kennedy to the left of the Presidential limousine. Altgens stated Mrs. Kennedy grabbed the President and Altgens heard her exclaim “Oh, no!” as the president slumped into her lap.”
Above: From L to R, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, and Warren Commission Counsel Arlen Specter on their one-day tour of Dallas, 6-7-64. They spent the morning viewing (the crime scenes) and the afternoon interviewing (Jack Ruby).
On 6 7-64, almost three months after the conclusion of his trial, the Warren Commission (er, rather, Chief Justice Earl Warren acting as a one-man Commission) finally gets around to questioning Oswald’s assassin, Jack Ruby, about his possible role in a conspiracy involving Oswald. In an unexpected twist, Ruby requests he be given a lie detector test. He tells Judge Warren “I would like to request that I go to Washington and you take all the tests that I have to take. It’s very important.” Later, he returns to this theme. “Gentleman, unless you get me to Washington, you can’t get a fair shake out of me. If you understand my way of talking, you have got to bring me to Washington to get the tests…Unless you can get me to Washington, and I am not a crackpot, I have all my senses—I don’t want to evade any crime I am guilty of…Unless you get me to Washington immediately, I am afraid…” Ruby then accuses his own lawyer of conspiring to make it look like he’d planned out Oswald’s murder, which Ruby insists was a spontaneous act. Ruby then throws in “Well, it’s too bad, Chief Warren, that you didn’t get me to your headquarters 6 months ago.” Ruby then asks Sheriff Decker and all other law enforcement officers to leave the room. After they leave, he tells Warren and his staff “Gentleman, if you want to hear any further testimony, you will have to get me to Washington soon, because it has something to do with you, Chief Warren. Do I sound sober enough to tell you this? …I want to tell the truth, and I can’t tell it here. I can’t tell it here. Does that make sense to you?” He then muses “Boy, I am in a tough spot, I tell you that…But this isn’t the place for me to tell what I want to tell…”
Ruby then gets serious, and comes straight to the point: “Chief Warren, your life is in danger in this city, do you know that?” He requests again he be given a lie detector test, which will help him clear his name, and concludes “Gentleman, my life is in danger here. Not with my guilty plea of execution. Do I sound sober enough to you as I say this?...Then I follow this up. I may not live tomorrow to give any further testimony...the only thing that I want to get out to the public, and I can’t say it here, is with authenticity, with sincerity of the truth of everything and why my act was committed, but it can’t be said here. It can be said, it’s got to be said amongst people of the highest authority that would give me the benefit of the doubt. And following that, immediately give me a lie detector test after I do make the statement.” Shortly thereafter, during a stenographer's break to change paper, Ruby corners Warren and Counsel Arlen Specter (whose 2000 memoir A Passion For Truth is the source for this story) and begs them to “Get to Fortas. He’ll get the job done…Get to Fortas. He’ll get it worked out.” Ruby then goes on to assert that the John Birch Society is trying to use that he’s a Jew to persecute other Jews, and claims “The Jewish people are being exterminated at this moment. Consequently, a whole new form of government is going to take over our country, and I know I won't live to see you another time. Do I sound sort of screwy--in telling you these things?…It may not be too late, whatever happens, if our President, Lyndon Johnson, knew the truth from me. But if I am eliminated, there won't be any way of knowing…I won't be around, Chief Justice. I won't be around to verify these things you are going to tell the President...I have been used for a purpose…”
Warren and Specter decide Ruby is insane.
Above: What a difference a day makes! A comparison of the mug shots taken of Jack Ruby on the day he shot Oswald (L) and the next day after being transferred to the County Jail (R) proves most revealing. Ruby appeared calm in the immediate aftermath of the murder, but suffered some sort of breakdown by the very next day. Perhaps, then, it was as he said, that he killed Oswald on an impulse, and that it took some time for the magnitude of what he'd done to sink in. Or perhaps he killed Oswald under the belief someone or some entity would make sure he didn't get charged with first degree murder, and then broke down when he realized he'd been duped.
(Or do they? I mean, Ruby had been found competent to stand trial...and had then been convicted of murdering Oswald, and sentenced to death... Well, think about it... If a Chief Justice meets with a convicted murderer claiming to have important information about another murder, and decides after meeting this convicted murderer that this man is insane, and has nothing to offer, shouldn't the Chief Justice at least acknowledge that this man has been wrongly convicted? Wouldn't that have been his duty? As Chief Justice? And yet nothing came of Warren's meeting with Ruby outside Warren's deciding not to allow Ruby to testify in Washington...before the other Commissioners...whereby the other Commissioners could decide for themselves if Ruby was a nut or not. This stinks a bit. Or maybe more than a bit...)
In any event, here's Warren escaping from the jail after coming face-to-face with Ruby.
While Ruby may have been unstable, the fact he acted paranoid didn't mean no one was out to get him. Warren and Specter were undoubtedly aware that the radical right, including the John Birch Society, a prominent presence in Dallas, had been pushing the story (in newspapers such as The Thunderbolt) that Oswald killed Kennedy on behalf of a Jewish/Communist cabal, and that Ruby silenced Oswald on behalf of this same cabal. One recently-released book, Legacy of an Assassination, has offered that Ruby was a communist, and that, as a communist, he was ready to sacrifice his life for his cause. It mused further that Oswald, Ruby, Tippit, and others were all "concealed Reds" and that Ruby and Oswald had previously worked together on the attempted assassination of General Walker but were "protected from arrest afterwards by concealed Reds in the CIA who got Attorney General Robert Kennedy to intercede with the FBI and the Dallas Police."
A Texan Looks at Lyndon, by J. Evetts Haley, a self-published diatribe against Lyndon Johnson just coming onto the market, is also a problem for Ruby. While not specifically targeting Ruby, it focuses on Oswald's background as a communist, and shreds President Johnson for covering up the possibility Oswald acted as part of a conspiracy. It reports: "Thus the American people are convinced that the truth of the Oswald case, and its Jack (Rubenstein) Ruby connections, will never be known. At least not until they elect a President who believes they have the right to know the truth." This insertion of "Rubenstein" was not a coincidence, mind you, as it was clearly added to remind Evetts' readers that Ruby was a Jew, and thus not to be trusted. This book would go on to sell over 5 million copies, and by some estimates, 7 million copies.
None Dare Call It Treason, by John Stormer, would also sell millions of copies--reportedly more than 7 million. Released in '64, shortly after Ruby's testimony, None Dare Call It Treason notes that Kennedy was killed by a "self-admitted communist." It complains: "Volumes could and should be written on the press coverage of President Kennedy's assassination by a Communist killer. Even after Oswald was captured and his Marxist affiliations disclosed, TV and radio commentators have conducted a continual crusade of distortion and smear to direct the blame against right-wing or conservative groups."
Well, this, as we've seen, was a lie. Sure, the press conducted a "continual crusade of distortion and smear" but it was a crusade to convict Oswald as a lone-nut assassin, not a crusade to blame the right-wing. This deliberate lie, then, appears to have been designed to make None Dare Call It Treason's readers--and there were plenty of them--believe that a communist conspiracy to kill Kennedy had infiltrated the mainstream media, and that the enemy within was all around.
Ruby's concerns were very real.
Let's refresh. Ruby has admitted that within hours of the assassination he'd grown suspicious that Jews were being set-up as patsies in the killing of Kennedy (He'd learned that the Kennedy Wanted for Treason ads in the Dallas papers on the day of the assassination had been paid for by a Jew named Bernard Weissman, and was so distressed by this fact that he contacted the Dallas Post Office at 4:30 AM the next morning in hopes they'd give him Weissman's address). It's not unreasonable, then, to suspect that Ruby had received orders to kill Oswald by a non-Jew, and was worried that his silencing Oswald on their behalf was gonna be used against his fellow Jews. (What else could he mean by "I have been used for a purpose?") Ruby's cornering Specter, who was only involved in the questioning because he was Jewish and Ruby felt he could be trusted, and telling him to "Get to Fortas...He'll get the job done" is in this context also suspicious. Fortas was President Johnson's most trusted and secret adviser, and a JEW, and would be the man best in position to shut down any orchestrated efforts to deflect attention from Johnson or other possible conspirators by blaming the assassination on Jews.
So does Warren bring Ruby to Washington and let Ruby tell his whole story? Nope. Does he have Fortas interviewed or investigated so he can determine what, if any, ties he has to Ruby? Nope. Does he even get a doctor to testify that Ruby's unstable, so he can justify his not bringing Ruby to Washington? Nope, nope and nope again. Ruby's testimony has opened a door to a room that Warren refuses to enter.
Such reluctance is now Warren's M.O.
It should be noted, moreover, that Warren Commission Counsel Joseph Ball had, by June 7, already turned in his chapter on the identity of Kennedy's assassin, and that anything from Ruby indicating there were assassins beyond Oswald would have been most unwelcome.
Kissing Up to Pat While Ignoring Dr. George
Above: Patrick Dean, the Elvis of the DPD. Apparently, he was also quite the liar.
On 6-8-64 Sgt. Patrick Dean of the Dallas Police Dept. testifies before Warren and the commission in Washington. He doesn't testify as much as complain. It seems word has leaked out about what Warren Commission counsel Burt Griffin told Dean during a 3-24-64 deposition in Dallas. Off the record, Griffin told Dean that he didn't believe his testimony on two points--Jack Ruby's telling Dean he'd entered the basement where he killed Oswald via the Main Street ramp and Ruby's telling Dean he'd planned Oswald's death since the day of Kennedy's assassination. Griffin then offered his help in correcting Dean's testimony. Dean refused, and in time demanded an audience with Warren. In keeping with his agreement with Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr (that the commission give a fair shake to Texas, else Texas be forced to conduct its own investigation), Warren as much as apologizes to Dean. He tells him: "Well, Sergeant, I want to say to you that, of course, without knowing what your conversation was with Mr. Griffin, I have never talked to Mr. Griffin about this. I didn't know that you had this altercation with him, but I want to say this: That so far as the jurisdiction of this Commission is concerned and its procedures, no member of our staff has a right to tell any witness that he is lying or that he is testifying falsely. That is not his business. It is the business of this Commission to appraise the testimony of all the witnesses, and, at the time you are talking about, and up to the present time, this Commission has never appraised your testimony or fully appraised the testimony of any other witness, and furthermore, I want to say to you that no member of our staff has any power to help or injure any witness. So, so far as that conversation is concerned, there is nothing that will be binding upon this Commission." (The HSCA would subsequently reveal that before his trip to Washington Dean had willingly undergone a lie detector test regarding his conversations with Ruby...and had failed this test, even though he'd been allowed to write his own questions. Now, no one from Dallas volunteered this info to the commission, but that doesn't exactly excuse Warren, whose reluctance to pursue this matter helped prevent this fact from surfacing, and the commission as a whole, which accepted Dean's word that Ruby had said he came down the ramp, even though the counsel investigating this aspect of the assassination, Burt Griffin, believed it to be a fabrication.)
Above: Admiral George Burkley, JFK's physician, who continued on as LBJ's physician.
This very day, 6-8-64, yet another door is opened, and ignored. An internal FBI memo on this date from Alex Rosen to Alan Belmont relates that on 6-3 the FBI was contacted by President Kennedy's physician, Dr. George Burkley, wondering what became of a statement, dated 11-27-63, he'd given to the U.S. Secret Service, and why he hasn't been contacted by the Warren Commission. Rosen relates further that he's discussed this matter with Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, who requested he call the Secret Service and find out what happened to Burkley's statement regarding the events of 11-22-63. Rosen then relates that he talked to Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley, and Kelley told him he was indeed aware of Burkley's statement, "was of the opinion it had been made available to the President's Commission," and "would see that a copy of the memorandum was sent over to the Commission per Mr. Rankin's request."
(Burkley's statement is eventually published by the Commission as Exhibit 1126. Strangely, however, despite this incident, and despite his name appearing in the autopsy report, numerous Secret Service reports, and in the testimony of witnesses such as Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman, Dr. Paul Peters, and Dr. Charles Carrico, no one from the FBI or Warren Commission was ever to interview Burkley, the only witness to see the President's body at both Parkland and Bethesda. This oversight is made suspicious, moreover, by the fact that Warren Commissioner Gerald Ford asked Congressman James D. Weaver, a former military surgeon, to take a look at the medical testimony, and that, in an April 23, 1964 letter (found in the Ford Presidential Library), Weaver told Ford that the lack of information regarding Burkley's actions in the testimony was an "outstanding omission."
While Ford's subsequent failure to demand Burkley be interviewed may have been yet another "outstanding omission," it would eventually be revealed as an incredibly convenient omission for those hoping to convince others that Oswald acted alone. On October 17, 1967, in an interview conducted for the Kennedy Library, Burkley was asked if he agreed with the Warren Report’s conclusions “on the number of bullets that entered the President’s body.” He replied “I would not care to be quoted on that.” Similarly, on March 18, 1977, Burkley’s attorney, Willaim Illig, contacted HSCA Chief Counsel Richard Sprague and told him that Burkley had information indicating that Oswald did not act alone. While no one followed up on this letter, the record suggests that Burkley suspected both that the back wound was too low on Kennedy's body to support the single-bullet theory, and that more than one bullet struck the President's skull.)
On 6-8-64, General Counsel Rankin receives an unexpected response. On 6-2-64 he had written a letter to Lt. Col. Allison G. Folsom requesting an appraisal of Oswald’s shooting ability, based upon Oswald’s test scores while in the Marines. Folsom responds “In view of the lapse of time since Mr. Oswald was separated from the Marine Corps, it would be impossible to ascertain precisely the number of hours in which he participated in weapons marksmanship practice or how many rounds of ammunition he fired.” He then gives a breakdown of the training received by Oswald and his subsequent tests scores. These show that Oswald was tested on the M-1 rifle on December 21, 1956 and received a score of 212, or sharpshooter ranking. This was the test discussed in Folsom’s 5-1-64 testimony. The record shows that Oswald was tested on the M-1 rifle a second time on May 6, 1959, however, and received a score of 191, only 1 point above the bottom of the Marksman ranking. These were the scores reported by the New York Times on 11-23-63. The big surprise for Rankin comes in Folsom’s summary. He tells Rankin “The Marine Corps considers that any reasonable application of the instructions given to Marines should permit them to become qualified as a marksman. To become qualified as a sharpshooter, the Marine Corps is of the opinion that most Marines with a reasonable amount of adaptability to weapons firing can become so qualified. Consequently, a low marksman qualification indicates a rather poor “shot” and a sharpshooter qualification indicates a fairly good “shot.” Folsom was thus telling Rankin that Oswald was a poor shot when he left the Marines and would have been an even worse shot after 4 years without practice.
After receiving Folsom's letter, Rankin has clear reason to doubt Oswald's ability to hit the shots proposed by Specter. Specter has, after all, proposed that the assassin (Oswald) fired three times at a moving target in a time span of as little as 5.6 seconds, and achieved two hits and one near miss (the bullet striking Connally). Rankin has, for that matter, already given Specter's chapter on the assassination to the commissioners. This suggests Rankin's endorsement of Specter's proposal, and belief it should be presented to the public as a conclusion of the commission.
In an ideal world, Folsom's letter spurs Rankin to push for more tests, with civilians firing rifles similar to Oswald’s at moving targets on a mock Dealey Plaza.
(These tests were eventually performed, only not by the commission...)
The Tests That Should Have Been
In 1967, CBS News, realizing the Warren Commission's error in not conducting these tests, conducted some tests of their own. While the shooters used by CBS were all well-practiced rifleman, their over-all skill level was roughly that of Oswald at his best. (Of course, Oswald hadn’t been at his best since his first years in the Marines, a half a dozen years before the assassination.)
There were still other problems with the test. For one, the rifle used by these shooters was in prime operating condition, and was in no need of the adjustments performed by those test-firing Oswald's rifle for the Warren Commission. For two, the CBS shooters, unlike the man firing Oswald's rifle in Dealey Plaza, who was firing cold, were given NINE practice shots before making their attempts. For three, the target upon which these men fired, unlike the limousine in Dealey Plaza, moved at a constant speed away from the shooter, and at a constant angle.
Now, all these problems should have worked to the advantage of CBS' shooters, and have led to their easily replicating the shots purported for Oswald... That is, if the shots have been indeed easily replicable...
But let the test results speak for themselves…
1. Col. Jim Crossman, ret. (expert rifleman). First attempt--3 near misses in 6.54 seconds. Best attempt (of 6) ---2 hits and 1 near miss in 6.20 seconds. 2 hits or more in 3 of 6 attempts. (6.34, 6.44, and 6.2 seconds)
2. Douglas Bazemore (ex-paratrooper). First attempt—unable to operate bolt effectively to fire the shots. Best attempt (of 4)—unable to operate stiff bolt action; gives up. 2 hits or more in 0 of 4 attempts.
3. John Bollendorf (ballistics technician). First attempt—2 hits and 1 near miss in 6.8 seconds. Best attempt (of 4)—the same. 2 hits or more in 1 of 4 attempts. (6.8 seconds)
4. John Concini (Maryland State Trooper). First attempt—no record of where shots went in 6.3 seconds. Best attempt (of 2)—1 hit and 2 near misses in 5.4 seconds. 2 hits or more in 0 of 2 attempts.
5. Howard Donahue (weapons engineer). First attempt—too fast with bolt—gun jammed. Best attempt (of 3)—3 hits in 5.2 seconds. 2 hits or more in 1 of 3 attempts. (5.2 seconds)
6. Somersett Fitchett (sportsman). First attempt—gun jammed at 3rd shot. Best attempt (of 3)—2 hits and 1 near miss in 5.5 seconds. 2 hits or more in 2 of 3 attempts. (5.9 and 5.5 seconds)
7. William Fitchett (sporting goods dealer). First attempt—3 borderline hits in 6.5 seconds. Best attempt (of 3)—the same. 2 hits or more in 1 of 3 attempts. (6.5 seconds)
8. Ron George (Maryland State Trooper). First attempt—gun jammed at 2nd shot. Best attempt (of 3)—2 hits and 1 near miss in 4.9 seconds. 2 hits or more in 1 of 3 attempts. (4.9 seconds)
9. Charles Hamby (shooting range employee). First attempt—gun jammed. Best attempt (of 3)—2 near misses and 1 complete miss in 6.5 seconds. 2 hits or more in 0 of 3 attempts.
10. Carl Holden (shooting range employee). First attempt—gun jammed with first shot. Best attempt (of 3)—3 near misses in 5.4 seconds. 2 hits or more in 0 of 3 attempts.
11. Sid Price (shooting range employee). First attempt—1 hit, 1 near miss, and 1 complete miss in 5.9 seconds. Best attempt (of 4)—the same. 2 hits or more in 0 of 4 attempts.
12. Al Sherman (Maryland State Trooper). First attempt—2 hits and 1 near miss in 5.0 seconds. Best attempt (of 5)—the same. 2 hits or more in 2 of 5 attempts. (5.0 and 6.0 seconds)
Of the 12 first attempts, only 1 shooter was able to hit the target twice in less than 5.6 seconds. Of the 43 total attempts, moreover, these well-seasoned shooters were able to replicate Oswald’s purported feat—2 hits in less than 5.6 seconds—just 4 times.
In fact, it's even worse. Not counting Crossman, an acknowledged rifle expert, those purportedly of Oswald's skill level landed but 25 hits TOTAL, in their 20 successful attempts at getting off 3 shots. In other words, they hit 25 out of 60 shots--far worse on average than Oswald's purported 2 out of 3.
But it's actually FAR WORSE than that. You see, CBS counted any strike on the FBI silhouettes used as targets--even those far down the back, or out on the shoulders--as a hit. This, in effect, tripled or quadrupled the size of the target for their shooters, in comparison to the small area on the back and head purportedly hit by Oswald. It seems clear then that, of the 60 shots total, and 25 hits, no more than 9 hit the target in the small central area purportedly hit by Oswald, not once but twice. This, then, suggests that, even IF Oswald was a well-practiced shooter, and even IF his rifle were in optimal condition, and even IF he had been provided NINE practice shots, the odds of his hitting the small area he supposedly hit from the sniper's nest on any given shot were less than 1 in 6, and of his hitting this area 2 of 3 times something like 1 in 16.
In other words, Oswald's purported feat was highly unlikely...
(This fact has not escaped the attention of those continuing to argue Oswald acted alone. In his mammoth tome Reclaiming History, Vincent Bugliosi deceives his readers by arguing that, as Oswald was clearly aiming for Kennedy's head, he actually hit but one of three shots. This avoids, of course, that the vast majority of "hits" by the professional shooters attempting to simulate Oswald's purported feat for the Warren Commission, and what one can only assume were the vast majority of "hits" by the amateur shooters attempting to simulate Oswald's purported feat for CBS News in 1967, were torso hits even further from the center of the target as the hit on Kennedy's back.)
In any event, if the Warren Commission had conducted similar tests, they would almost certainly have concluded that Oswald needed more than 5.6 seconds to fire the shots, and that either the first shot or last shot missed. But this was not to be...
The Roberts Decision
On 6-17, the commission receives a response to its 5-19 letter requesting the FBI follow-up on Earlene Roberts' 4-8 claim a police car honked its horn outside Oswald's residence just after his arrival on the afternoon of the shooting. This report (CE 2645, 25H909-915) is quite extensive, and lists the whereabouts of a large number of Dallas Police officers at 1:00 PM on 11-22-63. the moment in question.
One of these listings stands out like a sore thumb:
"P.K. Wilkins...Dispatched to Texas School Book Depository and assisted in search of building. Wilkins located rifle on sixth floor and remained at building rest of the day."
Well, great gosh-a-mighty! Wilkins located the rifle! He would have to be considered a key witness, then. Right?
So why 1) was he not required to make out a report, and 2) not interviewed by the FBI?
In any event, the report raises more questions than it answers. For one, Roberts testified that she looked out the window expecting to see the number 170 on its side (as this was the number of a police car whose occupants had visited her in the past), but that the number on this car was 107 (and not 207, as recorded in an 11-29-63 FBI report).
So what has the FBI investigated? They investigated the history of car 170, which they said was not in use on 11-22-63, and 207, which they said was parked out in front of the school book depository at the moment in question.
Well, heck... This avoids that FBI agents Bookhout and Carlson had already investigated this (on 12-3-63), and reported this (in a 12-12-63 report found on page 132 of Sec 57 of the FBI Headquarters' Oswald file)--and had found that the driver of this car, Officer J.M. Valentine, had left the keys to his car with Sgt. J.M. Putnam when he went into the building.
Well... 1) Why hadn't this report been furnished the commission? And 2) why had the FBI left it at that--at Putnam's word he'd never moved the car while Valentine was in the building? No, scratch that--at Capt. O.A. Jones' word that Putnam's word was that no one had moved the car while Valentine was in the building?
(Yes, incredibly...Putnam himself was NEVER questioned by the FBI or Warren Commission on this issue. And that's quite a hole in the evidence. You see, Capt. Westbrook told the FBI Sgt. Putnam had taken the keys from a number of patrol officers upon their arrival at the school book depository, and this suggested Putnam had been appointed the repository of the keys for the dozen or so police cars packed willy-nilly around the building. Well, this means he was also the one handing out keys to officers as they left to go back to headquarters, or to the Tippit crime scene, etc... So, yeah, Putnam's testimony regarding how this was done--did he make a list, etc--was absolutely necessary to close off the otherwise wide-open possibility a couple of officers borrowed the keys to Valentine's car while he was in the building, drove over to Oak Cliff, honked a horn outside Oswald's room, did God-knows-what, and then returned before Valentine left the building hours later. That this was not done--that Putnam, who testified before the commission on 3-24 regarding Ruby's killing of Oswald, was not asked under penalty of perjury what he did with all the keys he'd collected, and if he'd handed any back out before receiving word of Tippit's murder--is a suspicious mistake, to say the least.)
Well, then what about patrol car 106--the number of the car Roberts initially testified to seeing?
Now, this is a bit curious. The FBI's 6-15 report reveals that this car was assigned to officers B.L. Jones and M.D. Hall, and that they were dispatched to the Texas School Book Depository at 12:35, and then sent to Oak Cliff to the Tippit killing site at 1:20. Well, wait a second...is there any proof they actually showed up at the depository? It could be, after all, that they were told to go to Oak Cliff because their arrival at the depository had been delayed, or even that that they'd volunteered that they already were in Oak Cliff. But no, that's the end of the FBI's investigation into car 106. Officers Jones and Hall were never even interviewed...
Well, then, what about patrol car 107--the number of the car Roberts ultimately testified to seeing????
On this, not a word...
Nope, not even a discussion of a car Roberts could have mistakenly believed read 107. The report claims Officer J.T. Smith was assigned to patrol car 101, and Officer C.R. Orsburn patrol car 102, to assist in the President's protection on 11-22-63, but fails to note their whereabouts at 1:00 PM, and fails to include any interviews of these officers.
Now, to be clear, this wasn't the fault of the FBI. Or at least not entirely its fault... In his 5-19 letter asking this most recent investigation be conducted, General Counsel Rankin said Roberts "had previously stated that the car was number 207" but failed to inform the Bureau that she had since testified it was 107.
So, yeah. No investigation of car 107 was conducted. (By the FBI, anyhow...)
Wrapping It Up
On 6-18-64, Secret Service Chief James Rowley is called to testify. He admits that members of Kennedy's protection detail had been out drinking the night before the assassination, but asserts they were not punished for what would normally have been cause for termination because it might send the message that their actions had been a factor in Kennedy's death. Newspaper reports reflect that Rowley is the last person scheduled to testify before the commission. This means that all the witnesses subsequent to Rowley were NEVER supposed to testify.
A 6-19-64 New York Times article confirms this last point, as it claims the Commission's investigation is now over. The remaining months are to be spent tying up loose ends, interviewing witnesses who should already have been called--so that the commission can say that they spoke to them--and finding experts to tell the commission what it has already decided to say, and desperately wants to hear.
One of these "missing" witnesses is Phil Willis, whose photograph of Kennedy just after the first shot has been studied extensively by the FBI. He has never been interviewed. Nor has his wife, who claimed to have witnessed the head shot... They are finally interviewed on 6-17 and 6-18. Marilyn Willis (6-19-64 FBI report, CD1245 p. 44-45) “Mrs. Willis advised when the motorcade passed on Elm Street in front of where she was standing she heard a noise that sounded like a firecracker or a backfire. A few seconds following this she stated she heard another report and saw the top of President Kennedy’s head “blow off and ringed by a red halo.” She stated she believes she heard another shot following this.” Shot after the head shot. Phil Willis (6-22-64 FBI report, CD1245 p. 46-48) “Willis advised that just about the same time that the limousine carrying President Kennedy was opposite the Stemmons Freeway road sign he heard a loud report and knew immediately it was a rifle shot and knew also the shot “had hit”…About two seconds later he heard another rifle shot which also hit, as did the third, which came approximately two seconds later. Willis said he knew from his war experience the sound a rifle makes when it finds its mark and he said he is sure all three shots fired found their mark.”
It has now been almost 7 months since the assassination of President Kennedy. Apparently, this means it's time for another tragedy to besiege the family. On 6-20-64, President Kennedy's youngest brother Teddy, serving out his brother's term in the Senate, is seriously injured in a small plane crash in which two others--the pilot and Kennedy's assistant--are killed.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes of the Warren Commission, the staff charged with writing its report are submitting their chapters and the Commissioners themselves are making changes. On 6-24-64, Commissioner John J. McCloy writes Rankin: “I think too much effort is expended on attempting to prove that the first bullet which hit the President was responsible for all Connally’s wounds. The evidence against this is not fully stated.” Yowza. This indicates that McCloy has his doubts about the single-bullet theory. (It will eventually come out that Senators Russell and Cooper, and Congressman Boggs, also have doubts about the theory. This means that just 3 of the 7 commissioners—Warren, Dulles, and Ford--wholeheartedly support the single-bullet theory, the cornerstone of the Commission’s conclusions, without which they would rightfully have to conclude the probability of a second gunman.)
4th Times the Charm
The FBI, Secret Service, and Warren Commission's absolute conviction that all the shots came from the sixth floor of the depository, no matter when or how the shots rang out, is by now abundantly clear. Perhaps no one is better able to see this than Dallas County Surveyor Robert West. Between December 7, 1963 and June 25, 1964, he has created and revised four plats of Dealey Plaza, with the angles of trajectory for proposed shots from the sniper's nest All four of these plats were purportedly based on a careful analysis of the Zapruder film, and were created for a government agency. And yet, from plat to plat, not one shot has been of a consistent distance or at a consistent angle! (West will eventually testify at the trial of Clay Shaw in 1969, and acknowledge that he was in Dealey Plaza when the President was shot, and that he in fact heard four shots. This raises the question of whether or not he mentioned this fact to the Secret Service, FBI, and Warren Commission investigators employing his services, and, if so, why none of them ever interviewed him as a witness.)
Still, at least one member of the Warren Commission has got his eyes on the finish line.
On 6-26-64, Congressman Gerald Ford changes a passage in Chapter 1 of the commission's report from “A bullet had entered his back at a point slightly above the shoulder and to the right of the spine" to “A bullet had entered the back of his neck at a point slightly to the right of the spine." (The published report reflects a compromise: “A bullet had entered the base of the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine." In any event, from this change it seems clear that Ford was deliberately skewing the report to help convince the public that a bullet fired from above could enter a man’s back and exit his throat on a straight trajectory, a la the single-bullet theory.)
Dyeing the Grass Green
When the working papers of J. Lee Rankin were given to the Archives in 1997 and Ford’s changes were discovered, the Former President reportedly responded “My changes were only an attempt to be more precise.” While the inaccurate drawings entered into evidence by the doctors may have confused Ford into thinking his correction was indeed more precise, a less generous interpretation is also reasonable. This very topic, let's recall, came up in Ford's 12-17-63 meeting with the FBI. Cartha DeLoach's memo on this meeting reflects: "Two members of the Commission brought up the fact that they still are not convinced that the President had been shot from the sixth floor window of the Texas Book Depository. These members failed to understand the trajectory of the slugs that killed the President. He (Ford) stated he felt this point would be discussed further but, of course, would represent no problem."
Apparently, Ford knew the caliber of men he was working with. Apparently, he knew that nothing could dissuade these men from claiming Oswald killed Kennedy. On July 2, 1967, an interview of Commissioner John McCloy was aired on Face the Nation. Although CBS' treatment of the assassination in its just-broadcast four part special on the Warren Commission was questionable, and at times quite deceptive, here Walter Cronkite actually did some digging. McCloy's answers, accordingly, are quite revealing. When asked why the Commissioners doubting the single-bullet theory claimed Oswald acted alone, even though, in Cronkite's words, it is "inescapably obvious that without the single bullet theory, the whole case made by the Commission collapses into a mass of incredibility," McCloy gave a jaw-dropping response. He said: "Well, what is the case? The case is, as--and, I think, this about right, and I can--I think I can summarize the conclusions. One. Oswald killed the President by shots fired from the sixth floor window of the school book depository in Dallas. He also killed Tippit...Now that's--that's the conclusion. Those are the essential conclusions of the Commission. They don't stand or fall by whether there was a single bullet there, or not."
In other words, McCloy told Cronkite that they'd decided to blame the shooting on Oswald, EVEN IF THE EVIDENCE INDICATED IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO HAVE FIRED ALL THE SHOTS. The possibility that a conspiracy existed outside Oswald, and had set him up as the "patsy" he'd claimed to be, was not even to be considered.
Now, to be fair, it seems possible McCloy's mind on this issue was muddled, as opposed to being deliberately deceitful. Many early believers in the Oswald did-it theory, including Governor Connally and the top brass of the FBI, believed Oswald could have fired three shots, and hit Kennedy twice and Connally once, no matter what was suggested by the Zapruder film. To wit, in the 1967 book When Death Delights (written by former FBI agent Marsall Houts), Dr. Milton Helpern, one of the top forensic pathologists in the country, let his thoughts on the assassination be known, and expressed muddled thinking similar to McCloy's. While rejecting the single-bullet theory, Helpern claimed it wasn't really necessary, seeing as there was "nothing in the 'open end' Zapruder movie 'timetable' to rule out the possibility or even the probability that the President was shot through the neck before Frame 166."
WHAT? The President was smiling and waving to the crowd on his right for a second and a half past Frame 166. That's an awful long time before reacting to a bullet, especially one that has just torn through your windpipe.
With the end in sight, some of the Warren Commission's staff start dropping their guard.
On 6-27-64, three members of the Warren Commission's staff meet and discuss the changes being made to the commission's report. They make a mistake, however, and allow author William Manchester to attend their meeting. (Manchester would subsequently quote from his notes on this meeting.)
Here are Manchester's notes on this meeting: "X: 'How critical of the Dallas police should we be?" Y: 'We can't be critical enough.' Z: (senior man): 'That's just the problem. If we write what we really think, nobody will believe anything else we say. They'll accuse us of attacking Dallas' image. The whole report will be discredited as controversial. We've just got to tone it way down.' There was a spirited discussion, after which X and Y consented."
On 6-29-64, the Warren Commission meets and deliberates over the submitted chapters of its report. (Intriguingly, few were aware of this meeting until 1997, when General Counsel J. Lee Rankin’s private papers were donated to the National Archives following the JFK Records Act. Rankin’s notes reveal that this meeting consists of his running down a list of questions, and the Commissioners’ deciding whether the proposed chapters adequately answer these questions. Over and over, on the questions of the number of the shots, the order in which the wounds were inflicted, etc, they answer “Treatment in proposed draft satisfactory.” This suggests that by May 29, when Rankin first forwarded Specter's chapter on to the commissioners, the commission's conclusions were written in stone, and that the subsequent testimony of crucial witnesses such as Jacqueline Kennedy, James Altgens, Phil Willis, Abraham Zapruder, Emmett Hudson, and James Tague was taken entirely for political reasons, i.e., to convince the American people that the words of all the prominent witnesses had been considered by the commission before they'd come to a conclusion, when in fact they had not.)
An AP dispatch from later this day only confirms that the investigation is over, and unlikely to meet any public resistance. It reads:
KRAKOW, POLAND, JUNE 29 CAP)-U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ROBERT F. KENNEDY SAID TONIGHT LEE HARVEY OSWALD KILLED HIS BROTHER, PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY, AND "THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT HE DID IT ON HIS OWN AND BY HIMSELF."
"I BELIEVE IT (THE ASSASSINATION) WAS DONE BY A MAN NAMED OSWALD WHO WAS A MISFIT IN SOCIETY," KENNEDY TOLD A GROUP OF CIVIC LEADERS AND STUDENTS IN THIS SOUTHERN POLISH CITY.
AIDES SAID IT WAS THE FIRST TIME THE HEAD OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HAS SPOKEN PUBLICLY ABOUT WHO KILLED HIS BROTHER IN DALLAS, TEX., LAST NOV. 22. OSWALD WAS SHOT BY JACK RUBY, DALLAS CAFE OWNER, BEFORE HE COULD BE BROUGHT TO TRIAL, THERE HAVE BEEN SUGGESTIONS IN EUROPE, ESPECIALLY COMMUNIST COUNTRIES SUCH AS POLAND, THAT THE SLAYINGS OF KENNEDY AND OSWALD WERE PART OF THE SAME CONSPIRACY.
KENNEDY SAID IT WAS NOT OSWALD'S PROFESSED BELIEF IN COMMUNISM THAT PROMPTED HIM TO MURDER THE PRESIDENT.
"HE WAS A PROFESSED COMMUNIST BUT THE COMMUNISTS--BECAUSE OF HIS ATTITUDE--WOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HIM," KENNEDY SAID. "IDEOLOGY IN MY OPINION DID NOT MOTIVATE HIS ACT, IT WAS THE SINGLE ACT OF AN INDIVIDUAL PROTESTING AGAINST SOCIETY."
KENNEDY WAS REPLYING TO A QUESTION BY HIERONYM KUBIAK,25-YEAR-OLD HEAD OF, THE POLISH STUDENT UNION IN KRAKOW, WHO HAD DECLARED:"WE ALWAYS GREATLY RESPECTED PRESIDENT KENNEDY AND WE ARE VERY INTERESTED IN YOUR VERSION OF HIS DEATH, WE HOPE YOU WILL FORGIVE US FOR ASKING SUCH A DIRECT QUESTION BUT WE REALLY WOULD LIKE YOUR VIEW."
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL REPLIED "IT IS A PROPER QUESTION WHICH DESERVES AN ANSWER." HE CALLED OSWALD "A MISFIT IN SOCIETY WHO HAD LIVED IN THE UNITED STATES AND WAS DISSATISFIED WITH OUR GOVERNMENT AND OUR WAY OF LIFE. HE TOOK UP COMMUNISM AND MOVED TO THE SOVIET UNION BUT WAS DISSATISFIED THERE. HE CAME BACK (TO AMERICA), WAS ANTI-SOCIAL AND FELT THE ONLY WAY TO TAKE OUT HIS STRONG FEELINGS AGAINST SOCIETY AND DISSATISFACTION WITH THE WAY HE WAS TREATED WAS BY KILLING THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES."
On 6-30-64 the New York Times carries its own version of this story. Intriguingly, it takes the opportunity to throw in that the Attorney General's conclusions reflect those of the Warren Commission. It reads:
"Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy said today that his brother had been assassinated by Lee H. Oswald, “a misfit,” who took out his resentment against society by killing the President of the United States. Answering questions at a meeting of the City Council of Cracow, the Attorney General said that Oswald was "a professed Communist" but had not been motivated by Communist ideology when he shot the President last Nov. 22. It was in response to a hesitant question put by a Communist youth leader of Cracow, who attended the council's meeting, that the Attorney General spoke about Oswald and the assassination. It was Mr.Kennedy's first public discussion of the accused assassin, aides said... The Attorney General briefly sketched Oswald's life story, describing him as a man who had embraced Communism, and had gone to the Soviet Union, but found no place for himself there. He was a professed Communist," but the Communists, because of his attitude, would have nothing to do with him," he said. "What he did he did on his own, and by himself."
Discredits Plot Theories
Mr. Kennedy said that the assassination was not a racist plot, such as some persons had speculated.
"Ideology in my opinion did not motivate his act," the President's brother said. "It was the single act of one person protesting against society." The Attorney General is known to be fully acquainted with the findings of the Warren Commission. It is presumed by persons close to him that the Commission's report will reflect the views expressed by Mr. Kennedy today."
Above: Robert Kennedy sends a message to the world that his brother's dream lives on. Not only does he go to Poland (at that time a Communist country) in June, 1964, and greet throngs of people desperate for Kennedy-styled progressivism, he rides through the streets on the roof of a limo. And not just any limo, mind you, but a Lincoln, like the one in which his brother was riding when assassinated...by a supposed Communist. This sends the clear message then that he's not afraid--at least not of Communists.
Between the Lines: a Discussion of RFK's Comments
The timing of Robert Kennedy's comments is intriguing, to say the least. His only surviving brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, is in a hospital with a broken back, the result of a June 19 plane crash. While the pilot of this plane, one of two casualties in the crash, with the other being Kennedy's assistant Edward Moss, is presumed to have been at fault, the actual cause of the accident is not entirely clear. It seems possible, then, that Robert Kennedy suspected dark forces were behind his younger brother's plane crash, just as they were behind his older brother's murder. To wit, the crash occurred as Ted Kennedy was flying home to Massachusetts after helping push through the Civil Rights Act, highly-controversial legislation first proposed by his older brother, John. It seems possible, then, that RFK felt his voicing support for the Warren Commission might help fend off these forces. In any event, there was reason for RFK to be paranoid.
It is also intriguing that Robert Kennedy's first and only public comment on the assassination during the Warren Commission's investigation comes on a goodwill trip to a communist country, where he was pretty much boxed in. If, in such a setting, he said anything suggesting he had doubts about the Warren Commission's findings, and thought a domestic conspiracy responsible for his brother's death, it's almost certain he would be crucified back home, and accused of encouraging communism worldwide. If, in such a setting, he said anything suggesting he had doubts about the Warren Commission's findings, and thought a foreign conspiracy responsible, on the other hand, he would be crucified by his fellow liberals for spreading fear of World War III, and providing fuel for the right-wing fanatics back home. It was a lose-lose proposition. This, then, left him little alternative but to pin the tail on the Oswald, and claim everything he'd seen proved Oswald to be a lone nut.
The possibility exists, for that matter, that Kennedy's being asked this question in this setting was no coincidence. While it's perfectly possible Hieronym Kubiak, who would rise within the ranks of the Polish Communist Party and become the member of its Central Committee in charge of Science and Education--only to resign in 1982 after voicing his support for Solidarity, the movement which led to the end of Communism in Poland--had a sincere interest in Kennedy's answer, or that he knew Kennedy would disavow a conspiracy and was anxious that he do so, it seems possible as well that he was convinced to ask this question by the CIA, who had a number of assets in Communist youth organizations. If so, their operation was successful. A July 6 Airgram from the American Embassy in Rome found in the CIA's files reports that Kennedy's statements "were given particular prominence in the Italian Press." As the CIA had a number of assets in the international press, this could very well have been bragging. There is a note of discord, however. The Airgram also reports that the Communist paper L'Unita has chosen to comment on Kennedy's comments, and has noted "Kennedy's declarations about the death of his brother and about the personality of Oswald seem disconcerting and...are in striking contrast not only with numerous facts but also with Robert Kennedy's attitude, declarations, and initiatives after the Dallas tragedy." While it's unclear which "declarations" and "initiatives" are being referenced in this article, it seems possible that Russian Premier Khruschev or one of his emissaries has been indiscreet about Robert Kennedy's private communication in December, and has told Communist organizations and newspapers worldwide of Kennedy's private suspicion his brother was killed by a domestic conspiracy.
While the commission itself is prepared to join Robert Kennedy and declare that Oswald acted alone in killing his brother, it's more than a bit ironic in that they aren't as sure as he (or at least the 'he" he was pretending to be) that Oswald's act was a "protest." In fact, they still can't figure out exactly why Oswald performed his purported act.
And for good reason... If Oswald did it because he hated Kennedy then why was everyone close to Oswald so convinced he actually liked Kennedy? If he did it for fame or for political reasons, on the other hand, then why oh why did he try to get away and then deny his involvement once caught? (It's so hard to be a martyr without a cause.) And if he was simply a raving lunatic then why was he so calm before the cameras?
By July, the commission counsel tasked with answering this question, Wesley Liebeler, is so perplexed that he gives in and asks Oswald's brother Robert for guidance. Robert is unable to give him an answer. (In an interview published in The Nation on March 9, 1992, Liebeler would voice his continued inability to understand Oswald's motive. He revealed: "I drafted a psychological profile of Oswald for chapter seven of the report. It was reviewed by a panel including the chief of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic, who threw my draft down and said, 'This is very interesting stuff, but it tells me a lot more about you, Liebeler, than it does about Oswald.' So how the hell do I know why Oswald killed the President?")
On 7-6, Chief Justice Warren sends yet another message that he wants to wrap things up, and leave critical questions unanswered. Tired of waiting for a finalized report, but comfortable with the conclusions he'd reached weeks if not months before, he flies off on an extended fishing trip. (His personal papers reflect that he left on this trip on 7-6, but did not return to work till 8-1. And so...while one reads the events for July 64, one should keep in mind that while the dance was proceeding, Warren--supposedly the guiding light of the Commission, and master of the dance--was fishing.)
A few days later, we see a 7-7-64 letter from the Dallas FBI office, written in response to a 5-20 letter from the Commission, asking they establish the chain-of-evidence for a number of items. When discussing the chain-of-evidence for FBI C1/Warren Commission Exhibit CE 399, a near-pristine bullet found on a stretcher at Parkland hospital, an hour or more after the President and Governor were admitted, and purported to have caused Kennedy's back and throat wound, and all of Connally's wounds, it relates: "On June 12, 1964, Darrell C. Tomlinson...was shown Exhibit C1, a rifle slug, by Special Agent Bardwell D. Odum...Tomlinson stated it appears to be the same one he saw on a hospital carriage at Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963, but he cannot positively identify the bullet as the one he found and showed to Mr. O.P. Wright...On June 12, 1964, O.P. Wright...advised Special Agent Bardwell D. Odum that Exhibit C1, a rifle slug, shown to him at the time of the interview, looks like the slug found at Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963 which he gave to Richard Johnsen, Special Agent of the the Secret Service...He advised he could not positively identify C1 as being the same bullet which was found on November 22. 1963...On June 24, 1964, Richard E. Johnson...was shown Exhibit C1, a rifle bullet, by Special Agent Elmer Lee Todd, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Johnsen advised he could not identify this bullet...On June 24, 1964, James C. Rowley, Chief, United States Secret Service...was shown Exhibit C1, a rifle bullet, by Special Agent Elmer Lee Todd. Rowley advised he could not identify this bullet as the one he received from Special Agent Richard E. Johnsen and gave to Special Agent Todd on November 22, 1963. On June 24, 1964, Special Agent Elmer Lee Todd...identified C1, a rifle bullet, as being the one he received from James Rowley, Chief, United States Secret Service." We note that the Secret Service has refused to swear by the bullet, and that an agent of the FBI itself, fifth in a line of possession, is the first to assert the bullet is the one found in the hospital. As this bullet has been linked to Oswald's rifle and is necessary to demonstrate that Oswald fired the lethal shots, this is problematic. Fortunately, the first men to see the bullet, Tomlinson and Wright, appear to agree with Agent Todd's identification.
By now well familiar with the FBI's inadequacies, however, we decide to do a little digging. We uncover a 6-20 Airtel from Dallas Special Agent in Charge J. Gordon Shanklin to J. Edgar Hoover telling him that "neither Darrell C. Tomlinson, who found bullet at Parkland Hospital, Dallas, nor O.P. Wright, Personnel Officer, Parkland Hospital, who obtained bullet from Tomlinson and gave to Special Agent Richard E. Johnsen, Secret Service at Dallas 11/22/63, can identify bullet." As this memo specifies that Tomlinson and Wright could not identify the bullet, and as the letter sent to the Commission indicates they believed the bullets appeared to be the same, we find yet another reason to suspect the FBI's integrity, and to seriously question the Commission's reliance upon its services.
The Switcheroo That Wasn't: a Brief Discussion In Which I End Up Defending The FBI (No, Really, I'm Not Kidding)
The apparent contradiction between the FBI's 6-20-64 Airtel and 7-7-64 letter was just the beginning of the mystery surrounding the bullet. In November 1966, Josiah Thompson showed O.P. Wright a photo of the bullet supposedly found on the stretcher (by then dubbed Commission Exhibit CE 399) and asked him if CE 399 was in fact the bullet he'd remembered seeing on the day of the assassination. Amazingly, Wright told him that the bullet he'd handed the Secret Service on that day had had a pointed tip, while CE 399 had had a rounded tip. Wright then showed Thompson a bullet with a pointed tip like the one he'd remembered seeing. Thompson then showed Darrell Tomlinson a photo of a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet, along with the bullet shown him by Wright. While Tomlinson was reportedly non-committal, and couldn't remember if the tip was rounded like CE 399, or pointed like the bullet shown him by Wright, Thompson, and a large swath of his readers, took from Wright's statements that the stretcher bullet had been switched.
Thirty-five years passed. In 2002, Thompson and Dr. Gary Aguilar finally contacted the FBI's Bardwell Odum, to see if he remembered Tomlinson and Wright saying CE 399 looked like the bullet found on the stretcher, per the FBI's 7-7-64 letter to the Commission, or their not identifying the bullet, per the 6-20-64 FBI memorandum. Amazingly, Odum insisted he had no recollection of ever handling CE 399, let alone showing it to Tomlinson and Wright. Now, for some this was a smoking gun. If Odum had never shown the bullet to Tomlinson and Wright, and the FBI letter said he had, and that they'd told him the bullet looked like the one they saw on 11-22-63, then someone was almost certainly lying. Deliberately.
In December, 2011, however, I came across something that gave me great doubts about the smoke coming out of this gun. A transcript was posted on the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup by author Jean Davison. This transcript, acquired by Ms. Davison from the National Archives, was of a 7-25-66 conversation between Darrell Tomlinson and researcher Ray Marcus. This transcript asserted that when asked if he'd ever been shown the stretcher bullet after giving it to Wright, Tomlinson had admitted "I seen it one time after that. I believe Mr. Shanklin from the FBI had it out there at the hospital in personnel with Mr. Wright there when they called me in." When then asked by Marcus if "Shanklin" and Wright had asked him if this bullet looked the same as the one he'd recovered on November 22, 1963, Tomlinson responded "Yes, I believe they did." When then asked his response to their question, he replied "Yes, it appeared to be the same one."
Let's note the date of this transcript. This was months prior to Tomlinson's being shown the pointed tip bullet by Thompson. And yet, at this early date, he'd thought the bullet he'd been shown by "Shanklin" (more probably Odum--Tomlinson was unsure about the name of the agent and there is little reason to believe Shanklin--the Special Agent-in Charge of the Dallas Office--would personally perform such a task) resembled the bullet he'd found on the stretcher. This suggests, then, that his subsequent inability to tell Thompson whether the bullet was rounded or pointed was brought about by his not wanting to disagree with Wright.
In November 2012, moreover, I found additional support for this suspicion. It was a 4-22-77 article on the single-bullet theory by Earl Golz for The Dallas Morning News, which reported "Darrell C Tomlinson, the senior engineer at Parkland who found the slug, told The News he 'could never say for sure whose stretcher that was ... I assumed it was Connally's because of the way things happened at Parkland at that time.' Tomlinson acknowledged he was not asked to identify the bullet when he testified before the Warren Commission in 1964. He said some federal agents earlier 'came to the hospital with the bullet in a box and asked me if it was the one I found. I told them apparently it was, but I had not put a mark on it. If it wasn't the bullet, it was exactly like it.'"
So there it is. Tomlinson told Marcus in 1966 that he thought the bullet he'd found looked like CE 399, was less certain on this point when talking to Thompson later that year, and then returned to telling reporters the bullets looked the same by the time he talked to Golz in 1977. Either he'd misled Marcus and Golz, or was momentarily confused by the bullet Wright provided Thompson. Wright was a former policeman. Perhaps Tomlinson had momentarily deferred to his expertise. In any event, Tomlinson's recollection of the bullet over the years did not support Wright's recollection, and supported instead that he'd been shown CE 399 by the FBI in 1964, had told them it appeared to be the same bullet as the one he'd found on the stretcher, and had nevertheless refused to identify it. This scenario was consistent, moreover, with the FBI's 6-20-64 memo and 7-7-64 letter to the Warren Commission. It seems hard to believe this was a coincidence. As a result, Tomlinson's recollections cast considerable doubt on Wright's ID of a pointed bullet, and the scenario subsequently pushed by Thompson and Aguilar--that the FBI had lied in its 6-20 memo and 7-7 letter about the bullet--appears to be inaccurate.
Don't Mess with Bill...
Above: Dallas Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander. Alexander didn't much like the FBI and Warren Commission's takeover of what would otherwise have been a local matter. In 1968, he would lose his position for saying Chief Justice Warren should be hanged.
In its 7-10-64 issue, Life Magazine resumes its campaign to convict Oswald in the public eye and bolster the by-now certain conclusions of the Commission. Its introduction to Oswald's diary from his time in Russia claims that the diary "is one of the most important pieces of evidence studied by the Warren Commission in its effort to unravel the character and motives of President Kennedy's assassin." No "accused" No "presumed." Assassin. Singular. Period.
Now, the commission had been leaking for months. But there is a problem with this leak. The Commission did not want Oswald's diary leaked to the press. This led the commission, then, to ask the FBI to find out who was behind this leak, and this, in turn, led the FBI to contact the Dallas District Attorney's office, and to focus in on one suspect in particular--Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander. Alexander, we should recall, had discussed charging Oswald as part of a communist conspiracy, but had been shot down. Apparently, this had annoyed him a bit, and had led him to leak info to the press suggesting Oswald was the shooter, and was under the influence of Russia.
Well, this led the FBI to question Alexander on 7-10, and write up a report on 7-11. This report was written as a response to the specific claim Alexander had released evidence to the Dallas Morning News. According to the report, Alexander denied releasing this information, and claimed further that the Dallas Times-Herald had contacted him and told him they'd reveal him as the source if he wouldn't provide them with similar information, and that he told their messenger 'kiss my a--, tell your bosses that." The FBI report continues: "Alexander also advised he made a statement that Lyndon B. Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and the 'Warren Commission could kiss my a--." Knowing full well this would get back to Hoover, the writers of the report, agents Barrett and Lee, then added "Alexander was strongly admonished by interviewing agents concerning his making such remarks about Director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and President Johnson."
But, apparently, this had no effect on Alexander other than to further ruffle his feathers. Alexander proceed to blame the leak on others, and claim "that if 'someone puts a blowtorch to my a--, we'll go on from here." The report concludes: "Alexander then made a statement that he conducts his affairs very similarly to the way that the FBI 'works,' and that he, too, keeps a 'little black book.' Alexander stated that if any pressure were ever put on him in any investigation by anyone, he would 'break an egg off in someone.' Alexander was advised that the agents were conducting an objective investigation in the matter and that there were no personal grievances involved. The interview was terminated at 11:32."
So, yikes, the Assistant DA of Dallas threatened the FBI, Hoover, and President Johnson that they would regret it if they pressured him, and the FBI backed down.
One can only wonder, then, what would have come out if they had not backed down.
Lapping Up Lyndon's Lies...
On 7-10-64, in lieu of his testimony, the commission accepts a 7-page affidavit signed by President Johnson describing what he remembered of the shooting and its aftermath. Now, not everyone is happy about this, as some--particularly junior counsel staff Arlen Specter and David Belin--feel he should be questioned as both a suspect and witness. (In his 2000 memoir Passion for Truth, Specter revealed that although he didn't think Johnson "complicit in the assassination...no self-respecting investigator would omit a thorough investigation of the slain president's successor" and that, as a result, he'd prepared 78 questions in anticipation he'd be allowed to grill Johnson.)
Let us take a look, then, at Johnson's account of his actions.
(Note: I have highlighted the statements I believe to be inaccurate. The reasons why are described in more detail in Chapter 21.)
"It was Ken O'Donnell who, at about 1:20 p.m., told us that the President had died. I think his precise words were, "He's gone." O'Donnell said that we should return to Washington and that we should take the President's plane for this purpose..."
(O'Donnell disputed this, He said he told Johnson he should return to Washington but assumed Johnson would take what had been his own plane back to Washington.)
"When Mr. O'Donnell told us to get on the plane and go back to Washington, I asked about Mrs. Kennedy. O'Donnell told me that Mrs. Kennedy would not leave the hospital without the President's body, and urged again that we go ahead and and take Air Force 1 and return to Washington."
(This is deceptive. The plane on which the President flies is automatically designated Air Force 1. Johnson would later put out the word he'd been told to take what had been Kennedy's plane because it was more secure. This would be disputed by those in a position to know. Mrs. Kennedy herself would muse that Johnson simply wanted to fly back to Washington on the bigger, newer plane, because it had a private bedroom, and was, well, bigger and newer.)
"I did not want to go and leave Mrs. Kennedy in this situation. I said so, but I agreed that we would board the airplane and wait until Mrs. Kennedy and the President's body were brought aboard the plane... Despite my awareness of the reasons for Mr. O'Donnell's insistence--in which I think he was joined by one or more of the Secret Service agents--that we board the airplane, leave Dallas, and go to Washington without delay, I was determined that we would not return until Mrs. Kennedy was ready, and that we would carry the President's body back with us if she wanted..."
(Johnson advisor Jack Valenti would later admit that Johnson was determined to return with Kennedy's body--because he feared it would look bad if he returned without it.)
"When we got to the airport, we proceeded to drive to the ramp leading into the plane, and we entered the plane. We were ushered into the private quarters of the President's plane. It didn't seem right for John Kennedy not to be there. I told someone that we preferred for Mrs. Kennedy to use these quarters."
(This conceals that Johnson did, in fact, move into the private quarters, and that when Mrs. Kennedy came onto the plane she surprised him in these quarters. This was acknowledged by Mrs. Kennedy, members of the plane's staff, and Johnson's secretary, Marie Fehmer, who was with him at the time. This also conceals that as the plane raced back to Washington, Mrs. Kennedy sat beside her husband's casket with her husband's friends, and Mrs. Johnson made use of the private quarters. This comes from Valenti.)
"Shortly after we boarded the plane. I called Robert Kennedy, the President's brother and the Attorney General."
(Johnson arrived at the plane around 1:40. It would later be revealed that he called Robert Kennedy at 1:56, after calling a number of his fellow Texans, and asking them if he should be sworn-in in Dallas.)
"I knew how grief-stricken he was, and I wanted to say something that would comfort him. Despite his shock, he discussed the practical problems at hand--problems of special urgency because we did not at that time have any information as to the motivation of the assassination or its possible implications. The Attorney General said that he would like to look into the matter of whether the oath of office as President should be administered to me immediately or after we returned to Washington, and that he would call back."
(Johnson called Robert Kennedy after having already decided to be sworn-in in Dallas. He asked Kennedy for the exact words to the oath of office, and Kennedy said he'd have someone call him back with the words.)
"I thereafter talked with McGeorge Bundy and Walter Jenkins, both of whom urged that the return to Washington should not be delayed. I told them I was waiting for Mrs. Kennedy and for the President's body to be placed on the plane, and would not return prior to that time. As I remember, our conversation was interrupted to allow the Attorney General to come back on the line. He said that the oath should be administered to me immediately, before taking off for Washington, and that it should be administered by a judicial officer of the United States."
(Kennedy never called him back. It was Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach who called him back...with the words.)
"Shortly thereafter, the Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Katzenbach, dictated the form of oath to one of the secretaries aboard the plane. I thought of Sarah Hughes, an old friend who is judge of the U.S. district court in Dallas. We telephoned Judge Hughes' office. She was not there, but she returned the call in a few minutes and said she would be at the airplane in 10 minutes."
(A close study of the timeline suggests Johnson called Hughes' office before ever talking to Robert Kennedy, and that she didn't call him back till after he'd already talked to both Kennedy, and Katzenbach. It suggests as well that Judge Hughes didn't arrive at the plane till 2:30 or so.)
"I asked that arrangements be made to permit her to have access to the airplane. A few minutes later Mrs. Kennedy and the President's coffin arrived."
(The Secret Service recorded Mrs. Kennedy's arrival around 2:18--more than 20 minutes after Johnson first called Hughes' office.)
"Mrs. Johnson and I spoke to her. We tried to comfort her, but our words seemed inadequate. She went into the private quarters of the plane."
(As stated, Mrs. Kennedy went into the private quarters upon arrival on the plane, only to discover Johnson chatting (?) with his private secretary, Marie Fehmer. This suggestion by Johnson that he spoke to Mrs. Kennedy before she went into the bedroom is almost certainly a deliberate deception.)
"I estimate that Mrs. Kennedy and the coffin arrived about a half hour after we entered the plane, just after 2 o'clock."
(The Secret Service said it was 2:18.)
"About a half hour later, I asked someone to find out if Mrs. Kennedy would stand with us during the administration of the oath. Mrs. Johnson went back to be with her. Mrs. Kennedy came and stood with us during the moments that the oath was being administered. I shall never forget her bravery, nobility, and dignity. I'm told that the oath was administered at 2:40 p.m."
(The official time for the oath was reported as 2:38. But, hey, that's close enough.)
Hmmm... Johnson's 7 page affidavit was full of deceptions. Would his testimony have been any better?
Regurgitating Lyndon's Lies
It's doubtful. The writers of the Commission's Report were determined to take Johnson's word no matter what. In Chapter 2 of the report--a chapter written by Arlen Specter, then edited by Norman Redlich--it is claimed that O'Donnell told Johnson of Kennedy's death. It then relates: "When consulted by the Vice President, O'Donnell advised him to go to the airfield immediately and return to Washington.245 It was decided that the Vice President should return on the Presidential plane rather than on the Vice-Presidential plane because it had better communication equipment.246"
The citation for footnote 245 reads "Id. at 152; 7 H 451 (O'Donnell); 5 H 561 (Johnson)." The claim is accurate and the citation is accurate. The citation for footnote 246, however, reads simply "Ibid." The Free Online Dictionary defines "Ibid" as "In the same place. Used in footnotes and bibliographies to refer to the book, chapter, article, or page cited just before." Note the words "just before." The page cited just before was a page from Johnson's statement. By placing a sentence in which O'Donnell "advised" Johnson before a sentence in which "it was decided" Johnson should return on the Presidential plane, the report had implied O'Donnell was a party to this decision. The writers of the report had thereby chosen to ignore O'Donnell's sworn testimony--the testimony they'd found credible enough to cite in the preceding footnote--and had decided to instead push the facts as related in Johnson's un-sworn statement. They'd then hidden this fact from the public.
It should come as no surprise then that they also accepted Johnson's word on the conversation he'd had with Robert Kennedy. The report claimed "From the Presidential airplane, the Vice President telephoned Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who advised that Mr. Johnson take the Presidential oath of office before the plane left Dallas.263" They, of course, never double-checked this with Kennedy.
As a result, the Johnson/O'Donnell and Johnson/Kennedy conflict on these matters was little recognized. It lay hidden beneath the surface of Washington politics. For a few years anyhow...
On 7-18-64, Jack Ruby undergoes the polygraph examination he requested when interviewed by Judge Earl Warren the month before. Arlen Specter takes the testimony of Dr. William Beavers afterward. Beavers, who'd observed and spoken to Ruby on prior occasions, tells Specter he saw no sign Ruby was out of touch with reality, but said as well he was not an expert on the "interrelationships between mental illness and the polygraph."
Above: Chief Justice Earl Warren, on one of his yearly fishing trips. This photo proves Warren was not afraid of catching big fish--as long as they were actually fish.
On 7-22-64, 8 months after the assassination of President Kennedy, the Commission formed to investigate his death finally takes the testimony of some of the closest witnesses to his murder.
This testimony, as one might guess, is largely perfunctory. Commission Counsel Wesley Liebeler, primarily tasked with establishing Oswald's motive, has at the last minute been tasked with scratching some names off a list of witnesses who should have been called to testify, but, as of yet, have not. It's to no real end, mind you, as the chapters in the report which could have been informed by the testimony of these witnesses have already been completed and approved by the commission.
Phil Willis, who'd observed the shooting from the south side of Elm Street back near the corner of Houston and Elm, took a photograph during the shooting, which has since been used by the commission. It only seems appropriate, then, that he be called as a witness. (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H492-497) “my next shot was taken at the very—in fact the shot caused me to squeeze the camera shutter, and I got a picture of the President as he was hit with the first shot. So instantaneous, in fact, that the crowd hadn’t had time to react…I proceeded down the street and didn’t take any other pictures instantly, because the three shots were fired approximately two seconds apart, and I knew my little daughters were running alongside the Presidential car, and I was immediately concerned about them, and I was screaming for them to come back, and they didn’t hear me.”
Willis' 12 year-old daughter was also a witness.
Linda Willis (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H498-499) (When asked if she heard shots) “Yes; I heard one. Then there was a little bit of time, and then there were two real fast bullets together. When the first one hit, well, the President turned from waving to the people, and he grabbed his throat, and he kind of slumped forward, and then I couldn't tell where the second shot went… I was right across from the sign that points to where Stemmons Freeway is. I was directly across when the first shot hit him…I heard the first shot come and then he slumped forward, and then I couldn’t tell where the second shot went, and then the third one, and that was the last one that hit him in the head. No; when the first shot rang out, I thought, well, it's probably fireworks, because everybody is glad the President is in town. Then I realized it was too loud and too close to be fireworks, and then when I saw, when I realized that the President was falling over, I knew he had been hit.” Last two shots bunched together with the last shot head shot.
James Altgens, a photographer for the Associated Press, famously took a photo of the President after the first shot was fired. This, then, has led to their talking to him, or at least Liebeler's talking to him. (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H512-525) “I wasn’t keeping track of the number of pops that took place, but I could vouch for number 1 and I can vouch for the last shot, but I can not tell you how many shots were in between. There was not another shot after the President was struck in the head.” (on the head shot) “up to that time I didn’t know that the President had been shot previously. I still thought up until that time that all I heard was fireworks and that they were giving some sort of celebration to the President by popping these fireworks. It stunned me so at what I saw that I failed to do my duty and make the picture I was hoping to make.”
Emmett Hudson is Dealey Plaza's groundskeeper. Although not a shutterbug himself, he was featured in the background of a Polaroid photo taken by Mary Moorman at the moment of the fatal impact. So it makes sense that he be called. We think it strange, however, that the commission has chosen to talk to Hudson, but has failed to talk to Moorman. (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H558-565) “the first shot rung out and, of course, I didn’t realize it was a shot… when the second one rung out, the motorcade had got further on down Elm…I happened to be looking right at him when that bullet hit him, the second shot…it looked like it hit him somewhere along a little bit behind the ear and a little bit above the ear." (When asked where the car was when he heard the first shot) “I remember it was right along about this light post here.” (indicating the first light post) (When asked if he heard three shots) “Yes, sir.” (When asked if he was sure the second shot hit Kennedy in the head) “Yes, I do believe it was—I know it was.” (When asked what happened during the third shot)“the young fellow that was sitting there with me—standing there with me at the present time, he says “Lay down , Mister, somebody is shooting at the President”…so I just laid down over the ground and resting my arm on the ground and when that third shot rung out and when I was close to the ground—you could tell the shot was coming from above and kind of behind.” (When asked if he’d “heard it come from sort of behind the motorcade and then above?”) “Yes.”
This brings us then, to our star witness.
Abraham Zapruder, a dressmaker, has become quite the celebrity since the murder of the President. His home movie of the shooting--the only movie presumed to show the entire shooting--has been featured in Life magazine, and has been used extensively by the commission. It is bizarre, then, that the commission has failed to question him prior to their finalizing their conclusions regarding the number of shooters, and the identity of the shooter. (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H569-576) “Well, as the car came in line almost...as it reached about--I imagine it was around here--I heard the first shot and I saw the President lean over and grab himself like this (holding his left chest area)…In other words, he was sitting like this and waving and then after the shot he just went like that…Leaning—leaning toward the side of Jacqueline. For a moment I thought it was—you know, like you say, “Oh, he got me,” when you hear a shot…but before I had a chance to organize my mind, I heard a second shot and then I saw his head opened up and the blood and everything came out and I started—I can hardly talk about it. (the witness crying)." (When asked how many shots he heard) “I thought I heard two, it could be three, because to my estimation I thought he was hit on the second—I really don’t know…I heard the second—after the first shot—I saw him leaning over and after the second shot—it’s possible after what I saw, you know, then I started yelling, “They killed him, they killed him.”
Huh. Here is one of the best witnesses to the shooting--a nearby witness watching the shooting through a zoom lens, for chrissakes, and here he is looking through stills taken from his movie of the shooting, and here he tells the commission his impression of the moment of the first shot--"I imagine it was around here"--and here the commission fails to note where his "here" is. Since Zapruder says Kennedy was waving when shot, and says nothing about Kennedy coming from out behind the sign when shot, the clear impression is that he thought Kennedy was hit just after he stopped waving and just before he went behind the sign, between frames 190 and 200 of Zapruder's film. As the commission believes a tree hid Kennedy from the sniper's nest between frames 170 to 210, moreover, and as they've already decided Kennedy was hit while behind the sign in frames 210-225, they, apparently, have no interest in telling the public Zapruder's proposed moment of impact. And so they fail to ask him to mark an exhibit indicating the moment of the first shot on his film, and allow his "here" to slip forever into "where?"
In the subsequent discussion of his famous film and camera, Zapruder makes another interesting statement: “Well, they claimed, they told me it was about 2 frames fast--instead of 16 it was 18 frames and they told me it was about 2 frames fast in the speed and they told me that the time between the 2 rapid shots, as I understand, that was determined--the length of time it took to the second one and that they were very fast and they claim it has proven it could be done by 1 man. You know there was indication there were two?” This statement indicates that someone, probably from the FBI, has been keeping him informed on the FBI’s tests on his camera. Instead of telling him that the speed of his camera calls into doubt that one man could have fired the shots, however, they have told him the opposite, that the tests revealed it could have been done by one man. One can only assume this is a reference to the tests performed in December.
Now, all the witnesses cited above were brought to the attention of the commission via the photographic evidence. But this wasn't true for all the witnesses called by Liebeler in the heat of July. There was one witness, in fact, who should have been among the first witnesses called, back in the cold of February, but strangely, was not.
The FBI had forwarded an interview with this witness to the Commission on 12-23-63, for what's worse, but the Commission had not sought him out for further investigation, or even acknowledged his existence, until a 6-5-64 article in the Dallas Times Herald brought his story to the public’s attention. Even then, however, word on this witness moved slow. Commissioner John McCloy had sent his notes on the drafts of chapters 2 through 5 of the Warren Report to General Counsel J. Lee Rankin on 6-24-64. On page 8 of these notes he had asked a question suggesting that he had never even heard of this witness. He had written: "Who was the person near the overpass who was struck on the cheek?"
James Tague (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H552-558) “I was standing there watching, and really I was watching to try to distinguish the President and his car. About this time I heard what sounded like a firecracker. Well, a very loud firecracker. It certainly didn’t sound like a rifle shot. It was more of a loud cannon-type sound. I looked around to see who was throwing firecrackers or what was going on and I turned my head away from the motorcade and, of course, two more shots.” (When asked if he saw the President hit) “I did not.” (When asked which shot hit him) “maybe the second or third shot, I couldn’t tell you definitely” (When asked if he heard any shots after he was hit) “I believe I did…I believe it was the second shot, so I heard the third shot afterwards." (When asked where he thought the shots came from) “my first impression was that up by the, whatever you call the monument…somebody was throwing firecrackers up there.”
As Tague was hit by a fragment from one of the last two shots, his testimony cuts into Specter and the Commission’s options. If the commission concludes the first shot missed then it has to hold that Tague was injured by a fragment from the head shot, which many might find far-fetched.
And it isn't just the eyewitnesses brought into testify at the last minute who are a bit (okay, more than a bit) problematic for the commission's already-written-in-stone conclusions Oswald acted alone.
The earwitnesses are a bit of a problem too. There were three police officers standing on the corner of Houston and Elm directing traffic at the time of the assassination. The recollections of these officers are thereby of prime interest.
Above: Dallas Police Officer Joe Marshall Smith. His claim he ran into a Secret Service Agent near the grassy knoll within minutes of the shooting is the stuff of nightmares.
Joe Marshall Smith (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H531-539) “Then I heard the shots…I started up toward the Book Depository after I heard the shots, and I didn’t know where the shots came from. I had no idea, because it was such a ricochet." (When asked if he means "echo") "Yes, sir; and this woman came up to me and she was just in hysterics. She told me, “They are shooting the President from the bushes.” So I immediately proceeded up here. (Liebeler asks: "You proceeded up to an area immediately behind the concrete structure here that is described by Elm Street and the street that runs immediately in front of the Texas School Book Depository, is that right?") "I was checking all the bushes and I checked all the cars in the parking lot...I checked all the cars. I looked into all the cars and checked around the bushes. Of course, I wasn't alone. There was some deputy sheriff with me, and I believe one Secret Service man when I got there. I got to make this statement, too. I felt awfully silly, but after the shot and this woman, I pulled my pistol from my holster, and I thought, this is silly, I don't know who I am looking for, and I put it back. Just as I did, he showed me that he was a Secret Service agent...he saw me coming with my pistol and right away he showed me who he was." (When asked if he remembered the identity of this agent) "No, sir; I don't--because then we started checking the cars. In fact, I was checking the bushes, and I went through the cars, and I started over here in this particular section." (Liebeler asks "Down toward the railroad tracks where they go over the triple underpass?") "Yes." (Liebeler then asks "Did you have any basis for believing where the shots came from, or where to look for somebody, other than what the lady told you?") "No, sir; except that maybe it was a power of suggestion. But it sounded to me like they may have came from this vicinity here."
Welcome Eugene Barnett (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H539-544) “I didn’t hear any echo. The whole sound echoed. The sound lingered, but as far as just two definite distinct sounds, when each shot was fired that one sound would linger in the air, but there would be nothing else until the next shot…I was looking at the President when the first shot was fired, and I thought I saw him slump down, but I am not sure, and I didn’t look any more then. I thought he was ducking down….I thought it was a firecracker. But none of the people moved or took any action…And when the second shot was fired it sounded high…I looked up at the building and I saw nothing in the windows. In fact, I couldn't even see any windows at that time...because I was standing too close, was the reason. And I looked back again at the crowd, and the third shot was fired. And I looked up again, and I decided it had to be on top of that building. To me it is the only place the sound could be coming from...I ran to the back of the building." (When asked if this meant running north on Houston Street) "Yes, sir...I didn't get close to it, because I was watching for a fire escape. If the man was on top, he would have to come down, and I was looking for a fire escape, and I didn't pay much attention to the door. I was still watching the top of the building, and so far as I could see, the fire escape on the east side was the only escape down.”
Edgar Smith (7-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H565-569) “I heard three shots. I guess they were shots. I thought that the first two were just firecrackers and kept my position and after the third one, I ran down the street there." (When asked what happened next) "Well, ran down Houston Street and then to Elm, and actually, I guess it was a little bit farther over than this, because after they turned the corner I couldn't see any of the cars, there were so many people standing there around the corner...I was under these windows here." (Warren Commission counsel Wesley Liebeler then points out that he's pointing to the county records building) "Yes; a little bit farther down. Anyhow, I couldn't see down there without running over here, and I run down here at the time to see the Presidential car go under the triple underpass at a high rate of speed, and I pulled my pistol out and there was people laying down there and run down the street and that was about all. I thought when it came to my mind that there were shots, and I was pretty sure there were when I saw his car because they were leaving in such a hurry, I thought they were coming from this area here, and I ran over there and checked back of it and, of course, there wasn't anything there. (When asked to verify that he thought the shot came from a little concrete structure in back of the arcade) "Yes, sir." (When Liebeler points out that this was "Toward the railroad tracks there?") "That's true. (And north?) "Yes...I ran down here...And I ran up to here and I couldn't get over so I went back around then." (Liebeler then clarifies "You went farther down Elm Street and right behind this concrete structure here; is that correct?") "And on back into there." (Liebeler adds "And into the parking area behind the concrete structure there") "Yes, and there's where I stayed for an hour or so and after I got around there, they started checking everybody that was going in and out of the - well, I don't know who they was checking because there was so much milling around, because there was a bunch of county officers back there plus the policemen."
So...yikes. Two of the three police officers standing in front of the depository at the time of the shooting thought the shots on the motorcade were fired from the train yards, and ran immediately to the train yards. And not only that, but one of these police officers, Joe Smith, ran into a supposed Secret Service agent in these train yards
Only, guess what???? NO Service Agents were in the train yards at the time.
Well, hell, this echoes what Sgt. D.V. Harkness told the commission on 4-9-64--that he came across two men at the back of the school book depository ten minutes or so after the shooting, and that these men had ID'ed themselves as Secret Service agents.
So WHO were these men ID'ing themselves as Secret Service agents in the immediate aftermath of the shooting...when NO Secret Service agents were in the vicinity?
A 7-24-64 FBI report on Mrs. Clotile Williams is also revealing, and concerning. Mrs. Williams is a previously undiscovered eyewitness to the assassination. The bulk of the report is not on Mrs. Williams’ recollections, however, nor on the names of her co-workers in the building across from the school book depository, who may have seen something. The report’s focus, instead, is on trying to establish the identities of two independent researchers who contacted Mrs. Williams after someone recognized her in one of the photos of the motorcade. The investigating agent goes as far as taking a detailed description of these researchers from Mrs. Williams’ neighbor. The FBI, of course, has not found the time to interview either of the motorcycle officers to Kennedy’s right, nor have they found the time to interview Abraham Zapruder’s secretary. They have, in short, spent more time trying to identify people who have tried to talk to witnesses, than on identifying reluctant witnesses. And that's just bizarre.
Elsewhere, on 7-24-64 the Warren Commission engages the Marine Corps in a little self-protection. To counter Lt. Col. Folsom’s description of Oswald’s marksmanship as “poor,” they take the testimony of Major Eugene D. Anderson, an assistant head of the Marksmanship branch of the Marines, and Master Sergeant James Zahm, an NCO of Marksmanship Training. Arlen Specter takes their testimony. After being shown Oswald's test scores, Anderson offers an explanation for Oswald's lowly score in 1959, shortly before he left the Marines: "It may well have been a bad day for firing a rifle, windy, rainy, dark. There is little probability that he had a good, expert coach. and he probably didn't have as high a motivation because he was no longer in recruit training and under the care of the drill instructor. There is some possibility that the rifle he was firing might not have been as good a rifle as the rifle he was firing in his A course firing. because he may well have carried this rifle around for some time, and it got banged around in normal usage." Anderson summarizes Oswald's abilities as follows: "I would say that as compared to other Marines receiving the same kind of training, that Oswald was a good shot, somewhat better than or equal to--better than average let us say. As compared to a civilian who had not received this intensive training, he would be considered as a good to excellent shot." Specter then shows Anderson frames from the Zapruder film and asks him if hitting Kennedy from the distances determined at the re-enactment would be within Oswald's capabilities, and Anderson repeatedly says the shots were within Oswald's capabilities. He then asks him if Oswald could fire three shots in a time span between 4.8 and 5.6 seconds, and Anderson once again replies in the affirmative. Specter fails to ask Anderson the more pertinent question if Oswald could be expected to hit the 2 "not particularly difficult" shots within a 4.8-5.6 second time span while firing at a moving target with a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Perhaps he already knew the answer. After finishing with Anderson, Specter makes a point of asking Zahm about Oswald’s ability “based on the tests.” This avoids that the most recent test was 4 years before the shooting and that Oswald had failed to keep in practice. Zahm tells Specter what he undoubtedly wants to hear: “I would say in the Marine Corps he is a good shot, slightly above average, and as compared to the average male of his age throughout the civilian, throughout the United States, that he is an excellent shot.” Clearly, this is the new company line.
Commissioner Dulles was especially receptive to this line. A letter from Dulles to Rankin on 7-27-64, available on the Princeton University website, asks "Where have we dealt with the evidence as to Oswald's ability to handle a rifle?" This confirms that Rankin and his men had held off writing anything about Oswald's shooting ability, until after they could get "friendly" witnesses, such as Major Anderson and Master Sergeant Zahm, on the record.
In this attempt they were not particularly concerned with the truth. Only hinted at in the testimony of Anderson and Zahm is the strange fact that the Commission has already concluded that Oswald, who'd received no training whatsoever on firing at moving targets, firing from elevation, firing with a telescopic site, or even firing a bolt-action rifle, was able to rapid-fire a bolt-action rifle equipped with a telescopic site and hit a moving target from elevation two out of three times without one lick of practice. This is like a man with a driver's license--who hasn't driven a car in several years--getting behind the wheel of a dragster and winning a championship race. Also unmentioned in the testimony is that there was a stack of boxes found in the sniper's nest, and that the commission had presumed these boxes were used as a rifle rest by a sniper shooting Kennedy. The use of such a prop is not taught in the Marines. Instead, Marines like Oswald are taught to fire from a standing, kneeling, or prone position, with the rifle at a 45 degree angle to the body, and to track moving objects, such as a car, by moving the site along the path of the target, even after firing. The use of a "rifle rest", then, precludes such a tactic, and suggests that, instead, the shooter waited for the target to cross a pre-selected point. So, yes, as hard as it may be to believe, Oswald's Marine Corps training was at odds with the tactics used by Kennedy's assassin, and actually provided strong reason to doubt Oswald was this assassin. This should have been brought out in testimony...and almost certainly would have should Oswald have been provided a defense.
On 7-27-64 General Counsel Rankin receives yet another correspondence relating to Oswald’s marksmanship abilities, this one from J. Edgar Hoover. Someone at the Commission recalled the claim in the December 6 issue of Life Magazine that Oswald’s purported shots had been duplicated by someone at the NRA, and asked the FBI to look into it. The FBI report forwarded by Hoover is quite damaging to Life’s credibility. While Life claimed the shooter was an official of the NRA, it turned out the shooter had merely been recommended by the NRA. The shooter, Clayton Wheat, moreover, admitted that he’d had 8 or 9 practice shots and had used a 7.35mm Carcano in his tests, not the 6.5 mm Carcano purportedly used by Oswald. He also acknowledged that he’d fired on a moving deer target traveling slowly, 3-5 mph, right to left over 33 feet, and not at a human head and shoulders-sized target traveling 12 mph away on an angle over a distance of 100 feet or so. He also mentioned that that he’d fired at the target from a distance of 150 feet, from approximately 10 degrees above horizontal, as opposed to firing from a distance of 160-265 feet from approximately 22-16 degrees above horizontal for the purported shots on Kennedy from the sniper’s nest. In short, he didn’t reproduce the shots at all. While Wheat stood by his claim that he’d had three hits in 6.2 seconds on his first try, he admitted as well that he’d missed two shots in his five runs due to poor ammunition, and couldn’t remember the times of the other runs.
Re-appraising Ruby II
Above: a segment of Jack Ruby's 7-18-64 polygraph tape.
On 7-28-64, FBI polygraph examiner Bell Herndon testifies regarding the 7-18 exam he'd administered to Jack Ruby. Arlen Specter takes his testimony. Herndon claims, no surprise, that Ruby showed no signs of lying when answering the key questions. But Herndon admits the examination would be of little value if Ruby was in fact out of touch with reality.
(The accuracy of Herndon's conclusions and testimony remain open to question, however. In August 1977, the HSCA put together a panel of three veteran polygraph examiners and asked them to review Ruby's polygraph examination. This panel was provided the materials for review in March, 1978. They then issued a report in June, 1978. This report was a laundry list of complaints and observations. Among their complaints...
Too much time had passed in between Ruby's shooting of Oswald and his undergoing a polygraph examination regarding the shooting.
Ruby had been interrogated on this subject too many times for his responses to be fresh.
Too many people (8) were present during the questioning.
Too many questions were asked.
Too many relevant questions were asked. (Standard polygraph technique entails asking lots of irrelevant questions and then springing a relevant question out of nowhere to see how the subject responds. Asking relevant question after relevant question kinda defeats the purpose.)
Herndon allowed too much chaos and argument to take place among those in the room.
The questioning took place over 6 1/2 hours. It should have been broken up into two sessions, over two separate days, where the relevant questions were re-asked in the second session for comparison purposes.
No re-examination was performed.
"The polygraph instrument was either improperly adjusted, defective, or both."
The breathing tracing was "particularly poor, either because the sensitivity was maladjusted or possibly because the pneumograph tube was not properly placed on Ruby."
In addition, the galvanic skin response tracing was of little help due to Herndon's setting the sensitivity at 1/4 maximum, and then reducing it to 1/5 maximum--an action that made no sense to the HSCA panel.
Herndon used improper "control" questions. (These are questions to which the subject would be presumed to lie. The response of the subject to these "controls" is then used as a baseline to find other lies.)
Herndon improperly classified a number of relevant questions as irrelevant questions. (This, in effect, raised the bar for what might be considered a lie.)
Herndon assured Ruby on multiple occasions that he was doing very well. (This might very well have calmed Ruby's nerves a bit, and helped him to conceal his lies.)
All this, then, led the HSCA panel to conclude the "examination was probably invalid and unreliable."
But they weren't through. The panel then offered some observations under the premise the examination was in fact valid. This was eye-opening.
First, they admitted: "It appeared to the panel that Ruby was possibly lying when answering 'No' to the question 'Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?'"
The panel then noted that for the four relevant questions asked during the first two parts of Ruby's thirteen-part examination--when he was most likely to offer a valid response--"the panel could not form an opinion that Ruby told the truth when answering 'No" and that "On the contrary, the panel found more indication that Ruby was lying in response to these four questions." These four questions were:
"Did you know Oswald before November 22, 1963?"
"Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?"
"Are you now a member of the Communist Party?"
"Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"
Now, as we've seen, Ruby was concerned "they" were gonna paint him as a commie Jew, who conspired with Oswald to kill the President. It seems possible, then, that these questions upset him, even though he'd never met Oswald, and had never been a Communist.
More telling, then, is the HSCA panel's conclusion Ruby's polygraph was mishandled, and at times misinterpreted. One should wonder if this was by design.
I mean, think about it. Specter and others had long since turned in their preliminary chapters for the commission's report. These all said Oswald did it...by himself. These chapters, moreover, echoed the FBI's report from 8 months prior. So...were the commission and the FBI really gonna let the answers of a condemned man on a polygraph upset their best-laid plans? Were they really gonna roll the dice and see what happened?
Or were they gonna figure out a way to ensure Ruby passed the test, by, say, turning the sensitivity of the machine to 1/5?
On 7-29, President Johnson finally tells Robert Kennedy that he will not be his running mate in the November election, and will not be the next Vice-President of the United States.
Here are some photos of Johnson and RFK in the Oval Office. One can imagine Johnson trying to let Kennedy down easy, by buttering him up on the couch, and telling him he's made a decision to move out from his brother's shadow...
by throwing out his brother's shadow...
One can then imagine Johnson asking RFK if he had any plans...and then walking over to the door with RFK as RFK told him that he had, in fact, been thinking about running for Senator in the upcoming election...
and then running for President in 1968....
Back in the Saddle
On 8-1 Chief Justice Warren returns from his nearly month-long fishing trip.
On 8-4-64 Robert Kennedy finally replies to "Warren's" June 11 letter seeking any information he may have suggesting a possible conspiracy. "His" letter is identical to the draft proposed by Warren Commission Counsel Willens. He has merely signed it. It asserts that he knows of no credible evidence suggesting a conspiracy. It admits, however, that "As you know, I am personally not aware of the detailed results of the extensive investigation in this matter which has been conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have, however, received periodic reports about the work of the Commission from you, Deputy Attorney General Katzenbach, and Mr. Willens of the Department of Justice, who has worked for the Commission for the past several months. Based on these reports, I am confident that every effort is being made by the President's Commission to fulfill the objectives of Executive Order No. 11130 by conducting a thorough investigation into all the facts relating to the assassination."
(It is curious that Kennedy specifies that what little information on the investigation he's received has come purely from Warren, Katzenbach, and Willens. As discussed in Chapter 1, it would later become clear that Warren and Katzenbach had, within a week of the shooting, been strong-armed by President Johnson and FBI Director Hoover into pushing Oswald's sole guilt. As Willens was, in the words of Commissioner McCloy, one of "Katzenbach's boys," moreover, this suggests that Kennedy was not, at this time, in touch with anyone who would keep him informed regarding evidence for a possible conspiracy.)
A Brief Discussion of Kennedy's letter and Willens
FWIW, It seems clear Howard Willens has read the previous passage. On 11-8-2014, on his website HowardWillens.com, Willens responded to some unnamed commentators. He wrote:
"Some commentators have found it “curious,” if not “suspicious,” that the Attorney General did not send his letter back to the Warren Commission until August 4, 1964 – some seven weeks after he received Warren’s letter. They obviously had not read the following discussion of this issue at page 192 of my book:
“I met with Katzenbach on June 17 to follow up on Mrs. Kennedy’s testimony and the attorney general’s response to Warren’s letter. I told him: ‘I would prefer that the letter not be answered immediately.’ By way of explanation, I mentioned that ‘I expected there would be a considerable difference of views between the Chief Justice and the staff regarding the quality of the report.’ If this situation developed, I told Katzenbach, ‘I intended to fight for a report I considered satisfactory, and indicated that a delay in sending this letter would bolster my position.’ Katzenbach said that he would hold the letter while the attorney general was in Europe from June 23 to June 30.
I had no reason at the time to believe that Warren (or the other members of the commission) might try to limit the investigation or shape its conclusions in a way that would be unacceptable to me or other members of the staff. I may have been thinking of our difficulties with the Treasury Department on presidential protection issues. But I was obviously anticipating the worst, and being able to employ the persuasive force of the Justice Department and Robert Kennedy, if necessary, was a precautionary step that seemed appropriate at the time.”
I never spoke with Katzenbach again about Robert Kennedy’s response to the Warren Commission. I do not know the circumstances under which the letter was presented to him for signature on August 4. I do know that this was an incredibly busy (and tense) time at the Justice Department as the Attorney General considered his political future, which led to his resignation from the Department in early September."
It's quite revealing, IMO, that Willens rebuts the possibility Robert Kennedy was resistant to signing a statement to the Warren Commission by admitting he himself had doubts about the thoroughness of the Commission's investigation and report, and delayed Kennedy's signing a statement in order to gain leverage over his superiors on the Commission.
The Roberts Decision
We're back in 1964. Assistant Warren Commission General Counsel Norman Redlich, while re-writing the commission's report, has spotted that the FBI's 6-15 investigation into Earlene Roberts' testimony, in which she said she saw patrol car 107 outside Oswald's rooming house just after he walked in on 11-22-63, was non-responsive, and failed to even mention patrol car 107. Well, surprise surprise, this has led him to do something approaching the right thing and ask the Dallas Police for some guidance on this issue.
He receives his response on 8-4-64, in the form of a letter from Dallas Assistant Chief-of-Police Charles Batchelor. This letter, entered into evidence as CE 2045, asserts that car 107, much as car 170, had been repainted, and sold, prior to the assassination, and that this number was not an active number on 11-22-63.
Well, this frees Redlich up to polish off this issue...at least in the report...
Let's take a peek, then, and see how Redlich handles this tangled mess in Chapter 6 of the Commission's report...
"The possibility that accomplices aided Oswald in connection with his escape was suggested by the testimony of Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper at the 1026 North Beckley roominghouse.88 She testified that at about 1 p.m. on November 22, after Oswald had returned to the roominghouse, a Dallas police car drove slowly by the front of the 1026 North Beckley premises and stopped momentarily; she said she heard its horn several times. 89 Mrs. Roberts stated that the occupants of the car were not known to her even though she had worked for some policemen who would occasionally come by.90 She said the policeman she knew drove car No. 170 and that this was not the number on the police car that honked on November 22. She testified that she first thought the car she saw was No. 106 and then said that it was No. 107.91 In an FBI interview she had stated that she looked out the front window and saw police car No. 207. 92"
(Now let's jump in here and note that this section is presumed to have been written by Joseph Ball, who would later boast of his prowess in minimizing the testimony of problematic women. The wording of this passage makes it sound like Roberts just forgot what she'd said the moment before, when she was fully aware when she said "107" that she'd previously said "106," and was actually correcting her testimony. The next line is even more manipulative. The commission had previously ignored the exact wording of many an FBI report, and had tended to accept the testimony of its witnesses (e.g. Charles Givens) over the exact wording of the FBI's reports, and yet here the commission not only accepted that Roberts had probably told the FBI "207" and not "107," but stated, as fact, that she had said as much--when they knew full well the FBI's reports were typed up by a steno pool from hand-written notes and that mistakes of this nature were commonplace.)
The report continues:
"Investigation has not produced any evidence that there was a police vehicle in the area of 1026 North Beckley at about 1 p.m. on November 22.93 Squad car 207 was at the Texas School Book Depository Building, as was car 106. Squad cars 170 and 107 were sold in April 1963 and their numbers were not reassigned until February 1964.94
Whatever may be the accuracy of Mrs. Roberts' recollection concerning the police car, it is apparent from Mrs. Roberts' further testimony that she did not see Oswald enter a car when he hurriedly left the house. She has stated that when she last saw Oswald, shortly after 1 p.m., he was standing at a bus stop in front of the house.95 Oswald was next seen less than 1 mile away, at the point where he shot Patrolman Tippit. Oswald could have easily reached this point on foot by about 1:16 p.m., when Tippit was shot. Finally, investigation has produced no evidence that Oswald had prearranged plans for a means to leave Dallas after the assassination or that any other person was to have provided him assistance in hiding or in departing the city."
Well this would be hilarious if it wasn't so sickening. The Commission has just implied Roberts is a blithering idiot--and that her recollection of seeing a police car outside her home after Oswald's arrival was nonsense. And yet, they turned around and trusted this idiot's eyesight regarding Oswald's departure from her home, and her recollection of the time of his departure..
Now, the most surprising thing about all this rigamarole--207 (which could have been outside Oswald's address should someone have moved it from the depository) vs. 106 (which could have been outside Oswald's address should Jones and Hall have not shown up at the depository), or even 107 (Roberts' ultimate choice)--is that it's quite possibly a distraction...as the real number was--most probably--10.
Think about it. Roberts was expecting to see a 1-7-0 and instead saw what she later testified was a 1-0-6, and then, correcting herself, a 1-0-7. Now, I don't know about you but I read from left to right, and would probably lose interest once I realized the 1-7 I expected to see was a 1-0, and not pay much attention to the last number, or even if there was another number.
Now, should one assume the FBI was correct and that she initially said the number was 207, well, a similar logic applies. She looked at the car expecting to see 1-7-0, and then remembered, a week later, that the number was close but no cigar. She then told the FBI something like "the number was close but no cigar, something like 107, or was it 207" and the FBI conducting this interview wrote down she said it was 207.
So, yeah, whether she said 207 or 107 or even 106, it' seems probable the car she saw was Officer Tippit's patrol car...number 10.
Here's an analogy. Your friend says he was at a party a week ago, and that he saw your ex-wife with a man introduced to him as John Roberts, and you call around and find out there was no John Roberts at the party, but that there was a guy named Bob Roberts, who may or may not have been with your ex. Well, do you then assume your friend was lying--and that your ex was not with anyone at the party--or do you assume your friend was simply mistaken about the first name of the guy he'd been introduced to at the party?
The latter, right? IT"S SIMPLE EVERYDAY LOGIC. And yet the Warren Commission, supposedly some of the wisest men on the planet, has signed off on a report in which Earlene Roberts' recollection of seeing a police car outside her home has been pretty much written off due to her (supposedly) not precisely recalling the number of this car.
Well, this is misogynistic bullshit of the highest order.
But this bullshit has had an unforeseen side effect, that has leaked into the ground and poisoned the aquifer... Yes, in their zeal to discredit Roberts, the commission has inadvertently poisoned Tippit.
Let's think some more. IF no patrol car other than Tippit's was in the area, well, then, that suggests the car observed by Roberts was Tippit's patrol car, and not that Roberts was a crackpot who failed to actually see a patrol car. I mean, that's just common sense (which we can all agree at times is most uncommon).
Well, this raises another possibility--one the commission should have investigated thoroughly, but did not because it was too busy looking for ways to discredit Roberts and other inconvenient witnesses---the possibility someone was in the car with Tippit, and that the two of them, for whatever reason, had driven past Oswald's rooming house and honked patrol car 10's horn.
And this, mind you, before Oswald had been identified as a suspect in the President's assassination!
Above: a map of the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, and the presumed locations of Lee Harvey Oswald and J.D. Tippit on the afternoon of 11-22-63.
(While the curious case of the honking patrol car has never been resolved, it has only gotten more annoying for those insisting the patrol car observed by Roberts could not have been Tippit's. You see, subsequent to the Warren Commission's investigation, dozens of investigators on both sides of the conspiracy/no conspiracy divide looked into this on one level or another, and added a few key pieces to the puzzle. The first key piece is that no less than five witnesses saw Tippit sitting in his car at a Gloco gas station on Zangs Blvd. around 12:45 P.M. on 11-22, and that he appeared to be watching traffic as it came across the Trinity River from downtown. Well, this would put him in prime position to see Oswald come into Oak Cliff in William Whaley's cab on the way to his rooming house. But it gets worse. These witnesses said that Tippit suddenly jumped in his car, raced east, and then raced south on Lancaster. Now here's where things get interesting. At 12:54 the police dispatcher asked Tippit his location and he said he was at Lancaster and Eighth. This was a bit southeast of Oswald's rooming house. Now, at 1:00 or so, after having Whaley drop him off a few blocks past his rooming house, Oswald arrived back at his rooming house. Within moments of his arrival, moreover, a police car driven by two police officers was heard and observed out on the street outside his window. Perhaps, then, Tippit raced down Lancaster to pick someone up. Or perhaps Oswald's housekeeper Earlene Roberts was simply mistaken about seeing a second officer in the car, and Tippit instead raced past Oswald's rooming house, only to double back in hopes of catching Oswald as he crossed the street to his rooming house. Now here's the second key piece. Tippit was next seen around 1:05, at the Top Ten Record Shop south of Oswald's rooming house, making a brief phone call, but not actually talking to anyone. It could be, then, that he raced down to the Top Ten Record Shop, where he could make a private phone call, and that he called up someone who then gave him a short order. In any event, he was next seen stopping someone--presumably Oswald--as he walked down 10th street, and getting out of his car to talk to this someone--who then shot him dead...)
Above: Mark Lane, at one of his many public speeches/presentations, in which he tried to provide a counter-narrative to what the public was being told about the assassination by the mainstream media, and its frequently unreliable "government sources."
On 8-4-64, 8-21-64, and 9-10-64, the FBI creates reports on the “Mark Lane Security Matter” and forwards them to the Warren Commission. While ostensibly an investigation of communist involvement in Lane’s Citizen’s Committee of Inquiry, which he’d formed to unveil the truth about the assassination, these reports are really designed to feed the Commission what its critics are saying, so that the Commission can counter these arguments in their final report. (Indeed, many of Lane’s questions would be answered by the report.) There are unnerving elements to these FBI reports however. The 8-4 report details a number of Lane’s speeches, and cites ten separate confidential sources, the 8-21 report includes a complete transcript of Lane’s appearance on a radio show, and the 9-10 report details more of Lane’s speeches, and cites twelve confidential sources. This raises a few questions: Where was all this manpower when it came time to identify the unidentified witnesses in the photographs of the shooting? Where was all this manpower when it came time to interview the witnesses who were known to the media, or mentioned in the early reports of the Dallas Police? Where was all this manpower when it came to accurately simulate the conditions in Dallas, to see if Oswald could actually have performed his purported feat? Furthermore, where was all this manpower when it came time to review the autopsy report? Study Kennedy’s wounds? Study the reactions of the human body to gunshot wounds, and see if the exact moments of impact could actually be identified in the Zapruder film? And finally, where was all this manpower when it came time to match the eyewitness testimony to the proposed shooting scenario? Spying on Oswald’s mother? Watching Mark Lane?