Chapter 3: Looking through Arlen Specter's Eyes
The beginning of our look at the Warren Commission's investigation and analysis of the evidence, to determine whether their ultimate conclusions were correct, or just politically expedient.
Above: the Warren Commission's staff (minus most of its senior counsel). From L to R. Stuart Pollak, Alfred Goldberg, Arlen Specter, Norman Redlich, Wesley Liebeler, J. Lee Rankin, David Slawson, Samuel Stern, Howard Willens, Albert Jenner, David Belin, John Hart Ely, Burt Griffin.
It is now late-January. The Warren Commission's staff has trickled in from throughout the country and quietly begun their work, which at this point entails reading through the many reports on the assassination previously written by the FBI, Secret Service, and CIA. Howard Willens--an employee of the Justice Department--is serving as General Counsel Rankin's administrative assistant and link to other government agencies. While Chief Justice Warren has had input into the selection of Rankin, and the senior staff, Willens is largely responsible for the selection of the commission's junior staff, and the assignment of their duties. He has divided the staff into pairs of senior and junior counsel, and assigned these pairs specific areas of investigation.
These areas were not decided upon by Willens, moreover, but by General Counsel Rankin. As outlined in a 1-2-64 memo to the commissioners, the six areas of investigation selected by Rankin are: "(1) Assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963; (2) Lee Harvey Oswald as the Assassin of President Kennedy; (3) Lee Harvey Oswald: Background and Possible Motive; (4) Oswald Foreign Activity (Military Excluded); (5) Murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack L. Ruby; and (6) Security Precautions to Protect the President."
Wow. It seems clear from this that Rankin, without performing a second of independent investigation, has already decided the outcome of the commission's supposedly independent investigation. I mean, why else would he propose ahead of time that the commission devote half its resources to researching Oswald's life and death? If the investigation were truly independent, and not a rubber stamp, wouldn't the commission devote all its resources trying to establish the identity of Kennedy's assassin, and only research Oswald's background once the commission was convinced, by the evidence, not the FBI, or its leaks to the media, of Oswald's guilt?
In any event, here are the areas of investigation along with the lawyers assigned to these areas.
Area 1: Francis Adams and Arlen Specter are charged with establishing the "basic facts of the assassination." (It's notable that Specter is an old college chum of Willens', whose loyalty to the commission would later be called into question by commissioner John McCloy.)
Area 2: Joseph Ball and David Belin are charged with establishing the "identity of the assassin." (Assassin...singular...well, guess who that is...)
Area 3: Albert Jenner and J. Wesley Liebeler are charged with establishing "Oswald's background." (Researcher Tom Scully would later research Jenner's own background, and come to conclude he'd had significant ties to organized crime.)
Area 4: William Coleman and W. David Slawson are charged with investigating "possible conspiratorial relationships." They are thus tasked with investigating Oswald's actions in Russia and Mexico.
Area 5: Leon Hubert and Burt Griffin are charged with investigating "Oswald's death," and establishing both whether Ruby knew Oswald, and if Ruby had help in killing Oswald.
Area 6: Samuel Stern is charged with researching the history of Presidential protection, so that the commission could make appropriate recommendations.
Norman Redlich is charged with supervising the investigations of all these areas, and with the subsequent writing of their report. His assistant--the man directly overseeing much of the investigation--is Melvin Eisenberg.
(It is rarely, if ever, noted, that this alignment gave Warren additional control over the direction of the commission's investigation. The over-all investigation, the "identity of the assassin," and"Oswald's background," were all controlled by men (Rankin, Ball, and Jenner) with a prior working relationship with Warren, who had been hand-picked by Warren in 1958 to serve on the Judicial Conference of the United States, an advisory panel created to give suggestions to Warren and the Supreme Court regarding changes of Federal Rules of Procedure.)
The Vanishing Act
On 1-23 we see a “Statement of Objectives,” a memo written by Arlen Specter to General Counsel J. Lee Rankin of the Warren Commission. This memo spells out which aspects of the case Area 1 Junior Counsel Specter and Senior Counsel Francis Adams hope to clear up, and how they plan on clearing them up. Among their objectives (with my comments in parentheses):
g) There would seem to be considerable amount of confusion as to the actual path of the bullets which hit President Kennedy, particularly the one which hit the right side of the back. (It would eventually be decided that the Warren Report should refer to this wound as a wound at the base of the neck or a neck wound, and not as a back wound, even though Specter knew for a fact it was a back wound.)
i) Consideration should be given to taking the sworn testimony of the bystander witnesses. (Very few bystanders not already questioned by the FBI by 12-9 were identified and interviewed for the Warren Commission, and many of those who were contacted were not asked to describe what they’d witnessed. Even worse, very few of those interviewed by the FBI by 12-9 were asked to testify under oath before the commission, even though a number of those who were asked to testify disputed the FBI's reports on their earlier statements.)
m) Consideration should be given to obtaining the camera to determine if the speed of the vehicle can be ascertained and the timing between shots from a review of the film. (The speed of the camera and therefore the vehicle had been determined by the FBI more than a month before this memo was written. Perhaps this is an indication that, as late as 1-23-64, the FBI was still withholding important information from the Warren Commission.)
n) The FBI should obtain statements from certain bystanders, identified in prior reports, who have not been interviewed. (This was done selectively. Key witnesses such as James Chaney--the motorcycle officer riding in the motorcade off Kennedy's right shoulder--and Marilyn Sitzman--Abraham Zapruder's secretary--were never interviewed for the commission.)
o) Newspaper reports of November 22nd through the next few days should be reviewed to consider questions in the public mind and to determine whether there is any competent evidentiary basis for allegations of fact which differ from the FBI or Secret Service reports. (The numerous reports of shots fired after the head shot and shots fired closely together were largely ignored by the Commission.)
p) Obtain expert opinions from medical personnel and professionals in weaponry field to explain the path pf the bullet in President Kennedy’s body. (It was decided that the military doctors who’d performed Kennedy’s autopsy would serve as the Warren Commission’s medical experts as well. Curiously, the wound ballistics experts who served as advisers to the commission were also all affiliated with the military. A truly independent investigation would have contacted civilian experts as well as military experts.)
q) Obtain the transcript of the television interview by the doctors at Parkland Hospital on the evening of November 22nd. (This was not done.)
Adams and Specter are not the only two writing such a memo, of course. The lawyers representing each area of the commission's investigation have written such a memo. The Area 2 team of Joseph Ball and David Belin have written a similar memo to Rankin entitled "Outline of objectives and problems of area of study of Messr.s Joseph A. Ball and David W. Belin: the determination of who was the assassin of President Kennedy." This is pretty much an outline reflecting the evidence against Oswald. Under the subject heading of "The Whole Bullet Found," however, there is a question that Ball and Belin presumably plan on answering. They write "What about the trajectory of the bullet in the angle of striking--point of exit appears higher than point of entry."
The significance of this becomes apparent a few days later. During the 1-27 Executive Session of the Commission, General Counsel J. Lee Rankin brings up a serious problem with the medical evidence: a "picture" created at the autopsy has the back wound entrance lower than the throat wound exit, when the Zapruder film shows Kennedy sitting up in his seat when first hit, and the bullet is believed to have come from sharply upwards of the President, from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository. Rankin concludes his discussion of the problem by informing the commission he will be seeking "help" from the doctors. (Much more on this later.)
The next day a new witness is brought forward. F. Lee Mudd (1-28-64 FBI report, 24H538) “he was watching the parade from a position on the north side of Elm Street and some 75 to 100 feet west of a building, which he later learned was the Texas School Book Depository. He saw the president’s car approaching from the east on Elm Street in the parade, and he recognized President Kennedy and saw him waving to the crowd. When the President’s car was some 50 feet or more away from him, he heard what sounded to him like two gunshots, and he saw the President slump. Immediately thereafter, he observed the President’s car pull out of the line of the parade and continue west on Elm Street toward the underpass. When the President’s car came abreast of Mudd, he could see the President slumped down toward his wife, who was leaning over him…Mr. Mudd stated he definitely recalls hearing two shots probably less than a second apart…he said there may have been a third shot fired, but he could not be sure of this. He stated that immediately after the shots were fired, some of the spectators along the side of the street dropped to the ground, and he did so himself.” Double head shot.
Meanwhile, back in Dallas, the trial of Oswald's assailant, Jack Ruby, comes up on the horizon. His lawyers hoped to avoid a trial by claiming he 'd been temporarily insane when he killed Oswald in front of a national television audience. But this was Texas. No such luck.
Above: Jack Ruby after undergoing a psychiatric examination on 1-28-64.
On 1-27 and 1-28, FBI Exhibits Chief Leo Gauthier watches the Zapruder and Nix films with representatives of the Commission, along with Thomas Kelley of the Secret Service. On 1-28-64, he writes another memo to his superior Nicholas Callahan, and informs him that, while the Warren Commission's staff are in basic agreement with the location of the FBI and Secret Service's proposed first shot, they agree with neither the FBI nor Secret Service's determination as to the moment of the second shot's impact (which are "13 frames" apart). He then notes that they have "individual views concerning where Connally was shot" (with what they presume to have been the second bullet), and that they feel "this may have occurred between frames 56 thru 73."
Well, heck, this translates to frames 280 to 297, which puts this shot far too close to the fatal head shot at frame 313 to have been fired from the presumed assassination rifle. So...were they thinking there was a second shooter? Nope. Gauthier then notes that that the staff will not make a decision regarding the location of the limo at the time of the second shot until they "obtain a layman's report of the medical account describing the Governor's wounds in order that the turning action of the Governor as viewed in the movie can be used to more nearly fix the position he was in at the time the bullet struck him in the back."
Yep, you read that right. The staff has already made up their minds that the shot came from the school book depository, and are waiting to figure out the moment in which Connally's wounds best align with a shot from the depository, before declaring that to be the moment he was shot. Well, hell. This is not an investigation. This is a textbook case of reverse engineering.
The next paragraph in Gauthier's report is also intriguing. He writes: "One staff member, according to Inspector Kelley, quietly spoke about the 'outside' possibility of shot one going through the President with sufficient velocity remaining to penetrate Connally's body, wrist, and leg. Inspector Kelley mentioned this to me confidentially. He was of the opinion that this was a personal remark made on the spur of the moment. Shot two under those ridiculous facts would have gone completely 'wild' according to Kelley." Thus, the single-bullet theory is already on somebody's mind, and is being ridiculed by the FBI. This confirms that, despite the FBI's knowledge of the wounding of bystander James Tague by a stray bullet or bullet fragment, neither the Secret Service nor FBI have seriously considered that one of the shots missed, and thus that one of the other shots must have struck both men. Some investigation.
Gauthier's discussion of the third shot is even more intriguing. Here he acknowledges that the FBI and Secret Service "approximations" for the head shot location "differ between one second (18 frames) and 1.5 seconds (29 frames). Staff members are endeavoring to pinpoint the third shot (frame 89) on the Parkway. The Nix film of the third shot clearly locates Zapruder across the roadway. An approximation which occurs 1.2 seconds before the FBI's approximation is being considered as a tentative location for shot three as re-enacted on the scale model again with a minus or plus factor of 1/3 second (6 feet) either direction. Attorney Norman Redlich asked Secret Service to determine from Orville Nix the exact position at the time he made the movies especially whether he was moving at the time he photographed the Presidential car."
This is beyond bizarre. Gauthier admits that the head shot is at frame 89--which one can only assume means frame 313, 89 frames after Kennedy came out from behind the sign at frame 224--and yet finds nothing strange about his earlier "approximation" of the clear moment of impact being 29 frames off the Secret Service's "approximation" of the clear moment of impact, and at least 1.2 seconds (or 22 frames) past the new "tentative location" for the clear moment of impact. Perhaps he was banking that no one reading this report would ever see the Zapruder film, and thus know how impossible it would be for the Secret Service and FBI to so widely disagree on the location of the head shot in the film. Perhaps, then, he was trying to cover up his previous ineptitude. (This memo can be found in FBI File 62-109090, sec. 2, p. 248-250).
There is, of course, a more logical alternative, one previously discussed. This holds that both the FBI and Secret Service deliberately misrepresented the location of the head shot as part of an attempt to stretch out their proposed shooting scenarios and make Oswald's purported feat more believable. Under this theory, their "different" interpretations of the head shot location were just cover to hide that they knew where it was all along, and knew its proximity to the locations of the earlier shots was inconsistent with the premise that Oswald acted alone.
A 1-28 memo to FBI Crime Lab Chief Ivan Conrad on this same meeting with the Warren Commission offers another unadulterated view into the soul of the FBI. (FBI File 62-109090, sec. 2, p. 246) Here, Agent W.D. Griffith presents the perspective of the FBI's photographic expert Lyndal Shaneyfelt, who also attended the meeting, and notes that the Commission representatives "asked whether or not an examination of the Nix camera and film could establish similar distances and car speeds, as well as the location of the Nix camera during the filming which has not been determined." Griffith then notes "It is not clear just what the accurate determination of the speed of the car will contribute to the case, since it is known that the car was traveling relatively slowly; however, Commission representatives have requested that this be established as accurately as possible. SA Shaneyfelt stated that this could be done based on an examination of the films and cameras involved, accompanied by a survey of the actual site in Dallas. They requested that the FBI obtain the Nix camera and make the study of the Nix and Zapruder films as set out above."
This reveals that, amazingly, there seems to be no appreciation by those overseeing the FBI's investigation that the speed of the camera and the limousine can be used to establish the precise timing of the shots, and thus whether or not Oswald's purported shooting feat was even possible. Underlining the incredible apathy and/or malevolence of the FBI, as evidenced by their inability or refusal to accurately place the location of the shots, is a note added to the bottom of this memo by the man himself, J. Edgar Hoover. He writes: "It sounds like a lot of poppycock to me."
On 6-4-64, Shaneyfelt, would be asked to testify about these sessions, and his subsequent experiences with the Commission and the film.
Mr. Specter. Now, how many occasions were you a participant in an analysis of these various films which you have just described?
Mr. Shaneyfelt. Seven.
Mr. Specter: And when was the first time that you were a participant in such an analysis?
Mr. Shaneyfelt:. On January 27, 1964.
Mr. Specter: And who else has been with you at the time you analyzed those films just stating in a general way without identifying each person present on each of the occasions?
Mr. Shaneyfelt:. On most occasions, Mr. Gauthier of the FBI was present, I was present, Mr. Malley of the FBI was present. Inspector Kelley from Secret Service, and Mr. John Howlett from Secret Service. Representatives of the Commission were always present--normally Mr. Redlich, Mr. Specter, or Mr. Eisenberg were present. On several occasions Mr. Ball and Mr. Belin were present. Mr. Rankin was present on some. I believe Mr. McCloy was present on one. Various representatives of the Commission were present.
Mr. Specter. And how long did those sessions ordinarily last?
Mr. Shaneyfelt: They would normally last most of the day, about all day.
Mr. Specter. And what would be done during the course of those analytical sessions?
Mr. Shaneyfelt. In each case we would take the film and run it through regular speed, slow motion, we would stop it on individual frames and study it frame by frame, trying to see in the photographs anything that would give any indication of a shot hitting its mark, a reaction of the President, a reaction of Mr. Connally or Mrs. Connally, reaction of the Secret Service agents, reaction of people in the crowd, relating it to all the facts that we felt were important. When we obtained the slides from Life magazine, we went through those very thoroughly, because they gave so much more detail and were so much clearer and analyzed again all these things about the reaction of the President and Mr. Connally, trying to ascertain where he was reacting--whether either one was reacting to being hit. Of course the only shot that is readily apparent in any of the films, and it appears in the Zapruder, the Nix, and the Muchmore film, is the shot that hit the President in the head.
Mr. Specter. Why do you say that is readily apparent?
Mr. Shaneyfelt. Because on the film there is practically an explosion of his head and this is obviously the shot that hit the President in the head. It is very apparent from the photograph.
Caught in the Act
On 1-29-64, finally, this all comes to a head, so to speak. A memo from the FBI's Alex Rosen, who oversaw the FBI's criminal investigation of the assassination, with Assistant Director Alan Belmont, once again reveals more than the FBI could possibly have wanted to reveal. Here it is:
Now our pretend person discovering all this in 1964 finds this quite disturbing. The FBI has grossly misrepresented the location of Kennedy's fatal head shot to the Warren Commission, and the Commission's staff, in the person of Melvin Eisenberg, has let them know he is on to them. But heck, Eisenberg can't exactly come out and say, "Hey, you screwed-up!," now can he? So he claims instead that it's not a matter of questioning the FBI's measurements, etc, but that it's simply that the Zapruder and Nix films can't be reconciled, etc, and that he would really like it if the FBI spoke to Nix and double-checked his location when he was filming and the speed of his camera, etc.
Well, this, my friends, is politics. Eisenberg has the FBI in a corner but he knows he can't win if they decide to fight back, so he offers them an out: go talk to Nix, please, because then we can pretend the re-assessment we are about to perform on the location of Kennedy when he received his fatal head wound is because we've received new information, and not because the FBI is incompetent. Or worse.
In any event, Hoover smells what Eisenberg is up to and signs off on the FBI's talking to Nix with a classic Hoover bitch/whine: "O.K., but it looks to me as if they are playing games."
(Now here's a quick aside. The FBI memo above comes from the FBI's Warren Commission Liaison File, 62-109090, sec. 2, p. 251-252. The FBI also had a JFK HQ file, 62-109060. Well, this memo can also be found in the the JFK HQ file, 62-109060, Sec 44, p 67-68.
Now, here's the end of the second page. See if you notice anything different.
The hand-written message from Hoover has been re-written by someone else. Hmmm... If anyone knows what that's all about, and whose handwriting we're looking at, please let me know...)
On 1-29-64 (later that day) the FBI contacts Orville Nix and establishes the location from which he shot his film. This report notes that Nix was "about 20 feet west of Houston Street on the south side of Main Street" at the moment of the fatal head shot. This fact, which should have been obvious from viewing the film, proves the fatal shot occurred closer to the corner of Houston and Elm and thus closer to the first shot fired than most recently proposed by the FBI and Secret Service.
On 1-30-64, Lyndal Shaneyfelt takes some notes on the Zapruder film that establishes, finally, that the "Third Shot" impacted at frame 313. This obvious conclusion, along with the "new" information regarding the Nix film, assures us that the location of the limo at the time of the head shot will soon be re-appraised.
Also on 1-30-64, one of the Warren Commission counsel responsible for establishing Oswald’s guilt, David Belin, writes a memo regarding Oswald’s intent. He presents three possibilities: “Oswald was shooting at Connally and missed two of the three shots, the two misses striking Kennedy; Oswald was shooting at both Kennedy and Connally and all three shots struck their intended target; Oswald was shooting at Kennedy and the second bullet missed its intended target and hit Connally instead.” A bullet’s missing the limousine was not to be considered. Yet.
On 2-7-64, apparently at the bidding of the FBI, whose earlier depiction of the shots would have to be seen as an embarrassment, surveyor Robert West revises his 12-5-64 plat of Dealey Plaza, and adds a trajectory line corresponding to a bullet strike on Kennedy's position at Z-313. (West would later claim this was done on behalf of the FBI. If so, this means the FBI has finally acknowledged that Kennedy's location at the time of the head shot, which only 2 weeks prior they'd asserted was 307 feet from the sniper's nest, was really 40 feet closer.) Only adding to the mystery surrounding this plat (which West would eventually provide researcher Tom Purvis) is that the name and address on the plat are those of Secret Service Agent John Joe Howlett, who first used West's services during the Secret Service's 11-27-63 re-enactment in Dealey Plaza. (Documents in the possession of Purvis indicate that the plat used in the 11-27 re-enactment was actually commissioned by Time/Life, Inc., and created by West employees G.H. Breneman and Paul Hardin on 11-26-63.) It's hard to know what to make of this. Perhaps the revision of this plat and its shipment to Howlett indicates that, by 2-07-64, the FBI and Secret Service had finally reached some sort of agreement on the shot locations.
Ironically, this only causes more problems for the Warren Commission. As the distance between the second and third shots is now much too small for both shots to have been fired by Oswald, the Warren Commission is forced to either concede there was a second shooter, or re-interpret the location of Connally at the time of the second shot.
On 2-10-64, during the testimony of Oswald's mother, Marguerite, an unexpected gremlin appears. She testifies that Dallas FBI agent "Hart Odum" (she meant Bard Odum) showed her a photo of Jack Ruby on 11-23-63, the day before Ruby killed her son. Well, this is indeed a problem. The commission presumes Ruby and Oswald's were strangers to each other prior to Ruby's sticking his revolver in Oswald's ribs. And the photo shown Mrs. Oswald was a photo taken in Mexico City by a surveillance camera, the location of which is considered "Top Secret." Mrs. Oswald's testimony thereby sparks an investigation into the CIA's surveillance activities in Mexico City, an investigation the agency would really really like to avoid. (1H126-186) (The photo shown Mrs. Oswald would ultimately be published by the commission--to show the world the man in the photo wasn't Ruby. But questions about the photo would linger on for decades, in part because a former Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office official, Hugh McDonald, would in 1975 release a book, Appointment in Dallas, in which he claimed he'd tracked down the man in the photo and had discovered that this man--whom he code-named "Saul"--was one of the conspirators in Kennedy's assassination.)
It is also ironic that, at this late date, weeks after the public has been reassured by the media that Oswald acted alone, new evidence is still rolling in. UPI, in collaboration with American Heritage Magazine, has put out a collector's book on the assassination and its aftermath entitled Four Days. It has been available to the public since mid-January. It features a number of stills depicting Kennedy and the grassy knoll behind him in the moments just before and after the fatal head shot. They are not from the Zapruder film. They are not from the Nix film. No, they are from a film unbeknownst to both the FBI and Warren Commission. Here is one of the images included in this collection.
This is brought to the FBI's attention. A quick investigation leads the FBI to Marie Muchmore. Although her film had been shown on TV within days of the shooting, and she'd sold her film to UPI on 11-25, just three days after the shooting, and UPI published frames from her film in, amongst other places, the San Francisco Chronicle, on 11-27, five days after the shooting, a 12-4 report by the FBI's Robert Bashman reflects that she'd told him she'd taken no photographs of the shooting. (Despite what would seem to have been either total incompetence on the part of Agent Bashman, or Ms. Muchmore's deliberate deception, no investigation is performed to determine who is responsible for the inaccurate report.)
Despite the fact Mrs. Muchmore was clearly looking through her viewfinder at the time of the shots, and was thus one of the best witnesses to the shooting, moreover, her interview on 2-14 by the FBI's Robert Barrett and Ivan Lee is of little value. Marie Muchmore (2-18-64 FBI report, CD 735 p.8) “Mrs. Muchmore stated that after the car turned on Elm Street from Houston Street, she heard a loud noise which at first she thought was a firecracker but then with the crowd of people running in all directions and hearing the two further noises, sounding like gunfire, she advised that she began to run to find a place to hide.” (As the FBI acquired a copy of her film, and thus came to know what Ms. Muchmore observed, it seems possible they'd decided not to push Ms. Muchmore for a more detailed description of her recollections. Still, as she was clearly looking at the grassy knoll at the moment of the fatal impact, and saw people in that vicinity react to the shooting, it seems possible she saw something suspicious after the shooting she was afraid to talk about. In any event, Mrs. Muchmore was never called before the Warren Commission, and never spoke on the subject again.)
We are now aware of four films and one photograph showing Kennedy's location on the street at the moment of the fatal impact. These five pieces of information corroborate each other, and reveal not just Kennedy's location, but the location of the five photographers at the moment of the fatal headshot.
The following over-view of Dealey Plaza marks the location of these photographers...with their initials. They are, from L to R, Abraham Zapruder, Mary Moorman, Orville Nix, Marie Muchmore, and Charles Bronson. The "X" marks the spot...where Kennedy was struck.
On 2-21-64, Rankin assistant Norman Redlich writes a memo explaining the basic duties of Melvin A. Eisenberg. It states “The areas in which Mr. Eisenberg are working are as follows…2. Working with me on the problem of studying the assassination films to locate car position when bullets hit President Kennedy and Governor Connally.” As this had previously been considered part of Area 1, the responsibility of Francis Adams and Arlen Specter, this reveals that a decision had been made not to trust them entirely on this point. Since Adams stopped showing up around this time, and as Adams reportedly told writer Edward Epstein that “he thought the FBI Summary and Supplemental Reports should have been verified immediately,” the possibility exists that Adams simply had no stomach for second-guessing Hoover, and opted out on what he knew would be a politically nasty experience.
On 3-4-64 the Jack Ruby murder trial begins in Dallas. Incredibly, the trial is held in the Dallas County Criminal Courts Building--just across the plaza from the school book depository, where Ruby's victim, Lee Harvey Oswald, had worked, and from which he (Oswald) was presumed to have shot and killed President Kennedy.
Here's Ruby heading into his trial.
And here he is in a courthouse hallway, presumably in the midst of his trial.
Now, it's probably not exaggerating much to say the media frenzy surrounding this trial nearly equals the frenzy after Kennedy was shot.
Here's Ruby--an accused murderer--surrounded by reporters and microphones. It's as if he were The Beatles...
Or perhaps The Rolling Stones...
On 3-7-64 we see a memo from Eisenberg to Rankin revealing that they no longer trusted anyone or anything outside their unjustified belief there was but one shooter.
Eisenberg begins: "Among the most crucial questions to be considered in determining the identity of the President's assassin or assassins are the number of shots fired in the course of the assassination, the spacing between the shots, and the location of the site or sites from which the shots were fired. A great deal of evidence is relevant to these questions, for example, the number of wounds, the path of the missiles causing each wound, the position of the rifle believed to have fired the recovered bullet and bullet fragments, the position and number of empty cartridge cases believed to have been fired in this rifle, the number of recovered bullet and bullet fragments and visual observations of bystanders. (Note: by the term "bystanders" I mean everyone but the assassin (s) and the victims.) In addition, a mass of evidence has been collected concerning the aural observation of bystanders. The purpose of this memorandum is to point out that very little weight can be assigned to this last category of evidence."
Well, this is disconcerting. This suggests that Eisenberg is well aware that the bulk of the witnesses believed the last two shots were fired close together, and that this rules out Oswald's having acted alone. His desire to point out that this evidence should be given "little weight" then seems as much as a confession that he knows this evidence suggests there was two shooters...and that he wants Rankin to know that he has found a way to ignore this evidence.
Eisenberg then quotes a textbook on firearms claiming that "little credence...should be put in what anyone says about a shot or even the number of shots." This is misleading in that no textbook ever written would say that "little credence...should be put in what the majority says about a shot or even the number of shots." It is also misleading in that the Commission's operating thesis--that three shots were fired--has largely been derived by what the majority of witnesses have said about the number of shots.
Eisenberg then asserts that, since "the sound of a shot comes upon a witness suddenly and often unexpectedly, the witness is not 'ready' to record his perception." He then asserts, seemingly without foundation, that "The same is usually true of subsequent shots following hard on the heels of the first." Thus, he has given himself and the Commission carte blanch to ignore any statements they don't like. He then adds insult to injury by citing anecdotal evidence to support his claim, mentioning that the firearms book he is citing (Firearms Investigation, Identification, and Evidence) presents as an example an instance where a hunter, asked the number of shots fired by a nearby hunter, said he'd heard five shots when the man had fired but two. This is offensive. That Eisenberg is so desperate to write off statements in conflict with his supposition Oswald acted alone he will compare the observations of Secret Service agents under fire to the casual observations of a hunter in the woods is an offense against common sense, and indicative of his naked desire to deceive.
Over the course of the next two paragraphs, Eisenberg continues to cite reasons to doubt both the witnesses' perception of distance, and their perception of the weapon fired. It appears, from this, that Eisenberg is trying to cover all the bases, and to make sure Rankin tells the Commissioners they should feel free to disregard any witness statement that conflicts with their foregone conclusion. In an apparent effort to drive this home, Eisenberg then adds "Obviously, during the assassination the surprise, emotion, confusion and noise were much greater than is even usually the case, and bystanders' aural perception of the gunshots is therefore to be accorded even less weight than is usually the case."
He then discusses how acoustics may have led these witnesses to incorrectly perceive the direction of the shots. He then relates "It must be emphasized that the above discussion is not merely theoretical, but is based upon the analysis and observations of professional criminal investigators. Furthermore, this discussion is borne out by the very fact that the testimony of the bystanders to the assassination varies enormously. (Similar variations occur in the testimony relating to the Tippit killing.)"
Wow. This is not only disconcerting, it is thoroughly misleading. Eyewitness evidence is not routinely overlooked just because it "varies." It is in fact the job of investigators like ourselves to collate this evidence and determine just what happened. Eisenberg's apparent reluctance to do so then can be taken as an indication that he knows what's coming, and is afraid that the recollections of the witnesses will prove to be at odds with what he personally has come to accept.
This is borne out by the next paragraph. Eisenberg writes: "In my opinion in examining the Secret Service agents the utmost care should be taken to avoid giving the Commission the impression that the aural perception of these agents have much validity. These witnesses may or may not be more familiar with the sound of gunshots fired in the open than the other bystanders. Probably they are not." Now, this is absurd on its face. It's hard to understand how Eisenberg could possibly believe that agents of the Presidential Detail of the Secret Service would have no more credibility regarding the number and spacing of the shots fired at the limousine than bystanders who'd never undergone their training.
Eisenberg then writes "The fact is, that the contemporaneous reaction of the two agents in the President's car does not indicate that they immediately were aware that the sounds that they heard were gunshots." Eisenberg fails to note how this affects their credibility regarding the number and spacing of the sounds they heard.
He then cites inconsistencies in the statements of agents Kellerman and Greer and the statements of these agents as presented by the FBI. Tellingly, in order to damage the credibility of these witnesses, he accepts that the FBI's reports are accurate.
He then concludes: "Even if agents do have more familiarity with such sounds, many of the other factors which sap the credibility of aural perception of gunshots would still be applicable...I do not mean to imply that the agents should not be examined on this subject but no impression should be given that their testimony is sacrosanct. I intend in the near future to analyze the recorded testimony of bystanders as to the number of shots, etc. giving particular attention to factors which may have affected their perception. In addition I think we should have expert testimony on the subjects discussed in this memorandum." (Neither Eisenberg's analysis of the eyewitness and earwitness testimony nor the testimony of any experts claiming that earwitness testimony can routinely be ignored can be found in the Commission's records.)
Well, this is disappointing. It seems clear from this memo that Eisenberg has made up his mind about what happened, and is determined to make sure the Commissioners stay on board. We thought we were through with this nonsense when we signed on with the commission. But it's beginning to look as though the commission's investigation is as much a whitewash as the FBI's initial investigation, only with more smoke and lawyers.
On 3-8-64, we are shown a memo from Assistant General Counsel Norman Redlich to commission counsel Adams, Specter, and Stern, the men tasked with interviewing eyewitnesses to the shooting, as well as members of the Secret Service. This builds upon Eisenberg's memo from the day before. Redlich suggests that they inquire of the Secret Service "if any credence at all is to be placed on the testimony of eye-witnesses concerning the number of shots" and continues "I believe that expert testimony should be called to deal with the whole question as to whether the recollection of witnesses in this respect has any validity." (No expert witnesses were called to deal with this question. It follows then that when the commission chose to ignore the testimony of the majority of its witnesses on the spacing of the shots, it was doing so without any foundation other than their own gut feeling that it was okay for them to do so.)
Above: from L to R, Secret Service Agents Clint Hill, Roy Kellerman, and William Greer.
The next day, the Commission finally starts questioning witnesses. Confirming Eisenberg's fears, the first of the Secret Service agents questioned by Arlen Specter re-enforce that the last two shots were bunched together. Roy Kellerman (3-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H61-112“) "So, in the same motion I come right back and grabbed the speaker and said to the driver, “Let’s get out of here, we are hit!,” and grabbed the mike and I said, "Lawson, this is Kellerman,"--this is Lawson, who is in the front car. "We are hit; get us to the hospital immediately.” Now, in the seconds that I talked just now, a flurry of shells come into the car.” Specter also asks Kellerman about the location of the wound on Kennedy's back, and is told "The upper neckline, sir, in that large muscle between the shoulder and the neck, just below it." William Greer (3-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H112-132 “I glanced over my shoulder. And I saw Governor Connally like he was starting to fall. Then I realized there was something wrong. I tramped on the accelerator, and at the same time Mr. Kellerman said to me, "Get out of here fast." And I cannot remember even the other shots or noises that was. I cannot quite remember any more. I did not see anything happen behind me any more, because I was occupied with getting away.” (When asked how many shots he heard) “I know there was three that I heard - three. But I cannot remember any more than probably three. I know there was three anyway that I heard…I knew that after I heard the second one, that is when I looked over my shoulder, and I was conscious that there was something wrong, because that is when I saw Governor Connally. And when I turned around again, to the best of my recollection there was another one, right immediately after.” (When asked how much time elapsed between the first and second shots.) “It seems a matter of seconds, I really couldn't say. Three or four seconds.” (When asked how much time elapsed between the second and third shots.) “The last two seemed to be just simultaneously, one behind the other…” Double head shot. (Previously Too vague)
Specter then questions agent Clint Hill, who raced for the limousine from the Secret Service back up car but arrived too late. At one point Specter asks Hill to describe the sound he heard at the time of the head shot--the sound Kellerman has just described as a "flurry" of shots and the sound Greer has just described as two shots fired "simultaneously." Clint Hill (3-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H132-144) "it had a different sound, first of all, than the first sound that I heard. The second one had almost a double sound--as though you were standing against something metal and firing into it, and you hear both the sound of a gun going off and the sound of the cartridge hitting the metal place, which could have been caused probably by the hard surface of the head. But I am not sure that that is what caused it." Specter then asks Hill about the President's wounds. He replies: "I saw an opening in the back, about 6 inches below the neckline to the right-hand side of the spinal column."
Warren's War on the Witnesses
Above: an Associated Press photo of assassination witnesses Amos Euins, Arnold Rowland, Robert Jackson, and James Worrell in Washington on March 10, 1964, the day of their testimony before the Warren Commission.
Behind the Scenes with Howard Willens
Commission counsel Howard Willens kept a contemporaneous journal on the commission's investigation. In early 2014, he put his journal online. Let's pretend then that, in our imaginary investigation in 1964, we've befriended Willens and that he is showing us his journal.
Howard Willens shows us his journal entry for 3-9-64/3-10-64. (I have added some comments to put the events in context. But, of course.) His journal entry reads, in part:
2. On Tuesday, four eyewitnesses appeared before the Commission and completed their testimony at approximately 3 p.m. I had obtained a copy of the prior day’s testimony early in the morning and had planned to read it but was unable to begin this job until late in the evening.
6. After lunch and a brief discussion with Jack Miller I visited with the Deputy Attorney General for a while regarding the work of the Commission. I briefed him on the report of the Nosenko interview and the schedule of witnesses set forth in the memorandum of March 6. I discussed with him briefly the stalemate between the Treasury Department and the Commission regarding the area of security precautions. Mr. Katzenbach agreed that this was a needless problem which should be resolved without too great difficulty. He suggested that I might wish to discuss it sooner or later with Mr. McCloy.
7. Shortly after I returned to the Commission offices on Tuesday, Mr. Redlich came into my office in quite a hurry and asked me to join them in the Conference Room. Apparently the testimony for the day had been completed (eyewitnesses Rowland, Euins, Jackson and Worrell) and the Chief Justice was engaging Messrs. Redlich, Ball, Belin and Specter in conversation regarding the proposed schedule of testimony and several other matters. When I entered the room the Chief Justice was expressing his opinion that more witnesses with significant testimony should be called before the Commission as quickly as possible. This was partly because the court was currently in recess and he wanted to complete as much of the Commission’s business as possible during the next week and a half. He expressed his view that the medical witnesses were among the more important witnesses to be heard. He indicated that as a corollary to this that many of the witnesses that had already been called before the Commission did not have much testimony of substance.
Hmmm... Even beyond that newspaper accounts suggest Warren was only present for one hour of the March 9 testimony of the Secret Service agents, Warren's complaint that the witnesses recently called before the commission lacked substance doesn't pass the simplest of smell tests. The four Secret Service agents interviewed the day before indicated the last two shots were bang-bang, one behind the other. Kellerman said the last two came in in a "flurry...it was like a double bang--bang, bang." Greer said they came in "just simultaneously, one behind the other." Hill said he recalled hearing but two shots, but that the last one had "some type of an echo...almost a double sound." And Youngblood pretty much concurred: "There seemed to be a longer span of time between the first and the second shot than there was between the second and third shot." And these four problematic witnesses have now been followed up by a second four, ALL of whom add to the likelihood there was more than one shooter. Arnold Rowland, to begin with, surprised the heck out of the commission and said he saw two different men on the sixth floor before the shooting, and that the last shot was fired but two seconds after the second. Amos Euins said he'd heard four shots. Robert Jackson said "the second two shots seemed much closer together than the first shot, than they were to the first shot." And James Worrell said he'd heard four shots. It seems obvious, then, that Warren views witnesses who can help him sell the single-assassin conclusion as substantive and those harmful to this cause as lacking substance. If so, this makes his request the medical witnesses be brought forward as soon as possible a bit suspicious. It seems possible he is afraid the investigation is about to spin out of control, and hopes to bring the investigation--and the Washington media reporting on the investigation--back in line via the gory details of the President's death.
7. cont'd) He indicated that he wanted to get our lawyers on the road as quickly as possible to interview witnesses. In the course of stating his views on this, the Chief Justice stated that he had complete faith in all of the members of the staff and wanted them to be free to have unrecorded interviews with the witnesses. Although he did not elaborate on his views in this matter, the Chief Justice apparently had been briefed on the staff discussions on this subject by someone, possibly Mr. Rankin or Mr. Ball.
Hmmm... Willens has told us of these discussions, and that several of the commission's staff think it improper to prep the witnesses via unrecorded interviews. He shows us a 3-2-64 entry in his journal which reveals:
"Most of today was consumed by two staff meetings regarding the proposed schedule of testimony before the Commission and by depositions taken by the staff. The draft memorandum for the members of the Commission which I prepared was distributed to members of the staff and was discussed at the initial meeting beginning at 11:30 a.m. The discussion quickly centered on the problem whether staff members should be permitted to interview witnesses in advance of the witness giving a deposition or testifying before the Commission. This argument went on for two hours or so and for an additional two hours or so at a continuation of the meeting beginning at 4 o’clock. Mr. Shaffer was not there and therefore his eloquence could not be brought to bear on this topic. As a result of the meetings, a set of procedures is to be made up by a committee including Messrs. Liebeler, Belin and Redlich. Mr. Redlich and Mr. Eisenberg were the most forceful proponents of the proposition that staff members should not be permitted to interview witnesses without a court reporter present. Mr. Belin was strongly opposed and Mr. Liebeler urged a somewhat intermediate position."
Willens then shows us a 3-4-64 memo from Redlich to Rankin in which Redlich reveals "I feel that an unrecorded interview with a witness creates the inevitable danger that the witness will be conditioned to give certain testimony" and that, furthermore, "If we compound the lack of cross examination with the pre-conditioning of a witness, we will be presenting a record which, in my view, will be deceptively clean..."
Well, here, on 3-10, Warren has weighed in on the matter, and has told the staff, in so many words, to go ahead and prep some witnesses and get something on the record...pronto!
We can only presume then that he wants to put some miles between the commission and its latest round of witnesses.
Willens then shows us the rest of his entry for 3-10.
7. cont'd) In response to the Chief Justice’s views I indicated to him that we would make every effort to secure witnesses for next Friday and to change the schedule for the week of March 16 so as to meet his wishes. The various members of the staff then discussed their views as to the difficulty of the medical testimony and the time necessary to prepare for it. The Chief Justice indicated that he was primarily interested in hearing the testimony of the doctors from the Bethesda Naval Hospital who conducted the autopsy.
Hmmm... It seems clear from this that Warren feels confident the testimony of these doctors will bolster the case for a single-assassin. We wonder why he feels this way.
7. cont'd) I indicated that, if possible, we would try to have these doctors appear before the Commission during the week of March 16.
8. After the above meeting various members of the staff gathered in my office to make their suggestions regarding alterations in the schedule. Present were Messrs. Redlich, Eisenberg, Ball, Belin, Stern, Liebeler and Ely. As usual there was considerable debate among the members of the staff regarding the function of the Commission and the definition of what constitutes a thorough job. Apparently during the day’s testimony the Chief Justice had indicated his readiness to receive a clean record and not pursue in very much detail the various inconsistencies. Mr. Ball agreed with the approach suggested by the Chief Justice completely and Mr. Specter thought that we would have to amend our approach to correspond with that of the Chief Justice. Mr. Redlich and Mr. Eisenberg took a strong and articulate contrary view. The long and short of the meeting was that we decided to bring up Mr. and Mrs. Declan Ford on Friday and to explore the possibility of having the medical testimony on Monday and Tuesday.
Well, this confirms our suspicions. Warren wants the staff to present him with a "clean" case against Oswald, one with as few inconsistencies as possible, and he is giving them the green light to prep witnesses in unrecorded interviews in order to meet this end.
Above: the ever-ambitious Arlen Specter, who would progress from Warren Commission Junior Counsel to Philadelphia District Attorney to U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania (and even make a run at President), while jumping political parties not once but twice...
Arlen Specter, for one, is ready to board Warren's Ark. In keeping with Eisenberg's 3-7-64 memo suggesting that the testimony of the Secret Service agents not be taken seriously, Specter sends a memo to J. Lee Rankin on 3-11-64, in which he asserts that
"On March 9, 1964, Roy H. Kellerman, William R. Greer, Clinton J. Hill, and Rufus W. Youngblood testified before the Commission. As you know, I interviewed these witnesses on March 3rd and 4th at which time they told me of the assassination events just as they were set forth in their statements previously provided to us by the Secret Service...All four witnessesimpressed me as being credible... In my opinion all these witnesses did their very best to recount the situation as they recollected it. Notwithstanding that, it is my conclusion that they do not accurately recall many of the details on the precise time or sequence of shots or their exact movements and reactions during the crucial 5 or 6 seconds."
So what's going on here? None of the other commission lawyers wrote memos detailing their feelings about the veracity of their witnesses.
Specter continues: "Since the question had not been resolved as to the (?) on interviewing witnesses with or without a verbatim transcript in advance of their testimony, I did not interview Robert K. Jackson, Arnold Louis Rowland, James Robert Worrell or Amos Lee Euins in advance of their being called to testify before the Commission. In my view their testimony would have been somewhat better organized and more coherent with a pre-testimony interview, but all factors considered, their testimony went reasonably well...Mr. Jackson was the oldest and most mature of this group and was a very credible witness...James Worrell was a very dull and inarticulate witness. He impressed me as being honest and straight forward, but not very alert. I do not place a great deal of reliance on his testimony...Amos Lee Euins was an inarticulate young negro boy (age 16) who, nevertheless, did a reasonably good job in relating what he saw. He impressed me as being credible and I evaluate his testimony as being believable. I concluded that it was not worthwhile to resolve the number of minor inconsistencies among his various statements and testimony."
So, aha! This memo is a mea-culpa of sorts. Specter called some witnesses that upset the grumpy old "Why can't this be over already?" Warren, and now he's putting on the record that he agrees with Warren that he should have conducted pre-testimony interviews with these witnesses. (Y'know, so he could have steered around their problematic recollections, such as seeing an extra man on the sixth floor or hearing one shot too many...)
But, wait. We've skipped someone. Arnold Rowland...
Being a Dick to Arnold
Here's Specter on Rowland:
"Arnold Louis Rowland presented the picture of being a good-looking, bright, well-dressed young man. While he has the face of an 18 year-old, he has the carriage and demeanor of an individual somewhat older. He gave the impression of being alert and intelligent, and he testified that he had straight A's during most of his high school career and had an I.Q. of 147. At the conclusion of his testimony he broke down when Senator Cooper asked a well-intended question as to whether it occurred to Mr. Rowland to call to the attention of a nearby policeman the presence in the window of a man with the gun. Rowland answered that that was a recurring dream which he had which indicated his deep emotional involvement in the event.
There are many details of Rowland's testimony which (raise?) significant doubt as to whether he could have observed and remembered so much. He testified that he had told the FBI on two occasions about the negro gentleman in the alleged assassination window which, of course, must be checked out. My impression was the witness was telling the truth as he remembered it, but he had obviously thought about the subject on a great many occasions as has passed the assassination scene frequently which may provide the basis for his reconstruction of the event.
Congressman Ford did not notice that the witness was (?) (?) became upset and began to ask a line of questions which the Chief Justice interrupted. Congressman Ford asked me to ask the questions informally of Rowland which I did in the intervening recess, but they were not put on the record because Rowland did not return to the afternoon session. The Chief Justice very graciously sent Rowland on a tour of Washington with his chauffeur. Rowland told me that he passed by the assassination scene every day on his way to work, but he had never gone back to the scene and stood there to try to recreate what he saw. I (?) drafted a brief memorandum to Congressman Ford on this subject which I am attaching to this memorandum for transmission to him if you approve."
So, yikes, the Chief Justice took pity on Rowland and stopped him from being further questioned. Clearly, the Commission felt sorry for the young lad, and would let his testimony stand on its merits.
I'm joking, of course. On March 16, General Counsel Rankin followed up on Specter's memo by asking the FBI to conduct an investigation into just who the negro Rowland thought he saw on the sixth floor could have been. But he didn't stop there. Rankin's memo concluded:
"During the course of his testimony, Mr. Rowland also provided the Commission with certain information about himself. He states that he has an IQ of 147 and that through his junior year in high school he had a straight-a average but he received "a couple of B's" in his senior year and claims that he received his IQ test in May of 1963. For your information, Rowland has attended W. H. Adamson High School and that his eyes were examined several months ago by a "firm of doctors" named Finn and Finn and that he had "much better than" 20-20 eye sight. Moreover, Rowland advised the Commission that he had been accepted at Texas A & M, Rice, and SMU. Finally, Rowland testified that he has taken special courses in sound and study of echo effects at Crozier Tech, which is a school in Dallas. His instructor was Sam Foster. The Commission requests that your Bureau investigate all aspects of Mr. Rowland's testimony concerning the person alleged to have been at the southeast corner window. Moreover, the Commission would like the FBI to report on the accuracy of the aforementioned personal facts concerning Mr. Rowland. Finally the Commission would like a name check of your records and indexes for any information which they may contain on Arnold Louis Rowland."
So, yeah, the Commission asked the FBI to find some dirt on Arnold Rowland, an 18 year-old boy whose original sin was his claiming he saw a man who may or may not have been Oswald with a rifle in the southwest window 15 minutes before the shooting, (which is a fact backed up by his wife, who verified that he'd tried to point this man out to her, yep, 15 minutes before the shooting), and whose second sin was his claiming he saw a negro man in the sniper's nest at this same time, which could very well have been true, and innocent, seeing as Bonnie Ray Williams had already admitted to being on the sixth floor at this time.
In any event, Rankin's ploy was successful. The FBI tracked down old teachers and counselors of Rowland's and compiled a series of quotes questioning his reliability, and questioning whether he was, gadzooks, a communist. The Commission then, on 4-7-64, called his wife to the stand and forced her to admit, under oath, that her husband sometimes exaggerated his own accomplishments!
Well, for F's sake! This had nothing to do with the issue at hand--whether or not Rowland would make up that he'd told the FBI about the negro man on the sixth floor, and that they didn't seem interested! The FBI, of course, failed to follow up on this in any meaningful way and ask the numerous agents who'd talked to Rowland if they could recall such a thing, and whether they ignored this part of Rowland's story because they thought he was talking about the fifth floor, etc...
In short, Rankin asked the FBI to perform a hatchet job, and they readily complied....
Above: Buell Wesley Frazier, Oswald's friend and co-worker.
Trying to Fool Buell
If the testimony of the last two day's witnesses suggested there were some issues which may never be resolved, however, testimony taken on this very day positively proves it. On 3-11-64, the Warren Commission calls Buell Frazier to the stand, to see if they can succeed where the Dallas Police, the FBI, and the Secret Service have failed--that is, to see if they can get him to agree that the paper bag Oswald brought to work was big enough to have held the rifle found in the depository. No such luck. Frazier tells them the bag covered "I would say roughly around 2 feet of the seat...If, if you were going to measure it that way from the end of the seat over toward the center, right. But I say like I said I just roughly estimate and that would be around two feet, give and take a few inches." Counsel Joe Ball then asked him its width. He replies: "Well, I would say the package was about that wide...Oh, say, around 5 inches, something like that. 5, 6 inches or there. I don't..." He then describes its appearance: "You have seen, not a real light color but you know normally, the normal color about the same color, you have seen these kinds of heavy duty bags you know like you obtain from the grocery store, something like that, about the same color of that, paper sack you get there." Frazier later describes Oswald's walk into the depository: "He got out of the car and he was wearing the jacket that has the big sleeves in them and he put the package that he had, you know, that he told me was curtain rods up under his arm, you know, and so he walked down behind the car...he had it up just like you stick it right under your arm like that...The other part with his right hand...Right, straight up and down."
Under repeated questioning from Ball, Frazier gives a little but not enough. He testifies: "I didn't pay much attention to the package other than I knew he had it under his arm." Ball eventually shows him the bag purportedly found by the sniper's nest. Ball asks him if the bag he saw in Oswald's possession was about the same length. Frazier responds "No, sir." Ball asks him if it was about the same width. Frazier responds: "Well, I would say it appears to me it would be pretty close but it might be just a little bit too wide. I think it is, because you know yourself you would have to have a big hand with that size but like I say he had this cupped in his hand because I remember glancing at him when he was a walking up ahead of me." Ball asks him if the bag he saw was the same color as either the bag found in the sniper's nest or the replica bag created on 12-1. Frazier replies: "It would be, surely it could have been, and it couldn't have been. Like I say, see, you know this color, either one of these colors, is very similar to the type of paper that you can get out of a store or anything like that, and so I say it could have been and then it couldn't have been." Ball keeps pressing, and asks Frazier what he told the FBI on 12-1. (Ball keeps from the record that Frazier had been shown the bag before 12-1--and had first been shown the bag on the night of the shooting, before it had been discolored--and had insisted it was not the bag he'd seen in Oswald's possession that morning.) In any event, Frazier answers: "I told them that as far as the length there, I told them that was entirely too long." He's then asked about the width. Frazier relents: "Well, I say, like I say now, now I couldn't see much of the bag from him walking in front of me. Now he could have had some of it sticking out in front of his hands because I didn't see it from the front, The only time I did see it was from the back, just a little strip running down from your arm and so therefore, like that, I say, I know that the bag wouldn't be that long. So far as being that wide like I say I couldn't be sure." Ball then pounces and asks if the bag carried by Oswald could have been as wide as the bag from the sniper's nest. Frazier admits: "Right." Ball then tries to get Frazier to admit that he wasn't sure about the length either. Frazier cuts him off: "What I was talking about, I said I didn't know where it extended. It could have or couldn't have, out this way, widthwise not lengthwise." (2H210-245).
When it came to the length of the bag, Frazier hadn't budged an inch. Literally. The package he saw was still 11 inches too small to be the bag now in evidence.
His story was as problematic as ever.
Frazier's sister, Linnie Mae Randle, follows him onto the hot seat. Her description of the bag is almost as problematic as his, seeing as it confirms his opinion that the package was too small to conceal the rifle. She describes her sighting of Oswald on the morning of the assassination: "He was carrying a package in a sort of a heavy brown bag, heavier than a grocery bag it looked to me. It was about, if I might measure, about this long, I suppose, and he carried it in his right hand, had the top sort of folded down and had a grip like this, and the bottom, he carried it this way, you know, and it almost touched the ground as he carried it..." (She later compared it to the replica bag) "Well, it wasn't that long, I mean it was folded down at the top as I told you. It definitely wasn't that long...The width is about right...What he had in there, it looked too long." Counsel Ball then asks "This package is about the span of my hand, say 8 inches, is that right? He would have about this much to grip?" She responds: "What I remember seeing is about this long, sir, as I told you it was folded down so it could have been this long." He then asks: "I see. You figure about 2 feet long, is that right?" She answers: "A little bit more." Ball measures out the length on the replica sack. He asks "Is that about right? That is 28 1/2 inches." She answers: "I measured 27 last time." (2H245-251).
The Warren Commission thus goes 0 for 2. Two witnesses saw Oswald with a bag on the morning of the 22nd. Two witnesses testified the bag was too small to conceal the rifle. The bag photographed by the FBI and placed into evidence was 38 inches long and almost 9 inches wide, much larger than the bag described by Randle, and more than twice as large as the bag described by Frazier. This issue has never been resolved.
And yet... Oh my! It was only yesterday that Chief Justice Warren encouraged his commission's staff to prep their witnesses in advance and create a "clean" record without inconsistencies. And here, the very next day, his long-time buddy Joe Ball has presented the commissioners with a monstrous inconsistency--the only witnesses to see Oswald carrying a bag on 11-22-63 both swear it was too small to have held the assassination rifle!
Howard Willens shows us his journal entry for 3-11-64. It reads, in part:
2. Testimony was taken today of Frazier and Randle. There was considerable debate and some consternation among some members of the staff regarding their testimony concerning the paper
sack which they saw Oswald carrying on the morning of November 22. They firmly testified that the sack carried was no longer than could fit between a cupped hand and the armpit, whereas the rifle, even when broken down, is some 35 inches, which is considerably longer than could fit in this position. This confirms, in rather a significant way, the intention of the Commission to pursue a
neutral and complete fact-finding mission as opposed to ratifying the FBI report or in fact leaving a public record without inconsistencies.
Well, WOW. Our friend Howard is almost certainly trying to make sweet lemonade out of sour lemons. Frazier's testimony did not "confirm" the noble intentions of the commission. No, far from it. It showed instead the futility of trying to keep the record clean in a case this messy.
(Note: Frazier would later claim that Joe Ball did everything he could to get him to change his testimony regarding the bag and give Warren the "clean" record without inconsistencies he desired. In a 2-16-87 interview with Gus Russo first published in 1998, Frazier would complain: "They had me in one room and my sister in another. They were asking us to hold our hands apart to show how long the package was. They made me do it over and over--at least ten times. Each time they measured the distance, and it was always 25 inches, give or take an inch. They did the same with my sister and she gave the same measurement...But I don't understand what the problem is--Lee could have taken the rifle in on another day and hidden it in the warehouse. Why did he have to take it in on Friday?" Many years later, Frazier returned to this question, telling Hugh Aynesworth in a November 16, 2008 Dallas Morning News article: "I know what I saw, and I've never changed one bit" and declaring, when asked his response to the Warren Commission's disregard of his testimony, "I wasn't surprised. They seemed to have a pre-arranged agenda when they questioned Linnie and me. Our refusal to agree with their agenda simply caused them to state that we were mistaken." And this wasn't his last word on the subject. An April 1, 2013 article in the Dallas Morning News described a recent appearance of Frazier, along with Aynesworth, at the Irving Central Library, and noted "To this day, Frazier insists that the package Oswald took to work wasn’t long enough or big enough around to hold a rifle — even if its stock had been disassembled from the barrel."
Frazier's comments to Russo indicate that he failed to appreciate that Oswald hadn't been to the Paine residence (where his rifle was in storage) for more than a week, and that the paper bag purportedly found in the depository on 11-22 and believed to have held the assassination rifle had been made with paper believed to have come from the roll of paper in use on 11-22-63. As these rolls were replaced every few days, the commission had little choice but to propose that Oswald had made the paper bag at work on the 21st, transported it to the Paine residence after work, and used it to transport the rifle into the building on the 22nd. To conclude otherwise, after all, would not only call into question the progeny of the paper bag supposedly found in the sniper's nest, and submitted into evidence by the DPD and FBI, but the progeny of all the evidence against Oswald. There were but two roadblocks to the commission's selling this scenario, and avoiding this question about the evidence--Frazier and his sister--and the Warren Commission's treatment of Frazier and his sister indicates they were well aware they were an obstacle.
It is with some pride then that I report that on September 25, 2014, at the AARC conference in Bethesda, Maryland, I asked Frazier an important question the commission failed to ask. I explained to him that the commission, and the single-assassin theorists crawling in their footsteps, not only push that the bag he saw in Oswald's possession on 11-22-63 was large enough to hold the rifle--something Frazier, by the way, once again denied at the conference--but that they simultaneously push that Oswald transported the bag out to Irving in Frazier's car on 11-21-63. I asked him if the paper used in the depository was crinkly and stiff when folded over, as I had assumed. And he said yes. I then asked him if there was any way Oswald could have smuggled more than 7 square feet of industrial wrapping paper out to Irving, within his clothes or otherwise, on 11-21-63. And Frazier's face hardened. He thought for a moment, and looked down at the floor. I read his face as saying "Wow, it's even worse than I thought." He then looked me in the eyes and responded as firmly and clearly as anyone has ever responded to a question... He said "That did not happen.")
After the testimony of Frazier and Randle, FBI agent Cortlandt Cunningham testifies, and reveals yet another problem with the "Oswald brought the rifle in the bag" theory. In order to fit the rifle in the bag, the rifle would have to have been dismantled. If it was dismantled to fit in the bag, however, it would have to have been re-assembled before it could be fired. Cunningham testifies that the rifle could be re-assembled in two minutes using a screwdriver. No screwdriver was found in the sniper's nest. No screwdriver was found on Oswald. No screwdriver was found in Oswald's rented room. To the Commission's credit, they ask Cunningham if the rifle could be assembled without the use of a screwdriver. He says it could be assembled with a dime. They time him assembling it with a dime. It takes him six minutes. (2H251-253).
(Note: there is reason to believe Cunningham rehearsed this assembly in order to get it "right." As reported in a November 1994 article in The Fourth Decade, and in a subsequent book entitled No Case to Answer, Ian Griggs, a retired policeman, bought an M/C rifle and familiarized himself with its parts before attempting to replicate Cunningham's purported assembly of the rifle in six minutes. While Griggs concluded the assembly of a rifle of this type using only a dime was possible, he reported that it was quite difficult for him to turn the screws, and that he, in fact, gave up after running overtime on several attempts and developing blood blisters on his fingers and a cut on his right thumb.)
Well, yikes, there's a big ole gaping hole in Cunningham's testimony. Cunningham worked in the FBI's ballistics department. He test-fired the rifle numerous times. Since, as anyone familiar with guns will tell you, the assembly of a rifle inevitably affects its accuracy, why hadn't Cunningham test-fired the rifle immediately after its re-assembly, to see if it remained accurate enough to hit the shots purportedly made by Oswald? And, assuming he hadn't thought of it, why didn't the Warren Commission ask him to perform these tests? Certainly someone on the Commission realized that what they were asking of this rifle--that it be disassembled, wrapped up in a paper bag, carried around, re-assembled with a dime, and still fire accurately from its very first shot--was highly unlikely? (This issue, not surprisingly, has never been resolved.)
And yet, despite all these problems--the witnesses to the shooting itself suggesting there was more than one shooter, the bag Oswald brought to work being too short to hold the rifle, the dubious assumption Oswald put together the rifle with a dime--the commission still seems determined to pin the tale on the Oswald. Like a ball (or a Ball) rolling downhill, the inertia is just too great.
On the afternoon of 3-11, Warren Commission counsel Arlen Specter and Joe Ball travel to Bethesda Naval Hospital and interview two of the autopsy surgeons.
Let's stop right there. Howard Willens told us he assumed it was Ball who convinced Warren that witnesses should be prepped beforehand. Now here Ball is, but days later, prepping the witnesses Warren most wants to hear from--even though this isn't Ball's assigned area of investigation. So, yikes, we can't help but wonder--was Ball sent to make sure the doctors provided the "substantive" testimony Warren was hoping for?
In any event, Specter's 3-12 memo reflects that he met with Dr.s Humes and Boswell in the office of "Admiral Holloway," presumably Admiral Galloway, the commanding officer of the hospital. (It's unclear whether this meeting took place before or after Specter composed his memo to Rankin in which he kissed up to Warren by trashing the witnesses he'd dragged before the Commission on 3-9 and 3-10, but it's of little importance, seeing as the two actions would appear to be connected.)
Here is the entire memo:
March 12, 1964
TO: Mr. J. Lee Rankin
FROM: Arlen Specter
SUBJECT: Interview of Autopsy Surgeons
On the afternoon of March 11, 1964, Joseph A. Ball, Esq., and I went to Bethesda Naval Hospital and interviewed Admiral C. E Holloway, Commander James J. Humes and Commander "J" Thornton Boswell. The interview took place in the office of Admiral Holloway, who is the commanding officer of the National Naval Medical Center, and lasted from approximately 3:30 p.m to 5:30 p.m.
Commander Humes and Commander Boswell, along with Lt. Col. Pierre A. Finck, who is currently in Panama, conducted the autopsy and Admiral Holloway was present at all times. They described their activities and findings in accordance with the autopsy report which had been previously submitted as Commission Report #77.
All three described the bullet wound on President Kennedy's back as being a point of entrance. Admiral Holloway then illustrated the angle of the shot by placing one finger on my back and the second finger on the front part of my chest which indicated that the bullet traveled in a consistent downward path, on the assumption that it emerged in the opening on the President's throat which had been enlarged by the performance of the tracheotomy in Dallas.
Commander Humes explained that they had spent considerable time at the autopsy trying to determine what happened to the bullet because they found no missile in the President's body.
According to Commander Humes, the autopsy surgeons hypothesized that the bullet might have been forced out the back of the President on the application of external heart massage after they were advised that a bullet had been found on a stretcher at Parkland Hospital.
Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell were shown the Parkland report which describes the wound of the trachea as being "ragged", which they said was characteristic of an exit rather than an entrance
wound. Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell further said that it was their current opinions that the bullet passed in between two major muscle strands in the President's back and continued on a downward flight and exited through his throat. They noted, at the time of the autopsy, some bruising of the internal parts of the President's body in the area but tended to attribute that to the tracheotomy at that time. Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell stated that after the bullet passed between the two strands of muscle, those muscle strands would resist any probing effort and would not disclose the path of the bullet to probing fingers, as the effort was made to probe at the time of the autopsy.
We requested that Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell prepare or have prepared drawings of the consequences of the shots on the President's body and head, and they also elaborated upon the
facts set forth in their autopsy report.
Dictated from 11:30 to 11:45 a.m.
Well, first of all, we wonder why "Holloway" is the one giving this demonstration? And why, if "Holloway" was demonstrating the angle of the shot, did he place his second finger on Specter's chest, and not his throat, where the bullet was presumed to exit? We also note the last line: "We requested that Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell prepare or have prepared drawings of the consequences of the shots on the President's body and head, and they also elaborated on the facts set forth in their autopsy report."
The next day, Specter interviews FBI Agents Jim Sibert and Frank O'Neill, the FBI agents present at Kennedy's autopsy. Specter's 3-12-64 memo reveals that they repeated what they said in their initial report--"that the autopsy surgeons made substantial efforts" to locate a pathway from Kennedy's back wound, but could not, and concluded that the bullet fell out. Their report had also noted that "one of the bullets had entered just below his shoulder to the right of the spinal column." This location is consistent with the testimony of agents Kellerman and Greer from just two days prior. Suspiciously, however, Specter fails to call Sibert and O'Neill before the Warren Commission. Perhaps, then, Specter was thinking of Chief Justice Warren's recent suggestion he present a "clean" case free of inconsistencies to the commission, and decided it was best that Sibert and O'Neill's recollection of the depth and location of the back wound not become part of the record. (Neither the initial report by Sibert and O'Neill on the autopsy, the FBI's report repeating their conclusions on the autopsy, nor Specter's memo discussing their recollections, will be published by the Commission in its 26 volumes of evidence in November. It was not until 1966, after researchers discovered these items in the archives, that J. Edgar Hoover released a statement admitting the FBI neglected to read the autopsy report in a timely fashion, and that this led them to base their findings on the initial statements of the doctors to Agents Sibert and O'Neill at the autopsy. Sibert and O'Neill, however, never changed their minds about the back wound, and insisted till the end that the back wound was a shallow wound below the shoulder line and that there was no path connecting it to the throat wound. One can only wonder then what would have happened had Specter called them before the Commission.)
On 3-14-64 the Jack Ruby murder trial concludes in Dallas. Dallas Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander, disappointed that he never got to fry Lee Oswald for Kennedy's murder, has pushed for the death penalty. The jury returns a verdict after 2 hours and 19 minutes. The verdict is guilty. Ruby is sentenced to death...
Later that day, a Dallas Times-Herald article by Felix McKnight appears, in which an anonymous member of the Warren Commission asserts that Oswald was equally guilty. Well, sorta--that he was guilty but insane. The article starts off by claiming the commission is investigating Oswald's role in the murder of a fellow marine while he was stationed in Japan, and then claims this information came directly from a member of the commission. It then quotes this member of the commission. who it describes as a "prominent man in national life" (presumably Dulles, but also quite possibly McCloy, or even Warren himself), regarding his "surprise" when he discovered that the facts of the FBI's supposedly secret report had all been widely published. It then relates: "The commission member said he has formed the opinion, on the basis of the evidence and testimony received to date, that Oswald was a mentally unbalanced drifter consumed with hatred of everything around him and everyone he knew, including those close to him." The member then states: "I can't imagine a jury rendering any unanimous verdict that he was sane, everything considered. He couldn't have been sane."
Yikes. At this point, we can only assume, no amount of contrary testimony or evidence can alter the conclusion Hoover tried to write in stone in December: Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed President Kennedy.
To wit, in mid-March, a memo to Rankin from Commission historian Alfred Goldberg regarding a proposed outline for the final report reflects that “Part IV: Analysis of Theories and Rumors should be relatively brief because it will deal with the great variety of theories, hypotheses, and rumor surrounding the event. This part should communicate that the Commission was fully aware of these questions and took due notice of them. To explore these questions in detail would give them much more than their due.”
Above: the doctors: from L to R (Boswell, Humes, and Finck).
On 3-16, Specter takes the testimony of the three autopsy doctors, Dr. James J. Humes, Dr. J. Thornton Boswell, and Dr. Pierre Finck. As requested by Specter on 3-11, Dr. Humes brings along three drawings created by a young Navy artist, Skip Rydberg. These drawings portray the back wound at the base of the neck and significantly higher than the throat wound and suggestive of a shot from above and behind. The location of this back wound is also, quite clearly, at odds with the previously received testimony of agents Kellerman and Greer, and the recently-reviewed report of agents Sibert and O'Neill. Humes testifies that "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." We have reason to believe this is untrue. The autopsy protocol written by Humes and in our possession reports "Situated in the upper right posterior thorax just above the upper border of the scapula there is a 7 x 4 millimeter oval wound. This wound is measured to be 14 cm. from the tip of the right acromion process and 14 cm. below the tip of the right mastoid process." We do a quick measurement and see that the wound at the base of the neck in the drawing is no more than 10 cm below the mastoid process. We also look up the word "thorax" in some medical dictionaries. Gray's Anatomy specifies that "The thorax or chest, is an osseo-cartilaginous cage containing and preserving the principle organs of respiration and circulation...The upper opening of the thorax is ...formed by the first dorsal vertebrae behind, the upper margin of the sternum in front, and the first rib on each side." Blankiston's Pocket Medical Dictionary describes it as "The chest; the portion of the trunk above the diaphragm and below the neck." The Human Organism defines "thorax" as "The Chest, the portion of the trunk that contains the heart and lungs." Ottenheimer's Medical Dictionary defines it simply as "The chest." As the wounds in Rydberg's drawings are in the muscles at the base of the neck, and could not reasonably be described as on the back of the chest, we conclude Humes misrepresented the location of the back wound in the drawings.
While questioning Humes, moreover, Specter inquires about a wound in the "upper part of the back" or "the President's back or lower neck" and asks Dr. Finck about a "back wound." Humes, however, repeatedly describes the back wound as a wound in the "low neck," "low neck,""low posterior neck," or as being "low in the neck." This seems to be a deliberate ploy, on Humes' part, to sell that this wound, formally described as a back wound, was really a wound low on the back of the neck.
Something is rotten in Denmark and Specter has to smell it. Let's think about this. Warren personally hired but two of the commission's lawyers, an old friend of his from California, Joseph Ball, and noted African-American attorney William Coleman. On 1-23, Joseph Ball wrote a memo to Rankin in which he noted that the back wound appears to be lower than the throat wound. On 1-27, Rankin reported on this problem to the commissioners, and told them he'd be getting "help" from the doctors on this issue. Ball then began pushing that counsel be allowed to prep witnesses. Warren came down on his side, and began pushing that the autopsy doctors be interviewed as soon as possible. Specter was then asked to prep the doctors...while accompanied by Joseph Ball. The doctors--or more precisely, their boss, Admiral Galloway--then told Specter and Ball that the trajectory was indeed from above, and to disregard the drawings made during the autopsy. Specter and Ball then commissioned, for the commission, new drawings. These just so happened to depict the back wound at the base of the neck, inches above the throat wound, and the bullet descending within the body.
There's also this. On 3-12, Rankin wrote the Commissioners a memo in which he reported that the testimony of the autopsy doctors--originally scheduled for April--would be taken on 3-16...and 3-17. And here, what was presumed to be two days of testimony has not only been rushed into, but drastically condensed into one day of testimony, with Boswell and Finck asked but a few questions.
Let's get serious. This more than suggests that Specter--a prosecutor by nature charged with establishing the facts surrounding the shooting, but not who fired the shots--has been, at Warren's and possibly Rankin's direction, co-opted by Ball, a high-paid defense attorney charged with establishing who fired the shots. Warren has admitted he wants a clean investigation. This means he wants Specter's investigation to support Ball's, and vice-versa. It seems more than a coincidence then that for this all-important discussion with the autopsy doctors, Ball just so happened to tag along, and that the subsequent testimony of two of the doctors would be reduced to, essentially, "yeah, what he said."
(That Specter was not conducting an independent investigation is supported, moreover, by the one and only Joseph Ball. In 1999, in his 97th year, Ball wrote an article for the California Law Journal, entitled "A Century in the Life of a Lawyer." This included a brief section on the Warren Commission. Tellingly, Ball claimed: "At the outset, I was told that the Commission had divided the investigation into five parts, one of which was to determine the identity of the assassin. I had been assigned to that particular job along with staff lawyers David Belin and Arlen Specter. We worked on that issue together as a team over the next nine months." So, there it is. Ball saw Specter as part of the team out to determine the identity of the assassin. Someone engaged in such activity would quite naturally make some of the facts regarding what they think happened fit who they think did it. Someone engaged in such activity would also quite naturally reject contrary evidence once he had his man. But that's not the way it was supposed to work, right? Specter was supposed to figure out how many shots were fired, etc, independent of whether Oswald could fire that fast, etc.)
(Specter's partner in the investigation, Francis Adams, almost certainly smelled something. In Specter's 2000 autobiography Passion for Truth he claimed that, although Adams hadn't been to the commission's offices for weeks, he showed up to work for the commission on the day the doctors were to be questioned. He says Chief Justice Warren mistook Adams for one of the doctors, and that Adams then left for good. Specter then makes out that Adams' refusal to commit to the large workload needed to perform the tasks before him was at the root of the problem. In his book Specter approvingly quotes fellow counsel David Belin's assertion Warren's decision not to replace Adams as both "political" and "chilling." This raises a few questions. If it was just a matter of Adams' being too busy, why would Warren and Rankin dump Adams' work on Specter, forcing Specter to leave many of the tasks he'd outlined in his February memos undone? Why wouldn't they have just split these responsibilities up among others? Or hired someone to help Specter? The commission hired a number of new employees mid-investigation. Why was no one hired to help Specter? And why did Specter, if he was so overwhelmed by the workload due to Adams' absence, finish his chapters on the shooting well before anyone else finished their chapters? A September 1964 memo by Howard Willens on the days worked by the commission's staff reveals that, while supposedly carrying the load of two lawyers, Specter actually worked far less than fellow staff members Rankin, Griffin, Liebeler, Jenner, Redlich, and Eisenberg, and slightly less than Stern. This suggests, then, that Specter didn't carry the weight of two--as suggested by Belin and Specter himself--but that those overseeing the commission's investigation, namely Warren, Rankin, and Redlich, simply decided that the more thorough investigation initially outlined was unnecessary, and could readily be handled by one. There's also this. Adams did not just disappear after March 16. Adams, in fact, re-appeared on May 25, 1964, to conduct the lengthy and involved questioning of Kennedy assistant Lawrence O'Brien. He did so, moreover, after receiving a 5-20-64 memo from Specter telling him of the appointment. Willens' September 1964 memo on the staff, for that matter, reveals that Adams worked 6 1/2 days for the commission from April through July. This, then, suggests that Adams did not stop working for the commission on March 16, as claimed by Specter, but instead stopped working with one person in particular...Arlen Specter. Well, why? One can only guess. But Specter's having met with the autopsy doctors without Adams' being present, and convincing them to have schematics made depicting the shooting (in which the wound below the shoulder described in both the autopsy report and the FBI report on the autopsy suddenly and mysteriously transformed itself into a wound at the base of the back of the neck) may have been too much for Adams, a successful and wealthy attorney in his own right, without the driving political ambition of his much-younger colleague.)
A Hole in the Evidence
There's another huge problem with the drawings entered into evidence by Specter--of which he seems aware. The bullet hole on the President's clothing is out of alignment with the wound in the "low neck" described by Dr. Humes, and depicted in the drawings created by Rydberg in preparation for Humes' testimony. A close look at Humes' explanation for this fact proves most illuminating.
Mr. SPECTER - Have you had an opportunity to examine the clothing which has been identified for you as being that worn by the President on the day of the assassination?
Commander HUMES - Yes; yesterday, just shortly before the Commission hearing today was begun, Mr. Chief Justice, we had opportunity for the first time to examine the clothing worn by the late President.
Huh. This is already getting interesting. Specter went over to see Humes on the 12th, a Wednesday. Humes is now testifying on Monday, March 16th. And he's talking about a special visit he made to see the clothing...that took place the day before, a SUNDAY. One can only wonder why Specter would call Humes in on a Sunday. And one can only wonder about this because there is no record of this meeting. Nor of any other meetings between these men outside their first meeting on the 12th... (Humes would tell the ARRB in 1996 that he met with Specter 7-8 times while preparing for his testimony.)
Mr. SPECTER - Now, how, if at all, do the holes in the shirt and coat conform to the wound of entrance which you described as point "C" on Commission Exhibit 385?
Commander HUMES - We believe that they conform quite well...They give the appearance when viewed separately...as being perhaps, somewhat lower on the Exhibits 393 and 394 than we have depicted them in Exhibit No. 385. We believe there are two reasons for this. 385 is a schematic representation, and the photographs would be more accurate as to the precise location, but more particularly the way in which these defects would conform with such a defect on the torso would depend on the girth of the shoulders and configuration of the base of the neck of the individual, and the relative position of the shirt and coat to the tissues of the body at the time of the impact of the missile.
Mr. SPECTER - As to the muscular status of the President, what was it?
Commander HUMES - The President was extremely well-developed, an extremely well-developed, muscular young man with a very well-developed set of muscles in his thoraco and shoulder girdle...I believe this would have a tendency to push the portions of the coat which show the defects here somewhat higher on the back of the President than on a man of less muscular development.
Well, heck, what's with all this talk of Presidential muscles? Kennedy was 6 foot, 170 (hardly the size of his niece's future husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger).
We recall, moreover, a photo of Kennedy taken the year before, after Kennedy went for a public swim in Santa Monica, California. (This photo was taken by Bill Beebe for the L.A. Times.)
Well, that's a muscular man. But not "an extremely well-developed, muscular young man" as per Humes...
It seems clear, then, that Humes is trying to sell that Kennedy's muscles bunched up his jacket around his neck, and lifted the back wound on the clothing up higher on the body, and that he's lying about the President's physique in order to accomplish this task.
Mr. SPECTER - Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Commission, I would like to mark for identification Exhibit 396...Will you describe, Doctor Humes, the position of President Kennedy's right hand in that picture?
Commander HUMES - Yes. This exhibit, Commission Exhibit No. 396, allegedly taken just prior to the wounding of the late President, shows him with his hand raised, his elbow bent, apparently in saluting the crowd...This was his right hand, sir. I believe that this action would further accentuate the elevation of the coat and the shirt with respect to the back of the President.
Okay, so there it is. Specter and Humes have pushed that the powerfully built Kennedy's clothing bunched up around his neck while he was saluting the crowd, and they have used this to explain how a hole well below his collar on his clothing could overlay a wound low on the back of his neck. Well, this sounds absurd on its face...
Still, we take another look at CE 386--which shows the location of the supposed neck wound much better than its sister drawing, CE 385--and compare it to a photo of Kennedy's clothing. We are disappointed to see that this dog doesn't hunt, and has an incredible amount of fleas.
We try to talk to Rydberg about his drawings, but he tells us he's been sworn to silence by his and Humes' Commanding Officer, Captain John Stover. A few weeks later, however, he shows us a 3-27 commendation letter from Stover that tells us all we need to know. It says, in part "During the period 12 to 15 March 1964 you were called upon to prepare, on extremely short notice, highly technical medical illustrations, using only verbal directions given you by officers of this Command...The illustrations thus produced most accurately depicted the situation required and immeasurably assisted the medical presentation."
(While there is no reason to believe anyone working for the Commission actually saw this letter, published online by Barry Keane, an April 30 memo from Specter to General Counsel J. Lee Rankin reveals that he suspects or knows that the location of the back wound in Rydberg's drawings is inaccurate, and that he wishes to establish its actual location. Much, much more on this in the Examining the Examinations chapter.)
Above: FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at play in the FBI's Crime Lab. Once thought to be the pantheon of forensic science, it would come out in the 90's that the "science" performed at the crime lab was at times more suspect than the suspects the FBI was investigating, and that there was a demonstrable bias shared by many of the FBI's experts, whereas they would routinely testify beyond what was suggested by the results of their examinations.
The Sin of Pride
A storm is brewing. On 3-11, Warren Commission Counsel Melvin Eisenberg and David Belin visit the FBI crime lab. An internal FBI memo to FBI crime lab chief Ivan Conrad reflects the growing tension: "During the further course of the discussion, Mr. Belin advised that inasmuch as it appeared that almost all of the investigation in this matter had been conducted by the FBI, and since the firearms identification was crucial to the case, the Commission felt that there was merit in having the firearms evidence examined by some other organization and was considering making such a request. Under any other circumstances a comment of this kind would have been the basis for an immediate discontinuance of FBI Laboratory cooperation and service; however, Belin was merely advised in this instance that any decision as to such course of action, of course, was strictly up the Commission." To this memo FBI Director Hoover adds that it is "getting to be more and more intolerable to deal with this Warren Commission."
Two days later, he'd had enough. On 3-13-64 Hoover writes Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin and tells him:
"During the course of the discussion of the firearms evidence in this matter on March 12, 1964, between Mr. Melvin Eisenberg of your staff and representatives of this Bureau, Mr. Eisenberg indicated that the Commission desired that the firearms evidence be delivered by this Bureau to Mr. Ronald Simmons, Weapons System Division, Fort Meade, Maryland, on a date in the near future to be specified by the Commission, for the purpose of having an independent re-examination made of the evidence by Mr. Simmons. This, of course, raises the question of similar independent technical re- examinations of other evidence in the case, such as the handwriting and fabric evidence.
Inasmuch as the apparent theory behind any such re-examination is to completely divorce the examination from the FBI, it is suggested that, in order to achieve this objective, the FBI should deliver the evidence-to the Commission and that arrangements for independent examination and delivery to the independent examiner should be handled by the Commission. This course of action will eliminate any possible subsequent allegation that the FBI exerted influence on the independent examiner selected by the Commission.
You may wish to consider this evidence delivery factor in connection with any decision made by the Commission relative to re-examination of the physical evidence."
So, yeah, ole' Edgar is mighty P.O.'d. He has told Rankin, essentially, that if Rankin didn't like playing by his rules he could take his ball and go home. And he said this knowing full well Rankin lacked the staff, budget, and intestinal fortitude to assume control of the physical evidence.
And Hoover's irritation is infectious. A 3-18-64 memo from Dallas Special-Agent-in-Charge J. Gordon Shanklin to file (found in the Weisberg Archives) illuminates: "Inspector Malley said that the Bureau is sending a teletype with instructions re 'a bunch of real crackpots who will be in Dallas next week.' One is Hubert, a criminal law professor at Tulane University. Three attorneys on his staff are Norman Redlich, Joseph Ball, and a man named Genner (phonetic). We are to be extremely cautious in all connection with them. A loyalty investigation is being conducted on Genner and Ball. Redlich has been over in Russia and is on the borderline. Mr. Malley instructed that all personnel be told that if they have any dealings with these people, to keep quiet and not volunteer any information. The Director has said with regard to any request made by them of the Dallas Office, that it must first be cleared with the Bureau. This applies to everything, and we are to be extremely careful how we answer any questions."
Malley had it backwards, of course. Hubert, Ball, and "Genner" (actually Albert Jenner) worked for Redlich; Redlich did not work for Hubert.
And, from there, the antagonism between the FBI and the commission only grows. A 3-19 memo from Assistant Director Alex Rosen to Assistant Director Alan Belmont relates: "The Dallas Office called today and advised that United States Attorney H. Barefoot Sanders, Dallas, had telephonically advised attorneys from the President's Commission had arrived in Dallas today and were in his office. He advised they intended to interview between 50 and 100 witnesses within the next two to three weeks. Sanders requested the Dallas Office to locate six individuals that the attorneys advised they desire to interview on Friday morning and request these individuals to appear at the office of United States Attorney Sanders...The Dallas Office was advised that inasmuch as the United States Attorney's office had the names of the individuals and the addresses, this did not appear to be a matter that should be handled by the Bureau; and that Mr. Sanders should be told that the location of witnesses for the President's Commission where the names and addresses were available, was a matter that should be handled either by the United State's Attorney's office or whomever they should designate, but that it was not a matter that the Bureau should handle. The Dallas office was further advised that in the event the United States Attorney's Office was unable to locate these witnesses and it became a matter of a fugitive-type investigation to locate the witnesses, then the Dallas Office could accept a request to locate the witnesses and advise the Bureau promptly."
And it didn't stop there. A 3-24 memo from Rosen to Belmont adds: "This matter (Note: Rosen means The commission's desire to use outside experts) was discussed with J. Lee Rankin, General counsel, the President's Commission, in the early evening of March 23, 1964. Mr. Rankin was advised that in view of the action taken by the Commission concerning the firearms evidence, it was obvious the Commission does not have confidence in the FBI Laboratory, and that in view of the independent examinations being requested, it would appear desirable for the Commission to have whatever examination they desire from independent experts made and for the Bureau to step out of the picture from the standpoint of Laboratory examinations. It was pointed out to Mr. Rankin that our Laboratory was greatly burdened with a large volume of work and that if the examinations that we made were not going to be accepted, it would appear that there would be no reason for our Laboratory experts to be tied up on these examinations in utilizing the time it requires to furnish testimony concerning matters where independent examinations are being made...Throughout the discussion, Mr. Rankin seemed to be a little disturbed over the Bureau pointing out to him that the Commission obviously lacked confidence in our Laboratory and he repeatedly commented that the independent examinations of evidence were being made at the instructions of the seven members of the Commission. He gave no indication, however, whether this was the desire of certain members of the Commission and others were going along, or whether the Commission was in full agreement concerning this matter."
It is clear from these memos that the FBI considers itself above the Commission, and answerable to the "President's Commission" only as a courtesy to the President. The Commissioners, no doubt, know that dumping the FBI as their main investigative agency would be a political nightmare, and that Hoover would use his media sources to make it look like the Commissioners had gone overboard, and were wasting taxpayers' money. And Rosen knows the Commissioners know this. His threats, then, are really a warning: stop requesting outside help, which could only hurt the reputation of the FBI, or else.
(These threats were far from idle, and, although the Commission proceeded to use a few outside experts, they seem to have had an effect on the Commission's investigation. By way of example...On 3-26, while preparing for the testimony of the FBI's fingerprint expert, Sebastian Latona, the Commission realizes that there were 19 fingerprints and 6 palm prints found on the cardboard boxes of the sniper's nest that were not Oswald's prints. J. Lee Rankin then writes Director Hoover a memo and asks him if they could "please determine, as far as may be possible without the taking of new fingerprints, whether any of these latent prints were made by persons employed in the TSBD building on November 22,1963." Notice that he doesn't ask them to run the prints through their files and find out whose prints these actually are--the entire FBI's Most Wanted list could have been in the sniper's nest, and he cared not a wit--he only asks them to check them against Oswald's co-workers, and then only if the FBI already has their prints. This suggests that Rankin is more concerned with not causing Hoover any unnecessary inconvenience than with finding out who was in the sniper's nest on 11-22-63. For his part, on 3-30, Hoover writes back, and tells Rankin "For your information, employees of the Texas School Book Depository were not fingerprinted or palm printed by this Bureau, the United States Secret Service or the Dallas Police Department." He then tells Rankin that the FBI checked their files and found the fingerprints for 16 individuals believed to have been depository employees, and that none of them matched the 19 unidentified prints. And that's that. On 4-2, Latona testifies that the prints are unidentified. It's not until late August that Rankin realizes the magnitude of this over-sight, and asks the FBI to identify the prints.)
Above: an uncropped version of a famous photo taken by Associated Press Photographer James Altgens. This shows the Kennedy limousine racing off mere seconds after the fatal shots were fired. It also shows some witnesses standing on the railroad bridge...with a view of both the limousine before them, and the grassy knoll to their left.
Extinguishing Smoke Before It Starts a Fire
On 3-23-64, we see the following report: "On March 14, 1964, James L. Simmons telephonically advised SA Robert Butler that he is one of ten witnesses who, while standing on the Commerce Street viaduct, observed the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Simmons advised that he furnished his name as did the other people on the viaduct to a man he thought to be a reporter. He stated that none of the ten persons in the group has been interviewed concerning the assassination, to his knowledge. Simmons stated that he and his friends are all employees of the Union Terminal Company...with the exception of a Dallas Police officer who was standing with his group at the viaduct. He stated that he and his friends have not come forward since they were on duty at the time of the assassination and had not been authorized to leave their jobs to observe the parade. Simmons requested that his name not be mentioned to the other witnesses or to his employer in connection with this call. Following is the list of names as furnished by Simmons: Luke Winborn--switchman; (FNU) Potter--Hostler Helper; (FNU) Bishop--Hostler; Richard Dodd--Track Maintenance Foreman; (FNU) Murphy--Mail Foreman at Terminal Annex; (FNU) Holland--Signal Department Foreman; C.E. Johnson--Machinist; Euel (phonetic) Cowsart--Switchman; (FNU) Foster--Patrolman, Dallas Police Department." (3-23-64 FBI report, FBI file 62-109060, p124)
Well, hell, we wonder why Simmons is so gol-darned anxious to get the recollections of these men on the record. We look back to see if anyone standing on the overpass gave statements to the Dallas Police or Sheriff's Dept. in the days after the assassination. We see that three of them did, and that they had something in common.
1. S.M Holland was on Simmons' list and worked for the Union Terminal Company. (11-22-63 statement to Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 24H212) “the President’s car was coming down Elm Street and when they got just about to the Arcade I heard what I thought for the moment was a fire cracker and he slumped over and I looked over toward the arcade and trees and saw a puff of smoke come over from the trees and I heard three more shots after the first one but that was the only puff of smoke I saw…”
2. Austin Miller was not Simmons' list and worked for the Texas-Louisiana freight Bureau. (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 24H217) “I saw a convertable automobile turn west on Elm off Houston Street. It had proceeded about halfway from Houston Street to the underpass when I heard what sounded like a shot a short second two more sharp reports. A man in the back seat slumped over and a woman in a bright colored dress (Orange or Yellow) grabbed the man and yelled. One shot apparently hit the street past the car. I saw something which I thought was smoke or steam coming from a group of trees north of Elm off the railroad tracks.”
3. Royce Skelton was not on Simmons' list and worked for the Texas-Louisiana Freight Bureau. (11-22-63 statement to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, 16H496) “We saw the motorcade come around the corner and I heard something which I thought was fireworks. I saw something hit the pavement at the left rear of the car, then the car got in the right hand lane and I heard two more shots. I heard a woman say “Oh, no” or something and grab a man inside the car. I then heard another shot and saw the bullet hit the pavement. The concrete was knocked to the south away from the car. It hit the pavement in the left or middle lane.” (Note that Skelton would later testify he thought the shots were dumbballs--a kind of firecracker that is thrown at the cement--because "I could see the smoke coming up off the cement.")
We then look to see if any additional witnesses from the overpass had been interviewed by the FBI. We find one.
4. Frank Reilly was not on Simmons' list but was a co-worker of his at the Union Terminal Company. (12-19-63 FBI report based upon a 12-18-63 interview, by SA William Brookhart, CD205 p.29) “He saw two cars turn on Elm toward the underpass and at this time heard three shots which he thought came from the trees west of the Texas School Book Depository.” (Note that Reilly would later testify that he was standing with S.M. Holland--who said from day one that he saw smoke come out from the trees--and that "It seemed to me like they come out of the trees…on the North side of Elm Street at the corner up there...it’s at that park where all the shrubs is up there—it’s to the north of Elm Street—up the slope.” Well, this is a really strong indication that Reilly saw smoke as well.)
Oh, no. These guys are gonna be a problem. Holland and Skelton thought they heard four shots. Miller and Skelton thought they saw a bullet strike the pavement (which doesn't fit the FBI's three-shots-three hits scenario). And Holland and Miller thought they saw a puff of smoke float over from the trees on the knoll... And that's not even to mention Reilly, who, even through the filter of an FBI agent, managed to make it clear he thought shots came from the knoll (and would later suggest he saw smoke).
Well, what did the others have to say?
Now that depends...on who you wanna believe...
First, the witnesses interviewed by the FBI at this time...that were never re-interviewed.
5. George Davis (3-18-64 FBI report by SA's Thomas Trettis and E.J. Robertson based upon a 3-17-64 interview, 22H837) “Shortly after the motorcycle escort and Presidential car came into view and was at a point just east of the viaduct, Mr. Davis heard a sound which he described as similar to firecrackers exploding. All shots were very close together and he stated it was impossible for him to determine the number of shots."
6. Curtis Bishop (3-19-64 FBI report by SA's Thomas Trettis and E.J. Robertson based upon a 3-17-64 interview, 22H834): (He said that) “when President Kennedy’s car came into view he started down Elm Street past the Texas School Book Depository Building. He heard three shots ring out. He then saw President Kennedy slump over as if he had been hit.”
7. Ewell Cowsert (3-19-64 FBI report by SA's Thomas Trettis and E.J. Robertson based upon a 3-17-64 interview, 22H836) “just as President Kennedy’s car passed the Texas School Book Depository he heard two or three shots ring out and saw President Kennedy slump forward in his seat….he has no idea where the shots came from.”
8. Nolan Potter (3-19-64 FBI report by SA's Thomas Trettis and E.J. Robertson based upon a 3-17-64 interview, 2H834) “when the President’s car…had driven past the Texas School Book Depository Building, he heard three loud reports which sounded like firecrackers. He then saw President Kennedy slump over in his car…Potter said he recalls seeing smoke in front of the Texas School Book Depository rising above the trees.”
Well, that's not very interesting. They pretty much said they saw nothing of importance.
But look again. Potter said he saw smoke, but apparently thought this smoke was in the trees by the depository. And that's interesting...because from his viewpoint the trees by the depository were obscured behind the trees by the knoll.
Well, this suggests then that maybe just maybe the FBI agent interviewing Potter had inserted his own interpretation...and had moved the smoke back towards the sniper's nest window because...y'know...he knew by now not to submit reports suggesting shots came from anywhere else.
Now, let's look at the railroad witnesses who were eventually re-interviewed, and look into the future a bit.
9. Walter Winborn (3-18-64 FBI report by SA's Thomas Trettis and E.J. Robertson based upon a 3-17-64 interview, 22H833) “As the motorcycle escort and the vehicle carrying the president approached the viaduct, Mr. Winborn heard three distinct shots ring out...his attention remained on President Kennedy. He stated, however, that the shots sounded as if they all came from the same area.”
Now here's what Winborn told Barbara Bridges on 3-17-65: "there was a lot of smoke...from out of the trees, to the left."
And here's what he told Stewart Galanor on 5-5-66: “I just saw some smoke coming out in a—a motorcycle patrolman leaped off his machine and go up towards that smoke that come out from under the trees on the right hand side of the motorcade…There was a wooden fence there.” (When then asked if he'd told the FBI about the smoke) “Oh yes. Oh yes.”
10. Thomas Murphy (3-20-64 FBI report by SA Thomas Trettis and E.J. Robertson based upon a 3-17-64 interview, 22H835) “Murphy said they watched President Kennedy’s limousine turn down Elm Street past the Texas School Book Depository and start towards them. He stated he then heard what sounded like two shots and he saw President Kennedy and Governor Connally slump in their seats. Murphy said in his opinion that these shots came from just west of the Texas School Book Depository.”
Now here's what Murphy told Stewart Galanor on 5-6-66: (When asked how many shots he heard) “More than three.” (When asked where the shots came from) “they come from a tree to the left, of my left, which is to the immediate right of the site of the assassination…on the hill up there. There are two or three hackberry and elm trees. And I say it come from there.” (When asked if he saw smoke) “Yeah, smoke...in that tree.”
11. Richard Dodd (3-18-64 FBI report by SA's Thomas Trettis and E.J. Robertson based upon a 3-17-64 interview, 22H835) “when the motorcycle escort and the automobile carrying President Kennedy approached the area where he was standing his attention was directed on President Kennedy…he saw president Kennedy slump forward and simultaneously heard shots ring out. He stated he did not know how many shots were fired, but that the sounds were very close together.” Double head shot.
Now here's what Dodd told Mark Lane in an interview filmed 3-24-66: “We all, three or four of us, seen about the same thing, the shot, the smoke came from behind the hedge on the north side of the Plaza. And a motorcycle policeman dropped his motorcycle in the street with a gun in his hand and run up the embankment to the hedge.”
12. James Simmons (3-19-64 FBI report by SA's Thomas Trettis and E.J. Robertson based upon a 3-17-64 interview, 22H833) "he recalled that a motorcycle policeman drove up the grassy slope toward the Texas School Book Depository Building, jumped off his motorcycle and then ran up the hill toward the Memorial Arches. Simmons said he thought he saw exhaust fumes of smoke near the embankment in front of the Texas School Book Depository Building.”
Now here's what Simmons told Mark Lane in an interview filmed 3-28-66: “As the presidential limousine was rounding the curve on Elm Street, there was a loud explosion…it sounded like a loud firecracker or a gunshot, and it sounded like it came from the left and in front of us toward the wooden fence. And there was a puff of smoke that came underneath the trees on the embankment. It was right directly in front of the wooden fence.”
13. Clemon Johnson (3-18-64 FBI report by SA's Thomas Trettis and E.J. Robertson based upon a 3-17-64 interview, 22H836) “Mr. Johnson stated at that time he did not know that it was shots and he could not state how many shots he heard. His attention remained on the vehicle carrying President Kennedy and he observed this car until it sped away. Mr. Johnson stated that white smoke was observed near the pavilion but he felt that this smoke came from a motorcycle abandoned near this spot by a Dallas policeman.”
Now, Clemon Johnson was not re-interviewed for many years afterward. But here's what he told Larry Sneed, for Sneed's book, No More Silence, published 1998. "I didn’t have any idea where the shots came from, not even a guess…I did see smoke, lots of puffs of smoke, but I was of the opinion that the smoke was coming out of those motorcycles. The smoke was coming up off the ground out where the motorcycles were, not on the grassy knoll."
Now, how about that? James Simmons came forward on 3-14-64. He told the FBI they should talk to some of his co-workers--railroad workers who'd witnessed the shooting from the triple underpass. The FBI then did as much. SA's Trettis and Robertson interviewed Simmons along with eight of his co-workers on 3-17-64. But here's the thing. While the reports on two of these men reflect the interviewee saw smoke on 11-22-63, and one reflects the interviewee thought shots had been fired from west of the building, only one of these reports reflects that the interviewee saw smoke come out from the trees--and it makes out that it was the trees down by the depository! So that's zero of nine saying they saw smoke come from the trees by the knoll. And yet a closer look proves that three of the four railroad workers to make statements or be interviewed before Simmons came forward, and four of the five (not previously making a statement) to be interviewed over the years afterwards, made statements indicating or suggesting they saw smoke come out from the trees.
So that's seven of nine who suggested they saw smoke come out from the trees when writing a statement or being interviewed by someone other than Trettis and Robertson, and zero of nine who suggested they saw smoke come out from the trees when interviewed by Trettis and Robertson.
And, let's not forget--the other two also said they saw smoke--but thought it was down on the street!
So that's nine of nine who suggested they saw smoke when writing a statement or being interviewed by someone other than Trettis and Robertson, and but two of nine who suggested they saw smoke when interviewed by Trettis and Robertson.
Well, it follows then that Trettis and Robertson (and almost certainly their superiors within the FBI) were blowing smoke...about the smoke...or, rather, the lack of smoke.
The reports written by Trettis and Robertson were designed to conceal, and not reveal...
And these weren't the only reports constructed in such a manner...
During this same period the FBI questions just about everyone who'd worked in the Texas School Book Depository on that dark, fateful day. Strangely, even though a number of these witnesses admit they were standing on Elm Street when the motorcade passed by, very few of them are asked what they witnessed. Based upon their statements, in fact, it seems all the FBI wanted to know from these witnesses was where they were when the shots rang out and if they knew Oswald.
Among the women not saying much of anything: Jane Berry, Gloria Calvery, Billie Clay, Mary Sue Dickerson, Peggy Hawkins, Karen Hicks, Gloria Holt, Stella Jacob, Carol Reed, Sharon Simmons, Betty Thornton, Karen Westbrook, and Mary Lea Williams.
One witness, however, tells us something. Georgia Ruth Hendrix (3-24-64 statement to the FBI, 22H649) reveals “At approximately 12:15 PM on November 22, 1963, I left the Depository Building and took up a position along the parade route along Elm Street about 150 feet west from the Depository Building entrance and viewed the presidential motorcade… I recall that just a few seconds after the car in which President John F. Kennedy was riding passed the position where I was standing, I heard a shot. At first I thought it was salute to the President, but when the second shot was fired and I saw the President fall down in the car I knew someone was shooting at him. When I heard the third shot I turned and fled back into the Depository Building.” Shot after the head shot.
On 3-24, we finally get the sworn testimony of the one man to ever claim he saw Oswald fire the rifle. Howard Brennan (3-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H140-161) "I told Mr. Sorrels and Captain Fritz at that time that Oswald--or the man in the lineup that I identified looking more like a closest resemblance to the man in the window than anyone in the lineup...I saw his picture twice on television before I went down to the police station for the lineup...I told them I could not make a positive identification...I believe some days later--I don't recall exactly--and I believe the Secret Service man identified hisself as being Williams, I believe, from Houston. I won't swear to that-whether his name was Williams or not...Well, he asked me he said, 'You said you couldn't make a positive identification.' He said, 'Did you do that for security reasons personally, or couldn't you?' And I told him I could with all honesty, but I did it more or less for security reasons--my family and myself...I believed at that time, and I still believe it was a Communist activity, and I felt like there hadn't been more than one eyewitness, and if it got to be a known fact that I was an eyewitness, my family or I, either one, might not be safe...After Oswald was killed, I was relieved quite a bit that as far as pressure on myself of somebody not wanting me to identify anybody, there was no longer that immediate danger... (When asked if he could have sworn that Oswald was the shooter when he saw Oswald in the line-up) I could at that time I could, with all sincerity, identify him as being the same man."
We have reason to doubt Brennan's story. First, by his own admission, he lied to the Dallas Police and Secret Service when he said he could not identify Oswald at the line-up. Second, he says he felt relief when Oswald was killed, even though Oswald's death at the hands of Ruby made a conspiracy, communist or otherwise, only more likely. Third, the whole series of events surrounding Brennan just doesn't ring true. On 11-22 Brennan had signed a statement (19H470), asserting "I believe that I could identify this man if I ever saw him again." He then refused to ID Oswald in a line-up. An 11-23-63 FBI report (CD5 p12) confirms "He advised he attended a lineup at the Dallas Police Department on November 22, 1963 on which occasion he picked Lee Harvey Oswald as the person most closely resembling the man he had observed with the rifle in the window of the Texas School Book Depository building. He stated, however, he could not positively identify Oswald as the person he saw fire the rifle." This means, if Brennan's testimony is to be believed, that he lied to the FBI as well as the Dallas Police and Secret Service.
To make things worse, Brennan didn't admit his deception until weeks after Oswald's death, after the nation had been assured of Oswald's sole guilt by the FBI's leaks to the media, and he did so then only at the urging of a "Secret Service man" named "Williams" (apparently, he meant FBI agent Kenneth B. Jackson, who was indeed from Houston) who, amazingly, has not been called before the commission to explain his actions. A 12-18-63 FBI report on a 12-17 interview by Jackson (CD205, p15) only adds to our doubts of Brennan's veracity. It relates that Brennan "now can say that Lee Harvey Oswald was the person he saw in the window at the time of the President's assassination. He pointed out that he felt a positive identification was not necessary when he observed Oswald in the police line-up at the Dallas Police Department at about 7 P.M., November 22, 1963, since it was his understanding Oswald had already been charged with the slaying of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit. He said that another factor which made him hesitate to make a positive identification of Oswald in the police line-up was that prior to appearing at the police line-up on November 22, 1963, he had observed a picture of Oswald on his television set at home when his daughter asked him to watch it. He said that he felt that since he had seen Oswald on television before picking Oswald out of the line-up at the police station that it tended to "cloud" any identification of Oswald at that time." Well, heck. The problem with this report is that it fails to mention a couple of the important elements of Brennan's subsequent testimony. For one, it fails to report that Brennan was coerced to come forward by Jackson. For two, it fails to relate that Brennan had failed to identify Oswald because he'd been in fear for his life. Instead it explains that Brennan had seen Oswald on television and that he was afraid that this had "clouded" his judgment. Pathetically, it even blames his viewing Oswald on his daughter. What it does not relate--which is key--is Brennan's response to seeing Oswald on television. Clearly, if his eventual testimony is to be believed, he would have to have had an immediate response to seeing Oswald on television. If he felt Oswald was the man from seeing him on television, then why didn't he say so later? And if he knew Oswald was the shooter from the first time he saw him on television, then why is his seeing Oswald on TV before the line-up even an issue?
That the FBI refused to put much stock in Brennan's latter day positive ID of Oswald is confirmed by a 1-10-64 report based on a 1-07-64 re-interview of Brennan (CD329 p7). It concludes: "Mr. Brennan added that after his first interview at the Sheriff's office, on November 22, 1963, he left and went home at about 2 P.M. While he was at home, and before he returned to view a lineup, which included the possible assassin of President Kennedy, he observed Lee Harvey Oswald's picture on television. Mr. Brennan said that this, of course, did not help him retain the original impression of the man in the window with the rifle; however, upon seeing Lee Harvey Oswald in the police line-up, he felt that Oswald most resembled the man whom he had seen in the window." (This wasn't saying much, as the other men only marginally resembled Brennan's earlier description of the man in the window.) Here, there is no mention of Brennan's telling an agent almost a month after the shooting that "Oh, by the way, I knew it was Oswald all the time!" and that he did so now at the FBI's urging. Here, there is still no hint that Brennan had been too frightened to identify Oswald on the 22nd. As a result, it seems likely that Brennan was unable to ID Oswald based on the images he saw on television, and was unsure whether his subsequent belief that Oswald, of the four divergent men in the line-up, "most resembled" the shooter, was based on his own recollections, or by his seeing Oswald on television. This makes his subsequent positive Identification of Oswald, at the FBI's urging, essentially worthless.
Even so, Brennan proves he has some credibility by refusing to say he heard two shots fired from the sniper’s nest before he saw Oswald fire his last shot. When taken with the statements of all the other witnesses, this suggests that one of the last two shots came from somewhere else. Brennan testifies: “after the President had passed my position, I really couldn’t say how many feet or how far, a short distance I would say, I heard this crack that I positively would say was a backfire…Well, then something, just right after this explosion, made me think it was a firecracker being thrown from the Texas book store. And I glanced up. And this man I saw previous was aiming for his last shot…it appeared to me he was standing up or leaning against the left window sill, with gun shouldered to his right shoulder, holding the gun with his left hand and taking positive aim and fired his last shot. As I calculate a couple of seconds. He drew the gun back from the window as though he was drawing it back to his side and maybe paused for another second as though to assure hisself that he hit his mark and then he disappeared. And at the same moment, I was diving off of approximately that firewall and to the right for bullet protection of this stone wall that is a little higher on the Houston side...I don't know what made me think that there was firecrackers throwed out of the book store unless I did hear the second shot, because I positively thought the first shot was a backfire, and subconsciously I must have heard a second shot but I do not recall it. I could not swear to it."
And then there's this...
This is Warren Commission Exhibit 477. This was created to show where witness Howard Brennan was sitting on 11-22-63. It was purported to demonstrate, moreover, that Brennan could have looked up and seen Oswald in the top circled window. But there was a problem, un-acknowledged or perhaps even deliberately concealed by the Warren Commission and/or its staff. This was that Brennan was actually sitting 4-5 feet to the right of where he claimed he'd been sitting. (This is shown above, with Brennan as captured in the Bell film added onto the image.)
Still, this was but a minor problem, yes?
No. It was a major problem. As shown in the photo below, the face of someone firing upon the motorcade from the supposed sniper's position would not be visible to someone sitting where Brennan had actually been sitting (at least not prior to this person's leaning forward to peer through the scope, at such time this person's face would be seen exclusively in profile).
(Note: This photo was taken by photographer Flip Schulke on the day of the assassination, and published in the 11-29-63 issue of Time.)
And it's worse than that. (CBS took some footage from Brennan's actual location for an episode of 48 Hours broadcast 2-5-92. Here's a frame.)
Well, it seems highly unlikely anyone, let alone a middle-aged man like Brennan, could identify someone crouching down a few feet behind the half-opened window second from the top, at right.
Hmmm... It would appear, then, that, should Brennan not be entirely full of beans, the presumed assassin firing from this window stuck his head out of the window on several occasions prior to the motorcade's arrival in the Plaza. (Let's recall, moreover, that Carolyn Walthers said she saw two men in this window... Hmmm...)
So...what is one to think? Warren Commission Counsel David Belin, who took Brennan's testimony, admitted in this testimony that he was was with Brennan when the photo that would become CE 477 was taken. It had been taken, moreover, on his behalf, on 3-20-64. Well, Belin, on that same day, had supervised photos taken of Harold Norman, Bonnie Ray Williams, and James Jarman on the fifth floor. In such case, he would almost certainly have looked out the window in the southeastern corner of the building, and have realized that there was no freakin' way Brennan could have got a good look at Oswald should Oswald have been sitting on a box on the east side of the sniper's nest window unless.... unless... Brennan had been sitting on the middle of the block wall facing Elm Street (and not where he'd actually been sitting--at the northeast corner of the wall facing Houston).
So, we ask ourself, was CE 477's showing Brennan in the wrong location a coincidence, or conspiracy?
Still, if Belin and the commission thought Brennan's testimony a breath of fresh air, and a respite from problematic testimony indicating there was more than one shooter, they were mistaken. On 3-24, just after Brennan's testimony, two of the three men on the floor below the sniper’s nest at the time of the shooting testify as the two men in the front seat of the limousine had before them--and claim the last two shots were extremely close together. It's actually worse than that. The third man’s previous statements suggested this as well. James Jarman (3-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H198-211) “After the motorcade turned, going west on Elm, then there was a loud shot, or backfire, as I thought it was…A backfire or an officer giving a salute to the President. And then at that time I didn’t, you know, think too much about it. And then the second shot was fired, and that is when people started falling on the ground and the motorcade car jumped forward, and then the third shot was fired right behind the second one…after the third shot was fired, I think I got up and I run over to Harold Norman and Bonnie Ray Williams, and told them, I said, I told them that it wasn’t a backfire or anything, that somebody was shooting at the President…I couldn’t say that I saw him actually hit, but after the second shot I presumed that he was…I saw him lean his head.” Harold Norman (3-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H186-198) “About the time that he got past the window where I was, well, it seems as though he was, I mean you, brushing his hair. Maybe he was looking at the public…I can’t remember what the exact time was but I know I heard a shot, and then after I heard a shot, well, it seems as though the President, you know, slumped or something, and then another shot and I believe Jarman or someone told me, he said “I believe someone is shooting at the President,” and I think I made a statement “it is someone shooting at the President, and I believe it came from up above us. Well, I couldn’t see at all during the time but I know I heard a third shot fired, and I could also hear something sounded like the shell hulls hitting the floor and the ejecting of the rifle.” Bonnie Ray Williams (3-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H161-184) “After the President’s car the last thing I remember seeing him do was, you know—it seemed to me he had a habit of pushing his hair back. The last thing I saw him do was he pushed his hand up like this. I assumed he was brushing his hair back. And then the thing that happened then was a loud shot—first I thought they were saluting the President, somebody even maybe a motorcycle backfire. The first shot—there was two shots rather close together. The second and the third shot was closer together than the first shot and the second shot, as I remember…the first shot—I really did not pay much attention to it, because I did not know what was happening. The second shot it sounded like it was right in the building, the second and third shot. And it sounded—it even shook the building.”
There is an element to Williams' testimony that is even more problematic. He admits he ate a chicken sandwich on the sixth floor of the school book depository after 12 o'clock on the day of the shooting. Under questioning by Joe Ball, he states further that he "finished the chicken sandwich maybe 10 or 15 minutes after 12. I could say approximately what time it was." Ball then bites (no, not the sandwich) and asks Williams what time approximately. Williams responds "Approximately 12:20, maybe." Well, hello, Williams ate his lunch by a window but a few yards away from the sniper's nest. He has now testified that he was there until about 10 minutes before the assassination. He has said he heard nothing from that direction, and that, even worse, that that was one of the reasons why he left the sixth floor--"because it was so quiet." He did not hear the rustling of paper as the dismantled rifle was removed from the bag. Nor did he hear the sounds of someone assembling a rifle made of metal and wood with a dime. If Oswald had put the rifle together somewhere else in the building, why would the bag be found in the sniper's nest? And if he put the rifle together in the sniper's nest, why didn't Williams hear him? Did Oswald finish putting the rifle together just before Williams arrived, and just sit there quietly, hoping Williams wouldn't discover him prior to Kennedy's arrival? Or did Oswald, upon Williams' arrival on the floor, stop putting the rifle together, and decide to NOT KILL KENNEDY, only to have just enough time to put the rifle together after Williams suddenly got up and left? (This issue has, as one might expect, never been resolved.)
On 3-26-64, we see a memo from Assistant General Counsel Redlich to General Counsel Rankin. It is a "proposed outline" for the commission's final report. Chapter IV is titled "Lee H. Oswald as the Assassin." Under this heading, Redlich notes "This Section should state the facts which lead to the conclusion that Oswald pulled the trigger and should also indicate the elements in the case which have either not been proven or are based on doubtful testimony." While this suggests that Redlich wants a thoughtful discussion of the facts in the report, it also suggests that he's rejected the idea these facts could lead in any direction other than Oswald being the sole assassin.
We also see yet another interview suggesting the last two shots were fired together, bang-bang.
J.W. Foster: the Dallas police officer on top of the railroad bridge. ( (3-26-64 FBI report based upon a 3-25-64 interview, CD897 p.20-21) “Just as the vehicle in which President Kennedy was riding reached a point on Elm Street just east of the underpass, Patrolman Foster heard a noise that sounded like a large firecracker…he realized something was wrong because of the movement of the President. Another report was heard by Patrolman Foster and about the same time the report was heard, he observed the President’s head appear to explode, and immediately thereafter, he heard a third report which he knew was a shot. Patrolman Foster said that because of the distance from the place where the shot appeared to come from he felt the third shot struck President Kennedy as he heard the sound of the second shot that was fired. He stated the shots sounded as if they came from the direction of the Texas School Book Depository Building, Houston and Elm streets.” Double head shot.
That the commission's investigators think the investigation is over is not exactly a secret, moreover. On 3-30-64, the Associated Press reports (in an article found in the Dallas Morning News) that "The presidential commission investigating President John F. Kennedy's assassination has found no evidence the crime was anything but the emotional act of an individual--and the commission now feels most of the evidence is in." It then relates that "sources close to the high level panel" believe "The end is in sight, as far as questioning witnesses and examining other evidence is concerned...but writing the definitive report is expected to be a long job after the hearings close...The commission is well aware of the persistent rumors...Some of the stories represent it as a left-wing, some a right-wing conspiracy... The hope is that the report ultimately produced will dispel any such ideas--except among the irreducible number of romantics who always prefer to believe in conspiracies."
Above: Parkland Hospital physician Malcolm Perry.
Time Out: A Quick Glimpse of the Warren Commission at Work.
Elsewhere, on 3-30-64, Dr. Malcolm Perry testifies before the Warren Commission. Despite his stated objective of finding a transcript for Dr. Perry’s November 22nd press conference, Arlen Specter has failed to obtain one, and instead interviews Dr. Perry about his recollections of the press conference. Not surprisingly, Perry’s memory is that he made no solid statements about Kennedy’s wounds, and that the media misrepresented what he said. While it might sound overly-conspiratorial to suggest that Specter and the Warren Commission would deliberately mislead the public by using the flawed recollections of witnesses when concrete evidence was available, the fact is they have employed this technique before. On 3-16-64, when the autopsy doctors testified about Kennedy’s wounds, they were asked to do so without referring to the autopsy photos and x-rays taken for the express purpose of assisting them with their testimony.Even worse, Specter asked them to create drawings based purely upon their recollections of the President’s wounds, and then placed these drawings into evidence.
Here, then, is Dr. Perry’s testimony about the press conference:
Dr. Perry - Mr. Specter, I would preface this by saying that, as you know, I have been interviewed on numerous occasions subsequent to that time, and I cannot recall with accuracy the questions that were asked. They, in general, were similar to the questions that were asked here. The press were given essentially the same, but in no detail such as have been given here. I was asked, for example, what I felt caused the President's death, the nature of the wound, from whence they came, what measures were taken for resuscitation, who were the people in attendance, at what time was it determined that he was beyond our help.
Mr. Specter - What responses did you give to questions relating to the source of the bullets, if such questions were asked?
Dr. Perry - I could not. I pointed out that both Dr. Clark and I had no way of knowing from whence the bullets came.
Mr. Specter - Were you asked how many bullets there were?
Dr. Perry - We were, and our reply was it was impossible with the knowledge we had at hand to ascertain if there were 1 or 2 bullets, or more. We were given, similarly to the discussion here today, hypothetical situations. "Is it possible that such would have been the case, or such and such?" If it was possible that there was one bullet. To this, I replied in the affirmative, it was possible and conceivable that it was only one bullet, but I did not know.
Mr. Specter - What would the trajectory, or conceivable course of one bullet have been, Dr. Perry, to account for the injuries which you observed in the President, as you stated it?
Dr. Perry - Since I observed only two wounds in my cursory examination, it would have necessitated the missile striking probably a bony structure and being deviated in its course in order to account for these two wounds.
Mr. Specter - What bony structure was it conceivably?
Dr. Perry - It required striking the spine.
Mr. Specter - Did you express a professional opinion that that did, in fact, happen or it was a matter of speculation that it could have happened?
Dr. Perry - I expressed it as a matter of speculation that this was conceivable. But, again, Dr. Clark and I emphasize that we had no way of knowing.
Mr. Specter - Have you now recounted as specifically as you can recollect what occurred at that first press conference or is it practical for you to give any further detail to the contents of that press conference?
Dr. Perry - I do not recall any specific details any further than that--
Representative Ford - Mr. Specter was there ever a recording kept of the questions and answers at that interview, Dr. Perry?
Dr. Perry - This was one of the things I was mad about, Mr. Ford. There were microphones, and cameras, and the whole bit, as you know, and during the course of it a lot of these hypothetical situations and questions that were asked to us would often be asked by someone on this side and recorded by some one on this, and I don't know who was recorded and whether they were broadcasting it directly. There were tape recorders there and there were television cameras with their microphones. I know there were recordings made but who made them I don't know and, of course, portions of it would be given to this group and questions answered here and, as a result, considerable questions were not answered in their entirety and even some of them that were asked, I am sure were misunderstood. It was bedlam.
Representative Ford - I was thinking, was there an official recording either made by the hospital officials or by the White House people or by any government agency?
Dr. Perry - Not to my knowledge.
Representative Ford - A true recording of everything that was said, the questions asked, and the answers given?
Dr. Perry - Not to my knowledge.
Mr. Dulles - Was there any reasonably good account in any of the press of this interview?
Dr. Perry - No, sir.
Representative Ford - May I ask--
Dr. Perry - I have failed to see one that was asked.
Representative Ford - In other words, you subsequently read or heard what was allegedly said by you and by Dr. Clark and Dr. Carrico. Were those reportings by the news media accurate or inaccurate as to what you and others said?
Dr. Perry - In general, they were inaccurate. There were some that were fairly close, but I, as you will probably surmise, was pretty full after both Friday and Sunday, and after the interviews again, following the operation of which I was a member on Sunday, I left town, and I did not read a lot of them, but of those which I saw I found none that portrayed it exactly as it happened. Nor did I find any that reported our statements exactly as they were given. They were frequently taken out of context. They were frequently mixed up as to who said what or identification as to which person was who.
Representative Ford - This interview took place on Sunday, the 24th, did you say?
Dr. Perry - No, there were several interviews, Mr. Ford. We had one in the afternoon, Friday afternoon, and then I spent almost the entire day Saturday in the administrative suite at the hospital answering questions to people of the press, and some medical people of the American Medical Association. And then, of course, Sunday, following the operation on Oswald, I again attended the press conference since I was the first in attendance with him. And, subsequently, there was another conference on Monday conducted by the American Medical Association, and a couple of more interviews with some people whom I don't even recall.
Representative Ford - Would you say that these errors that were reported were because of a lack of technical knowledge as to what you as a physician were saying, or others were saying?
Dr. Perry - Certainly that could be it in part, but it was not all. Certainly a part of it was lack of attention. A question would be asked and you would incompletely answer it and another question would be asked and they had gotten what they wanted without really understanding, and they would go on and it would go out of context. For example, on the speculation on the ultimate source of bullets, I obviously knew less about it than most people because I was in the hospital at the time and didn't know the circumstances surrounding it until it was over. I was much too busy and yet I was quoted as saying that the bullet, there was probably one bullet, which struck and deviated upward which came from the front, and what I had replied was to a question, was it conceivable that this could have happened, and I said yes, it is conceivable. I have subsequently learned that to use a straight affirmative word like "yes" is not good relations; that one should say it is conceivable and not give a straight yes or no answer. "It is conceivable" was dropped and the "yes" was used, and this was happening over and over again. Of course, Shires, for example, who was the professor and chairman of the department was identified in one press release as chief resident.
(NOTE: Dr. Perry’s insistence that his words were taken out of context at the press conference is self-serving and inaccurate. Nobody trapped him into saying anything that he didn’t suggest with his own statements. Many years later, a transcript to this press conference was located at the Johnson Library. This transcript was subsequently published as ARRB Medical Document 41. From this transcript: “DR. MALCOM PERRY…There are two wounds, as Dr. Clark noted, one of the neck and one of the head. Whether they are directly related or related to two bullets, I cannot say. QUESTION- Where was the entrance wound? DR. MALCOLM PERRY- There was an entrance wound in the neck. As regards the one on the head, I cannot say. QUESTION- Which way was the bullet coming on the neck wound? At him? DR. MALCOLM PERRY- It appeared to be coming at him...")
Moments later, Arlen Specter returns to the topic of the November 22nd press conference:
Mr. Specter - “we have been trying diligently to get the tape records of the television interviews, and we were unsuccessful. I discussed this with Dr. Perry in Dallas last Wednesday, and he expressed an interest in seeing them, and I told him we would make them available to him prior to his appearance, before deposition or before the Commission, except our efforts at CBS and NBC, ABC and everywhere including New York, Dallas and other cities were to no avail. The problem is they have not yet cataloged all of the footage which they have, and I have been advised by the Secret Service, by Agent John Howlett, that they have an excess of 200 hours of transcripts among all of the events and they just have not cataloged them and could not make them available.
(NOTE: Specter was not telling the whole story. On 3-18-64, J. Lee Rankin, Specter's boss, wrote James J. Rowley, the head of the Secret Service, to ask for his help in acquiring a recording or transcript of Dr. Perry's press conference. On 3-25-64, Rowley wrote back telling Rankin that no video tape or transcript of Perry's comments could be located. This letter was published as CD 678. It seems possible, then, that Specter was only pretending that the problem was that the footage had not yet been catalogued, and that he was pretending this so Perry wouldn't be unnerved by the fact all the tapes of his press conference had miraculously vanished. There's also this. When eventually published by the ARRB as medical document 41, the transcript to the press conference had an interesting stamp on its final page. It read "Received U.S. Secret Service Office of the Chief" with the date of 11-26-63, 11:40 AM. Well, hell. This could mean a number of things. None of them good. Either Rowley was so incompetent that he failed to realize he had a transcript to the press conference when contacted by Rankin, or he was so forgetful that he failed to remember giving this transcript to Johnson for his Library, or he knew damn well he still had or used to have a copy of the transcript, and deliberately withheld this information from Rankin and the commission.)
Mr. Dulles - Do you intend to catalog them?
Mr. Specter - Yes, they do, Mr. Dulles. They intend to do that eventually in their normal process, and the Secret Service is trying to expedite the news media to give us those, and it was our thought as to the film clips, which would be the most direct or the recordings which would be the most direct, to make comparisons between the reports in the news media and what Dr. Perry said at that time, and the facts which we have from the doctors through our depositions and transcript today.
Representative Ford - Can you give us any time estimate when this catalog and comparison might be made?
Mr. Specter - Only that they are working on it right now, have been for sometime, but it may be a matter of a couple of weeks until they can turn it over.
(NOTE: These last few exchanges are priceless. Dulles asks Specter if he plans on going through the transcripts and he responds by saying that the Secret Service is going to help him. He then estimates that it should only take a few weeks. As stated, Rowley had already told Rankin they'd looked but that no recording or transcript could be located. It seems possible then that Dulles and Specter were putting on a show. No one knows what became of the original recordings of the press conference. Certainly someone had a tape recorder running. But none has ever surfaced. It seems possible then that they were made to disappear.)
(Discussion off the record.) (God only knows what they talked about.)
Mr. McCloy - Mr. Chairman, I have some doubt as to the present propriety of making, of having the doctor make, comments in respect to a particular group of newspaper articles. There have been comments, as we all know, around the world, of great variety and great extent, and it would be practically impossible, I suppose, to check all of the accounts and in failing to check one would not wish to have it suggested that others, the accuracy of others was being endorsed. I would suggest that the staff make an examination of the files that we have of the comments, together with such tape recordings as may have been taken of the actual press conferences, and after that examination is made we can then determine, perhaps a little more effectively, what might be done to clarify this situation so that it would conform to the actual statements that the doctor has made.
Mr. Dulles - Well, Mr. McCloy, it is quite satisfactory with me and I agree with you we cannot run down all of the rumors in all of the press and it is quite satisfactory with me to wait and see whether we have adequate information to deal with this situation when we get in the complete tapes of the various television, radio and other appearances, so that we have a pretty complete record of what these two witnesses and others have said on the points we have been discussing here today. So I quite agree we will await this presentation to the doctors until we have had a further chance to review this situation. What I wanted to be sure was that when we are through with this we do have in our files and records adequate information to deal with a great many of the false rumors that have been spread on the basis of false interpretation of these appearances before television, radio, and so forth and so on.
And with that, Dr. Perry’s public and properly quoted description of Kennedy’s throat wound as an “entrance wound” is successfully disposed of as a “false rumor” spread by an over-zealous media...
High and to the Right
On 3-31-64, the testimony of two weapons experts casts grave doubt on the theory that Oswald fired all the shots. Under questioning by Melvin Eisenberg, FBI ballistics expert Robert Frazier testifies that on 11-27-63 he and two other ballistics examiners fired the rifle found in the depository in order to judge both the speed at which three shots could be fired, and the accuracy of those shots. He relates that, when firing on targets but 15 yards away, agent “Killion fired in 9 seconds… (agent) Cunningham fired his three shots in 8 seconds and I fired my three shots in 5.9 seconds.” He testifies further that, after moving to a 25 yard range, he attempted to fire the rifle as rapidly as possible, and was able to fire three times in 4.6 seconds, and then 4.8 seconds. He then relates that on March 16, 1964, after adjusting the rifle to make it fire as accurately as possible while using the scope, he fired on outdoor targets at 100 yards, and was able to fire three shots in 5.9. 6.2, 5.6, and 6.5 seconds, respectively. When asked by counsel Eisenberg if firing at a moving target would have lengthened these times, he states “It would have lengthened the time to the extent of allowing the crosshairs to pass over the moving target.” When asked how long this would take, he answers “Approximately 1 second. It would depend on how fast the target was moving.” When asked if increased familiarity with the rifle would have helped him shorten his time, he replies “Oh yes” but then talks about how it would improve his accuracy. He eventually answers the question in the negative by replying “4.6 is firing this weapon as fast as the bolt can be operated, I think.”
(The date of this last test is intriguing. Let's recall that a January 9, 1964 column by Allen and Scott reported that the FBI had been asked to conduct more tests on the speed at which the rifle could be fired. Well, here are the tests, only two months later... Hmmm... This gives us something to think about. Let's reflect...should these March tests have proved that Oswald could not have acted alone, would Hoover have even allowed this information be given to the Commission? Would he have risked criticism that he'd dragged his feet while Oswald's accomplices escaped? One can only assume "No." Then what follows is that Hoover and the FBI knew that no matter what these tests showed, they were not to be used to suggest that more than one shooter was involved.)
But if Frazier's testimony raises questions about Oswald's ability to fire all the shots, and the FBI's honesty about this ability, it raises even more questions about the accuracy of the weapon purportedly used by Oswald. Frazier tells the Commission that the first six shots fired by the FBI on 11-27 hit 4 inches high and 1 inch to the right at only 15 yards. He says the next three hit 2 1/2 inches high and 1 to the right at 15 yards. He then discusses the next six shots fired with the weapon, fired from 25 yards in an effort to fire the rifle as rapidly and accurately as possible. He claims "The first series of three shots were approximately--from 4 to 5 inches high and from 1 to 2 inches to the right of the aiming point...The second series of shots landed--one was about 1 inch high, and the other two about 4 or 5 inches high..." A close look at the target used for these six shots, and a comparison of this target with the targets created from 15 yards, is most revealing, however. It shows that Frazier was way off, and that the shots he claimed landed 4 to 5 inches high in fact landed 6 to 8 inches high, and 2 1/2 to 5 inches to the right of the aiming point. This confirms that the shots from 15 yards were not an anomaly, and that the scope was, in fact, considerably misaligned.
So misaligned, apparently, that the FBI and Warren Commission felt the need to cover up. At one point in Frazier's testimony regarding the scope and scope mount, almost certainly to downplay that the rifle was so woefully inaccurate, Frazier interjects "apparently the scope had even been taken off of the rifle, in searching for fingerprints on the rifle. So that actually the way it was sighted-in when we got it does not necessarily mean it was sighted-in that way when it was abandoned."
Well, this is suspicious on three levels. The first is that the scope, while being removed from the rifle in Dallas, was almost certainly never taken off the barrel with which it is aligned. Lt. Day, who inspected the rifle in Dallas, never admitted removing the scope. No one ever claimed to see him remove the scope. No report exists, furthermore, in which his removal of the scope is described. (This, of course, failed to prevent Frazier from continuing to claim Day had removed the scope. As late as three decades later, in David Fisher's Hard Evidence, a 1995 defense of the FBI crime lab, Frazier would claim "The scope of the rifle had been taken off by the Dallas police to search for latents, and when we got it, it was loose; we had to tighten the screws down. I think there were shims under the scope when it was used and the Dallas police lost them when they took it off.")
What Frazier fails to say is a second cause for suspicion. While in his Warren Commission testimony Frazier sets up his claim the scope had been removed by offering that the mount holding the scope on the rifle "was loose on the rifle when we received it," he later admitted "The mount is not screwed to the rifle in such a fashion that it points the scope at the target closely enough to permit adjusting the crosshair to accurately sight-in the rifle." He then claimed that one could fix this problem "merely by putting shims under the front of the scope and over the back of the scope to tip the scope in the mount itself, to bring it into alignment." As the problem with the rifle was that it fired high and to the right...consistently...one can hardly claim this was caused by the looseness of the two mount screws. They are mount screws, after all; they either hold down the scope or do not. If they are loosened, the scope does not automatically point downward. If they are tightened, the scope does not suddenly rise back up and align with the aiming point of the rifle. Separate adjustment screws serve this purpose.
We should recall here that Frazier's co-worker Cunningham has already testified that the bag supposedly used to conceal the rifle was too small to conceal the rifle unless it was disassembled, and that no screwdrivers were found in Oswald's possessions, and that this had led the FBI to assume the rifle had been assembled with a dime. Well, if the simple loosening of a mount screw could lead the rifle to be as inaccurate as Frazier had found it on 11-27, how can Frazier simultaneously pretend that the rifle would fire accurately after being assembled with a dime? He can't. This should make us suspect then that Frazier's reference to "loose" screws was meant not as a suggestion the scope would have been aligned if not for these screws, but that the looseness of these screws had made him suspect someone had removed the scope in Dallas, and that this someone had, in the process, lost the shims needed for the rifle to fire accurately. That he failed to come out and say this, moreover, should make us wonder if he'd been coached not to do so. Perhaps we should recall here that the Warren Commission has cut a deal with Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr "to be fair to Texas," else risk a Texas-based investigation that might not be "fair" to the Federal Government, including the Secret Service, the CIA, the FBI, and the current President.
This brings us to the third level on which Frazier's testimony is suspicious... When we study Frazier's testimony it becomes clear that he is trying to give the Commission reasons to believe the scope had been damaged after the shooting, even though he himself suspected that NOTHING had happened to knock it out of alignment. In his testimony, Frazier not only admits that when the FBI eventually tried to sight-in the rifle and make it fire as accurately as possible, he found that the scope was mounted in such a manner that accurate shooting was impossible (as the rifle still fired 4-5 inches high and an inch to the right at 100 yards) but that it took 5 or 6 shots to stabilize the crosshairs on the scope after an adjustment. This, of course, is problematic for the Warren Commission's belief Oswald used the scope. They suspect, after all, that Oswald had only decided to kill the president a few days before the shooting, and that he hadn't practiced with his rifle. Well, this problem with the crosshairs suggests then that he'd either adjusted his scope before the shooting, and fired his shots with an unstable scope, or fired his shots without making any adjustment whatsoever. Both situations require more than a bit of luck. This makes it unsurprising then that, after dropping this bombshell, Frazier quickly offers "on the back end of the scope tube there is a rather severe scrape which was on this weapon when we received it in the laboratory, in which some of the metal has been removed, and the scope tube could have been bent or damaged."
But there's a problem with this proffered explanation. A big problem. While Frazier no doubt understood that the bumping of the scope he'd suggested would destabilize the scope, he would later admit "When we fired on November 27th, the shots were landing high and slightly to the right. However, the scope was apparently fairly well stabilized at that time, because three shots would land in an area the size of a dime under rapid-fire conditions, which would not have occurred if the interior mechanism of the scope was shifting."
Hmmm... Let's try and sort this all out. While Frazier had fired two comparison bullets on the 23rd, he later found it took 5 or 6 shots to stabilize the crosshairs in the scope. It follows then that, absent Frazier's unstated and unfounded belief shims were removed from the rifle, the scope was at least somewhat misaligned at the time of the shooting, and that, absent both his speculation regarding the shims and the equally unstated and unfounded speculation that the Dallas Police had fired three or more shots with the rifle before sending it on to Washington, the scope was not only erratic and bound to cause the shooter problems, but was as woefully misaligned at the time of the shooting on 11-22 as it was on 11-27, when Frazier first tested its accuracy...
Questions about the scope dominate Frazier's testimony. Counsel Melvin Eisenberg eventually asks Frazier a series of questions about the sniper's having to lead his target, in order to hit his target. He gives some specifics, telling Frazier: "I would like you to make the following assumptions in answering these questions: First, that the assassin fired his shots from the window near which the cartridges were found--that is, the easternmost window on the south face of the sixth floor of the School Book Depository Building, which is 60 feet above the ground, and several more feet above the position at which the car was apparently located when the shots were fired. Second, that the length of the trajectory of the first shot was 175 feet, and that the length of the trajectory of the third shot was 265 feet. And third, that the elapsed time between the firing of the first and third shots was 5 1/2 seconds. Based on those assumptions, Mr. Frazier, approximately what lead would the assassin have had to give his target to compensate for its movement--and here I would disregard any possible defect in the scope."
Well, this is interesting. Eisenberg is telling Frazier that, in the opinion of the Commission, the limousine traveled but 90 feet between the first and third shots. This is in keeping with the findings of Secret Service Agent Howlett on 11-27, but is a total refutation of the FBI's later claim the limousine traveled 140 feet between the shots. Perhaps Eisenberg, then, is telling Frazier to play ball, or else the Commission will expose the FBI's scandalous deception regarding the distance the limo traveled.
If so, it worked. Well, sort of... Frazier at first testifies that the proper lead for the target at 175 feet would be 6 to 8 inches. But there's a problem with this. Frazier can't leave well enough alone. Dissatisfied with Eisenberg's asking him to disregard the misalignment of the scope in making his calculation, he offers: "the gun, when we first received it in the laboratory and fired these first targets, shot high and slightly to the right. If you were shooting at a moving target from a high elevation, relatively high elevation, moving away from you, it would be necessary for you to shoot over that object in order for the bullet to strike your intended target, because the object during the flight of the bullet would move a certain distance. The fact that the crosshairs are set high would actually compensate for any lead which had to be taken. So that if you aimed with this weapon as it actually was received at the laboratory, it would be necessary to take no lead whatsoever in order to hit the intended object. The scope would accomplish the lead for you."
Uhhh...there's a problem with this. It's nonsense! If the rifle was firing 4 inches high and 1 inch to the right at only 15 yards, as suggested by Frazier's own testimony, then it follows that it would fire 24 inches high and 6 inches to the right at 90 yards, the approximate location of Kennedy at the time of the head shot. If the proper lead for this shot was 6.1inches, as Frazier later specified, it follows that, in order to hit Kennedy in the head at frame 313 of the Zapruder film, the sniper would have to 1) know that the rifle was firing significantly high, and 2) aim almost 18 inches LOW, at the middle of Kennedy's back.
But there's a problem with this as well. The middle of Kennedy's back was obscured by the backseat of the limo. That's right. If one assumes that the rifle as fired on 11-22 was in the same condition it was on 11-27, one has to acknowledge that the sniper hitting Kennedy in the head was actually aiming at the backseat of the limo. This is counter-intuitive.
And it's actually understating the case. It is believed that Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was sighted-in to strike targets at 200 meters. The bullet of a rifle sighted in at 200 meters will start out low, gradually lift above its line of sight, and then slowly drop back to the line of sight, and hopefully the center of its target, at 200 meters. Frazier testified that a bullet sighted in such a manner at 200 yards would land about a half-inch high at 100 feet, two inches high at 200 feet, and three inches high at 300 feet. This suggests that a bullet fired from 265 feet, a la the fatal bullet if fired from the sniper's nest, would land about 2 1/2 inches high.
And Frazier was probably understating the case. Ballistics calculators (such as those found online at Hornady ammunition website) and charts (such as those found in the book American Ammunition and Ballistics) suggest that the bullet fired in Oswald's rifle would actually have been around 5 inches above the line of sight at 265 feet.
And even this is understating the case. If one accepts Frazier's testimony regarding the inaccuracy of the weapon on 11-27 and the stabilizing effect of shots on the scope, and then considers that the fatal bullet was heading on a downward path, and not be subject to the usual amount of gravity, it seems likely that the fatal bullet supposedly fired from Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano on 11-22-63 would have landed even greater than 23 inches higher than aimed (29 inches minus the 6 inches or so traveled by the limousine between the moment the rifle was fired and the moment the bullet struck) and that the only way for the sniper to have hit Kennedy in the head was for him to have aimed at the trunk of the car.
The confusion related to leading a moving target by firing below or behind the target becomes even more confusing when we consider Frazier's next statement. He added "I might also say that it also shot slightly to the right, which would tend to cause you to miss your target slightly to the right." Uhhh... he said the rifle shot but an inch to the right at 15 yards...which translates to 6 inches to the right at 90 yards. Although Frazier has supplied the Warren Commission with no information regarding the left-right lead necessary to hit the target, photos taken from the sniper's nest suggest that the left-right lead would be about the same as the vertical lead. This would be about 6 inches. This suggests that, while the rifle was firing high and to the right, the sniper would need to make a large adjustment for the former--an adjustment which Frazier denies--but no adjustment at all for the latter--which Frazier also denies.
Something is just askew with Frazier's testimony. First, he under-reports how badly the rifle performed during his 11-27 tests of the rifle from 25 yards. Then he conjures up imaginary incidents--the Dallas Police Department's removal of shims from under the scope, the scope's being damaged after the shooting--in an attempt to explain the problems with the scope. Then he under-reports the adjustment needed to overcome the problems with the scope, and actually suggests the misalignment of the scope was an advantage to the sniper. What is he doing? Is he deliberately trying to conceal that such a large adjustment for the rifle's shooting high would have been necessary? If so, then why did he turn around and make it sound like the rifle's shooting right was the bigger problem? Is he simultaneously trying to conceal that the limo was not heading straight away from the sniper, but moving left to right? Or is he just following orders to the best of his ability?
We suspect the latter. On 3-26-64, J. Edgar Hoover sent J. Lee Rankin a letter discussing the accuracy of the rifle. This letter was published as Commission Exhibit 2724. Most of the information contained in this letter was repeated in Frazier's testimony. But not all of it. While Frazier had accidentally indicated that the condition of the scope had probably not changed between 11-22 and 11-27, Hoover would have no part of it. He wrote "It is pointed out that the grouping of the shots in the targets shows an inherent capability of great accuracy under rapid fire conditions. No other significance whatever can be attached to these tests since there is no way of determining whether the present condition of the telescopic sight is the same as at the time of the assassination. It is to be noted that at the time of firing these tests, the telescopic sight could not be properly aligned with the target since the sight reached the limit of its adjustment before reaching accurate alignment." (Now here comes the spin.) "The present error in alignment, if it did exist at the time of the assassination, would be in favor of the shooter since the weapon is presently grouping slightly high and to the right with respect to the point of aim, and would have tended to reduce the need for "leading" a moving target in aiming the rifle."
Well, I'll be. Hoover said that the present error in alignment--which would mean the alignment demonstrated on 3-16 AFTER the scope had been sighted in as accurately as possible--would be an advantage, and Frazier testified that the misalignment of the rifle as received by the laboratory would be an advantage. There's a huge difference. And Hoover, for once, was right. The misalignment of the scope on 11-27, when Frazier first tested the accuracy of the rifle, was in no way an advantage. It is of no help at all to a sniper to have to aim at a car trunk to hit a man in the head. But the slight misalignment of the rifle on 3-16, after it was sighted in, would be a slight advantage to someone tracking an object moving left to right and away, provided the person is aware of this misalignment. This leads us to suspect that Frazier was given specific orders on how to testify, and screwed them up.
This gives us plenty to think about. IF the scope was severely misaligned on 11-22, as suggested by Frazier's testimony, then the shooter was either 1) a marginally talented shooter, like Oswald, who was just firing in the President's general direction and got "lucky", 2) an expert marksman well acquainted with the rifle's tendency to fire high and to the right, and talented enough to compensate for this tendency, or 3) someone familiar enough with Oswald's rifle to know the scope was nearly worthless and yet talented enough to accomplish the shooting without the use of the scope. (Testimony of Robert Frazier, 3H390-441).
(FWIW: subsequent to my writing this section, I became aware of an old letter in the FBI's files addressing some of the problems with Frazier's testimony we've examined. This letter was written in March 1969 by a Richard Bernabei on the stationery of Queen's University, London, Ontario. Bernabei's conclusions were similar to my own, with the notable exception that while I presumed the rifle--should it have been in the condition Frazier received it when fired on 11-22-63--would have fired a bit more than 23 inches high at 90 yards, Bernabei--presumably not taking into account that the president was moving away from the shooter--concluded it would have fired about 29 inches high at 100 yards. He claimed, furthermore, that he'd actually tested this using a 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifle, and had found that the bullets landed 28 1/2 inches high of the point of aim at 100 yards. FBI file 62-109060 Sec 170 p 45-55.)
In the Interests of Accuracy
After Frazier, Ronald Simmons, the Chief of the Weapons Evaluation Branch of the Ballistics Laboratory of the Department of the Army, testifies, and things only get worse. He states that Oswald’s rifle was as accurate as the current standard issue rifle of the U.S. Army, the M-14, but acknowledges that his three test shooters “could not sight the weapon in using the telescope and no attempt was made to sight it in using the iron sight. We did adjust the telescopic sight by addition of two shims, one which tended to adjust the azimuth, and one which adjusted an elevation.” He was thereby acknowledging that the scope and rifle as discovered were fatally out of alignment, and that this misalignment was not the result of a Dallas police officer bumping the scope or some such thing.
Simmons also discusses a simulation of the shooting performed by these shooters. He relates that they made seven attempts to replicate the shooting by rapid firing on three stationary targets at the presumed distances of the shots in Dealey Plaza. Simmons details: "All firers hit the first target, which was emplaced at 175 feet...for the first four attempts, the firers missed the second target...there were only two rounds which did not hit the target at 270 feet..." He then gives the time it took for his shooters to fire these shots: "Mr. Hendrix fired twice. The time for the first exercise was 8.25 seconds; the time for the second exercise was 7.0 seconds. Mr. Staley, on the first exercise, fired in 6 3/4 seconds; the second attempt he used 6.45 seconds. Specialist Miller used 4.6 seconds on his first attempt, 5.15 seconds in his second attempt, and 4.45 seconds in his exercise using the iron sight..."
Simmons then discusses Mr. Miller's shots in more detail: "Mr. Miller succeeded in hitting the third target on both attempts with the telescope. He missed the second target on both attempts with the telescope but he hit the second target with the iron sight. And he emplaced all three rounds on the target, the first target...On the third target he missed the boards completely. And we have not checked this out. It appears that for the firing posture which Mr. Miller--Specialist Miller uses, the iron sight is not zeroed for him, since his impacts on the first and second targets were quite high, and against the third target we would assume that the projectile went over the top of the target, which extended only a few inches over the top of the silhouette."
When asked what preparation these shooters were allowed to undertake, before attempting these shots, Simmons then relates: "They had each attempted the exercise without the use of ammunition, and had worked the bolt as they tried the exercise. They had not pulled the trigger during the exercise, however, because we were a little concerned about breaking the firing pin."
So let us now try to put this in plain English. Seven attempts were made to replicate Oswald's purported feat of firing three shots and achieving two hits in less than six seconds. Only three of the seven attempts were fired in less than six seconds. The first shot was hit on all seven attempts. The second shot was hit on but three attempts. And the third shot was hit on five attempts. Since the shooters were given all the time in the world to fire the first shot, however, the results for that shot should not be included in our analysis. This means that these expert shooters were able to hit the target but 8 of 14 times while engaging in rapid-fire, while Oswald was purported to have hit 2 of 3 shots while engaging in rapid fire. This, even at a glance, seems a bit of a stretch.
And it's actually worse than that. Far worse. These expert shooters were firing at stationary targets. Even the slightest bit of movement of a target while a shooter is aiming and firing can negatively affect the accuracy of his shooting. When asked if these expert shooters made any comments as they fired Oswald's rifle, Simmons replies: "Yes; there were several comments made particularly with respect to the amount of effort required to open the bolt. As a matter of fact, Mr. Staley had, difficulty in opening the bolt in his first firing exercise. He thought it was completely up and it was not, and he had to retrace his steps as he attempted to open the bolt after the first round. There was also comment made about the trigger pull which is different as far as these firers are concerned. It is in effect a two-stage operation where the first--in the first stage the trigger is relatively free, and it suddenly required a greater pull to actually fire the weapon."
Hmm...we can only wonder then if this two stage jerky trigger pull would negatively affect the performance of the rifle when firing upon moving targets.
Actually, we can do more than that. When one reads the available literature, one finds it does just that. The Rifle Book, by Jack O'Connor (1950) tells us "No man ever learns to become a good rifleshot unless he develops his co-ordination to the point where he can let his shot off at the exact instant he wishes. This is as true of shooting running game as it is on the target range. The best trigger is one with a light, crisp pull. It can be a double-stage military pull or a single-stage spotting pull, but it must be crisp. If the last stage is draggy, rough, or creepy, no one can use it...If the motion that lets the trigger off is anything but a gentle squeeze, it will disturb the aim and the shot will not go where it is supposed to go."
It seems clear, moreover, that Simmons knew there was a problem for the proposition Oswald fired all the shots with the weapon in question, what with its misaligned scope, stiff bolt-action, and jerky two-stage trigger. In concluding his appraisal of the difficulty of the shooting, Simmons affirms that "in order to achieve three hits, it would not be required that a man be an exceptional shot. A proficient man with this weapon, yes." (Testimony of Ronald Simmons, 3H441-451)
Well, that's the problem, isn't it? There is no evidence--zero, zip, nada--that Oswald was proficient with his weapon. Prior to 11-22-63, the only time Oswald was purported to have fired his rifle at a living target was back in April, 1963. And that purported shot, fired at a right-wing fanatic named General Walker as he sat at a desk in his home, missed. There is no record of Oswald firing his rifle in the months leading up to the assassination. The rumors of his practicing at various shooting ranges around Dallas were all discredited by the FBI. Furthermore, there were no rifle-cleaning supplies or even extra ammunition found among his possessions. Thus, when Simmons testifies that Oswald’s rifle was substandard and that only someone with a lot of experience with the rifle could compensate for its shortcomings, he is unwittingly arguing for Oswald's innocence.
Particularly in that Simmons knew full well his test shooters did not fire nearly as well as claimed...
When one looks at the targets his men fired upon, Commission Exhibits 582-584, it's startlingly clear Simmons' definition of a hit is not what any reasonable person would consider a hit. Oswald was purported to have hit Kennedy once in the base of the neck and once in the head in 6 seconds or less. The targets the Army shooters fired upon were not only stationary targets, they were far larger than the small area on Kennedy hit by the sniper...twice. While one might claim the shooters were merely interested in hitting the targets, and not specific points on the targets, one cannot reasonably claim they would deliberately not hit this target in as central a location as possible. Thus, a re-examination of the Army's targets, counting as hits only those hits landing between the extended sides of the neck on the target, indicates that the Army's shooters hit the first shot 6 of 7 times, the second shot 3 of 7 times, and the third shot but 2 of 7 times, with both hits landing on the back.
When one looks even closer, and considers that the Army's shooters would also be trying to hit the center of the target vertically, and compares their hits between the neck lines on the targets to the purported location of the hits on Kennedy, it gets even worse. (Simmons, in fact, testified that he'd assumed the shooters were firing at the intersection of lines at the center of the target.) Only one or two of the hits on the first target, when the shooters had ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, landed as close to the center of the target as the two hits purportedly rapid-fired by Oswald. Even worse (yes, even worse), NOT ONE of the 14 shots rapid fired on the last two targets landed anywhere near as close the center of the target as the two hits attributed to Oswald.
And no, I'm not being unreasonable. The United States Marine Corps' guidebook on sniping presents the following drawing.
Note the dotted line. The guidebook explains: "the portion of the target above the neckline is considered a 'hit' at all ranges up to 400 meters. At ranges beyond 400 meters, the entire target is used to score a hit."
So...yikes. By the standards of the U.S. Marine Corps, of which Oswald had once been a member, Kennedy's assassin had scored one hit and one near miss...in what was purportedly three attempts with the rifle found in the depository, while three Army test shooters had scored but one hit with no near misses...in FOURTEEN shots with the identical rifle at a similar range, after it was sighted-in as much as possible, and shims were added to bring its scope into alignment.
The Army shooters' failure to replicate the purported shooting, even though the rifle had been re-aligned just for this purpose, and even though their targets were quite stationary, is incredibly problematic for the Commission, and should force them to re-evaluate Oswald's presumed ability with a rifle. They must know the public will not buy that such fantastic shots with such a mediocre rifle were fired by a man who hadn't practiced in months, and was never very good to begin with. They must know that the only way they can maintain any credibility is to stand by the incredible, and insist that, no matter how difficult the shots, Oswald somehow just got "lucky.
On 4-2-64, Sebastian Latona, the FBI's top fingerprint examiner, and Arthur Mandella, an outside expert brought in by the Commission from the New York City Police Department, testify before the Warren Commission in Washington. While they run through the motions, and show the Commission exhibits designed to demonstrate that Oswald's prints were found both in the sniper's nest and on the rifle used in the assassination, they inadvertently demonstrate something else as well...that the FBI's investigation of the president's assassination has been woefully negligent.
Four photos entered into evidence during Mandella's testimony are of particular interest. The black smudges on these photos are purported to represent fingerprints--four of which are considered identifiable. (That's right--one per photo.) Mandella's notes on these photos (CE 662) confirm, moreover, what has already been admitted by the FBI--that these four prints do not belong to Oswald. What is new information, however, is that these four prints are the exact same print from the exact same finger, and that, yikes, some unidentified person has left far more prints on the boxes found in the sniper's nest than Kennedy's supposed assassin...AND THAT THE FBI HAS MADE NO EFFORT TO IDENTIFY THIS PERSON! (These photos are presented below.)
After the testimony of the fingerprint examiners, Postal Inspector Harry Holmes, the last man to interview Oswald, testifies before the Commission. It turns out that he’d watched the assassination through binoculars from his office on the south side of Dealey Plaza. (4-2-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H289-308) “the motorcade turned north on Houston and went to Elm and turned left on Elm where it started on a downgrade to what we refer to as a triple underpass. As it turned in front of the school book depository, I heard what to me sounded like firecrackers, and it was my recollection that there were three of them. I had my binoculars on this car, on the presidential car at the time. I realized something was wrong but I thought they were dodging somebody throwing things at the car like firecrackers or something, but I did see dust fly up like a firecracker had burst up in the air." (When asked where he saw the dust) “Off of President Kennedy and I couldn’t tell you which one of the cracks of the firecracker resulted in this.” Too vague.
(Years later, in Larry Sneed’s 1998 book No More Silence, Holmes would make clear that while he couldn’t remember which of the cracks of the “firecracker” brought “dust off” the President, he couldn’t remember if it was the first shot or the second shot, and that he distinctly recalled a third shot being fired after the head shot.)
Many others are brought in to testify during March and April. For the most part, their statements are consistent with the statements they’d made in November and December. One “new” witness to testify is the motorcycle officer riding just behind the limousine on the far left. Strangely, the two escorts to the right of the limousine were never called to testify, and not even interviewed. B.J. Martin (4-3-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H289-293): “one of the agents got off of the car after the first shot…I looked to my right (after the first shot)…I looked at the President after I heard the (first) shot and he was leaning forward—I could see the left side of his face. At the time he had no expression on his face” (Then I heard) “Two more shots…immediately after the first shot I saw him (the President) and after that I couldn’t see him.” Double head shot. (While many will say that “two more shots” is too vague to assume the shots came together, a better way of looking at it is that “two more shots” is too vague to assume they’re not together. Law enforcement professionals like Martin knew that they were expected to describe what happened as accurately as possible. Consequently, if there was an appreciable delay between the last two shots we can expect he would have said so, and then described what he observed between the shots.)
A 4-4-64 FBI memorandum from Rosen to Belmont reveals that the strain between the Bureau and the Commission, so readily apparent in the weeks leading up to the testimony of the FBI's experts, has failed to dissipate now that some of the experts have testified. (Perhaps Rosen realizes how bad Mandella's testimony reflected on the FBI.) In this memorandum, Rosen writes that J.Lee Rankin "stated that he would appreciate the Director being advised of the very favorable impression the Bureau experts made and that Chief Justice Earl Warren had made favorable comments and had asked Mr. Rankin to make known to the Director his feelings concerning the Bureau experts' testimony...Mr. Rankin advised that the testimony of the Bureau personnel was far superior to testimony received from anyone else that has appeared before the Commission, each of the Bureau employees testified with complete confidence and their testimony was given in such a manner that any possible doubt that anyone had had been completely removed by the Bureau experts' testimony." Hoover, still fuming over the Commission's use of outside experts, however, is not impressed. In the margins of this memo, he writes: "I place no credence in any complimentary remarks made by Warren nor the Commission. They were looking for FBI 'gaps' and having found none yet they try to get 'syrupy.'"
On 4-6-64, the Commission takes the testimony of Dallas Detective Robert Studebaker. He briefly discusses the finding of the bag found in the sniper's nest. He offers no explanation for why he failed to photograph this bag where it was found. A 3-10 interview of Studebaker by the FBI is equally unclear, stating "According to Studebaker, the paper bag was removed prior to taking photographs of the southeast corner." (FBI file 105-82555 section 142 p9) This bag, we should recall, is believed to have been used by Oswald to bring the assassination rifle in to work. The only witnesses to Oswald with a bag, however, have insisted the bag carried by Oswald was far smaller than this bag. Studebaker testifies that the bag he found was "I would say, 3 1/2 to 4 feet long" and "Approximately 8 inches" wide. (7H137-149). This catches our attention. On 3-11-64, Counsel Joe Ball had been able to get one of the two witnesses to see Oswald with a bag, Buell Frazier--who'd previously said the bag he saw was 5 or 6 inches wide--to agree that the bag he saw could have been as wide as the bag found in the sniper's nest. Ball then got the second witness, Linnie Mae Randle, to testify that the width of the bag found in the sniper's nest was "about right." Of the bag found in the sniper's nest, Ball said, furthermore, that "This package is about the span of my hand, say 8 inches." This suggests the package shown both Frazier and Randle was about 8 inches wide.
There's a problem with this. An FBI memo on the creation of a replica bag states that the paper used was 24 inches wide (CD7, p292). One can only assume that this paper would have been folded in half to make the bag, with a few inches of overlap, and that the resulting bag would be about 10 inches wide. Sure enough, photographs of the bag pulled from the sniper's nest on the day of the assassination suggest it was about 10 inches wide. So why was the bag shown to Frazier and Randle during their testimony barely 8 inches wide?
The words of a 12-2-63 FBI report on the showing of this replica sack to Randle are also telling. When discussing her impression of the package she saw on 11-22, it states "Her designation on the replica sack was found to be 8 1/2 inches for the width of the original package she'd seen Oswald carrying." (CD7, p299). She couldn't have designated an 8 1/2 inch width on a package only 8 inches wide, now could she?
This leads us, then, to study the evidence photos more closely. This confirms what we concluded back in November. A piece of tape, supposedly 3 inches wide, runs up from the closed end of the bag. This piece of tape represents a little less than 1/3 the width of the closed end of the bag. This suggests, then, that the bag is really about 9 1/4 inches wide at the closed end, and 8 1/2 inches wide at the open end, and not a rectangular 8 inches wide, as suggested by Ball.
We then read the testimony of James Cadigan, the FBI's paper expert, who testified only 3 days before Studebaker. When asked if he found any marks inside the bag on 11-23 that could tie it to the rifle, he testified: "I couldn't find any such markings." When asked if one could make an inference from this he testified further that: "I don't know the condition of the rifle. If it were in fact contained in this bag, it could have been wrapped in cloth or just the metal parts wrapped in a thick layer of cloth, or if the gun was in the bag, perhaps it wasn't moved too much. I did observe some scratch marks and abrasions but was unable to associate them with this gun. The scratch marks in the paper could come from any place. They could have come from many places. There were no marks on this bag that I could say were caused by that rifle or any other rifle or any other given instrument." When asked further if, assuming the rifle had not been wrapped in cloth, it should have left marks of some sort, he replied: "The absence of markings to me wouldn't mean much. I was looking for markings I could associate. The absence of marks, the significance of them, I don't know." (4H89-101). Clearly, Cadigan and his superiors were not the curious sort. They had Oswald's rifle. Within a few more days they had a replica bag. All they had to do was put the rifle in the bag and re-enact Oswald's trip to work and see if the bag was scratched or marked by the grease on Oswald's gun. That they failed to do so, and that the Warren Commission failed to ask them to do so, reveals either their incredible incompetence or deliberate negligence.
One might suspect the latter. While Cadigan has testified that the tape found on the paper bag was 25/1000 of an inch wider than a tape sample taken from the depository on 11-22, only to say that this doesn't really matter, he has failed to provide any measurements for the bag he studied, both inside and out. Why wasn't he asked this? Why has Ball asked Studebaker to guess about the size of an object he only saw for a minute, when only days before he had Cadigan, who'd studied this object in detail, at his disposal, and had failed to ask him its actual size? And is it a coincidence that Studebaker has said the bag he found in the sniper's nest was 8 inches wide, and Ball has suggested the bag now in evidence is 8 inches wide, when the bag in the evidence photos is closer to 9 inches wide?
The testimony on the bag couldn't smell any worse if the bag had been wrapped around day-old fish.
Above: Oswald's housekeeper Earlene Roberts. Alice Johnson, Oswald's landlady and Roberts' employer, is in the background, and not amused.
On 4-8-64, Joseph Ball takes the testimony of Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper of the rooming house where Oswald was staying. They discuss Oswald's brief visit to his room around 1:00 PM on the day of the shooting. Not much is revealed.
One part of Roberts' testimony stands out, however. .
Mr. BALL. Now, I also will ask you whether or not you ever heard of a fellow by the name of Ruby---did you ever hear of a fellow by the name of Jack Ruby?
Mrs. ROBERTS. No---I didn't.
Mr. BALL. Had you ever heard his name before he was accused of shooting Oswald?
Mr.. ROBERTS. No.
Mr. BALL. You never even heard his name?
Mrs. ROBERTS. No.
Mr. BALL. You never even heard his name?
Mrs. ROBERTS. No--I never heard his name.
Mr. BALL. And had never seen him?
Mrs. ROBERTS. No, sir.
Now, note the transition, or, rather, awkward leap. After dismissing that Roberts knew Jack Ruby (who'd had a financial relationship with Bertha Cheek, Roberts' sister), Ball immediately jumps to Mrs. Roberts' previous statement she heard and saw a police car in front of Oswald's rooming house after his arrival--something not yet mentioned in her testimony.
Mr. BALL. Did a police car pass the house there and honked?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Yes.
Mr. BALL. When was that?
Mrs. ROBERTS. He came in the house.
Mr. BALL. When he came in the house?
Mrs. ROBERTS. When he came in the house and went to his room, you know how the sidewalk runs?
Mr. BALL. Yes.
Mrs. ROBERTS. Right direct in front of that door-there was a police car stopped and honked. I had worked for some policemen and sometimes they come by and tell me something that maybe their wives would want me to know, and I thought it was them, and I just glanced out and saw the number, and I said, "Oh, that's not their car," for I knew their car.
Mr. BALL. You mean, it was not the car of the policemen you knew?
Mrs. ROBERTS. It wasn't the police car I knew, because their number was 170 and it wasn't 170 and I ignored it.
Mr. BALL. And who was in the car?
Mrs. ROBERTS. I don't know--I didn't pay any attention to it after I noticed it wasn't them-I didn't.
Mr. BALL. Where was it parked ?
Mrs. ROBERTS. It was parked in front of the house.
Mr. BALL. At 1026 North Beckley?
Mrs. ROBERTS. And then they just eased on--the way it is-it was the third house off of Zangs and they just went on around the corner that way.
Mr. BALL. Went around what corner?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Went around the corner off of Beckley on Zangs.
Mr. BALL. Going which way--toward town or away from town?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Toward town.
Dr. GOLDBERG. Which way was the car facing?
Mrs. ROBERTS. It was facing north.
Dr. GOLDBERG. Towards Zangs?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Towards Zangs--for I was the third house right off of Zangs on Beckley.
Mr. BALL. Did this police car stop directly in front of your house?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Yes--it stopped directly in front of my house and it just "tip-tip" and that's the way Officer Alexander and Charles Burnely would do when they stopped, and I went to the door and looked and saw it wasn't their number.
Mr. BALL. Where was Oswald when this happened?
Mrs. ROBERTS. In his room.
Mr. BALL. It was after he had come in his room?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Yes.
Mr. BALL. Had that police car ever stopped there before ?
Mrs. ROBERTS. I don't know--I don't remember ever seeing it.
Mr. BALL. Have you ever seen it since?
Mrs. ROBERTS. No--I didn't pay that much attention--I just saw it wasn't the police car that I knew and had worked for so, I forgot about it. I seen it at the time, but I don't remember now what it was.
Mr. BALL. Did you report the number of the car to anyone?
Mrs. ROBERTS. I think I did---I'm not sure, because I--at that particular time I remembered it.
Mr. BALL. You remembered the number of the car ?
Mrs. ROBERTS. I think it was--106, it seems to me like it was 106, but I do know what theirs was--it was 170 and it wasn't their car.
Mr. BALL. It was not 170?
Mrs. ROBERTS. The people I worked for was 170.
Mr. BALL. Did you report that number to anyone, did you report this incident to anyone?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Yes, I told the FBI and the Secret Service both when they was out there.
Mr. BALL. And did you tell them the number of the car?
Mrs. ROBERTS. I'm not sure--I believe I did--I'm not sure. I think I did because there was so much happened then until my brains was in a whirl.
Mr. BALL. On the 29th of November, Special Agents Will Griffin and James Kennedy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed you and you told them that after Oswald had entered his room about 1 p.m. on November 22, 1963, you looked out the front window and saw police car No. 207?
Mrs. ROBERTS. No. 107.
Mr. BALL. Is that the number?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Yes--I remembered it. I don't know where I got that 106---207. Anyway, I knew it wasn't 170.
Mr. BALL. And you say that there were two uniformed policemen in the car?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Yes, and it was in a black car. It wasn't an accident squad car at all.
Mr. BALL. Were there two uniformed policemen in the car?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Oh, yes.
Mr. BALL. And one of the officers sounded the born ?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Just kind of a "tit-tit"--twice.
Mr. BALL. And then drove on to Beckley toward Zangs Boulevard, is that right?
Mrs. ROBERTS. Yes. I thought there was a number, but I couldn't remember it but I did know the number of their car--I could tell that. I want you to understand that I have been put through the third degree and it's hard to remember.
So...Mrs. Roberts recalls with great certainty that a police car honked its horn outside her house just after Oswald's arrival.
Although she thought the number of this car was 207, according to the FBI, and 107, according to her testimony, the commission can't really question that she saw this car, right?
On 4-9-64, however, another problem arises for the Commission as a whole, and Counsel Ball and Belin in particular. Not only did Mrs. Roberts spot a pair of unidentified Dallas police officers behaving suspiciously in front of Oswald's rooming house just after the shooting, but, incredibly, a Dallas Police Officer spotted and spoke to a pair of unidentified "secret service agents" outside the school book depository just after the shooting.
This officer, to be clear, is Sgt. D.V. Harkness. After going through Harkness' exploits before and just after the shooting, leading up to approximately 8 minutes after the shooting, Counsel Belin asks Harkness the following question...
Mr. BELIN - All right, in any event, after you made the call, what did you do on the radio? And after you got the man in the car?
Mr. HARKNESS - Well---
Mr. BELIN - The witness in the car, what did you do?
Mr. HARKNESS - Stayed at the back of the building until I was relieved by a squad.
Mr. BELIN - So you then went to the back of the building?
Mr. HARKNESS - Yes.
Mr. BELIN - When you were at Inspector Sawyer's car, did you see him there?
Mr. HARKNESS - Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN - Was he at his car?
Mr. HARKNESS - Yes, sir; he was by his car, near his car.
Mr. BELIN - Do you know whether or not he had gone inside the building.
Mr. HARKNESS - No, sir.
Mr. BELIN - You mean you don't know?
Mr. HARKNESS - Don't know whether he had gone in or not. Actually, he was standing there in front taking information. All the information was being funneled to Inspector Sawyer.
Mr. BELIN - Did you tell him you had a witness?
Mr. HARKNESS - Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN - In his car?
Mr. HARKNESS - Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN - At that time, had the building been sealed off yet when you told him that?
Mr. HARKNESS - At that time?
Mr. BELIN - When you told Inspector Sawyer that you had a witness that said the shot came from the building, up to that particular moment, had the front part of the building been sealed off yet?
Mr. HARKNESS - Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN - It had already been sealed off?
Mr. HARKNESS - There was two officers with Inspector Sawyer at the front.
Mr. BELIN - Were they stopping people from going in and out?
Mr. HARKNESS - I don't know.
Mr. BELIN - You don't know?
Mr. HARKNESS - No, sir; I don't know that, because I didn't go up and talk to them.
Mr. BELIN - Did you notice whether or not people were coming in and out of the building?
Mr. HARKNESS - No. I was interested in getting around to the back of the building to make sure it was.
Mr. BELIN - Then am I correct that your testimony is that you didn't notice whether people were coming in and out? Did you notice, or did you not notice whether people were coming out of the building at that time?
Mr. HARKNESS - Several officers at the area, and it was a lot of people around. I don't know whether they were going in or out or not. I couldn't say that.
Mr. BELIN - Then you went around to the back of the building?
Mr. HARKNESS - Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN - Was anyone around in the back when you got there?
Mr. HARKNESS - There were some Secret Service agents there. I didn't get them identified. They told me they were Secret Service.
Mr. BELIN - Then did you stay around the back of the building?
Mr. HARKNESS - Yes; I stayed at the back until the squad got there.
Hmmm... this sounds familiar. We leaf back through the transcripts. Yep, there it is, from the testimony of James Romack from the day before. Romack had told Belin he watched the back of the school book depository for 5-6 minutes after the shooting. Belin then asked...
Mr. BELIN. Did you see a policeman go up there?
Mr. ROMACK. I saw policemen up in there. I didn't see anyone come up the back. They came in the front, all---most of them.
Mr. BELIN. Did you see any employees walk up the back way?
Mr. ROMACK. There was two other gentlemen which I never said anything about, that taken over. They were FBI or something standing right here at the very entrance, and just stood there.
Mr. BELIN. You are pointing again to the back stairway that leads up from the street to the dock on the north side of the building?
Mr. ROMACK. Right.
Mr. BELIN. See anyone else?
Mr. ROMACK. No, sir; other than all the motorcycle officers and squad cars. They started coming in, I would say, in 4 minutes from the time that this happened. They were swarming the building, which naturally. I quit watching anything particular.
Mr. BELIN. In other words, about 4 minutes after the shots came you quit watching it? Would that be accurate, or not?
Mr. ROMACK. Well, I would say somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 minutes, 4 or 5 minutes. That would probably be true. I stayed there, but I wasn't particularly watching.
Mr. BELIN. In other words, then as I understand your testimony, you said that from about the time of the shots until about 5 minutes after the shots, you watched the back door of the building?
Mr. ROMACK. Right.
Mr. BELIN. What is the fact as to whether or not you saw anyone leave the building?
Mr. ROMACK. They wasn't anyone left the building.
YIKES. Harkness' testimony supports Romack' testimony, and verifies that two unidentified men were at the back of the building within minutes of the shooting. Harkness goes further, moreover, and asserts that these men self-identified as Secret Service agents.
Well, heck, Belin should be raising the alarm, right? He should ask that the Secret Service identify these men. And, should they fail to do so--he should have the FBI conduct an extensive investigation into the identities of these men...
But nope... No such alarm is raised. (And no such investigation is conducted.)
(Note: the first Secret Service agent to reach the school book depository on 11-22 is presumed to have been Forrest V. Sorrels. Sorrels testified before the commission in Washington on 5-7-64. His testimony was taken by Samuel Stern, but David Belin was in attendance. Sorrels claimed he arrived at the school book depository around 20 minutes after the shooting. He claimed, moreover, that he was driven to the building by local police and that he went straight into the back of the building upon his arrival. (7H332-360) So, no, he could not have been one of the men observed by Romack and Harkness. SO WHO WERE THESE MEN? AND WHY DIDN'T BELIN EVER ATTEMPT TO IDENTIFY THEM?)
On 4-13-64, as part of his ongoing effort to show the country everything is peachy-keen and hunky dory, President Johnson attends the opening day game for the Washington Senators baseball team In a refreshing change of pace, the Angels shut out the Senators 4-0. More telling, though, is the company Johnson keeps at the game. Sitting with him in the stands are Speaker of the House John McCormack, the man who would oversee (and presumably quash) any efforts to impeach President Johnson (for something like--let's say--conspiring to murder his predecessor) and Congressman and Warren Commissioner Hale Boggs (one of the men currently investigating the murder of Johnson's predecessor). Here is a photo from the game...
A few days later, Nelson Delgado, a Marine who’d served with Oswald, testifies about Oswald’s proficiency with a rifle. (4-16-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 8H228-265): “he didn’t show no particular aspects of being a sharpshooter at all…He always got gigged for his rifle (meaning that he got in trouble for keeping it in poor condition)…we were on line together, the same time, but not firing at the same position, but at the same time, and I remember seeing his. It was a pretty big joke because he got a lot of “Maggie’s drawers,” you know, a lot of misses, but he didn’t give a darn…he was a couple of targets down. It was very comical to see.”
The week after that, the Connallys finally testify, confirming their earlier statements. Nellie Connally (4-21-64) testimony before the Warren Commission, 4H146-149) “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. Then very soon there was the second shot that hit John. As the first shot was hit, and I turned to look at the same time, I recall John saying, “Oh, no, no, no.” Then there was a second shot, and it hit John, and as he recoiled to the right, just crumpled like a wounded animal to the right, he said, “My God, ,they are going to kill us all”…I never again looked in the back seat of the car after my husband was shot…The third shot that I heard I felt, it felt like spent buckshot falling all over us, and then, of course, I too, could see that it was the matter, brain tissue, or whatever, just human matter, all over the car and both of us.” Governor John Connally (4-21-64 testimony 4H129-146) “I reclined with my head in her lap, conscious all the time, and with my eyes open, and then, of course, the third shot sounded, and I heard the shot very clearly. I heard it hit him. I heard the shot hit something…I heard it hit. It was a very loud noise, just that audible, very clear…Immediately, I could see on my clothes, my clothing, I could see on the interior of the car…brain tissue…on my trousers there was one chunk of brain tissue as big as almost my thumb.”
We also finally hear from the fourth occupant of the lead car. Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry (4-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 4H150-202) (When asked where the President’s car was at the time of the first shot) “I would say it was approximately halfway between Houston Street and the underpass, which would be, I would say probably 125-150 feet west of Houston Street…" (when asked how far it had gone by the time of the second shot) “perhaps 25 or 30 feet further along” (and the third shot) “A few feet further, perhaps 15-20 feet further” (when asked the duration of the shots) “perhaps 5 or 6 seconds…I heard three shots. I will never forget it.” Although he doesn’t describe the head shot, we can’t help but notice that Curry’s statement that the car traveled much further between the first and second shots than between the second and third shots and is suggestive that the last two shots were fired closer together.
Now, immediately following Curry comes Dallas Police Capt. Will Fritz. While not a witness to the shooting itself, Fritz had led the initial investigation of Kennedy's shooting, and had been an eyewitness to Ruby's shooting of Oswald. Fritz's testimony is taken by Warren Commission Counsel Joe Ball. At one point, however, Commissioner John McCloy (presumably remembering that Howard Brennan had testified on 3-24-64 that Fritz was not only in attendance at the showup during which Brennan was shown Oswald, but that Brennan had spoken to Fritz at this showup and had told Fritz he could not identify Oswald as Kennedy's assassin) does his job and asks Fritz a presumably unexpected question.
Mr. McCLOY. Were you present at the showup at which Brennan was the witness?
Mr. FRITZ. Brennan?
Mr. McCLOY. Brennan was the alleged----
Mr. FRITZ. Is that the man that the Secret Service brought over there, Mr. Sorrels brought over?
Mr. McCLOY. I don't know whether Mr. Sorrels----
Mr. FRITZ. I don't think I was present but I will tell you what, I helped Mr. Sorrels find the time that that man--we didn't show that he was shown at all on our records, but Mr. Sorrels called me and said he did show him and he wanted me to give him the time of the showup. I asked him to find out from his officers who were with Mr. Brennan the names of the people that we had there, and he gave me those two Davis sisters, and he said, when he told me that, of course, I could tell what showup it was and then I gave him the time.
Mr. McCLOY. But you were not present to the best of your recollection when Brennan was in the showup?
Mr. FRITZ. I don't believe I was there, I doubt it.
(4-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 4H202-247)
Now, this is suspicious, right? Fritz expects the commission to believe that the lead detective on a murder case (the killing of Officer Tippit) doesn't remember being in attendance at a showup involving two of the closest witnesses to this murder. Hmmm... That sounds strange.
But it gets stranger. Fritz also says there's no record of Brennan being at this showup in the DPD's records, but that he helped Agent Sorrels figure out when this showup occurred by ascertaining the names of the other witnesses present.
Well, that makes sense, uh, no, wait a second... On 4-7-64, Warren Commission Counsel Samuel Stern and John Hart Ely--ambitious young bucks, 34 and 24 years of age, respectively--interviewed Fritz in the company of his Lieutenant, T.L. Baker, in Dallas, in advance of his 4-22-64 testimony in Washington. Their 4-13-64 memo on this interview had then been placed in the Warren Commission's files. Well, this memo reveals: "Captain Fritz was asked whether Brennan had attended a showup. Neither he nor Lieutenant Baker remembered, but they stated that they would attempt to find out. Fritz believes that the police department makes records of even those showups where there is no positive identification, but he is not certain as to this practice."
This raises some questions. First, the procedural questions: 1) Why didn't Counsel Ball ask the question asked by McCloy?; 2) Did Ball give this question to McCloy so he'd look like he was on the...ball; 3) Or did McCloy just stumble on it? And now the more substantive question: 1) Did Fritz really expect the Commission to believe he not only couldn't recall being at the showup at which Brennan failed to ID Oswald, but being told of such a showup?
I mean, we have to call B.S. on this one, right? How could the lead detective on a murder case (the killing of President Kennedy) not know if the only witness claiming he could identify the killer was shown his (the detective's) top suspect, and had failed to identify him???
It seems clear, then, that Fritz lied to the Commission, and tried to cover up that he'd failed to write a report on Brennan's failure to ID Oswald. (One should note the irony, moreover--that Brennan's subsequently changing his mind and ID-ing the by-then dead Oswald had had the unforeseen side-effect of ID-ing Fritz as a destroyer of unfortunate evidence, and liar.)
P.S. It turned out that there actually was a notation within Fritz's evidence book on Brennan's appearance at a showup (or line-up). Here it is:
On 4-24-64, twenty-four days after the FBI's Frazier had asserted that the scope had been removed by someone in Dallas looking for fingerprints, (and slyly suggested that this person had lost the shims needed for the scope to be effective), Lt. J.C. Day, who'd inspected the rifle in Dallas, is called to testify. Amazingly, however, he is never asked about the scope, let alone about the shims. He does state, however, that after removing the barrel from the wood stock and trying to photograph the palm print on the underside of the rifle barrel which had immediately attracted his attention, he was told to stop working on the rifle, and that he "did not process the underside of the barrel under the scopic sight, did not get to this area of the gun." (4H249-278) This undoubtedly suggests the scope was not removed. So much for Frazier's speculation. So much for his and the commission's belief the scope was of assistance on 11-22-63.
In late April, Chief Justice Warren unexpectedly announces that the commission will not be publishing the testimony and evidence gathered at its hearings. The reason given is that the commission lacks the money to do so. We are relieved to hear, however, that Sen. Russell has convinced congress to appropriate the money, and that the public will thereby get to see some of what the commission has studied before coming to its findings.
(Warren's sudden decision--with the blessing of Commissioners Dulles and McCloy--to not publish the testimony and evidence was first revealed by Edward Epstein in Inquest (1966). He relied upon interviews with commission lawyers Wesley Liebeler, Melvin Eisenberg, and J. Lee Rankin. In 2013. Warren Commission counsel Howard Willens published History Will Prove Us Right, and confirmed Epstein's account, with one major change: Warren came to this decision at the end of April, not May.
Above: Howard Willens in 1964.
In 2014, Willens published his Warren Commission diary online.)
Here is Willens' diary entry for 4-30-64: "Sometime during the day, perhaps the previous day, I learned that the personnel from the Government Printing Office was scheduled to begin work on the transcript Friday, May 1. The Commission met on Thursday and discussed several of the items listed on the agenda, which I prepared after consultation with Mr. Rankin. The meeting lasted for several hours. When the meeting ended at approximately 6 o’clock, I did not immediately confer with Mr. Rankin. About 6:30, however, as I went out I noticed that Mr. Belin and Mr. Liebeler were in the conference room talking with Mr. Rankin. I joined them and was told by Mr. Belin and Mr. Liebeler that there was shocking news awaiting me and to take a seat. After doing so Mr. Rankin, in a very tired and chastened mood looked at me in such a way that I knew the Commission had reached another of their impossible decisions. Such was in fact the case. Mr. Rankin informed me that the Commission had decided not to publish the transcript simultaneously with the Final Report. Apparently the chief consideration was one of expense and there was not extensive consideration of the policy issues between members of the Commission who discussed the matter. I asked him immediately how many of the Commission were present and voted on the issue. He replied that only three were present – The Chief Justice, Mr. Dulles and Mr. McCloy. I indicated to him quite briefly that this was a decision which could not be permitted to stand, and I could see that he felt very much the same way. The Commission members had indicated to Mr. Rankin that they would reverse themselves if the Congressional members of the Commission voted otherwise. Mr. Rankin planned therefore to contact Senator Russell and the other Congressional members as soon as possible on Friday morning."
And here is Willens' diary entry for 5-1-64: "First thing Friday morning I learned that Mr. Rankin was out to see Senator Russell. He returned at approximately quarter to ten. He informed me that the trip had been successful. Senator Russell had indicated very clearly that the entire transcript should be published as soon as possible without regard to expense. Mr. Rankin subsequently contacted all the other Congressional members who agreed with Senator Russell. When he conveyed this information to the Chief Justice, Mr. Dulles and Mr. McCloy they all agreed that the position of the Congressional members should be adopted. As a result, before the noon hour was even reached the decision had been reversed and we were proceeding to supply the Government Printing Office personnel with the transcripts. As a matter of fact I had to tell the GPO at 9 a.m. not to begin work because of some “budgetary” considerations. However, Mr. Rankin later in the afternoon re-contacted them and got them back on the job."
Questions and More Questions
On 5-1-64, Marine Lt. Col. Allison G. Folsom testifies before the Warren Commission on Oswald’s military record. When discussing Oswald’s shooting scores, Folsom is asked if it’s correct that the top level is Expert, the middle level is Sharpshooter, and the bottom level is Marksman, and he agrees. Folsom then leafs through Oswald’s score book, and comments that “at 200 yards slow fire...he got out in the three ring, which is not good…As a matter of fact, at 200 yards people should get a score of between 48 and 50 in the offhand position…he got a score of 34 out of a possible 50 on Tuesday. On Wednesday he got some 38.” When asked if Oswald was a particularly outstanding shot, he responded “No, no, he was not…His scorebook indicates, as a matter of fact—that he did well at one or two ranges in order to achieve the two points over the Marksman score for Sharpshooter.” When asked if that means that Oswald had to have a “good day” to avoid being classified as a Marksman, Folsom responds “I would say so.” Folsom is not asked to comment on Oswald’s subsequent shooting scores, where his skills dropped to 1 point above the lowest level of Marksman.
The 5-9-64 Saturday Evening Post brings more bad news for President Johnson. Republican Senator Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania publishes an article in which he denounces six Democratic Senators on the Rules Committee for obstructing an investigation into the crimes of President Johnson's long-time associate, Bobby Baker, some of which involved Johnson. Scott writes: "in my five months on that unhappy panel I found it increasingly clear that the Democratic majority had fashioned blinders for their own eyes, plugs for their ears, and handcuffs for their wrists. They were hoping against hope that Bobby Baker and all his works would miraculously vanish with a minimum of embarrassment to all concerned...The watchdogs spurned the scent at every chance...many of the most important and disturbing disclosures were never followed up...dissent was firmly discouraged in a variety of unmistakable ways...No Senator could foresee the full consequences of a thorough investigation. In my own case, several thinly veiled threats were transmitted through friends and associates. I was warned that the safest course would be to let the matter sleep. I was told that discretion now could prevent nasty publicity against me later. Suffice it to say that the nasty innuendos have begun to appear in print. Democratic senators must have been under even greater pressure to keep silent, for the reputation of their party was involved...Not a single witness requested by the minority was ever called...The Rules Committee is armed with the staff investigators, subpoena powers and the vast authority of the Senate itself, but it lacks the simple determination to use them fully. The result is an appalling travesty of democratic government."
(Upon reading this article, many Americans would undoubtedly have asked themselves the painful question of how they could possibly trust the Warren Commission--men hand-picked by Lyndon Johnson--to tell them the truth, when men not hand-picked by Johnson so readily covered up for his crony, Baker, and shut down an investigation that had led to testimony--AT THE VERY MOMENT KENNEDY WAS SHOT-- implicating Johnson in a kick-back scheme that would almost certainly have ended his career. In 1978, another Senator from this panel, Carl Curtis of Nebraska, when asked in an oral history "Do you think it was the assassination that changed the nature of this investigation, though, and really slowed it down, because people were reluctant to testify?" supported Scott's claims. He responded "No. No. It was ironclad political control." Curtis asserted as well that he knew who had this control. He said: "Everything would appear as though Lyndon didn't know the investigation was going on. He had the ability to direct things and not be anywhere near the scene." Should one think this was partisan sour grapes, moreover, 1978 saw the confirmation of Scott's and Curtis' claims, and from a most surprising source. In his book Wheeling and Dealing, an expert on the Bobby Baker scandal named...Bobby Baker...asserted that "LBJ had threatened to close down the Philadelphia Navy Yard unless Senator Scott closed his critical mouth.")
It may not be a coincidence, then, that at the very moment Johnson's corruption had once again seeped into the spotlight, his administration/propaganda ministers put out a photo of him congratulating J. Edgar Hoover, once one of the most respected men in America, on his 40 years of service as FBI Director. Here it is.
There was an accompanying story to this photo, moreover, reporting that Johnson had granted Hoover a waiver so he could continue to rule his roost past the age of 70. In light of what had recently transpired, and what was just about to transpire, that also may not have been a coincidence.
Meanwhile, the Warren Express rolls forward. Over the three days of May 7-9, three Commissioners, along with Commission Counsel David Belin, visit Dallas.
In the image below, apparently taken on the evening of May 8, Commissioner John McCloy (third from L) and Commissioner John Sherman Cooper (fourth from L), along with Commission Counsel David Belin (second from L) have a meeting of the minds with Dallas Police Capt. Will Fritz (L) and Dallas Chief of Police Jesse Curry (R).
In the image below, presumably taken on the morning of May 9, Belin shows the Commissioners the sniper's nest window from a location just in front of assassination witness Howard Brennan's purported location at the time of the shooting. Presumably this was done so they could judge for themselves whether or not Brennan could identify Oswald from such a distance.
(From L to R: Commissioner and ex-CIA Chief Allen Dulles; an unidentified man I should probably recognize, possibly FBI Inspector James Malley; Commissioner and Senator John Sherman Cooper; Commissioner John McCloy; Commission Counsel David Belin; Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr, and Secret Service Agent Roger Warner. Photo credit: Bill Winfrey, Dallas Morning News)
Now here, in a frame from some 5-9-64 film footage, are Commissioners Cooper and Dulles standing on the triple overpass, along with Commission Counsel David Belin, Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr (in the white hat) and another man whom I have yet to identify (but whom I suspect is FBI Inspector James Malley).
While one might assume they were checking out the angles for a shot coming from the overpass, they already had a dozen or so witnesses saying they'd been standing on the overpass during the shooting, and that no shots had been fired from the overpass. It only makes sense, then, that they were checking out the perspective of these witnesses, a number of whom indicated they saw smoke come out from the trees on the left. Well, assuming this is so, that's a bit of a problem.
While a witness standing at this location might indeed confuse a shot from the sixth floor sniper's nest with a shot from one of the trees on the left, the sixth floor sniper's nest is roughly twice the distance from the overpass as these trees, and it was highly unlikely one would confuse a puff of smoke from the sixth floor sniper's nest with a puff of smoke from these trees.
This issue was never resolved. And no discussion of this issue among the commissioners or its staff was put on the record.
Above: long-time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, once one of America's most-respected men, later one of its most-reviled. (Note: no photos were taken during Hoover's testimony before the Warren Commission, but if there had been, you can bet they'd look something like this.)
The Hoover Truth
On 5-14-64, a week after President Johnson waived his impending mandatory retirement, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover testifies before the Commission. (5H96-120) Despite his taking an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, he offers up the Hoover truth.
Hoover Truth: “I have read many of the reports that our agents have made and I have been unable to find any scintilla of evidence showing any foreign conspiracy or any domestic conspiracy that culminated in the assassination of President Kennedy.” (Note: Hoover had known for three years or more that organized crime and the anti-Castro elements likely to set up Oswald were linked and were conspiring to murder Fidel Castro, Oswald’s supposed hero. Even though this information could lead one to suspect that Oswald killed Kennedy in retaliation, or that Oswald was indeed set up, Hoover failed to mention anything about this to the Commission.)
Hoover Truth: “There have been publications and books written, the contents of which have been absurd and without a scintilla of foundation of fact." “I, personally, feel that any finding of the Commission will not be accepted by everybody, because there are bound to be some extremists who have very pronounced views, without any foundation for them, who will disagree violently with whatever findings the Commission makes.” (Note: two of the loudest voices to argue against the Commission’s findings were not extremists at all, but former FBI agents William Turner and Jim Garrison. More pointedly, the President for whom the report was written, Lyndon Johnson, never believed its findings. )
Hoover Truth: “I don’t think you can get absolute security without almost establishing a police state, and we don’t want that.” (Note: by 1964 Hoover had long been using the FBI to infiltrate and discredit organizations he found personally despicable. These FBI-trained infiltrators would frequently encourage the targeted organizations to engage in violent activity, in order to help discredit them in the public eye. Curiously, one of the organizations targeted by Hoover under this program (COINTELPRO) was the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, an organization publicly discredited in New Orleans by the actions of Lee Harvey Oswald.)
Hoover Truth: (When asked if he still agreed that Oswald acted alone.) “I subscribe to it even more strongly today than I did at the time the report was written. You see the original idea was that there would be an investigation by the FBI and a report would be prepared in such a form that it could be released to the public… Then a few days later, after further consideration, the President decided to form a commission, which I think was very wise, because I feel that the report of any agency of Government investigating what might be some shortcomings on the part of other agencies of Government ought to be reviewed by an impartial group such as this Commission.” (Note: Hoover failed to admit that he originally told President Johnson the Commission would be a “three-ring circus." Hoover also failed to acknowledge that with the FBI’s report, it was not only investigating the shortcomings of other agencies, i.e. the State department, CIA, Secret Service, and Dallas Police Department, but the potential shortcomings of the FBI itself, as the FBI had failed to add Oswald’s name to the Security Index used by the Secret Service to track possible threats to the President.)
Hoover Truth: (When asked by Congressman Hale Boggs if he had thoughts on Oswald’s motivation.) “My speculation, Mr. Boggs, is that this man was no doubt a dedicated Communist… He stayed in Moscow awhile and he went to Minsk where he worked. There was no indication of any difficulty, personally on his part there, but I haven’t the slightest doubt he was a dedicated Communist.” (Note: Hoover was obsessed with Communism, and saw Communists as evil and everywhere. His domestic intelligence chief William Sullivan later wrote a book admitting that by the early 1960s a large percentage of American communists were in fact FBI informants.)
Hoover Truth: “Now some people have raised the question, why didn’t he shoot the President as the car came toward the storehouse where he was working? The reason for that is, I think, the fact there were some trees between his window on the sixth floor and the cars as they turned and went through the park. So he waited until the car got out from under the trees, and the limbs, and then he had a perfectly clear view of the of the occupants of the car, and I think he took aim, either on the President or Connally, and I personally believe it was the President in view of the twisted mentality the man had.” (Note, as demonstrated by the photos of the assassination scene taken by the Secret Service, and published by the Warren Commission as Exhibit 875, there was a clear shot down Houston, should a sniper have been so inclined. The only trees were to the right of the sniper’s nest, blocking its view down Elm.)
No, I'm not joking. Here's a photo taken from the sniper's nest during the Secret Service's 11-27-63 re-enactment. There are no trees to the left of the window. As a result, the sniper would have had a clear shot at the limo as it approached the corner. Hoover was full of beans, or blowing smoke, or both (the conditions seem to be related).
Hoover Truth: (When discussing the attitude of the Soviet Government, and the KGB in particular, towards Oswald) “I think they probably looked upon him more as a kind of a queer sort of individual and they didn’t trust him too strongly. But just the day before yesterday information came to me indicating that there is an espionage training school outside of Minsk—I don’t know whether it was true—and that he was trained in that school to come back to this country to become what they call a 'sleeper,' that is a man who will remain dormant for 3 or 4 years and in case of international hostilities rise up and be used.” (Note: this from the man who just swore there was not one “scintilla” of evidence indicating a foreign conspiracy. It seems Hoover couldn’t help but kick a little sand in the direction of Russia when given the opportunity.)
Hoover Truth: “Now, we interviewed Oswald a few days after he arrived…There was nothing up to the time of the assassination that gave any indication that this man was a dangerous character who might do harm to the President or to the Vice-President, so his name was not furnished at the time to the Secret Service. Under the new criteria which we have now put into force and effect, it would have been furnished because we now include all defectors.” (Note: here, Hoover almost certainly commits perjury. Hoover concealed from the commission that on December 10, 1963, he’d censured or placed on probation 17 employees (5 field investigators, 1 field supervisor, 3 special agents in charge, 4 headquarters supervisors, 2 headquarters section chiefs, 1inspector, and 1 assistant director) for what the inspector of the internal investigation, James Gale, termed “shortcomings in connection with the investigation of Oswald prior to the assassination.” When Assistant director Alan Belmont complained about this action, stating that since “all of the supervisors and officials who came into contact with this case…are unanimous in the opinion that Oswald did not meet the criteria for the Security Index…it would appear that the criteria are not sufficiently specific,” Hoover blasted him. On Belmont’s addendum to Gale’s December 10, 1963 memo, Hoover wrote “They were worse than mistaken. Certainly no one in full possession of all his faculties can claim Oswald didn’t fall within this criteria.” On September 24, 1964, the day the Warren Report, which included criticisms of the FBI’s investigation of Oswald prior to the assassination, was released, Hoover pounced again, writing that the employees who failed to properly investigate Oswald “could not have been more stupid.” He then punished these employees a second time. On September 30, 1964, Inspector Gale wrote “It is felt that it is appropriate at this time to consider further administrative action against those primarily culpable for the derelictions in this case which have now had the effect of publicly embarrassing the Bureau.” When a number of top FBI officials reacted angrily to the Warren Report’s criticism of the Bureau, and began planning ways to defend the FBI in the press, Hoover reiterated his position that the FBI was in fact to blame. On a 10-1-64 memo from Alan Belmont to Clyde Tolson, he wrote: “We were wrong. The administrative actions approved by me will stand. I do not intend to palliate actions which have resulted in forever destroying the Bureau as the top level investigative organization.” )
Hoover Truth: “There was very aggressive press coverage at Dallas. I was so concerned that I asked my agent in charge at Dallas, Mr. Shanklin, to personally go to Chief Curry and tell him that I insisted that he not go on the air any more until this case was resolved. Until all the evidence had been examined, I did not want any statements made concerning the progress of the investigation. Because of the fact the President had asked me to take charge of the case I insisted that he and all members of his department refrain from public statements.” (Note: immediately following Oswald’s death, Hoover’s man in Dallas, Mr. Shanklin, listed all the evidence against Oswald for the New York Times. Moreover, the Times’ 11-25 description of the evidence indicates that Shanklin misrepresented the results of the paraffin tests, stating that they showed “particles of gunpowder from a weapon, probably a rifle, on Oswald’s cheek and hands.” While the test results were consistent with Oswald firing a pistol, the test results were negative for his cheek. Therefore, there was nothing whatsoever about the tests that suggested Oswald had fired a rifle.)
Hoover Truth: “Well, I can tell you so far as the FBI is concerned the case will be continued in an open classification for all time. That is, any information coming to us or any report coming to us from any source will be thoroughly investigated, so that we will be able to either prove or disprove the allegation.” (Note: in February 1967, Edward Morgan, a lawyer representing CIA front-man Robert Maheu and mafia strategist Johnny Rosselli, contacted columnist Drew Pearson and told him about the joint CIA/Mafia attempts to kill Castro, and the possibility they’d backfired on Kennedy. Pearson then told Chief Justice Earl Warren, who in turn told Secret Service Chief James Rowley. When Rowley told Hoover about the incident, Alex Rosen drafted the FBI response. Rosen would later testify that he was sick and that an unidentified subordinate wrote this under his name. His response: “no investigation will be conducted regarding the allegations…to Chief Justice Warren.” The letter, which was sent to Chief Rowley under Hoover’s name on 2-15-67, went on to state “The Bureau is not conducting any investigation regarding this matter. However, should Mr. Pearson, (Morgan), or (his) source of information care to volunteer any information to the Bureau, it would be accepted.” The internal memo from Rosen to White House/FBI liaison Cartha Deloach, for that matter, added: “Consideration was given to furnishing this information to the White House, but since this matter does not concern, nor is it pertinent to the present Administration, no letter was being sent.” Hmmm... It follows then, that if Hoover's testimony to the Warren Commission had in fact been truthful, and that the FBI was in fact committed to investigating any leads that would subsequently come their way, well, then Hoover clearly failed to tell as much to the men who would be tasked with conducting such an investigation.)
On 5-15-64, Counsel David Belin writes a memo detailing his trip to Dallas with commissioners Dulles, Cooper, and McCloy. In this memo, he alerts General Counsel Rankin to a conversation he had with Commissioner McCloy, after showing McCloy a report in which he'd presented the evidence regarding the assassin in the window. Belin first observes that McCloy "seemed to misunderstand the basic purpose of the report, for he suggested that we did not point up enough arguments to show why Oswald was the assassin." He then relates: "Commissioner McCloy did state that in the final report he thought that we should be rather complete in developing reasons and affirmative statements why Oswald was the assassin—he did not believe that it should just merely be a factual restatement of what we had found."
Yes, the time for conclusions is at hand.
And the time for questions is rapidly coming to a close. By now, the scenario of a final shot head shot has been repeated so many times by the FBI and the media that two of Kennedy’s closest aides, Kenneth O'Donnell and David Powers, who'd been riding in the motorcade in the car behind Kennedy, go along with it. One of them, Kenneth O'Donnell, is so anxious to get along that he fails to put into the record that his immediate impression was that the last shot came from in front of the limousine. (He would later tell Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill that he thought the last shot came from in front of the limousine.) Kenneth O’Donnell (5-18-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H440-457) “My first impression was it was a firecracker. And then either somebody said “He has been hit,” or I noticed the slump—he had been waving out the right side of the car and I noticed him slump over toward Mrs. Kennedy, and I realized then that they had been shots. But as fast as that realization occurred, I saw the third shot hit.” Final shot head shot. David Powers (5-18-64 affidavit, 7H472-474): “the first shot went off and it sounded to me as if it were a firecracker. I noticed then that the President moved quite far to his left after the shot from the extreme right hand side where he had been sitting. There was a second shot and Governor Connally disappeared from sight and then there was a third shot which took off the top of the President’s head and had the sickening sound of a grapefruit splattering against a wall.” Final shot head shot.
On May 19, the commission finally does its duty, and asks the FBI to perform an investigation into Earlene Roberts' claim a police car honked its horn outside Oswald's rooming house on 11-22-63, just after his 1:00 PM arrival.
Yes, it's clean-up time. Time to answer what can be answered, and sweep the remaining questions under the rug.
On May 20, 1964, William Waldman testifies before the Commission as a representative of Klein's Sporting Goods, the company that sold Oswald the rifle. He testifies that the scope had been installed at Kleins's but that it was not sighted-in by Klein's. (7H360-369) OOPS. This raises the question of whether the scope had EVER been sighted-in prior to the FBI's attempt to sight it in on March 16, 1964. (This question would never be answered.)