JAHS Chapter 19
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.
In 2014, Willens published his Warren Commission diary online.)
Above: Howard Willens in 1964.
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.
Reading the Test Skulls
In order to determine if the rifle found in the school book depository was capable of creating President Kennedy’s wounds, Dr. Alfred Olivier of Edgewood Arsenal was hired by the Warren Commission to perform a series of tests. He testified before the Commission on May 13, 1964. Here is a segment from that testimony...
Mr. SPECTER, Dr. Olivier, in the regular course of your work for the U.S. Army, do you have occasion to perform tests on reconstructed human skulls to determine the effects of bullets on skulls?
Dr. OLIVIER. Yes; I do.
Mr. SPECTER. And did you have occasion to conduct such a test in connection with the series which you are now describing?
Dr. OLIVIER. Yes; I did.
Mr. SPECTER. And would you outline briefly the procedures for simulating the human skull?
Dr. OLIVIER. Human skulls, we take these human skulls and they are imbedded and filled with 20 percent gelatin. As I mentioned before, 20 percent gelatin is a pretty good simulant for body tissues. They are in the moisture content. When I say 20 percent, it is 20 percent weight of the dry gelatin, 80 percent moisture. The skull, the cranial cavity, is filled with this and the surface is coated with a gelatin and then it is trimmed down to approximate the thickness of the tissues overlying the skull, the soft tissues of the head.
Mr. SPECTER. And at what distance were these tests performed?
Dr. OLIVIER. These tests were performed at a distance of 90 yards.
Mr. SPECTER. And what gun was used?
Dr. OLIVIER. It was a 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano that was marked Commission Exhibit 139.
Mr. SPECTER. What bullets were used?
Dr. OLIVIER. It was the 6.5 millimeter Mannlicher-Carcano Western ammunition lot 6,000.
Mr. SPECTER. What did that examination or test, rather, disclose?
Dr. OLIVIER. It disclosed that the type of head wounds that the President received could be done by this type of bullet. This surprised me very much, because this type of a stable bullet I didn't think would cause a massive head wound, I thought it would go through making a small entrance and exit, but the bones of the skull are enough to deform the end of this bullet causing it to expend a lot of energy and blowing out the side of the skull or blowing out fragments of the skull.
Dr. Oliver then proceeded to discuss the bullet fragments recovered after firing on one of the ten skulls he fired upon, and how these resembled the bullet fragments found in the front section of the Presidential limo. Commission Counsel Arlen Specter then returned to the task at hand...
Mr. SPECTER. Would you give us then the precise location of the wound caused by bullet identified as 857?
Dr. OLIVIER. The entrance wound is 2.9 centimeters to the right and almost horizontal to the occipital protuberance, This is almost exactly where we were aiming. We were aiming 2 centimeters to the right.
Mr. SPECTER. I now hand you a photograph marked as Commission Exhibit 861, move its admission into evidence, and ask you to state what that depicts.
Dr. OLIVIER. This is the skull in question, the same one from which the fragments marked Exhibit 857 were recovered.
Mr. SPECTER. And what does that show as to damage done to the skull?
Dr. OLIVIER. It blew the whole side of the cranial cavity away.
Mr. SPECTER. How does that compare, then, with the damage inflicted on President Kennedy?
Dr. OLIVIER. Very similar. I think they stated the length of the defect, the missing skull was 13 centimeters if I remember correctly. This in this case it is greater, but you don't have the limiting scalp holding the pieces in so you would expect it to fly a little more but it is essentially a similar type wound.
Mr. SPECTER. Does the human scalp work to hold in the human skull in such circumstances to a greater extent than the simulated matters used?
Dr. OLIVIER. Yes; we take this into account.
Mr. SPECTER. I hand you Commission Exhibit 862, move its admission into evidence, and ask you what that depicts?
Dr. OLIVIER. This is the same skull. This is just looking at it from the front. You are looking at the exit. You can't see it here because the bone has been blown away, but the bullet exited somewhere around---we reconstructed the skull. In other words, it exited very close to the superorbital ridge, possibly below it.
Mr. SPECTER. Did you formulate any other conclusions or opinions based on the tests on firing at the skull?
Dr. OLIVIER. Well, let's see. We found that this bullet could do exactly--could make the type of wound that the President received.
So let's recap. In his testimony, Olivier admitted he was surprised by the damage created by the 6.5 mm ammunition presumably used to kill Kennedy. He noted that the bullet hitting one of the ten skulls he'd had fired upon broke into pieces and that these pieces resembled the bullet fragments recovered from Kennedy’s limousine. He also acknowledged that the bullet striking this skull missed its mark and hit the back of the skull slightly closer to its side than the reported entrance on Kennedy. He then introduced two photographs of this skull as Exhibits 861 and 862.
Here is a closer look at Exhibits 861 (on the right) and 862 (on the left).
Well, something is awry. Olivier in his testimony, started to say the large size of this wound was probably related to the lack of "limiting scalp" but then backed-off and made out as though this had been taken into account. This was almost certainly because this wound was roughly the same size as Kennedy's measured wound, and an admission that this wound was larger than would be expected should this skull have had scalp was simultaneously an admission Kennedy's wound was larger than expected. Kennedy's skull did have scalp, after all.
And that's not the only problem with this segment of Olivier's testimony.
We have reason to doubt Kennedy's wounds were accurately replicated with this skull. Since, as subsequently acknowledged by Larry Sturdivan, who worked with Olivier, the shooters were trying to make the bullet follow the Warren Commission’s proposed path, entering low in the occipital bone and exiting above the temple, we can only assume the skulls were turned slightly to the left of these shooters. This, in turn, makes it reasonable to assume that the damage to the bullet and skull cited by Olivier came as a result of the bullet’s striking the thick occipital bone almost on edge along the curvature behind the ear. (A bullet striking skull bone on edge meets more resistance and is more likely to explode).
There's also this. When Sturdivan published Exhibit 861 as Figure 36 in his 2005 book, The JFK Myths, he made a surprising admission. He wrote: "A still picture of one of the experimental skulls is shown in Figure 36 after the 'flaps' were removed, but the gelatin still in pace inside the skull." He then provided Figure 36 with the following caption: "Still photograph of an experimental skull after being struck by the bullet from the Oswald rifle, after loose flaps of bone and gelatin 'scalp' were removed."
Oops! While Olivier's testimony suggested the defect depicted in 361 was the size of the defect immediately following the shot, Sturdivan's subsequent acknowledgement that both the gelatin 'scalp' and "loose flaps of bone" were removed before this picture was taken suggests the defect was smaller, perhaps even much smaller, than Kennedy's wound, when first viewed by Olivier.
It seems logical to assume, then, that Olivier was in fact unable to replicate a wound the size of Kennedy's, and that his testimony was deliberately misleading. I mean, if the original defect on this skull was anywhere near the size of Kennedy's, why not show that photo?
When one studies Wound Ballistics of 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano Ammunition, Olivier's report on his tests, issued in March 1965, one finds even more reason to doubt that his tests proved what they were designed to prove. In figure A12 of the report the profiles of three additional skulls are revealed. While the damage is extensive in each one, there is no evidence that a bullet sailed upwards and blew out the top of a skull, the purported course of the bullet striking Kennedy. In fact, even though the skulls were aligned to make the bullet exit the top of the skull (This was admitted by Sturdivan!) all the shots blew out near the right eye socket. It is also intriguing that there is only one picture portraying the bullet’s entrance on the bone in Olivier’s report, and that this small entrance was directly in the middle of the occipital bone. Perhaps this is an indication then that NOT ONE of the bullets striking an inch to the right of the EOP left anything similar to the small oval entrance on the bone observed by the doctors at the autopsy. Hmmm...
When one realizes that this 56 page report, which has 4 pages of cover sheets, 2 pages of temperature readings, and a 7 page distribution list, fails to list the ten test skulls with a break down by entrance location, entrance size, exit location, exit size, and whether or not the bullet broke-up--which was only the most important data obtained by Olivier’s tests--one’s suspicions should only grow stronger. It should be noted here that when Dr. Olivier testified before the Warren Commission, he was asked by Arlen Specter the exact entrance location on the skull displayed in Exhibit 861, and that he’d consulted a notebook he’d brought along, which had been locked up in a safe. Why this data failed to make Olivier's subsequent report, which was classified Confidential and not released to the public until 1973, is a matter of conjecture. When one looks back on Olivier’s testimony of May 13, 1964, and realizes that he testified accurately at that early date on the three tests described in the March 1965 report, and that no further tests were conducted, however, one should rightly suspect that his report was deliberately delayed and not given to the Warren Commission or released among its papers...because it was considered damaging to the Commission's conclusions.
Now, some might have their doubts that the good folks at Edgewood Arsenal, a key unit in the Army's weapons testing center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, would play politics in such a manner. But a quick bit of research on the history of weapons testing in general, and the weapons tests performed at Aberdeen Proving Ground in particular, could make a cynic out of anyone. Just prior to his studying the wound ballistics of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, Dr. Olivier conducted a similar series of tests on the American M-16 and Russian AK-47. His report on these tests helped the Army choose the M-16 as its standard weapon. And yet, the initial deployment of the M-16 in Vietnam was considered a disaster, with guns jamming in bad weather, and with its unusually small bullets failing to stop the enemy as promised. Young men died, questions were raised and modifications became necessary.
And that wasn't the last time those testing weapons at Aberdeen came under criticism, or were suspected of cuddling up to weapons manufacturers at the expense of the common soldier and tax-payer. In the 1980's, they were right back in the fire, this time for testing and re-testing the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, while failing to re-enact anything close to combat situations, and failing to properly assess the casualty rate.
And that's not even to raise the awful specter of Edgewood Arsenal's history. You see, the name Edgewood Arsenal is a bit misleading. It started as a mustard gas producer in WWI, and continues to make and test chemical warfare agents today. From 1955 to 1975, the bulk of Dr. Olivier's career, it conducted chemical warfare tests on soldiers as well as animals.
So it's not out of line to assume Olivier and his bosses colored their tests in order to please their client--in this case, the Johnson Administration.
And it's not out of line to assume someone in the know knew Olivier's tests failed to support the shooting scenario pushed by the Warren Commission.
Howard Donahue, a ballistics expert, had his own doubts that Olivier's tests accurately replicated Kennedy's wounds. In August 1977, Donahue was interviewed on radio station WBAL. He told his interviewer that in the late sixties “I went and visited the laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal and talked to Dr. Olivier himself. Now he had fired ten shots into ten inert skulls from Oswald’s rifle. Now, an inert skull is a human skull which has been filled with gelatin. None of these skulls showed the giant, enormous, macerating effect that Kennedy’s head showed. And then I began to look at the two holes in his head. And I realized it couldn’t have come from Oswald’s rifle. And then a strange pattern of events started to occur that everything that supported the Warren Commission was easily obtainable for evidence and that which contradicted it was not available.”
While the skull presented by Olivier in his Warren Commission testimony was purported to have had its right side blown off, we can presume he conceded to Donahue that this only became apparent upon the removal of the gelatin 'scalp,' and that none of the ten skulls he'd had fired upon had been as "macerated" as Kennedy's skull.
Single-assassin theorist extraordinaire Dr. John Lattimer conducted some skull tests of his own. In a February 1976 article in Surgery, Gynecology, and Obstetrics, and then again in his 1980 book Kennedy and Lincoln, he presented another test skull upon which Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition had shattered. Since Lattimer failed to present a view of the back of this skull, it was at that time impossible to compare the size of the bullet’s entrance to that measured at the autopsy. Still, as there appears to be some sort of wire holding the back of the skull together where the bullet is presumed to have entered (Lattimer was aiming for the cowlick entrance), it appears this (presumably old and dried) skull exploded.There was certainly no small entrance in the back of the head leading to a huge gaping defect in the front.
The suspicion that this skull showed one massive wound, and that Dr. Lattimer had wired the back of the skull together for this photo, moreover, was later proven correct by...Dr. Lattimer. During his appearance at the '93 Chicago conference on the medical evidence Dr. Lattimer presented a second photo of this skull. This photo showed that the skull wound actually started at the back of the head, near the cowlick entrance, and stretched all the way to the forehead. Despite Lattimer’s assertions that the damage to this skull was similar to Kennedy’s, and that it confirmed the Clark Panel's interpretation of the head wound, both the photo he'd used previously and the second photo of this skull showed that the left side of this test skull was blown out nearly as badly as its right.
Conversely, the fragments of the assassin’s bullet, despite supposedly entering Kennedy’s skull less than an inch from its mid-line, were not believed to have crossed the mid-line of his brain.
The JFK Myths
Let us now return’s to Larry Sturdivan’s September 8, 1978 HSCA testimony. As the HSCA didn’t have the budget or the desire to test the wound ballistics of 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition, they relied on the tests performed in 1964 by Alfred Olivier and Edgewood Arsenal. Since Sturdivan was actively employed at Edgewood Arsenal, and had assisted in the 1964 tests, he was given the responsibility of explaining wound ballistics to the committee, and how the tests performed in 1964 were still relevant.
In his testimony, Sturdivan presented photos of yet another test skull to the Committee. In order to show that a bullet creating a small entrance could indeed leave a large exit, Sturdivan presented a skull with a small entrance at its back and a blown-out face in front. It was entered into evidence as F-306. This skull had been one of Olivier’s test skulls from 14 years earlier. That the bullet in this test was fired into the thick occipital bone at the back of the skull cut into its value as evidence, however. The HSCA had, after all, relied upon their pathology panel to determine the location of the entrance on the back of Kennedy's skull, and had determined it to have been four inches higher than the entrance on the skull in the photos.
Now look at how Sturdivan evades this issue...
Mr. MATHEWS - I have one final, question for you, Mr. Sturdivan, and in answering that question, let me direct your attention to JFK exhibits F-307 and F-306. Mr. Sturdivan, as you can see of JFK exhibit F-307 (NOTE: this was a drawing created for the committee), which is on my left, the hole location is approximately in the top of the President's skull. As you can see from exhibit F-306, the hole location is at the bottom of the President's skull. F-306 is a skull that was utilized by Edgewood Laboratories for their experiments for the Warren Commission; is that not so?
Mr. STURDIVAN - Yes, it was, that is one of the skulls, probably one of the skulls we saw in the film sequence.
Mr. MATHEWS - My question is this: Would the location of the hole in the President's skull make any change in your testimony as to the explosive effect that occurred within the skull?
Mr. STURDIVAN - Oh, no. Once the bullet enters the soft material within the skull, the radial velocity is imparted and the effect is exactly the same no matter at what point it enters. The only effect might be in which portion of the skull was actually blown out. In other words, it might blow out a little higher and a little more toward the top if the bullet entered a little more toward the top rather than blowing out on the side as is indicated in the second exhibit.
Uhhh... He was blowing smoke. Thick noxious smoke. While the bullet striking Kennedy's skull was purported to have created a large exit defect at the top of his skull after entering the back of the skull, and striking nothing but brain, the bullet creating the large exit defect apparent on Sturdivan's exhibit had undoubtedly struck the bones behind and above the eye sockets (The sella turcica, the sphenoid bone, the perpendicular plate, and the cribriform Plate, as shown below.)
Such an impact would most certainly have led to the creation of secondary missiles, and a much much larger exit defect... (And that's not even to mention that the small bullet entrance on Exhibit 306-A was almost certainly not the bullet entrance correlating with the large exit on Exhibit 306-B, and that the actual entrance correlating to this exit could have been much much larger, and reflective that the bullet broke up upon impact.)
And yet Sturdivan was pretending that the blow-out of the face on 306-B was caused by the radial velocity of the bullet, and that the reason this blow-out was on the face as opposed to the top of the head (as on Kennedy) was that this bullet entered at a lower location.
Hmmm. This is actually quite ironic. Since the bullet striking low on this skull had exited the face, the photos demonstrated that a bullet striking low on the skull would most likely exit low on the skull, and not sail upwards and out the top of the skull, as so many current supporters of the single-assassin theory, including Sturdivan himself, contend.
There is still another problem with HSCA F-306. A big one.
Let's take another look...
Yep, the fractures on the right side of F-306 come to an end at the lambdoid suture marking the margin of the occipital bone. This is inches away from the bullet's entrance. These fractures were thereby most logically related to the exit of the bullet.
And yet no such fractures are apparent in the supposed image of the exit of this bullet! It seems likely, then, that the skulls in F-306 (which were previously presented as Figure A 11--showing "some of the typical damage produced" by 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano bullets--in Dr. Olivier's 1965 report on the wound ballistics of 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition), were not the same skull viewed from different angles, as suggested by Sturdivan's testimony, but two different skulls, one with a small entrance and one with a large exit, that were mixed 'n' matched to create the illusion the small entrance/large exit on Kennedy's skull was not at all surprising.
In 2005, Sturdivan released a book explaining his new views. While the book’s full title was The JFK Myths: A Scientific Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination, and it did indeed debunk many myths, both conspiracy and otherwise, it added a few myths of its own. Here, Sturdivan explained the failure of the 1964 test bullets to simulate Kennedy's wound by asserting that the test skulls were dried, and that a living skull would be more resistant, and that a bullet striking such a skull would be more likely to sail upwards and explode from the top of the head.
Maybe someone should tell Sturdivan that bullets don't sail upwards and explode from the tops of live skulls, either.
At another point, when discussing the 1964 tests, Sturdivan writes “the Biophysic Lab test skulls do not show extensive cracking from the entry holes, even though the dried skulls used in the tests were more brittle than live bone (indicated by more explosive fragmentation at the site of the explosive post-shot rupture). Figure 51 is a typical entry hole from this series. Some had a small crack through the body of the occipital plate similar to this one. Each had, at most, a single crack that ran across the entry hole.None had multiple, displaced cracks radiating from the entry hole.” Sturdivan thereby suggests that the comparatively small entrance hole observed on the back of Kennedy's skull was not unexpected. A close comparison of Figure 51, which depicts the same skull as HSCA Exhibit F-306 A, with the four Edgewood Arsenal Biophysic Lab test skulls shown on the Reading the Test Skulls slide, however, reveals that the skull in Figure 51 is far from typical. The backs of all four skulls on the Reading the Tests Skulls slide appear to have suffered extensive fractures or are missing bone.
This is most curious. When one reads Dr. Olivier’s 1965 report on these tests, one finds that the bullets fired into the ten test skulls “broke up to a greater or lesser degree in at least nine of the skulls.” This “at least nine” is unduly vague. If it was more than nine skulls than that would mean ten skulls, which would mean EVERY skull fired upon, right? If the bullet broke up in every skull then shouldn’t that have been mentioned? Since the photo in Figure 51 was the only photo of a bullet entrance in Olivier’s 1965 report and the only photo of a bullet entrance in Sturdivan’s 1978 testimony and the only photo of an entrance in Sturdivan’s 2005 book, one can’t help but be suspicious it was in fact far from typical, and was, in fact, a photo of the entrance on the only skull where the bullet did not break up.
Sturdivan’s failure to depict the exit defect in Figure 51 is also suspicious. Since Sturdivan is now of the opinion the bullet entered low on Kennedy’s skull in the Humes entrance, and then curved sharply upwards, perhaps he was trying to conceal that NOT ONE bullet curved upwards in such a manner in the 1964 tests, even though “at least nine” of the bullets broke up in the skull. and even though Olivier, by Sturdivan’s own admission, used “stiff gelatin” that would accentuate such a curve.
The sharp curve proposed by Sturdivan just isn't reasonable. Crime Scene: Inside the World of the Real CSIs (2007) quotes a forensic anthropologist along these lines. It confirms: "People love to think that bullets go and they bounce around and then they go in some other direction... People forget that these bullets are moving in feet per second. They're gonna go in a straight line until they stop, or they hit a brick wall, or they lose their energy... Right before it stops, the bullet loses energy and it can be diverted. But people have all these theories... What you do do, if you line those wounds up, you find out that there really is a straight line."
Sturdivan’s treatment of the bullet fragments and x-rays is also revealing. Here is how he described the bullet fragments on the x-rays during his 1978 HSCA testimony: “this case is typical of a deforming jacketed bullet leaving fragments along its path as it goes. Incidentally, those fragments that are left by the bullet are also very small and do not move very far from their initial, from the place where they departed the bullet. Consequently, they tend to be clustered very closely around the track of the bullet.” Later, he was asked by Congressman Fithian if a bullet fragment will always develop a lift. He said: “it will move in the direction it is yawing. If it yaws upwards, then it will tend to move upward. If it yaws down, then it would tend to move down….Unfortunately, the entrance yaw is unpredictable as to direction, so you really can’t predict whether it is going to go upward, downward, or to the right or left.” He then defended the high entrance proposed by the HSCA forensic pathology panel, the very entrance he now says doesn’t exist. He said: "There is extensive deformation at the top of the skull which indicates the radial velocity that was imparted to the tissue, broke it open and, therefore, relieved the pressure at the top…You would presume then, that the soft tissue, which was badly damaged, would have moved somewhat in the direction of that relieved pressure and. therefore, would be displaced somewhat upward from the original track. So I would place the original track as being somewhat lower than the trail of fragments indicated through there, certainly not much lower…there is no indication of any track in the lower half of the skull. It was definitely in the upper part.” After showing films of the skull tests to the committee, he returned to this theme and once again defended the HSCA entrance as the most logical entrance. He said: “Once the bullet enters the soft material within the skull, the radial velocity is imparted and the effect is exactly the same no matter at what point it enters. The only effect might be in which portion of the skull is actually blown out. In other words, it might blow out a little higher and a little more toward the top if the bullet entered a little more toward the top rather than blowing out on the side as is indicated in the second exhibit.”
So, after recently deciding that the bullet entered in the low entrance described at the autopsy, how does Sturdivan now view the x-rays and bullet fragments? In the JFK Myths, he claims: “many of the fragments deposited in the President’s brain were flushed out, along with the brain tissue, as the large amounts of blood flowed out of the explosive wound in the side of his head, in the car and in Parkland. It is evidently some of these that were deposited on the bone flaps by clotting blood that show as a “trail” of fragments near the top of the lateral view. This “trail” does not show on the frontal view, and is much higher than the FPP’s reconstructed trajectory. (Note: FPP=Forensic Pathology Panel) In fact, at the apparent location of these fragments there was no brain matter in which the fragments could be embedded.” Yes, he has once again completely reversed himself, not only on the wound location, but on elementary wound ballistics. While bullet fragments previously did “not move very far from their initial, from the place where they departed the bullet,” now “many of the fragments deposited in the President’s brain were flushed out, along with the brain tissue, as the large amounts of blood flowed out of the explosive wound in the side of his head.”
While Sturdivan is undoubtedly within his rights to change his mind, when he uses his experience as the HSCA’s ballistics expert to sell his book, and refutes a number of the HSCA’s key findings, and fails to tell his readers that his testimony was vital to these findings, he crosses a line, in my opinion. At one point in the JFK Myths, he writes: “One hesitates to disagree with the opinions expressed by three panels of expert pathologists who had the autopsy pictures and x-rays to study.” And yet at an other point he admits “The wound ballistics consultant from the Army’s Biophysics Division (the author of this book) was invited to participate in two of the FPP’s meetings. During several meetings, the FPP, a few members of the HSCA staff, and other consultants reviewed all the evidence from the autopsy, including the photographs, x-rays, and clothing.” In an ideal world, he would have followed this admission with a mea culpa grande, confessing that he proceeded to give congress information in sworn testimony he now believes inaccurate. But alas, he ignores this fact completely. While he is, by all accounts, a nice man, Sturdivan’s credibility on the JFK assassination ballistics evidence is undoubtedly debatable. He has, after all, given conflicting statements regarding the location of the entrance wound, the location of the exit wound, and the movement of bullet fragments within the skull.What’s left?
The Sturdivan School of Wound Ballistics
Funny I should ask. The climactic moment of Larry Sturdivan’s HSCA testimony came when he showed several slow-motion films taken in 1964. These slow-motion films depicted the shooting simulations conducted by Dr. Olivier. Sturdivan’s testimony on these films started out badly: “The movies were taken at approximately 2200 pictures per second. Since the projectile is moving at roughly 2,000 feet per second, we could expect a motion of about 12 inches, 12 to 14 inches between frames as the bullet comes in.” (Olivier’s report on these simulations states: “Figure A5, part B, shows the camera and lights used to record the sequence of events at a film speed of 4,,000 frames/sec.” Sturdivan’s book concurs “the movie was taken at the framing rate of 4,000 frames/second, over 200 times faster than the Zapruder film.” The distance traveled by the bullet between frames was therefore more like 6 inches.) Sturdivan continued: “the bullet has come in from the left, has impacted the skull through the scalp simulant and is now within the skull. As you can see, the radial velocity that is imparted at the first part of the track has begun to crack the back piece of the skull. This is the very next frame. It shows the fragmented bullet and fragments of the skull being blown away from the front of the skull... Pieces of the bullet have exited the skull. It is hard to tell whether they have actually gone out of the frame or whether they be incorporated into that white mass which is mostly bone but with a little bit of gelatin tissue stimulant in it."
"As you can see, the radial velocity has already begun to fracture the skull extensively along and across the suture lines.” Later, Sturdivan would answer Congressman Declan Ford by stating “the skull began to fragment while the bullet was still in passage and so, therefore, you might say that the skull began to come apart almost immediately within microseconds of the impact, continuing to fracture and move forward.”
In the JFK Myths, Sturdivan expands upon his testimony, and publishes a few frames from one of his skull test films as Figure 33. He dismisses that a large wound on the back of Kennedy’s head would be indicative of a shot fired from the front by claiming: “This argument is predicated on the assumption that the injury was an exit. It was not. The reader might already have noted that Figure 33 shows what actually happened. The bullet entered the back of the skull and exited in a small spray at the front in the space of one frame of the high-speed movie. Only after the bullet was far down-range did the internal pressure generated by its passage split open the skull and relieve the pressure inside by spewing the contents through the cracks. A similar explosion would have taken place if the bullet had gone through in the opposite direction. The only way to distinguish the direction of travel of the bullet is to examine the cratering effect on the inside of the skull at entrance and on the outside of the skull at exit. Thus, whether the explosion was more to the side or back is completely irrelevant.” He then discusses Kennedy’s skull: “Like the simulations at Edgewood Arsenal, the center of the blown-out area of the president’s skull was at the midpoint of the trajectory—not at the exit point. The midpoint is the point at which the bullet has fully deformed and is giving up the energy at the maximum rate—that is, pushing outward with the maximum force. At its actual point of exit toward the front of his head, the fragment had lost half its velocity and a small amount of mass (more than three quarters of its energy). His forehead was not torn open. The pressure inside the skull at the bullet’s exit location was not high enough to cause the front portion of the skull and scalp to rupture, but the x-rays do show that throughout the president’s skull the individual bony plates were separated at the suture lines and fractured between sutures almost as extensively as those in the simulations.”
So there you have it. Sturdivan contends that the large defect at the top of Kennedy’s head did not come as a result of the bullet's actual exit from the skull, but was created instead by the energy it released en route to the exit.
In retrospect, this should not be surprising. The HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, we should recall, concluded that the bullet exited nearly intact from the beveled piece of bone in the "mystery photo," and that the other half of this exit was found on the large bone fragment found on the floor of the limousine. This left no explanation for the explosion of skull visible in frame 313 of the Zapruder film, especially when one considers that the panel concluded that the bone fragment seen exploding upwards came from a location posterior to the large bone fragment found in the limousine, and on the far side of this fragment from the exit defect.
Even more alarming than Sturdivan's simply making an assertion that the temporary cavity made by the bullet exploded the skull, however, is that he presents this as though this is what one would normally expect from the impact of a high-velocity bullet on a skull. Now, is this assertion supported by the simulation films he cites as support for his theory? I don't believe so. Well, what about the writings of others, then? Here, once again, I’m saying no.
One reason to doubt Sturdivan is his contention that at the “actual point of exit” the bullet had lost only “a small amount of mass.” He overlooks that the copper base of this bullet was found in the front seat of the car, empty of all lead, and that the nose of this bullet was found several feet away. As it would be most unusual for a jacketed bullet to enter a skull intact but break up upon exit, it seems obvious the bullet broke up upon impact, and that the lead fragments seen on the x-rays broke off from the middle of the bullet. If Sturdivan fails to appreciate this obvious conclusion, there's no telling what else he's overlooked.
Actually, there is some telling what else he's overlooked, and here it is... The skull test films depict large fractures running from the entrance locations on the backs of the skulls to the coronal sutures near the fronts of the skulls. Such a fracture line does not appear on Kennedy’s skull. Even worse, while the bullets in the skull tests exploded from the forehead, Kennedy's face remained intact. Although Sturdivan has recently proposed that the bullet striking Kennedy curled upwards and exploded out the top of his skull, the exhibits he placed into evidence before congress fail to support this conjecture, and he has offered no subsequent tests as support for this proposition.
Sturdivan also fails to see that his basic assertion just isn't true. He states “Like the simulations at Edgewood Arsenal, the center of the blown-out area of the president’s skull was at the midpoint of the trajectory.” But this is 100% wrong. The available films show that, even though, as Dr. Olivier explained to the Warren Commission, "you don’t have the limiting scalp holding the pieces in," (Some studies have concluded that scalp is as much as 50% as strong as bone) the mid-point of the trajectory in the test skulls fractured and separated at the sutures, but did not blow out.
While the final skull test frame in the JFK Myth's Figure 33 shows the skull coming apart and might leave one with the impression that the skull blasted apart, this is an inaccurate impression. When one watches the full simulation as HSCA Exhibit F-305, (frames of which are shown above) one sees that the mid-part of the skull regained its form and that the skull, in fact, ended up with a large hole on the back of the head at the entrance and an even larger hole on the front of the head at the exit, with NO hole whatsoever at the top of the head. This is shown below.
And this wasn't an isolated case. It was the same or worse with the other skulls. None of the simulations had a large defect at the top like the one on Kennedy’s skull. On NONE of the simulations did a large bone fragment explode upwards as seen in Zapruder frame 313. With but what appears to be one exception, the entrances were not small holes on the bone approximately the width of the bullet, but gaping holes an inch or more in diameter. Sturdivan's testimony was thereby refuted by...the very exhibits introduced to support his testimony.
Yes, We Can Can
Even more surprising, the skull tests were not the only films shown by Larry Sturdivan in his 1978 HSCA testimony that refuted his testimony. To support his statements about the explosion of the president’s skull, he showed the committee Exhibit 304, a slow-motion film of a high-speed bullet piercing a tomato can. He describes this film as follows: “The picture will be much the same as those with the skull. The bullet will be coming in from the left, will strike the can and you will see pieces of the can moving toward the right in the direction of the bullet, but you will also see pieces of the can moving in other directions. Notably the top of the can will be moving back toward the left in the direction from which the bullet came. You notice the backsplash as the bullet has entered the left-hand side of the can. The material is beginning to move back out. This is called the backsplash of the projectile.” Yes, you read that right. Sturdivan pointed out to the committee that a bullet entering a skull would create a backsplash of material from the entrance.
Vincent J.M. DiMaio, in his book Gunshot Wounds, described this phenomena as well. He asserted: “As the bullet enters the body, there is a “tail splash,” or the backward hurling of injured tissue.” This should make one wonder once again why there is no backsplash visible in frame 313 of the Zapruder film.
While one might venture that the backsplash remained visible for but a brief moment, and was already dissipated within the 1/30th or so of a second between the impact of the bullet on Kennedy's head and the exposure of frame 313, Sturdivan's tomato can film proves this unlikely, as the backsplash visible in the Exhibit 304 is still visible long after the amount of forward splash has peaked.
Yes, Sturdivan's tomato can film is something to treasure. It should be put on display like a Warhol. It's of interest not only because of the readily noticeable backsplash in the film, but because it helps debunk the myth that Kennedy's head flew backwards as a consequence of a "jet effect." Notice that, in the frames of Exhibit 304 above, while the top of the can flew back towards the shooter, the larger mass of the can flew forwards in the direction of the bullet. If one were to hold that this movement came from a "jet effect" response to the backsplash, one would then be forced to return to the last question: where is the backsplash in the Zapruder film, and why didn't its "jet effect" thrust Kennedy's skull forwards?
In his testimony before congress, Sturdivan offered his own explanation for the back-and-to the-left movement of the President’s skull in the frames following Z-313. He testified: “Now the extreme radial velocity imparted to the matter in the President’s head, the brain tissue caused mechanical movement of essentially everything inside the skull, including where the cord went through the foramen magnum, that is, the hole that leads out of the skull down to the spinal cord. Motion there, I believe, caused mechanical stimulation of the motor nerves of the President, and since all motor nerves were stimulated at the same time, then every muscle in the body would be activated at the same time. Now in an arm, for instance, this would have activated the biceps muscle but it would also have activated the triceps muscle, which being more powerful, would have straightened the arm out. With leg muscles, the large muscles in the back of the leg are more powerful than those in the front and, therefore, the leg would move backward. The muscles in the back of the trunk are much stronger than the abdominals and, therefore, the body would arch backward. The same phenomena has been observed many times by hunters in the Southwest where I came from.”
To support these statements he showed the committee Exhibit 309, a slow-motion film of a goat being shot in the head. He testified: “First we will observe the neuromuscular reaction, the goat will collapse then, and by the wiggling of his tail and the tenseness of the muscles we will see what I think has been called the decerebrate rigidity, and that takes place about a second after the shot and then slowly dissipates and you will see the goat slump, obviously dead.”
As the film progressed, he narrated: “Four one-hundredths of a second after that impact then the neuromuscular reaction that I described begins to happen; the back legs go out, the front legs go upward and outward, the back arches, as the powerful back muscles overcome those of the abdominals. That was it.”
Later, when questioned by Congressman Declan Ford, he disputed that the direction of Kennedy’s head movement would have any correlation to the direction of travel of the bullet impacting his head: “The direction that was imparted by the bullet going forward would have been overcome by the neuro-muscular reaction in about four-hundredths of a second, if we can believe what happened to the animal would be the same in the human being….Four one hundredths of a second, I think, is well between frames on the Zapruder film. So we wouldn’t expect to see any forward motion of the head before we saw the violent reaction. In other words, there was very little time to move forward before he began to move backward.” Sturdivan, therefore, failed to attach any significance to the slight forward movement of Kennedy's head between frames 312 and 313 of the Zapruder film, the movement most single-assassin theorists cite as proof the bullet was fired from behind.
Still later, Sturdivan dismissed another favorite theory of the single-assassin crowd, and rejected the possibility that the cause of the back-and-to-the left motion apparent in the Zapruder film was the “Jet Effect” proposed by Dr. Luis Alvarez and Dr. John Lattimer. He testified: “It is possible that there would have been enough momentum lost in a forward direction that the skull might have moved backward or at least not move forward as rapidly as it would have otherwise. However, if you recall, in the skull films, most of the momentum was in the side causing the skull to have a reaction in the opposite direction. But each of the skulls did move forward in the direction that the bullet took.” I wonder how many of today's single-assassin theorists accepting that the forward movement of Kennedy's skull between frames 312 and 313 and the purported "jet effect" afterward demonstrate that the head shot was fired from behind even know that their champion ballistics expert testified before congress that their "proofs" were nonsense.
Sturdivan's explanation had a not insignificant problem of its own. Both his testimony and his goat film suggested that the neuro-muscular reaction he proposed would affect all limbs. Dr. Werner Spitz of the HSCA medical panel shared Sturdivan’s analysis; years earlier, he'd told the Rockefeller Commission:“The subsequent backward movement of the President’s head can be explained by sudden decerebration. This position is well known as “decerebrate posture.”
Well, Blakiston’s Pocket Medical Dictionary describes “decerebrate posture” as: “The limbs are stiffly extended, the head retracted…” This suggests that, if Kennedy’s movements were related to a neuro-muscular response, his arms would have straightened out as well as his legs.
They did not; they remained by his side, bent at the elbow, precisely as they were before the bullet impacted on his skull.
As Sturdivan also stated that the goat fell dead, and Kennedy is reported to have lived for more than 20 minutes after he was shot, there is real reason to doubt that Kennedy straightened up as a neuro-muscular response, or that his legs were extended due to sudden decerebration.
But I am not alone in my skepticism. In recent years, Sturdivan's testimony about the neuro-muscular response has come under fire from a most unexpected source: Sturdivan himself. Although he still proposes that Kennedy's body lurched backwards as a neuro-muscular response to the bullet's impact, he now asserts that the rapid acceleration of Kennedy's head backwards after 313 came not from this response, but from the...jet effect. In the JFK Myths, he declares: “Dr. Ken Rahn has used the position of the back of Kennedy's head as plotted in Josiah Thompson’s book to calculate the velocity and acceleration of the head after the explosion at Zapruder frame 313. Kennedy’s head is accelerated rapidly forward (the momentum of the bullet) then rapidly backward, nearly to its original position. The motion is far too soon to be a neuro-muscular response. It had to be from the physics.” Sturdivan then proposes that the Jet Effect had an effect and that Dr. Olivier’s tests at Edgewood Arsenal failed to reveal this effect as a consequence of his ballistics gelatin being just too darned stiff.
Well, no surprise, there’s a problem with this. Sturdivan testified before congress that the neuro-muscular reaction takes place within 4/100 of a second. 4/100 of a second is less than one frame of the Zapruder film. The bullet impacts on Kennedy mid-way between Z-312 and Z-313 in the Zapruder film and by Z-315 he is already heading back-and-to-the left. This means the response took approximately 2 frames or, since the Zapruder film was running at 18.3 frames per second, roughly 1/9 of a second. 1/9 of a second is, of course, roughly 11/100 of a second, more than 2 ½ times as long as Sturdivan said it took for a neuro-muscular reaction to occur. And yet Sturdivan now says the reaction comes far too soon for the reaction to be a neuro-muscular reaction. This means that either a) Sturdivan misled congress, or b) he’s so anxious to fit in with Warren Commission supporters like Lattimer and Rahn that he’ll say almost anything, or c) he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.
I’m leaning towards “c.” After all, Sturdivan:
testified before congress that the entrance wound was on the upper part of Kennedy’s skull, but then changed his mind.
testified before congress that small bullet fragments don’t stray very far from the bullet’s path, but then changed his mind.
testified before congress that the forward movement of Kennedy's skull between frames 312 and 313 did not reflect that the bullet impacting his skull had been fired from behind, but then changed his mind.
testified before congress that the rapid backward movement of Kennedy's skull following frame 313 was most logically a neuro-muscular response to the impact of a bullet, but then changed his mind.
And, guess what, it appears that Sturdivan changed his mind about this as well! Yep, in 1978 he claimed a neurological response had caused Kennedy to jolt back and to the left after the head shot; in 2005 he said he'd been mistaken and that it was the jet effect that caused this response; and then in 2013 he reversed himself again (or so it would appear). When asked about Kennedy's movements after the head shot by the producers of PBS' NOVA, Sturdivan replied: "The tissue inside [Kennedy's] skull was being moved around. It caused a massive amount of nerve stimulation to go down his spine. Every nerve in his body was stimulated...since the back muscles are stronger than the abdominal muscles, that meant that Kennedy arched dramatically backwards." As pointed out by researcher Martin Hay, moreover, this was nonsense, as Kennedy's head snapped back, and his body followed.
While Sturdivan is a nice guy, it seems clear that, as a lot of nice guys, he has great difficulty making up his mind, and then sticking to it. Or even making much sense to begin with...
He is, after all, the guy who told congress that the inch of flesh overlying Connally’s rib would substantially slow a bullet, so that a bullet striking Connally’s rib would suffer much less damage than a bullet striking a much-smaller goat’s rib, but that the five and a half inches of flesh in Kennedy’s upper back and neck would hardly slow a bullet at all.
Perhaps it’s time then that we make up our own minds…
(In November 2018, Mysteries at the Museum, a TV program broadcast on the Travel Channel, tried to resolve the 40 year jet effect/neuromuscular reaction debate through an interview with a weather scientist named Nick Nalli, who'd paid to publish an online article on the subject earlier in the year. Although the program insisted Nalli's article was a "brand new analysis" of the issue, it was, in fact, nothing new. Nalli, who cited no actual experience with gunshot wounds or wound ballistics, observed what had long since been apparent--that the back and to the left motion of Kennedy's head followed the bullet's impact by two frames or so, which was too early for it to have come as a result of a neurological reaction. So he regurgitated the HSCA's conclusion--that the back and to the left movement observed in the Zapruder film started as a response to the jet effect first proposed by Alvarez, and then continued due to the neuromuscular reaction first described by Sturdivan. Well, this was old news, which is to say, no news at all.)
Blasts From the Present
Since the statements and testimony of HSCA wound ballistics consultant Larry Sturdivan, are, well, not exactly consistent, the thought occurs that we should better acquaint ourselves with the field of his supposed expertise: wound ballistics.
Dr. LeMoyne Snyder, Homicide Investigation, First edition 1944.“If the bullet encounters only soft tissue in its passage through the body, it will pass through in a straight line. If, however, it strikes a bone it is hard to predict where it will go. When this happens, the deflection of the bullet depends on the size and shape of the bone, the velocity of the bullet, and the angle at which it strikes. In some cases, if a high velocity rifle bullet strikes a large bone, like that in the thigh, it may bore a hole through it without even producing a fracture. On the other hand, if it happens to strike a large bone at an angle, it may cause a severe fracture with great destruction of the surrounding soft tissues due to the fact that the energy of the bullet is transmitted to broken fragments of bone and thus making each of these fragments an additional projectile. Not only do the bone fragments enormously increase tissue destruction but the bullet itself is frequently sent spinning end over end. This, of course, greatly increases tissue damage and bleeding. As a result, the wound of exit in such cases is usually much larger, more ragged and generally more destructive.”
Well, okay. This should make us wonder if the large size of Kennedy's head wound was a natural consequence of the fatal bullet's velocity, a la Sturdivan, or if it was, instead, a result of the bullet's striking his skull at an angle.
Dr. E. Newton Harvey, Studies on Wound Ballistics, contained in Advances in Military Medicine, Vol.1, Made By American Investigators Working Under the Sponsorship of the Committee on Medical Research, 1948. "Many of the observations on the battlefield can be imitated by shooting 1/8-inch steel spheres of different velocities into the intact head of an anesthetized cat. A low-velocity sphere (1100 ft./sec.) leaves neat entrance and exit holes in the skull, with no splitting of sutures or fracturing. Spheres of somewhat higher velocity (2200 ft./sec.) show entrance holes with jagged edges or slight fractures and occasional splitting along a suture line. A 3000-ft./sec. sphere causes considerable suture splitting and fracturing, and a 4500-ft./sec. sphere results in complete shattering."
So here is a military doctor, discussing tests performed on cats with proportionally-sized spheres, in which the damage reported by Sturdivan was observed with spheres travelings around 3,000 ft./sec--50% greater than the presumed velocity of the bullet killing Kennedy.
Dr.s Harvey, McMillen, Butler, and Puckett, Chapter III, Mechanism of Wounding, contained in Wound Ballistics, edited by Dr. James Beyer, published by the Medical Department, United States Army, 1962. (Beyer was Kennedy autopsist Pierre Finck's predecessor at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.) "The pressures which accompany a high-velocity missile moving through tissue are enormous. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that a steel sphere fired into the head can produce a temporary cavity in brain tissue, despite the apparent strength of the cranium which must resist the pressure. The cavity formed by a missile in the brain of an intact cranium is of finite size, partly because brain tissue is forced through regions of less resistance (such as frontal sinuses and the various foramina of the skull) and partly because of the stretching of the cranium itself. When the energy delivered is very great, skull bones are actually torn apart along suture lines...The explosive effect of high-velocity missiles within the cranium increases with increased energy. With very high velocities there is complete shattering of the skull, usually along suture lines... Movement of brain tissue during expansion of the temporary cavity pushes the bone apart." (Later in this book the tests using "very high-velocity" missiles, in which the skulls usually separated at the sutures, are described in more detail. The missiles in these tests were traveling at 4,000 fps or more, more than twice as fast as the bullet striking Kennedy.)
So here we have confirmation that skulls don't normally explode from temporary cavities and that when they do it's usually along suture lines. Kennedy's skull did not explode along suture lines. Not only did the fractures on the right side of the skull not run along suture lines, but there was no separation along suture lines observed on the left side of the skull. There was also little damage to the left side of the brain, which would seem unlikely should the brain have expanded to the degree necessary to explode the skull. It follows then that these experts would consider the explosion of Kennedy's skull highly unusual. As confirmed below...
Dr. James Beyer, as quoted in a 12-19-63 AP article on Kennedy’s head wound. (In this article, perhaps inadvertently, Beyer second-guesses the conclusions of his successor at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Dr. Pierre Finck.) “I’m still surprised at the reported size of the head wound if a normal, completely jacketed, military type bullet was used—and if it did not strike some object, such as a portion of the President’s limousine before hitting the president’s head.” Ordinarily, he said, a military type bullet, if fired from a range of about 100 yards as the fatal bullet apparently was, would cause only a relatively small wound at the point of entry and would not necessarily cause extensive damage inside the skull. In contrast, he said, a soft-nosed hunting-type bullet—whose soft nose tends to mushroom out after striking a target-- could cause a head wound of the devastating type described even though the initial entrance was not large. Also, he said, if an ordinary military-type bullet “just grazed” a portion of the limousine before striking the president’s head—without losing much of its energy—the slight instability imparted to the missile could have resulted in the large wound described. Beyer wrote the section on wound ballistics to the Army’s official medical history of World War II.”
While Beyer was obviously unaware of the tendency of 6.5 mm ammunition to break-up on the skull, his statement that a shot from 100 yards using 6.5 mm military-type ammunition “would not necessarily cause extensive damage inside the skull” is a clear indication that the temporary cavity (which, as we shall see, is larger with intact bullets than non-intact bullets) of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition was not particularly destructive. This totally contradicts Sturdivan’s contention that the temporary cavity of the bullet striking Kennedy was the primary factor in the explosion of his skull.
Dr. Alfred Olivier, 5-13-64 testimony before the Warren Commission. “This type of a stable bullet I didn’t think would cause a massive head wound, I thought it would go through making a small entrance and exit, but the bones of the skull are enough to deform the end of this bullet causing it to expend a lot of energy and blowing out the side of the skull or blowing out fragments of the skull.”
Here, Sturdivan’s mentor, Olivier, gets around Beyer by suggesting that the explosion of Kennedy's skull was related to the deformation of the bullet on the back of the skull. As none of the dried skulls fired on by Olivier, using rifles and bullets identical to those supposedly used by Oswald, exploded upwards like Kennedy's skull, this explanation is far from satisfactory. Olivier's testimony is interesting, nonetheless, as it supports both that the damage to Kennedy's skull was considered surprising, and that the deformation of the bullet occurred upon impact, and not upon exit. Sturdivan and the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, we should recall, both pushed that the bullet remained largely intact until exiting the skull, with Dr. Baden actually pushing that the bullet remained intact until impacting the windshield frame.
Dr.s Bergeron and Rumbaugh, Radiology of the Skull and Brain, 1971, chapter on Skull Trauma. “Violence to a small area stresses the bone only locally and results in an impression fracture. This type of violence must be clearly distinguished from that to a large area, which uniformly stresses the skull as a whole and results in a burst fracture.”
This demonstrates that the fracture patterns resulting from a bullet's entrance and exit are distinguishable from burst fractures.
Dr. Alfred Olivier, 2-13-73 letter to Emory L. Brown, Jr. (A copy of this letter can be found in the Weisberg Archives.) (On the origins of the large fragment purported to be on the back of Kennedy's skull in the X-rays.) "This metallic fragment was probably deposited when the bullet jacket ruptured on the skull. This rupturing of the jacket was one of the things that surprised me when we tested the bullet (same lot as used by Oswald) against human skulls. Apparently, the gilding metal was fairly soft, allowing these full-jacketed military bullets to act like soft-nosed hunting bullets. If Oswald had used Italian ammunition, which had steel jackets, the head wound would have been much less severe, but probably still fatal."
Ahh, there it is...an acknowledgment from someone well-familiar with such things that the break-up of a jacketed bullet upon impact with a skull leads it to act like hunting ammunition, and thereby increases the severity of the wound.
Dr. Alfred Olivier, 4-18-75 testimony before the Rockefeller Commission. “When that bullet entered the head the nose of the bullet erupted on the skull and expended a tremendous amount of energy. This caused what is known as a temporary cavity. Apparently, this cavity was nearer the side of the head so that it buried in that area, and say, took the path of least resistance. If the bullet path had been near the top of the head it could have burst through the top.”
This statement confirms that Dr. Olivier believed 1) the bullet broke up on the outside of the skull; 2) the break-up of this bullet contributed to the creation of a large temporary cavity; 3) a temporary cavity will take the path of least resistance, and 4) the path of least resistance in this case was along the side of the head. Point 4 suggests that Dr. Olivier did not embrace the Clark Panel's claim the bullet entered by the cowlick. Point 3 suggests that a large exit created by a permanent cavity will moderate the damage done by the subsequent temporary cavity. Points 1 and 2 raise the question, overlooked in both Dr. Humes and Dr. Olivier's Warren Commission testimony, of whether the small entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head gave the appearance of a wound where a bullet had broken up on the skull.
Dr. John Lattimer, 10-23-75 letter to Emory Brown, Jr. (A copy of this letter can be found in the Weisberg Archives.) (On tests he'd performed on M/C ammunition) "These bullets keep on going straight ahead in the wood. These same bullets will fragment exactly like a soft-nosed bullet, if they strike the skull, exactly as President Kennedy's skull was struck."
Well, here it is again...confirmation that the bullet striking Kennedy's skull behaved like soft-nosed hunting ammunition. This supports Olivier's statements suggesting that the bullet's explosion and the skull's explosion are inter-related, and that one can not simply propose that the bullet didn't break up at impact, a la Sturdivan and Baden, and still have the severity of the exit make sense.
Dr.s Charters and Charters, Journal of Trauma 1976, Wounding Mechanism of Very High Velocity Projectiles. “The magnitude of the temporary wound cavity is dependent upon the energy imparted by the projectile during penetration of the tissue, since the energy released decreased exponentially with the distance penetrated.”
In support of this statement, Charters and Charters published test results demonstrating that fragmenting stainless steel spheres penetrate shorter distances and create smaller temporary cavities than non-fragmenting spheres. Since the bullet striking Kennedy was badly fragmented this suggests that the largest temporary cavity inside his skull, and the greatest stress on the skull, was nearest the entrance, not the exit. Well, this in turn should make one doubt that the large defect on the top of Kennedy’s skull (a good distance from the low entrance formerly proposed by Olivier and currently proposed by Sturdivan) was created by the temporary cavity of a disintegrating bullet.
So let us make this clear. If the bullet broke up on the outside of the skull, and disintegrated in its passage through the skull, as one might expect, it created an entrance wound too small, and released a surprising amount of its energy upon exit. And if it didn't break up at all, well, then, it created an exit wound too big. In either case, then, the same thing's wrong--the exit wound's too big.
Dr. Frank P. Cleveland, Chapter XXII, Characteristics of Wounds Produced by Handguns and Rifles, contained in Forensic Pathology: A Handbook for Pathologists, edited by Dr. Russell Fisher (of the Clark Panel) and Dr. Charles Petty (of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel), published by the U.S. Department of Justice, 1977. "Wounds from high velocity projectiles. Increasing the velocity of projectiles increases geometrically the quantity of energy produced and this produces perforating wounds with unusual features: bone may literally be pulverized; soft tissue laceration may be widespread and at considerable distance from the track of the projectile; lacerations may be observed within the intima of arteries; exit wounds may be unusually large." (List of characteristics of typical wounds of entrance) "Entrance, tight contact...(2) In the Skull (a) Stellate lacerations radiating from the central defect (b) Marginal abrasions (contact ring), powder residue deep in the wound (c) Gaseous residue distributed along fascial planes (d) May be internal explosive fractures of skull (e) Bone fragments become secondary missiles (f) Peripheral abrasions around contact ring from barrel and sight." (List of characteristics of typical wounds of exit) "1) Lacerated irregular defect with everted margin and subcutaneous fat protrusion. (2) May be larger than entrance wound, secondary to deformity of bullet or secondary missiles (i.e. bone)."
This handbook, prepared for the Justice Department, supports that the explosion of Kennedy's skull was far from typical. While this handbook was written for civilian pathologists, and does not specifically address military rifle wounds, it bears repeating that the rifle wounds seen by civilian doctors are most frequently caused by hunting ammunition, and are of a more explosive nature than the wounds caused by full-jacketed military ammunition. The handbook's representation of "explosive fractures of the skull" as "internal", and its simultaneous assertion that exit wounds are larger than entrance wounds due to a "deformity of bullet or secondary missiles" is therefore at odds with Sturdivan's subsequent proposal that temporary cavities are explosive externally, and the primary cause of the large exit defects observed in association with high-velocity projectiles. Should one assume, moreover, that the depiction of "typical" exit wounds in the handbook was inaccurate, and that this had escaped the attention of its editors, Fisher and Petty, one should be aware that they'd added a footnote to the second point regarding exit wounds in order to explain that exit wounds in areas supported by clothing do not resemble the usual exit wound. From this it can be assumed that if they'd had any problems with Cleveland's discussion of exit wounds, and his failure to cite the temporary cavities of high speed projectiles as the primary cause for the large exits associated with their passage, they would have added another such footnote. Since they did not, we can assume they did not.
Larry Sturdivan, testimony before the HSCA, 9-8-78. "Essentially, I think that you could probably not tell the difference between the skull that had been hit with an exploding bullet, one that had been hit with a frangible bullet or one that had been hit with a hollow point or soft nose hunting bullet or a hard jacketed military bullet that had deformed massively on the skull at impact. In fact, all of those situations would look, in a film like this which was taken at ordinary speeds, to be very similar."
So here we have it from the man himself: hard jacketed military bullets which deform upon impact behave like frangible bullets.
Sturdivan, ibid: “As a bullet deforms it also increases its presented area, and therefore, a deformed bullet will have a much greater drag than a non-deformed bullet.”
This backs up what we’ve just discussed—that the energy release will be greatest when the bullet is most deformed, but intact. This statement also casts a shadow on the likelihood that a bullet “erupting on the skull” as per Olivier, and behaving like a frangible bullet, as per Sturdivan, would leave an entrance defect smaller than its caliber. The bullet entrance measured at autopsy, let’s remember, was only 6mm in its smallest dimension.
It should be noted, moreover, that this is by no means a secret. Lucien Haag, in the December 2019 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Science and Medicine, reported "testing by this author and others (Lattimer and Sturdivan) has shown that the nose of the full metal jacket Carcano bullet can be breeched upon striking skull bone, after which the bullet behaves much like a soft-point hunting bullet."
Report of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, March 1979. “This energy transfer produces a temporary cavity as described earlier, which actually develops after the bullet has passed through the tissue. Accordingly, a bullet can pass through a head and be almost 100 feet further along before a photograph reveals the explosive destruction of the head. This also explains the presence of entry and exit holes in bones and tissue even though the skull is extremely fragmented or blown apart by the subsequent formation of the temporary cavity. The velocity of the outward-moving tissue particles may be only 125 feet per second, far less than the 1,000 to 2,000 feet per second velocity of the bullet projectile.”
This supports Sturdivan’s statements that the cratering or beveling patterns on the skull closest to the entrance and exit will reveal the direction of fire even if a subsequent temporary cavity explodes the skull. This also supports our contention that the fractures deriving from the explosion of the temporary cavity would occur after the fractures created by the entrance and exit.
Determining Caliber, Bullet Type, and Velocity From the Morphology of the Wound in the Skull, a German wound ballistics study published in Archiv Fuer Kriminologie, Sept/Oct 1979. (As summarized on the National Criminal Justice Service website) "Results indicate that the shape of bullet holes is influenced by the energy and deformation tendencies of the bullet, as well as by the hardness and thickness of the material fired upon. Thus, the size of the bullet hole increases with greater bullet deformation tendencies, with greater hardness and thickness of the target material, and with reduced bullet velocity...A large quotient between the outside and inside measurements of the bullet hole suggests slow velocity."
Well, this is helpful. The small size of the bullet entrance on Kennedy's skull as measured at autopsy appears to be inconsistent with the deformation of the bullet upon impact, as purported by Dr. Olivier, when coupled with the location of the bullet entrance as measured at autopsy (the thick occipital bone low on the back of the skull). Perhaps, then, this small wound low on the back of the skull was created by a bullet that did not deform, i.e., a second bullet.
Michael S. Owen-Smith, High Velocity and Military Gunshot Wounds, 1981 from, Management of Gunshot Wounds, 1988. “if the bullet fragments on impact, all the energy will be used up in creating horrendous wounds… When the skull is filled with gelatine and a bullet fired through it at the same velocity the liquidlike medium behaves like the brain and allows the hydro-dynamic pressure wave of cavitation to blow the skull bones apart from within, causing gross ‘eggshell' fracturing of the skull.”
While Owen-Smith’s mention of “eggshell” fracturing” might lead one to conclude that study of these fractures to determine the entrance and exit of the bullet is a waste of time, this isn’t true. Included with his article are two photographs—one of a 7.62mm bullet’s entrance on an empty skull, and one of a 7.62mm bullet’s entrance on a skull filled with gelatin. On the skull filled with gelatin, large stellate fractures derive from the entrance, and a piece of skull by the entrance is missing. This entrance more closely resembles what is supposedly the EXIT on Kennedy’s skull than what is supposedly the entrance. It is also intriguing that Smith chooses to demonstrate the effect of cavitation on a skull by comparing the entrance locations of the bullets and not the exits. This suggests that the effects of cavitation are more apparent at the side of entrance than at the side of exit. Well, why does this sound familiar? That's right. This is exactly what was reported 86 years earlier, in Principles of Medicine, on tests conducted 107 years earlier, in 1874. Yet another point to consider is that, while the 7.62mm bullet fired from 14m in Owen-Smith’s tests would create a much more powerful impact on a skull than a 6.5mm bullet fired from the sniper’s nest at Kennedy, the fractures deriving from the opening on the top of Kennedy’s head, as well as the loss of bone, were greater than the fractures and missing bone by the entrance on Owen-Smith’s exhibit. This suggests, then, that the forces creating Kennedy’s large defect were more powerful than one would normally expect from the temporary cavity of a 6.5mm bullet.
Dr. Vincent J.M. DiMaio: Practical Aspects of Firearms, 1985. “the fact that the fractures in a skull are due to temporary cavity formation was demonstrated by a series of experiments with skulls. When skulls were empty, the bullets “drilled” neat entrances and exits without any fractures. When the skulls were filled with gelatin to simulate the brain, massive secondary skull fractures were produced.”
This supports Owen-Smith’s statements, but with the acknowledgment that fractures created by cavitation are “secondary.” This means they would come to an end when reaching “primary” fractures, i.e. fractures created by the bullet’s impact. This simple fact proves helpful when interpreting the x-rays.
Dr. Martin Fackler, What’s Wrong with the Wounds Ballistics Literature and Why, July 1987. “In the Vietnam Era, the major role played by bullet fragmentation in tissue disruption was not recognized due to “Idolatry of Velocity”…Despite the recent evidence, a generation of surgeons and weapon developers has been confused and prejudiced by the assumption that “high velocity” and “temporary cavitation” were the sole causes of tissue disruption…" According to Dr. Olivier’s testimony before the Rockefeller Commission, Edgewood Arsenal, his and Sturdivan’s employer, did the original work comparing the M-14, the M-16, and the AK-47. These were the rifles of the Vietnam Era. Olivier testified, furthermore, that “as a result of our work, we adopted the M-16.” This puts Olivier and Sturdivan on the opposite side of the fence from the well-regarded Fackler, and in the company of "velocity-worshippers."
Fackler, ibid. "To further confuse the issue, pressures of up to 100 atmospheres are incorrectly attributed to temporary cavitation by many authors…Temporary cavity tissue displacement can cause pressure of only about 4 atmospheres.” So here we have the most respected man in the field of wound ballistics today raining on Sturdivan’s parade. One might assume from this that Fackler does not subscribe to Olivier and Sturdivan’s theory that the explosion along the top of Kennedy’s head was caused by the temporary cavity.
Fackler, ibid. “A similar temporary cavity such as that produced by the M-16, stretching tissue that has been riddled by bullet fragments, causes a much larger permanent cavity by detaching tissue segments between the fragment paths. Thus projectile fragmentation can turn the energy used in temporary cavitation into a truly destructive force because it is focused on areas weakened by fragment paths rather than being absorbed evenly by the tissue mass. The synergy between projectile fragmentation and cavitation can greatly increase the damage done by a given amount of kinetic energy.”
Thus, the temporary cavity of a fragmenting bullet (such as a tumbling M-16 bullet or a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet breaking up on the skull) will release more energy into the permanent cavity, and fail to expand at the rate of the cavity created by a non-fragmenting bullet imparting an identical amount of energy into the brain. This is not to say the temporary cavity created by a fragmenting bullet will be automatically smaller than that created by an intact bullet, as suggested by Charters and Charters research. It seems clear, though, that the ratio of permanent cavity to temporary cavity is reduced by the bullet's fragmentation. Thus, while an intact bullet traveling sideways within the skull may leave a permanent cavity an inch wide, and create a temporary cavity three or four inches wide, a fragmenting bullet that breaks up within the skull may create a permanent cavity two inches wide, and a temporary cavity three to four inches wide. The fact that the bullet striking Kennedy both fragmented and had sufficient energy to damage the windshield frame, and cement curb, then, suggests that its temporary cavity was not as explosive as it would have been had it remained intact and expended all its energy within the brain.
Confused? So was I until I came across a simple analogy in a book by Dr. Vincent J. M. DiMaio. He compared the temporary cavity to the waves created by a boat on a lake. Well which creates a bigger and more powerful wave along the shore, one large boat or ten small ones adding up to the same displacement in the water? The one large one, correct? Why? Because the wakes of the smaller boats are directed towards each other as well as the shore. This crashing of the wakes into each other is what, in Fackler’s words, detaches the tissue segments between the fragment paths, and creates the large permanent cavity.
Fackler, ibid. “Temporary cavitation is no more than the pushing aside of tissue. The distance the tissue is displaced depends, among other things, on its weight. As might be expected, a given projectile will cause a temporary cavity of smaller diameter in a larger limb because of the increased weight of the mass being moved. This has been proved experimentally…” This can be taken as support for Sturdivan’s theory in that it suggests the temporary cavity was greatest near the exit on the top of Kennedy's skull. But if the extra weight/pressure at the back of Kennedy’s head kept the temporary cavity from expanding upwards, shouldn’t it also have forced more fluid back out the entrance, and created a noticeable spray of back spatter?
Smith et al, Cranial Fracture Patterns and Estimate of Direction from Low Velocity Gunshot Wounds, Journal of Forensic Sciences, September 1987. “A bullet entering the skull produces an entrance wound and a series of radial fractures extending across the skull in advance of the bullet to relieve hoop stresses. Concentric heaving fractures develop in successive generations connecting the radial fractures as the wedges are lifted up. Upon exit there is another series of radial and concentric heaving fractures produced that are of lesser magnitude, have fewer generations, and may be arrested by preexistent fracture lines.”
This pattern was perhaps best demonstrated, moreover, in the following image taken from Wound Ballistics: Basics and Applications (2008).
The entrance is on the left. Note the large size of the fracture pattern surrounding the entrance at the back of the simulated skull. Now compare this to the fracture pattern one finds on the right.
The fracture pattern, or spider-web, is much larger at entrance than upon exit.
This raises a few questions. As the fracture patterns of entrance and exit are created almost simultaneously with the impact of the bullet, and precede the fractures created by the temporary cavity, why are there NO large fractures deriving from the entrance on the back of Kennedy’s head, and why are there ENORMOUS fractures deriving from the supposed exit? The bullet at entrance was of larger mass and traveling at a much greater speed than the fragments believed to have impacted at the supposed exit.
Oh, that's right. Baden and Sturdivan claimed the bullet did not break up until after its exit. So what caused the large fractures at exit? Baden and the FPP's interpretation of the autopsy photos precludes that the bullet exited sideways...
Well, this leads us back to Sturdivan... Would the temporary cavity of a tumbling (but not exploding) bullet explode the skull mid-trajectory? And leave massive fractures in its wake?
Dr. Philip Villanueva, chapter on Cranial Gunshot Wounds, Management of Gunshot Wounds, 1988. “The shape of the cavitation is theoretically conical, with the apex of the cone being farthest away from the entry…In reality, the projectile’s path often varies from a straight track, causing an irregular shaped cavity.”
Well, first of all, the apex is the narrowest point of a cone. So, yes, Villanueva confirms what we've previously suspected--that the temporary cavity of a bullet is greater at entrance than at exit.
But this, alas, is theory. In reality, most bullets are not steel spheres. They tumble. Well, this tumbling changes the shape of the temporary cavity, whereby Sturdivan is essentially correct--that the temporary cavity is greatest where the bullet is traveling sideways--which could very well be mid-skull, halfway between the entrance and exit.
So, ultimately, Villanueva supports Sturdivan’s conjecture that tumbling affects the size of the temporary cavity and that a bullet could in fact curve upwards while crossing the skull. This still fails to explain, however, why no path for a bullet heading upwards in the skull from the supposed entrance near the cerebellum to the supposed exit near the coronal suture has ever been ascertained, either at autopsy or afterward. After all, if the bullet had traveled on such a trajectory, while fragmenting, it would have created a large permanent cavity, and have left small bullet fragments within this cavity, far from the surface of the cerebrum. So where are these fragments? Sturdivan's latter-day assertion that these fragments would have been uniformly flushed upwards with the explosion of the temporary cavity makes little sense, as it seems clear that at least some of these fragments would have been embedded deep within the brain.
Dr. Edward Pechter, chapter on Gunshot Wounds of Soft Tissue and of the Hand, Management of Gunshot Wounds, 1988. “The maximum displacement of the temporary cavity is related to the point of maximum retardation in velocity of the projectile. A missile that loses velocity rapidly will produce a temporary cavity with its maximum dimension near the entrance wound. A pointed bullet will need a longer penetration depth before the maximum size of its temporary cavity is produced unless the bullet is constructed so as to tumble very quickly. As a shaped, elongated bullet tumbles, the maximum energy release will occur near the place where it reaches 90 degrees of yaw.”
So here we have a doctor supporting what we've managed to piece together—that the temporary cavity of a deformed bullet rapidly losing velocity will normally be largest near the entrance, but that the cavity may become larger further from the entrance should the bullet reach 90 degrees of yaw (i.e. travel sideways). Pechter’s statement suggesting that some pointed bullets are designed to tumble very quickly is a pointed (sorry) reference to M-16 bullets, which are designed to tumble and break-up and create the large permanent cavities discussed by Dr. Fackler. Since the bullets used in Oswald’s gun were not designed to tumble, one might take from this that they would tumble at a later point, nearest the exit, and break up at that point. One might even try to use this to defend Sturdivan’s theory. But one would be wrong. Olivier’s tests in 1964 established that the 6.5mm bullets fired in Oswald’s rifle would be unlikely to tumble in soft tissue, and that, furthermore, would not break up if they did tumble. Sturdivan knew this. When testifying about the “magic” bullet, he told the HSCA: “It is slightly deformed which, through my calculations, indicate it must have been deformed on bone since it could not have deformed in soft tissue.”
So really what’s in dispute here? Sturdivan seems to agree that the bullet striking Kennedy at frame 313 fractured upon entrance, but is apparently of the belief it came apart as it tumbled upwards in the skull. Since skull fractures occur almost instantly, and since we can assume copper jacket fractures happen just as fast, I contend, on the other hand, that the purported bullet would be in pieces even before it entered the skull, and would begin tumbling almost immediately, and losing its energy almost immediately. This, if correct, casts great doubt that a temporary cavity from this bullet exploded the skull by the bullet's exit, but failed to push any back spatter out the entrance. The x-ray of the Olivier test skull presented by Sturdivan as Figure 38 in The JFK Myths (and as shown above on The JFK Myths slide) shows that bullet fragments were retained in the middle of the skull. As these bullet fragments would most certainly have continued forward from where they broke off from the bullet, the bullet used in this test undoubtedly broke up on the back half of the skull. So what did the entrance for this bullet look like? Yeah, yeah, I know. We already complained about this, back in the JFK Myths section....
Dr. Gary Ordog, chapter on Wound Ballistics, Management of Gunshot Wounds, 1988. “The bullet loses velocity on passage through the tissues, and the entrance wound tends to be larger than the exit wound if the missile is a perfect sphere. For missiles that are not spheres, the size of the entrance wound depends on the area of presentation of the missile at the moment of impact, as well as the size of the temporary cavity formed. Thus, the size of the entrance and the exit wound of a fully jacketed bullet depends on the bullet’s yaw in flight through the air and the tissues. If the bullet strikes the tissue head-on and tumbles through, and then leaves the body, then the exit wound will be larger than the entrance wound. When the bullet enters and exits head-on, the entrance wound may be larger because of a larger temporary cavity caused by higher-velocity near the entrance.”
So here we have it again. Ordog confirms our suspicion that the temporary cavity makes more of an impact on entrance size than exit size, and that it is the tumbling or break-up of a bullet that creates a larger wound at exit. While an intact bullet that tumbles just before it exits will create a larger temporary cavity nearest the exit, there is no reason to believe the bullet entering the back of Kennedy’s skull remained intact until just before its exit.
Ordog, ibid.“The bullet’s angle of impact on the target can greatly influence the drag coefficient and amount of tissue damage. The more acute the angle is to the skin, the more surface area is presented to the tissue, thus increasing the wounding energy and amount of tissue destruction.” This suggests the possibility that the area with the most tissue damage, the large defect, was in fact the impact location of a bullet traveling at an acute angle to the skin. More on this to come…
Massad Ayoob, The JFK Assassination: A Shooter's Eye View, American Handgunner, March/April 1993. "The explosion of the President's head as seen in frame 313 of the Zapruder film is simply not characteristic of a full metal-jacket rifle bullet traveling at 2,200 fps or less. It is far more consistent with an explosive wound of entry with a small-bore, hyper-velocity rifle bullet traveling between 3,000 and 4,000 fps, and probably toward the higher end of that scale ...An explosive wound of entry occurs when a highly liquid area of the body, such as the brain, is struck by a high velocity round. The tissue swells violently during the microseconds of the bullet's passing, and seeks the line of least resistance. That least resistance is the portal of the entry wound that appeared a microsecond before, and the bullet will not bore an exit hole to relieve the pressure for another microsecond or two--perhaps not at all if the bullet fragments inside the brain. If the cataclysmic cranial injury inflicted on Kennedy was indeed an explosive wound of entry, the source of the shot would have had to be forward of the Presidential limousine, to its right, and slightly above...the area of the grassy knoll."
So here we have a respected gun expert and author laying it all out...Kennedy's large head wound is not at all what one would expect from the ammunition used in Oswald's rifle, should it have impacted as claimed by the likes of Olivier and Sturdivan. His words also suggest that, if the bullet impacted as proposed by Olivier and Sturdivan, and Kennedy's head exploded as a consequence of the temporary cavity created by the bullet, blood and brain matter would most certainly have sprayed back out the entrance. But Ayoob doesn't stop there...
Ayoob, ibid."The evidence does not rule out the possibility that a hyper-velocity rifle bullet evacuated the President's cranial vault without any other bullet hitting him in the head. The 6.5mm Carcano throws a 162 gr. bullet at a bit under 2,300 fps muzzle velocity. The closest commonly used cartridge to it in terms of ballistics is probably the .30/30, which has a .308" diameter. The Carcano round, about a .263" diameter. Ask any homicide detective if he's ever seen a .30/30 round blow a man's head up at 55 to 60 yards, exploding the calvarium up and away from the body proper. Ask any hunter of deer-size game if he's ever seen the same thing at that distance. It happens only at very close range with that ballistic technology. The wound we see happening in frame 313 in the Zapruder film--and see the results of most clearly in frame 337--is simply not consistent with this rifle cartridge, at that distance in living tissue. It is particularly inconsistent with a round-nose full metal-jacket bullet of the type Oswald had in his rifle."
Here Ayoob re-stresses the point. Bullets like those fired in Oswald's rifle just don't do what we've been told they do. They just don't send pieces of skull flying across the sky when fired from a distance. This is so clear to Ayoob in fact that, even in the conclusion to his article, where he postulates that Oswald quite possibly acted alone, he does so only under the proviso that the bullet striking Kennedy at frame 313 "for unexplainable reasons did damage out of all proportion to its ballistic capability as most of us would perceive that to be."
Dr. John Lattimer, speaking at The Second Annual Midwest Symposium on Assassination Politics, Chicago Illinois, April 3, 1993. (While discussing Warren Commission Exhibit 388, a drawing of Kennedy's large head wound.) "And again, the wound here depicted in this type--in the Warren Commission--I was familiar with this kind of wound from World War II, from this kind of bullet. And it was clearly not what I expected. But when I saw the x-rays and photographs, it was exactly as anticipated--a large wound of exit, cracks in all directions..."
Here, Lattimer sticks to his story that the Rydberg drawings were misleading and that Kennedy's wounds were much more severe and exactly as he'd have predicted. In this presentation he also discussed the fact that he didn't think skull fragments exploded upwards like the fragments captured in frame 313 of the Zapruder film. He then showed photos of skulls fired on by him where the fragments did explode upwards, and claimed these tests convinced him that Kennedy's head wound wasn't so unusual after all. He failed to note that these skulls were dead dried skulls without any scalp to hold the fragments in place. He did note, however, that he thought his tests were more successful than Olivier's 1964 tests because he was firing at the top of the skull and not the bottom. This suggests that he knew full well that the Warren Commission scenario of a small bullet entrance low on the skull and an enormous exit at the top of the skull made little sense. (Lattimer, of course, later changed his mind about this entrance location, and thereby nullified the tests he'd found so convincing.)
Dr. John Lattimer, Differences in the Wounding Behavior of the Two Bullets that Struck President Kennedy: an Experimental Study, Wound Ballistics Review, Spring 1995. "The performance of the bullet (WC567-569) that...hit President Kennedy on the back of the skull, at frame 313 of the Zapruder movie, was strikingly different from the behavior of bullet 399. The reason for this marked difference was the fact that bullet 567-569 first hit the hard bone of the back of the skull of President Kennedy and broke up. The greatly increased surface area of the broken bullet and its fragments caused a temporary cavity to occur in the semi-fluid brain, which being confined in the cranial vault exploded upward and forward, out the huge wound of exit on the front-right of the skull caused by diverging bullet fragments...The lead core and the gilding metal separated on contact with the skull, leaving a 6.5 mm fragment sheared off by the sharp edge of the bone at the point of impact...The broken bullet scattered dozens of tiny fragments of lead along the track of the bullet from back to front through the brain."
Well, how about that? While 99 of 100 single-assassin theorists will claim Dr. Lattimer's research supports the findings of the Warren Commission and HSCA, this is actually far from the case. We've already shown how Dr. Lattimer's views on the single-bullet theory were grossly at odds with those of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. And now we see how their views are equally askew on the fatal bullet. As we've seen, the HSCA's top forensic pathology consultant, Dr. Baden, and its top wound ballistics consultant, Larry Sturdivan, both claimed the fatal bullet exited the skull intact, save a few fragments that "leaked" from the base of the bullet. They needed to do this, let's recall, so they could claim there was but one exit on the skull. Now here, in an article designed to silence Ayoob's questions from two years previous, comes ole Lattimer claiming not only that the fatal bullet exited in pieces, but that the break-up of this bullet upon impact with the back of the skull was a factor in the large size of the temporary cavity within the skull and the large size of the exit defect. Oops. You can't have it both ways. Dr. Baden's re-creation of the skull using the recovered skull fragments allowed him to claim there was but one exit defect--the one noted at autopsy. Accepting Latimer's conclusion the bullet exited in pieces, in such case, means accepting that there were other exits that were not noted at autopsy--and thus, quite possibly other entrances as well. And that's not the only difference between Lattimer, Baden, and Sturdivan. It also should be noted that Lattimer accepts that a 6.5 mm fragment observable on the x-rays was sheared off the bullet and found on the back of the skull, and that neither Dr. Baden (who claimed this fragment rubbed off the base of the bullet) nor Sturdivan (who suspects this fragment was an artifact on the x-rays) is willing to accept such nonsense.
Dr. Vincent J. M. DiMaio, Gunshot Wounds, 1998. "Wounds due to hunting bullets are more destructive to the structure of the head than wounds produced by military ammunition even if the same weapon is used. This is, because, even though both bullets may possess the same amount of energy on impact, the hunting bullet will lose more energy in the head due to its construction."
DiMaio, ibid. "The size and shape of the temporary cavity depend on the amount of kinetic energy lost by the bullet in its path through the tissue, how rapidly the energy is lost, and the elasticity and cohesiveness of the tissue. The maximum volume and diameter of this cavity are many times the volume and diameter of the bullet. Maximum expansion of the cavity does not occur until some time after the bullet has passed through the target…The maximum diameter of the cavity occurs at the point at which the maximum rate of loss of kinetic energy occurs."
This supports what we have already discussed.
DiMaio, ibid. On centerfire rifle wounds: "Intermediate range and distant head wounds show a wide range in the degree of severity, depending on the style of bullet and the entrance site in the head. Anything that tends to produce instability, deformation, or breakup of the bullet as it enters the head results in more extensive injuries. Thus, bullets entering through the thick occipital bone cause greater injuries than those entering the temporal area."
DiMaio might not realize it, but this totally undermines Sturdivan and the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. As we've seen, Sturdivan and Baden tried to claim that the bullet exited intact and only exploded upon hitting the windshield frame. Well, DiMaio's words strongly support what we should already have come to suspect, and suggest that the velocity of a Carcano bullet alone would not lead a skull to explode as Kennedy's exploded, and that the bullet must have broke-up upon impact with the skull.
DiMaio, ibid. "Intermediate and distant range wounds of the head can be just as devastating as contact wounds. This is especially true for hunting ammunition. As the hunting bullet rapidly expands, shedding fragments of core and sometimes jacket, large quantities of kinetic energy are lost in the cranial cavity. This produces a large temporary cavity with resultant high pressure, all within the rigid framework of the skull. The pressure produces extensive fragmentation of bone and brain tissue. Location of entrance and exit wounds may require extensive reconstruction of the skull, with careful realignment of the edges of the scalp and bone. Rarely, the entrance in the skin cannot be determined with absolute certainty. This is more common with exits, however.
Distant and intermediate-range entrance wounds in areas overlying bone--typically the head--may have a stellate appearance suggestive of a contact wound. This is probably due to the temporary cavity ballooning out skin that is tightly stretched over bone, with resultant tearing of the skin."
DiMaio illustrates this point with the photo on the Blasts From the Present slide, above. This photo reveals the massive scalp lacerations created by the impact of a .30 30 hunting bullet upon a human skull. While Oswald's rifle was not as powerful as a .30 30 rifle, and while the bullet striking Kennedy was not in fact a hunting bullet, the bullet's near total deformation upon impact--as noted by both Olivier and Lattimer--would lead it to behave much like a hunting bullet, and release a significant amount of its energy into the skull upon entrance. So why were there no significant tears in the scalp apparent by the "entrance" on the back of Kennedy's head? And why did all the scalp lacerations noted at the autopsy derive from the purported "exit"? And why, when the temporary cavity in this skull exploded back out the entrance, did the temporary cavity in Kennedy's skull, according to Sturdivan, explode from the mid-point of his skull between the bullet's entrance and its exit? While DiMaio's observations raise serious doubts about Sturdivan's theories, they also raise questions about the work performed by Olivier and Sturdivan back in 1964. Why, for instance, were none of the entrances on the animal skin attached to the back of Olivier’s test skulls photographed or measured for his report? Was Olivier trying to hide that there were stellate tears by the entrance?
Ironically, DiMaio's observations also raise doubts about his own objectivity. According to Doug Horne, who interviewed DiMaio for the ARRB in 1998, Dr. DiMaio made it clear even before being shown the autopsy photos that he felt "the Clark Panel and the HSCA panel had gotten everything right," and "declared with great certainty" that the red spot in the cowlick "was a classic bullet entry wound." Well, that's the problem. DiMaio's own writings demonstrate that a high-velocity entrance wound in which the bullet fractures upon impact should not remotely resemble a "classic bullet entry wound."
In 1998, DiMaio also worked as a consultant on a British TV program hosted by Roger Moore. His comments in this program were slightly more illuminating.
Dr. Vincent J.M. DiMaio, The Secret KGB JFK Assassination Files, 1998. "The only type bullet that would produce so extensive a network of fractures in the skull is a bullet traveling at a very high velocity. Okay? A rifle bullet essentially. So when it comes in it makes usually a relatively neat hole and when it comes out it produces a very large exit, especially if the wound is very superficial. Actually, if the wound is deeper, like from here to here (as he says this, he points to the EOP area on the back of his head with his right hand and his forehead with his left), the exit wound is smaller, because the force generated by the bullet going through the brain can be absorbed by the whole head. Here (as he says this, he covers the crown of his head--the site of the HSCA's cowlick entrance, and the entrance used in the program's tests--with his right hand) it's kind of like just ripping off the top of the head. So when we see at the exit--see blood and tissue ejected in a cloud, a veritable cloud, a mist-like cloud, pink in color, and this is vaporized blood, and there are little droplets all over--less than a millimeter, just tiny. And so you have a cloud of blood, and this is what the motorcycle riders drove into. They drove into a cloud of blood."
Thus, DiMaio's belief that the purported cowlick entrance was the actual entrance on Kennedy's head comes not just from this purported entrance's giving the appearance of a "classic bullet entry wound," but from his opinion that a bullet entering low on Kennedy's head and exiting high on his head would not create the massive exit wound seen in the autopsy photos. He thereby disputes Sturdivan's most recent conclusions.
Dr. Mark A. Liker, Dr. Bitzhan Aarabi, and Dr. Michael Levy, chapter on Missile Wounds of the Head, Missile Wounds of the Head and Neck, 1999. "The skull can also increase the bullet's destructive potential by slowing the missile down. Next to teeth, bone is the densest tissue in the body. Therefore, when a bullet strikes the skull, the missile will rapidly decelerate, often fragmenting or deforming in the process. The result is significant energy transfer from the bullet to the head. Deformation helps maximize energy transfer because the bullet's surface area increases, allowing the tissue to exert more drag force on the bullet. As drag increases, the bullet decelerates and more energy is transferred to the tissue. If the collision between bullet and skull results in the bullet's fragmentation, the brain injury is likely to be more severe. This is due not only to multiple missile tracks, but also to the tendency for fragments to behave as slower-velocity bullets that deposit all of their energy into the brain. Thus, if a high-velocity missile does not fragment upon impact with the skull, it may spare the brain some of its energy by exiting the skull; if, on the other hand, the missile breaks into fragments, the likelihood of a complete energy transfer increases dramatically."
Thus, Sturdivan's belief that the bullet lost little mass within the skull, and his concurrent belief that a fragment from this bullet went on to chip concrete more than 200 feet past Kennedy (as measured from the sniper's nest) indicate there was a far from complete transfer of energy from the bullet into the skull. Sturdivan's contention that small fragments were released within the skull and exploded upwards with the rush of blood, moreover, does little to offset this problem, as these fragments, by Sturdivan's own admission, had little mass and thus little energy to impart into the brain. As discussed by Fackler, furthermore, what little energy was released by these fragments would contribute as much to the permanent cavity as to the temporary cavity.
Sturdivan's contention that a bullet struck Kennedy low on the back of his head and that the temporary cavity created by this bullet subsequently exploded his skull is therefore rejected.
So why do people continue to push his nonsense?
Here's why. Cognitive dissonance. Apparently, those who ought to know better just can't seem to accept that Kennedy was killed in a manner other than as claimed by the Warren Commission.
Dr. Martin Fackler, in response to a question in Wound Ballistics Review, Spring 2000. "As a sniper's rifle bullet breaks into the cranial vault and penetrates the brain, it causes the brain tissue to be displaced, away from the projectile path, in forming a temporary cavity. Whereas loops of bowel in the easily expandable abdominal cavity might be displaced up to several inches by the temporary cavity without appreciable damage, the hard and inflexible cranial vault cannot expand in response to the pressures produced by the temporary cavity. Therefore, the pressure inside the cranial vault rises sharply. The force of this confined pressure often fractures the skull, and sometimes splits the scalp, causing considerable amounts of brain and bone to be expelled from the wound (recall the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination--considerable brain was lost)."
So, yikes, Fackler appears to have a blind spot on this issue. He knows full-well that temporary cavities don't explode skulls the way we've been told, but still claims this is what happened to Kennedy.
A study by Dr. W.M. Hammon, and published in the Journal of Neurosurgery in 1971, supports this conclusion--that is, that Fackler is wrong on this point. While this study, entitled "Analysis of 2,187 Consecutive Penetrating Wounds of the Brain from Vietnam" included victims of low-velocity ammunition and shrapnel, the mortality rate of those reaching the hospital was under 30%. This seems unlikely if the mere passage of a bullet through the brain could cause the explosive wounds seen on Kennedy.
A more recent study confirms this conclusion. This study, conducted by the faculty of Ankara University in Turkey, and published in Neurologia Medico-Chirurfica, a Japanese neurology journal, in 2005, described the progress of 80 patients brought into Diyarbakir Military Hospital with high-velocity gunshot wounds to the head. Although the bullets creating these wounds were presumably smaller than the bullet creating Kennedy's head wound, they were purportedly traveling at a much greater speed, as the article defined "high-velocity" as traveling greater than 3,000 fps. They were also created by modern military ammunition, which, although more stable than hunting ammunition, which is designed to expend all its energy in its target, is less stable than the ammunition used in Oswald's gun, and would, as a result, be likely to impart more energy into the brain. If Sturdivan's statements are true, and the temporary cavity of the bullet in Kennedy's brain exploded his skull mid-way between the entrance and the exit, then the wounds observed in this study should have been even more severe than Kennedy's wound.
They were in fact not as bad. According to the doctors writing the article, the wounds observed displayed "huge and distant tissue damage caused by temporary cavitation and shock waves." They observed further that "Such cavitary injury is much more extensive than the track of the missile." And yet they made no mention of any large skull defects caused by these cavities, and no mention at all of defects distant from the passage of the bullet. While the wounds discussed in this article were apparently more survivable than Kennedy's, as these men all lived at least a half-hour after being shot, and 73 of the 80 men survived, the point is that they shouldn't have been, should Sturdivan's theories about the effects of cavitation on the skull have been accurate.
Or even his actual theories... In 2007, Sturdivan wrote an overview on wound ballistics for Mel Ayton's book The Forgotten Terrorist. There, he insisted that the temporary cavity of a bullet passing through the brain "would be all along the track, largest at the highest velocity (the entry)." And, yes, that's a direct quote. Here, when discussing the death of Robert Kennedy, Sturdivan acknowledged what we've discussed throughout this chapter: that the temporary cavity would normally be largest at entry.
Now compare this to what he wrote in his own book The JFK Myths, published but two years earlier. He wrote: “the center of the blown-out area of the president’s skull was at the midpoint of the trajectory—not at the exit point. The midpoint is the point at which the bullet has fully deformed and is giving up the energy at the maximum rate—that is, pushing outward with the maximum force."
Well, oh my! How convenient! When trying to explain how the top of President Kennedy's head blew off, Sturdivan claimed that the deformation of the bullet created a huge temporary cavity at the midpoint of his skull; when trying to explain how the entrance wound on the back of Robert Kennedy's head could be so much larger than the bullet that supposedly entered there, however, Sturdivan suddenly changed gears and offered that the temporary cavity would be greatest at entry.
While one might excuse this inconsistency by noting that the deformation of the bullet caused President Kennedy's skull to explode at the midpoint, and that the bullet killing his brother was comparatively un-deformed, one should be reminded that Dr. Baden presumed the bullet exited President Kennedy's skull intact, and that very little deformation occurred within the skull.
Sturdivan and Baden, the two experts upon whom the HSCA most relied when coming to their conclusions regarding Kennedy's head wounds, were neither consistent nor reliable.
We can hereby commence discussing what actually happened.
Tom Bevel and Ross M. Gardner, Bloodstain Pattern Analysis with an Introduction to Crime Scene Reconstruction, 2008. "Forward spatter patterns when present tend to be more symmetrical than back spatter patterns. This is probably due to the primary force of the impact being transmitted in the direction of the projectile. Back spatter patterns tend to be less defined..."
Note that they write "forward spatter patterns when present" and not "back spatter patterns when present". This confirms what we should already have expected--that back spatter is most always apparent, while forward spatter is not. This suggests--since only one massive spatter is visible on frame 313 of the Zapruder film--that the blood and brain visible is not solely forward spatter. That this explosion appears to be asymmetrical only adds to this probability. (Much thanks to Sherry Fiester for bringing this argument to the attention of the research community.)
Tom Bevel and Ross M. Gardner, ibid. "The cone of spatter is ejected generally perpendicular to a surface and does not specifically align with the bullet path."
(This is demonstrated in a photo on the Blasts From the Present slide, above.)
Well, there it is. Since the large explosion seems to rise from Kennedy's right temple at an angle perpendicular to the surface of the skull at this location, the upward and forward movement of the blood and brain matter at this location is just as suggestive of back spatter as forward spatter. Actually more...since there is only one massive spatter visible on the film, and back spatter is most always present, then we should conclude the bullet impacting at frame 313 of the Zapruder film did so at the supposed exit near Kennedy's temple, and NOT on the back of his head.
So this means the bullet killing Kennedy was fired from the right front, right?
Well, not so fast...
Blasts From The Past
Let's go back to the beginning of all this wound ballistics stuff, with Swiss scientist Theodor Kocher. Kocher was the first to use soap, and gelatin, to simulate tissue, and study the effects of various kinds of ammunition on this simulated tissue. He also helped design the first full-metal jacket ammunition. He later became a Nobel Prize-winning surgeon.
The 1895 edition of Principles of Forensic Medicine, a top British text of its day, while discussing tests performed by Kocher in 1874-1876, reported: "Kocher showed that if a bullet was fired into a skull containing water, not only would the sutures burst, but this bursting would be greatest on the side of the entry of the bullet..."
Now, this is already interesting. Note first that the pressure is most marked on the side of the bullet's entrance into the skull, as opposed to the middle of the bullet's trajectory, a la Sturdivan. Note as well that the skulls burst by Kocher, via a build-up of internal pressure, burst at the skull's sutures, while Sturdivan has Kennedy's skull breaking into pieces mid-bone, and these pieces then flying off into space.
Well, it's happening already. That nagging thought...that the consensus to be derived from the wound ballistics literature...is that first Olivier and then Sturdivan...were blowing smoke...
And it gets worse as we progress. By the early 1890's, a revolution of sorts took place in the field of wound ballistics, where doctors such as Paul Bruns began criticizing the use of Dum-Dum bullets (steel or copper-jacketed bullets with a lead nose designed to break up on impact) and convinced the world that these bullets, due to their velocity and explosiveness, were unnecessarily cruel, and made unnecessarily gruesome wounds.
Here is an example of one such wound, courtesy Dr.s Arthur Keith and Hugh Rigby in their article Modern Military Bullets, published in the Dec. 2, 1899 issue of the British medical journal The Lancet.
Note that this shows a small entrance wound leading to an enormous and gruesome exit wound. Essentially, the top of this man's head was blown off.
The horror created by these wounds led then to the development of full-metal jacket bullets which tended to make less gruesome wounds from a distance but could still explode a skull from up close. This led then to a number of studies of this new ammunition.
In 1894, Romanian professor Dr. A. Demosthen published Etudes Expermentales sur L'Action Du Projectile Cuirasse Du Fusil Mannlicher Nouveau Model Roumain De 6.5 mm. This was a French-language report on the wounds created by 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition. For some of Demosthen's tests, 6.5 mm bullets were fired on human cadavers. For some, human bones.
At left below is the exhibit presented for a typical entrance wound, for which the bullet had been fired from 50 meters (164 feet). At right is the exit wound for this bullet.
And here, then, is the skull of this poor soul. (The entrance wound was measured at 18 by 12 mm, and the exit wound was measured at 20 by 18 mm.)
Well, there it is again. That nagging thought. If the top of this poor guy's head didn't explode into the sky at 164 feet, why did the top of Kennedy's head explode into the sky at 265 feet?
I mean, really. Something's wrong here. Let's remember that the wound ballistics of 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition was subsequently studied by Olivier and Sturdivan, and that Olivier's 1965 report and Sturdivan's 1978 testimony presented an image of a typical wound of exit from 90 yards that was far more extensive than Demosthen's image of a typical wound of exit from 50 meters (164 feet).
Here they are, side by side.
And it wasn't just European doctors who were firing on corpses to test the wound ballistics of what they were now calling "small calibre" ammunition.
The record of the Fifth Annual Proceedings of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (1895) presents a report written by Brig. Gen. J.D. Griffith on a series of shots fired upon a corpse from 350, 500, and 1,000 yards. The rifle being studied was the new Krag-Jorgensen rifle. It fired a 220 grain bullet at a similar velocity as the 160 grain 6.5 Mannilcher-Carcano rifle studied by Demosthen. In other words, it should have delivered a more significant blow, roughly 35% more significant.
Here are Figures 4 and 5 from this report. This is a skull fired upon from 350 yards. The entrance wound (on the forehead above the nose) is on the left and the exit (on the left side of the back of the head) is on the right.
Keep in mind that the bullet creating these wounds was a more powerful bullet than that fired upon Kennedy, only fired from further away. These factors should have come close to evening out, whereby a similar amount of damage should have been apparent on this corpse's skull as was observed on Kennedy's. And yet the exit wound on Kennedy's skull was more than 50 times larger. (The measurement provided for the exit wound on this skull was 3/4 inch--19 mm! Assuming this was a 19 mm diameter circle--it actually looks much thinner--this stretches out to 284 sq mm. The measurements provided for the supposed exit wound on JFK's skull, in contrast, were 17 cm by 10 cm, on the autopsy face sheet, and 13 cm by 10 cm, in Dr. Humes' testimony. Assuming Dr. Humes' measurement was more accurate, then, we have 13,000 sq mm--45.77 times the presumed area of the exit on the skull above. )
Other blasts from the past only amplify my suspicion Olivier and Sturdivan were blowing smoke in their Warren Commission and HSCA testimony. The 1896 Annual Report of the U.S. Secretary of War, found online, presents the autopsy protocols of three living subjects struck in the skull by bullets fired from the Krag-Jorgensen rifle. It bears repeating that these bullets were larger and more powerful than the bullets fired from the rifle presumed to have killed Kennedy.
The first of these protocols, written by Surgeon L.M. Maus, describes the wound of an apparent suicide victim, with the doctor estimating that the rifle was fired from but one foot away, with the bullet entering the left forehead and exiting from the top of the head. The doctor describes the large wound of both entrance and exit as being 16 cm long by 14 cm wide, which would make it slightly larger than the measured size of Kennedy's wound. He notes, however, that some of this missing bone was still adherent to the lacerated scalp, and that, once this bone was put back into place, the defect was only 6 cm by 6 cm.
Hmmm... This was far smaller than the defect on Kennedy's skull, according to most everyone to see this defect, and roughly 1/3 the size of the four bone fragments discovered in the car or in the plaza, that were subsequently photographed or x-rayed. Hmmm... This was a bullet more powerful than the bullet striking Kennedy, fired from just a foot away...and yet it blasted away far less skull at its entrance and exit combined than the bullet striking Kennedy is purported to have blasted away upon exit.
The second protocol, written by Surgeon Alfred C. Girard, describes the wounds of an escaping prisoner shot in the back of the head from but 90 feet away. (Figure 104, a photo of this prisoner's skull, can be found on the Shattered slide, below.) Girard reports that "a furrow corresponding to the injury to the dura mater was plowed through the right hemisphere, in the region of the superior convolution, about half an inch deep."
Well, this is surprising, as the bullet striking Kennedy, and, according the HSCA panel, traveling on an almost identical trajectory, is widely presumed to have created a laceration 4.5 cm below the vertex of the brain.
Hmmm. 4.5 cm below the vertex of the brain is about 3.2 cm (or 1 1/4 inches) deeper in the brain than a half an inch... That this prisoner's brain received less damage than Kennedy's brain is further demonstrated by Girard's conclusion that "Death was evidently caused by the concussion, as no vital parts of the brain were injured and the hemorrhage was not considerable."
Hmmm. If that doesn't make one doubt that a bullet entering the purported cowlick entrance on JFK would behave as it purportedly did, I don't know what will.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves. (No pun intended.) No, what's important here is that we realize that the size of Kennedy's entrance and exit wounds was out of alignment with what one would normally expect for a through and through wound from the presumed assassination rifle. The entrance on the back of this prisoner's skull (1/2 inch above and to the right of the junction of the occipital and right parietal bones) was reported to be a 1 by 1/2 inch oval wound, and the exit on the front of his skull (2 inches forward of the coronal suture and one inch to the right of the midline) was reported to be 1 1/2 inches long by 3/8 inches wide.
Now let's convert and compare. The entrance on this skull was roughly 12 by 25 mm, as opposed to the 6 by 15 mm entrance on Kennedy. This makes it roughly 3.3 times as large. And the exit on this skull was roughly 37 by 9 mm, as opposed to the supposed 170 by 100 mm exit on Kennedy. This makes it about 2% as large. The exit on Kennedy's skull was purported to be around 5% as large as the exit, when the entrance on this skull--which, it should be pointed out, is presented in the early wound ballistics literature as a typical wound for this kind of rifle--was purported to be roughly 90% as large as the exit. Gulp. This suggests the exit on Kennedy's skull was roughly 45 times larger than should be expected, should it have been the exit of a through and through shot from front to back as purported. (Now, to be clear, I suspect the 17 by 10 cm measurement in the autopsy report is an exaggeration, and includes bone that was damaged but remained on the skull prior to autopsy--but that's an argument for another day, and another chapter.)
The third protocol was also written by Girard, and describes the wounds of another suicide victim. The bullet this time left both a small entrance and a small exit, even while badly fracturing the calvarium. Notes Girard: "The enormous distension of the skull was striking; skin intact except a small circular opening 2 inches back and 2 inches above the right orbit; and a similar one at the junction of the left temporal and lower third of the parietal region. The head felt like a bag of detached bones. Blood flowed from the nose and ears." Well, this is already very interesting. The structural damage to this skull was, as expected, considering that this bullet was more powerful than the bullet striking Kennedy and considering that it was fired at point blank range, greater than the damage to Kennedy's skull, but the top of the head did not explode and the exit was much smaller than Kennedy's. Girard notes further "The actual place of entrance could not be distinguished among the debris...The place of exit was a distinct, small round hole one-fourth by five-sixteenths of an inch at the junction of the squamous portion of the temporal bone and the inferior border of the parietal bone, about 2 inches from the posterior inferior angle." Girard goes on to theorize that the small size of the entrance and exit of this bullet and the lack of comminution of the skull came as a result of the "slight resistance offered by the temporal bone." This, of course, suggests that bone offering more resistance, such as the occipital bone, would lead to larger fractures.
So why were the fractures on the back of Kennedy's head so minor in comparison to those by the supposed exit?
In sum, then, the protocols published by the Secretary of War in 1896 provide reasons to doubt the Warren Commission's conclusions in 1964 and the House Select Committee's conclusions in 1979.
And we're just getting going... Read on.
In Wounds in War, published 1897, Dr. William Flack Stevenson reported on a series of tests performed under the guidance of Dr. Alwin Gustav Edmund Coler, at the suggestion of the German Minister of War. These tests were designed to study the wound ballistics of full metal jacket ammunition. This ammunition was designed to not expand and therefore not break up within the body, and thereby create less gruesome wounds on its primary target. The steel or copper-jacketed Mauser bullets fired in these tests were for the most part .311 caliber, and weighed 227 grains. They had an initial velocity of 2,034 fps. These bullets were more powerful than those fired in Oswald's weapon. Nearly 1,000 shootings of animals and dead men were studied, along with the suicidal or accidental shooting of 22 living men. Stevenson reported that "In bullet wounds of the head at very short ranges, the entrance and exit wounds can be defined as such: the roof of the skull is broken up, and the sutures burst open, but the lines of fracture follow no regular order: the scalp for the most part preserves its continuity and shows apertures only at the entrance and exit holes, from which brain matter protrudes. Even at 110 yards diminution of the destruction is observed: the extent of the injury is not so visible outside: but if the skull can be handled, the shattering of its roof and sides can be distinctly felt, and the splinters perceived to crepitate against each other. Brain matter protrudes at the exit wound, but rarely at the entrance side."
Thus, at 88 yards one would not expect an explosion of the skull and scalp at the point of the bullet's greatest release of energy, as subsequently proposed by Larry Sturdivan.
But Stevenson didn't stop there: "From range to range, as distance increases, a regular and steady decrease occurs in the amount of damage to the bony roof. Zones of splintering around the entrance and exit holes continue, but lines of fracture unconnected with these apertures, though present, become less numerous. From 1100 yards the lines of fracture are radial about the entrance and exit holes, and at 1760 yards they begin to cease to be observed, though one line of fracture which joins the apertures is always apparent up to this distance. At 1320 yards splintering around the entrance and exit holes is still fairly extensive: but at 1760 yards a clean-pierced entrance hole was first observed in a full skull, similar in all respects to one seen in a skull from which the brain had been removed."
And Stevenson didn't just report on the findings of others. He also presented the image below as an example of the "complete shattering of the calvarium" one encounters when studying the impact of a "modern bullet" at "short range."
Well, need I say it? This skull was shot at 8 yards range. Why didn't the top of this man's skull fly off into the air, a la Kennedy's?
Stevenson's description of the damage to the brain created by thoroughly "modern" bullets is also intriguing: "The destruction which occurs to the brain itself from bullet hits is, at short ranges, enormous. This is evidenced not only in the immediate neighbourhood of the bullet track, but throughout all the mass of the brain, a considerable quantity of which is driven out through the entrance and exit apertures. As the range increases the injury to the brain diminishes so rapidly that even at 110 yards the bullet may make a small cylindrical channel through it."
Thus, the damage to Kennedy's brain is also unexpected. Why, after being struck from 88 yards, was there still so much damage to the brain?
And its not as if Stevenson's book was out of line with what one will find in other books from this era. It was the rule and not the exception.
In 1901, Dr. George H. Makins published Surgical Experiences in South Africa, 1899-1900. This was subtitled "Being Mainly a Clinical Study of the Nature and Effects of Injuries Produced by Bullets of Small Calibre." As much of the book was taken up by an extended discussion of the behavior of the new class of smaller, metal-jacketed bullets, of which the 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano round was a member, it was, yessiree, true to its name.
When discussing gunshot fractures to the skull with concurrent brain injury, moreover, Makins separated such fractures into four categories, the severest of these being "1. Extensive sagittal tracks passing deeply through the brain, and vertical wounds passing from base to vertex or vice versa, in the posterior two-thirds of the skull will be referred to as general injuries." He then proceeded to describe "General injuries. Fractures of this class may be treated almost apart. For their production the retention of a considerable degree of velocity on the part of the bullet was always necessary, and the results were consequently both extensive and severe. The aperture of entry was comparatively small, since to take so direct and lengthy a course through the skull the impact of the bullet needed to be at nearly an exact right angle to the surface of the bone. Any disposition to assume the oval form, therefore, depended mainly upon the degree of slope of the actual area of the skull implicated. In size the aperture of entry did not greatly exceed the calibre of the bullet; in outline it was seldom exactly circular, but rather roughly four-sided, with rounded angles, slightly oval, or pear-shaped...In the most severe cases we can only speak of the aperture of exit in a limited sense in so far as the opening in the scalp is concerned; this was often comparatively small, not exceeding 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Beneath this limited opening in the soft parts, the bone of the skull was smashed in a most extensive manner. The portion exactly corresponding to the point of exit of the bullet was carried altogether away, but around this point a number of large irregularly shaped fragments of bone, from 3/4 to 1 inch indiameter, were found loose, and often so displaced as to expose a considerable area of the dura-mater. Beyond the area of these loose fragments, fissures extended into the base and vertex, in the latter case often being limited in their extent by the nearest suture....Injury to the brain more than corresponded in extent to the fractures of the bone. Pulping of its tissue existed over a wide area both at the points of entrance and of exit. In the former position the amount of damage was the less, the gross changes roughly corresponding with the tissue directly implicated by the bullet itself, and the fragments of bone carried forward by it. The degree of splintering of the skull therefore in great part determined the severity of the lesion. At the exit aperture much more widespread destruction existed, while masses of brain tissue, small shreds of the membranes, fragments of bone, and debris from the scalp were found occasionally bound together by coagulated blood and protruding from an exit opening ot some size. The largest masses of such debris were most often seen in instances in which the bullet had entered by the base to escape at the vertex of the skull."
Now this is interesting. Makins studied actual wounds on actual gunshot victims, as opposed to wounds created on cadavers. And his results were much the same as previously reported. He failed to observe wounds of scalp and skull the size of Kennedy's wound. Not at entrance, and not at exit. And he associated the damage to the brain to the bullet itself and bone fragments loosed by the bullet, and not on an explosion caused by the velocity of the bullet.
His words stand in opposition to the subsequent testimony of Olivier and Sturdivan, which made out that it's perfectly routine for bullets of this type to explode a skull to such an extent large fragments fly up to the sky--and land a hundred feet or so away.
Still, it's not as if Makins never heard about such wounds. While listing the various kinds of head wounds he'd observed or heard about in South Africa during the Boer War, Makins comes to: "those in which large portions of the skull and scalp were actually blown away. I never witnessed one of these myself, but I recall two instances described to me by officers who lay near the wounded men on the field. In one the frontal region was carried away so extensively that, to repeat the familiar description given by the officer, 'he could see down into the man's stomach through his head.' In a second case the greater part of the occipital region was blown away in a similar manner, and this was of especial interest as the wounded man was seen to sit up on the buttocks and turn rapidly round three or four times before falling apparently dead. The observation offers interesting evidence of the result of an extensive gross lesion of the cerebellum. In the absence of exact information, it may well be that such injuries as the two latter were produced by some special form of bullet, but as both were produced while the patients were lying on the ground, and therefore especially liable to blows from ricochet bullets, I am inclined to attribute both to this cause."
Well, first of all, Makins is probably wrong when he attributes the severe damage to these skulls to their being hit by ricochets. The severe damage was more likely caused by the bullets' striking these skulls at an angle. Notice that he makes no mention of the small entrance wound he'd previously affiliated with bullets hitting the skull at a right angle. It seems likely, then, that the bullets destroying these skulls hit these skulls from the side on, in the first instance, the very front of the skull, and the second, the very back...and that they essentially blew out a wall.
And, yes, you read that right. Most of the wounds observed by Makins in South Africa came courtesy 7.0 Mauser ammunition. These bullets weighed 173.3 grains and were fired at a muzzle velocity of 2262 fps. This made them about 10% more powerful than the 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition purportedly used to kill Kennedy. And yet Makins NEVER saw a large gaping hole of exit on a skull like the one observed on Kennedy's skull--the one Sturdivan and his ilk would like us to believe is typical for this kind of ammunition. And it's even worse than that. Makins was so surprised by the two wounds similar to Kennedy's observed by others that he assumed they came courtesy "a special bullet" or a"ricochet."
Of course, Makins wasn't the only surgeon returning from South Africa to report on the wound ballistics of the newly-developed full-metal jacket ammunition (which had been made standard by agreement at the Hague Convention of 1899, at which Dum-Dum bullets were banned).
(Note: there were but two votes against this ban--that of England and the United States.)
Let's see what others had to say.
An October 25, 1902 article in The Lancet by Dr. L.G. Irvine proves even more damaging to the subsequent claims of Olivier and Sturdivan. In this article, Irvine, a surgeon with the South African Field Force, noted his "direct personal observations" regarding "30 cases of gunshot wounds of the skull and brain which came under my care or that of several of my colleagues in the military hospitals of South Africa." He then presented two of these cases. Case 1 was a suicide, in which the muzzle of a .303 caliber rifle was held against the skull, and the "explosion of the cordite was superadded to the effect of the bullet." Irvine notes "Practically the whole of the vault of the skull was broken up into six or seven loose fragments, roughly held together by the scalp, and the scalp itself was ripped completely across from the entrance wound in the right anterior temporal region to the exit wound in the left parietal area. From the exit wound a considerable area of bone had been carried out. The vault, indeed, was literally "blown to pieces," although the base of the skull, beyond some fissuring, was practically intact. The brain was utterly destroyed."
Well, this was not unlike Kennedy's wound. More damage to the brain, yes. But the same kind of damage to the skull.
Now consider Case 2. This was the case of a girl killed by the accidental discharge of a Lee-Metford rifle at three paces. The notes on this case reveal: "The entrance wound in the malar bone showed no sigh of fissuring, the bullet having drilled a clean small hole. The skin showed no sign of singeing. The exit wound in the occipital bone, a little to the right of the protuberance, was larger, freely admitting the forefinger, and there was a zone of stellate fissuring around this, but this fissuring did not run into the vault and there were no loose fragments. Some bone debris was found in the track of the bullet through the brain, which was rather more than an inch in diameter. The scalp wounds corresponded in size to those in the bone." Irvine then summarized: "the general integrity of the skull and the scalp was preserved."
He then concluded: "The two cases, it seems to me, are useful as standards and are of value medico-legally. In Case 1 the weapon was discharged in contact with the head and in Case 2 at the short distance of three paces. The size of the bullet and the explosive charge were absolutely alike, the weapons being very nearly identical. The striking difference between the extreme degree of destruction manifested in the one and the comparatively localized character of the injuries in the other must therefore have been due to the fact that while in the first the direct explosive effect of the cordite was superadded to the mechanical effect of the bullet in the second the effect of the bullet alone was present. There has been a good deal of loose talk during the war of heads that have been blown to pieces and of explosive bullets and the like. Hence I think that these cases form a useful basis for discussion. I do not believe that the Mauser or Lee-Metford bullet by itself, even at very close range, will 'blow the top of the head off.'"
So there you have it. From a surgeon who'd witnessed firsthand the destruction brought about by bullets roughly 20% more powerful than the bullet believed to have killed Oswald. Such ammunition would not blow the top of the head off. (The British .303 bullet is presumed to have weighed 174 grains and to have been fired at a muzzle velocity of 2,500 f/s.) Damage to the skull to the extent Kennedy's skull was damaged was only rarely encountered--and only then when encountering a skull which was fired upon with the muzzle of the rifle pressed against the head.
Now, one of the surprises one comes across when sifting through these old books and articles is that some of the doctors studying the wound ballistics of the new ammunition argued for a return to the Dum-dum bullets recently banned. To wit, Dr. John Chalmers Da Costa in Modern Surgery (1903) argued: "It has been found that the modern small bullet, unless it strikes a vital part or large bone, lacks 'stopping power,' and in warfare with savages the bullet must have stopping power, or the wounded man will continue to fight and charge. Civilized men will usually stop when hit, savages often will not; hence, in warfare with barbarous people the ordinary bullet must be modified. In the Dumdum bullet a portion of lead at the apex of the projectile is left uncovered, and the bullet when it strikes spreads out--mushrooms, as it is called--and inflicts an enormous wound which 'stops' the most ferocious and fanatical. German surgeons denounce such bullets as inhumane, but Stevenson and other English surgeons say that the Dumdum bullet is more humane than the Snider or Martini-Henry." (Note that these were lead bullets, not full-metal jacket bullets.)
And no, Da Costa wasn't misrepresenting Stevenson. Here's William Flack Stevenson in Wounds in War (1897): "Stopping power' in a rifle-bullet is only a real necessity in fighting against a fanatical savage enemy, who will advance as long as he is physically capable of doing so; the civilized soldier does not act in a similar manner, and 'stopping power' in Continental warfare is only required against cavalry and artillery horses..."
Germans Shooting Corpses, Part Zwei
In 1904, American doctors William T. Bull and Walton Martin translated and published A System of Practical Surgery, a series of books on surgery put together by the "German surgeons" denounced by Stevenson and Da Costa--Dr.s Ernst Bergmann, Paul Bruns, and Jan Mikulicz. Volume 1 of this series, by Bergmann and Dr. Rudolf Ulrich Kronlein, covered Surgery of the Head. It also reported on the tests performed by Coler and previously reported by Stevenson, as well as tests run by Bruns and others.
Here is Bergmann's summary of the results of these tests:
"The modern projectiles of small firearms that have been introduced into all the larger armies have been characterized by their small calibre, their hard shell (mantle), and their high initial velocity...At the present time the action of projectiles is studied by shooting at the human cadaver and at living animals...In gunshot fired at very short range the skullcap, together with the scalp covering it, is torn into pieces which with the mangled brain are scattered quite a distance. At a range of 50 metres (160 feet) the scalp is preserved and continues to hold the skull together, though the latter is broken into many fragments. The scalp shows two defects, with lacerated edges, from which brain-tissue exudes; the wound of entrance and that of exit. At a range of 100 metres (325 feet) the destruction of the skull is somewhat less, though two zones of comminution can be found grouped about the wounds of entrance and exit. The lines of fracture are in part arranged radially, in part encircling the bullet-hole like a series of bursting and bending fractures. The fissures may become united with one another, forming a network spread over the entire skull. The diameter of the wound of exit in the skin does not exceed 20-30 mm. At increasing range the damage done by the projectile continues to grow less. The zones of comminution do not run into each other, but are more sharply circumscribed. At a range of 800 to 1200 meters (2600 to 4000 feet) the fissures encircling the bullet-holes disappear, and only the radial fissures are present; these disappear at a range of 1600 metres (5200 feet) and upward, except that there is one fissure connecting the wound of entrance with the wound of exit. Even this is no longer present at a range of from 1800 to 2000 metres (5000 to 6500 feet); at this distance there are clean-cut bullet-holes. It was not until a range of 2700 metres (8700 feet) had been reached that the skull was not perforated and the bullet remained embedded in the brain. Naturally, individual injuries do not always bear the same accurate relation to the given distance of range; in the first place, owing to special circumstances as, for example, the varying thickness of the skull in different individuals, and furthermore on account of the fact that the angle at which a projectile strikes an individual is also variable."
Within this chapter, moreover, the authors provided a photograph, Fig. 36, captioned "Gun-shot wounds of the skull." It is presented below. It is presumably a depiction of a wound created from more than 100 meters, but not much more. The entrance is on the back of the skull, and is at the center of a fracture pattern greater than the pattern surrounding the supposed entrances on Kennedy's skull. The exit is above the temple near the coronal suture. The trajectory is thereby quite close to that proposed for Kennedy's head wound by the HSCA. And yet the exit defect is far, far smaller than the defect near the temple on Kennedy's skull.
And, no, photos such as those above were not cherry-picked to mislead. In 1908, Dr. C.G. Spencer presented a similar photo in his manual Gunshot Wounds. This photo was provided during a discussion of the small caliber ammunition then in use--of which Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 mm ammunition was among the least deadly.
Here it is:
Note that this is another photo provided by Stevenson...of a skull wound created at a "very short"range.
Here's Spencer's discussion of such a wound: "At short ranges, 150 yards or less,the damage may be very severe. The entrance wound in the scalp is still small, and there may be no very extensive injury to the bone about the entrance aperture, or there may be more or less linear fissuring, which is more marked when the entrance is near the base of the skull. The exit wound is large, 3/4 inch or more in diameter...In the worst cases at quite close ranges the sutures are torn open, and sometimes large portions of the skull are blown away."
Well, this is a bit vague. But notice the adjectives. It is only at "quite close" range that a large portion of the skull might be blown away. And the skull presented, of a wound created at "very short" range, gives no indication much skull has been blown away. When discussing wounds created from "short" ranges, moreover (of which Kennedy's wound would have been created from a longer distance than average), Spencer offers that such wounds are 3/4 inches or more in diameter (as opposed to the 4 inches or so claimed of Kennedy's wound).
It seems clear, then, that Kennedy's large head wound was far larger than any of these early wound ballistics experts would have expected, given the purported ammunition, purported range of fire, and purported trajectory.
Let us now consider the words of French physician Dr. Edmond Delorme, in his classic text War Surgery (1915). Of modern day rifle bullets, he observed: "They present circular or oval-shaped apertures of entry...As for the aperture of exit, on the table the bullet first passes through--i.e. on the inner table--it is circular, regular in shape, cut as with a punch, and on the outer table, the last one perforated, it is enlarged, bevelled, splintered..." He then offered "When the velocity of the bullet is excessive, the whole cerebral substance may be dilacerated...The aperture of exit is large, and from it flows a diffluent cerebral mass...With double perforations, survival is only possible when the firing has been from a long range, and the velocity of the bullet has been low."
Ahem. Note that Delorme connected large exits with "excessive" velocity (which is to say... shots made from a short distance), and that the typical exit (i.e. one created by a typical bullet traveling at a typical velocity from a typical distance) he described was merely "enlarged" when compared to the entry wound.
It seems clear, then, that we can add Delorme to the list of those suggesting Kennedy's large head wound was unexpected, and unlikely, under the circumstances described by Olivier and then Sturdivan.
This brings us then, to Gunshot Injuries, by Dr. Louis Anatole La Garde (first published in 1911 and revised in 1916). Two photographs from this classic are displayed at the top of this page. The first is of a skull of a man shot in the back of the head, with the bullet exiting his forehead (note: this was the prisoner whose death was first detailed by Girard in 1896), and the other is of a skull of a man shot in the forehead, with the bullet exiting the back of his head. In both photos, the entrance of the bullet on the skull is considerably larger than the entrance on Kennedy's skull, and the exit considerably smaller. In both photos, large skull fractures stretch forward from the entrance location. Neither of these skulls, for that matter, demonstrates a disruption at the center of the skull from the explosion of a temporary cavity, as one would expect from reading Larry Sturdivan's book, The JFK Myths. This is incredibly problematic for those claiming Kennedy's wounds to be pretty much what one would expect should a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet strike someone on the back of the head, from a distance of 88 yards.
Still, one might venture that the bullets striking these men transmitted far less energy, and thus created a much smaller temporary cavity in the brain, than the bullet striking Kennedy.
But this just isn't true. The bullet striking the skull in Figure 104 was reported to be a Krag-Jorgensen .30 caliber, jacketed bullet. This bullet weighed 220 grains, as compared to the 160 grains of the bullets to Oswald's gun, and traveled at an initial velocity of 2000 fps, as compared to the reported 2165 fps of bullets fired by Oswald's rifle. It was also fired at an escaping prisoner from 90 feet away, barely one-third the distance of the sniper's nest from Kennedy at frame 313 of the Zapruder film (which was reported to be 265 feet).
Let that sink in. The bullet in this shooting was 37.5 % heavier than the bullet striking Kennedy, traveling around the same speed, and on a similar trajectory through the skull. So why didn't this bullet burst the prisoner's skull open in the middle, and send large bone fragments sailing across the sky?
The other skull featured in Gunshot Injuries confirms there's a problem. The bullet striking the skull in Figure 105 was a .45 caliber bullet, weighing 500 grains, fired from a Springfield Rifle, with an initial velocity of 1301 fps. This bullet was fired at a cadaver from a simulated 250 yards. A chart found on WWW.frfogspad.com. a webpage devoted to the Springfield Rifle, reports that this bullet would be traveling around 1075 fps at 250 yards. This suggests that the bullet striking the skull in Figure 105, all things being equal, transmitted only about 10% less energy to the brain and skull than the bullet striking Kennedy, while creating a permanent cavity nearly twice as large. Shouldn't this skull also have burst open? Shouldn't this skull have left as large an exit?
The most palatable explanation, of course, is that all things weren't equal, and that the bullet striking Kennedy exploded, and thereby transmitted more of its energy to the brain. One can then contrast that the bullets striking these two men did not explode, and that they in fact continued on to strike other objects. This explanation, however, is undercut by Larry Sturdivan himself and his assurance that at the "actual point of exit" the bullet striking Kennedy had lost only "a small amount of mass."
Hmmm... As it's hard to see how an exploding bullet could lose only "a small amount of mass," it seems clear that Sturdivan, not unlike Dr. Baden and his HSCA colleagues, doesn't actually believe the bullet exploded. As Sturdivan contends that fragments from this bullet cracked the windshield of the limo, and that another dented the metal trim, and that still another chipped concrete more than 200 feet past Kennedy's location at frame 313, for that matter, it seems clear he believes that, not only did the bullet not expend all its energy in the brain, but that it had plenty in reserve.
Well, then, why did Kennedy's skull erupt mid-trajectory, when skulls struck by more powerful bullets on a similar trajectory did not?
The Rise of the Gutter
Or, more to the point, could it be that what Sturdivan thought was mid-trajectory, was not actually mid-trajectory, but the impact point for a bullet creating a "gutter" wound?
Let's go back. While the first articles on the Second Boer War focused on the less severe skull wounds received by those shot with full-metal jacket ammunition, as opposed to lead bullets or dum-dum bullets, the articles written in the years after the Second Boer War began to tell a different story, and relate that full-metal jacket bullets, when striking the skull at a very slight angle, could be every bit as deadly as non-jacketed bullets.
Let's return to Gunshot Injuries, by Dr. Louis Anatole La Gard. La Gard noted that the fractures left behind when a bullet hits the skull at a slight angle (gutter fractures) were "especially common with the use of steel-jacketed bullets" and went so far as to say they were "characteristic of jacketed bullet wounds." He even presented the chart below, created from data supplied by Dr. Stevenson during the Boer War.
Huh... Of the 136 skull wounds studied by Stevenson, 76 of them failed to have a separate exit. Gutter wounds were so commonplace, in fact, that more than half the survivors of gunshot wounds to the head observed by Stevenson had received some sort of gutter wound.
Now note the bias. Most all the early data about gunshot wounds, and the relative frequency of gutters, penetrations, and perforations, etc, comes courtesy military surgeons, who reported on what they saw. In other words, those receiving wounds so terrible they died immediately, or before they could reach a hospital, were not included in the data.
Let's return to Bergman and Kronlein in A System of Practical Surgery Vol. 1 (1904). There, it was admitted that the penetrating wounds described in the book were rarely observed by military surgeons: "Injuries like those produced by the German infantry rifle in experiments at 100 metres...the author has seen only in those left dead on the battlefield or in soldiers brought in a dying condition to the dressing stations..."
It was then noted that "The majority of the solders wounded in the skull showed grooved and gutter-shaped gunshot-wounds, the latter being principally penetrating furrows or elongated losses of substance. These injuries, which were produced by bullets striking more or less at a tangent, showed certain peculiarities. On studying an extensive collection of them, as the author had the opportunity of doing in 20 specimens of this kind, one can always notice that at one point of the gouged-out loss of substance the edge of the defect is more sharply cut or smoothly broken than in the rest of the furrow. This point is always at the end of the groove pointing toward the direction from which the bullet came, and marks therefore the site of impact. Further, there are found about this point one or two concentric circles starting from and coming back to the same point. The mechanism in the occurrence of these circular fissures is the same as in the similar circular fissures occurring in connection with bending fractures produced by blows with blunt instruments, such as hammers and bolts. A bullet entering the skull at an angle at first presses in the skull and then proceeds to produce fracture. The portion of the skull depressed by the forcible impulse of the projectile undergoes the same changes as are produced in connection with less degrees of violence. It is bent in, broken at the periphery of the depressed area, and returns to its normal position. At the point where the bullet having broken out a piece of the skull leaves the same, the changes produced are as constant as those described at the point of impact. At this place there is always an irregular fracture, with comminution, as well as a few or numerous fissures. Some of the detached splinters are forced by the bullet under the edge of the bone or into the brain, other splinters may remain embedded in the soft parts, and still others be torn away with the projectile.
The comminution of the inner table is more extensive at the site of impact than at the wound of exit, where, however, the outer table is more seriously damaged. The outline resulting from comminution of the bone may vary very much. At times the wound of exit is broader than any other part of the loss of substance, at others narrow and elongated.
The illustration Fig. 42 shows the above-described conditions. A bullet struck the skull of a commanding officer in front, in the direction indicated by a. Two fissures, b, and c, extend from the broader end and are joined by a third transverse fissure. At the latter end of the defect the outer table is not so sharply cut as at a, but irregularly fractured. Two large fragments of bone had been forced under the edge of the fracture. This case possesses additional interest owing to the fact that at the same time both orbital plates were fractured. The fissures b and c may therefore be considered beginning bursting fractures, as well as the fissures, and comminution of the orbital plates. The powerful impact of the bullet altered the shape of the skull as a whole, as signifiedby its bursting along the line of the affected meridian. The circular furrow surrounding the anterior end of the loss of substance is a bending fracture, in the same sense that the fissure connecting b and c is, which also follows a circular course. In other cases numerous radial fissures extended in all directions from the site of a projectile that had become embedded in the skull."
So let's be clear. There was a bias in much of the early reporting on the wound ballistics of full-metal jacket ammunition...where the worst head wounds went unreported...and where a large percentage of the head wounds observed were actually tangential wounds.
This point was echoed, moreover, by reports from the first world war.
In Fractures and Dislocations, published 1915, Dr. Miller E. Preston observed: "The completely jacketed high-velocity projectile, such as used in the army, may penetrate the head with a minimum of trauma: the wound of entrance is small and clean-cut; the wound of exit is only a trifle larger." He then warned: "Any projectile either low or high in velocity is likely to produce extensive comminution when the skull is struck a glancing blow."
And Preston wasn't the only one noticing gutter (or tangential) wounds. In 1916's Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Edward A. Archibald noted that the "great majority" of head wounds observed by him at the General Hospital in Paris were "tangential" wounds, and described a "broad shallow gutter" in one such wound, which he attributed to either a high-velocity bullet or shell fragment.
Now, should you be wondering what one of the "great majority" of head wounds observed by Archibald looked like, in living color, you should take a look below. (Image courtesy Craniocerebral Gunshot Injuries, an article in the Bulletin of Emergency and Trauma, 2016.)
Well, think about it. If the worst head wounds went largely unreported, because the victims failed to make it to a hospital, and a majority of the head wounds observed were gutter wounds, then it follows that the worst gutter (or tangential) wounds went unreported.
So...what did the worst of the worst gutter (or tangential) wounds look like?
Well, for that we need to use a little imagination.
The image above comes from Stevenson's Wounds in War (1897). It shows the large entrance hole created by a bullet striking tangentially on the back of the head. Note that the bullet has been split, and that part of the bullet has proceeded along the top of the skull beneath the scalp. This is presumed to have been a non-jacketed bullet. Now imagine if that bullet had been a jacketed bullet. The force impacting on the front ridge of the skull defect would have been an even greater force, and the bone fragment marked by the fracture moving forward of the defect would have exploded upwards from the skull, creating an even larger defect. Now look below.
The image above comes from La Gard's Gunshot Injuries (1916). It was previously published as Figure 72 in Makins' Surgical Experiences in South Africa (1901). It shows the appearance of a bullet that has entered the skull slightly posterior to the location of the large defect on Kennedy and exited the skull slightly posterior to where the fatal bullet is presumed to have exited. The type of bullet and range of fire for this bullet was not listed. But imagine what this skull would have looked like should this bullet have had a bit more energy--and where the lifted sections of roof had met in the middle.
There would have been a giant gaping hole along the top right side of the head, such as was observed on Kennedy, correct?
Hmmm... This metaphorical trip through Google's stacks confirms then that the damage to Kennedy's skull was not what one would expect from a full-metal jacket bullet fired from 88 yards and perforating his parietal bone, and that this was possibly because Kennedy's wound was not a through and through wound, but a tangential wound of both entrance and exit.
If only there wasn't something--say a massive U.S. Government report--that supports as much.
Oh, wait a second... There is.
When Johnny Came Marching Home
Here's the Medical Department of the U.S. Army in its Manual of Neurosurgery (1919): "In his Handbuch der Praktischen Chirurgic, Bergmann gave in full the results of experiments conducted by himself and others upon wounds of the head made by the modern rifle. Briefly, it may be said that at close range the skull and scalp are literally torn to pieces and the brain disorganized; that on penetration at 50 yards the scalp remains intact, though the skull is greatly comminuted and brain tissue oozes from the wound of entrance and exit; at 100 yards there occur zonal fractures which tend to be limited to the area about the wounds of entrance and exit, while meridional fissures radiate from these points, showing that explosive action is still effective; at 1,000 yards the zonal cracks encircling the bullet holes disappear, and only the radial fissures remain; at the distance of 1 mile the fissures largely disappear, leaving the two clean-cut bullet holes; and not until 11/2 miles does the projectile fail to emerge after entering the skull on one side. All this, of course, is merely relative, for there would be great difference, not only in individual skulls, but in the position in which they were struck."
Yes, that's correct. The first world war ended 11-11-18, and the U.S. Army released a manual shortly thereafter relating what it had learned about brain surgery during the war, and quoted a decades-old German study when describing the destructive capabilities of modern ammunition.
Well, this proves two things: 1) performing wound ballistics studies is not an easy task, even during wartime, and 2) the German studies had stood the test of time, and were not at odds with what the American doctors compiling the Army's Manual of Neurosurgery had witnessed during the war.
And the U.S. Army doctors behind its Manual of Neurosurgery weren't the only ones still quoting the studies of the recently-defeated Germans...
Treatise on Fractures in General, Industrial, and Military Practice, published 1921, similarly cites Bergmann, et al. There, Dr.s John Roberts and James Kelley claimed that German scientists had fired a "hard lead, steel-mantled bullet" from a "small calibre arm" that "had an initial velocity of 2,000 feet per second" and that they had found "that with the modern, hard-shell, high velocity bullet at short range, the skull cap, together with the scalp covering it, is torn off. At a range of 50 meters there is a wound of entrance and one of exit, the scalp is preserved, and the skull held together, although the latter was broken into many fragments. At 100 meters there is less destruction of the skull; and the lines of fracture are arranged radially, in part encircling the bullet holes like a bending and bursting fracture. The diameter of the wound of exit is about 20-30 mm..."
In the decade after the war, moreover, raw data was released which further supports the probability Sturdivan's 1978 testimony was nonsense.
In 1927, the U.S. Army published a multi-volume set The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, that was designed to record and pass on what medical knowledge was gained in the first World War (which was at that time the only world war).
Volume XI, Surgery, is of particular interest. Within that volume the Army describes a classification system for head injuries developed by Dr. Harvey Cushing. Grade 1 is a wound to the scalp only. Grade 2 is a wound of the scalp with an underlying fracture of the skull, where there is no penetration of the dura overlying the brain. Grade 3 is a depressed fracture of the skull where the dura is punctured.
This brings us to Grades 4-9. These are depicted below.
This volume also features a chart listing the fatality rate for one hospital for those receiving the 9 grades of head wounds.
A subsequent chapter on a different hospital provides additional data.
Here, then, are the number of mortal wounds in comparison to the total wounds for those treated at this second hospital.
Grade 1: Wounds of the scalp 1/22. (Total for both hospitals 1/91 1%.)
Grade 2: Cranial fracture without dural penetration 5/54. (Total for both hospitals 6/87 7%.)
Grade 3: Cranial fractures with depression and dural penetration, but without extrusion of brain. 2/18. (Total for both hospitals 4/34 12%.)
Grade 4: Wounds usually of gutter type, with brain extruding and indriven bone fragments 6/25. (Total for both hospitals 23/48 48%.)
Grade 5: Wounds usually of penetrating type with indriven bone fragments plus metal 15/41. (Total for both hospitals 18/55 33%.)
Grade 6: Wounds of Type IV and V with penetration of bone or metal opening ventricles (by bone fragments) 6/14, (by metal projectile) 16/16. (Total for both types at both hospitals 27/36 75%.)
Grade 7: Craniofacial wounds of orbitofrontal or temperopetrosal type in which ethmoid or petrosal sinuses are opened. Primary closure impossible and risk of secondary infection great 11/15. (Total for both hospitals 13/18 72%.)
Grade 8: Perforating or transversing wounds 4/5. (Total for both hospitals 6/9 67%.)
Grade 9: Extensive bursting fractures 5/10. (Total for both hospitals 7/12 58%.)
Note that Grades 4, 6, 7, and 8 wounds were the most lethal gunshot wounds.
Now note that the image for Grade 8 wounds depicts a much smaller exit on the skull than the supposed exit on Kennedy's skull. Well, this confirms what we've seen over and over--that the large supposed exit wound on Kennedy's head was either not an exit--and instead a wound of both entrance and exit---or an inexplicably over-sized wound.
As to why Grade 4 wounds were more lethal than Grade 5 wounds, this was explained in Dr. Samuel Harvey's discussion of Grade 4 and Grade 5 wounds.
Grade 4: "The great majority—one might say practically all of these cases—were the result of tangential wounds in which the damage to the brain was not only direct from laceration by the indriven bone, but also in many cases from the concussion and general commotion of the adjacent area of the cerebrum. If one could have a blow of the same intensity delivered without any fracture of the skull, there would undoubtedly be severe concussion and in some instances a fatal issue from the intensity of the intracranial damage by "commotion"; secondly, it is in these cases that the pathway of infection from the scalp to the intracranial contents is most widely open. Almost without exception, they arrived with gutter wounds, funnel-shaped and with cranial contents extruding and overflowing the scalp."
Grade 5: "It is a surprising fact that in this group of cases, where the foreign body was retained within the cranium, the results were distinctly better than in the preceding group. A missile striking the skull at an angle, especially after penetrating the helmet, is frequently deflected and does not penetrate, but by its impact drives bone fragments into the cranium over a large area with great laceration. If, on the other hand, it strikes at an approximate right angle and penetrates, especially if it is of small size, the greater part of the damage is produced by the missile itself, the number of bone fragments is small, and consequently the sum total of the damage done is less than in the tangential blow. Then, too, the penetrating wound frequently produces a punctate wound of entrance with infection; this infection, however, from the scalp surface is not as rapid as through the gutter-shaped wound of the Group IV class."
Now, here's something else to consider.
These photographs show the fracturing and splintering one can find in Grade 4 wounds (gutter wounds). The large defect on Kennedy's skull was a bit bigger, but had a similar pattern of fracture and fragmentation.
Well, all this should lead us to wonder if, yessiree, Kennedy's large head wound wasn't a gutter wound, or tangential wound (whatever you want to call it)--a wound of both entrance and exit.
6.5mm Military Rifle Wounds
As demonstrated over the last few chapters, the wound ballistics of most every rifle known to man has been studied, and has been written up sometime somewhere.
This realization led me to a question, and a quest.
Had anyone besides Dr. Demosthen (in 1894) and Dr. Olivier (in 1964) studied the wound ballistics of a 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano rifle? And, if so, where could I find such a study?
This led me, then, back to where so many quests have ended--UCLA. Specifically, the bio-med stacks.
And so one bright day at UCLA I spent hour after hour combing through old Military Surgeon Magazines in search of a report, any report, on any World War II battle between the allied forces and Italy, in hopes of reading first-hand descriptions of Mannlicher-Carcano wounds. And failed.
But my efforts were not in vain. I was able to find studies of wounds caused by similar rifles, and these helped convince me that the Clark Panel and HSCA’s purported wound of entrance near the cowlick was far from the “typical entrance wound” they described in their report, and that the official explanation for Kennedy's large head wound was in fact incorrect. Insultingly so.
Of particular help was a World War II report by Dr.s Ashley Oughterson, Harry Hull, Francis Sutherland, and Daniel Greiner on allied casualties in Bougainville, Fiji. This report was published in Wound Ballistics, by the Medical Department of the Army, and featured more than one hundred summaries of autopsies performed on soldiers. These soldiers were dead upon arrival at the hospital, and were thereby more seriously wounded than those described in previous studies, which dealt almost exclusively with soldiers who'd survived long enough to be treated at a military hospital. Equally important, many of these soldiers died after being shot by Japanese 6.5mm rifles. Other online articles I found revealed that these Japanese Arisaka rifles fired a bullet slightly smaller than the bullets fired by Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano but that their bullets traveled slightly faster, imparting an almost identical amount of energy into the wound. (The articles I found indicated the Arisaka bullet weighed 139 grains and traveled at 2395 fps and the Mannlicher-Carcano bullet weighed 160 grains and traveled at 2200 fps. If any ballistics experts out there disagree with these numbers or with my assumption of a similarity between Arisaka and Carcano wound ballistics, please let me know.)
The doctors summarized their findings regarding the effects of rifle ammunition on the head as follows: "Head.—Head wounds produced by rifle fire were characterized without exception by extensive destruction of the brain and skull. Laceration, massive herniation, or total absence of large portions of the brain were the usual findings. Large areas of bony skull and scalp were frequently avulsed with shattering or widespread comminution of the residual portions of the skull. Ofttimes, bone fragments were driven deep into the brain tissue. Perforating skull wounds were more common than gutter wounds. Frequently, long, stellate fracture lines radiated across the base of the skull. Extensive damage was sometimes observed in one hemisphere of the brain, when the traversing missile track lay entirely in the opposite hemisphere. All these findings were interpreted as additional evidence in support of the modern hypotheses of wound production by high-velocity missiles.
Well, so far, so good. From this summary it sounds like the doctors would have claimed Kennedy's head wound was a typical wound.
Unfortunately, a closer inspection of the autopsy protocols proves this not to be the case.
The summaries of the autopsies in which the deceased had received a 6.5 mm bullet to the head follow. These refer to the bullets as .25 caliber, which wasn't quite true. According to Bolt Action Rifles, by Fred de Haas and Wayne Zwoll, "much erroneous information circulated about that "small caliber Jap rifle" during WWII, with many believing its 6.5 mm bullets, which were .263 caliber, to be only .25 caliber. These protocols have been arranged in order of shot distance. For the sake of brevity, references to wounds other than head wounds have been removed.
Case 10: A Fijian soldier, peering over the edge of an open foxhole to fire at the enemy, was struck by a .25 caliber Japanese bullet fired from a distance of 15 yards. He was killed instantly at 1400 hours on 1 April 1944. Examination revealed a perforating wound of the head and multiple wounds of the extremities. The head wound of entry (3.7 cm. in diameter) was located at the inner canthus of the left eye and the exit wound (8.7 cm. in diameter) at the vertex of the skull. The skull was comminuted, and there was almost complete destruction of the left half of the brain.
Case 2: A Fijian soldier, while on patrol, was standing behind a tree when he was struck by a .25 caliber Japanese bullet fired from a distance of 20 yards. He was killed instantly on 31 March 1944. Examination revealed a perforating wound of the head. The entrance wound (0.5 cm. in diameter) was situated over the lateral border of the right supraorbital ridge and the exit wound (1.2 cm. in diameter) over the occipital bone. Stellate fractures of the frontal and occipital bones radiated from both perforations. The frontal and parietal lobes of the brain were perforated, and the cerebellum was grooved.
Case 11: A soldier of the 129th Infantry was crouching and moving forward in a skirmish line when he was struck by a Japanese .25 caliber bullet fired from a distance of 20 yards. He was killed instantly at 1300 hours on 24 March 1944. Cursory examination revealed an extensive gutter wound 15 x 10 cm. involving the left temporal, occipital, and parietal regions. Large portions of these bones and underlying brain were absent. Extensive comminution of the remaining cranial vault was present.
Case 8: A soldier of the 129th Infantry, 37th Division, was standing on his bunk in an open tent in battalion headquarters firing at the enemy, when he was struck by a .25 caliber Japanese bullet fired from a distance of 25 yards. He was killed instantly at 0630 hours on 24 March 1944. Examination revealed a gutter wound (5 x 2½ cm.) of the left parietal region. Brain tissue exuded through the perforation in his helmet. Lacerated brain tissue, portions of the frontal and parietal lobes, was herniated through the wound. Marked subgaleal hemorrhage was present. The cranial vault was comminuted by stellate fractures. Both hemispheres of the brain were extensively lacerated. A mushroomed .25 caliber bullet was found in the right anterior fossa.
Case 20: A soldier of the 129th Infantry was sitting on a log holding a flamethrower when he was struck in the head by a .25 caliber Japanese bullet fired from a distance of 75 yards. His perforated helmet was found lying on the ground. He was killed instantly at 1130 hours on 27 March 1944. Examination revealed a gutter wound 17.5 x 4 cm. involving the right temporal and frontal regions. There were deep lacerations of the frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes. Disorganized brain tissue filled the wound. Extensive comminution of the cranial vault was found.
Case 25: A soldier of the 129th Infantry was standing in an open foxhole when he was struck by a .25 caliber Japanese bullet fired by a sniper from a distance of 75 yards. His helmet was perforated. He was wounded in action at 1430 hours on 24 March 1944 and died 5 hours later, despite shock therapy. Examination revealed a gutter wound (15 x 7½ cm.) occupying the right parieto-occipital region. Portions of these bones as well as the underlying cerebral hemisphere were absent. A small metal fragment was recovered from the remaining brain tissue and was identified as part of the jacket of a .25 caliber Japanese bullet. The right lateral ventricle was filled with blood. Petechial hemorrhages were present in the left half of the brain. Stellate fracture lines coursed through the bones of the vault.
Case 59: A soldier of the 24th Infantry, while running forward in a skirmish line, was struck by .25 caliber Japanese machine gun bullets fired from a distance of 75 yards. He was killed instantly at 1100 hours on 14 April 1944. Examination revealed multiple wounds. (One) bullet struck the left side of the face producing a gutter wound 12.5 x 3.7 x 0.25 cm., which destroyed the left temporomandibular joint.
Case 17: A soldier of the 129th Infantry, while walking up a jungle trail, was struck by a Japanese .25 caliber bullet fired from a distance of 100 yards. He was killed instantly at 1320 hours on 24 March 1944. Examination revealed a perforating wound of the head. The wound of entrance (2.5 cm. in diameter) traversed the right infraorbital ridge; the exit wound (3 cm. in diameter) was located in the left parieto-occipital region. When the body was received, the helmet had not been removed and brain tissue was extruded over its surface.
Case 5: A Fijian soldier, while on patrol, peered over a ridge and was struck in the head by a .25 caliber Japanese machine gun bullet fired from a distance of 150 yards. He was killed instantly at 1000 hours on 26 March 1944. Examination revealed a gutter wound (6.5 x 2.5 cm.) in the center of the forehead with a portion of the frontal bone blown away. Fracture lines radiated through the temporal, parietal, and occipital bones. Both frontals and the right temporal lobes were lacerated. A bullet was recovered from the right temporal fossa.
Case 18: A U.S. soldier was standing in a cleared area digging a foxhole when he was struck in the head by a .25 caliber bullet. The shot was fired by a Japanese sniper at a distance of over 150 yards. The soldier was killed instantly at 1500 hours on 26 March 1944. Examination revealed a perforating wound of the head. The entrance wound (0.6 cm. in diameter) was posterior to the left mastoid process, and the exit wound (1.2 cm. in diameter) was at the outer canthus of the right eye. The bullet coursed in a superior and anterior direction and perforated the atlas; it then crossed the foramen magnum and severed the brain stem at the lower level of the pons. The track continued through the base of the skull, right ethmoid, and right orbit to the point of exit.
Case 19: A U.S. soldier, while on duty as a sniper in the jungle, peered over a protecting log and was struck in the head by a .25 caliber bullet. The shot was fired by a Japanese sniper from an unknown distance. The soldier was killed instantly on 24 March 1944. Cursory examination revealed a penetrating wound of the skull, with the wound of entrance in the left orbit. A compound comminuted fracture of the skull with marked brain destruction was present. (NOTE: while this entrance wound was not measured, it was photographed, and revealed to be many times the purported size of the entrance on the back of Kennedy's head.)
President Kennedy: The President of the United States was shot while driving down the street in an open limousine. The shot was believed to have been fired from a distance of 90 yards. The doctors at his autopsy claimed that a 1.5 x .6 cm entrance wound was found low on the back of his head, and that a 17 x 10 cm exit wound was found on the top of his head above his right temple. They also claimed that the right side of his skull was largely fractured.
Notice anything? Surprisingly, 6 of the 11 bullets discussed in the autopsy protocols didn’t leave easily distinguishable entrances and exits on the skull, but left large “gutter” or "tangential" type wounds of both entrance and exit. Even if one were to exclude the "gutter" wounds of cases 8, 20 and 25 under the dubious assumption the perforation of these soldier's helmets led to the creation of the gutter, 3 of the 8 remaining bullets created "gutter" wounds.
Now note the comparative size of the entrance and exit defects. If one excludes the three bullets first striking helmets, the entrance on Kennedy's skull was comparatively small, the third smallest of 8. While the exit in Kennedy's skull wasn’t measured until the scalp was reflected and parts of his skull fell to the table, the autopsy photos taken before the measurements and the size of the skull fragments found outside the body reveal an exit of at least 5 x 10 cm stretching from the top of Kennedy’s head to his temple. This proves that it, too, was unusual. It is, in fact, far larger than any non-gutter wound observed in the Bougainville Campaign, outside the one observed on Case 10, created by a rifle over 200 feet closer to its victim. As we don't know at what point in the autopsy the wound on Case 10 was measured, moreover, it remains quite possible that the 8.7 cm measurement for this wound was also taken after bone fell to the table. If so, then it too was much smaller than the 17 x 10 cm wound measured on Kennedy after his scalp had been reflected.
So why was the exit wound on Kennedy's head so...large?
The thought occurs that the wound on Kennedy's head only appears to be larger than expected, and that the reality is that the wounds attributed to the Japanese 6.5 mm ammunition in the Bougainville Campaign were smaller than expected. No, scratch that. We've already studied some old reports proving Kennedy's wound was far larger than expected. And besides, Dr. James Beyer dispensed with this notion in the first chapter of Wound Ballistics, the book put out by the Army in which the Bougainville Campaign study was first discussed. He wrote:
"The 6.5 mm. (0.256 in.) (fig. 9) bullet, especially one made with a gilding metal (an alloy of copper and zinc) jacket, when it hit a target had an explosive effect and tended to separate, leaving the entire jacket in the wound while the bullet went on through. Small globules of lead scattered through the wound and embedded themselves elsewhere in the flesh. This condition was the result of the fact that the rear-section walls of the bullet jacket, which was filled with a lead core, were thinner than the forward walls. The sudden stoppage of the high-velocity bullet when it hit an object produced a tendency to burst the rear walls causing an "explosion." The lead core, which had a greater specific gravity, penetrated, leaving behind the relatively lighter jacket from which it had been discharged. The bullets made with cupronickel jackets had more of a tendency to retain their lead cores because of the greater tensile strength of the alloy when compared with the strength of the gilding-metal-jacketed bullet.
The unusually large exit wound openings often found with this caliber bullet were due to the natural instability of the bullet and possibly to its being fired from inferior weapons. Similarly, there were elliptic entry wounds, a result of the "keyholing" effect of bullets hitting with their sides."
So, the wounds created by 6.5 mm ammunition in the Bougainville Campaign were "unusually large." And yet still not nearly as large as the wound received in the Dallas Campaign... Hmm...
While some will say that the small entrance/large exit on Kennedy’s skull came as a result of the 6.5 mm bullet’s breaking up, this small entrance/large exit anomaly was not, as near as can be determined, replicated in the tests performed at Edgewood Arsenal in 1964. While it is indeed a characteristic of soft-nosed hunting ammunition to enter a skull and break up while passing through the brain, these 1964 tests showed that bullets like those fired in Oswald’s gun were not likely to break up in the brain. These tests showed that the 6.5 mm bullets fired in Oswald’s gun, moreover, were, unlike their Japanese counterparts, among the most stable ever tested. This means that the bullet striking Kennedy, should it have entered the skull intact, would most probably not have tumbled, and, if it did, would most probably not have fragmented. Ballistics researcher Howard Donahue claimed he'd asked Dr. Alfred Olivier, who'd supervised the 1964 tests, this very question, and that Olivier had told him that most of the bullets he'd tested had broken into but two or three large fragments. That's it.
So why did the bullet striking Kennedy, which would not explode inside the brain and could only have exploded upon impact with his skull, explode into far more pieces than the similar-sized bullets used in Olivier's tests?
And why was no spatter from the back of JFK's head visible in frame 313?
Was it because the wound created at frame 313 did not begin on the back of the head, but exactly where it is shown on the film?
And was it, in fact, a tangential wound of both entrance and exit?
I mean, there's not an absence of evidence here, but the evidence of absence. As we've seen, full-metal jacket ammunition has been, since its development, closely associated with gutter or tangential wounds.
So how is it that Humes, Finck, Olivier, Spitz, Baden, Petty, and Sturdivan et al have failed to discuss gutter or tangential wounds in their testimony before the government?
Something's just wrong.
Here is Figure X-28, from Spitz and Fisher's Medicolegal Investigation of Death (1980).
The caption to this image reads: "Figure X-28: Shot from a 30-30 rifle fired from a distance of about 60 feet. The wound of entrance is indicated by arrows."
And here is Spitz's discussion of this image: "In the case of a high-powered rifle, the external appearance of the entrance wound does not materially differ from that of a gunshot wound inflicted with a handgun or an ordinary rifle. (Fig. X-26) However, internal destruction is usually considered more severe. Soft tissues collapse into a vast temporary cavity produced in the wake of the bullet. The skull, including the base, is often shattered, and in solid organs such as the liver, the wound track may be 2 or 4 in. in diameter (Fig.s X-27 and X-28)."
And that's it. There is no other mention of this image. And this one mention makes no sense. Spitz claims high-powered rifle entrance wounds do not materially differ from those of an "ordinary rifle," and presents Fig. X-26 (a photo of a small entrance wound on the back of a head) to demonstrate as much, but then immediately undermines this claim by presenting a photo of an enormous wound at the top of a head with a beveled edge overlooking this chasm--which he identifies as the wound of entrance, while making no reference to an exit wound. Well, this is almost certainly a tangential wound. A nasty one.
So why didn't Spitz acknowledge this? Was he aware of the similarities between the wound in this photo and the wound he'd observed in Kennedy's autopsy photos just a few years earlier? And were he, and his co-writer, Dr. Russell Fisher, trying to conceal this from those reading their textbook?
Here Spitz is again in 2006, in an updated version of his book (with changes highlighted): ""In the case of a high-powered rifle, the external appearance of the entrance wound does not materially differ from that of a gunshot wound inflicted with a handgun or an ordinary rifle. (Fig. XII-43) However, internal destruction is considerably more severe. Due to the high velocity of the missile, the soft tissues collapse into a temporary cavity produced by a vacuum created in the wake of the bullet. This cavity is visible on x-ray and microscopic examination shows disruption of the tissue and hemorrhage in the area of cavitation. The skull, including the base, is often shattered, and in solid organs such as the liver, the wound track may exceed 3 or 4 in. in diameter (Fig.s XII-44 and XII-45)."
Note that Fig. XII-45 was the same image as presented above. While Spitz had updated his book, he still failed to acknowledge what seems obvious from Fig. X-28/XII-45--that it depicts a tangential wound of both entrance and exit in which the top of the victim's head was blown off.
I mean, it's not as if the medical community as a whole forgot about tangential wounds following WWII.
Here's proof. The close identification of gutter or tangential wounds with jacketed ammunition led Dr.s Sherman et al, of the L.A. County-USC Department of Neurosurgery, to note in a 1980 Western Journal of Medicine article on gunshot wounds to the brain involving civilian ammunition that "Our experience did not reflect any tangential wounds to the head with the massive brain guttering and soft tissue loss as described in the military literature."
And it's not as if these wounds are no longer observed. Unfortunately, the rise of the assault weapon in recent decades has led many a forensic pathologist to become familiar with the wounding capabilities of full-metal jacketed bullets. In his popular text Gunshot Wounds (1998), Dr. Vincent J.M. DiMaio notes that in recent years he'd had "extensive experience" with AK-47 ammunition and that this had led him to conclude that "Tangential and shallow (superficial) perforating wounds of the head are extremely mutilating. Evisceration of part or all of the brain is common."
There's also this. On April 28, 1996 a gunman went on a killing spree in Port Arthur, Tasmania. An analysis and comparison of the wounds created by the two types of rifles and bullets used in this assault soon followed. According to this article, published in the Summer 1998 issue of Wound Ballistics Review, a number of the fatalities received bullets that entered or exited the face, or descended or ascended within the neck. And yet, even so, 13 of the 32 fatalities received a shot to the head that both entered and exited the calvarium (the brain case). Now, the bulk of these victims were shot at close range, by rifles firing bullets at a greater velocity than those which struck Kennedy. So, it is important that we note the damage to these skulls. Did the tops of these skulls blow off into space, as suggested by the words of Olivier, Sturdivan, and Lattimer?
No. The authors of the article mention the large size of but one of these wounds. Here is that description: "Body 18 - Male, 69, 81.5kg, 172cm, shot twice, (.223). (i) - Distant tangential impact from bullet to the top of the head, traveling from left to right, causing a large wound and fracturing of the skull. No bullet or fragments recovered."
So there you have it. The size of Kennedy's large head wound makes little sense unless the bullet struck his skull tangentially...at the supposed exit.
Perhaps it should be explained here that while some online medical dictionaries define a "gutter" or "tangential" wound as one where a bullet leaves a furrow in the scalp without actually entering the skull cavity, the "gutter" wounds discussed in older publications are actually quite gruesome. Thankfully, Missile Wounds of the Head and Neck, Vol.1 (1999) clears this up, and reports that these more severe wounds, in which the bullet leaves a gaping hole, have been distinguished from their less destructive cousins, and are now referred to as "class 3" gutter wounds.
War Surgery Vol. 2 (2013, published by the International Committee of the Red Cross) echoes this analysis. It explains that tangential wounds of the skull come in three varieties: one in which the scalp is damaged but the skull is not fractured, a second more severe injury in which the skull is fractured and splinters are sent into the brain, but where the missile itself does not penetrate the brain, and a third extremely severe injury in which a strong blow "creates an open fracture with a single entry-exit wound; the brain suffers direct laceration and the wound is often 'spectacular,' with extrusion of pulped brain substance and haemotoma."
In any event, it's disappointing, to say the least, that none of the government's experts mentioned gutter wounds in their testimony before the Warren Commission or HSCA, if only to offer us a reason to believe Kennedy's large head wound was not such a wound.
Still, that's not to say no one mentioned them.
Tangential Wounds Comparison
Let's revisit the words of the doctor who first inspected Kennedy's large head wound, Dr. William Kemp Clark...
Just hours after the assassination, Dr. Clark told the nation at a press conference that the wound "could have been a tangential wound, as it was simply a large, gaping loss of tissue." And from there his resolve grew stronger. Over the next few weeks, in interview after interview, Dr. Clark repeated such claims and was considered so credible that as late as December 23, 1963, Medical Tribune and Medical News was still reporting that the fatal bullet struck "a tangential blow that avulsed the calvarium and shredded brain tissue as the bullet left the skull on a glancing course."
Dr. Clark was just not one to back down. Months after he'd been told the conclusions reached at autopsy, in fact, Dr. Clark told the Warren Commission that, in his impression, the large head wound was a--drum roll, please--"tangential wound." To his eternal credit, moreover, Dr. Clark also told the Warren Commission why he suspected as much. On March 21, 1964, he testified that if a bullet “strikes the skull at an angle, it must then penetrate much more bone than normal, therefore, it is likely to shed more energy, striking the brain a more powerful blow. Secondly, in striking the bone in this manner, it may cause pieces of the bone to be blown into the brain and thus act as secondary missiles. Finally, the bullet itself may be deformed and deflected so that it would go through or penetrate parts of the brain, not in the usual line it was proceeding.” Dr. Clark had thereby testified that, in his opinion, the injury to Kennedy's brain was more extensive than would be expected if the bullet had simply entered low on the back of the head. As he only inspected the brain at the large defect, moreover, he had testified that, in his opinion, a bullet had transited the skull along the surface of this defect, i.e., that this defect did not appear to be the exit for a bullet entering elsewhere. He'd also voiced his suspicion that splinters of bone had been blown into the brain at this location.
Now, we should probably note here that Dr. Clark never really wavered from his suspicion that the wound was "tangential." While he testified to the Warren Commission that the wound could be other than a tangential wound, he only did so after being asked one of Arlen Specter's infamous leading questions...
Mr. SPECTER - The physicians, surgeons who examined the President at the autopsy specifically, Commander James J. Humes, H-u-m-e-s (spelling); Commander J. Thornton Boswell, B-o-s-w-e-l-l (spelling), and Lt. Col. Pierre A. Finck, F-i-n-c-k (spelling), expressed the Joint opinion that the wound which I have just described as being 15 by 6 mm. and 2.5 cm. to the right and slightly above the external occipital protuberant was a point of entrance of a bullet in the President's head at a time when the President's head was moved slightly forward with his chin dropping into his chest, when he was riding in an open car at a slightly downhill position. With those facts being supplied to them in a hypothetical fashion, they concluded that the bullet would have taken a more or less straight course, exiting from the center of the President's skull at a point indicated by an opening from three portions of the skull reconstructed, which had been brought to them---would those findings and those conclusions be consistent with your observations if you assumed the additional facts which I have brought to your attention, in addition to those which you have personally observed?
Dr. CLARK - Yes, sir.
Well, jeez Louise. Specter may as well have asked him "If the doctors said something could be black would you agree it could be black?" As Clark's acceptance of the "official" story was conditional on both Specter's false description of Kennedy's position at the time of the head shot ("with his chin dropping into his his chest") and his false description of the trajectory from the entrance observed at autopsy to the large defect on the top of Kennedy's skull ("a more or less straight course"), it's clear that Clark never really agreed with what Specter was selling.
Unfortunately, he rarely spoke on the subject after his testimony. Perhaps we now know why.
I mean, it's not as if Clark's assessment could be rejected out of hand. In 20th Century Arms and Armor, published 1996, military historian Dr. Stephen Bull, while discussing the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, defends that the rifle was capable of causing Kennedy's wounds. He asserts, not inaccurately, that the rifle was capable of being fired fast enough and with enough accuracy to kill Kennedy as proposed by single-assassin theorists. He also recites a lot of the nonsense spewed by Dr. Baden in his book Unnatural Death, and debunked in chapter 13b of this book. Where Bull really slips up, however, is in his description of the second shot to hit Kennedy. He writes: "A second shot clipped the top of the President's skull, shattering it, and broke against the front windscreen strut." The official story on this bullet, of course, is that it did not clip Kennedy's head, but pierced it, exiting only after traveling four inches or so through the brain. That Bull, having written a number of books on WWI and WWII weaponry and tactics, thinks Kennedy's large head wound was created when a bullet "clipped" the top of his head, is, one can only assume, supportive that such "clippings" do occur.
The Tell-Tale Splinters
Now, let's dig a bit deeper, and discuss one of the over-looked bits of Clark's testimony--that the impact of the fatal bullet, if it did indeed strike tangentially, may have caused "pieces of the bone to be blown into the brain and thus act as secondary missiles."
Now he wasn't just making stuff up. It has long been noted that a tangential impact on the skull can break splinters of bone from the skull's inner table. To wit, the caption to a photograph taken at the Army Medical Museum after the Civil War, and found in a collection of civil war medical reports available from BACM research, relates "The specimen is an excellent illustration of that variety of fracture of the skull, in which the outer table remains intact, and the thinner and more friable vitreous table is splintered: an accident resulting always, it is believed, either from a shock of a projectile striking the cranium very obliquely, or else from a comparatively slight blow from a body with a large plain surface."
So, the question, then, is if splinters of this kind were found in Kennedy's brain (or, rather, would have been found had the autopsists sectioned his brain).
And the answer is...yes. Here's Dr. Finck, in his January 1965 letter to his superior, Gen. Blumberg, reporting on his inspection of the brain: “No metallic fragments are identified but there are numerous small bone fragments, between one and ten millimeters in greatest dimension, in the container where the brain was fixed.”
And this wasn't the last time Finck slipped up and admitted bone fragments were mixed in with the brain.
Here is his 2-24-69 testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw. He has just been asked about a 20 by 13 mm (which he translates as 3/4 inch by 1/2 inch) rectangular object near the base of Kennedy's brain, which the Clark Panel had noticed in their then-recent study of the autopsy photos and had described in their report. (This brown rectangular object would later be dismissed as a blood vessel, but one never knows.)
Q: Now, Colonel, can--You previously testified that you did a lot of work at the autopsy table in the area of this particular head wound. Can you tell me why you can't tell me what this 3/4 inch x 1/2 inch rectangular-shaped whatever it is, what it was in the President's brain?
A: At this time I can't interpret this. There are numerous bone fragments produced by this explosive force in the head leading to many bone fragments and I can't positively identify this structure you are referring to.
Q: Did you find any bone fragments this size?
Q: In the brain.
A: I don't recall.
It seems entirely too much a coincidence then that all the large head wounds affiliated with 6.5 mm ammunition in the Fiji Campaign were tangential wounds, and that the first doctor to inspect Kennedy's large head wound thought it was a tangential wound, and that having skull fragments blown into the brain is symptomatic of a tangential wound, and that numerous bone fragments were found in the bucket with Kennedy's brain.
Now, you might think "So what? Bone fragments are routinely found where gun-shot victims' brains are fixed."
But this isn't exactly true.
In their 1978 Journal of Neurosurgery article Civilian Gunshot Wounds of the Brain, Drs. Vincent DiMaio and Joel B. Kirkpatrick discussed 42 fatal gunshot wounds in which the fatal shot was fired by revolvers and .22 rifles. They also did something fairly unique in the wound ballistics literature--they recorded for each wound whether or not bone splinters had been blown into the brain.
The results were somewhat surprising. Bone splinters were detected in but 16 of the 42 brains (or 38%). Even more revealing, they were detected in but 13 of the 30 brains (43%) in which the revolver or rifle had been held against the skull...which means that bone splinters were blown into but 3 of the 12 brains (25%) in which the weapon was not held against the skull. The weapon and range of fire related to these 3 were as follows: a .32 Smith and Wesson fired from 5 feet, a .38 Special fired from 5 feet, and a .38 Special fired from 10 feet. The most powerful weapon recorded in the study, moreover, was a .45 caliber automatic pistol, which fired a bullet almost 50% larger than the bullet purported to kill Kennedy. This weapon was used in two homicides, from presumed ranges of 15 and 30 feet. And yet no bone splinters were detected in the brains of either of these victims!
Of course, these were civilian gunshot wounds of the brain. A study on penetrating gunshot wounds of the brain by Dr.s J.M. Small and E.A. Turner published in the 1947 British Journal of Surgery found that, quite the opposite, bone splinters were found within the brains of 430 of the 500 soldiers receiving such a wound.
But where were these splinters found?
Almost certainly near the entrance.
This isn't just a hunch. DiMaio and Kirkpatrick's 1978 study of the 42 brains didn't merely report on the existence of bone splinters in the brain, it also reported on where they were found. It revealed: "The direction of impaction of the bone chips does provide conclusive evidence of the direction of the shot, since in no case were bone chips deflected into the brain parenchyma from exit wounds." It then concluded: "Bone chips are frequently impacted into the brain from the entrance wound. The secondary paths produced by bone chips provide conclusive proof of the direction of a fatal shot, since they always originate from the entrance wound."
And it's not as if this was something DiMaio claimed and soon came to regret. As related in his book, he'd studied firsthand the wounds created by assault weapons.
And yet here he is in Gunshot Wounds (1998): "The presence of bone chips at one end of the bullet track through the brain provides conclusive evidence of the direction of the shot; in the author's experience, no bone chips are found in the brain parenchyma adjacent to the exit wound."
Now, this is the ballgame, folks. Or at least oughta be.
The blowing of numerous small bone fragments, or splinters, onto and into the surface of Kennedy's brain would have to have occurred at the large defect by Kennedy's temple, where bone was missing and never recovered. The two suspected entrances at the back of the head, after all, were barely the circumference of the bullet, and far too small to account for "numerous fragments between one and ten millimeters in greatest dimension."
And, yes, I know that it's technically possible for numerous fragments of varying size to have exploded from the small defect on the back of Kennedy's head. A 6 mm by 15 mm entrance on the skull could represent as many as 90 one mm bone fragments, or 9 ten mm fragments, which could be mixed and matched into "numerous fragments between one and ten millimeters in greatest dimension." But let's not be daft. This was a round-nosed bullet after all. It was not a sledge-hammer. Many if not most of the bone fragments dislodged by the bullet's 15 mm wide tunnel along the back of the skull would have been pushed aside of the much smaller hole where the bullet finally entered, and much of that which made it into the skull would have been wiped off upon entrance into the skull on the membranous lining of the skull, or dura--which was not retained, or stored in the bucket inspected by Finck--and some of that which made it past the dura would have been flushed back out of the brain by an initial explosion, and then steady flow, of blood.
And, yeah, I know this is all theoretical. But bear in mind DiMaio's hard data. Thirty guns were held against thirty heads. Thirty triggers were pulled. And thirty bullets tore through thirty skulls. And yet, seventeen of the thirty brains receiving these bullets failed to reveal any bone splinters along the wound track.
This exposes the conjecture that "numerous fragments between one and ten millimeters in greatest dimension" could have derived from an entrance wound but 6 by 15 mm as desperate conjecture, poorly-reasoned conjecture. One might even say grasping at straws.
One can only conclude, then, that Kennedy's fatal wound was, almost certainly, a tangential wound, and that Dr. Clark's first impressions were correct.
Large Defect Analysis
Still more reasons to suspect the fatal bullet struck tangentially come from studying the Zapruder film. When one projects a bullet traveling downwards at 12 degrees (15 degrees from the sniper’s nest minus the 3 degree slope of the street) onto Z-312, one finds that a bullet fired from the sniper’s nest and just missing the back of Kennedy’s head would most logically strike him directly above his ear, where Zapruder frames 313 and 337 reveal the large wound to begin. Since, as we’ve seen, Kennedy’s skull was tilted 25 degrees to its left, this means the presumed impact location above the ear was at the very top of his skull, and directly in the line of fire. Not surprisingly, a nose of a bullet striking Kennedy’s skull and breaking up in this location might continue on to hit the windshield without traversing the right side of his skull. When one looks closely at Zapruder frame 313, moreover, it becomes obvious that there is a large bone fragment (almost undoubtedly the Harper fragment, the largest bone fragment found outside the limousine) flying upwards from the President’s skull at a right angle to a trajectory from the school book depository. As any pool player will tell you, this would be the expected trajectory of a fragment exploding from an impact with a bullet just barely hitting the President on the right top of his head.
It is ironic, then, that the HSCA actually considered the possibility the large head wound was a tangential wound, but rejected it due to the fact such a wound would be unlikely for a shot fired from the grassy knoll. That's right. They were that close. On page 226 of Volume 7 of the HSCA's report is a 12-22-78 letter from radiologist David Davis noting that in light of the HSCA's acceptance of the acoustic evidence suggesting a shot had been fired from the grassy knoll, he and Dr. Michael Baden had considered the possibility the fatal shot had come from the knoll. From their discussions, moreover, they concluded that it was possible the large head wound was a tangential wound inflicted from the side if the top of Kennedy's head was tilted 22 degrees away from the bullet. As the knoll location pondered was in fact 15 degrees above Kennedy at the time of the head shot, however, they were forced to conclude Kennedy would have to have been leaning 37 degrees to his left for a tangential wound to result. And this they could not accept.
While we can agree with them on this point, or agree to disagree, it is nevertheless enlightening that Dr. Baden considered such a thing, as this indicates he felt Kennedy's large head wound was otherwise consistent with a tangential wound.
There is reason, in fact, to suspect that many other forensic experts share this appraisal. In 2009, legendary forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee, along with forensic scientist Elaine Pagliaro, and forensic psychologist Katharine Ramsland, published The Real World of a Forensic Scientist. Rave reviews by forensic experts Cyril Wecht, Michael Baden, Fredric Rieders, James Starrs and Ronald Singer graced its back cover. These reviewers had obviously been provided copies well prior to publication. If they'd noticed any obvious mistakes then, we can only assume, they'd have said so, and these mistakes would subsequently have been corrected. And yet, on page 147, while briefly discussing the Kennedy assassination as an example of a case where forensic examiners disagree in their interpretation of the facts, the writers reported that a "shot entered Kennedy's right temple and exited through his skull."
It "entered Kennedy's right temple!" Not the back of his head. And "exited through his skull!" This strange use of words doesn't specify a separate exit, or even a direction of fire. Hmmm... Are we to assume from this that no one involved in the writing or reviewing of this book noticed this?
I don't know. It seems quite possible, however, that this detour from the official story went right over everyone's head because it sounded so reasonable, and that it sounded so reasonable because it was something they'd secretly suspected was true.
Perhaps then we should take a closer look at the movement of Kennedy’s head after the impact of the head shot. As the skulls in Dr. Olivier's tests always but always moved in the direction of the bullet, perhaps this can tell us from which direction the bullet was fired.
As a measurement of the length of Jackie Kennedy's arm in frames 312 and 313, from her elbow to the back of her husband's head, indicates that more arm was visible in 313, and thus, that her husband's head moved forward, one can safely assume the fatal shot came from behind. But that's only half the story.
While there has been a seemingly endless argument between some old school conspiracy theorists, who insist Kennedy’s head flew back-and-to-the left after the bullet’s impact, and nearly everyone else, who note that his head first flew forwards, both sides of the issue miss an important fact: the primary movement of Kennedy’s head in the first few frames after the bullet’s impact was downward. His head dropped approximately 2 inches in 1 ½ frames of the Zapruder film. As a hard impact low on the back of a man’s head in the location of the bullet entrance described at autopsy would most logically pop the front of his head upwards a bit, I believe this downward movement suggests instead that Kennedy was hit on top of his head just above his right temple.
Here is a gif file, found online, demonstrating this downward movement.
Now, is this proof? Not remotely. But it's undoubtedly helpful that my study of the medical evidence is supported by my study of the Zapruder film, and vice versa.
And it sure is interesting that I'm not the first to suspect Kennedy was hit at the supposed exit...from behind. On March 6, 1975, Robert Groden showed the Zapruder film on TV for the first time. In his subsequent book JFK: The Case For Conspiracy, published January 1976, Groden wrote that at frame 313, "A shot hit Kennedy from behind, by all appearances, in the right temple." And this wasn't a one-time slip-up. The book Government by Gunplay, published March 1976, featured a short essay by Groden entitled A New Look at the Zapruder Film. Here, he claimed that at frame 313 "A shot hits John Kennedy from behind in the right temple."
That's right. Robert Groden, whose analysis of the Zapruder film helped launch a congressional investigation, and whose name has become synonymous with the grassy knoll, initially claimed Kennedy was killed by a shot from the rear... And not only that, but that this shot impacted at the supposed exit...
And no, I'm not kidding. While it's true Groden felt a shot hit Kennedy from the front a split-second later, he saw no evidence for this in frame 313, and assumed the movement of Kennedy's head between frames 312 and 313 and the simultaneous explosion of blood and brain was best explained by a bullet's impacting near Kennedy's right temple...from behind.
This is precisely as has been proposed...here.
Elastic Recoil Revealed
Since the Zapruder film shows Kennedy's head going back and to the left after the fatal head shot, conspiracy theorists have long held this means the shot came from the front. This has not impressed single-assassin theorists, however, who just love to point out that Kennedy's head initially goes forward. These theorists also love to use supposedly scientific explanations, e.g. the "jet effect" and the "neuro-muscular response," to try and explain Kennedy's subsequent movement backward.
When I started suspecting that the head shot hit Kennedy at the supposed exit, on the other hand, one of the first things I did was slap myself at this exit location from behind, to see if this impact would re-create Kennedy's movements. To my surprise, it did.
I subsequently learned that there is a certain elastic recoil in muscle tissue. You stretch it out far enough, and it snaps right back on its own. Some runners learn to use this to their advantage. This led me to believe that Kennedy was struck along the top of his head, his head was driven down, his chin hit his chest and his head sprang back up from the recoil of his neck muscles.
In July 2007, researcher Gil Jesus alerted the Education Forum to a number of videos he found online, depicting head shots. One of these was news footage of a hostage-taker getting killed by a sniper. The shot came in from the man's right. The man's head turned to his left, traveling with the bullet. Then snapped back to his right, facing the sky as he fell to the ground. Not enough fluid was ejected from his head to create the "jet effect." His body failed to stiffen as in a neuro-muscular response. (Stills from this video are on the slide above.)
Kennedy contorts in a similar manner, only more vertically. This is consistent with his getting hit more towards the top of his head, at the supposed exit.
Here, see for yourself....
A longer version of this video, proving that the shot came in from the hostage taker's right, is now available here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGe1zb1wAlY
Well, that was disgusting..and horrifying. And speaking of disgusting...and horrifying, it's time we watch the Zapruder film. In slow motion.
As you watch the film below, ask yourself: is there any evidence the bullet struck Kennedy on the BACK of his head? Is there any evidence it struck him from in FRONT? Just watch the film. If one divorces oneself from what one's been told about the direction of the head shot, I suspect you'll come to agree that the film suggests a shot hit Kennedy on the top of his head above his right temple...from his right, and quite possibly from behind.
(Note: the following gif file was posted by Gerda Dunckel on the JFK Assassination Forum on July 6, 2012. You may want to skip ahead, as it is quite gruesome. But it demonstrates the downward, then back, motion of Kennedy's head better than smaller images.)
Should one continue to doubt such a shot occurred, and insist that the “back-and-to-the-left” movement of Kennedy’s skull could only have come from the front, I suggest a simple test. I’ve done it way too many times. Lean forward 30 degrees…tilt your head 25 degrees to your left… and SLAP the top of your skull above your ear downwards, and see what happens. NO. I'M KIDDING. Don’t do this!!! It hurts a bit. Take my word for it, instead,--your head will bounce right up and throw your body backwards, exactly as Kennedy’s did in the frames after the fatal headshot. (And no, I'm not just making this up. This unique attribute of tangential hits is mentioned in the online paper Wound Ballistic Simulation by Jorma Jusilla, presented at the University of Helsinki: It states “A tangential hit also causes a torsion motion of the head which can cause serious injuries.” According to Funk and Wagnall’s, the word “torsion” means “The act of twisting.” I say that in case you might need to look it up. I did.)
In retrospect, the mystery over the cause of Kennedy’s back-and-to-the-left movement should have been solved a long time ago. All the debate over the “man behind the picket fence,” the “jet effect” and “neuro-muscular response” would have been unnecessary if someone used some common sense back in 1964. People knew the bullet broke up. People knew that bullets normally pierce a body without imparting enough energy into the body to throw it one way or the other. People knew that, on the other hand, a bullet striking tangentially, creating a gutter wound, and breaking up, could impart enough energy upon impact to slap a person one way or the other. People knew as well that the Zapruder film showed Kennedy being slapped back into his seat. The problem, one can only guess, is that the people knowing these things were not the same people.
The movement of Kennedy's head in the Zapruder film, when taken in conjunction with evidence previously discussed, including and especially that no bloody back spatter emanates from the back of Kennedy's head in the film, strongly suggest the bullet striking Kennedy at frame 313 struck his skull at the supposed exit, most probably from behind.
Still skeptical? Then let's take a closer look at the Zapruder film. This gif was also created by Dunckel.
And here's a closer and slower look.
Note that the only spray of blood to cross the back of the head comes from the large defect, and that no spray comes from the back of the head itself.
Still skeptical? Then let's take an even closer look, only slowed way down, and with the large defect cropped off.
The explosion is at the top of the head, and not the back of the head.
And let's not forget there was another film of the head shot, taken from opposite Zapruder...
Here, then, is the head shot as seen in the film of Orville Nix. This clip jostles back and forth, so that one can view the head shot with the head moving backward and when moving back into place. While this creates the illusion of two head shots, it also confirms what already seems obvious: the explosion was at the top right side of the head...exactly where it is in the Zapruder film.
Well I think that proves it. We should have listened to Bobby Hargis. Hargis, who rode a motorcycle in the motorcade to the left of Mrs. Kennedy, not only witnessed the head shot from quite close, but reported within days of the shooting that Kennedy "got hit in the side of his head, spinning it around."
He was on it from the beginning. But no one was paying attention. Some apparently wanted his words to suggest Kennedy was shot from the front, and so ignored the key part of his statement: that the bullet's impact imparted a spinning motion to Kennedy's head. Such a motion, as we've seen, is entirely consistent with the creation of the tangential wound described by Dr. Clark.
But is there any way we can further clear this up, and scientifically determine the direction of the bullet?
Behold the Harper Fragment
Yes. A study of the Harper fragment can help us make such a determination.
On 11-23-63, William Harper found a large skull fragment on the Dealey Plaza infield. He subsequently showed it to his uncle. His uncle, who happened to be a doctor, brought the fragment in to a local hospital the next day and showed it to some of his colleagues. He then gave it to the FBI. Strangely, no one knows for sure what happened to it after this. There is evidence that the FBI, after running some tests, gave the fragment to Kennedy’s personal physician, Dr. Burkley, on 11-27. It is fairly clear as well that even though the autopsy doctors had yet to finish their supplemental autopsy report on 11-27, and even though Dr. Burkley was in contact with the doctors during this time, he somehow failed to tell the doctors of the fragment’s existence. Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, however, in his testimony before the Warren Commission, mentioned that “a medical student or somebody in Dallas” had found a skull fragment in the street on the day after the assassination. As Hill continued on with the Kennedy family after the assassination, this could be an indication that Dr. Burkley did in fact give the fragment to the family. The HSCA concluded that Bobby Kennedy acquired the fragment and either destroyed it or buried it along with his brother’s brain and tissue slides.
It is from the HSCA interview of one of Dr. Harper’s colleagues, Dr. A. B. Cairns, a pathologist, and the photographs Harper’s colleagues made available to researchers, that we’ve come to learn most of what we think we know about the Harper fragment. Dr. Cairns told the HSCA that he believed the fragment came from the occipital bone, down near the spine. There is reason to doubt this, however. The Harper fragment was the largest skull fragment found outside the limousine. While an early FBI report claimed the fragment was found 25 feet behind Kennedy's location at the time of the head shot, this claim was made when Harper would have assumed the wreaths stacked up near the grassy knoll steps marked Kennedy's location when hit. Harper's subsequent actions support that he'd made such an assumption. Going back to the 1960's, he has marked the location where he found the fragment on numerous maps, and has consistently claimed he found the fragment on the grassy infield of Dealey Plaza across from the grassy knoll steps--a location roughly a hundred feet forward of Kennedy’s location at frame 313 of the Zapruder film. Since frame 313 of the Zapruder film shows a large skull fragment flying upwards from the front half of Kennedy’s skull, and heading forwards of the limousine, moreover, we have strong reasons to believe the Harper fragment is this fragment, and that it exploded from the top of Kennedy's skull.
And that's not just my opinion. Dr. Lawrence Angel, Dr. Joseph Riley, and Dr. Randy Robertson, among others, place the bone in the parietal area, above the right ear. This means that the fragment was adjacent to where I suspect the bullet first struck Kennedy. That Dr. Cairns reported “grayish discoloration” indicative of “lead-caused damage” on the outside of the fragment, then, would seem too much a coincidence, particularly in that researcher John Hunt was able to locate an x-ray of the fragment in the National Archives, and identify a small bit of metal (presumably lead) on the fragment, right by the discolored edge. (Hunt showed this to a receptive audience at the 2003 Wecht Conference in Pittsburgh.)
That a bullet broke up at this location should not have come as a surprise, moreover. Dr. Humes' and Dr. Boswell's assistant at the autopsy, James Curtis Jenkins, was interviewed by Andy Purdy for the HSCA on 8-29-77. Purdy's notes on this interview reflect that Jenkins told him that the bullet creating the large head wound "entered the top rear quadrant from the front side." Jenkins would subsequently explain how he came to this suspicion. He told writer Harrison Livingstone in the early 1990's that "just above the right ear there was some discoloration of the skull cavity with the bone area being gray and there was some speculation that it might be lead."
And this wasn't a one-time claim on Jenkins' part. Jenkins told William Law much the same thing in 1993. On November 22, 2013, at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas, Jenkins shared his recollections of what happened fifty years before with a small audience. I was in that audience, actually two audiences--one in the afternoon and one late at night--and took notes. When discussing this discoloration, Jenkins said he heard Dr. Pierre Finck tell Dr. Humes "that may be lead from a bullet."And that's not all. Jenkins also said that his impression upon viewing Kennedy's skull and x-rays was that fractures radiated out from the temple. Jenkins said that this impression, fueled by Finck's words, stuck with him throughout the autopsy, to such an extent that after the completion of the autopsy he "went home with the knowledge that the wound (he meant bullet) that killed the President entered here (he pointed to his temple) and exited here (he pointed to the top of his head)." He said he was surprised to find out later that the doctors had concluded that this wound--the one "in front and a little bit above the right ear"--was actually an exit.
Now, some discussion is in order. It seems obvious from Jenkins' statements that he was describing a lead smear adjacent to the large defect, and not a small hole by the temple. If he was describing a small hole, after all, how could he turn around and say the doctors said this was an exit? No such exit was described in the autopsy report!
In any event, his recollections changed. in 2018, a 76 year-old Jenkins released his book At the Cold Shoulder of History, and suddenly began claiming the exit defect was on the far back of the head, and that a small entrance was by the temple. That this is nonsense is perhaps best demonstrated by recalling Jenkins' previous claims to David Lifton, in Best Evidence. There, Lifton summed up his interview with a 38 year-old Jenkins by claiming "Since Jenkins didn't see a frontal entry wound, he assumed that it had been blown away when the bullet struck." So...Jenkins told Lifton he didn't see an entrance...and that he had assumed it was blown away. Well...in such case, the lead-smear by the temple Jenkins presumed marked an entrance would have to have been adjacent to the large hole on Kennedy's head, which would, in turn, have to have been on the top of his head by his temple--and NOT on the far back of his head at the level of his ears, where the elderly Jenkins moved the wound.
We should recall here as well that lead was also observed on the large triangular bone fragment found on the floor of the limousine, and that the outward beveling of the skull at this location helped convince the autopsy doctors the large defect on top of Kennedy's head, from whence this fragment derived, was in fact an exit. In his online review of the autopsy materials, written after his 2004 visit to the National Archives, Larry Sturdivan discussed these deposits in some detail. Sturdivan observed: "The lead fragments on this bone could not have been secondary deposits, stuck by clotted blood. As this fragment was dislodged in the explosion, the fragments had to be deposited into the surface of the bone by the bullet core.” This led him to conclude: “Lead deposits inside the cratered area indicates that the bone had already cratered before the core scraped by. This may mean that the leading surface of the bullet fragments was jacket…” Well, heck. Sturdivan had thereby admitted it was possible the bullet broke up at this location, and not after striking the windshield strut, as purported by Dr. Baden.
It's nice to find there's something on which we agree. That similar lead deposits have been noted on the Harper fragment, moreover, add considerable weight to my suspicion these two bone fragments comprise the vast majority of the large defect the autopsy doctors concluded was an exit.
But there's a problem with their conclusion. The grayish discoloration on the Harper fragment is on the outside of the fragment. This suggests that the bullet broke up while entering the skull above the ear, and not while exiting. That the "lead deposits inside the cratered area" observed by Sturdivan were observed on X-rays, whereby one could not tell whether the fragments were on the inside or outside of the skull, and that NO photographs were taken of the large fragment studied by Sturdivan, moreover, suggests the possibility the large defect determined to be an exit was really an entrance, and that the photographic proof for this was either deliberately not recorded, or subsequently destroyed.
But one needn't go that far, as it seems quite possible, likely even, that the supposed exit on the x-ray studied by Sturdivan was in fact an exit.
As incredible as it may seem, the Harper fragment supports this possibility. It offers compelling evidence that Kennedy’s large head wound was a tangential wound of both entrance and exit. The underside of the fragment reveals internal beveling, indicative of a bullet entrance, towards the back, and external beveling, indicative of an out-shoot, towards the front. (The triangular fragment studied by Sturdivan would presumably represent another portion of this outshoot.)
As the in-shoot and out-shoot run along the bottom edge of the Harper fragment, moreover, an upward lift of bone until it snapped off along its edge, spinning upwards, can easily be imagined... and seen... as such an explosion is forever captured in Z-313.
So let's go back and nail this down... Gutter wounds, or tangential wounds, are symptomatic of 6.5 mm military ammunition. Dr. Clark thought Kennedy's large head wound was a tangential wound.
So, was there anything about Kennedy's head wound to suggest Clark was right?
Yes. Missile Wounds of the Head and Neck (1999) reports that "class 3" gutter wounds are associated with "keyhole entrance" wounds?
Well, what's a keyhole entrance wound?
Combat Radiology (2010) credits Dr. Werner Spitz (of the Rockefeller Commission Panel and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel) as the first to call tangential or gutter wounds "keyhole fractures." Sure enough, Spitz and Fisher's Medicolegal Investigation of Death (1980) reports: “A shot fired at a curved part of the head at a shallow angle often causes a typically inward-beveled entrance hole adjacent to an outward-beveled exit hole, producing a keyhole-shaped defect in the skull. A fragment of the slug shaved off by the bone at the entrance hole may penetrate the brain…Fracture of the orbital roofs…are occasionally seen in the cases of keyhole type wounds involving the top of the head or forehead. Eyelid hemorrhage on the same side may result from the seepage…”
Now this is interesting... The description of the fractured orbits (eye sockets) and hemorrhage on the eyelids could have been taken from Kennedy’s autopsy report. As the shaved off fragment of a bullet hitting tangentially would appear to be the best explanation for the bullet “slice” visible on Kennedy’s x-rays, moreover, it seems quite possible that Fisher and Spitz were writing about Kennedy’s death, whether they realized it or not. And they weren't the last doctors to study the JFK medical evidence to do so...
External Beveling of Entrance Wounds by Handguns, a 1982 article by Dr. John Coe in The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, further discusses keyhole entrance wounds. In this article, Dr. Coe wrote “In the grazing wound of the skull showing external beveling, there is an elongated perforation of the bone in which one end of the perforation resembles the usual entry wound, while the opposite end of the defect has the external beveling associated with an exit wound. The most common explanation is the bullet, by penetrating the bone tangentially, is split or shaved. One portion of the bullet proceeds into the cranial vault, while the second portion is deflected outward, exiting the bone almost immediately after its penetration of the outer table. This deflected portion, in leaving the bone, produces external beveling in the usual manner.”
Now, is it just a coincidence that the lower edge of the Harper fragment (in Dr. Angel's orientation) appears to match the characteristics of a “keyhole” lesion representing both entrance and exit? Is it also a coincidence then that this “keyhole” seems to be running 6 degrees from left to right across the skull, which matches the angle leading back to the Texas School Book Depository we’ve already calculated? (The Moorman photo reveals that Kennedy’s head was turned 14 degrees to his left. Since the school book depository was 8 degrees to his right at Z-312, this could indicate the bullet traveled 6 degrees to the right along his skull.)
And, if not, is just a coincidence that Dr. Spitz wrote about keyhole wounds the year after the end of the HSCA seized to exist, and Dr. Coe wrote about them three years after the HSCA seized to exist.
I mean, did their study of Kennedy's photos and x-rays get them thinking, and were they unable to keep these thoughts to themselves?
Although Coe’s article was written specifically about handgun wounds, and Spitz and Fisher were more equipped to write about low-velocity gunshot wounds than high-velocity gunshot wounds, moreover, we have reason to believe that keyhole wounds can be created by both low-velocity ammunition and high-velocity ammunition. Beyond that the early descriptions of gutter wounds matched the descriptions of keyhole wounds offered by Spitz and Coe, we have more recent support for this belief.
Dr. Douglas S. Dixon, for one, associates “keyhole” wounds with rifle ammunition. In Management of Gunshot Wounds (1988), he writes: “In head wounds inflicted by large caliber handguns, rifles, and shotguns especially at closer ranges, the forces which accompany the projectile form a large temporary cavity that causes the skull to expand greatly. Reconstruction of the bony fragments may reveal the previously discussed configurations of beveling, keyhole lesions, or pattern of intersecting fractures; this is often best accomplished at autopsy.”
And he isn't alone. In his 1999 book Gunshot Wounds, to be clear, Dr. Vincent Di Maio discusses keyhole wounds of the bone in much the same language as Spitz and Coe, then adds "In a less common variant of keyhole wounds, the bullet does not split but enters the cranial cavity intact. This type of keyhole wound is common with full-metal jacketed bullets." Well, full-metal jackets are most normally associated with military rifle ammunition, and are not normally associated with low-velocity handgun ammunition.
Now let's circle back to an issue raised by Dixon. Implicit in his words is that, due to the skull’s fragmentation, a keyhole wound resulting from rifle fire can sometimes be discovered through a reconstruction of the skull fragments subsequent to the shooting. Well, he wasn't just blowing smoke. I found an article on such a reconstruction, praise Google, in the book Skeletal Trauma (2008), wherein Peruvian professors Elsa Cagigao and Melissa Lund described the reconstruction of the skull of a Chilean soldier killed over a hundred years before, and their discovery of a keyhole wound of both entrance and exit near the left temple of his skull.
Now, should one worry that my interpretation of the above passages are incorrect, and that my depiction of the beveling on the images above similarly incorrect, it should be noted that The Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences (2012) contains a sketch depicting a keyhole lesion. And that this sketch mirrors my presentation of beveling.
This makes it clear, then, that the beveling on the Harper fragment is the scientific proof of more than one shooter that some have been waiting for, and that others feared would surface.
Is it just a coincidence, then, that the Harper fragment, which was discovered just one day after Kennedy's demise, was not brought to the attention of the men still writing his autopsy protocol? While the final draft of the autopsy report was turned in on the 24th, and the fragment not given to the FBI until the 26th, the doctors’ supplementary examination of the brain and tissue slides was still over a week away. Why weren’t the autopsists shown this fragment, or even told of its existence? The 11-26-63 report of FBI Agents Sibert and O’Neil revealed that Dr. Humes had opted to hold on to the 10 x 6.5 mm beveled bone fragment of the President’s skull, but that he would make it available for further examination. This proves the FBI knew the doctors had an interest in such things. An 11-27-63 memo on Dr. Burkley's receipt of the Harper fragment noted it was to be "turned over to Naval Hospital by Dr. Burkley for examination, analysis, and retention until other disposition is directed."
So why weren't the doctors shown the Harper fragment? Did Burkley realize that the fragment offered proof for more than one shooter, and opt to keep this info to himself?
Perhaps. The photo above was found online. It shows a keyhole wound. It is part of the Civil War Collection at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C. Dr. Finck was, of course, the institute's resident expert on gunshot wounds in 1963. He had almost certainly studied this skull. He almost certainly knew about keyhole wounds. And he may have even recognized the Harper fragment as the upper margin of such a wound, had he been shown the fragment.
Dr. Mantik and Mr. Harper
Ironically, the true importance of the Harper fragment has long been overlooked not through the actions of single-assassin theorists, but conspiracy theorists... They just won't accept that the fragment was dislodged from the top of Kennedy's head and that this wound could represent both an entrance and an exit...
Let me explain...
From dozens of witnesses claiming to have heard shots from west of the depository, and a half dozen or more claiming to have seen smoke on the grassy knoll after the shots, the vast majority of conspiracy researchers have long felt the fatal shot was fired from in front of Kennedy. That suspicion, when coupled with the recollection held by so many witnesses at Parkland Hospital--that Kennedy's large head wound was on the back of his head--has led them to accept that a shot fired from in front of Kennedy blew out the back of his head. As Dr. Cairns believed the Harper fragment was occipital, moreover, it seems totally obvious to them that the Harper fragment was blown out the back of Kennedy's head. It totally adds up. It totally makes sense.
The Harper fragment's exploding from the back of Kennedy's head has become such a tenet of the conspiracy theorist "religion," for that matter, that Don Thomas, in his 2010 book Hear No Evil, was reluctant to dispute it, even though he readily accepted that the Harper fragment was NOT occipital bone. That's right. While presumably under the influence of radiologist Randy Robertson, who has come to conclude the largest fragment x-rayed at autopsy was blown out the back of Kennedy's head (which is, in itself fairly strange, considering this fragment was found on the floor of the limousine), Thomas claimed that the Harper fragment was "a piece of the posterior parietal bone which was driven out the rear of the president's cranium." Now, that's a surprise. Dr. Angel, upon whom Thomas relied for his assessment the fragment was parietal, placed the fragment at the top of Kennedy's head near the front of the parietal bone, and not at the posterior edge of the parietal bone. And then there's this. Kennedy's head was leaning forward at frame 313. Thomas believes the shot was fired from in front of Kennedy. There is simply no way a skull fragment from the top of Kennedy's head where Angel placed it could be driven out the rear of his head, when his head was leaning forward. One can only conclude, then, that Thomas was trying to have it both ways, and had decided to ignore Angel's placement of the bone towards the front of the parietal bone, and to presume instead that it sprang from the top of the back of Kennedy's head in the rear-most part of the parietal bone...where no doctor had claimed it had sprung, and where it clearly did not fit...
And Thomas wasn't the only one to claim the Harper fragment was parietal bone...that was blown out the back of Kennedy's head. Heck, he wasn't even the only one that year to do so...
In 2010, in his book Head Shot, research physicist G. Paul Chambers topped Thomas in the "now ain't that weird" department. On page 94, he proposed that the fragment was parietal bone, and cited the work of Dr. Joseph Riley in support. He then flew off the rails. A few pages later, he claimed "there is a clear and apparent inconsistency with the Zapruder film, taken at the time of the assassination, and the descriptions of the wounds to Kennedy's head provided at the official autopsy. The damaged area shown on the film is consistent, however, with parietal bone (from the side of Kennedy's head) found on the street after the assassination (the Harper fragment). This would be reasonable if the bullet struck Kennedy from the right front side and sheared off part of his skull on the side of his head just forward of his right ear." He then discussed Dr. Clark's belief the large head wound was a tangential wound of both entrance and exit, and concluded "a bullet striking from the front side could shear off the piece of parietal (side) bone, propelling it backward to the rear of the vehicle, and ultimately ending up in the street at Dealey Plaza."
So, yeah. Chambers went along with the fragment's being parietal bone. And added into it what I'd come to believe no one, except possibly Dr. Michael Baden, actually believed--that the Harper fragment derived from a location on the side of the head just forward of the right ear. Well, this made little sense, and the mistakes made by Chambers discounted the possibility we should expect it to make sense. Now, where do I begin? First, there is no inconsistency between the film and the descriptions provided at the autopsy. (This will be discussed in chapter 18c.) Second, the Harper fragment was not found on the street, but on the grass. Third, as supported by Billy Harper, who claimed he'd found the fragment a hundred feet or so ahead of where Kennedy is hit in the Zapruder film, the Harper fragment was not propelled to the rear of the vehicle.
Embarrassingly, Chambers' discussion of the Harper fragment was so riddled with errors that he couldn't even get the date of its discovery correct. He claimed it was found on the day of the assassination, when Harper, who would be in a position to know, said it was found the next day.
But what of the others? Those believing the Harper fragment occipital bone? Well, let's just say they are on firmer ground than Thomas, and Chambers...
Until one looks at the autopsy photos and X-rays... and the assassination films... and studies the statements of those witnessing the shooting... and closely studies the writings of those pushing this scenario...
Let's take, for example, Jim Douglass, in JFK and the Unspeakable (a book I recommend under the proviso one not take the specifics of the crime he describes too seriously):
On page 283, Douglass discusses the research of Dr. David Mantik, who, over nine visits to the National Archives, observed what he called a "patch" toward the back of Kennedy's lateral skull x-rays. (This will be discussed in much greater detail in chapters 18 and 18b.)
Here is how Douglass, and all-too many conspiracy theorists, present Mantik's findings:
"There was far too much bone density being shown in the rear of of JFK's skull relative to the front. The X-ray had to have been a composite. The optical density data indicated a forgery in which a patch had been placed over an original x-ray to cover the rear part of the skull--corresponding to the gap left in part by the Harper fragment, evidence of an exit wound. The obvious purpose was to cover-up evidence of a shot from the front that, judging from the original Parkland observations, had created an exit hole the size of one's fist in the back of the head..."
Douglass later concludes this line of thought: "In the case of the the government's X-rays, their exact duplication of the Harper fragment, as if that bullet-blasted bone were still in the slain president's skull, has turned out to be the revelation of the cover-up."
So there you have it. The Parkland witnesses said there was a hole on the back of Kennedy's head. Dr. Cairns said he thought the Harper fragment came from the back of Kennedy's head. Dr. Mantik shares this conclusion. Dr. Mantik has also concluded there is a white patch on the back of Kennedy's lateral X-rays. ERGO, we can assume the white patch was created to conceal the hole on the back of Kennedy's head from where the Harper fragment was blasted. This is supported, furthermore, by the Harper fragment's being found 25 feet south of the assassination site...which means it landed behind the limousine.
This is how a significant number, perhaps most, conspiracy theorists view the evidence.
The problem is...IT"S JUST NOT TRUE.
Let me repeat something I touched upon awhile back. While the early reports on Harper's finding of the fragment do indeed claim he found the fragment 25 feet south of the assassination location, and while writers such as Mantik have extrapolated from this that the fragment was found "not too far from where Jean Hill had been standing," that is, behind Kennedy's location at the moment of the fatal head shot,Harper was not a witness to the shooting. In fact, he found the fragment the next day. By that time, mourners had gathered opposite the steps in front of Kennedy at the time of head shot. This is shown in numerous photos. This raises the question, then, of whether or not Harper, when first interviewed, had known that Kennedy had actually been shot before reaching this location.
Fortunately, we have an answer to this. In 1969, researcher Howard Roffman contacted Harper and asked him to mark on a map where he found the fragment. Sure enough, Harper marked a location to the south of the steps in a location approximately 100 feet in front and slightly to the left of Kennedy at the time of the actual head shot. And this was no one time thing. He has marked similar maps for others. The evidence, then, suggests the Harper fragment was not blown out the back of Kennedy's head, as pushed by most conspiracy theorists, but was blown forward from the top of his head, as depicted in the Zapruder film.
Well, then what about Mantik...
In the very paper Douglass cites as support for the nice, neat scenario described above, Dr. Mantik refutes much of Douglass' scenario. First, as seen on the slide above, while Dr. Mantik concluded the Harper fragment derived from the back of the skull, he concluded it derived from the central part of the back of the skull, NOT from the location of the wound to the right of mid-line described by the Parkland witnesses, NOR in the location on the right where he'd discovered a white "patch" on the x-rays.
(In a 10-11-10 post on the Education Forum, Dr. Mantik addressed this very point. In comments posted by Dr. James Fetzer, Mantik's biggest supporter, Mantik admitted "I have never demonstrated exactly where on the lateral skull X-ray the Harper would appear, but it would be at the very rear." He had thereby confirmed my claim. Neither the wound described by the Parkland witnesses nor the location covered by the "white patch" are at the very rear.)
Second, while Dr. Mantik, during an 11-18-93 press conference announcing his conclusions regarding the so-called white patch, was reported to have claimed that "someone...put a great white patch on the back of the lateral X-ray to cover up the hole, which is why the area is so extraordinarily white," he claimed a decade later, in the paper cited by Douglass, that the "white patch was almost certainly added in the dark room. Its purpose was to emphasize the resulting dark area in front, which suggested that a bullet had exited from the front."
Read Mantik's 2003 paper, containing his ultimate conclusions, if you don't believe me: http://www.assassinationresearch.com/v2n2/pittsburgh.pdf
(In the 10-11-10 post by Fetzer, Dr. Mantik responded to this point as well. He wrote: "The original lateral X-ray probably showed missing BRAIN in the current area of the WHITE PATCH. It was the missing brain, not missing skull, that likely led to the WHITE PATCH." He'd thereby confirmed my claims a second time.)
Jim Douglass was wrong. Mantik had not concluded that the "white patch" at the rear of the skull corresponded "to the gap left in part by the Harper fragment."
Mantik's observations reveal his own bias, however. While the good doctor, true to the beliefs of most conspiracy theorists, concluded the Harper fragment was occipital bone, the reasons he gives for rejecting Dr. Angel's conclusion it was parietal bone (in the position depicted in the middle of the slide above) are remarkably contrived. First, in the paper at the link above, he claims that Angel "did not know that occipital bone was missing so this site at the top of the head was his only option." Uhhh... Dr. Angel had been provided both the autopsy photos and x-rays, which showed no occipital bone to be missing. So how was Angel to find out it was missing? From the say-so of Dr. Cairns, who only guessed that the Harper fragment was occipital? Second, once again in the paper linked above, he rejects Angel’s conclusion chiefly because Angel’s conclusion would imply “a parietal entry (because the lead smudge is on the outside), an option that virtually no one would support.”
Hmmm... Note the parentheses. Mantik says the lead smudge is on the outside, and that this suggests an entrance. Notice that he makes no mention of beveling. Did he realize that the beveling in the location of the lead smudge was outward beveling, suggesting an exit, and not an entrance? And did he then decide to withhold this from his readers? He had, after all, offered up that, in his orientation for the fragment, this smudge lined up with the entrance location observed at autopsy. He wouldn't withhold from his readers that the beveling at this location suggested an exit, and not an entrance? Would he? I don't know. Perhaps he never noticed the beveling.
Now note the last words. Mantik rejects Angel's orientation for the fragment not because it's unlikely, but because he thinks few would support it.
I hope to have changed that. And hope to have pushed a few researchers to look in...
The Right Direction
Now, to be clear, most of those disagreeing with my identification of the Harper Fragment as part of a keyhole entrance do so because the beveling on the fragment suggests the shot came from the rear. They just can't accept that--and so pretend what I have just shown to be true is mere speculation, etc.
But they fail to see that it's not just the beveling on the Harper fragment that suggests the shot came from behind, but the lacerations of Kennedy's scalp.
Here, from Vincent J. DiMaio's acclaimed text Gunshot Wounds, is the scalp overlying a small tangential wound of entrance on a skull, with an arrow added to show the direction of fire.
(Yes, yes, I know it's upside down. But I wanted it to run left to right. For comparison purposes.)
Note that there are no scalp lacerations at the point of first impact along the left edge of the photo as presented above. Note that the scalp lacerations start near the right edge of the main defect, and extend forward of the main defect.
Now, here are the four major lacerations in Kennedy's scalp, as recorded in the autopsy protocol.
Well, this is something. Three of the four tears extended forward from the large defect. Two of these three were inconsistent with the fatal shot's coming from Kennedy's right-front (i.e. the grassy knoll), moreover.
Here is my attempt to depict these scalp lacerations on a photo of Kennedy.
Note that a bullet fired from the location of the photographer and impacting Kennedy's skull at the front edge of the large defect (near the beginnings of lacerations A and B) would be unlikely to create lacerations in the locations of lacerations A and B. These lacerations are thereby inconsistent with the "tangential wound created by a bullet fired from the grassy knoll theory" currently in vogue.
Now note that a bullet's impacting at the rear edge of the large defect (at the rearmost aspect of the Harper fragment in Dr. Angel's orientation, which is to say, above and slightly behind Kennedy's right ear) is perfectly consistent with these lacerations, and that the upward explosion of the Harper fragment as seen in the Zapruder film can be correlated to laceration D, and the forward explosion of the large triangular fragment onto the floor of the limousine can be correlated to laceration C.
By George, I think we've got it.
Still, how does this laceration pattern compare to the laceration pattern apparent on the scalp of "class 3" tangential wound recipients?
Well, sadly, not much has been written on the scalp laceration pattern of class 3 tangential wounds. But I found an image of a class 3 tangential wound in Color Atlas of Forensic Medicine and Pathology by Charles A. Catanese...that is nevertheless intriguing.
I have placed this photo next to the color right lateral photo of Kennedy, below. It''s a bit stomach-churning, I know. But it's probably worth taking a look.
Now consider that the bullet creating the tangential wound on the victim at right traveled from our left to right. Well, for me, this was a bit counter-intuitive, as I'd originally assumed the bullet skimmed along the skull from our right to left. I then realized...the bullet hit the skull at a shallow angle from left to right...knocking some skull fragments forward. As these skull fragments flew forward, then, they pulled the skin on the far side of the skull defect forward with them, stripping this skin from the bone, and leaving a big red gash, that ended in a point.
Now look at Kennedy's forehead. Could laceration b--the red triangle that dives down toward Kennedy's eyebrow--have been created by a skull fragment's exploding forward from the top of Kennedy's head?
I suspect so. While sifting through The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 1861–65, Part I, Volume II, published 1870, I came across dozens of references to missile impacts in which skin was stripped from the bone.
Here are twelve:
KHALL, CHRISTiAN, Private, Co. K, 130th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was wounded, at the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 13th, 1862. by a musket ball which caused a contusion of the outer table of the right parietal bone above and behind the protuberance. The concussion was slight, not even knocking him down, or causing any disturbance of his mental faculties... On admission, the wound looked healthy, and discharged normal pus. No fracture could be detected, but the bone was denuded of periosteum...
SNYDER, Joseph, Colonel, 7th West Virginia Volunteers, received, at the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 13th, 1862, a severe gunshot contusion of the skull. The bone was denuded of periosteum, and slight paralysis of the left arm supervened...
Case.—Private John Anderson, Co. A, 77th Illinois Volunteers, was wounded at the battle of Arkansas Post, January 11th, 1863, by a conoidal musket ball which struck at the junction of the frontal and left parietal bones, and passed backward near the sagittal suture almost as far as the lambdoidal, denuded the bone and grooved the outer table for a length of two and one half inches...
Case.—Private James B. Perkins, Co. H, 20th Connecticut Volunteers, aged 23 years, was wounded at the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, May 3rd, 1863, by a musket bail which fractured the frontal bone an inch above the right eye and lodged in the frontal sinus...an examination of the wound revealed the external table denuded and slightly depressed...
Thompson, Kund, Private, Co. I, 82nd Illinois Volunteers, aged 30 years, received, at the battle of Chancellorsville,Virginia, May 3rd, 1863, a wound by a pistol ball, which struck the head and denuded the left parietal of periosteum...
WELD, S., Corporal, Co. K, 19th Maine Volunteers, aged 31 years, was wounded, at the battle of the Po River, Virginia, May 13th, 1864, by a conoidal musket ball, which struck at the vertex of the head producing an open wound three inches in length and one in breadth, and denuding a portion of bone of its periosteum...
Unknown. A soldier, wounded in one of the battles between the Wilderness and Petersburg, in May, 1864, receiving a laceration of the scalp, with contusion of the vault of the cranium, by a musket ball. He was sent to an hospital in Philadelphia. The bone, at the point at which the pericranium was denuded, necrosed and exfoliated, and was removed by operation...
Case.—Private Joseph H. Clouse. Co. H, 20th Indiana Volunteers, was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 3rd, 1864, by a conoidal ball, which entered just above the frontal eminence of the left side, and made a large flesh wound... On the 24th, the edges were approximating. About a square inch of the bone was visible, one-half of which was denuded of its periosteum...
Case.—Private George Gold, Co. I, 155th Pennsylvania Volunteers, aged 23 years, was admitted to Harewood Hospital on October 7th, 1864. He had been wounded at Poplar Grove Church, on September 30th, by a musket ball, which struck the scalp, passing from before backwards, tearing up a portion about three inches in length by one inch in breadth, laying bare the skull and denuding it of its pericranium for the space of three inches in length and one inch in breadth, through the middle of which space the sagittal suture passed, meeting the coronal at the anterior border...
Case 13.—Sergeant William H. B--- , Co. K, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, aged 24 years, was wounded at the battle of Cedar Creek, October 19th, 1864. He believed that he was struck on the top of the head by a fragment of shell, but the wound had more the appearance of an injury inflicted by a musket ball...A scalp wound two inches long was found about an inch behind the coronal suture and
parallel to it. It extended further to the left than to the right side. The bone was denuded of periosteum over a space an inch long and half an inch wide. The bone appeared to be otherwise uninjured...
CASE.—Private Reuben Clark, Co. H, 31st Maine Volunteers, aged 21 years, was wounded at the battle of Petersburg, Virginia, April 2nd, 1865, by a fragment of shell, which struck near the anterior superior angle of the right parietal bone, producing a fissure one and one-half inches in length, denuding the bone of the periosteum, and slightly depressing the external table...
Case 17.—Private Denis S, Co. E, 2nd Virginia Cavalry, aged 21 years, was wounded, in an engagement at Harper's Farm, near Appomattox Court House, on April 6th, 1865, by the oblique impact of a musket ball which denuded and contused the frontal bone a little below the coronal suture and to the left of the median line...
Now note the location of the periosteum, or pericranium.
Now, here's the thing. When one sifts through these old medical records, one finds that the denuding of bone was always reported in connection to a sabre cut or a tangential entrance of a missile of one kind or another. Not once was it reported in connection with the exit of a perforating missile from the head. Now, this could be because so few of those receiving a perforating missile of the head survived long enough to make it to a doctor.
But it appears to be that a bullet wound in which denuded bone is displayed is either an entrance or a tangential wound of both entrance and exit, as opposed to being an exit for a bullet entering on the other side of the head.
And this isn't just my assumption.
Nope. When it comes to my impression skin may be missing at the entrance of a bullet on the skull, but would not be missing at the exit of a bullet on the skull, I'm in surprising company. Very surprising.
The “Missing” Scalp
Some things are best defined by what they're missing. Accordingly, the evidence that ultimately convinced me the large head wound was tangential in nature was something that was missing: scalp.
The autopsy protocol describes Kennedy’s large head wound as follows: “There is a large irregular defect of the scalp and skull on the right involving chiefly the parietal bone but extending somewhat into the temporal and occipital regions. In this region there is an actual absence of scalp and bone producing a defect which measures approximately 13 cm in greatest diameter.” And this wasn't a one-time claim. In his 3-16-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, Dr. Humes repeated his claim that scalp was missing. He testified that 1) the large "defect involved both the scalp and the underlying skull...;" 2) "there was a defect in the scalp and some scalp tissue was not available;" and 3) that the largest part of the bullet which broke up on impact "accounted for this very large defect, for the multiple fractures of the skull, and for the loss of brain and scalp tissue..."
There can be no doubt then that Dr. Humes felt scalp was missing, and that Dr.s Boswell and Finck agreed. Or, at least agreed enough to sign the autopsy protocol in which it was described...
But there's more to this missing scalp than one might suspect...
Medicolegal Investigation of Death addresses missing scalp as follows: “A point frequently ignored, or forgotten, in comparing entrance and exit wounds is that approximation of the edges of an entrance wound usually retains a small central defect, a missing area of skin. On the other hand, approximation of the edges of the exit re-establishes the skin’s integrity.” The authors of Medicolegal Investigation of Death were Dr. Russell Fisher, of the Clark Panel, and Dr. Werner Spitz, of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. The pathology panel’s report was most likely accommodating Spitz, then, when it critiqued the autopsy report’s description as follows: “It is probably misleading in the sense that it describes “an actual absence of skin and bone. The scalp was probably virtually all present, but torn and displaced…”
Uhh, no... This last line, disturbingly, ignores that Dr. William Kemp Clark, the one Parkland doctor to closely inspect Kennedy’s head wound, shared the observations of the autopsists, and independently observed “There was considerable loss of scalp and bone tissue” in a summary of the reports written by the Parkland staff on the day of the shooting. (Wasn’t this required reading?)
Still, Dr. Clark was but one doctor...
Well, this line in the Panel's report (the one claiming JFK's scalp was "probably virtually all present")also ignores that Dr. Malcolm Perry, the doctor most intimately involved in the efforts to revive Kennedy at Parkland, similarly claimed that "both scalp and portions of skull were absent" when testifying before the Warren Commission on 3-30-64.
And it also ignores that Dr. James Carrico, the first doctor to inspect Kennedy's wounds at Parkland, confirmed Clark's and Perry's accounts to the HSCA's investigators on 1-11-78. He told them that the large head wound "had blood and hair all around it." All around it, and not above it. And should one suppose Carrico thought the scalp attached to this hair could be pulled back over the wound, he clarified his position on this, once and for all, in an 8-2-97 oral history with the Sixth Floor Museum, when he described the right side of Kennedy's head as having "a big chunk of bone and scalp missing."
And that's not even to mention the witnesses claiming to see this hairy scalp on bone left in the limousine...
On 11-30-63, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, who'd climbed onto the back of Kennedy's limo just after the fatal shot was fired, wrote a report that included an often-overlooked detail. He wrote: "As I lay over the top of the back seat I noticed a portion of the President's head on the right rear side was missing and he was bleeding profusely. Part of his brain was gone. I saw a part of his skull with hair on it lieing in the seat."
And Hill wasn't the only one to see this hairy fragment. Motorcycle Officer Bobby Joe Dale arrived upon the scene just as the President's body was rushed into the emergency room. He failed to get a look at the President. He did, however, get a look at the back seat of the limo. Here's what he told Larry Sneed, as published in No More Silence (1998): "Blood and matter was everywhere inside the car including a bone fragment which was oblong shaped, probably an inch to an inch and a half long by three-quarters of an inch wide. As I turned it over and looked at it, I determined that it came from some part of the forehead because there was hair on it which appeared to be near the hairline."
And Dale wasn't the only motorcycle officer to make such a statement. When interviewed for the 2008 Discovery Channel program Inside the Target Car, H.B. McClain related: "When I raised her up (he means Mrs. Kennedy)...I could see it on the floor. That's pieces of skull with the hair on it."
So what happened to this hairy fragment, you might ask? Well, it's tough to say. Secret Service Agent Sam Kinney retrieved a large skull fragment from the limousine as it was flown back from Dallas, but never described this fragment as being covered with hair.
And there's this. When interviewed for No More Silence (1998), FBI agent Vincent Drain, who arrived at Parkland within a half hour or so of the shooting, told Larry Sneed: "It may have been the security officer or one of the other officers who gave me a portion of the skull which was about the size of a teacup, much larger than a silver dollar. Apparently the explosion had jerked it because the hair was still on it. I carried that back to Washington later that night and turned it over to the FBI laboratory."
(Drain's account is curious,to say the least, as he arrived in Washington after the conclusion of the autopsy and there is no record whatsoever of a relatively large bone fragment arriving at the laboratory on the 23rd.)
In any event... at least one skull fragment had hair on it. This fragment could not have come from the small entrance wound on the back of the head, and must have come from the large defect on the top of the head.
This marked the large defect as an entrance, or more logically, a tangential wound of both entrance and exit.
Now that, by itself, represents one of the most important and OVERLOOKED facts about the case.
But, get this, that's not the only thing to be learned from the missing scalp!
Yep, the “missing” scalp returned to center stage on 1-21-00, when the government released a report on tests conducted on CE 567, comprising both the nose of a bullet found on the driver’s seat of Kennedy’s limousine, and foreign material which had apparently been removed from or fallen from this fragment. Although the FBI's Robert Frazier, in his 3-31-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, claimed that when he inspected CE 567 and 569 on 11-23-63 "there was a very slight residue of blood or some other material adhering" to the fragments that "was wiped off to clean up the bullet for examination," it had long been observed that some foreign material remained within the crumpled ridges of CE 567, and that some additional foreign material had fallen off the fragment, and now resided in the evidence dish as part of the exhibit. An HSCA consultant had even asked that tests be conducted on this material. These tests were not conducted, however, until after the uproar surrounding Oliver Stone’s film JFK brought the ARRB into existence. The results of these tests, initially reported on 9-16-98, were that 3 of the 4 pieces of foreign material that were no longer on the fragment were human SKIN, and that the fourth was human tissue. As CE 567 was linked via the neutron activation analysis to the bullet fragments found in Kennedy’s brain, and as there was little scalp missing at the small entrance near the EOP, this finding essentially confirms the tangential entrance I’ve theorized.
Those wishing to read the complete report on the CE 567 foreign material should go here
The significance of this skin is further amplified when one considers that, according to Dr. Vincent J.M. DiMaio, in his standard text Gunshot Wounds, of all the tissues likely to be found on a bullet, "Skin was the least commonly encountered." DiMaio further specifies that "In regard to gunshot wounds of the head, bone chips, skeletal muscle, connective tissue, and strips of small vessels were commonly identified. Fragments of brain were present but were not readily recognizable as neural in origin." Skin didn't even make the list.
And DiMaio is no outlier, at least not on this subject. Here's Bernd Karger, in his article Forensic Ballistics, published in Forensic Pathology Reviews (2008): "Human trace evidence on bullets has been investigated by routine cytological methods but individualisation is commonly not possible, and cells or even cell layers can be found in the cavities of hollow point bullets but are rarely found on the smooth surfaces of FMJ bullets."
So, there it is. Beyond that not enough skin was missing from either of the proposed entrance wounds on the back of Kennedy's head to support that the skin on CE 567 came from the back of his head, the likelihood of skin becoming attached to the nose of the bullet while it was undeformed, at either its entrance or its exit, is next to nothing.
Now, some would object here and claim that, seeing as the foreign material later determined to be skin and tissue just showed up in the evidence dish, without a paper trail proving it had been removed from the fragment by the FBI, or had previously been observed on the fragment, that it could have been planted in the dish, or added in later by mistake.
But this is nonsense.
1. How and why would someone add four pieces of skin and tissue to the exhibit dish?
2. Since the earliest photos of the bullet fragment in CE 567 reveal a more substantial fragment than that in the subsequent photos, where the fragment is accompanied by the four pieces of skin and tissue in the dish, it seems possible--probable even--that the skin and tissue currently in the dish was part of this original fragment.
Here, see for yourself.
The black and white photo comes from the FBI's 12-9-63 report to President Johnson (CD1) and the color photo is one of the most recent photos of the fragment released by the Archives.
There certainly seems to be more material on the right side of the fragment in the black and white photo than in the color photo.
And, should that not be obvious, here are some stills taken of the 360 degree view of the fragment made available in 2019.
More foreign material is apparent on the fragment in the black and white photo than on the fragment in the color photos. Correct?
And no, this wasn't lead that was subsequently removed from the bullet for testing. The FBI's records on its 1964 neutron activation analysis indicate the fragment initially weighed 44.6 grains, or 2,890 mg, and that they removed 68.87 mg for testing. Of course, CE 567 was tested once again in 1977, by Dr. Vincent Guinn for the HSCA. Well, he was even more conservative. His report reveals that he removed but 50.5 mg for testing. That means but 119.37 mg of lead was removed for testing--this is but 4% of the initial weight of the fragment. Well, it seems clear you would need to remove far more than 4% of the fragment in the black and white photo for it to look like the fragment in the color photos.
Let's sum up, then, what we've recently discussed. From the available forensic literature and eyewitness evidence it is clear that 1) the absence of skin from a bullet wound is a sign it's an entrance wound; 2) skin was missing from the large defect; 3) skin is not normally found on bullets; 4) a significant amount of skin shares an exhibit number with, and presumably once resided upon, a bullet fragment linked to the fragments in Kennedy's brain; and 5) the amount of skin with this fragment is best explained by accepting the proposition this bullet busted up at the site of the large defect after striking the skull at an angle.
It all adds up. It simply makes NO SENSE to believe this skin got attached to the nose of the bullet as it entered the back of Kennedy's head, and then stayed attached to the nose as it tumbled through his brain, as there was very little skin missing from the supposed entrance on the back of the head. Simultaneously, it makes NO SENSE to believe this skin attached itself to the bullet upon exit after transiting the head, as the bullet would have little or no contact with the skin exploding outwards from the head at the exit. No, the realization skin was on this bullet is best explained--no, scratch that, can only be honestly explained--by the bullet's having impacted Kennedy's head at the large defect, where skin was actually missing. Yes, the skin on the bullet nose proves it. The large defect was a tangential wound, precisely as proposed by Dr. Clark on 11-22-63.
Alone Again Orr
It should be noted, however, that, much as with the Harper fragment, where the pet theory of a conspiracy theorist (Dr. David Mantik) has prevented many from understanding its true significance, the same is true of the skin on the bullet nose, where John Orr, a former Justice Dept. employee and the initiator of the FBI's tests, has continued to obscure its true significance...in TV shows such as Fox News' special 50 Years of Questions, broadcast in 2013.
You see, Orr has a theory...that the bullet that became CE 567 entered Kennedy's back at frame 204, and went on to exit his throat, and then explode when it hit the windshield frame. In Orr's mind, this both separates Kennedy's wounds from Connally's wounds and kills the single-bullet theory, and makes available a new explanation for Kennedy's head wound and Connally's wrist wound, whereby they were created by a soft-nosed hunting bullet.
So, yes, Orr is a CT. He holds that three bullets struck the car's occupants: one striking Kennedy's back and exiting his throat; one striking Connally in the back and exiting his chest; and one striking Kennedy in the back of the head which exited at the top of his head and proceeded down through Connally's wrist. He says this last one, for that matter, was fired from the roof of the County Records Building.
But there's a HUGE problem with Orr's theory, that neither he nor his friends at FOX will acknowledge.
For his theory to be true, the skin on 567 would have to have come from Kennedy's back wound or throat wound--unusually small wounds with little missing skin. Since the bullet creating these wounds was--per Orr's theory--yet to strike a hard surface and become deformed, moreover, his theory holds as well that this skin clung to the un-blemished nose of the bullet as it sailed through the air before exploding on impact with the windshield frame.
And that, my friends, is balderdash!
It was only when reviewing this material in 2019, for that matter, that it hit me: that in my impression the bullet that became CE 567 and CE 569 was still spinning, while in Orr's impression it had stopped spinning.
Now, let me explain. The early books on wound ballistics often theorized that the spin imparted on a rifle bullet as it headed down the barrel was a factor in its wounding capabilities. While this turned out to be a bit of a mirage, it nevertheless appears true that a spinning bullet will react differently to an impact on a hard surface than a bullet that is not spinning.
I mean, think about it. If a bullet fired from the sniper's nest entered Kennedy's back, then exited his throat, then nicked his tie, as per Orr, it would have to have changed directions before proceeding on to strike the windshield frame, and the spin around its axis would undoubtedly have been slowed. In such case, then, the appearance of CE 567 and 569 would reflect that the bullet had not been spinning at a high velocity when it impacted the windshield frame.
But if the bullet first impacted the top of Kennedy's head, well, then, the bullet would have broken up while spinning at a high velocity, and this would be reflected in the twisted nature of the bullet fragments.
Gunshot Injuries by Sir Thomas Longmore (1895) presents the following image:
Here's Longmore's explanation for a series of illustrations, of which this was one: "The projectile shown in the illustrations was fired from a rifle of .30-inch calibre, was 220 grains in weight, had an initial velocity of 2000 foot-seconds, and was composed of a core of compressed lead within an envelope of German silver. After passing through the cadavers the bullets were caught in sawdust placed behind them."
And here is the caption to this particular illustration: "No. 1. (a) The core separated from the envelope and badly mushroomed (b) fragment of the envelope, the only one recovered. The bullet was fired into an arm at 17 yards' distance, with a full charge of powder. The humerus was pulverized 3 inches in extent, and the soft parts showed wide explosive effects."
So this is an illustration of what a rapidly spinning bullet looks like after coming to a sudden stop.
Now here are CE 567 and CE 569, the bullet fragments discovered in the front compartment of Kennedy's limousine.
Hmmm... A (at left in Longmore's illustration) is a piece of lead that has lost its jacket, and CE 569 (at left above) is a piece of jacket that has lost its lead.
But more telling is this... B in Longmore's illustration looks a heckuva lot like CE 567.
It's hard to believe this is a coincidence.
Some Sentences on the Fragments
As we've seen, CE 569, the base of the bullet, was all copper, and completely devoid of the lead it once encompassed.
Well, this is yet another data point that feeds into the possibility the fatal bullet hit on a tangent, and created a tangential wound of both entrance and exit.
This becomes clear, moreover, while reading through Manual of Forensic Emergency Medicine by Ralph Riviello, published 2009. There, in a chapter by Dr.s Ronald F. Sing and J. Michael Sullivan, it is explained that with some tangential wounds "As the bullet strikes the skull, the impact separates the bullet from the jacket." They then proceed to claim that the "lead has greater density and mass as it travels into the skull" and that, at this same time, "the lesser mass of the metal jacket is deflected off the skull..."
Hmmm... IF the bullet whose fragments were found in the front compartment of the limo exited from Kennedy's skull intact and broke up upon hitting the windshield strut, as claimed by Dr. Baden, among others, why oh why was the base of this bullet missing its lead? This bullet is presumed to have broken into pieces upon impact with the windshield strut. It makes little sense that the lead from the base of this bullet would continue forward without its copper jacket. I mean--continue forward where? Only one impact was noted on the windshield strut, and only one impact noted by the rear-view mirror--and that impact, in Baden's scenario, anyhow--was almost certainly caused by the now-empty copper base of the bullet. So what happened to the lead?
Does it not make more sense to assume the lead separated from the outer shell when the bullet struck the skull on a tangent, as described by Dr.s Sing and Sullivan? In such a scenario, the lead could continue onward after slicing across the top of the head and brain...only to be deflected by the skull and end up hitting the curb down by James Tague.
The Smoking Spine?
The realization that Baden's Exhibit F-58 misrepresented the location of Kennedy's back wound, and moved it further from the spine, led me to wonder just how a bullet entering a back within two inches of the middle of a grown man’s spine can exit from the middle of his throat without striking his spine.Since there was NO damage to the nose of the purported magic bullet, the slightest tick of a transverse process destroys the single-bullet theory. Someone needs to show us then how the proposed magic bullet made its way through Kennedy’s body without striking any bone. Every time a single-bullet theorist makes an appearance the audience should start chanting “spine…spine…” until he deals with this problem. I’m almost serious.
I mean, it's not as if Arlen Specter, when developing his theory, was unaware of this problem. Pathologists consulted for an 11-24-63 article for the Associated Press had claimed that any bullet entering or exiting near the Adam's Apple would "probably" have "struck the spinal cord." When taking the testimony of Dr. Malcolm Perry in March 1964, moreover, Specter asked Perry about his initial speculation Kennedy's throat wound and head wound were caused by one bullet. To this, Perry replied "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...It required striking the spine." Well, if Dr. Perry thought a bullet entering the middle of Kennedy's throat and exiting the right side of his head might very well have hit his spine, shouldn't Specter have considered the likelihood a bullet on the opposite right to left trajectory would similarly strike his spine?
So, why didn't he? Was he afraid of what he'd find? Both Dr. John Nichols in the 1970's, and Dr. David Mantik in the 1990's, studied the anatomy of the neck, and the trajectory of the bullet through Kennedy's neck, and concluded that the bullet, should it have entered the entrance described in the autopsy report, and exited the exit described in the autopsy report, would have struck his spine. This is so readily apparent, in fact, that one of the first articles on the president's wounds, by Frank Carey for the Associated Press, noted: "Pathologists here speculated that President Kennedy's spinal cord and some vital nerve tracts near the base of his brain may have been badly damaged by the bullet that killed him on Friday...the Washington pathologists said that if the neck wound was near the Adam's Apple, which is on the mid-line of the neck, the bullet probably struck the spinal cord, which runs up to the brain via the back of the neck, also at the mid-line. They said a bullet entering the body near the Adam's Apple--or leaving it at that point--could also plow into vital nerve channels at the base of the brain."
When I looked into this myself, I just couldn’t find a way for the bullet to squeak through. Although some single-assassin theorist trajectories begin above T1, they nevertheless entail that the bullet passed the spine at T1, a level where the spine is considerably wider than it is higher up on the neck (even when one ignores the problematic first rib). From photos and x-rays and from the HSCA’s Exhibit F-58, I was able to estimate that the spine at T1 is 60% the width of the neck above it. As my neck is approximately 5 inches wide, I estimated that Kennedy’s spine was 3 inches wide at T1. This means that it extended 1.5 inches across the midline. Since the spine is slightly more than halfway between the back wound and the throat wound, however, this means that, even if the middle of the bullet entrance (which was ¼ inch wide) was 2 inches to the right of the midline the bullet would strike the spine at just less than one inch from the midline, a half inch or so in from the tip of T1. If the bullet entered closer to the spine—by my analysis the entrance was roughly 1 ½ inches from the midline of the spine--then the bullet would have struck the spine at a point more than ¾ of an inch in from the tip. The width of the spine at T1, therefore, necessitates that the bullet passed either above or below this level. If the bullet passed below this level, it would have to have punctured Kennedy's lung. Well, this didn't happen. But if the bullet entered at T-1 and passed above this level, the bullet would not exit at the T1 level of Kennedy's throat, as demonstrated by the autopsy photos, and concluded by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel.
This means the only way to make the single-bullet theory work is to disregard the anatomy experts, bend it like Canning, and assert that the bullet entered above T1 and passed slightly above the first rib en route to an exit at approximately the T1 level. This has its own set of problems, however. A bullet passing just over T1 would pass at C7. In 2012, at a shopping mall, I noticed that within a series of booths set up to welcome runners returning from a 10k race for charity there were two chiropractors, and that each of them had a model spine set up to advertise his wares. I inspected these spines and spoke to these chiropractors, and they both confirmed without any hesitation whatsoever that there was "no way" a bullet could pass between the transverse processes of C7 and T1 without striking bone. (This confirmed a point I'd made years before with single-assassin theorist John McAdams, who'd repeatedly claimed a bullet could have passed on such a trajectory, and that he'd demonstrated this many times with a dowel.) In any event, this suggests that, for the bullet to pass over T1 without incident, it would have to pass the spine at C6 or higher--inches above the level of the trajectory proposed by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel.
If there’s some reason to believe Kennedy’s spine at T1 is not as wide as I’ve ventured, however, or if there is some reason to believe that the bullet entered higher than C7 and just missed striking bone, I’d appreciate someone demonstrating just how this occurred. Similarly, if someone can come up with a reason to believe Kennedy was bent over at the moment of impact, as depicted in HSCA Exhibit F-46 (only with a higher back wound), then maybe the single-bullet theory can be defended.
Even then, however, there will still be significant problems with this fantastic theory, reviled the world over, that some nevertheless claim as a “fact.”
The Upside-Down Pyramid
The bruise on Kennedy's right lung is one such problem. Dr. Humes told the Warren Commission that the magic bullet did not pierce the President’s lung but that it nevertheless left a 5 cm wide “pyramid-shaped” bruise on the uppermost part of the lung. Single-bullet theorists explain this bruise by insisting that it came as a result of the temporary cavity created by the supersonic passage of the bullet. They claim this same cavity caused the damage to the transverse process of the first thoracic vertebrae apparent on the x-rays.
But there are severe problems with this. First and foremost is the large size of the cavity necessary to create such a bruise. Since the bullet, traveling an inch or so above the lung, would presumably be at the center of this cavity, and the bruise on the lung was around 5 cm wide, and pyramid-shaped, the temporary cavity would presumably be around 7.5 cm, or 3 inches, wide. A study by the Biophysics Division of the Army's Chemical Warfare Laboratory published in Military Medicine in 1957 correlates the size of temporary cavities to permanent cavities and demonstrates that a bullet creating a 3 inch wide temporary cavity would be likely to leave a permanent cavity 15mm wide or better. When one considers that the passage of this particular bullet was impossible to probe at autopsy, left the major vessels of the neck unharmed, and left only a 3-5 mm round hole upon exit, it seems highly unlikely such a large cavity was created...
This last point should not be overlooked. A September 2013 article in the International Journal of Legal Medicine by Annette Thierauf et al described a correlation between the size of the temporary cavity created by a bullet within a body and the size of the exit wound. For this study nine composite models incorporating gelatin blocks covered with pig soft tissue and skin were fired upon. They used 5.56 mm ammunition. These bullets were considerably smaller than 6.5 mm M/C bullets (62 grains vs. 162 grains), but traveled at a greater velocity (940 m/s vs. 661 m/s). The formula used to determine the kinetic energy of a projectile is mass x velocity x velocity. The amount of energy potentially released within the neck, and the potential size of the temporary cavity within the neck, was thus about 30% greater for the 6.5 M/C bullet supposedly passing through Kennedy's neck than for the bullets used in this study.
Now, look at the size of the exit wounds discussed in the study.... Three 7.5 cm gelatin blocks were fired upon. The exit wounds on these skin-covered blocks measured 0.9. 0.9, and 1.1 cm at their maximum diameter. Three 16 cm gelatin blocks were fired upon. The exit wounds on these skin-covered blocks measured 5.2, 6.3 and 6.9 cm at their maximum diameter. And three 30 cm gelatin blocks were fired upon. The exit wounds on these skin-covered blocks measured 1.1, 1.2, and 1.8 cm at their maximum diameter. Well, first note that all the exit wounds are far larger than the 3-5 mm approximation for the throat wound reported by Dr. Perry. Now, note that the exit wounds were largest in the medium-sized blocks. This was not an accident. The authors first fired a 5.56 bullet into a soap block in order to determine the distance within gelatin at which the bullet's temporary cavity was at it largest. This was at the 16 cm mark. Their tests, then, proved that the size of an exit wound can be directly related to the size of the temporary cavity surrounding the bullet at the time of its exit.
Unstated but implicit is that the size of this cavity was greatest at this point because it came just after the bullet tumbled. The article noted that the bullet when fired through a soap block left small bits of metal along the second half of the wound track, just after reaching its maximum diameter. It offered "This phenomenon can be explained by bending and compressive stresses squeezing parts of the lead core out of the jacket when the yawing bullet is subjected to lateral forces." In other words, it tumbled.
Well, let's think about this. This study suggests that for a bullet to create a temporary cavity large enough to create the bruise on Kennedy's lung, the bullet would have to have tumbled, and have traveled sideways. Sideways. The magic bullet is over an inch long. For it to travel sideways through Kennedy's neck and fail to either hit bone (as purported by the doctors at Bethesda) or sever an artery (as purported by the doctors at Parkland) would make it more than a magic bullet...it would make it a miracle bullet.
This problem becomes even more problematic when one looks at the reported characteristics of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition. The wound ballistics experts of the Warren Commission and HSCA, Alfred Olivier and Larry Sturdivan, respectively, testified that the bullets fired by Mannlicher-Carcano rifles were among the most stable they ever tested, and, as a result, could pass through one man and hit another with relative ease. Unspoken but implicit in their testimony, however, is that these bullets transmit less energy into the surrounding tissue than other bullets of their class and leave a narrower wound track. (This characteristic of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition was not exactly unnoticed by those who make it their business to notice such things. As far back as 1897, The Columbus Medical Journal noted that "In the Abyssinian campaign of the Italians, the disabling effect of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle of 6.5 millimeters, with which they were armed, was so slight that it was thought that the ammunition had been tampered with: for the natives overcame them with frightful slaughter.")
The characteristics of lung tissue, furthermore, make this problem insurmountable. Lung is, according to the dozens of articles I’ve read on wound ballistics, among the least dense tissues in the body, and, as a result, “little energy transfer occurs, and temporary cavities are small.” Michael S. Owen Smith made this lack of lung density and how it relates to the Kennedy assassination breathtakingly clear in the 1988 book Management of Gunshot Wounds. He said “The thorax behaves differently from the abdomen because it is largely filled with air owing to the large volume of the chest that is occupied by the lungs. Therefore, since the tissues are not mainly liquid-like, the conditions for the formation of the temporary cavity are not met. The heart and great vessels, which are filled with fluid, are extremely susceptible to damage from cavitation, and such injuries from a rifle bullet are fatal. The lung itself is remarkably resistant to damage from high-velocity bullets. Indeed, it is true to say that the lung and the skin are the two tissues that are most resistant to damage from cavitation.”
And it's not as if Smith is an outlier, exaggerating what is not as apparent to his fellow doctors. Nope, even a card-carrying member of the Oswald-did-it-and-we can-all-go-back-to-sleep club like Dr. Vincent J.M. DiMaio admits, in his classic text Gunshot Wounds, that "Lung, with a very low density and high degree of elasticity, is relatively resistant to the effects of temporary cavity formation, and has only a very small temporary cavity formed with very little tissue destruction." Hmmm.
So what caused the bruise on Kennedy's lung?
Let's go back. Dr. Humes told the Warren Commission that the bruise was 5 centimeters at its greatest diameter “and was wedge shaped in configuration, with its base toward the top of the chest and its apex down towards the substance of the lung.” He later repeated that it “was a roughly pyramid-shaped bruise with its base toward the surface of the upper portion of the lung, and the apex down into the lung tissue.” Humes was telling the commission, then, that the bruise came to a point. Such a bruise would not be expected from a temporary cavity, which radiates in an oval, but could very well have come as a result of a bullet deflecting from an overlying bone.
And no, I'm not just blowing smoke. I found support for this in a most unexpected place. Dr. Alan Moritz, a member of the Clark Panel, and the mentor to the Clark Panel's leader, Russell Fisher, was one of the leading pioneers of Forensic Pathology. His book, Pathology of Trauma (1954), was considered an early classic. And yet, Dr. Moritz, in his book, when discussing penetrating pulmonary wounds, noted that these wounds can sometimes extend into the lung, beyond the path of the penetrating object. He wrote: "A bronchus may be nicked so that a wedge-shaped area of hemorrhagic pulmonary consolidation develops below it." Note that Humes used this same terminology: "wedge-shaped." Note also that this wedge-shape developed as a result of an actual impact, and not just from a bullet passing several inches above.
And let's not stop there. Articles on pulmonary contusions from gunshot wounds reflect that they are far more prominent when a bullet slaps against a rib or chest wall than when a bullet actually traverses the substance of the lung. One such article, found in a 1944 edition of Surgery, reported on a study by Dr. Rollin Daniel in which dogs were shot and immediately dissected. This study connected the level of pulmonary contusion to the amount of energy released into the adjacent non-lung tissue. If a bullet had struck the first rib resting at the top of the lung, or the adjacent transverse process of the first cervical vertebra, however, it would have been damaged far beyond the damage incurred by CE 399, the near-pristine bullet purportedly causing the bruise to Kennedy's lung.
The bruise on Kennedy's lung is suggestive, then, that a projectile other than CE 399 struck Kennedy's rib. It is at odds with the single bullet theory.
The Speed Trap
The damage to Kennedy's neck is also at odds with the theory.
The 5-13-64 testimony of Dr. Alfred Olivier before the Warren Commission reflects that a bullet fired from the rifle found in the depository at the moment it was believed to have been fired would be traveling around 1904 feet per second upon impact with the back of Kennedy's neck. Fourteen years later, HSCA Wound Ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan, working from the same data as Olivier, said this bullet would have been traveling around 1800 feet per second. Now, this in itself is curious. But it gets worse. In his 2005 book, The JFK Myths, Sturdivan increased this "probable velocity" to somewhere between 2045 feet per second and 1985 feet per second (fps). So, yeah, it sure looks like someone's been having fun with numbers.
For the purposes of our immediate discussion, however, these differences matter little. In all instances, the bullet was traveling well over 1000 fps. This bullet was purported to have struck only soft tissue, and to have done little damage to the neck. Well, this is more than a bit surprising.
The Mannlicher-Carcano rifle purportedly used in the assassination was but one of a new class of rifles to come into fashion during the 1890's. These rifles were classified as modern military rifles, firing small caliber bullets. In any event, much was written in the decade to follow on the wound ballistics of these rifles, both as observed in an experimental setting, and observed in the field.
The Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Meeting of The Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (Held at New York City, May 31, June 1 and 2, 1900), presents a report by Capt. W.C. Borden on the wound ballistics of these "modern military rifles" as observed in recent wars, including those of the Spanish-American War. He writes: "Blood vessels and nerves are easily cut or severed by the compound bullet. The comparatively slow-moving lead bullet formerly used, frequently shoved these structures aside and passed them without severing or wounding them. With the small-caliber bullet the case is entirely different. From its high-velocity this missile does not slip by these structures, but severs, perforates or makes clean-cut lateral wounds. Undoubtedly one of the causes for the immediate high mortality among those struck by the compound bullet is from wounds of blood vessels."
And this isn't out-dated information.
Dr. Gary Ordog, in his 1988 book Management of Gunshot Wounds, notes that the mortality rate for high-velocity gunshot wounds to the neck is over 50%. He explains: “Vascular injury caused by missile wounds from bullets moving faster than 1,000 feet/second has been shown to occur by neat shearing of the vessel without stretching it first, as occurs with low-velocity missiles. This is followed by cavitation that damages a more extensive area of the blood vessel, possibly extending for at least 20 mm on each side of the bullet’s path.” He further explains that “Cavitation stretches the smaller blood vessels, shearing and rupturing them as well as nerves and even bone.” He later concludes: "In the author's experience, up to 100% of patients with high-velocity bullet wounds of the neck have major structural damage requiring surgery."
Should one think that Ordog was some ill-informed civilian spouting his personal impressions, one should know that in support of his statements he cited a study performed by Sturdivan's employer, Edgewood Arsenal, and published in the Archives of Surgery in August 1970. This study concludes "The high velocity missile neatly shears the arterial wall, but the apparent explosive effect of the temporary cavity causes 'blunt' trauma in a crushing manner." A chart prepared for this study, moreover, shows that a high-velocity bullet just missing an artery will nevertheless cause breaks in the artery, even when traveling as slow as 1,000 fps.
Now compare those descriptions of the damage one might expect to find with what Kennedy's autopsist, Dr. James J. Humes, told the Warren Commission he actually found. From his March 16, 1964 testimony: "We examined in the region of this incised surgical wound which was the tracheotomy wound and we saw that there was some bruising of the muscles of the neck in the depths of this wound as well as laceration or defect in the trachea...it is our opinion that the missile traversed the neck and slid between these muscles and other vital structures with a course in the neck such as the carotid artery, the jugular vein and other structures because there was no massive hemorrhage or other massive injury in this portion of the neck."
While high-velocity bullets "shear" and "rupture" blood vessels in the neck, the bullet traversing Kennedy's neck was reported to have only "slid between" these vessels--exactly what military surgeon Borden claimed it would not do back in 1900. While Dr. Ordog noted that up to 100% of those receiving a high-velocity gunshot wound to the neck have "major structural damage requiring surgery" Dr. Humes claimed there was "no massive hemorrhage or other massive injury" to Kennedy's neck. Hmmm...
Okay, you might be thinking, this was just the opinion of one of the autopsists, Dr. Humes. Perhaps Dr. Humes had missed something, and the other doctors disagreed and hadn't bothered to correct him. But this wasn't just Humes' speaking for the others... In 1965, Dr. Finck wrote his superior, General Blumberg, and told him not only that "I examined the tracheotomy skin wound and the trachea and did not find evidence of a bullet wound," but that all three autopsists had examined the tracheotomy wound and that "None of us noticed a bullet wound along its course." Double hmmm...
And to close the circle, when discussing the throat wound with the HSCA's Andy Purdy on August 17, 1977, Dr. Boswell is reported to have claimed he was "certain...no major blood vessel (was) damaged by the path of the missile." Triple hmmm...
When one considers that Dr. Charles Carrico, the emergency room doctor who first examined Kennedy, also noted only minor damage to his throat, telling the HSCA that he'd observed "some modest amount of hematoma in the recesses to the endo right of the trachea" and that Malcolm Perry, the Parkland surgeon who performed Kennedy's tracheotomy, not only confirmed Carrico's conclusion there was little damage to the neck, but initially described the exit wound as being only 3-5 mm wide--smaller than the bullets fired by Oswald’s rifle--well, then it becomes pretty darned clear that something is just wrong with the supposed single-bullet "fact". It just doesn't add up. The bullet creating Kennedy's throat wound--if it was a bullet--was almost certainly not traveling at a high velocity.
The more one digs, the clearer this becomes. Beyond testifying to his observing a small hole in the throat, and a lack of damage to the blood vessels, Dr. Perry told the Warren Commission that, before it was obscured by a tracheotomy incision, he had observed a “small ragged laceration of the trachea on the anterior lateral right side.” A small laceration.
He later specified just how small. In 1978, when contacted by the HSCA and interviewed by its counsel Andy Purdy, he claimed that the laceration "was on the right side of the trachea, and that it was incomplete, and I don't remember whether it was a third or a quarter of the circumference..." He then discussed the ramifications of such an injury: "There's an injury to the side of the trachea, there's a wound in the front of the neck, there's some concussive damage to surrounding organs--these are the kinds of things one sees with gunshot wounds and a blast injury and that sort of business...With high velocity...Now the low velocity stuff--it's often just a track, a wound track, with very little concussive or blast injury. And this one was in between. There was evidence of some blast injury, but not like, say, one sees with a high velocity rifle like a 30.06 or a .223 or something. This is quite different."
Quite different indeed. In Management of Gunshot Wounds, Dr. Donald F. N. Harrison explains: “Direct impact on larynx or trachea from bullets fired from high velocity military rifles or carbines will produce severe damage from their high kinetic energy, tumbling, or cavitation effect.” He later specifies just how severe: "With injuries from modern high-velocity missiles the tracheal defect is usually more than 2 cm..." Hmmm... This is not the wound described by Dr. Perry. And, should that not be convincing, Dr.s Kenneth and Roy Swan in their book Gunshot Wounds: Pathophysiology and Management note that "Gunshot injuries of the larynx and trachea are infrequently seen in emergency rooms" due to such injuries usually being associated with "fatal exsanguination (bleeding) from injured common carotid arteries and internal jugular veins."
Surgery in World War II, a book released by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army in 1962, shares this harsh assessment, and similarly suggests a high-velocity bullet would do more damage than that which was observed in Kennedy's neck. A chapter written by a former surgeon of the Fifth Army, which fought Italian forces in Sicily, reports that when treating neck wounds he needed to effect "Debridement (the removal of dead and damaged tissue) of all structures" as "Multiple involvement was the rule because of the anatomy of the area." And it's not as if this understanding was restricted to military surgeons; Earl Ubell, Science Editor of the New York Herald-Tribune, described Kennedy's wounds on 11-23-63 in a manner suggesting he knew something of the destruction brought by a high-velocity bullet's slicing through a neck. He wrote "The bullet that crashed through President Kennedy's neck and head probably took with it blood vessels and nerves leaving his entire body stunned and helpless."
And no, I'm not cherry-picking from old books and articles to avoid what is written in more current publications. Chapter 7 of The Resident Manual of Trauma to the Face, Head, and Neck, a chapter written by military surgeons Nathan Salinas and Joseph Brennan in a book put out by the American Academy of Otalaryngology (2012), reports that "HVPNT" (high velocity penetrating neck trauma) was "historically treated with mandatory neck exploration, since those patients had mortality rates greater than 50 percent with 90–100 percent major pathology found on neck exploration due to the tremendous amount of kinetic energy (up to 3,000 foot-pounds) imparted to the tissue." Salinas and Brennan then further reveal that for injuries to Zone 1 of the neck, (the area of Kennedy's neck wound--below the cricoid cartilage) "mortality is high." So, yeah, Kennedy--at least in the official version of events--received the worst of both worlds in receiving his neck wound: a high-velocity wound to the neck, an area of the body that is particularly vulnerable to high-velocity projectiles, in an area of the neck where the mortality rate from wounds is particularly high.
From this it seems likely that, in 1964, when the Warren Commission first released the medical reports and testimony regarding President Kennedy, there were many military and emergency room doctors, and even science editors for daily newspapers, who were aware of the single-bullet theory's velocity problem, who opted to say nothing.
Now, some of these may have been confused by what they'd read in old medical texts. History of the Great War: Medical Services, Surgery of the War Vol. II, a 1922 British text describing the wounds observed in the Great War, noted: "bullets may pass through the neck in intimate relation to vital structures without causing serious damage..." But this shouldn't have been taken as an indication Kennedy's supposed back/throat wound was not surprising. This text, after all, made no mention of the velocities at which these benign bullets passed through the neck. One might assume, then, that some if not the majority of these benign bullets passed through the neck at a reduced velocity.
And that's not the only reason to doubt that this text's statement "bullets may pass" applies to Kennedy's back wound. This text also failed to reveal the exact trajectories on which these benign bullets passed these vital structures. As the text noted "Wounds in the middle line in front were very rare and never occurred posteriorly, doubtless because the spine was involved with fatal results," and then proceeded to reveal that but 5 of the 74 wounds to the larynx in which the direction of the missile was noted traveled along the middle line, well, it seems likely no bullet trajectory was observed like the one purported for Kennedy. The trajectory through Kennedy's back, let's remember, is purported to have started an inch or two to the right of his spine and to have ended at the mid-line of his throat. While there was a reference to two instances in which a bullet entered at the mid-line in front and exited to the left of the spine in back, without causing any "important injuries," these bullets were purported to have embarked on an "extraordinary course." In any event, no mention of the range of these bullets or the presumed velocities of these bullets was submitted.
It seems possible, then, likely even, that there's no record of a bullet traveling on the course for the single-bullet theory bullet, at the presumed velocity of the single-bullet theory bullet, and leaving behind as little damage as the single-bullet theory bullet.
Unfortunately, it seems just as likely that there are many doctors, including experienced forensic pathologists such as Michael Baden, who are currently unaware of the problems with the single-bullet theory bullet's trajectory and velocity. In 1980, during a seminar on forensic pathology and homicide investigation in Toronto, Ontario, Dr. Baden admitted that "less than a tenth of 1%" of the gunshot wounds studied by his New York coroner's office were by "military rifles," and that almost all the rest came from handguns or shotguns. He admitted further that Kennedy was killed "by rifle type ammunition which we know very little about."
While one might assume that thousands of doctors with WW II experience would know more than Baden, and would have been able to assist the HSCA, this is not necessarily true. Surgery in World War II confirms the rarity of Kennedy's wounds. Among its graphs and charts it reveals that intra-cranial head and neck wounds each accounted for but 2% of the wounds seen at the hospital level, and that rifle fire accounted for but 5% of the wounds studied. From this one can estimate that during WW II a U.S. doctor would see someone with a head wound created in the same manner as Kennedy's was purportedly created, oh, once every thousand patients or so, and someone with a neck wound created in the same manner as Kennedy's was purportedly created, also about once every thousand patients or so. This brings up the additional question of why neither the Warren Commission nor the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel consulted with doctors who'd seen the effects of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition on soldiers, and instead used doctors affiliated with the U.S. military and/or large research facilities dependent on government grants.
I am not the first to discuss this problem, moreover, as Dr. Ronald Jones mentioned this problem long before I. When testifying before the Warren Commission and asked by Arlen Specter if Kennedy's throat wound could have been an exit for a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle bullet, Jones responded: "If this were an exit wound, you would think that it exited at a very low velocity...to the point that you might think that this bullet barely made it through the soft tissues and just enough to drop out of the skin on the opposite side."
And should one assume that Jones was a bit of an oddball, and that his fellow physicians at Parkland Hospital couldn't possibly have shared his impression that the bullet creating Kennedy's throat wound was not traveling at a high-velocity, one should know that Dr. Baxter also told Specter that the small throat wound (which he estimated as being 4-5 mm) was not in keeping with what he would expect for an exit of a bullet traveling at a high-velocity. When asked by Specter why he thought such a small wound was unlikely, he replied: "It would be unlikely because the damage that the bullet would create would be---first its speed would create a shock wave which would damage a larger number of tissues, as in its path, it would tend to strike, or usually would strike, tissues of greater density than this particular missile did and would then begin to tumble and would create larger jagged--the further it went, the more jagged would be the damage that it created; so that ordinarily there would have been a rather large wound of exit." Baxter would clarify this testimony in October 1992, moreover, when he issued a statement claiming that the throat wound was "very small" and looked as though "it might have come from a hand gun."
Now, to be clear, Dr. Baxter accepted that the small size of this wound, under the circumstances described by Specter, was "perfectly understandable." But the circumstances described by Specter were not the actual circumstances. Here is Specter's question: "Dr. Baxter, what would your opinion be if these additional facts were present: First, the President had a bullet wound of entry on the right posterior thorax just above the upper border of the Scapula with the wound measuring 7 by 4 mm. in oval shape, being 14 cm. from the tip of the right acromion process and 14 cm. below the tip of the right mastoid process--assume this is the set of facts, that the wound Just described was caused by a 6.5 mm bullet shot from approximately 160 to 250 feet away from the President, from a weapon having a muzzle velocity of approximately 2,000 feet per second, assuming as a third factor that the bullet passed through the President's body, going in between the strap muscles of the shoulder without violating the pleura space and exited at a point in the midline of the neck, would the hole which you saw on the President's throat be consistent with an exit point, assuming the factors which I have just given to you?"
Well, as we've seen, there was no evidence the bullet passed between the strap muscles of the shoulder. This is something Specter invented, as a consequence of either his lack of integrity or his lack of competence. Yes, Dr. Humes testified that there was a bruising of the strap muscles, and that in hindsight this suggested the passage of a bullet exiting the throat, but the strap muscles HE was describing were on the front of the neck, and not the back of the shoulder.
And no, Baxter was not the only Parkland doctor asked to concur with the throat wound being an exit for a high velocity bullet under the blatantly false circumstances described by Specter. Specter played the same trick (or made the same stupid mistake, take your pick) with Dr.s McClelland, Carrico, Perry, and Jenkins. Dr. McClelland even agreed the wound could be an exit for a high velocity bullet under the incorrect assumption a Carcano bullet would lose much of its velocity in soft tissue. He had thereby supported Jones' belief the throat wound was inconsistent with a wound made by a bullet still traveling at a high velocity.
While Carrico, Perry and Jenkins agreed with Specter's make-believe scenario without reservations, furthermore, we have reason to believe at least two of them were either just playing along, or later came to realize their mistake.
Operative Trauma Management: an Atlas, a medical text book published in 1998, instructs that with high velocity gunshot wounds to the neck, "damage may be remote from the missile tract as a result of blast injury, and the incidence of major associated injuries is high." As discussed, there was no such damage in Kennedy's neck. This makes clear, then, that the wound to Kennedy's throat did not give the appearance of a a high-velocity gunshot wound to those inspecting Kennedy's wounds. And guess what? The editor of Operative Trauma Management was none other than Dr. C. J. Carrico, the first doctor to examine Kennedy's throat wound. And guess what? The author of the cited passage was none other than Dr. Malcolm Perry, who performed a tracheotomy on Kennedy expecting to find damage to the underlying vessels, only to note no such damage beyond a small ragged wound to Kennedy's trachea.
And should one think I'm quoting Dr. Perry out of context, there's this... In 2011, an 11-17-81 letter from Dr. Perry to a student named Stephen Munson was auctioned off over the internet. A link to this letter was sent my way by David Butler. In this letter, Dr. Perry tried to explain his error in calling Kennedy's throat wound an entrance wound. He wrote "I initially thought that the neck wound was an entrance wound only because it was small, as entrance wounds tend to be, but this is not invariably the case. Full-jacketed bullets and small missiles may produce small wounds on exiting, especially if their velocity has decreased appreciably..."
And should that not be enough to convince one that the magic bullet's speeding problem deserves our attention, one should also be aware that at least one of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel's members refused to let themselves believe that the damage to Kennedy's throat was as minor as reported, and presumed instead that the impressions of Dr.s Carrico, Perry, Humes, Boswell, and Finck were grossly in error. While the Panel kept no publicly-available notes of their discussions, Dr. Baden testified to this dispute, telling the HSCA committee, "The panel could not unanimously agree as to whether or not the gunshot wound through the back and neck would necessarily be fatal because of the failure to examine the bullet track at the time of the autopsy--dissect the track. As a result we do not know whether there was injury to the spine of the President or to major blood vessels." The fact that this was even questioned, after Dr. Humes and Dr. Perry testified before the Warren Commission that there was no damage to the spine or major blood vessels, indicates that there was at least one member of the panel who realized that it didn't make a heckuva lot of sense for a high-velocity bullet to create so little damage.
This member, if it was but one member, may have been Baden himself. On 8-15-78, barely three weeks before he testified on Kennedy's wounds, Baden testified before the HSCA on Dr. Martin Luther King's fatal wound. Dr. King had also been killed by a high-velocity rifle bullet; this bullet entered his right cheek, smashed through his jaw bone, re-entered his neck, smashed through his spine and was found beneath the skin on the left side of his back. During his questioning, Dr. Baden was asked by Congressman Sawyer if a high-velocity bullet would cause "extensive damage and severe damage to tissue out beyond its track because of the lines of force it creates within the body." Dr. Baden's response is most informative. After discussing the bones actually hit by the bullet, he added "If the bullet continued through the spine, it would have severed the spinal cord. If it didn't continue through the spinal canal and sever the spinal cord, the lines of force from the impact would have severely damaged the spinal cord without even touching it; and much of the extensive hemorrhaging and destruction of the tissues in the face and neck area of Dr. King were due to the lines of force that you allude to, sir."
And it isn't as if Dr. Baden's 9-7-78 testimony on Kennedy's wounds was any less intriguing. When asked why the bullet hitting Kennedy in the back retained its pristine condition, when the bullet hitting Kennedy in the skull shattered into pieces, Baden replied that "The majority of the panel members are satisfied that it did not strike bone at that point. The missile did create a cavity. The cavity, the bullet missile cavity, created by the bullet at this speed, causes damage much beyond the missile itself. It can cause damage to the spine, even if the spine is a couple of inches away from the bullet. We can speculate as to what it did strike, but there is no evidence from the X-rays, from the trajectory through the body, that it struck any substantial amount of bone. It might have struck the transverse process of the first thoracic vertebra but we cannot prove this."
There was no mention of Dr. Norman Chase in Baden's testimony. On 2-27-78, Dr. Baden, in the company of HSCA staff members Andy Purdy and Mark Flanagan, called upon Dr. Chase, and showed him the x-rays. According to the official notes on this consultation, "In the neck x-ray, Chase noted the presence of a metal fragment or artifact in the area of the transverse process--definitely not a bone fragment. The first rib appeared to be separated from the sternum but he had trouble noting specific evidence of a missile passing through the first or second rib. Air was noted in the subcutaneous tissue in this same region, caused by the passage of a missile and/or air entering the region due to the tracheostomy incision."
Dr. Chase had thereby strongly suggested that a bullet--yikes--had struck bone in this region. He almost certainly didn't believe the nearby passage of a bullet could separate the first rib from the sternum. It should come as no surprise then, that after this consultation, Dr. Chase was not called upon to write a report, and that the committee instead contacted Dr. G.M. McDonnel, a former Army radiologist. McDonnel was more helpful. He told the committee that the fracture in the neck was not the separation of the first rib from the sternum, but an "undisplaced fracture of the proximal portion of the right transverse process of T-1." Such a fracture was, one can only presume, more consistent with the nearby passage of a bullet.
Of course, Dr. Chase's suspicion about the first rib was not the only thing Baden failed to mention. Baden also failed to explain how a bullet damaging the spine--from inches away, no less--could fail to rupture blood vessels but millimeters away. And he failed to explain this because there truly is no explanation... The bullet he was told passed through Kennedy could not have retained its pristine appearance if it had hit Kennedy's spine, so he presumed it did not hit the spine. This, then, led him to assume the cavity surrounding this bullet had damaged the spine. Only...the damage to the trachea and blood vessels as reported was inconsistent with such a cavity. SO...he further assumed that the descriptions of Kennedy's wounds he'd been given had all been mistaken.
He was trying to make the evidence fit the single-bullet theory, as opposed to creating a theory that fit the evidence...
The damage to Kennedy's neck as reported by Carrico, Perry and the autopsy doctors was inconsistent with the passage of a high-velocity rifle bullet. A WW II-era report on the Bougainville Campaign, published in the Army text Wound Ballistics (1962), describes a dozen or so thoracic wounds caused by 6.5 mm ammunition. Here's the chart provided to demonstrate these findings.
Note that the average wound of exit was many times that of the average wound of entrance, with several more than 10 times as large.
And these weren't the only thoracic wound cases detailed in the book. In none of the cases described, however, was the exit wound smaller than the entrance wound. While these shots were virtually all at closer range than the shots striking Kennedy, and all fatal, and therefore automatically more severe than the one striking Kennedy, the small size of the exit in Kennedy’s throat still seems curiously disproportionate. By way of example, one man shot by a sniper from 150 yards, more than twice the length of the shot from the sniper’s nest to Kennedy at Z-224, was found to have a 3 cm by 1.5 cm exit wound on his chest, more than ten times the size of the small wound observed in Kennedy’s throat.
And it's not as if the Warren Commission was unaware of this situation--that the entrance wound should have been larger than the exit wound. Here's CE 850, entered into evidence during the testimony of Dr. Olivier.
And here's Olivier's testimony regarding this exhibit.
Mr. SPECTER. I now hand you a picture marked Commission Exhibit No. 850 and ask you what that represents?
Dr. OLIVIER. These are pieces of clipped goatskin, clipped very shortly. There is still some hair on it. These were placed, these particular ones were placed over the tissues. This would be placed over the entrance side of the animal.
Mr. SPECTER. When you say "this," you are referring to a piece of goatskin which is marked "enter"?
Dr. OLIVIER. Marked "enter." The one marked "exit" was placed on the far side of the tissues and the bullet passed through that after it came out of the tissues.
Mr. SPECTER. For the record, will you describe the characteristics, which are shown on the goatskin at the point of entry, please?
Dr. OLIVIER. At the point of entry the wound holes through the skin are for all purposes round. On the exit side they are more elongated, two of them in particular are a little more elongated. The bullet had started to become slightly unstable coming out.
Mr. SPECTER. And how about the third or lower bullet on the skin designated exit?
Dr. OLIVIER. That hole appears as more stable than the other two. In all three cases the bullet is still pretty stable. The gelatin blocks, there were gelatin blocks placed behind these things too, and for all practical purposes, the tracks through them still indicated a stable bullet.
Olivier and Specter knew that the presumed exit wound on Kennedy's throat should have been larger than the presumed entrance wound on his back, but failed to offer an explanation why the reverse was true.
And it's not as if the passage of time has offered reason to believe Olivier's tests were anomalous, and that it was not at all unusual that a bullet wound of entrance on Kennedy's back would be smaller than the supposed exit of this bullet from Kennedy's throat.
An article by three Finnish doctors (Rainio, Lalu, and Penttila) in the February 2001 issue of Forensic Science International described the autopsies performed on 10 victims of a 1999 massacre in Kosovo. These 10 victims were all killed by assault weapons, which we can presume used smaller bullets than the bullet killing Kennedy, although traveling at a greater velocity. The wounds of exit on these victims, then, can be presumed to have been larger than the supposed wound of exit on Kennedy's throat, should this wound have truly been an exit of a bullet.
But not this much larger. The 10 victims suffered 82 wounds of entrance, 62 wounds of exit, and 7 tangential wounds of both entrance and exit. Of the wounds of entrance, 58 (71%) were 15 mm or smaller in maximum diameter. Of the wounds of exit, but 10 (16%) were 15 mm or smaller in maximum diameter. Only 7 (9%) of the entrance wounds were larger than 25 mm in maximum diameter. Meanwhile, 23 (37%) of the exit wounds were larger than 30 mm in maximum diameter.
Well, it should be clear from this that the widespread belief exit wounds are normally larger than entrance wounds is no myth, and that some explanation should have been offered as to why Kennedy's throat wound was so damned small.
The Shored Wound Sinkhole
While some, including Dr. Lattimer, have noted that bullets exiting from skin covered by tight clothing have at times created exits smaller than the width of the bullet, they have incorrectly implied this explains the small size of Kennedy's throat wound.
They are flat-out dead wrong. They have failed to comprehend or acknowledge that such an exit, often referred to as a "shored" or "supported" exit, leaves behind a tell-tale sign. According to Dr. Vincent J. M. Di Maio, in his 1992 book Gunshot Wounds, and as demonstrated online in Milicent Cranor's article Trajectory of a Lie, shored exit wounds are "characterized by a broad irregular band of abrasion of the skin around the exit. In such wounds the skin is reinforced, or "shored," by a firm surface at the instant the bullet exits...Shored wounds have very wide, irregular abrasion collars and when dry may simulate contact wounds."
Now this is nothing new. In 1976, Abdullah Fatteh, in his book Medicolegal Investigation of Gunshot Wounds, noted: "If a bullet exits the skin without any resistance other than the tissue resistance, an exit hole with subsidiary tears results...If, however, the bullet exits from the skin against pressure from a firm or hard object in contact with the skin, the appearances of the exit wounds are different...If the object in contact with the skin is hard and the bullet exits against considerable resistance from it, the exit wound may not only be round but it may show a rim of abrasion in its margins. Such exit wounds could easily be mistaken for entrance wounds. Exit wounds of this nature may be seen when the victim is lying on the ground or standing against a wall when and the exited bullet is stopped by the ground or the wall. They may also be caused when the exited bullet hits a belt, buckle, tough clothing or a similar object in tight contact with the skin." Notice that Fatteh says such a wound "may" show a rim of abrasion, not that one can expect it to show such a rim.
An article on gunshot wounds in Modern Legal Medicine, Psychiatry, and Forensic Science (1980), goes a bit further, however. It relates that "under some circumstances, the skin is supported and the character of the exit wound is drastically altered. Instead of being irregular in shape, it tends to mirror the shape of the penetrating bullet, usually appearing as a circular or nearly circular defect surrounded by a margin of abrasion resembling a wound of entrance."
A 1981 article by Dr. Douglas Dixon in the Journal of Forensic Sciences entitled The Characteristics of Shored Exit Wounds, moreover, proclaimed: "If the exit wound is "shored" or abutted by a firm support such as clothing, furniture, or building materials, then the exit wound may take on appearances of an entrance wound, such as a circular defect with an abraded margin. This can occur with contact, close range, or distant shots. 92% of shored exit wounds in one study had a round or ovoid defect, and all had some degree of abrasion. The degree of shoring abrasion increased directly with the KE of the projectile and the rigidity of the shoring material." Notice that Dixon concludes that all such wounds have some degree of abrasion and that the abrasion is related to the amount of energy released in the tissue and the rigidity of the shoring material.
And Dixon was not the only one pushing that a shored wound of exit would have a noticeable abrasion collar. A September 1983 article by Dr. Josephino Aguilar in the Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology, shared Dixon's conclusions. Aguilar concluded that one could distinguish shored wounds of exit from entrance wounds by the “scalloped or punched-out abrasion collar and sharply contoured skin in between the radiating skin lacerations marginating the abrasion.”
These studies then support Di Maio's subsequent claim that abrasion rings are "characteristic" of such wounds, and would most certainly be expected at the shored exit of a military rifle bullet.
This appears to be the modern consensus. The "abrasion ring problem" discussed by Cranor is reinforced by numerous other textbooks and articles, which refer to "supported" wounds--Lattimer's term for the small exit created by the tie--and "shored wounds", the more commonly used term, interchangeably. The chapter on gunshot wounds in the Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences (2000) by Stefan Pollak and Pekka J Sauko, for example, claims: "Occasionally, the margins of the exit wound are abraded (shored) when a firm object (e.g., tight-fitting clothes, floor, wall or back of a chair) is pressed against the body at the site of the exiting projectile (Figures 3c and 5c). Under such circumstances, the skin around the exit is abraded by the supporting surface. In contrast to the “original” abrasion ring around the entry wound, in “shored” or “supported” exits the area of abrasion is not concentric, but irregular or lopsided and often disproportionately large ." Notice that the "rim of abrasion" Fatteh once said "may" be seen surrounding shored wounds of exit is now to be expected...
And is, if anything, larger than the abrasion ring around a typical entrance... Yep, in Forensic Science, an Introduction to Scientific and Investigative Techniques (2003), veteran forensic pathologist Ronald Wright relates: "Often, the rim of abrasion (surrounding a shored wound of exit) is wider than is typically seen in an entrance wound. This may help in differentiating the two types of wounds."
The doctors observing Kennedy's throat wound at Parkland, of course, described a small hole, with no noticeable abrasion ring. The autopsy doctors also failed to describe such a ring. And there is no abrasion ring apparent in the autopsy photos. Even the HSCA pathology panel, which took Lattimer's cue and suspected that the throat wound was a shored wound of exit, noted that the margins of what they took to be the exit wound along the bottom of the tracheotomy incision in the photos were only "slightly denuded and reddish-brown." They failed to note an abrasion ring. It follows then that there is no evidence the small hole in Kennedy's throat was a shored or supported (Lattimer's term) exit, and that the evidence, in fact, suggests it was not.
There is reason to believe, moreover, that some members of the HSCA's panel never fell into the shored wound sinkhole, and never accepted it as the answer to the ever-returning question "why was the throat wound so small?". The panel's report claimed "The panel considered the appearance of the wound in the anterior neck as initially described and subsequently altered. It is of the opinion that such a wound, uniformly regular in shape and small in size, might be anticipated from an intermediate or even high velocity missile if the tissues through which the missile exited were shored, buttressed or otherwise reinforced by clothing or other external objects that would minimize the outward displacement of the skin and underlying superficial tissue and consequent tearing and distortion of these tissues." Hmmm...the panel concluded the small size of the wound "might be anticipated" under such circumstances, not that it was expected, or even consistent with such circumstances. That's pretty weak sauce, akin to saying "it seems slightly possible," or "we'd like you to believe..."
And that was just the beginning... The report of the HSCA panel further noted: "Several panel members are also of the opinion that an unshored exit wound of a missile of comparable size and velocity might be similar if the missile were not misshapen by striking a substantial bone within the body." This means the bulk of the panel was not of this opinion, and believed the shoring of the throat wound to be the only logical excuse for the small size of this exit, should the exit have been for the bullet recovered at the hospital, and fired from Oswald's rifle.
And so...the majority of the panel had doubts the small size of the throat wound was compatible with an un-shored exit of an intermediate or high-velocity bullet, and some had doubts the small size was compatible even if the clothing had shored up the exit. This suggests that the small size of the throat wound is, in the eyes of modern forensic science, an unsolved mystery.
And no, I'm not just cherry-picking and nit-picking in order to pretend there are problems with the "shored wound" explanation for the small size of Kennedy's throat wound. Modern Legal Medicine, Psychiatry, and Forensic Science (1980), presents two photos to support its discussion of shored wounds of exit. The caption to these photos reads "Figure 16-69, Shored outshoot wound. On the right is a shored outshoot wound. On the left is the inshoot wound made by the same bullet. The outshoot wound of shored type is larger than the inshoot wound." Yes, read that again. The outshoot wound is larger. The wound in the photos, moreover, is 2-3 times larger. The autopsy report recorded Kennedy's back wound as 7 x 4 mm. The HSCA panel, after studying the back wound photos, claimed the inshoot wound on Kennedy's back was 9 x 9 mm. Dr. Perry's earliest estimate for the size of the throat wound was 3-5 mm. Dr. Baxter, who helped Perry with the tracheotomy, told the Warren Commission the throat wound was 4-5 mm, including the damaged skin surrounding the hole. Perry later told the HSCA the wound could have been as much as 6-7 mm. But this was still far smaller than the 9 by 9 mm measurement the HSCA panel claimed for Kennedy's back wound. It seems likely then that the writer of Modern Legal Medicine's chapter on gunshot wounds would claim the small size of the throat wound was inconsistent with its being a shored wound of exit, and would have told the members of the HSCA's pathology panel of this problem, should he have been consulted.
Well, he was. Modern Legal Medicine was edited by three doctors, one of whom was Dr. Charles Petty, one of the most outspoken members of the HSCA Pathology Panel. In fact, surprise, surprise, Dr. Charles Petty was the author of Modern Legal Medicine's chapter on gunshot wounds. Modern Legal Medicine is a 1300 page textbook, with 52 contributors. It must have taken years to prepare. It follows then that Dr. Petty was signing off on the HSCA panel's report in which a 9 x 9 mm wound on the back was presented as the inshoot for a shored wound of exit measuring, at best, 6-7 mm, while simultaneously claiming that shored-type inshoots are smaller than shored-type outshoots in a textbook he'd been working on for years. It seems certain then that Petty knew by Dr. Perry's description of Kennedy's throat wound that it was not a shored wound of exit...and decided to either keep this to himself...or go along with his colleagues on the pathology panel, who wanted to keep this quiet.
I mean, let's be honest. It seems likely other members of the panel were more than aware that shored exit wounds are presumed to be larger than their corresponding entrance wounds, or became aware of this fact within a few years of the HSCA's report. Simpson's Forensic Medicine, a British text, available in 14 editions from 1952 to 2019, has long claimed "The exit wound of a bullet is usually everted...Where skin is fully supported, as by a belt, tight clothing or even a person leaning against a partition wall, the exit wound may be as small as the entrance and may fail to show the typical eversion." So why, again, was the panel willing to suggest the exit wound on Kennedy's throat was barely half as large as its corresponding entrance wound? (To be clear, the panel proposed the entrance wound was 9 x 9, or 81 sq mm, while Perry's new and improved approximation of the round exit wound was at most 7 mm, which would translate to 49 sq mm, tops. I mean, something's wrong. Right?)
When I pored through forensics journals looking for any record of a bullet traveling a trajectory like that purported for the so-called "magic bullet," moreover, I found additional reason to doubt the integrity of the HSCA's panel. The October 1975 Journal of Forensic Sciences, for example, describes the death of a woman after she was struck in the throat, in the same location as Kennedy’s throat wound, with a .25 caliber jacketed slug similar in width to the bullets fired from Oswald’s rifle. This bullet traveled on a similar trajectory as the purported trajectory through Kennedy, albeit in the opposite direction. This bullet was recovered from the right transverse process of the 7th cervical spine, the area of the spine purportedly damaged by the passage of the bullet through Kennedy. Now here's the kicker. Even though this bullet was accidentally discharged from a pen gun and was traveling at a much slower velocity than the bullet purportedly traversing Kennedy, it severed the woman’s right common carotid artery in passage, and brought about her death.
Intriguingly, the article was co-written by Dr. Werner Spitz, a defender of the single-bullet theory, who served on both the Rockefeller Commission's medical panel and the HSCA's forensic pathology panel.Dr. Spitz needs to explain then how the supposedly high-velocity bullet striking Kennedy could traverse his neck and do so little damage, while a much slower bullet traveling on the same trajectory was so lethal. Until that time, there’s no reason we should take the single-bullet theory seriously as a theory, let alone accept it as a "fact".
Ovoid? Oy Vey!
If the HSCA's panel had fallen into a shored wound sinkhole (a way of thinking not based on a rational analysis of the evidence), moreover, they weren't the first panel to do so. The Warren Commission, in its report, cited the size of Connally's back wound as possible evidence the bullet first struck Kennedy. They were wrong to do so, however. On page 92, the report claims "Because of the small size and clean-cut edges of the wound on the Governor's back, Dr. Robert Shaw concluded that it was an entry wound." Then, on page 109 it claims "the large wound on the Governor's back would be explained by a bullet which was yawing, although that type of wound might also be accounted for by a tangential striking." The wound was small and then it was large. The report failed to note, mind you, that the doctor claiming the back wound was small, Dr. Shaw, testified that the wound was about 1.5 cm in its longest dimension, and that the wound ballistics expert claiming the back wound was large--and that the bullet may have been yawing--Dr. Olivier, did so under the impression the back wound was 3 cm in its largest dimension. This was the measurement provided by Shaw for the size of the wound AFTER he had expanded the wound.
And Olivier wasn't the last to make this mistake. Nope, far from it. By 1978, the 3 cm long wound on Connally's back described by Olivier had become an urban legend--sort of like the medical equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot. In his 1978 testimony before the house select committee, Dr. Michael Baden testified that "the panel concluded, based on the enlarged nature of the entrance perforation in the Governor's back, that the bullet was wobbling when it struck him and had to have struck something before striking the Governor."
It seems evident, however, that not everyone on Baden's panel concurred. The report of Baden's Forensic Pathology Panel, published the next year, claimed instead that "The panel believes that the ovoid characterization of this wound requires interpretation...One possible interpretation is that the avoid entrance wound, as described, could have resulted from the missile striking the skin surface on a tangential plane...Another possible interpretation of this ovoid wound is that the missile itself, just, prior to striking the body, was out of alignment with its trajectory (due to striking an intervening object). That is to say, it had tumbled slightly before entering the body, thereby creating an elongated defect...The panel, in its evaluation, also considers it important that the shape of the defect in the clothing would have been a more uniformly round hole if the bullet had struck on a tangential plane with the missile aligned with its trajectory. The panel (except for Dr. Wecht) concludes, therefore, that the wound in Governor Connally was probably inflicted by a missile which was not aligned with its trajectory but had yawed or tumbled prior to entry into the Governor."
Baden testified that the panel had concluded that the bullet creating Connally's back wound "had to have struck something before striking the Governor" when the panel, with one exception, had actually concluded that the back wound was "probably" inflicted by a missile which was out of alinement. The panel's report said nothing about this bullet having to have hit something before striking the Governor. Dr. Baden had ballooned this possibility into a fact during his testimony, but his colleagues had failed to back him up on it.
Not that this was noticed by the committee... The HSCA's Final Assassinations Report claimed that Kennedy's and Connally's wounds were "consistent with the possibility that one bullet entered the upper right back of President Kennedy, and, after emerging from the front of the neck, caused all the Governor's wounds...A factor that influenced the panel significantly was the ovoid shape of the wound in the Governor's back, indicating that the bullet had begun to tumble or yaw before entering" because "An ovoid wound is characteristic of one caused by a bullet that has passed through or glanced off an intervening object."
It seems clear, then, that Dr. Baden had misled the Committee about the significance of this ovoid wound. As discussed in Milicent Cranor's excellent online article, Trajectory of a Lie, Dr. Robert Shaw, Governor Connally's doctor, initially reported that the wound was 3 cm in its longest dimension, but then realized his mistake. On 3-23-64, when testifying before the Warren Commission, he explained that Connally's back wound was really only about 1.5 cm in its longest dimension (6H85), but that he'd removed the damaged skin around this entrance and enlarged it to about 3 cm (6H88). Now, this should have ended the discussion, right then and there. But no such luck. By 1974, Dr. John Lattimer, the single-bullet theorist extraordinaire, had seized upon the 3 cm measurement--which just so happened to match up with the length of the bullet when traveling sideways--and started claiming in his articles, (such as his article in the November 1974 article in Medical Times), that this was the actual size of the wound that the bullet had been traveling sideways. As demonstrated by Ms. Cranor, Dr. Lattimer let out a big smelly lie in the process.
This, of course, would have been the word of but one sloppy researcher/zealot had Baden and others not fallen under Lattimer's smell/spell. Although Dr. Shaw indicated that the wound was really 1.5 x .8 cm to the HSCA's investigators, and was even quoted on this in the report of Baden's Panel, Dr. Baden oversold the significance of this ovoid shape in his testimony before the committee and produced a stench all his own in his 1989 book Unnatural Death. While an HSCA report written by Baden records the length of Connally's back scar as 1 1/8 inches (or 2.9 cm), Baden told Unnatural Death's readers the back wound scar was 2 inches long (or 5 cm).
Now, let's be clear. This was almost certainly a lie, and not a simple mistake. Dr. Shaw's operative report in which he first claimed Connally's wound was 3 cm made clear that he extended the wound beyond its original size when he excised damaged skin. He subsequently testified that he doubled the size of the wound when doing so, and that the wound was originally 1.5 cm before he extended it to 3 cm. Lattimer and Baden, of course, insist Shaw was mistaken, and that the wound was 3 cm before it was extended. If this is true, however, Shaw's sworn testimony suggests he extended the wound to about 6 cm. As a 6 cm bullet wound would be unlikely to shrink back to a 2.9 cm scar in less than 15 years, Baden's measurement of Connally's scar supports Shaw's statements, and not Lattimer's and Baden's contention the wound was 3 cm before Shaw excised the damaged skin. By increasing the size of Connally's scar from 2.9 cm to 5 cm, however, Baden lent support to Lattimer's nonsense.
The impact of Lattimer's and Baden's lies has been palpable. In 1992, in the mock trial of Oswald put on by the American Bar Association and televised on Court TV, Dr. Martin Fackler, testifying for the prosecution, repeated the 3 cm lie, and made matters worse by incorrectly testifying--when it was pointed out to him that Dr. Shaw had told the HSCA that the wound was really 1.5 cm--that Dr. Shaw had only changed his recollection "later on." This was not true. Shaw had testified before the Warren Commission--in his very first testimony on the subject--that the wound was 1.5 cm. Even so, Fackler's testimony was quite revealing. When one reads the 9-19-75 letter from Lattimer to researcher Emory Brown preserved in the Harold Weisberg Archives, one finds that Lattimer told Brown that Shaw originally claimed the wound was 3 cm long but then "changed his story gradually to make it 1-1/2 cm in latter versions." Well, heck, did Fackler confer with Lattimer before testifying?
You can bet on it. In 1992, Fackler published a three-page article on the one small test he performed for the trial. He published this in his own publication, Wound Ballistics Review. Well, the bulk of this issue was gobbled up by a 25 page article in which Lattimer recounted the numerous tests he'd performed while trying to prove the single-bullet theory. Fackler, it seems clear, was a willing convert to Lattimer's cause, and a more-than-willing repeater of Lattimer's lies.
Since then, "researchers" (more like single-bullet theory aficionados or Lattimerites) such as Gus Russo and Dale Myers have routinely misrepresented the back wound as 3 cm or more in their work. Myers, on his website, actually links to an HSCA report to support that the wound was 3 cm, failing to tell his readers that just below the statement by Shaw in this report is another statement, in which Shaw clarifies his earlier statements, and insists the 3 cm measurement was the measurement of the wound after he'd cut away some of Connally's skin.
Vincent Bugliosi, in his 2007 magnum opus Reclaiming History, was yet another to drink Lattimer's Kool-Aid and call it wine. Recognizing that Shaw's HSCA interview, in which he said he thought the bullet striking Kennedy had not been tumbling beforehand, was a problem, Bugliosi sought to discredit him by suggesting that he (Shaw) originally believed the bullet hitting Connally was inconsistent with a bullet that had not struck something before striking Connally. He wrote: "Dr. Robert Shaw, in his testimony before the Warren Commission, said that although he 'was not a ballistics expert . . . there might have been some tumbling' to the bullet that struck Connally in the back. 'It didn’t have the appearance of a wound caused by a high-velocity bullet that had not struck anything else.' (6H95)"
Well, this was just outrageous. Bugliosi created the illusion Shaw initially believed the bullet striking Connally had hit hit something prior to hitting Connally. This not only concealed that Shaw had discussed the shooting sequence within days of the shooting, and had told newsmen Kennedy and Connally were hit by separate bullets, but the next few lines of Shaw's testimony, in which he completed his thought. Shaw continued: "in other words, a puncture wound. Now, you have to also take into consideration, however, whether the bullet enters at a right angle or at a tangent. If it enters at a tangent there will be some length to the wound of entrance." Shaw had thereby stated that the bullet hitting Connally could have hit something before hitting Connally, but also might not have hit something before hitting Connally. Lattimer, in Kennedy and Lincoln, had similarly quoted Shaw out of context, and had similarly avoided the next few lines of Shaw's testimony. Bugliosi, who took tremendous delight in catching the errors (or deceptions) of conspiracy theorists, should have caught Lattimer's deception, but instead repeated it to a much larger audience.
So the question then becomes: is there anything (beyond the slightly ovoid entrance on Connally's back) to support that the bullet striking Connally first struck Kennedy?
No, not at all. Not only do single-bullet theorists misrepresent Shaw's testimony and the size of Connally's back wound to sell their theory, they miss that the hole on Connally's jacket and shirt were, according to the HSCA, 1.7 x 1.2 cm and 1.3 x .8 cm, respectively, improbable if not impossible if the back wound was truly 3 cm wide, as they almost uniformly propose.
While acknowledging this 1.7 cm tear, HSCA ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan, in his 2005 book The JFK Myths, argues that a 1.5-1.7 cm entrance is still ovoid and is therefore still an indication that the bullet struck something--such as a President--before striking Connally. He, as Baden before him, fails to acknowledge that the HSCA determined the defect in Kennedy's jacket to be even more ovoid (1 by 1.5 cm) than Connally's jacket (1.7 x 1.2 cm) and that the defect in Kennedy's shirt was also an ovoid .8 x 1.2 cm (to Connally's 1.3 x .8 cm). He also overlooks that the entrance on Kennedy's back was originally measured at an ovoid .7 x .4 cm and that the entrance on the back of Kennedy’s head was measured at an absolutely ovoid 1.5 x .6 cm. While the ovoid nature of these entrances could indicate that the bullets were tumbling, they more probably indicate that the bullets entered at an angle, exactly as offered by Dr. Shaw way back in 1964.
Still, there's another possibility. Papers by Ronchi and Ugolini (Zacchia, 1980) and Menzies et al (Journal of Forensic Sciences, 1981) found that a bullet wound of abnormal length or width can be taken as an indication that the weapon firing the projectile was equipped with a silencer. This assertion has been repeated, furthermore, in books such as 1997's Ballistic Trauma, by South African forensic pathologists Jeanine Vellema and Hendrik Johannes Scholtz.
Just a little something to think about.
As is this... When the Discovery Channel attempted to replicate Kennedy's and Connally's wounds for their 2004 program Beyond the Magic Bullet, the wound on the Connally torso's back created by the tumbling bullet in the program was not ovoid at all, but "keyhole" shaped, and measured 50 x 45 mm.
Ovoid? Oy Vey!
Connally’s Chest Wounds
When one looks at the presumed trajectory of the bullet striking Connally, one finds yet another reason to doubt the single-bullet theory. (I know. I know. This is reason number umpteen. But I’m trying to put this garbage of a theory where garbage belongs, in a trash heap, NEVER to be recycled.) While a bullet entering Connally’s right armpit from behind might indeed have caused a glancing blow to his fifth rib, and have exited without penetrating his lung, as purported by Connally's doctor, Robert Shaw, and supported by the HSCA's Dr. Petty, the fact is that the bullet exited from just below Connally's nipple at a much wider part of his chest, and that a line connecting the entrance in Connally's armpit with this exit would pass right through the substance of Connally's right lung. (This is shown on the slide above.)
And that's not the only problem with Shaw's description of Connally's wounds. In Dr. Shaw's testimony before the Warren Commission, he claimed the bullet "stripped away" "about 10 centimeters of the fifth rib starting at the, about the mid-axillary line and going to the anterior axillary line." Well, it makes little sense for 10 cm of rib to be "stripped away" (as opposed to "fractured") by a military rifle bullet entering on the right side of the rib, passing through the lung, and exiting from the front of the rib. This lends credence, then, to Shaw's belief the bullet never entered the substance of the lung, but curved around the outside.
And this, in turn, suggests that this bullet was traveling at a--you guessed it--reduced speed.
And I'm not the first to say so...
After noting Shaw's belief the bullet had struck a tangential blow to the rib, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel's report concluded "The majority of the panel members, however, disagree. They would have expected a comparable missile, which was slowed only by passage through the President's neck and by striking only a relatively thin and readily shattered rib, to pass from entrance to exit in a fairly straight line and to perforate the lung." (7HSCA 150).
Yes, you read that right. The presumed speed of the bullet striking Connally was, in the panel's opinion, inconsistent with his wounds as interpreted by the only doctor to examine his wounds. And that's but the half of it. The other half is far worse. This inconsistency led the panel's members not to question their presumption of the speed of the bullet striking Connally, as one might reasonably expect, but to assume Dr. Shaw was in error. Only Dr. Petty, and perhaps Dr. Spitz, stood by Shaw. Spitz, when interviewed on the Lou Gordon show on May 25, 1975, claimed the bullet striking Connally "slid around the fifth rib, which bullets sometimes do when they hit a curved bone, traveled along the rib, broke it." Petty's support of Shaw is noted in the panel's report, just before the panel's dismissal of Shaw's claims. That Petty's support of Shaw had led him to conclude the bullet was traveling at a lower velocity than presumed by the bulk of the panel is confirmed, moreover, by Petty's words to CNN host Larry King on 12-23-2003. The transcript to this appearance, found online, reveals: "The bullet that struck Mr. Connally obviously was traveling at a relatively low velocity. It had lost some of its velocity in going through President Kennedy. Then it went on and did not penetrate the chest, as has been reported. It skirted around the chest, following the curvature of the rib."
(Note: Petty wasn't always so open about the fact his colleagues rejected his conclusions. When asked the HSCA panel's conclusions regarding the bullet trajectory by Vincent Bugliosi in the 1986 mock trial of Oswald, for example, Dr. Petty falsely testified that "The panel concluded that the Governor was struck in the back, that the bullet circled around the outside of the chest, exited beneath the right nipple, went on to continue through his wrist, and then onto his thigh. The right wrist. The left thigh." This was, of course, Shaw and Petty's conclusion, not the panel's.)
The Math Problem
Now, the Warren Commission, famously, took Shaw at his word. With this came a different set of problems, however. In order to “simulate” Connally’s chest wounds and the glancing blow off his rib proposed by Shaw, Warren Commission wounds ballistics consultant Dr. Alfred Olivier arranged for thirteen sedated goats to be shot. In only one of these attempts did the bullet glance off the bone as proposed by Shaw. The recovered bullet from this attempt, furthermore, was far more damaged than the magic bullet, even though it had struck a smaller bone.
This did not go unnoticed. Fourteen years later, after Dr. Cyril Wecht raised this issue with the HSCA, HSCA special counsel I. Charles Mathews asked their ballistics expert Larry Sturdivan for an explanation. Sturdivan testified: “Exhibit 853 was a bullet that has ricocheted from the rib of a goat carcass, as Dr. Wecht indicated. However, let’s remember that the goat, which is roughly 100 pounds, is much, much smaller than Governor Connally and, therefore, the bullet passed through a relatively small amount of tissue before it hit the bone, and therefore, lost correspondingly less velocity. So we would have to say that the striking velocity on that bullet, CE 853, was much in excess of the striking velocity on Governor Connally, even if the bullet had passed through nothing before it hit Governor Connally.”
Well, let's stop right here. Sturdivan's testimony is balderdash. The size of the goat in comparison to the size of the Governor is not the issue. Never was. The issue is the length of the wound track within the goat and the Governor. Dr. Shaw, who operated on Connally, said the wound track along Connally's fifth rib was about 20 cm long. So how long was the wound track within the goat?
Although Sturdivan may not have known, or cared to find out, one of his co-workers did. Long-time researcher Gary Murr, as dogged a researcher as ever walked the earth, showed up at the 2016 JFK Lancer Conference with a presentation on Connally's chest wounds, and showed his audience something quite unexpected: the autopsy report prepared by Edgewood Arsenal, Sturdivan's long-time employer, on the goat. This report notes that the wound track within the goat was 18 cm, but two cm shorter than the wound track through Connally.
That Sturdivan had been spinning back in 1978 in order to shut down speculation was made clear, moreover, by his statements moments later. After being asked for the difference in velocity between a bullet striking Kennedy and then Connally versus one directly striking Connally, he replied: “this bullet if only encountering a few inches of soft tissue would go through losing almost no velocity, 100 feet per second or thereabouts.” Thus, in Sturdivan’s expert opinion, the inch or less of flesh in Connally’s armpit overlying his rib would do more to slow a bullet’s velocity than the 5 ½ inches of muscle and tissue in Kennedy’s back and throat! The wounds are seemingly from different worlds. And at war with one another.
The absurdity of this war was reinforced by Sturdivan in his 2005 book The JFK Myths. In Table III he relates the probable speed of the magic bullet at seven steps of its voyage. Sturdivan proposes that the bullet was traveling at 2160 fps (plus or minus 30 fps) when fired, 2015 fps (plus or minus 30 fps) upon impact with Kennedy's neck (and yes, he writes "neck"), 1830 fps (plus or minus 50 fps) upon impact with Connally's back, 1450-800 fps (plus or minus 100 fps) while penetrating Connally's rib, 500 fps (plus or minus 100 fps) upon impact with Connally's wrist, and 135 fps (plus or minus 20 fps) upon impact with Connally's thigh. This is PREPOSTEROUS. Amazingly, he actually proposes the bullet lost more velocity in Connally's back before penetrating his rib (380 fps plus or minus 100 fps) than from passing through 5 1/2 inches of Kennedy's neck (185 fps plus or minus 50 fps) or shattering Connally's wrist (365 fps plus or minus 20 fps).
If you're wondering how a supposed expert could dream up anything so ludicrous, well, you need to look at Table II in Sturdivan's book. In Table II, he notes the speeds at which bullets like those used in the assassination rifle will deform. Here, Sturdivan relates that such a bullet traveling point first will deform on bone (such as Connally's rib) at 1700 fps and that such a bullet traveling sideways will deform on bone at 1400 fps. As the magic bullet was purportedly traveling sideways as it impacted Connally's rib, and emerged almost unscathed, Sturdivan had to find a way to lower its velocity from the 1830 fps or so it would be traveling upon exit from Kennedy's neck. So he simply decided that Connally's back flesh substantially slowed the bullet before it impacted on Connally's rib around 1450 fps. There were no tests to support this conjecture, at least none mentioned in his book. He simply decided, or so we should presume.
No, that's not quite fair. In Appendix B of his book, Sturdivan offers an explanation for his conclusion. It's an extremely weak explanation, but an explanation nonetheless. You see, Sturdivan claimed he'd realized that the bullet traveled approximately 25-30 cm through Connally's back and chest, and was purported to have destroyed 10 cm of Connally's rib. He then assumed from this, on no apparent basis, that this 10 cm represented the middle third of the bullet trajectory, and that, therefore, the bullet traveled as much as 10 cm or 4 inches through Connally's body before striking his rib. Apparently, it never occurred to him that his mentor Dr. Oilivier, had told the Warren Commission that a bullet passing from Kennedy's upper back to his throat would traverse but 13 1/2 to 14 1/2 cm of tissue, and that it was the height of lunacy for him to propose a bullet passing from the back of Connally's right armpit to just below his right nipple would have to travel twice as far. Apparently, it never occurred to him to look at the entrance location near Connally's armpit, and project 4 inches forward along the trajectory from this entrance. If he had he would have seen that a bullet traveling sideways, as proposed, was on a direct course for the rib, and would have impacted the rib within the first inch or so of its journey.
If you're thinking that Sturdivan is a scientist, and his writings above reproach, for that matter, you should consider that wound ballistics expert Dr. Martin Fackler, in testimony presented in the 1992 ABA mock trial of Oswald, offered that, in his estimation, the bullet exited Connally's rib and struck Connally's wrist at 900 fps. This is almost twice the speed of the bullet traveling 500 fps (plus or minus 100 fps) proposed by Sturdivan, and makes little sense if one considers Sturdivan's approximation that the bullet traversing Connally's chest lost 1200 fps or more in velocity accurate.
It's actually worse than that. In opposition to his testimony, in which he said he thought the bullet struck Connally's wrist around 900 fps, was Fackler's article on the tests he'd performed for the ABA trial. This article was published that same year in Fackler's journal, Wound Ballistics Review. There he claimed he'd spent considerable time studying the wound ballistics literature in order to approximate the expected velocity of an M/C bullet after traveling through Kennedy's neck and Connally's back and rib...in other words, the speed at which the single-bullet theory holds it struck Connally's wrist. He then declared "The estimate I arrived at was 1000 to 1100 ft/s. I would not argue with any estimate that was outside these limits by up to 150 ft/s." Well, heck, this shows that Fackler thought the bullet could have struck Connally's wrist while traveling as fast as 1250 fps, over three times as fast as the low end of the range proposed by the far-less-influential Sturdivan.
And double heck, this not only demonstrates the speculative nature of this "science," but supports that Sturdivan stealthily cut the velocity of the bullet before it hit the rib. I mean, let's think about this: if the bullet had struck Connally's back at 1830 fps, as proposed by Sturdivan, and struck Connally's wrist still traveling 1250-850 fps, as proposed by Fackler, it would most certainly have struck and penetrated Connally's rib at a speed well over 1400 fps, at a speed at which the rib would have grossly deformed the bullet.
And should one still think my suspicion of Sturdivan unfair, and that he would not have changed his findings to support that the bullet striking Connally could have been as undamaged and as nearly pristine as CE 399, one should consider the testimony of one of the HSCA's experts that "the bullet would begin to deform, if it strikes say, soft tissue, at something--remember, the density of soft tissue is around one, the density of water, and it will begin to deform at something in excess of 2,000 feet per second. In other words, at the muzzle velocity of the Mannlicher-Carcano. If it strikes bone, which is twice as dense, then it would begin to deform nose on at approximately 1,400 feet per second. If the bullet turns sideways, which is a weaker orientation, it will deform down to around 1,000 feet feet per second."
Now, this expert's testimony was clearly at odds with Sturdivan's later assertion that the bullet would not deform if traveling below 1400 fps. And this expert's testimony, if accurate, clearly supports the testimony of Dr. Cyril Wecht that CE 399 would have to have been far more damaged for the single-bullet theory to be credible. And this expert was, furthermore, someone with whom Sturdivan would most certainly have compared notes before deciding the bullet wouldn't deform at 1400 fps. So who was this expert, you ask? Yeah--you guessed it--Larry Sturdivan himself...
Now let's look at the ramifications of Sturdivan's HSCA testimony... Dr. Shaw testified that the bullet striking Connally passed within an inch of Connally’s heart. While my study of the trajectories indicates this wasn’t so, that it was more like 3 inches, it also shows that for the bullet to have exited where it did from Connally’s lung, it would have to have passed within an inch or so of Connally’s liver. (The lower lung where the bullet made its exit sits atop the upper dome of the liver like a sailor’s cap sits atop your head.) This bullet is also purported to have struck Connally's back and fifth rib at an angle, and to have traveled sideways through his body along his rib until it exploded outwards, leaving a gaping hole in his chest.
Well, here's the problem. According to a June 1990 article in the British Journal of Surgery by Dr.s G. J. Cooper and J. M. Ryan, bullets traveling sideways impart more than three times the energy into the surrounding tissue as bullets traveling straight ahead. The reasons for this are explained in 1997's Ballistic Trauma, by Dr.s Jeanine Vellema and Hendrik Johannes Scholtz.
"The greater the angle of yaw when a bullet strikes a body, the greater the retardation of the bullet and consequently the greater the amount of kinetic energy transfer. This explains why unstable projectiles in flight cause larger entrance wounds on impact with the body. Once the bullet enters the denser medium of tissue, its yaw angle increases progressively until the bullet becomes completely unstable, tumbles and rotates by 180 degrees, and ends up traveling base forward. Tumbling of the bullet in tissue increases the presented cross-sectional area of the bullet, resulting in more direct tissue destruction and increased retarding (drag) forces, with consequently greater kinetic energy transfer and larger temporary cavity formation. The sudden increase of the drag force also puts strain on the bullet, which may lead to the break up of the bullet and more tissue destruction."
Now plug this in to the official story. According to the numbers provided in Sturdivan's HSCA testimony (as opposed to the gerrymandered numbers he provided in his book The JFK Myths), the bullet struck Kennedy in the back at 1800 feet per second, met minimal resistance, struck Connally at 1700 feet per second, and blasted out his rib at 1,100 to 1,300 feet per second. This indicates the bullet passed nearest the liver between 1300 and 1500 feet per second, traveling sideways, creating a temporary cavity much larger than the temporary cavity created in Kennedy's neck...a cavity believed to be so large, mind you, that single-bullet theorists claim it bruised Kennedy's lung and fractured a transverse process of his spine...
Now consider the damage this would do to Connally's liver.
Once again, Michael S. Owen-Smith in the book Management of Gunshot Wounds: “Direct damage from a high velocity missile is catastrophic, because the liver is extremely susceptible to cavitation damage and the resultant pulping of liver tissue is so extensive that most cases are fatal…Liver and spleen are so sensitive to cavitation and shock effects that they may be damaged even when the rifle bullet passes through the chest…Lesser degree of damage from bullets passing close to the liver would result in damage similar to that from low-velocity bullets or blunt injury." No such damage was reported. The Textbook of Military Medicine, put out by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, moreover, confirms:“Liver, spleen, and kidney are highly vascular, friable organs (that is, the tissues lack elasticity, they tear when they are stretched). Temporary cavitation causes severe tissue disruption...Such injuries are rapidly fatal.”
Ironically, the fact that Connally survived raises grave doubts about the manner in which Kennedy died. If the mere passage of the bullet created a large bruise on Kennedy's nearby lung, its passage while traveling sideways through Connally would most logically have damaged Connally's nearby liver. That it did not suggests an alternate scenario, in which the bruise on the lung was created by some other means.
Connally's Wrist Wounds
Yep, when one goes through the president's and governor's wounds wound by wound, the medical evidence is totally at odds with the single-bullet theory.
Let's take, as yet another example, Connally's wrist wounds. While it has long been pointed out (most prominently by Dr. Cyril Wecht) that the bullets fired upon human cadaver wrists for the Warren Commission were inevitably more damaged than CE 399, the bullet purported to have created Connally's wrist wound, this is but the surface of the problem. While this particular aspect of the problem is at least partially explained by the proposal the bullets striking the cadaver wrists were traveling at a speed higher than the speed at which bullets deform, and the bullet striking Connally's wrist was traveling at a speed slightly lower than this speed, there is another aspect to the problem that can't be so readily dismissed.
This aspect to the problem is the small size of the exit wound on the underside of Connally's wrist. It was, according to Dr. Charles Gregory, the doctor who treated Connally's wrist wound, no bigger than a small slit, far smaller than the 2 cm long oblique entrance wound on the top of the wrist and higher up the arm. The small size of this exit was a bit of a mystery to Dr. Olivier, the Warren Commission's wound ballistics expert, and the man who oversaw the tests performed on the cadaver wrists. Olivier's team fired upon 10 wrists lined up so the bullet would enter where Gregory said the bullet entered Connally and exit from where Gregory said the bullet exited Connally. Olivier was able to reproduce the trajectory but not the wounds. The average entrance was .7 by 3.3 cms and reflective of the oblique angle of entry. This was probably close enough. But the exits were a different matter entirely. While the exit on Connally's wrist was a small slit, the exits on the cadaver wrists were many times larger, and averaged 2 cm wide by 6.7 cm long. That's an enormous difference.
Now let's put this difference in context. Olivier testified that 1) the average striking velocity of the bullet on the seven wrist shots he measured was 1858 fps; 2) the average exit velocity of the bullet on these seven shots was 1776 fps; 3) there was "considerably more" damage to the wrist bones he'd fired upon than on Connally's wrist bones; 4) there was "a greater flattening of the bullet" in his experiments than there was on CE 399, the bullet purported to have struck Connally's wrist, "which might indicate that it struck the rib which did the flattening at a lower velocity;" 5) these differences had led him to conclude that the bullet striking Connally's wrist was "characterized by an extreme amount of yaw and reduced velocity. How much reduced, I don't know, but considerably reduced;" and 6) this bullet "had so little velocity after coming out of the wrist that it barely penetrated the thigh."
Olivier was thereby telling Specter that the bullet striking Connally was not a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet traveling at full-velocity that had previously struck but soft tissue in Kennedy and a rib in Connally. He was telling him, in so many words, that his single-bullet theory was nonsense.
Of course, he failed to actually say such a thing.
With the help of that master spinner of tall tales, Arlen Specter, he'd found a way out.
See if you can spot it.
From the 5-13-64 testimony of Dr. Olivier before the Warren Commission:
Dr. OLIVIER. The loss in velocity passing through the goat was 265 feet per second.
Mr. SPECTER. Now, would that be the approximate loss in velocity of a pristine bullet passing through the Governor?
Dr. OLIVIER. The loss would be somewhat greater.
Mr. SPECTER. How much greater in your opinion?
Dr. OLIVIER. Do you have that figure, Dr. Dziemian?
Dr. DZIEMIAN. I would say...the Governor was about half again thicker. It would be about half again as great velocity, somewhere around 400.
(Note: Dziemian was the Chief of the Biophysics Division, U.S. Army Chemical Research and Development Laboratories, Edgewood Arsenal, Md. He was both Olivier's and Sturdivan's superior.)
Mr. SPECTER. Had the bullet passed through only the Governor, losing velocity of 400 feet per second, would you have expected that the damage inflicted on the Governor's wrist would have been about the same as that inflicted on Governor Connally or greater?
Dr. OLIVIER. My feeling is it would have been greater.
(Note that the bullet's traveling at a velocity lower than that of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition was not to be considered. To Olivier's and Specter's minds, if the bullet was traveling too slow, well, then, it must have hit something first.)
So there it is. Olivier had previously testified that a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet fired from the sniper's nest would lose about 100 fps before reaching Kennedy and Connally and that a bullet traversing Kennedy's neck would lose about 125 fps. He then testified that a bullet traversing Connally's chest would lose about 400 fps. And he then testified that a bullet piercing Connally's wrist would lose about 82 fps.
Such a bullet would still be traveling at a supersonic rate upon exit from Kennedy's wrist. Well, this doesn't jibe with the small size of the wrist wound and the barely existent wound in the thigh. And, holy smokes...this suggests instead that the bullet creating these wounds was NOT a high-velocity round fired from Oswald's rifle...and that...dare I say it...this bullet may very well have been a low-velocity subsonic round fired from a sniper rifle.
I mean, let's do the math. If the bullet lost 100 fps in the air before striking anything, 125 fps in Kennedy's neck, 400 fps in Connally's chest, and 82 in Connally's wrist, it had lost a little over 700 fps before striking Connally's thigh. A subsonic rifle round is fired with a muzzle velocity around 1,000 fps. The 300 fps left over would be more than enough to pierce Connally's pant leg and damage his thigh.(Various studies have placed the speed at which a bullet will break skin between 163 and 330 fps, depending on the bullet and depending on the skin. A June 1981 article by Dr. Vincent J.M. DiMaio in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, however, attempted to clarify this issue, and settled on the minimum velocity of 70 mps (230 fps), as the speed at which a bullet is likely to break skin. But we're not gonna use that. The military doctors French and Callender, in their chapter Ballistic Characteristics of Wounding Agents, in the Army publication Wound Ballistics (1962), claimed that a 150 grain bullet would require a velocity of 125-150 fps to break skin. So we'll go with that. I mean, this was a government publication written by military surgeons, released but a year before the assassination. Olivier almost certainly read it, and Specter probably knew about it.)
But no one wanted to hear this. So what does Specter do?
Mr. SPECTER Had the bullet passed through the President and then struck Governor Connally, would it have lost velocity of 400 feet per second in passing through Governor Connally or more. Dr. OLIVIER. It would have lost more.
Mr. SPECTER. What is the reason for that?
Dr. OLIVIER. The bullet after passing through, say a dense medium, then through air and then through another dense medium tends to be more unstable, based on our past work. It appears to be that it would have tumbled more readily and lost energy more rapidly. How much velocity it would have lost, I couldn't say, but it would have lost more.
He gets Olivier to say the bullet lost more velocity than 400 fps in Connally's chest. Olivier fails to put a number to this presumption, mind you. And not only that, he also fails to tell us how much velocity it would need to lose for the single-bullet theory to make sense. Yikes. This is a huge gaping hole in Specter's presentation of the evidence. In effect, he has told the commission "We don't know if Kennedy's and Connally's wounds could have been caused by this bullet if it was traveling at the presumed velocity, and we have no reason to believe this bullet could have caused their wounds if it was traveling at the presumed velocity."
And yet, look how Specter covers this in Appendix X of the Warren Report: (Olivier and Dziemian were of the) "opinion that the wound on the Governor's wrist would have been more extensive had the bullet which inflicted that injury merely passed through the Governor's chest exiting at a velocity of approximately 1,500 feet per second. Thus, the Governor's wrist wound indicated that the bullet passed through the President's neck, began to yaw in the air between the President and the Governor, and then lost substantially more velocity than 400 feet per second in passing through the Governor's chest.314 A bullet which was yawing on entering into the Governor's back would lose substantiallymore velocity in passing through his body than a pristine bullet.315 In addition, the greater flattening of the bullet. that struck the animal's rib (Commission Exhibit No. 853) than the bullet which presumably struck the Governor's rib (Commission Exhibit No. 399) indicates that the animal bullet was traveling at a greater velocity.316 That suggests that the bullet which entered the Governor's chest had already lost velocity by passing through the President's neck.317 Moreover, the large wound on the Governor's back would be explained by a bullet which was yawing although that type of wound might also be accounted for by a tangential striking.318"
Footnote 314 refers back to the passage cited above. As we've seen, Olivier never used the word "substantially." But guess who did...
From the 4-21-64 testimony of the doctor who'd repaired Connally's wrist wound, Dr. Charles Gregory:
Mr. DULLES - Was the wound of exit in the wrist also jagged like the wound of entry or was there, what differences were there between the wound of entry and the wound of exit?
Dr. GREGORY - The wound of exit was disposed transversely across the wrist exactly as I have it marked here. It was in the nature of a small laceration, perhaps a centimeter and a half in length, about a half an inch long, and it lay in the skin creases so that as you examined the wrist casually it was a very innocent looking thing indeed, and it was not until it was probed that its true nature in connection with the remainder of the wound was evident.
Senator RUSSELL - When did you first see this bullet, Doctor, the one you have just described in your testimony?
Dr. GREGORY - This bullet?
Senator RUSSELL - Yes.
Dr. GREGORY - This morning, sir.
Senator RUSSELL - You had never seen it until this morning?
Dr. GREGORY - I had never seen it before this time.
Mr. SPECTER - Dr. Gregory, what was then the relative size of the wounds on the back and front side of the wrist itself?
Dr. GREGORY - As I recall them, the wound dimensions would be so far as the wound on the back of the wrist is concerned about a half a centimeter by two and a half centimeters in length. It was rather linear in nature. The upper end of it having apparently lost some tissue was gapping more than the lower portion of it.
Mr. SPECTER - How about on the volar or front side of the wrist?
Dr. GREGORY - The volar surface or palmar surface had a wound disclosed transversely about a half centimeter in length and about 2 centimeters above the flexion crease to the wrist.
(Gregory has now described two wrist wounds--an entrance wound on the back of the forearm measuring a half a centimeter by two centimeters and an exit wound on the palm side of the forearm much closer to the wrist that was essentially a centimeter and a half-long slit. The entrance wound is thereby much much larger than the exit wound. Now look how Specter spins this...)
Mr. SPECTER - Then the wound on the dorsal or back side of the wrist was a little larger than the wound on the volar or palm side of the wrist?
Dr. GREGORY - Yes; it was.
Mr. SPECTER - And is that characteristic in terms of entry and exit wounds?
Dr. GREGORY - It is not at all characteristic of the entry wound of a pristine missile which tends to make a small wound of entrance and larger wound of exit.
Mr. SPECTER - Is it, however, characteristic of a missile which has had its velocity substantiallydecreased?
Dr. GREGORY - I don't think that the exchange in the velocity will alter the nature of the wound of entrance or exit excepting that if the velocity is low enough the missile may simply manage to emerge or may not emerge at all on the far side of the limb which has been struck.
(Note that Specter has introduced the term "substantially" and pushed that the bullet's velocity had been substantially decreased and that Gregory has corrected him by telling him that it is not how much velocity that's been lost that makes for a small exit wound but how low the velocity is at the time of exit. He was thereby telling Specter that for all he knows the bullet was of low velocity to begin with. And Specter knew this. Before testifying before the commission in Washington, Gregory had testified to Specter in Dallas. On 3-23-64, he'd told Specter that the bullet creating Connally's wrist wound "had to be one of lower initial energy or a missile which had been partially expended elsewhere before it struck his wrist." Now look how Specter ignores this entirely...)
Mr. DULLES - Would this be consistent with a tumbling bullet or a bullet that had already tumbled and therefore entered back side too?
Dr. GREGORY - The wound of entrance is characteristic in my view of an irregular missile in this case, an irregular missile which has tipped itself off as being irregular by the nature of itself.
Mr. DULLES - What do you mean by irregular?
Dr. GREGORY - I mean one that has been distorted. It is in some way angular, it has edges or sharp edges or something of this sort. It is not rounded or pointed in the fashion of an ordinary missile. The irregularity of it also, I submit, tends to pick up organic material and carry it into the limb, and this is a very significant takeoff, in my opinion.
(CE 399 was, of course, perfectly rounded and nearly pristine. Gregory was thereby telling Specter that as far as he was concerned the single-bullet theory was nonsense.)
It seems clear, then, that neither of Connally's doctors, Shaw and Gregory, bought into the single-bullet theory, and that Dr. Olivier, the doctor hired to test it, had failed to adequately do so. Arlen Specter was undoubtedly aware of this. Something was needed, then, to convince the commissioners and the public that the bullet creating Connally's chest wound lost far more velocity within Connally's chest than the 400 fps Olivier testified to. Only this could explain how the bullet barely exited Connally's wrist and barely penetrated his thigh. And so Dr. Olivier's testimony that "more" velocity than 400 fps would be lost within Connally's chest if the bullet had previously struck Kennedy became "substantially more" in the commission's report. It's called lying.
And it almost certainly came courtesy Arlen Specter...
And he largely got away with it. The problems created by Olivier's tests--the problems Specter tried to paper over by pretending Olivier had said a bullet passing through Kennedy before Connally would have "substantially" less velocity than a bullet merely passing through Connally--were never acknowledged by the HSCA when they re-investigated the shooting in the 70's.
And it's no wonder when you think of it. The HSCA's wound ballistics expert was Larry Sturdivan, Olivier's protege in the Wound Ballistics Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
From Sturdivan's testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations:
(Note: Fauntroy and Sturdivan got mixed up at one point and said 2,700 instead of 1,700, This has been corrected.)
Mr. FAUNTROY - The bullet left the gun at 2,000 feet. Do you think at the point it would have struck the first body it was going at about 1,700?
Mr. STURDIVAN - 1,700 to 1,800.
Mr. FAUNTROY - Feet. It would have lost how much going through, you said?
Mr. STURDIVAN - About a hundred. So it is after going through it is perhaps 1,700 feet per second, or a little less, at striking the second body. There it would lose another 400-plus feet per second and exit at, say, somewhere between 1,100 and 1,300 feet per second, roughly.
Mr. FAUNTROY - That is velocity at which it is moving?
Mr. STURDIVAN - At the exit of the second target.
(Note that he assumes the bullet lost 400 fps within Connally, and not "substantially more than 400" a la Specter.)
Mr. FAUNTROY - Would that be enough velocity to shatter a wrist bone?
Mr. STURDIVAN - Oh, yes. My calculations, rough calculations have shown that when striking the bone it would comminute the bone at anything above about 700 feet per second. So it still has nearly twice that velocity and certainly it would have enough to comminute a bone.
Mr. FAUNTROY - And lodge in the left thigh?
Mr. STURDIVAN - Well, yes; after going through the bone it would, of course, again have lost a considerable amount of velocity, but there is no reason to believe that it would not have enough remaining velocity to penetrate some more soft tissue, although it probably would not have had much in excess of 700, perhaps even less than that. So it probably would not have fractured another bone. In other words, if it had continued on the same path and struck the thick bone it would not have fractured it, it would have stopped.
Well, this is a bit curious. While Olivier's experiments demonstrated that the bullet would lose but 82 fps in the wrist, Sturdivan avoided this when testifying before the HSCA and suggested that it may have lost around 600 fps.
Of course, he wasn't alone in this. In the 1992 ABA mock trial of Oswald, Dr. Martin Fackler claimed he'd compared Connally's wrist x-rays with the x-rays of a wrist struck at 1100 fps. He claimed this had led him to conclude Connally's wrist was struck by a bullet traveling about 900 fps. He testified further that in his estimation the bullet exited the wrist traveling "probably about 400 fps." That's a loss of 500 fps. So Sturdivan was in some pretty good company...
And being given very little credit for it... In his 1993 single-assassin theorist manifesto Case Closed, Gerald Posner claimed that "Ballistic experts" had "calculated the speeds at which the bullet would have entered and exited each wound on the President and the Governor. The 6.5 mm slug left Oswald's rifle at 2,000 feet per second and hit Kennedy at the base of the neck between 1,700 and 1,800 feet per second. Passing only through flesh, the bullet lost another one to two hundred feet per second and hit Connally at 1,500 to 1,600. It left his chest (after shattering Connally’s 5th right rib) and entered the wrist at 900 feet per second. Anything above 700 feet per second is enough to shatter bone. When it left the wrist it was near 400 feet per second, just enough to break the skin and imbed itself into his thigh."
Well, as we've seen, no ballistic expert ever said as much... Perhaps, then, this is why Posner said "experts." Yeah, you got it. The footnote supplied by Posner for this passage cites both "Dr. Oliver's" testimony before the Warren Commission and Dr. Fackler's testimony in the mock trial of Oswald. Well, this is wrong to begin with--the first numbers cited were from Sturdivan's HSCA testimony and not Olivier's Warren Commission testimony. In any event, it's clear Posner mixed and matched Sturdivan's and Fackler's numbers to get something he thought made sense, and failed to tell his readers that the scenario presented was entirely his own, and grossly at odds with Dr. Olivier's actual testimony before the Warren Commission.
So, yeah, in Posner's book, Larry Sturdivan's guesswork for the HSCA and Martin Fackler's guesswork for the ABA mock trial were passed off as the "calculations" of the man who'd actually tested this stuff, Dr. Alfred Olivier.
Still, the newly-minted numbers for the velocity lost in Connally's wrist wasn't the last of Sturdivan's re-interpretations of Olivier's data. No, he was just getting started...
In his 2005 book, The JFK Myths, Sturdivan proposes that the "magic" bullet he'd previously testified was traveling 1300 to 1100 fps upon impact with Connally's wrist was really traveling between 600 and 400 fps. And not only that, he similarly proposes that the bullet he'd previously claimed was traveling around 700 fps upon impact with the thigh was really traveling around 155-115 fps. Well, wait, how the heck did he come to propose the bullet hitting Connally's wrist lost between 485-245 fps, when the tests performed on human cadavers for the Warren Commission--tests in which he'd participated, mind you--suggested the bullet would lose but 82 fps?
Did he re-do the tests and conclude Olivier's results were incorrect? Not likely. He never mentions as much in his book. And besides, Dr. John Nichols did re-do Olivier's experiments, and confirmed his results regarding the relatively minor loss of velocity in the wrist. And that's not the worst of it. In the October 1977 issue of the Maryland State Medical Journal, Nichols asserted that the velocity "figures of Dr. Olivier are consistent with those I obtained by chronograph in each of three firings through appropriate anatomical specimens of neck and of wrist at Lake City Army Ordinance Plant in Missouri in March, 1968; however, the retardation of 265 feet per second is about three times that obtained by myself in a single firing through a thorax."
So, yes, you read that right. Nichols' findings suggested that the loss of velocity approximated by Olivier for the flight of the magic bullet through Connally was not only not too small, but quite possibly much too large.
Well, then, was Sturdivan doctoring his data to resolve the problems created by the wrist and thigh wounds? The problems left unresolved by Olivier? The problems left unresolved by Sturdivan in his testimony before the HSCA? The problems later brought to his attention by researcher John Hunt?
It appears so. In the JFK Myths, Sturdivan offers "The Edgewood Arsenal tests showed that some of the bullets fired through goat ribcages lost about 300 feet/second (91 m/s). The much greater thickness of the Governor's trunk, approximately 25 to 39 cm, and the fact that the bullet was traveling sideways through a good portion of the wound, was calculated to have quadrupled this velocity loss." Well, first, QUADRUPLED? And, second, calculated by whom? The clear implication is that this calculation was performed along with the original tests. But there is nothing in Olivier's testimony or subsequent report to support such a thing. And Sturdivan, himself, told the HSCA the chest wound would absorb but 400 fps of the bullet's velocity.
So, yeah, it seems apparent that this "calculation" was performed by Sturdivan all by his lonesome...decades after the tests were performed...while trying to "correct" Olivier's testimony and better support the single-bullet theory.
At first glance, one might think he's onto something. By quadrupling 300 fps Sturdivan gets 1200 fps. 1200 fps is, strangely enough, the amount of velocity lost when one multiples the 400 fps lost in Connally's chest approximation of Dr. Dziemian by 3, the number provided by the British Journal of Surgery for determining the additional amount of energy imparted into tissue when a bullet travels sideways.
But it's not really as neat as that, is it? For one, the velocity lost in the goat was 265 fps, not 300. 265 times 4 equals 1060, not 1200. And for two, the bullet striking the goat undoubtedly DID tumble--after striking the rib. IF it struck the rib a quarter of the way through the goat, as seems reasonable, then, one need only adjust the first quarter of this journey upwards, from 100 fps to 300 fps. This leads to a grand total of 600 fps lost within Connally's chest. 600 fps. Not 1200 fps.
And then there's this. The FBI's Robert Frazier testified before the Warren Commission that the bullet exit on the front of Connally's coat was "approximately circular in shape, three-eights of an inch in diameter." Well, geez, that's not the exit of a bullet traveling sideways, now is it?
Sturdivan was bluffing.
Sturdivan dedicated The JFK Myths to the memory of Olivier and Dziemian. It seems clear he realized they'd failed to adequately explain the small size of the wrist wound and thigh wound, and was trying to--for the sake of their reputations, for the sake of all their reputations--clean up their mess.
But he made an even greater mess. The bullets fired into goats were, according to Olivier's testimony and final report, far more damaged than CE 399, the nearly pristine bullet purportedly fired through both Kennedy and Connally. These bullets were traveling but 125 fps faster, and striking smaller bones. But they were far more damaged. CE 399 was, moreover, purportedly still traveling 1779 fps after striking Kennedy. Sturdivan would later tell the HSCA that bullets traveling sideways deform when striking bone at greater than 1000 fps. If CE 399 struck Connally's rib sideways while traveling at a velocity far beyond the velocity at which it would deform, and lost 400% as much velocity within Connally's chest as the bullet striking the goat ribcage, as purported by Sturdivan, then it would most certainly have been more damaged than the bullets Olivier had fired into goats. This is 2 plus 2 equals 4 kind of stuff. Elementary.
Now let's look back at Table III in The JFK Myths... Sturdivan proposes that the bullet was traveling at 2160 fps (plus or minus 30 fps) when fired, 2015 fps (plus or minus 30 fps) upon impact with Kennedy's neck (and yes, he writes "neck"), 1830 fps (plus or minus 50 fps) upon impact with Connally's back, 1450-800 fps (plus or minus 100 fps) while penetrating Connally's rib, 500 fps (plus or minus 100 fps) upon impact with Connally's wrist, and 135 fps (plus or minus 20 fps) upon impact with Connally's thigh.
So, yes, I'm afraid, there's a method to his madness. By having the bullet impact Connally's back at 1880-1780 fps and strike his wrist at 600-400 fps, Sturdivan lowered the velocity of the bullet to the point where the small exit on the wrist made some sense. This created another problem, however. From having the bullet lose so much velocity within the chest, the near-pristine appearance of the bullet became more problematic. It seems WAY too much a coincidence, then, that Table II in the JFK Myths presents the velocity at which a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet would deform on bone as 1400 fps. Sturdivan had told the HSCA it was 1000 fps, but it was now 1400 fps. This was still well below the velocity of the bullet of course. But never fear, Sturdivan found a way around that as well. In the JFK Myths he proposes that a bullet striking Connally's back between 1880 and 1780 fps would not strike rib until traveling 1550--1350, just above the level at which it would deform.
My, how convenient. As discussed in his online essay Breakability (2006), researcher John Hunt noticed the change from 1,000 fps to 1,400 fps while proofreading Sturdivan's book. According to Hunt, he told Sturdivan about this, and expected Sturdivan to address this in his final draft. Now look how Sturdivan addressed Hunt's concerns...in a footnote to a chart featuring the new numbers, Sturdivan explained: "68. These [the velocity deformation numbers in Table II] differ from the estimates given to the HSCA in 1978, as they were redone for this book. The reader is cautioned that both sets are only rough approximations." Well, golly. Sturdivan admitted that BOTH sets were rough approximations. And that he'd "redone" his calculations for his book.
It seems likely, then, that Sturdivan was just making stuff up to try to cover for his former bosses Olivier and Dziemian, who signed off on the single-bullet theory while knowing the lack of damage to the bullet and lack of damage to the wrist suggested a different scenario entirely...one in which the president and Connally were struck by a bullet or bullets traveling at a greatly reduced velocity.
For those lost in the details, here is a quick chart summarizing the confusing and contradictory claims of Olivier and Sturdivan:
Velocity of a WCC/MC bullet: OLIVIER 1964 STURDIVAN 1978 STURDIVAN 2005
as it leaves the muzzle 2,160 f/s 2,000 f/s 2,130-2,190 f/s
upon impact with Kennedy’s neck 1,904 f/s 1,700-1,800 f/s 1,985-2,045 f/s
upon impact with Connally’s back 1,772 f/s 1,600-1,700 f/s 1,780-1,880 f/s
lost within Connally’s chest >400 f/s 400-(600 f/s) (1,180-1,480 f/s*)
upon impact with Connally’s wrist none given 1,100-1,300 f/s 400-600 f/s
lost within Connally’s wrist 82 f/s (400-600 f/s) (245-485 f/s)
upon impact with Connally’s thigh “very low” approx. 700 f/s 115-155 f/s
at which M/C bullets deform on bone
while traveling sideways none given 1,000 f/s 1,400 f/s
(numbers in parentheses are implied, not stated)
Olivier's post Warren Commission activities only add to my suspicion his (and Sturdivan's) testimony was a sham.
As we've seen, the Warren Commission hired Dr. Olivier to test the single-bullet theory. Olivier and the staff at Edgewood Arsenal fired Mannlicher-Carcano bullets through simulated necks, simulated chests, and actual cadavers’ wrists. He made out as though the single-bullet theory was viable. He failed to simulate the wounds all at once, however. Never fear, in 1967, CBS hired Olivier to conduct a more thorough test. On the 6-26-67 program The Warren Report a bullet was shown passing through a simulated neck, a simulated chest, and a simulated wrist only to bounce off a simulated thigh.
So what went wrong? In a televised interview, Olivier admitted that, in Connally's "case, the bullet passed along the rib, fractured the rib, throwing fragments into the lung. Of course, we have no rib here, but it still simulates passing through the flesh." He went on to state that even without simulating the damage to Connally's rib, (which would have greatly slowed the bullet prior to its even striking the wrist), "In some cases, it passed through the wrist; in other cases it lodged in the wrist." Well, yikes, this was as good as admitting that they hadn't come close to replicating the single-bullet theory.
When one watches the program closely, moreover, one can see one of the reasons why the simulation went wrong. A 12-inch gelatin block was used to simulate Connally's chest even though this wound track--which stretched from the back of his right armpit to just below his right nipple--was probably more like 8 inches, and may have been as short as 6 inches. By failing to put a simulated bone within this block, Olivier had made sure the test bullets did not deform at a high-velocity. By having this block be 50-100% longer than the actual wound track, moreover, Olivier had conversely made sure the bullets slowed just enough so that their impact with the simulated wrist--which included a simulated bone--would not deform the bullet to a degree damaging the single-bullet theory. It seems possible, then, that Olivier was trying to protect the memory of the Warren Commission--and doomed his test to failure in the process.
And yet, CBS was undeterred. They reported that the bullets fired in Olivier's test needed just a little more velocity to penetrate the thigh, and declared the single-bullet theory the most reasonable explanation for the President's and Governor's wounds.
Sadly, such deception is the rule and not the exception.
In 2003, the Discovery Channel created a similar simulation, with similar results. Once again the bullet, without being asked to strike any simulated ribs at the exit point of a simulated chest, bounced off a simulated thigh and the program declared its simulation a success.
The failure of these tests, moreover, should come as no surprise. In 1967, in the book Where Death Delights, Dr. Milton Helpern, a man who had supervised 10,000 autopsies on gun shot victims, explained why these tests were doomed to failure. He said: “The single-bullet theory requires us to believe that this bullet went through seven layers of skin—tough, elastic, resistant skin…In addition to these seven layers of tough, human skin, this bullet passed through other layers of soft tissue, and then these shattered bones!...I just can’t believe that this bullet had the force to do what Mr. Specter and the Commission have demanded of it."
And it's not as if Helpern was just blowing smoke. In 1987, in a much-discussed letter to the International Defense Review, Dr. Martin Fackler gave substance to Dr. Helpern's observations by reporting his conclusion that human skin had the approximate resistance of four inches of muscle tissue. Yes, that's right. Seven layers of skin have the resistance of 28 inches of muscle tissue. This suggests, then, that Olivier's tests for CBS quite possibly under-represented the amount of resistance encountered by the so-called magic bullet.
And yes, I see the inconsistency. The experiments performed for the Warren Commission suggested that CE 399 was traveling far too fast upon exit from Connally's chest to do such minor damage to his wrist and thigh. And yet the bullets in the CBS and Discovery Channel re-enactments were traveling too slow to injure the thigh. I'm not sure why this is. It seems probable that they failed to accurately re-enact the damage to the wrist, and lost far too much velocity within the wrist as a result. But it could also be that the simulations were all faulty in one manner or another, and that they served little scientific purpose beyond giving their proponents the opportunity to pretend they'd proved the viability of the single-bullet theory.
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.)
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.
Still, the source and order of the shots is not the only question whose answer seems increasingly out of reach. Oswald's capability with a rifle, and his rifle's capability to shoot accurately, are also still in doubt. 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) 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.)