JAHS Chapter 2
rundown of evidence provided FBI
inc dismissal of trigger guard prints
compare change in bag shape
lying about paraffin tests
Add in BY photos--show that dpd says two negatives but HSCA said three
Move Frazier to day one
The Mourning After
Sometime the next morning, the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Foy Kohler, met with Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev. According to a State Department cable on the meeting, Kohler told Khruschev the new company line--that Oswald must have been a "madman." Reflecting his concern that those prosecuting Oswald would focus on his alleged "Marxism", and that this would hurt U.S. relations with the Soviets, Kohler offered "While we clearly must be factual and objective in our output, I would hope, if facts permit, we could deal with the assassin as 'madman' with long record of acts reflecting mental unbalance rather than dwell on his political convictions."
And Kohler wasn't the only one itching to move on. An 8-19-70 interview of CIA Director John McCone, conducted for the LBJ Library, reflects that on the night of the shooting McCone visited Johnson at his home and that Johnson's "mood was one of deep distress over the tragedy, and grave concern over how to properly handle the men in the organization whose competence he recognized...he decided to work with the organization and to win its support, and he did so successfully. Many men who were determined to leave the next morning stayed on and served him loyally and very well--and some to the end of his Administration." While Johnson's Daily Diary, available on the LBJ Library website, demonstrates that McCone was mistaken as to the exact timing of this discussion, and that it actually took place early the next morning, on the 23rd, McCone's recollection is nevertheless illuminating. Johnson was supposedly concerned that a foreign government had been behind Kennedy's death. And yet, he met with two ex-Presidents, three top Kennedy advisers, and twelve members of Congress upon his return to Washington, and failed to meet with the head of the CIA until the next day. This suggests that Johnson's priority on his first night as President was not in finding out what had happened to his predecessor, but in political maneuvering. Perhaps more telling, McCone failed to mention any concern of Johnson's that Kennedy was killed by an international conspiracy. This would have been the expected topic of conversation.
If, with the arrest of Oswald, Johnson was preparing to move on, however, his plan would soon be put on hold.
Above: FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (L) and President Lyndon B. Johnson, friends to the end.
At 9:01 AM CST on 11-23 President Johnson called FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover for an update on the investigation. The transcript of this conversation reflects that Hoover told Johnson that "The evidence that they have at the present time is not very very strong," and that Hoover then discussed a recent trip that Oswald had made to Mexico City: "We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet Embassy, using Oswald's name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man's voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet Embassy down there."
Above: the "Mexico City Mystery Man." For reasons that are still not entirely clear, the CIA Station in Mexico City thought the picture shown above was a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald on one of his September 1963 visits to the Cuban Consulate and Russian Embassy in Mexico.
Hoover then shared something that led to this transcript's being withheld till 1993. He revealed: "We do have a copy of a letter which was written by Oswald to the Soviet Embassy here in Washington inquiring as well as complaining about the questioning of his wife by the FBI. Now, of course, that letter information--we process all mail that goes to the Soviet Embassy--it's a very secret operation. No mail is delivered to the Embassy without being examined and opened by us. so that we know what they receive. Such a letter was sent to the Embassy by this fellow Oswald, making a complaint about his wife being harassed and being questioned." Hoover then admitted: "The case as it stands now isn't strong enough to be able to get a conviction." He then expressed hope that not only this would change, but that the FBI would be able to tie Oswald to a wider conspiracy. He said: "Now if we can identify this man who is at the Mexican Embassy at--the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City, the Embassy in Mexico City." He then trailed off with "This man Oswald has still denied everything."
While Hoover appears to be much more in command of the evidence in this conversation than in the previous day's conversation with Robert Kennedy, by the end of this conversation, he once again fell prey to confusion. He reported: "I think that the bullets were fired from the fifth floor and the three shells that were found were found on the fifth floor. But he (the sniper) apparently went up to the sixth floor to have fired the gun and throw the gun away and then went out." It was later claimed, of course, that both the rifle and shells were recovered from the sixth floor.
Now, all that remains of this conversation is a transcript, kept at the Johnson Library. While it is purportedly a complete transcript, moreover, it is apparently only a partial transcript. When researcher Rex Bradford tried to listen to a recording of this conversation, he found that the conversation had been erased, and that a 14-minute gap had been left in its place. The Johnson Library then hired a forensics team to study the tape. This team concluded the conversation had been deliberately erased by persons unknown. When Bradford acted out this transcript, moreover, he found it played out nowhere near the length of the 14 minute gap on the tape.
As a result, one can't help but wonder what else Johnson and Hoover talked about in the minutes unrecorded on the transcript.
Still, we can explore what they did discuss. In 1996, James Hosty, the FBI agent tasked with keeping tabs on Oswald in Dallas, published Assignment: Oswald, his take on the assassination of President Kennedy. There, he acknowledged that, as soon as he heard of Oswald's arrest, around 2:15 on November 22nd, he rushed to take a look at Oswald's file, and found a one-page communique summarizing an 11-9-63 letter from Oswald to the Soviet Embassy in Washington D.C. This letter began: "Dear Sirs. This is to inform you of recent events since my meetings with Comrade Kostin in the Embassy of the Soviet Union, Mexico City, Mexico." Oswald then complained about an FBI Agent "Hasty", who he claimed was harassing his wife. (Note: while I have not been able to find a copy of this communique, or even an acknowledgement it still exists, an 11-23-63 FBI memo from Roy Jevons to Ivan Conrad reports that this typed-up letter had been intercepted and copied by the FBI's Washington Field Office on the 18th, and that the FBI had since ID'ed the signature on the letter as Oswald's signature.)
In any event, after reading this communique, Agent Hosty rushed over to Dallas Police headquarters, to observe and assist Capt. Will Fritz in his interrogation of Oswald. After Hosty introduced himself, Oswald became quite upset. You see, the "Hasty" in the letter--the agent Oswald believed was harassing his wife--was actually Agent Hosty.
No blood was shed. After Oswald calmed down, so it goes, he apologized to Hosty, not only for getting so upset, but for leaving an unsigned note at Hosty's office on the 12th. This note, according to Hosty, had said "If you want to talk to me, you should talk to me to my face. Stop harassing my wife, and stop trying to ask her about me. You have no right to harass her." (Note: none of the reports of those in attendance at this interview made any reference to Oswald's discussion of this note. In fact, word of this note did not leak out for more than a decade, and only then because the former FBI secretary who took the note from Oswald told a reporter for the Dallas-Times Herald that the note had said Oswald was gonna blow up the FBI's Dallas office if Hosty wouldn't leave his wife alone.)
And from there things only got stranger for Hosty. At one point in the interrogation, he thought about the communique he'd just read and an earlier communique from the CIA in which Oswald's trip to Mexico was discussed, and asked Capt. Fritz to ask Oswald if he'd been to Mexico City. According to everyone present, Oswald denied having visited Mexico City. They then adjourned so that Oswald could be placed in a line-up.
Above: At center frame, Dallas Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander (L) and FBI agent James Hosty (R) talk shop on 11-22-63.
When Hosty returned to his office, however, he found that he was also in trouble. Not only were his superiors upset he'd brought up Mexico City during Oswald's interrogation, but they had found the unsigned note from Oswald in his desk! While Hosty was originally told the secretary who'd received the note from Oswald had recognized him on TV, and had told Hosty's superiors about the note, Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Kyle Clark later told Hosty a different story, one Hosty came to believe. In this story, Assistant FBI Director William Sullivan--the man tasked with investigating the significance of Oswald's contact with the Soviets--called up the Dallas office while Hosty was with Oswald and told them to make sure Hosty didn't see the communique regarding Oswald's letter to the Soviet Embassy. (Presumably, Sullivan was afraid Hosty would ask Oswald about the letter, or, at the very least, give some other sign that the letter had been intercepted--such as asking Oswald why he'd complained about Hosty to the Soviets--and thereby compromise the security of the FBI's letter-opening operation in Washington. Note that this not only explains Sullivan's call about the communique, but the subsequent concern of Hosty's superiors over Hosty's asking Oswald about Mexico...)
In any event, in Clark's version of the story (the one Hosty came to believe), Hosty's superiors came across the note from Oswald while digging through his desk looking for his copy of the communiques discussing Oswald's trip to Mexico. They then discussed what to do with this note, but made no final decision other than to move it to Special Agent-in-Charge J. Gordon Shanklin's "Do Not File" drawer.
So, with that background, let's return to the timeline. We're on the morning of the 23rd. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover has just told President Johnson about Oswald's letter to the Soviet Embassy, and has expressed hope that the case against Oswald will become stronger once they identify the man Oswald met with in Mexico.
RIF#104-10436-10025, a document declassified in 1998, is an 11-23-63 memo from Pete Bagley, the head of the CIA's Russia Division, to his superior in the Directorate of Plans, presumably Thomas Karamessines. It related: "According to an intercepted phone call in Mexico City, Lee Oswald was at the Soviet Embassy there on 28 September 1963, and spoke with the consul, Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov." Bagley then admitted this was purportedly over a passport issue. He then related "Kostikov is an identified KGB officer. He was a case officer in an operation which is evidently sponsored by the KGB's 13th Department (responsible for sabotage and assassination)." Bagley then proceeded to question if Oswald would so publicly meet Kostikov if he was in fact an agent. He then delivered the hammer: "we have top secret Soviet Intelligence documents, describing Military Intelligence doctrine, which show that very important agents can be met in official installations using as cover for their presence there some sort of open business." Bagley then reported "I called the above connections to the attention of Mr. Pappich by phone to his FBI office at 1030 hours on 23 November." (Note: this would be 9:30 AM CST.)
So let's get this straight. Although the CIA told the FBI on October 18 that Oswald had met Kostikov in Mexico City on September 28, and the FBI was aware of Lee Harvey Oswald's letter to the Soviet Embassy--in which he claimed to have met a "Comrade Kostin" in Mexico--on November 18, four days prior to the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover told President Johnson on the morning of the 23rd that there was reason to believe Oswald had been impersonated while in Mexico.
Now, that's a real head-scratcher. But then, only moments after Hoover told this to Johnson, the CIA turned around and told the FBI (through its liaison, Sam Papich) that they believed Kostin/Kostikov, the man Oswald purportedly met with in Mexico, worked with the KGB's 13th Department, the department responsible for conducting assassinations.
This was nothing if not a bombshell.
I mean, just think about it. If Oswald had been impersonated while visiting Mexico, as proposed by Hoover, then it would seem someone within the intelligence agencies was trying to make it look like Oswald was working with the Soviets in killing Kennedy. And that could lead most anywhere... But the alternative was no better. If Oswald had not been impersonated while visiting Mexico, well, then he may very well have been actually working with the Soviets in killing Kennedy. And that could lead to 1) an investigation into why the intelligence agencies failed to keep an eye on Oswald after taping his conversations and intercepting his letters, and 2) war.
So...if Hoover and his men started hoping Oswald was just a crank, well, one could hardly blame them...
This brings us back to Agent Hosty...
Above: Oswald's mother Marguerite (L), and wife Marina (R) at the home of Ruth Paine (M) on the morning of 11-23-63. By the end of the day, the Oswald family would be swept up "for their own protection" by the Secret Service, and Mrs. Paine would be providing materials she'd stolen from Oswald to the FBI. And the friendship would be Splitsville...
On the morning of the 23rd, around 10:00 AM, Agent Hosty visited the house of Ruth and Michael Paine, where Oswald's family had been staying in the weeks leading up to the assassination and where Oswald himself had spent the night of the 21st. As Oswald's wife Marina was out for the day, Hosty ended up questioning the Paines as to how they came to know the Oswalds. Well, this proved most fortuitous. After some discussion, Mrs. Paine suddenly volunteered that Oswald had written a letter to the Soviet Embassy on her typewriter, and that she had (ding ding ding) kept his handwritten draft of this letter. She then gave this draft to Agent Hosty. Now, this was indeed odd. The Dallas Police Department had jurisdiction over the case. The Paines had spent some time with the Dallas Police throughout the day and evening of the 22nd. And yet Mrs. Paine had failed to show this letter to the Dallas police? Why?
The content of this letter was also troubling. As discussed, it was dated 11-9-63. In it, Oswald complained about Agent Hosty and his harassment of his family. And this, when combined with the note Oswald left Hosty on the 12th (in which Oswald complained about Hosty's harassment of his wife), made Hosty look like a bully--who'd pushed Oswald into retaliating against the President.
Now, this was quite a problem...for both Hosty and the FBI. The FBI had removed the communiques regarding Oswald's letter about his trip to Mexico from Hosty's desk in order to keep him in the dark, and here he had obtained a draft of the letter itself.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Hosty decided to sit on both the note left by Oswald and the draft of Oswald's letter. He failed to tell the Dallas Police about them. And he failed to write up a report about them...at least, while Oswald was breathing... In 1975, Agent Hosty testified that Dallas Special Agent in Charge J. Gordon Shanklin ordered him to destroy the note from Oswald on the 24th, within hours of Oswald's murder. Hosty admitted, moreover, that he did so. But that wasn't the end of it. Hosty also testified that Shanklin ordered him to destroy the draft of Oswald's letter on the 27th, but that he decided not to do so after consulting with veteran agent Bardwell Odum, who was in a similar situation. To get around Shanklin, then, Hosty mentioned the draft in a report on his visit with the Paines, that was forwarded to Washington. This tactic proved successful, moreover, as a request for the draft was received a few days later.
Now, in 1975, when this story came out, Special Agent-in-Charge Shanklin was called to testify before a Senate subcommittee. While Shanklin denied ever telling Hosty to destroy anything, the vast majority of historians--not to mention Senators-- have picked a side on this matter--and it's with Hosty.
So, yeah, the historical record is clear that the head of the Dallas FBI ordered the destruction of evidence pertinent to the assassination of President Kennedy, and then lied about it under oath.
When one considers two additional documents the FBI's CYA attitude towards the assassination becomes even more obvious. The first is RIF#104-10438-10075, declassified in 1998. It is a memo bearing a stamp dated 9-2-64. It is from then CIA Deputy Director of Plans (and future Director under Johnson) Richard Helms to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. In this memo Helms presents Hoover with a draft of a 1-31-64 memo he'd sent Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, in response to the commission's questions about the "Kostin" mentioned in Oswald's letter to the Embassy. Helms tells Hoover "Please note Paragraph 5 of the draft. We shall welcome your views on this statement." Now, paragraph 5 begins "Kostikov is believed to work for Department 13 of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB. This Department is responsible for executive action, including sabotage and assassination." But that's not the most surprising part of this memo. The most surprising part is a handwritten notation beside Helms' words to Hoover. This was written by someone using an indiscernible two letter abbreviation, possibly SP (for FBI/CIA liaison Sam Papich?), and signed 9-3-64. It relates: "Ray Rocca, CIA, advised that although the enclosed was furnished to Commission in Jan. '64, transmittal was not considered official. CIA now plans to send the same info--officially. We are free to raise any comments or objections to transmittal of info as set forth in end."
Well, this suggests that the CIA was willing to let the public know the truth about Kostikov, but was also willing to defer to the FBI's wishes, should the FBI wish to keep Kostikov's connections to Department 13 a secret. And not only that, but that the FBI took them up on this offer... To wit, Warren Commission Exhibit 2764 is a re-typed one-page copy of the 1-31-64 memo from Helms to Rankin. It cuts off in the middle of paragraph 4. It thereby conceals Kostikov's connections to Department 13. This connection, moreover, is mentioned nowhere else in the Commission's records.
It seems clear then that the FBI objected to the release of this information and prevailed upon the CIA to officially withhold this information from the Warren Commission, even though the Warren Commission had known about this unofficially since January. And this leads to an uncomfortable conclusion: that there were almost certainly other instances--how many we can't say--where the Warren Commission and its attorneys became "unofficially" aware of facts pertinent to the case but chose not to report these facts due to their "unofficial" nature.
Truth was their only client, my ass!
The Warren Commission's reporting on Oswald's letter and "Comrade Kostin" was certainly less than transparent. On page 309 of their report, it is claimed: "The Soviet Union made available to the Commission what purports to be the entire correspondence between the Oswalds and the Russian Embassy within the United States." The report then listed some of the items in this treasure trove. This led to: "Oswald's last letter to the Soviet Embassy in Washington D.C., dated November 9, 1963, began by stating that it was written 'to inform you of recent events since my meetings with Comrade Kostin in the Embassy of the Soviet Union, Mexico City, Mexico.'" The report then discussed the identity of "Kostin" and concluded it was really Valeriy Kostikov, who it identified as a KGB officer operating in Mexico under cover at the Embassy.
Well, this was undoubtedly misleading. First, it inaccurately suggested that the FBI's copies of this letter came as a gift from the Soviets, and not from its reading through the Embassy's mail. And second, it failed to mention Kostikov's possible connection to a department within the KGB tasked with conducting assassinations.
So, yes, the FBI destroyed evidence in this case. And it concealed even more evidence. While this was presumably done for the illegitimate reason of protecting the Bureau from allegations it failed to keep an eye on Oswald after he'd met with a KGB expert on assassinations, and then threatened an FBI agent, and for the more legitimate reason of concealing operations in which the CIA had been tapping the phones to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico and where they (the FBI) had been reading the Soviet Embassy in Washington's mail, their presumed reasons are not as important as the fact it was done, and that we can't trust the thoroughness of their investigation as a result.
Cut and Run
Above: the casket of President John F. Kennedy, laying in state at the White House, 11-23-63.
What the FBI did next gives us more cause for pause.
Shortly after Bagley's call to Papich, at 10:20 AM CST, the FBI dispatched another teletype to its field offices, this one telling them to stop pressing for information, and to resume normal activities. "Lee Harvey Oswald has been developed as the principal suspect in the assassination of President Kennedy. He has been formally charged with the President's murder along with the murder of Dallas Texas patrolman J.D. Tippit by Texas state authorities. In view of developments all offices should resume normal contacts with informants and other sources with respect to bombing suspects, hate group members and known racial extremists. Daily teletype summaries may be discontinued. All investigation bearing directly on the President's assassination should be afforded most expeditious handling and Bureau and Dallas advised."
Well, wait a second. Hoover had just told Johnson there may be someone "using Oswald's name" and engaging in suspicious activity. And Hoover had almost certainly just been told this person met with a KGB expert on assassination.
So why does the FBI send out a teletype telling its field offices to stop pressing their sources for information? Was Hoover afraid of finding out something he didn't want to know? Even if the case against Oswald looked solid, shouldn't the FBI have pressed its sources for more information?
Or was Hoover not interested in such information, for his own selfish reasons?
Above: Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry does his best to field questions amidst an ocean of reporters.
Just moments before this teletype went out, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry, reciting something he'd been told the night before, told a national television audience that the FBI had known for some time that Oswald was dangerous, but that they had failed to inform the local police. Well, this raises the possibility Hoover didn't want the investigation to expand beyond Oswald because it might cast suspicion on his own agents.
Or perhaps not. In either event, Chief Curry's statement proved too much for the thin-skinned Hoover. Hoover's top aide DeLoach asserts in his book that after hearing Curry's comment Hoover called up his many powerful friends in Texas and asked them to put whatever pressure was necessary on Curry to bring him into line. This approach, apparently, proved successful. Curry would later withdraw his statement. (This proved too little too late for Curry, however. The Dallas PD was refused the assistance of the FBI crime lab for some time afterward and only regained access to those services upon Curry's removal from office.)
Still, Hoover wasn't the only one circling in on the Oswald-did-it-all-by-his-lonesome scenario. Sometime before noon, CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite presented his viewers with the unexpected question of whether Oswald had been aiming at Kennedy, or Governor Connally. While doing so, he read aloud a letter Oswald wrote to Connally, when Connally was Secretary of the Navy, in which Oswald had asked that his "dishonorable" discharge be changed, and had asserted that he would "employ all means to right this gross injustice." This was inaccurate, but fair. Although Oswald had, in fact, received an "undesirable" discharge, and not a "dishonorable" discharge, Oswald himself had misrepresented the discharge in his letter. What was both inaccurate and unfair, however, was Cronkite's misrepresentation of Oswald's complaint. According to Cronkite, Oswald was "dismissed"from the Marines after twice being court-martialed, once for possession of a private firearm, and once for abuse to a non-commissioned officer. Cronkite had thereby painted a picture of Oswald as a violent malcontent, and had hidden from his viewers that Oswald had in fact been given an honorable discharge from the Marines, and that his discharge status from the Marine Corps Reserves had been changed to "undesirable" only after he had moved to Russia.
If Cronkite ever corrected this mistake, moreover, well, that would be news. We do know, however, that he did try to clarify one piece of information he'd provided on the day before. Apparently reporting the speculation of some of the Parkland emergency room doctors as if it had been the conclusion of all of the Parkland emergency room doctors, he further confused the country as to the nature of Kennedy's wounds by reporting that the Dallas doctors now "said that the bullet that entered his neck came out the back of his head." Yes, you read that right. While on the day of the shooting CBS had been the one network to accurately report that Dr. Perry "did not know" if Kennedy's wounds were made by one or two bullets, it reversed itself the next day and reported that the Dallas doctors claimed Kennedy's wounds were caused by one bullet, entering from the front. Cronkite didn't even try to explain how this was possible given that the supposed sniper's nest was behind Kennedy at the time of the shooting. He just spat out the confusing information, and kept moving. You can't make this stuff up.
Nor should you need to. Yes, truth is truly stranger than fiction.
BIG PROBLEM: the only test performed to see if Oswald had fired a rifle on 11-22-63 has turned up negative.
Let's now look at the central question of whether Oswald fired a rifle on 11-22-1963. Having previously discussed the eyewitness aspect to this question, we shall now focus on the forensic aspect to this question.
This discussion centers, then, around the paraffin tests performed on Oswald's hands and cheek. A paraffin test, to explain, is a test where a suspect’s hands are coated in paraffin. This creates a cast.The cast is then tested for the presence of nitrates. The presence of nitrates, the story goes, can be taken as an indication the suspect handled or fired a weapon. A similar test performed on a cheek could indicate the suspect fired a rifle. According to the standard text Scientific Evidence in Criminal Cases these tests were first performed in the 1930’s and were performed almost routinely in the 1950’s. By 1963, however, they were beginning to fall in disfavor.
At approximately 8:55 PM CST on 11-22-63--a bit more than 8 hours after President Kennedy had been slain on a Dallas street--Dallas crime lab detective W. E. Barnes coats Oswald's hands and cheek with paraffin. He then cuts the casts off for testing. Although studies have suggested that gunshot residue tests should be performed within six hours of a shooting, that Oswald has been in police custody all but 1 1/4 hours of the time since the shooting, and has been prevented from washing his hands or his face, and is suspected of firing his rifle 3 times and his pistol 5 times, gives us reason to believe these tests will prove helpful.
(Note: a subsequent study by Vincent Guinn will come to demonstrate that, under laboratory conditions, gunshot residue can be found on suspects as long as 24 hours after a shooting. A similar study by S.S. Krishnan published in 1974 will go further and claim "residue can remain for up to 17h during normal activity, but can be quickly removed by vigorous scrubbing with soap and water." A subsequent study by Krishnan published in 1977 would support this further by listing a homicide where gunshot residue was found on the hands of a suspect 24 hours after the shooting. While Oswald's odyssey after the shooting was far from what one would expect to find in a laboratory, it was also far less taxing than 17h of normal activity. As a consequence there is nothing in his saga to make one think the residue on his hands, face, and clothes that would be apparent should he have fired a rifle, would have vanished. From May 31 to June 3, 2005, the FBI crime lab held a symposium on gunshot residue analysis. One of the issues discussed was time limits, a time after which the various crime labs present at the symposium would refuse to conduct a test for gunshot residue. According to a summary of this symposium, found on the FBI's website, "Many participants stated that an acceptable cutoff time is 4 to 6 hours after the shooting event, whereas some felt that up to 8 hours was appropriate. Still others were comfortable accepting lifts taken more than 12 hours after the shooting." It was also noted that the FBI's cut-off was 5 hours. A 2006 article on Scienceevidence.com similarly notes that in Saunders v the State of Texas, Aug. 12 2006, "The State’s expert...testified that the time guideline for gunshot residue tests is four hours because of the diminished likelihood of finding the elements necessary for a positive result. The expert testified that it was possible, however, for the test to produce a positive finding even after six or eight hours, but such findings are described as inconclusive. They are not referred to as 'unreliable,' however, because the problem is the likelihood of the evidence disappearing, not the presence of a false positive." This suggests that, by today's standards, the test on Oswald was performed too late to be considered conclusive, but that a positive result would nevertheless suggest his guilt.)
The next morning, on 11-23-63, Dr. M.S Mason and Louie Anderson analyze the paraffin casts of Oswald’s cheek (Exhibit #1), left hand (Exhibit #2), and right hand (Exhibit #3) created by Detective Barnes. The request form for this test, found in the Dallas Archives, records the time of the request as 11:05 A.M. The results read as follows: “No nitrates are found on Exhibit #1. Nitrate patterns consistent with the suspect having discharged a firearm were present on Exhibits #2 and 3. The pattern on Exhibit #3 is typical of the patterns produced in firing a revolver.” As Oswald is reported to have handled his revolver in the movie theater these results do little to establish that he’d fired a rifle at the President. More clearly, the positive result on Oswald's hands suggests that the elapsed time since the shooting was not the cause of the negative result on Oswald's cheek, and that one might reasonably suspect he did not fire the shots that killed the President. But does the Dallas Police Department admit to itself or the media that there may be suspects still at large?
Shortly thereafter, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry is asked about the tests. He responds, on camera, “I understand that it was positive." When asked what that means, he explains "It only means that he fired a gun.” When asked by a reporter if there were powder marks on Oswald’s cheek, he replies “I don’t know that. I don’t know that.” A cigarette-chomping reporter then asks "That a gun was fired, Chief, not the rifle, or a pistol?" to which Curry responds "That's right." The reporter then says aloud, for his fellow reporters to hear, “We just say a gun.”
Within an hour, Frank McGee of NBC News reports “Oswald still insists he did not kill the president. The paraffin tests proved positive—Oswald did fire a gun during the last twenty-four hours.” The juxtaposition of these statements undoubtedly confuses many into thinking that the paraffin tests proved Oswald had fired a rifle.
A UPI article published shortly thereafter tells millions of readers “Pro-Communist Lee Harvey Oswald was charged today with the assassination of President Kennedy. Police said paraffin results on both of Oswald’s hands were 'positive.'" This article similarly suggests the paraffin tests proved Oswald had fired a rifle.
And from there what was merely misleading information turns into misinformation... In a 1:07 PMrecap of the evidence, McGee now tells his viewers "Paraffin tests of the side of Oswald's face proved that he had indeed fired a rifle." At 2:07 PM his colleague Bill Ryan adds to the confusion: "Tests showed that Oswald had gunpowder traces on both his hands, indicating that he did use a rifle."
And amazingly, this end-run around Curry's words becomes the accepted story... Despite the fact that, after first interviewing Curry that morning, CBS' man in Dallas Nelson Benton had repeated Curry's words and explained that the paraffin tests did not prove Oswald fired a rifle, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, in an afternoon broadcast, jumps on NBC's bandwagon, and actually outdoes them; Cronkite tells his viewers:"Paraffin tests taken on his hands indicate he did fire a rifle, as well as a revolver."
Meanwhile, the FBI joins the circus. An 11-23-63 memo from Assistant Director Alex Rosen--heading the FBI's investigation of the shooting--to Assistant Director Alan Belmont, his superior, reads: "At 1:25 PM this date, Assistant SAC Kyle Clark, Dallas, advised just received word of the paraffin test...The results show Punctate traces of nitrate found on the left and right hands consistent with that of a person who had handled or fired a firearm. The paraffin of right cheek showed no traces of nitrate...Clark advised that he now understood that the actual results of the paraffin were between 12 and 1 AM this morning, but were not taken to the Criminal Investigative Laboratory until 10:45 AM this morning." Now, this is a bit strange. Why did the DPD wait so long to tell the FBI the test results? And why did Agent Clark think they'd applied the paraffin after midnight, as opposed to hours before?
Elsewhere, Dr. Vincent Guinn, Technical Director of the Activation Analysis Program of General Atomic Division of General Dynamics Corporation, calls the FBI Laboratory and offers his assistance in studying the paraffin casts. Guinn believes that neutron activation analysis, if performed on the casts, will better determine if there was gunshot residue on Oswald's hand and cheek than the tests performed in Dallas. He is thanked for his spirit of cooperation, but is never called.
And he's not the only one being rebuffed. Later this evening the Special Agent in Charge of the Houston FBI office sends an urgent message to FBI headquarters. He tells them that Dr. Richard Wainerdi of Texas A & M has spoken to Dr. Paul Aebersold, an employee of the Atomic Energy Commission, and that Aebersold claims neutron activation analysis of Oswald's tee-shirt might help them determine whether or not Oswald had fired a rifle. The memo then notes that the Texas Director of Public Safety, Homer Garrison, has told the Dallas Police of Aebersold's remarks but has been rebuffed by Chief Detective Captain Will Fritz, who's told him the case was wrapped up without this evidence.
The next day, 11-24, The Washington Post, in an article on the evidence against Oswald, echoes NBC's and CBS' bad reporting and asserts that a positive paraffin test on both of Oswald's hands indicates he'd fired a rifle. The L.A. Times on this day, in its rundown of evidence against Oswald, similarly details: "Police reported, however, that paraffin tests had disclosed that both of Oswald's hands had fired a gun. They said it was not likely that both hands would have shown powder marks if Oswald had fired only the 38-caliber snub-nosed revolver which was used to kill Tippit." This, of course, is not true. Finding nitrates on both hands of a suspect has never been considered evidence the suspect had fired a rifle. Instead, the finding of nitrates on both hands suggests either that Oswald had handled his revolver with both hands, or that his hands had been contaminated by an outside source.
An article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram is even more off base, and misrepresents not just the conclusions to be reached from the paraffin tests, but their results. It asserts “A paraffin test showed positive results on both the hands and cheek of the 24 year-old ex-Marine. This, officers said, showed that the man had fired a gun, probably a rifle.” Later that day, after Oswald has been killed, Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade tells reporters “I would say without any doubt (Oswald) was the killer of the President…There’s no doubt in my mind we would have convicted him. I’ve sent people to the electric chair on less.” When asked about the paraffin tests, he says “Yes, I’ve got paraffin tests that showed he had recently fired a gun.” When asked by an alert reporter if this meant a rifle, he repeats “A gun.” This last statement indicates he knew full well that there was nothing about these tests to suggest Oswald had fired a rifle. And yet, the transcript to this taped press conference (as published by NBC in 1967) indicates he said just the opposite, and had instead proclaimed "Paraffin tests showed that he (Oswald) had fired a rifle recently."
If NBC had simply gotten it wrong, repeatedly, they weren't alone. The 11-25 Washington Post article on Wade's press conference once again runs down the evidence against Oswald, and reports: "Paraffin tests for gunpowder on both hands were 'positive,' indicating he recently had shot a rifle."
Amazingly, on 11-25, the New York Times presents its own list of the evidence against Oswald, and gets it equally wrong. It inaccurately reports that paraffin tests showed “particles of gunpowder from a weapon, probably a rifle, on Oswald’s cheek and hands.” Unlike NBC, and The Washington Post, however, the Times has someone to blame for their mistake. They cite a source for this misinformation; disturbingly, it's J. Gordon Shanklin, Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas FBI.
It's also crueler than we care to believe. After speaking to Hoover, President Johnson had himself a chat with the newly-born widow, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy. His people then began to clean out her husband's office. The photograph below was taken of the rocking chairs JFK sat on in the Oval Office, while awaiting their exile to the dustbin of history. Another photograph was taken as these chairs were wheeled outside the White House. This second photograph was reportedly taken at 12:31 PM CST, 24 hours after Kennedy was struck down by an assassin's bullet. What a difference a day makes, indeed!
At 12:35 PM CST Johnson called Wall Street Attorney Edwin Wiesl. The transcript provided for this conversation in Max Holland's book The Kennedy Assassination Tapes has Johnson asking for Wiesl's help in keeping the economy stable, and alluding to his earlier conversation with Hoover by warning Wiesl "This thing on the...this assassin...may have a lot more complications than you know about...it may lay deeper than you think." What makes this statement especially intriguing is that the transcript of this conversation provided by the LBJ Library and available online has Johnson saying something completely different. The Library's transcript reads: "I may--have a lot more complications-- you know about them so--it may lead deeper."
There's another phone call from this day that is even more intriguing. In his May 1984 newsletter researcher Gary Mack reported that long-time Dallas researcher and icon Mary Ferrell had reported that in the 1970's one of her friends had had lunch with Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz, and that Fritz had confided to this source that on 11-23-63 he'd received a phone call from President Johnson telling him that "You've got your man, the investigation is over."
Mack's reporting, moreover, built upon that of J. Gary Shaw in Cover-up (1976), in which this phone-call was first revealed. Shaw had reported as well that the luncheon at which Fritz revealed this phone call took place in March, 1975.
Now, understandably, this was all a bit too vague for researcher Noel Twyman. As recounted in Bloody Treason (1997), he spoke to Ferrell about this and was able to ascertain that her source had been a prominent construction industry executive named Frank B. Harrell. He then spoke to Harrell and Harrell confirmed that Fritz had told him about this call from Johnson. But Harrell went even further. He said that Fritz had said Johnson had specified that Fritz should stop questioning Oswald. Hmmm...
And Twyman wasn't the last to write about this. On 4-22-03 former WFAA and CBS News correspondent Bob Sirkin wrote an article about a September 1977 breakfast he'd had with Fritz. According to Sirkin, he confronted Fritz about the by-then-widely-rumored phone call from Johnson, and Fritz responded by saying "Not now. Maybe I'll write something, someday," and left it at that.
So it appears that, yes indeed, there was a phone call from Johnson to Fritz.
Above: Capt. Will Fritz being questioned outside his office. Bill Alexander stands behind him.
Well, if this is true it helps explain Fritz's subsequent actions. Even though the only witnesses claiming to see a sniper in the sixth floor window had refused to identify Oswald, and the paraffin test for nitrates on Oswald's cheek, which if present would suggest he'd fired a rifle, had turned up negative, Fritz, who was chief of the Dallas Police Homicide Bureau, told the press at 2:05 PM CST "that this case is cinched, that this man killed the President. There's no question in my mind about it...We are convinced beyond any doubt that he did the killing." Similarly, the 11-24 New York Times quoted Fritz as saying "We're convinced beyond any doubt that he killed the President."
A UPI article found in the 11-24 Boston Globe, for that matter, explained why. It reported: "Police said Saturday they have an airtight case against Pro-Castro Marxist Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin of President Kennedy, including photos of his holding the rifle. Police were reported to have shown the photos to the sullen, 24-year-old ex-Marine from suburban Irving, Tex., who has steadfastly maintained his innocence and has also denied slaying a Dallas policeman. The photos, police said, show him with both the rifle used to kill President Kennedy and the pistol used to kill pursuing patrolman J.D. Tippit shortly after the assassination. 'This case is cinched,' said Capt. Will Fritz, homicide chief. 'Yes, we have a picture of him with the rifle, and with the pistol,' Fritz said. Police Chief Jesse Curry wove police evidence tighter around Oswald. He said the FBI reported that Oswald bought the Italian 6.5 Carcano bolt-action rifle with a telescopic sight from a Chicago mail order house for $12.78. 'The handwriting on the mail order was Oswald's,' Curry said."
The 11-24 Washington Post, the most widely read paper by the nation's movers and shakers, went a little bit further, however. In their account of Fritz's 11-23 statements, he claimed not only that "This man killed the President," but "There were no accomplices."
Well, how could he know that? Consider the damage to Fritz's reputation should Oswald have confessed the next day, and named names. Well, why would Fritz have risked such a thing? And who, for that matter, were the "we" Fritz claimed were already convinced of Oswald's sole guilt?
As previously discussed, we have Dallas-insider gossip Johnson called Fritz and told him to limit his investigation to Oswald. But that's not all we have. A 4-7-64 memo from Warren Commission counsel Stern and Ely to their boss J. Lee Rankin on an extended discussion with Capt. Fritz provides some support for this possibility. According to the memo, when asked why Fritz broke from standard protocol and publicly revealed the evidence against Oswald, "Fritz answered that it was not his place to comment on this issue." Well, heck, these men were working for the President's commission. Who was Fritz protecting, if not the President himself?
Still, with or without Johnson, we know the identity of at least one other member of the "we" mentioned by Fritz--Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade. In a morning news conference, after being asked by the press to describe Oswald, Wade showed his hand, stating "I can't describe him any other than--the murderer of the President, is about all the way I put on it, but I don't know anything about the accused--his psychological background or anything."
It's cute how Wade calls Oswald "the accused" after first describing him as "the murderer." It's also kinda cute how Wade says he doesn't know anything of Oswald's psychological background, but then (according to the next day's Herald-Examiner) admitted he "expected Oswald to plead insanity," and (according to the next day's New York Times) stated "I think we have enough evidence to convict him (Oswald) now." Neither Fritz nor Wade had read the as-yet-unwritten autopsy report, tested Oswald's rifle to see if it was capable of accurately firing the shots, or conducted an interview with anyone in the Presidential limousine or Secret Service back-up car. What few witness statements they had obtained provided conflicting accounts on most every point but one: most of the statements agreed that two of the three shots were fired very close together. As the FBI would soon determine, Oswald's bolt action rifle could not have been fired accurately more than once every 2.3 seconds.
Which isn't to say the FBI was any less closed-minded. An 11-23-63 memo from Cartha DeLoach to J. Edgar Hoover regarding the FBI's acquisition of the Zapruder film, a home-movie of the shooting taken by a bystander, states that the Dallas Special Agent in-Charge, J. Gordon Shanklin, who'd been provided a copy of the film by the Secret Service, "did not believe the film would be of any evidentiary value; however, he first had to take a look at the film to determine this factor." It's almost as if he were apologizing for doing his job.
Of course, he wasn't the only one with a job to do...
At 2:30 PM CST President Johnson held his first cabinet meeting. He is reported to have opened this meeting with "The President is dead. The president must keep the business of government moving," and to have been visibly annoyed at the late arrival of a visibly-uncomfortable Robert Kennedy, whose brother was murdered barely 24 hours before.
So, yeah, there's moving...and then there's moving on...
And Johnson wasn't alone... America's newspapers were moving on as well...
Unfortunately, however, they kept moving on in circles, spending more and more manure about a series of events the writers for these papers just couldn't .
Harsh words, I know. So let's cite some more examples...of an over-eager press stumbling all over its story.
Reversing the Trajectory
Let's begin by looking an 11-23 UPI article on Governor Connally's wounds. It specified: "The Governor, facing the President in the While House limousine Friday, swiveled in horror when the first two bullets struck Mr. Kennedy. The quick movement probably saved his life. The next bullet struck Connally and sped downward from the collarbone through the right side of his chest."
Well, that's interesting. Even though a sniper's nest had been found behind Kennedy and Connally, this article has Connally facing Kennedy in order to explain how a bullet could have entered Connally from behind. In other words, this article has the shots fired from in front of the limousine.
And it wasn't alone.
An 11-23 UPI article on the president's wounds reported: "An authoritative White House source said one bullet entered Kennedy's head and another penetrated the 'neck and chest.' The source said White House officials did not know until this morning about the second wound." This is more than a bit strange. The wound discovered at the autopsy was a small back wound. The existence of this wound would have been brought to the attention of the White House after the autopsy was completed that morning. While Kennedy's chief autopsist Dr. Humes and his autopsy team had reportedly been unaware of the throat wound described by Dr. Perry the day before until making a phone call this morning, there is no reason to believe he turned around and called the White House to report his belated knowledge of a wound mentioned in all the morning papers. The neck wound in the story would therefore appear to be a reference to the back wound discovered at the autopsy. Since the Warren Commission would also come to misrepresent this back wound as a "neck" wound, and as this first misrepresentation of the back wound as a neck wound came from an "authoritative White House source" it's not unreasonable to suspect then that this migration of the wound came under direction of the White House. The use of the word "penetrated," however, implies the bullet did not exit, and since the only entrance mentioned at the press conference the day before was the throat wound, the article implies to its readers, regardless of the White House or FBI's intentions in leaking the story, that the bullet entered Kennedy's throat and continued down into his chest. And that the shot came from the front. Hmmm... Who was this "White House source?"
Fortunately, an 11-24 UPI article (found in the Dallas Times-Herald) helps clarify the confusing article from the day before. This article, apparently based on the the same 11-23 conversation, states "President Kennedy was shot twice yesterday by an assassin, White House sources said yesterday. First reports said the president was killed by one bullet. It was learned today that the information given the White House was that two bullets entered Kennedy's body. Staff doctors at Parkland Hospital in Dallas said only that the sniper's bullet pierced the mid-section of the front part of his neck and emerged from the top of the skull. White House sources said they understood that one bullet hit Kennedy in the neck area. He bent forward, turned his head and was struck in the skull by the second bullet." Well, okay. This confirms then that these "White House sources" knew nothing of the back wound, and were revealing only that the President had been hit twice, and not once, a distinction left open by Dr.s Perry and Clark at the 11-22 Parkland press conference.
And yet these articles are nevertheless of interest in that they suggest the shots came from in front of Kennedy (why else mention that Kennedy turned his head before the head shot other than to explain how a wound on the back of his head could have been caused by someone firing from in front of him?) well after it was apparent to others that, at the precise moment the shots were fired, Oswald's workplace was behind Kennedy.
Let's be clear. The juxtaposition of the Parkland claim the throat wound was an entrance wound with the description of the shooting by "White House sources" created the appearance the "White House sources" also believed the shot came from the front. When they quite possibly did not... An 11-23 penned article in the 11-24 Los Angeles Herald-Examiner by Warren Rogers also presents the views of these "sources." It relates: "A White House source said it appeared the President was slain by two bullets, instead of one as originally reported. This source said one bullet entered Kennedy's head and, as he turned, the other penetrated his neck and chest." Well, I'll be. This White House source was claiming the first shot hit Kennedy in the back of the head, while the one talking to UPI had said the first shot hit him in the front of the neck. Hmmm... It seems quite possible from this that they were in fact the same source, and that this source had no insight on the shot sequence, but was simply stressing to its media contacts that having an entrance wound in Kennedy's throat and entrance wound on the back of his head DID NOT mean there were two shooters.
The cover-up was already in effect, before the investigation had truly begun. Perhaps this "source" meant well and was only trying to calm people down by leaking that the bullet and bullet fragments recovered in Dallas came from Oswald's rifle, and that it seemed clear he'd fired at least two shots from behind. But this was to avoid that the witnesses had heard three shots--and that the bullet and fragments comprised but two of these bullets. What had become of the third? And from where had it been fired?
These articles are also interesting for what they fail to state--that the statements of the sources cited in the article would only have merit if an autopsy had been conducted and its results reported to the White House. I mean, why isn't the "A" word mentioned even once in these articles?
Now let's look at an 11-23 Canadian Press article found in the Winnipeg Free Press. It reported: "At approximately 12:30 p.m. CST, the slow-moving Kennedy motorcade had rounded a downtown corner to enter a freeway. Three shots-rang out. Detective Ed Hicks said one bullet from a 7.65-millimetre Italian-made rifle, fitted with telescopic sights, hit the back of Kennedy's head and emerged from his throat. 'It made a hole about two inches wide at the back of his head,' he said. Another struck Texas Governor John Connally, Jr., who was riding in the open presidential limousine. Another struck a nearby road manhole." Hmmm... Apparently, Hicks had figured out that the supposed sniper's nest was behind Kennedy at the time of the shooting, and had simply reversed the trajectory of the bullet presumed to have entered Kennedy's throat and explode from the back of his head suggested by the Parkland press conference.
Apparently, others shared his thinking; an 11-23 UPI article on the similarity of Kennedy's death with Lincoln's found in the St. Joseph News-Press claimed "President Kennedy also suffered a fatal head wound, the bullet entering the back of his head, then out of his throat." This description was especially surprising in that the lead story on Kennedy's death, at the top of the page, claimed something quite different. This story, courtesy the Associated Press, opened with "Three shots rang out, blood sprang from the President's face. He fell face downward in the back seat of his car."
Well, heck, what were the readers of this paper supposed to believe? That he'd been shot in the back of the head, only to have blood spring from his face, while the bullet exited his throat?
Another UPI article, this one found in the 11-23 Lodi News-Sentinel, was much more careful, and suggested that yes indeed some newsmen were trying to make the president's wounds fit the assumption Kennedy was shot from behind, as opposed to simply reporting what Dr.s Perry and Clark had said at the afternoon press conference. The article related: "The fatal shot apparently came from a window of the Texas School Book Depository...Kennedy fell over sideways on his face toward the seat. Doctors said later that one shot apparently had torn through both the back of his head and his throat." Note the implication that the head wound was an entrance, when Dr. Clark had said it had been either an exit or a wound of both entrance and exit. Note also the implication the throat wound was an exit, when Dr. Perry had specified that it appeared to be an entrance.
An article in the Boston Globe, fortunately, not only shared UPI's new interpretation of the bullet's trajectory, but confirmed the thinking behind it. It admitted: "The rather meager medical details attributed to Dr. Malcolm Perry, the attending surgeon, described the bullet as entering just below the Adam's Apple and leaving by the back of the head. Since that statement Friday afternoon it is believed from determining the site of the firing that the bullet entered the back of the head first and came out just under the Adam's Apple."
Now, it might seem strange that, within a day of the shooting, members of the media would disregard the statements of Kennedy's emergency room doctors, and re-interpret the trajectory of the fatal bullet...so that all the shots came from behind, where, by gosh, the Dallas Police Departmnent's chief suspect had been employed. But it's really not so strange, once one takes into account the incredible confusion then sweeping across the nation. No one knew what to think, so some with a soapbox took it upon themselves to calm down the masses and wash away the fear.
Confusion was so widespread, in fact, that even photo captions were infected. The caption to an AP photo by James Altgens found in the 11-22 edition of the Benton Harbor, Michigan New Palladium--of Kennedy reacting to the first shot, with his arms at his neck--claimed it depicted President Kennedy "grasping his chest just seconds after assassin's bullet struck him in head." Subsequent study of the assassination films would prove, of course, that Kennedy did not receive his fatal head wound until seconds after this photo was taken. (Note that The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner would make a similar but less-forgivable mistake in their 11-24 edition.)
And the caption to the photo below the Altgens photo was no better. It read "Moments before vicious killer fired: President and Mrs. Kennedy flash their famous smiles to crowds along Dallas parade route in this picture taken just minutes before a rifle bullet struck the nation's Chief Executive." And they're smiling alright. There's just one problem: the photo depicts Governor Connally in the back seat of the limo and Mrs. Kennedy in the middle and was not even taken in Dallas.
This photo appeared in the 11-23 Albuquerque Journal as well--only there someone realized that Connally was not in the back seat of the limo at the time of the shooting, but in a jump seat directly in front of Kennedy. And improvised... After claiming "Moments Before Shooting" the writer of this caption asserted that this was a photo of President Kennedy and Governor Connally "moments before a sniper fatally shot the President and wounded Governor Connelly (sic)." He (or she) then did what should never be done--something far worse than repeating inaccurate information, something far worse than inaccurately reporting information--he (or she) made up a story to explain how this photo--which was obviously not from Dallas--could have been taken just moments before the shooting, and could therefore be deemed worthy of its position on the front page. He (she) wrote: "Connelly moved to the car's jump seat before the shooting."
The caption to a UPI photo found in the 11-23 Holland Evening Sentinel, of the Texas School Book Depository, was not so dishonest, but even more misleading. Taking its cue from an inaccurate report by UPI's Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Merriman Smith, it crowed "A German-made rifle was found in the stairway on the fifth floor of the building by Dallas police, with three spent bullets, believed to be the two used to wound Texas Gov. John B. Connally and the one which fatally killed the President." Beyond the stark and stupid fact that the caption claimed a bullet "fatally killed" the President (I mean, how can a bullet kill someone non-fatally?), the caption misled its readers as to the make of the rifle (it was Italian, not German), the location where it was found (it was found near a stairwell, not in a stairwell), the floor on which it was found (sixth, not fifth), and the respective number of bullets believed to have struck Connally and Kennedy.
And these weren't the only mistakes made by the award-winning Smith. The front page story for the Montana Standard, under Smith's name, reported not only that a German Mauser was found on the fifth floor, but that the school book depository overlooked Main St. (not Elm St.), and that Oswald killed a policeman at the Texas Theater before being taken into custody. Officer Tippit was, in fact, killed blocks away from the theater, by a man matching Oswald's description. No shots were fired at the theater.
And this wasn't the only 11-23 UPI article with some surprising errors regarding the basic facts. Another article with this dateline, on Kennedy's relationship with his Secret Service detail, was perhaps even worse, in light of what the FBI and Warren Commission would come to conclude.
Let's count the false statements in but one small section of the article: "Kennedy was killed by a highly-skilled gunman (Assuming they meant Oswald--that's 1) who crouched at a fifth floor window (That's 2) of an unoccupied warehouse (That's 3--and in the first sentence!). Aiming a 7.65 rifle (That's 4) equipped with a four-power telescopic sight (Hey, they got one right!), he put his first bullet into the President's head (That's 5) at a range of about 100 yards (This is probably close enough), perhaps a bit more (Nope, not going for it--that's 6). The car in which Kennedy was riding was moving at between 25 and 30 miles an hour (That's 7)."
So, to recap. eight statements of fact were presented by UPI in that short passage--and seven of them would prove to be false, when compared to the subsequent conclusions of the Warren Commission!
Now, let's look back at that rare article from this day that actually got something right...
Connecting the Dots...
A second 11-23 UPI article on Governor Connally's wounds declared: "The president was shot first. A bullet smashed through his head. Sheriff's deputies who lined the route said there was a pause of several seconds before two quick shots followed the first." Now, this report (which I found in the Minneapolis Star) hit the streets more than 24 hours after the shooting. And yet it was still claiming Kennedy was hit in the head by the first shot. The "official" solution, of course, is that he was hit in the head by the third shot.
Now read again the last line of the excerpt..."Sheriff's deputies who lined the route said there was a pause of several seconds before two quick shots followed the first."
Well, who were these Sheriff's Deputies, and what did they mean by "two quick shots"?
Eugene L. Boone (11-22-63 report, 19H508) “I was in front of the Sheriff's office...when I heard three shots coming from the vicinity of where the president’s car was. I raced across the street (Main and Houston)...Some of the bystanders said the shots came from the overpass. I ran across the street (Elm) and up the imbankment over the retaining wall and into the freight yard.” (3-25-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H291-295) “we heard what we thought to be a shot. And there seemed to be a pause between the first shot and the second shot and third shots—a little longer pause."
Jack Faulkner (11-22-63 report, 19H511) “I was standing on the corner of Main and Houston when the presidential motorcade came by. A few seconds later I heard three shots and the crowd began to move en masse toward Elm Street. When I reached Elm Street there was much confusion. I asked a woman if they had hit the President and she told me that he was dead, that he had been shot thru the head. I asked her where the shots came from and she pointed toward the concrete arcade on the east (note: he means north) side of Elm Street, just west of Houston Street. There were many officers going toward the railroad yard by this time and I joined them in search of the assassin.”
C.M. Jones (11-22-63 report, 19H512) “I was standing in front of the Criminal Courts Building...and awaiting the arrival of the motorcade bearing the President's party. The motorcade passed in front of us and everything appeared to be in order. A few short seconds later I heard an explosion followed in about 3 to 5 seconds later two more explosions. I am certain that I recognized the second two as being that of gunfire.”
A.D. McCurley (11-22-63 report, 19H514) “I was standing at the front entrance of the Dallas Sheriff's office...as the President's motorcade passed and was watching the remainder of the parade pass when I heard a retort and I immediately recognized it as the sound of a rifle. I started running around the corner where I knew the President’s car should be and in a matter of a few seconds heard a second shot and then a third shot. I, along with other officers who were near me, all started running and I rushed towards the park and saw people running towards the railroad yards beyond Elm Street and I ran over and jumped a fence and a railroad worker stated to me that he believed the smoke from the bullets came from the vicinity of a stockade fence which surrounds the park area."
L.C. Smith (11-22-63 report, 19H516) “I was standing in front of the Sheriff's Office on Main Street and watched the President and his party drive by. Just a few seconds later, I heard the first shot, which I thought was a backfire, then the second shot and third shot rang out. I knew then that this was gun shots and everyone else did also. I ran as fast as I could to Elm Street just west of Houston and I heard a woman unknown to me say the President was shot, in the head, and the shots came from the fence on the north side of Elm. I went at once behind the fence and searched also in the parking area.”
Buddy Walthers (11-22-63 report, 19H518) “I was standing at the front entrance of the Dallas Sheriff's office when the motorcade with President Kennedy passed. I was watching the remainder of the President's party when within a few seconds I heard a retort and I immediately recognized it to be a rifle shot. I immediately started running west across Houston Street and ran across Elm Street and up into the railroad yards. At this time, it was not determined if, in fact, this first retort and 2 succeeding retorts were of a rifle, however, in my own mind, I knew. Upon reaching the railroad yard and seeing other officers coming, I immediately went to the triple underpass on Elm Street in an effort to locate possible marks left by stray bullets. While I was looking for possible marks, some unknown person stated to me that something had hit his face while he was parked on Main Street, the next lane south from Elm, as the traffic had been stopped for the parade.”
Roger Craig (11-23-63 report, 19H524) "I was standing in front of the Sheriff's Office at 505 Main Street, Dallas, Texas, watching President Kennedy pass in the motorcade. I was watching the rest of the motorcade a few seconds after President Kennedy passed where I was standing when I heard a rifle shot and a few seconds later a second and then a third shot. At the retort of the first shot, I started running around the corner and Officer Buddy Walthers and I ran across Houston Street and on up the terrace on Elm Street and into the railroad yards.We made a round through the railroad yards and I returned to Elm Street by the Turnpike sign at which time Officer Walthers told me that a bullet had struck the curb on the south side of Elm Street." (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 6H260-273) “I heard an explosion…I knew it was a shot, but—uh—I didn’t want to believe it. But a few seconds later, I heard another explosion and, this time, I knew it was a shot. And, as I began to run, I heard a third one.” (When asked about the spacing of the shots) “The first one was uh-about two or three seconds…Well, it was quite a pause in there. It could have been a little longer.” (When asked about the spacing between the second two shots) “Not more than two seconds. It was—they were real rapid."
Lummie Lewis (11-23-63 report, 19H526) “I was standing on the sidewalk on Main Street in the 500 block just east of Houston Street when the motorcade passed and turned the corner onto Houston Street. In a few seconds I heard 3 shots. I ran around the corner and came across Houston Street to Elm Street to the Park. I saw some people there. I began to talk to them getting names and information.”
Luke Mooney (11-23-63 report, 19H528) “I was standing in front of the Sheriff's office at 505 Main Street, Dallas, when President Kennedy and the motorcade passed by. Within a few seconds after he had passed me and the motorcade had turned the corner I heard a shot and I immediately started running towards the front of the motorcade and within seconds heard a second and a third shot. I started running across Houston Street and down across the lawn to the triple underpass and up the terrace to the railroad yards. I searched along with many other officers, this area.” (3-25-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 3H281-290) “we heard this shot ring out. At that time, I didn’t realize it was a shot…there was a short lapse between these shots. I can still hear them very distinctly—between the first and second shot. The second and third shot was pretty close together, but there was a short lapse between the first and second shot."
J.L Oxford (11-23-63 report, 19H530) “I was standing in front of the Courthouse along with Officers McCurley and Wiseman of the Sheriff's Department and the President's car had just gone by. We stood there until the rest of the cars had passed. While we were standing there, we heard what I thought to be shots. Officer McCurley and myself ran across Houston Street on across Elm and down to the underpass. When we got there, everyone was looking toward the railroad yards. We jumped the picket fence which runs along Elm Street and on over into the railroad yards. When we got over there, there was a man who told us that he had seen smoke up in the corner of the fence. We went to the corner of the fence to see what we could find, and searched the area thoroughly.”
Allan Sweatt, Chief Criminal Deputy, Dallas Sheriff's Dept. (11-23-63 report, 19H531) “I was standing with a group of Deputy Sheriff's about 30 feat east of the corner of Houston and Main Street on Main Street. The president's caravan had just passed and about a minute or 2 (later) I heard a shot and about 7 seconds later another shot and approximately 2 or 3 seconds later a third shot which sounded to me like a rifle and coming from the vicinity of Elm and Houston Street. Several officers and myself from the Sheriff's department ran around the corner and towards Elm Street and Houston and were told that someone had shot at the President. A man by the name of "Hester" told Deputy John Wiseman that the shots had come from the old Sexton building. As we approached the building we were told the shots had come from the fence."
Ralph Walters (11-23-63 report, 19H505) “I was standing on Main Street in front of the Criminal Courts Building...and observed the Presidential procession pass by. Just after it had turned the corner and a very short time later, I heard what was shots, three in number. I ran around the corner and directly across the street across the Dealey Plaza to the Elm Street side of the triple underpass. As we were running across the street, we could see the presidential car pulling away under the underpass and we continued on to the immediate area. Some stopped to talk to people standing there as there were a number of women who were hysterical. We could not get any information except that the President had been shot. Several of the other officers in the group ran on into the freight yards.”
Harry Weatherford (11-23-63 report, 19H502) “I was standing in front of the Sheriff's Office watching the Presidential Motorcade. The President's car had passed my location a couple of minutes when I heard a loud report which I thought was a railroad torpedo, as it sounded as if it came from the railroad yard…then I heard a second report which had more of an echo report and thought to myself, that this was a rifle and I started towards the corner when I heard the third report. By this time I was running toward the railroad yards where the sounds seemed to come from.”
Seymour Weitzman (11-23-63 Affidavit to Dallas County, 24H228) “I was standing on the corner of Main and Houston as the President passed and made his turn going west toward Stemmons…At this time my partner was behind me and asked me something. I looked back at him and heard three shots. I ran in a northwest direction and scaled a fence towards where we thought the shots came from." (4-1-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H105-109) “we heard what we thought at that time was either a rifle shot or a firecracker.” (When asked how many shots) “Three distinct shots…First one, then the second two seemed to be simultaneously.” “There was a little period in between the second and third shot.” (When asked which gap was longer, between the first and second or between the second and third) “Between the first and second shot.”
John Wiseman (11-23-63 report, 19H535) “I was standing in front of the Sheriff's Office at 505 Main Street, Dallas when the President passed and the car went around the corner and a few more cars had passed when I heard a shot and I knew something had happened. I ran at once to the corner of Houston and Main Street and out into the street when the second and third shots rang out. I ran on across Houston Street, then across the park to where a policeman was having trouble with his motorcycle and I saw a man laying on the grass.This man laying on the grass said the shots came from the building and he was pointing to the old Sexton Building.”
Harold Elkins (11-26-63 report, 19H540) “I was standing in front of the sheriff's office at 505 Main St., which is a block south and just around the corner from the building from which the shots were fired. Just a few seconds after the President’s car had passed my location I heard a shot ring out, a couple of seconds elapsed and then two more shots ring out. I immediately ran to the area from which it sounded like the shots had been fired. This is an area between the railroads and the Texas School Book Depository which is east of the railroads."
W.W. Mabra (11-27-63 report, 19H541) “I, and officer Orville Smith, were standing on the curb in front of Criminal Courts Bldg., appx. 40 ft. East of Houston St., when the car bearing Pres. Kennedy passed. Appx 1 min. after the car turned right onto Houston St. we heard 3 shots. Officer Smith said to me "That sounded like a Deer Rifle." We saw people running toward the parkway and ran in that direction. Officers and People were running to the parkway on north side of Elm. I went to the rail yards and parking area west of the book store and helped search this area."
Now this is interesting. Not only did these Sheriff's deputies uniformly run towards the train yards in response to the shots coming from the plaza, they uniformly clumped shots two and three together. The rifle discovered in the school book depository was, of course, a bolt-action rifle, incapable of firing shots rapid fire. Well, did one of the last two shots (or sounds) come from the train yards? And was that why so many thought shots came from there?
Let that stew for 60 years...and you'll understand why this book was written.
BIG PROBLEM: The bulk of the Dallas County Sheriff's Deputies to report on the shots they heard in Dealey Plaza grouped the last two shots together or even specified that they were bang-bang, which would be inconsistent with someone firing the bolt-action rifle found in the depository, and now linked to Oswald.
Here's a postcard that was sold to tourists for many years. It showed people the way they were supposed to think about the assassination. Now, I have added a few blue lines to reflect the thinking of the thin blue line--the first responders on the scene. And I have given it a new title. I hope that's okay.
Now, where were we...back in 1963... Oh yeah, we were discussing the events of the evening after the evening after...
As alluded to by Hoover in his AM call with Johnson, the CIA had provided the FBI with a photo of Oswald in Mexico that was not actually Oswald. This then led to an interesting series of events. On this evening--the evening of the 23rd--FBI agent Bardwell Odum visited Oswald's mother--to show her the photo in hopes she might recognize this man (the aforementioned "Mexico City Mystery Man") as a friend or colleague of her son's. She didn't recognize him. This man was never officially identified.
On the evening of November 23rd, moreover, President Johnson was doing some stealth work of his own. Now, let me preface this by saying some of those closest to Kennedy, including his secretary Evelyn Lincoln, immediately suspected Johnson's involvement in the assassination of his predecessor. He was almost certainly aware of this. It only makes sense, then, that he would try to convince them he was sincerely interested in finding Kennedy's true assassins. He would do this, moreover, whether or not he himself was involved. So it comes as no surprise that, as reported in William Manchester's The Death of a President, President Johnson cornered President Kennedy's top speechwriter and adviser, Special Counsel Ted Sorensen, on this evening, and asked him if he'd thought a foreign power was responsible for Kennedy's murder. Yes, you read that right. Here was Johnson, hours after the Dallas Police had taken to telling everyone it was Oswald, and that he'd acted alone, and hours after the FBI had embraced this same conclusion, picking Sorensen's brain about a possible conspiracy.
While Sorensen, near as can be gathered, never ascribed an ulterior motive to Johnson for doing so, it is nevertheless intriguing that Sorensen, in an 11-20-83 Los Angeles Times article, asserted "Anything is possible in the world as far as who shot the President" and that he later admitted, in his 2008 memoir Counselor, that, as the years passed, his suspicions of conspiracy only grew.
The next morning, there is an eyewitness account of the assassination in the paper. Mary Woodward (11-23-63 newspaper article in the Dallas Morning News) "suddenly there was a horrible, ear-splitting noise coming from behind us and a little to the right. My first reaction, and also my friends', was that as a joke someone had backfired their car. Apparently, the driver and occupants of the President's car had the same impression, because instead of speeding up, the car came almost to a halt. ... I don't believe anyone was hit with the first bullet. The President and Mrs. Kennedy turned and looked around, as if they, too, didn't believe the noise was really coming from a gun.. Then after a moment's pause, there was another shot and I saw the President start slumping in the car. This was followed rapidly by another shot. Mrs. Kennedy stood up in the car, turned halfway around, then fell on top of her husband’s body….The cars behind stopped and several men--Secret Service men,--I suppose-- got out and started rushing forward, obstructing our view of the car…. About ten feet from where we were standing, a man and a woman had thrown their small child to the ground and covered his body with theirs. Apparently the bullets had whizzed directly over their heads.” (12-7-63 FBI report, 24H520) “She stated she was watching President and Mrs. Kennedy closely, and all of her group cheered loudly as they went by. Just as President and Mrs. Kennedy went by, they turned and waved at them. Just a second or two later, she heard a loud noise. At this point, it appeared to her that President and Mrs. Kennedy probably were about one hundred feet from her. There seemed to be a pause of a few seconds, and then there were two more loud noises which she suddenly realized were shots, and she saw President Kennedy fall over and Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and started crawling over the back of the car. She stated that her first reaction was that the shots had been fired from above her head and from possibly behind her.” (As Woodward heard two shots fired close together at the end of the shooting sequence, and associated the first of these two with a Kennedy "slumping in the car", it follows that this reaction was his getting hit by the head shot, and that a third shot followed.) Shot after the head shot. Aurelia Alonzo, Margaret Brown, and Ann Donaldson. (12-7-63 FBI report, CD7 p.19) “Ann Donaldson…Margaret Brown…and Miss Aurelio Alonzo…were interviewed December 6, 1963…All furnished the same information as that previously furnished by Mary Elizabeth Woodward.” (Our inspection of the Zapruder film shows that Kennedy waved to these women just before he was first hit. This means he was hit by the first shot described by Miss Woodward and that the slump she described in connection with the second shot is in fact the slump after the head shot.) Shot after the head shot x3.
We read an interesting article on the school book depository employee now charged with the crime. This 11-23-63 New York Times article reports that “Lee Harvey Oswald was not highly regarded as a marksman,” and that he’d scored 212 out of 250 when he’d first joined the Marines but had let his skills deteriorate so badly after three years that he barely qualified as a Marksman, scoring a poor-by-Marine-standards 191 out of 250 on his last test four years ago. We then receive the statement of another eyewitness to the firing of the rifle. If he says he saw three shots fired from the sniper’s nest, then maybe we can still say Oswald acted alone.
No such luck. James Worrell (11-23-63 affidavit to Dallas County, 16H959) “I was standing on the sidewalk against a building on the corner of Elm and Houston Streets watching the motorcade of the President. I heard loud noise like a fire cracker or gun shots. I looked around to see where the noise came from. I looked up and saw the barrel of a rifle sticking out of a window…While I was looking at the gun it was fired again. I looked back at Mr. Kennedy and he was slumping over. I got scared and ran from that location. While I was running I heard the gun fire two more times. I ran from Elm Street to Pacific Street on Houston. When I was about 100 yards from the building I stopped to get my breath and looked back at the building. I saw a w/m, 5’8” to 5’10”, dark hair, average weight for height, dark shirt or jacket open down front, no hat, didn’t have anything in his hands, come out of the building and run in the opposite direction.”
Another eyewitness statement trickles-in. Malcolm Summers (11-23-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Department, 19H500) “The President’s car had just come up in front of me when I heard a shot and saw the President slump down in the car and heard Mrs. Kennedy say, “Oh, no,” then a second shot and then I hit the ground as I realized these were shots. Then all of the people started running up the terrace away from the President’s car and I got up and started running also, not realizing what had happened.” (Our subsequent inspection of the Zapruder film shows that Mrs. Kennedy yelled out after the head shot.) Shot after the head shot.
We also receive a report on an FBI interview with Bill Stinson, the Administrative Assistant to Governor John Connally. It tells us that “Mrs. Connally, was, of course, an eyewitness to the shooting…and that Mrs. Connally would be available for interview by the FBI on November 23, 1963, if requested.” No such request is made. (Mrs. Connally is not in fact interviewed until the second week of December, after the FBI Summary Report on the assassination has been completed.)
WFAA Transcripts of 11-23-63 Interviews of Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry (CE 2144, CE 2145, CE 2146)
Q. Now that you have made the record clearer as to the matter of FBI cooperation, can you tell us where you now stand in the matter of prosecuting this man?
Curry. Well, so far as I know we are exactly where we were last night because I don't know what has developed in the questioning this morning. We are still trying to establish a verification on the gun--where it came from--and we are still--
Q. Is it the rifle you are talking about?
Curry. Yes, the rifle. We are still interviewing many witnesses...
Q. Do you have anything other circumstantial evidence to rely on?
Curry. Well, we have some physical evidence.
Q. Can you tell us anything about that physical evidence?
Curry. No sir, I don't think I should discuss that.
(Shortly thereafter, in CE 2145, Curry comes back and details evidence that Oswald owned the gun, and that there are pictures of him holding the gun. He fails to mention the DPD's finding any prints on the gun, however.)
We now move on to CE 2146. (This interview took place around 12:00)
Q. Do you think that smudged fingerprints that have been found on the rifle which killed the President will be able to establish the identity of the killer?
Curry. We hope so, but I couldn't say positively at this time that they will be.
Q. Well, will you know--to convict him?
Curry. I don't know whether it will be enough to convict him or not, but if we can put his prints on the rifle why, it'll certainly connect him with the rifle and if we can establish that this is the rifle that killed the President, why--
(Curry then lists circumstantial evidence Oswald brought the gun into the building--the package which he says was long enough to have held the rifle, etc., but says nothing of a print found on the rifle barrel.)
So there it is. On the day after the shooting, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry confirmed that, as of yet, no prints had been found on the rifle that could tie the rifle to Oswald, but that he was nevertheless still hoping that someway, somehow, someone could match the smudged prints on the rifle to Oswald's prints.
He never said anything about a trigger guard, moreover. And neither did he say anything about the barrel.
WFAA Transcripts of 11-23-63 Interviews of Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz (CE 2153, CE 2155)
Fritz. There is only one thing I can tell without going into the evidence before first talking to the District Attorney. I can tell you that this case is cinched--that this man killed the President. There's no question in my mind about it.
Q. Well, what is the basis for that statement?
Fritz. No sir, I don't want to go into the basis. In fact, I don't want to get into the evidence.
(Later, from CE 2155)
Q. Have you got this fellow tied to the murder weapon--the rifle?
Fritz. Well, we'd like to have him tied to it better than we have, but we're still in pretty good shape.
Q. Captain, how well do you--?
Fritz. Well, I can't go into that because that is very important to the evidence and the District Attorney should pass on that.
Q. Were there any--?
Fritz. I wouldn't want to talk about the prints and--?
Q. Is it hoped that the--?
Fritz. Get ready for court.
So Fritz, at this point, is with Curry. They are both hoping for something more, with that something more being a print or two that more conclusively ties Oswald to the rifle.
Later that night, the dark brown shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested, along with the purported assassination weapon and much of the other first day evidence, was flown to Washington for testing by the FBI's crime lab (CD5 p159).
This evidence was tested throughout the next day. At 5:30 PM, Assistant Director Alan Belmont calls Dallas Special-Agent-in-Charge Gordon Shanklin and tells him of the results of these tests. A memo by Shanklin found in the Dallas FBI files reveals that, in regards to the shirt. Belmont told him: "Several black cotton, orange yellow cotton, and gray black cotton fibers which matched similar fibers composing Oswald's shirt removed from butt plate of submitted rifle."
BIG PROBLEM: the fibers taken from the shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested match the fibers discovered on the rifle, even though he claims he wasn't wearing this shirt at the time of the assassination and no one has identified him as wearing this shirt at the time of the assassination...
There's also this. Shanklin's memo further reveals: "Identification Division determined that latent prints appearing in photograph taken of the rifle of Dallas Police Dept. too fragmentary and indistinct to be of any value for identification purposes. Similar photo taken by Bureau also failed to produce prints of sufficient legibility for comparison purposes."
BIG PROBLEM: The only prints found on the rifle and discussed on the day of the shooting could not be matched to Oswald...