JAHS Chapter 22
The Home Stretch
The investigation reaches its final turn.
The Justice Department's man on the commission, Assistant Counsel Howard Willens, realizes that the commission's upcoming report will never be accepted without Attorney General Robert Kennedy's signing off on it in some way. On 6-4-64 he dashes off a memo to General Counsel Rankin in which he proposes Chief Justice Warren write Kennedy a letter asking if Kennedy has "any information suggesting that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a domestic or foreign conspiracy" and Kennedy respond with a letter stating "I know of no credible evidence to support the allegations that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a foreign or domestic conspiracy." Willens notes "The Attorney General would prefer to handle his obligations to the Commission in this way rather than appear as a witness." He presents full drafts for both Warren's letter, and Kennedy's response, noting "The proposed response by the Attorney General has, of course, not been approved by him, or on his behalf by the Deputy Attorney General. It represents a revision of an earlier letter which I did show to them during my conference with them earlier today. At that time the Attorney General informed me that he had not received any reports from the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the investigation of the assassination, and that his principle sources of information have been the Chief Justice, the Deputy Attorney General, and myself." (Willens' proposed drafts are discussed over the next week, and Warren sends "his" letter to Kennedy on June 11.)
Now six months after the shooting, the Commission finally gets around to questioning the closest eyewitness, the former First lady. Jacqueline Kennedy (6-5-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 5H178-181) “Well there must have been two because the one that made me turn around was Governor Connally yelling. And it used to confuse me because first I remembered there were three and I used to think my husband didn’t make any sound when he was shot. And Governor Connally screamed like a stuck pig. I heard Governor Connally yelling and that made me turn around, and as I turned to the right my husband was doing this (indicating with hand at neck). He was receiving a bullet. And those are the only two I remember.” Unsure. Only heard two clear shots.
On this same day, the FBI reports the recollections of another vital witness, whose photographs of the assassination were everywhere. Strangely, they had no intention of interviewing him until a 5-25 column in the Chicago American asked why he’d not been interviewed. James Altgens (6-5-64 FBI report, CD 1088 p.1-6) “at about the instant he snapped the picture, he heard a burst of noise which he thought was firecrackers…he does not know how many of these reports he heard…After taking the above photograph…he heard another report which he recognized as a gunshot. He said the bullet struck President Kennedy on the right side of his head and the impact knocked the President forward. Altgens stated pieces of flesh, blood, and bones appeared to fly from the right side of the President’s head and pass in front of Mrs. Kennedy to the left of the Presidential limousine. Altgens stated Mrs. Kennedy grabbed the President and Altgens heard her exclaim “Oh, no!” as the president slumped into her lap.”
Above: members of the Warren Commission and its staff on their second Dallas tour, 6-7-64. From near to far, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Congressman Gerald Ford, Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, Commission Counsel Joseph Ball and Commission Counsel Arlen Specter. Arlen Specter would later report that he had some time alone with Warren on this day, and that he'd used that time to sell Warren on the single-bullet theory. The situation then is that Arlen Specter, with no training or specialized knowledge in the fields of forensic science or wound ballistics, was able to sell the Chief Justice of the United States on an extremely weak but politically attractive scientific theory, without Warren's seeking advice from the top experts in the field. Not a one... Oh my, the hubris of lawyers.
Above: From L to R, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, and Warren Commission Counsel Arlen Specter on their one-day tour of Dallas, 6-7-64. They spent the morning viewing (the crime scenes) and the afternoon interviewing (Jack Ruby).
On 6 7-64, almost three months after the conclusion of his trial, the Warren Commission (er, rather, Chief Justice Earl Warren acting as a one-man Commission) finally gets around to questioning Oswald’s assassin, Jack Ruby, about his possible role in a conspiracy involving Oswald. In an unexpected twist, Ruby requests he be given a lie detector test. He tells Judge Warren “I would like to request that I go to Washington and you take all the tests that I have to take. It’s very important.” Later, he returns to this theme. “Gentleman, unless you get me to Washington, you can’t get a fair shake out of me. If you understand my way of talking, you have got to bring me to Washington to get the tests…Unless you can get me to Washington, and I am not a crackpot, I have all my senses—I don’t want to evade any crime I am guilty of…Unless you get me to Washington immediately, I am afraid…” Ruby then accuses his own lawyer of conspiring to make it look like he’d planned out Oswald’s murder, which Ruby insists was a spontaneous act. Ruby then throws in “Well, it’s too bad, Chief Warren, that you didn’t get me to your headquarters 6 months ago.” Ruby then asks Sheriff Decker and all other law enforcement officers to leave the room. After they leave, he tells Warren and his staff “Gentleman, if you want to hear any further testimony, you will have to get me to Washington soon, because it has something to do with you, Chief Warren. Do I sound sober enough to tell you this? …I want to tell the truth, and I can’t tell it here. I can’t tell it here. Does that make sense to you?” He then muses “Boy, I am in a tough spot, I tell you that…But this isn’t the place for me to tell what I want to tell…”
Ruby then gets serious, and comes straight to the point: “Chief Warren, your life is in danger in this city, do you know that?” He requests again he be given a lie detector test, which will help him clear his name, and concludes “Gentleman, my life is in danger here. Not with my guilty plea of execution. Do I sound sober enough to you as I say this?...Then I follow this up. I may not live tomorrow to give any further testimony...the only thing that I want to get out to the public, and I can’t say it here, is with authenticity, with sincerity of the truth of everything and why my act was committed, but it can’t be said here. It can be said, it’s got to be said amongst people of the highest authority that would give me the benefit of the doubt. And following that, immediately give me a lie detector test after I do make the statement.” Shortly thereafter, during a stenographer's break to change paper, Ruby corners Warren and Counsel Arlen Specter (whose 2000 memoir A Passion For Truth is the source for this story) and begs them to “Get to Fortas. He’ll get the job done…Get to Fortas. He’ll get it worked out.” Ruby then goes on to assert that the John Birch Society is trying to use that he’s a Jew to persecute other Jews, and claims “The Jewish people are being exterminated at this moment. Consequently, a whole new form of government is going to take over our country, and I know I won't live to see you another time. Do I sound sort of screwy--in telling you these things?…It may not be too late, whatever happens, if our President, Lyndon Johnson, knew the truth from me. But if I am eliminated, there won't be any way of knowing…I won't be around, Chief Justice. I won't be around to verify these things you are going to tell the President...I have been used for a purpose…”
Warren and Specter decide Ruby is insane.
And it's easy to see why. When one watches the archival news footage of Ruby it's readily apparent that something is just wrong with this guy. His facial mannerisms and statements all point to his being a bit nutty. But how nutty?
I mean, Ruby had been found competent to stand trial...and had then been convicted of murdering Oswald, and sentenced to death... Well, think about it... If a Chief Justice meets with a convicted murderer claiming to have important information about another murder, and decides after meeting this convicted murderer that this man is insane, and has nothing to offer, shouldn't the Chief Justice at least acknowledge that this man has been wrongly convicted? Wouldn't that have been his duty? As Chief Justice? And yet nothing came of Warren's meeting with Ruby outside Warren's deciding not to allow Ruby to testify in Washington...where the other Commissioners could have decided for themselves if Ruby was a nut or not. This stinks a bit. Or maybe more than a bit...
In any event, here's Warren escaping from jail after coming face-to-face with Ruby.
While Ruby may have been unstable, the fact he acted paranoid didn't mean no one was out to get him. Warren and Specter were undoubtedly aware that the radical right, including the John Birch Society, a prominent presence in Dallas, had been pushing the story (in newspapers such as The Thunderbolt) that Oswald killed Kennedy on behalf of a Jewish/Communist cabal, and that Ruby silenced Oswald on behalf of this same cabal. One recently-released book, Legacy of an Assassination, has offered that Ruby was a communist, and that, as a communist, he was ready to sacrifice his life for his cause. It mused further that Oswald, Ruby, Tippit, and others were all "concealed Reds" and that Ruby and Oswald had previously worked together on the attempted assassination of General Walker but were "protected from arrest afterwards by concealed Reds in the CIA who got Attorney General Robert Kennedy to intercede with the FBI and the Dallas Police."
A Texan Looks at Lyndon, by J. Evetts Haley, a self-published diatribe against Lyndon Johnson just coming onto the market, is also a problem for Ruby. While not specifically targeting Ruby, it focuses on Oswald's background as a communist, and shreds President Johnson for covering up the possibility Oswald acted as part of a conspiracy. It reports: "Thus the American people are convinced that the truth of the Oswald case, and its Jack (Rubenstein) Ruby connections, will never be known. At least not until they elect a President who believes they have the right to know the truth." This insertion of "Rubenstein" was not a coincidence, mind you, as it was clearly added to remind Evetts' readers that Ruby was a Jew, and thus not to be trusted. This book would go on to sell over 5 million copies, and by some estimates, 7 million copies.
None Dare Call It Treason, by John Stormer, would also sell millions of copies--reportedly more than 7 million. Released in '64, shortly after Ruby's testimony, None Dare Call It Treason notes that Kennedy was killed by a "self-admitted communist." It complains: "Volumes could and should be written on the press coverage of President Kennedy's assassination by a Communist killer. Even after Oswald was captured and his Marxist affiliations disclosed, TV and radio commentators have conducted a continual crusade of distortion and smear to direct the blame against right-wing or conservative groups."
Well, this, as we've seen, was a lie. Sure, the press conducted a "continual crusade of distortion and smear" but it was a crusade to convict Oswald as a lone-nut assassin, not a crusade to blame the right-wing. This deliberate lie, then, appears to have been designed to make None Dare Call It Treason's readers--and there were plenty of them--believe that a communist conspiracy to kill Kennedy had infiltrated the mainstream media, and that the enemy within was all around.
Ruby's concerns were very real.
Let's refresh. Ruby has admitted that within hours of the assassination he'd grown suspicious that Jews were being set-up as patsies in the killing of Kennedy (He'd learned that the Kennedy Wanted for Treason ads in the Dallas papers on the day of the assassination had been paid for by a Jew named Bernard Weissman, and was so distressed by this fact that he contacted the Dallas Post Office at 4:30 AM the next morning in hopes they'd give him Weissman's address). It's not unreasonable, then, to suspect that Ruby had received orders to kill Oswald by a non-Jew, and was worried that his silencing Oswald on their behalf was gonna be used against his fellow Jews. (What else could he mean by "I have been used for a purpose?") Ruby's cornering Specter, who was only involved in the questioning because he was Jewish and Ruby felt he could be trusted, and telling him to "Get to Fortas...He'll get the job done" is in this context also suspicious. Fortas was President Johnson's most trusted and secret adviser, and a JEW, and would be the man best in position to shut down any orchestrated efforts to deflect attention from Johnson or other possible conspirators by blaming the assassination on Jews.
So does Warren bring Ruby to Washington and let Ruby tell his whole story? Nope. Does he have Fortas interviewed or investigated so he can determine what, if any, ties he has to Ruby? Nope. Does he even get a doctor to testify that Ruby's unstable, so he can justify his not bringing Ruby to Washington? Nope, nope and nope again. Ruby's testimony has opened a door to a room that Warren refuses to enter.
Such reluctance is now Warren's M.O.
Kissing Up to Pat While Ignoring Dr. George
Above: Patrick Dean, the Elvis of the DPD. Apparently, he was also quite the liar.
On 6-8-64 Sgt. Patrick Dean of the Dallas Police Dept. testifies before Warren and the commission in Washington. He doesn't testify as much as complain. It seems word has leaked out about what Warren Commission counsel Burt Griffin told Dean during a 3-24-64 deposition in Dallas. Off the record, Griffin told Dean that he didn't believe his testimony on two points--Jack Ruby's telling Dean he'd entered the basement where he killed Oswald via the Main Street ramp and Ruby's telling Dean he'd planned Oswald's death since the day of Kennedy's assassination. Griffin then offered his help in correcting Dean's testimony. Dean refused, and in time demanded an audience with Warren. In keeping with his agreement with Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr (that the commission give a fair shake to Texas, else Texas be forced to conduct its own investigation), Warren as much as apologizes to Dean. He tells him: "Well, Sergeant, I want to say to you that, of course, without knowing what your conversation was with Mr. Griffin, I have never talked to Mr. Griffin about this. I didn't know that you had this altercation with him, but I want to say this: That so far as the jurisdiction of this Commission is concerned and its procedures, no member of our staff has a right to tell any witness that he is lying or that he is testifying falsely. That is not his business. It is the business of this Commission to appraise the testimony of all the witnesses, and, at the time you are talking about, and up to the present time, this Commission has never appraised your testimony or fully appraised the testimony of any other witness, and furthermore, I want to say to you that no member of our staff has any power to help or injure any witness. So, so far as that conversation is concerned, there is nothing that will be binding upon this Commission." (The HSCA would subsequently reveal that before his trip to Washington Dean had willingly undergone a lie detector test regarding his conversations with Ruby...and had failed this test, even though he'd been allowed to write his own questions. Now, no one from Dallas volunteered this info to the commission, but that doesn't exactly excuse Warren, whose reluctance to pursue this matter helped prevent this factfrom surfacing, and the commission as a whole, which accepted Dean's word that Ruby had said he came down the ramp, even though the counsel investigating this aspect of the assassination, Burt Griffin, believed it to be a fabrication.)
Above: Admiral George Burkley, JFK's physician, who continued on as LBJ's physician.
This very day, 6-8-64, yet another door is opened, and ignored. An internal FBI memo on this date from Alex Rosen to Alan Belmont relates that on 6-3 the FBI was contacted by President Kennedy's physician, Dr. George Burkley, wondering what became of a statement, dated 11-27-63, he'd given to the U.S. Secret Service, and why he hasn't been contacted by the Warren Commission. Rosen relates further that he's discussed this matter with Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, who requested he call the Secret Service and find out what happened to Burkley's statement regarding the events of 11-22-63. Rosen then relates that he talked to Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley, and Kelley told him he was indeed aware of Burkley's statement, "was of the opinion it had been made available to the President's Commission," and "would see that a copy of the memorandum was sent over to the Commission per Mr. Rankin's request."
(Burkley's statement is eventually published by the Commission as Exhibit 1126. Strangely, however, despite this incident, and despite his name appearing in the autopsy report, numerous Secret Service reports, and in the testimony of witnesses such as Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman, Dr. Paul Peters, and Dr. Charles Carrico, no one from the FBI or Warren Commission was ever to interview Burkley, the only witness to see the President's body at both Parkland and Bethesda. This oversight is made suspicious, moreover, by the fact that Warren Commissioner Gerald Ford asked Congressman James D. Weaver, a former military surgeon, to take a look at the medical testimony, and that, in an April 23, 1964 letter (found in the Ford Presidential Library), Weaver told Ford that the lack of information regarding Burkley's actions in the testimony was an "outstanding omission."
While Ford's subsequent failure to demand Burkley be interviewed may have been yet another "outstanding omission," it would eventually be revealed as an incredibly convenient omission for those hoping to convince others that Oswald acted alone. On October 17, 1967, in an interview conducted for the Kennedy Library, Burkley was asked if he agreed with the Warren Report’s conclusions “on the number of bullets that entered the President’s body.” He replied “I would not care to be quoted on that.” Similarly, on March 18, 1977, Burkley’s attorney, Willaim Illig, contacted HSCA Chief Counsel Richard Sprague and told him that Burkley had information indicating that Oswald did not act alone. While no one followed up on this letter, the record suggests that Burkley suspected both that the back wound was too low on Kennedy's body to support the single-bullet theory, and that more than one bullet struck the President's skull.)
On 6-8-64, General Counsel Rankin receives an unexpected response. On 6-2-64 he had written a letter to Lt. Col. Allison G. Folsom requesting an appraisal of Oswald’s shooting ability, based upon Oswald’s test scores while in the Marines. Folsom responds “In view of the lapse of time since Mr. Oswald was separated from the Marine Corps, it would be impossible to ascertain precisely the number of hours in which he participated in weapons marksmanship practice or how many rounds of ammunition he fired.” He then gives a breakdown of the training received by Oswald and his subsequent tests scores. These show that Oswald was tested on the M-1 rifle on December 21, 1956 and received a score of 212, or sharpshooter ranking. This was the test discussed in Folsom’s 5-1-64 testimony. The record shows that Oswald was tested on the M-1 rifle a second time on May 6, 1959, however, and received a score of 191, only 1 point above the bottom of the Marksman ranking. These were the scores reported by the New York Times on 11-23-63. The big surprise for Rankin comes in Folsom’s summary. He tells Rankin “The Marine Corps considers that any reasonable application of the instructions given to Marines should permit them to become qualified as a marksman. To become qualified as a sharpshooter, the Marine Corps is of the opinion that most Marines with a reasonable amount of adaptability to weapons firing can become so qualified. Consequently, a low marksman qualification indicates a rather poor “shot” and a sharpshooter qualification indicates a fairly good “shot.” Folsom was thus telling Rankin that Oswald was a poor shot when he left the Marines and would have been an even worse shot after 4 years without practice.
After receiving Folsom's letter, Rankin has clear reason to doubt Oswald's ability to hit the shots proposed by Specter. Specter has, after all, proposed that the assassin (Oswald) fired three times at a moving target in a time span of as little as 5.6 seconds, and achieved two hits and one near miss (the bullet striking Connally). Rankin has, for that matter, already given Specter's chapter on the assassination to the commissioners. This suggests Rankin's endorsement of Specter's proposal, and belief it should be presented to the public as a conclusion of the commission.
In an ideal world, Folsom's letter spurs Rankin to push for more tests, with civilians firing rifles similar to Oswald’s at moving targets on a mock Dealey Plaza.
(These tests were eventually performed, only not by the commission...)
The Tests That Should Have Been
In 1967, CBS News, realizing the Warren Commission's error in not conducting these tests, conducted some tests of their own. While the shooters used by CBS were all well-practiced rifleman, their over-all skill level was roughly that of Oswald at his best. (Of course, Oswald hadn’t been at his best since his first years in the Marines, a half a dozen years before the assassination.)
There were still other problems with the test. For one, the rifle used by these shooters was in prime operating condition, and was in no need of the adjustments performed by those test-firing Oswald's rifle for the Warren Commission. For two, the CBS shooters, unlike the man firing Oswald's rifle in Dealey Plaza, who was firing cold, were given NINE practice shots before making their attempts. For three, the target upon which these men fired, unlike the limousine in Dealey Plaza, moved at a constant speed away from the shooter, and at a constant angle.
Now, all these problems should have worked to the advantage of CBS' shooters, and have led to their easily replicating the shots purported for Oswald... That is, if the shots have been indeed easily replicable...
But let the test results speak for themselves…
1. Col. Jim Crossman, ret. (expert rifleman). First attempt--3 near misses in 6.54 seconds. Best attempt (of 6) ---2 hits and 1 near miss in 6.20 seconds. 2 hits or more in 3 of 6 attempts. (6.34, 6.44, and 6.2 seconds)
2. Douglas Bazemore (ex-paratrooper). First attempt—unable to operate bolt effectively to fire the shots. Best attempt (of 4)—unable to operate stiff bolt action; gives up. 2 hits or more in 0 of 4 attempts.
3. John Bollendorf (ballistics technician). First attempt—2 hits and 1 near miss in 6.8 seconds. Best attempt (of 4)—the same. 2 hits or more in 1 of 4 attempts. (6.8 seconds)
4. John Concini (Maryland State Trooper). First attempt—no record of where shots went in 6.3 seconds. Best attempt (of 2)—1 hit and 2 near misses in 5.4 seconds. 2 hits or more in 0 of 2 attempts.
5. Howard Donahue (weapons engineer). First attempt—too fast with bolt—gun jammed. Best attempt (of 3)—3 hits in 5.2 seconds. 2 hits or more in 1 of 3 attempts. (5.2 seconds)
6. Somersett Fitchett (sportsman). First attempt—gun jammed at 3rd shot. Best attempt (of 3)—2 hits and 1 near miss in 5.5 seconds. 2 hits or more in 2 of 3 attempts. (5.9 and 5.5 seconds)
7. William Fitchett (sporting goods dealer). First attempt—3 borderline hits in 6.5 seconds. Best attempt (of 3)—the same. 2 hits or more in 1 of 3 attempts. (6.5 seconds)
8. Ron George (Maryland State Trooper). First attempt—gun jammed at 2nd shot. Best attempt (of 3)—2 hits and 1 near miss in 4.9 seconds. 2 hits or more in 1 of 3 attempts. (4.9 seconds)
9. Charles Hamby (shooting range employee). First attempt—gun jammed. Best attempt (of 3)—2 near misses and 1 complete miss in 6.5 seconds. 2 hits or more in 0 of 3 attempts.
10. Carl Holden (shooting range employee). First attempt—gun jammed with first shot. Best attempt (of 3)—3 near misses in 5.4 seconds. 2 hits or more in 0 of 3 attempts.
11. Sid Price (shooting range employee). First attempt—1 hit, 1 near miss, and 1 complete miss in 5.9 seconds. Best attempt (of 4)—the same. 2 hits or more in 0 of 4 attempts.
12. Al Sherman (Maryland State Trooper). First attempt—2 hits and 1 near miss in 5.0 seconds. Best attempt (of 5)—the same. 2 hits or more in 2 of 5 attempts. (5.0 and 6.0 seconds)
Of the 12 first attempts, only 1 shooter was able to hit the target twice in less than 5.6 seconds. Of the 43 total attempts, moreover, these well-seasoned shooters were able to replicate Oswald’s purported feat—2 hits in less than 5.6 seconds—just 4 times.
In fact, it's even worse. Not counting Crossman, an acknowledged rifle expert, those purportedly of Oswald's skill level landed but 25 hits TOTAL, in their 20 successful attempts at getting off 3 shots. In other words, they hit 25 out of 60 shots--far worse on average than Oswald's purported 2 out of 3.
But it's actually FAR WORSE than that. You see, CBS counted any strike on the FBI silhouettes used as targets--even those far down the back, or out on the shoulders--as a hit. This, in effect, tripled or quadrupled the size of the target for their shooters, in comparison to the small area on the back and head purportedly hit by Oswald. It seems clear then that, of the 60 shots total, and 25 hits, no more than 9 hit the target in the small central area purportedly hit by Oswald, not once but twice. This, then, suggests that, even IF Oswald was a well-practiced shooter, and even IF his rifle were in optimal condition, and even IF he had been provided NINE practice shots, the odds of his hitting the small area he supposedly hit from the sniper's nest on any given shot were less than 1 in 6, and of his hitting this area 2 of 3 times something like 1 in 16.
In other words, Oswald's purported feat was highly unlikely...
(This fact has not escaped the attention of those continuing to argue Oswald acted alone. In his mammoth tome Reclaiming History, Vincent Bugliosi deceives his readers by arguing that, as Oswald was clearly aiming for Kennedy's head, he actually hit but one of three shots. This avoids, of course, that the vast majority of "hits" by the professional shooters attempting to simulate Oswald's purported feat for the Warren Commission, and what one can only assume were the vast majority of "hits" by the amateur shooters attempting to simulate Oswald's purported feat for CBS News in 1967, were torso hits even further from the center of the target as the hit on Kennedy's back.)
In any event, if the Warren Commission had conducted similar tests, they would almost certainly have concluded that Oswald needed more than 5.6 seconds to fire the shots, and that either the first shot or last shot missed. But this was not to be...
Wrapping It Up
On 6-18-64, Secret Service Chief James Rowley is called to testify. He admits that members of Kennedy's protection detail had been out drinking the night before the assassination, but asserts they were not punished for what would normally have been cause for termination because it might send the message that their actions had been a factor in Kennedy's death. Newspaper reports reflect that he is the last person scheduled to testify before the commission. This means that all the witnesses subsequent to Rowley were NEVER supposed to testify.
The investigation is now over. The remaining months are to be spent tying up loose ends, interviewing witnesses who should already have been called--so that the commission can say that they spoke to them--and finding experts to tell the commission what it's already decided to say.
One of these "missing" witnesses is Phil Willis, whose photograph of Kennedy just after the first shot has been studied extensively by the FBI. He has never been interviewed. Nor has his wife, who claimed to have witnessed the head shot... They are finally interviewed on 6-17 and 6-18. Marilyn Willis (6-19-64 FBI report, CD1245 p. 44-45) “Mrs. Willis advised when the motorcade passed on Elm Street in front of where she was standing she heard a noise that sounded like a firecracker or a backfire. A few seconds following this she stated she heard another report and saw the top of President Kennedy’s head “blow off and ringed by a red halo.” She stated she believes she heard another shot following this.” Shot after the head shot. Phil Willis (6-22-64 FBI report, CD1245 p. 46-48) “Willis advised that just about the same time that the limousine carrying President Kennedy was opposite the Stemmons Freeway road sign he heard a loud report and knew immediately it was a rifle shot and knew also the shot “had hit”…About two seconds later he heard another rifle shot which also hit, as did the third, which came approximately two seconds later. Willis said he knew from his war experience the sound a rifle makes when it finds its mark and he said he is sure all three shots fired found their mark.”
It has now been almost 7 months since the assassination of President Kennedy. Apparently, this means it's time for another tragedy to besiege the family. On 6-20-64, President Kennedy's youngest brother Teddy, serving out his brother's term in the Senate, is seriously injured in a small plane crash in which two others--the pilot and Kennedy's assistant--are killed.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes of the Warren Commission, the staff charged with writing its report are submitting their chapters and the Commissioners themselves are making changes. On 6-24-64, Commissioner John J. McCloy writes Rankin: “I think too much effort is expended on attempting to prove that the first bullet which hit the President was responsible for all Connally’s wounds. The evidence against this is not fully stated.” Yowza. This indicates that McCloy has his doubts about the single-bullet theory. (It will eventually come out that Senators Russell and Cooper, and Congressman Boggs, also have doubts about the theory. This means that just 3 of the 7 commissioners—Warren, Dulles, and Ford--wholeheartedly support the single-bullet theory, the cornerstone of the Commission’s conclusions, without which they would rightfully have to conclude the probability of a second gunman.)
4th Times the Charm
The FBI, Secret Service, and Warren Commission's absolute conviction that all the shots came from the sixth floor of the depository, no matter when or how the shots rang out, is by now abundantly clear. Perhaps no one is better able to see this than Dallas County Surveyor Robert West. Between December 7, 1963 and June 25, 1964, he has created and revised four plats of Dealey Plaza, with the angles of trajectory for proposed shots from the sniper's nest All four of these plats were purportedly based on a careful analysis of the Zapruder film, and were created for a government agency. And yet, from plat to plat, not one shot has been of a consistent distance or at a consistent angle! (West will eventually testify at the trial of Clay Shaw in 1969, and acknowledge that he was in Dealey Plaza when the President was shot, and that he in fact heard four shots. This raises the question of whether or not he mentioned this fact to the Secret Service, FBI, and Warren Commission investigators employing his services, and, if so, why none of them ever interviewed him as a witness.)
Still, at least one member of the Warren Commission has got his eyes on the finish line.
On 6-26-64, Congressman Gerald Ford changes a passage in Chapter 1 of the commission's report from “A bullet had entered his back at a point slightly above the shoulder and to the right of the spine" to “A bullet had entered the back of his neck at a point slightly to the right of the spine." (The published report reflects a compromise: “A bullet had entered the base of the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine." In any event, from this change it seems clear that Ford was deliberately skewing the report to help convince the public that a bullet fired from above could enter a man’s back and exit his throat on a straight trajectory, a la the single-bullet theory.)
Dyeing the Grass Green
When the working papers of J. Lee Rankin were given to the Archives in 1997 and Ford’s changes were discovered, the Former President reportedly responded “My changes were only an attempt to be more precise.” While the inaccurate drawings entered into evidence by the doctors may have confused Ford into thinking his correction was indeed more precise, a less generous interpretation is also reasonable. This very topic, let's recall, came up in Ford's 12-17-63 meeting with the FBI. Cartha DeLoach's memo on this meeting reflects: "Two members of the Commission brought up the fact that they still are not convinced that the President had been shot from the sixth floor window of the Texas Book Depository. These members failed to understand the trajectory of the slugs that killed the President. He (Ford) stated he felt this point would be discussed further but, of course, would represent no problem."
Apparently, Ford knew the caliber of men he was working with. Apparently, he knew that nothing could dissuade these men from claiming Oswald killed Kennedy. On July 2, 1967, an interview of Commissioner John McCloy was aired on Face the Nation. Although CBS' treatment of the assassination in its just-broadcast four part special on the Warren Commission was questionable, and at times quite deceptive, here Walter Cronkite actually did some digging. McCloy's answers, accordingly, are quite revealing. When asked why the Commissioners doubting the single-bullet theory claimed Oswald acted alone, even though, in Cronkite's words, it is "inescapably obvious that without the single bullet theory, the whole case made by the Commission collapses into a mass of incredibility," McCloy gave a jaw-dropping response. He said: "Well, what is the case? The case is, as--and, I think, this about right, and I can--I think I can summarize the conclusions. One. Oswald killed the President by shots fired from the sixth floor window of the school book depository in Dallas. He also killed Tippit...Now that's--that's the conclusion. Those are the essential conclusions of the Commission. They don't stand or fall by whether there was a single bullet there, or not."
In other words, McCloy told Cronkite that they'd decided to blame the shooting on Oswald, EVEN IF THE EVIDENCE INDICATED IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO HAVE FIRED ALL THE SHOTS. The possibility that a conspiracy existed outside Oswald, and had set him up as the "patsy" he'd claimed to be, was not even to be considered.
Now, to be fair, it seems possible McCloy's mind on this issue was muddled, as opposed to being deliberately deceitful. Many early believers in the Oswald did-it theory, including Governor Connally and the top brass of the FBI, believed Oswald could have fired three shots, and hit Kennedy twice and Connally once, no matter what was suggested by the Zapruder film. To wit, in the 1967 book When Death Delights (written by former FBI agent Marsall Houts), Dr. Milton Helpern, one of the top forensic pathologists in the country, let his thoughts on the assassination be known, and expressed muddled thinking similar to McCloy's. While rejecting the single-bullet theory, Helpern claimed it wasn't really necessary, seeing as there was "nothing in the 'open end' Zapruder movie 'timetable' to rule out the possibility or even the probability that the President was shot through the neck before Frame 166."
WHAT? The President was smiling and waving to the crowd on his right for a second and a half past Frame 166. That's an awful long time before reacting to a bullet, especially one that has just torn through your windpipe.
With the end in sight, some of the Warren Commission's staff start dropping their guard.
On 6-27-64, three members of the Warren Commission's staff meet and discuss the changes being made to the commission's report. They make a mistake, however, and allow author William Manchester to attend their meeting. (Manchester would subsequently quote from his notes on this meeting.)
Here are Manchester's notes on this meeting: "X: 'How critical of the Dallas police should we be?" Y: 'We can't be critical enough.' Z: (senior man): 'That's just the problem. If we write what we really think, nobody will believe anything else we say. They'll accuse us of attacking Dallas' image. The whole report will be discredited as controversial. We've just got to tone it way down.' There was a spirited discussion, after which X and Y consented."
On 6-29-64, the Warren Commission meets and deliberates over the submitted chapters of its report. (Intriguingly, few were aware of this meeting until 1997, when General Counsel J. Lee Rankin’s private papers were donated to the National Archives following the JFK Records Act. Rankin’s notes reveal that this meeting consists of his running down a list of questions, and the Commissioners’ deciding whether the proposed chapters adequately answer these questions. Over and over, on the questions of the number of the shots, the order in which the wounds were inflicted, etc, they answer “Treatment in proposed draft satisfactory.” This suggests that by May 29, when Rankin first forwarded Specter's chapter on to the commissioners, the commission's conclusions were written in stone, and that the subsequent testimony of crucial witnesses such as Jacqueline Kennedy, James Altgens, Phil Willis, Abraham Zapruder, Emmett Hudson, and James Tague was taken entirely for political reasons, i.e., to convince the American people that the words of all the prominent witnesses had been considered by the commission before they'd come to a conclusion, when in fact they had not.)
An AP dispatch from later this day only confirms that the investigation is over, and unlikely to meet any public resistance. It reads:
KRAKOW, POLAND, JUNE 29 CAP)-U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ROBERT F. KENNEDY SAID TONIGHT LEE HARVEY OSWALD KILLED HIS BROTHER, PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY, AND "THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT HE DID IT ON HIS OWN AND BY HIMSELF."
"I BELIEVE IT (THE ASSASSINATION) WAS DONE BY A MAN NAMED OSWALD WHO WAS A MISFIT IN SOCIETY," KENNEDY TOLD A GROUP OF CIVIC LEADERS AND STUDENTS IN THIS SOUTHERN POLISH CITY.
AIDES SAID IT WAS THE FIRST TIME THE HEAD OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HAS SPOKEN PUBLICLY ABOUT WHO KILLED HIS BROTHER IN DALLAS, TEX., LAST NOV. 22. OSWALD WAS SHOT BY JACK RUBY, DALLAS CAFE OWNER, BEFORE HE COULD BE BROUGHT TO TRIAL, THERE HAVE BEEN SUGGESTIONS IN EUROPE, ESPECIALLY COMMUNIST COUNTRIES SUCH AS POLAND, THAT THE SLAYINGS OF KENNEDY AND OSWALD WERE PART OF THE SAME CONSPIRACY.
KENNEDY SAID IT WAS NOT OSWALD'S PROFESSED BELIEF IN COMMUNISM THAT PROMPTED HIM TO MURDER THE PRESIDENT.
"HE WAS A PROFESSED COMMUNIST BUT THE COMMUNISTS--BECAUSE OF HIS ATTITUDE--WOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HIM," KENNEDY SAID. "IDEOLOGY IN MY OPINION DID NOT MOTIVATE HIS ACT, IT WAS THE SINGLE ACT OF AN INDIVIDUAL PROTESTING AGAINST SOCIETY."
KENNEDY WAS REPLYING TO A QUESTION BY HIERONYM KUBIAK,25-YEAR-OLD HEAD OF, THE POLISH STUDENT UNION IN KRAKOW, WHO HAD DECLARED:"WE ALWAYS GREATLY RESPECTED PRESIDENT KENNEDY AND WE ARE VERY INTERESTED IN YOUR VERSION OF HIS DEATH, WE HOPE YOU WILL FORGIVE US FOR ASKING SUCH A DIRECT QUESTION BUT WE REALLY WOULD LIKE YOUR VIEW."
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL REPLIED "IT IS A PROPER QUESTION WHICH DESERVES AN ANSWER." HE CALLED OSWALD "A MISFIT IN SOCIETY WHO HAD LIVED IN THE UNITED STATES AND WAS DISSATISFIED WITH OUR GOVERNMENT AND OUR WAY OF LIFE. HE TOOK UP COMMUNISM AND MOVED TO THE SOVIET UNION BUT WAS DISSATISFIED THERE. HE CAME BACK (TO AMERICA), WAS ANTI-SOCIAL AND FELT THE ONLY WAY TO TAKE OUT HIS STRONG FEELINGS AGAINST SOCIETY AND DISSATISFACTION WITH THE WAY HE WAS TREATED WAS BY KILLING THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES."
On 6-30-64 the New York Times carries its own version of this story. Intriguingly, it takes the opportunity to throw in that the Attorney General's conclusions reflect those of the Warren Commission. It reads:
"Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy said today that his brother had been assassinated by Lee H. Oswald, “a misfit,” who took out his resentment against society by killing the President of the United States. Answering questions at a meeting of the City Council of Cracow, the Attorney General said that Oswald was "a professed Communist" but had not been motivated by Communist ideology when he shot the President last Nov. 22. It was in response to a hesitant question put by a Communist youth leader of Cracow, who attended the council's meeting, that the Attorney General spoke about Oswald and the assassination. It was Mr.Kennedy's first public discussion of the accused assassin, aides said... The Attorney General briefly sketched Oswald's life story, describing him as a man who had embraced Communism, and had gone to the Soviet Union, but found no place for himself there. He was a professed Communist," but the Communists, because of his attitude, would have nothing to do with him," he said. "What he did he did on his own, and by himself."
Discredits Plot Theories
Mr. Kennedy said that the assassination was not a racist plot, such as some persons had speculated.
"Ideology in my opinion did not motivate his act," the President's brother said. "It was the single act of one person protesting against society." The Attorney General is known to be fully acquainted with the findings of the Warren Commission. It is presumed by persons close to him that the Commission's report will reflect the views expressed by Mr. Kennedy today."
Above: Robert Kennedy sends a message to the world that his brother's dream lives on. Not only does he go to Poland (at that time a Communist country) in June, 1964, and greet throngs of people desperate for Kennedy-styled progressivism, he rides through the streets on the roof of a limo. And not just any limo, mind you, but a Lincoln, like the one in which his brother was riding when assassinated...by a supposed Communist. This sends the clear message then that he's not afraid--at least not of Communists.
Between the Lines: a Discussion of RFK's Comments
The timing of Robert Kennedy's comments is intriguing, to say the least. His only surviving brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, is in a hospital with a broken back, the result of a June 19 plane crash. While the pilot of this plane, one of two casualties in the crash, with the other being Kennedy's assistant Edward Moss, is presumed to have been at fault, the actual cause of the accident is not entirely clear. It seems possible, then, that Robert Kennedy suspected dark forces were behind his younger brother's plane crash, just as they were behind his older brother's murder. To wit, the crash occurred as Ted Kennedy was flying home to Massachusetts after helping push through the Civil Rights Act, highly-controversial legislation first proposed by his older brother, John. It seems possible, then, that RFK felt his voicing support for the Warren Commission might help fend off these forces. In any event, there was reason for RFK to be paranoid.
It is also intriguing that Robert Kennedy's first and only public comment on the assassination during the Warren Commission's investigation comes on a goodwill trip to a communist country, where he was pretty much boxed in. If, in such a setting, he said anything suggesting he had doubts about the Warren Commission's findings, and thought a domestic conspiracy responsible for his brother's death, it's almost certain he would be crucified back home, and accused of encouraging communism worldwide. If, in such a setting, he said anything suggesting he had doubts about the Warren Commission's findings, and thought a foreign conspiracy responsible, on the other hand, he would be crucified by his fellow liberals for spreading fear of World War III, and providing fuel for the right-wing fanatics back home. It was a lose-lose proposition. This, then, left him little alternative but to pin the tail on the Oswald, and claim everything he'd seen proved Oswald to be a lone nut.
The possibility exists, for that matter, that Kennedy's being asked this question in this setting was no coincidence. While it's perfectly possible Hieronym Kubiak, who would rise within the ranks of the Polish Communist Party and become the member of its Central Committee in charge of Science and Education--only to resign in 1982 after voicing his support for Solidarity, the movement which led to the end of Communism in Poland--had a sincere interest in Kennedy's answer, or that he knew Kennedy would disavow a conspiracy and was anxious that he do so, it seems possible as well that he was convinced to ask this question by the CIA, who had a number of assets in Communist youth organizations. If so, their operation was successful. A July 6 Airgram from the American Embassy in Rome found in the CIA's files reports that Kennedy's statements "were given particular prominence in the Italian Press." As the CIA had a number of assets in the international press, this could very well have been bragging. There is a note of discord, however. The Airgram also reports that the Communist paper L'Unita has chosen to comment on Kennedy's comments, and has noted "Kennedy's declarations about the death of his brother and about the personality of Oswald seem disconcerting and...are in striking contrast not only with numerous facts but also with Robert Kennedy's attitude, declarations, and initiatives after the Dallas tragedy." While it's unclear which "declarations" and "initiatives" are being referenced in this article, it seems possible that Russian Premier Khruschev or one of his emissaries has been indiscreet about Robert Kennedy's private communication in December, and has told Communist organizations and newspapers worldwide of Kennedy's private suspicion his brother was killed by a domestic conspiracy.
While the commission itself is prepared to join Robert Kennedy and declare that Oswald acted alone in killing his brother, it's more than a bit ironic in that they aren't as sure as he (or at least the 'he" he was pretending to be) that Oswald's act was a "protest." In fact, they still can't figure out exactly why Oswald performed his purported act.
And for good reason... If Oswald did it because he hated Kennedy then why was everyone close to Oswald so convinced he actually liked Kennedy? If he did it for fame or for political reasons, on the other hand, then why oh why did he try to get away and then deny his involvement once caught? (It's so hard to be a martyr without a cause.) And if he was simply a raving lunatic then why was he so calm before the cameras?
By July, the commission counsel tasked with answering this question, Wesley Liebeler, is so perplexed that he gives in and asks Oswald's brother Robert for guidance. Robert is unable to give him an answer. (In an interview published in The Nation on March 9, 1992, Liebeler would voice his continued inability to understand Oswald's motive. He revealed: "I drafted a psychological profile of Oswald for chapter seven of the report. It was reviewed by a panel including the chief of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic, who threw my draft down and said, 'This is very interesting stuff, but it tells me a lot more about you, Liebeler, than it does about Oswald.' So how the hell do I know why Oswald killed the President?")
On 7-6-64, FBI Ballistics Chief Roy Jevons sends FBI Crime Lab Chief Ivan Conrad a memo detailing the Neutron Activation Analysis performed upon the bullet fragments found in JFK's body and limo.
He supplied this graph as well.
Above: the graph created by the FBI to demonstrate the results of the neutron activation analysis performed upon 5 bullets and/or bullet fragments in May 1964. The rectangles reflect the parts per million for antimony within four samples of Q1 (the magic bullet or stretcher bullet), Q2 (the bullet fragment found on the front seat of the limo), Q5 (a bullet fragment removed from behind the President's right eye), Q9 (a bullet fragment removed from Governor Connally's wrist), and Q14 (three small bullet fragments found on the floor of the limousine beneath Mrs. Connally's seat). The results suggest that Q2, Q5, and Q14 derived from one bullet, and that Q1 and Q9 derived from another. Now, this could be taken as support for the single-bullet theory. But the FBI nevertheless failed to report these results to the Warren Commission.
On 7-6, Chief Justice Warren sends yet another message that he wants to wrap things up, and leave critical questions unanswered. Tired of waiting for a finalized report, but comfortable with the conclusions he'd reached weeks if not months before, he flies off on an extended fishing trip. (His personal papers reflect that he left on this trip on 7-6, but did not return to work till 8-1. And so...while one reads the events for July 64, one should keep in mind that while the dance was proceeding, Warren--supposedly the guiding light of the Commission, and master of the dance--was fishing.)
A few days later, we see a 7-7-64 letter from the Dallas FBI office, written in response to a 5-20 letter from the Commission, asking they establish the chain-of-evidence for a number of items. When discussing the chain-of-evidence for FBI C1/Warren Commission Exhibit CE 399, a near-pristine bullet found on a stretcher at Parkland hospital, an hour or more after the President and Governor were admitted, and purported to have caused Kennedy's back and throat wound, and all of Connally's wounds, it relates: "On June 12, 1964, Darrell C. Tomlinson...was shown Exhibit C1, a rifle slug, by Special Agent Bardwell D. Odum...Tomlinson stated it appears to be the same one he saw on a hospital carriage at Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963, but he cannot positively identify the bullet as the one he found and showed to Mr. O.P. Wright...On June 12, 1964, O.P. Wright...advised Special Agent Bardwell D. Odum that Exhibit C1, a rifle slug, shown to him at the time of the interview, looks like the slug found at Parkland Hospital on November 22, 1963 which he gave to Richard Johnsen, Special Agent of the the Secret Service...He advised he could not positively identify C1 as being the same bullet which was found on November 22. 1963...On June 24, 1964, Richard E. Johnson...was shown Exhibit C1, a rifle bullet, by Special Agent Elmer Lee Todd, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Johnsen advised he could not identify this bullet...On June 24, 1964, James C. Rowley, Chief, United States Secret Service...was shown Exhibit C1, a rifle bullet, by Special Agent Elmer Lee Todd. Rowley advised he could not identify this bullet as the one he received from Special Agent Richard E. Johnsen and gave to Special Agent Todd on November 22, 1963. On June 24, 1964, Special Agent Elmer Lee Todd...identified C1, a rifle bullet, as being the one he received from James Rowley, Chief, United States Secret Service." We note that the Secret Service has refused to swear by the bullet, and that an agent of the FBI itself, fifth in a line of possession, is the first to assert the bullet is the one found in the hospital. As this bullet has been linked to Oswald's rifle and is necessary to demonstrate that Oswald fired the lethal shots, this is problematic. Fortunately, the first men to see the bullet, Tomlinson and Wright, appear to agree with Agent Todd's identification.
By now well familiar with the FBI's inadequacies, however, we decide to do a little digging. We uncover a 6-20 Airtel from Dallas Special Agent in Charge J. Gordon Shanklin to J. Edgar Hoover telling him that "neither Darrell C. Tomlinson, who found bullet at Parkland Hospital, Dallas, nor O.P. Wright, Personnel Officer, Parkland Hospital, who obtained bullet from Tomlinson and gave to Special Agent Richard E. Johnsen, Secret Service at Dallas 11/22/63, can identify bullet." As this memo specifies that Tomlinson and Wright could not identify the bullet, and as the letter sent to the Commission indicates they believed the bullets appeared to be the same, we find yet another reason to suspect the FBI's integrity, and to seriously question the Commission's reliance upon its services.
The Switcheroo That Wasn't: a Brief Discussion In Which I End Up Defending The FBI (No, Really, I'm Not Kidding)
The apparent contradiction between the FBI's 6-20-64 Airtel and 7-7-64 letter was just the beginning of the mystery surrounding the bullet. In November 1966, Josiah Thompson showed O.P. Wright a photo of the bullet supposedly found on the stretcher (by then dubbed Commission Exhibit CE 399) and asked him if CE 399 was in fact the bullet he'd remembered seeing on the day of the assassination. Amazingly, Wright told him that the bullet he'd handed the Secret Service on that day had had a pointed tip, while CE 399 had had a rounded tip. Wright then showed Thompson a bullet with a pointed tip like the one he'd remembered seeing. Thompson then showed Darrell Tomlinson a photo of a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet, along with the bullet shown him by Wright. While Tomlinson was reportedly non-committal, and couldn't remember if the tip was rounded like CE 399, or pointed like the bullet shown him by Wright, Thompson, and a large swath of his readers, took from Wright's statements that the stretcher bullet had been switched.
Thirty-five years passed. In 2002, Thompson and Dr. Gary Aguilar finally contacted the FBI's Bardwell Odum, to see if he remembered Tomlinson and Wright saying CE 399 looked like the bullet found on the stretcher, per the FBI's 7-7-64 letter to the Commission, or their not identifying the bullet, per the 6-20-64 FBI memorandum. Amazingly, Odum insisted he had no recollection of ever handling CE 399, let alone showing it to Tomlinson and Wright. Now, for some this was a smoking gun. If Odum had never shown the bullet to Tomlinson and Wright, and the FBI letter said he had, and that they'd told him the bullet looked like the one they saw on 11-22-63, then someone was almost certainly lying. Deliberately.
In December, 2011, however, I came across something that gave me great doubts about the smoke coming out of this gun. A transcript was posted on the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup by author Jean Davison. This transcript, acquired by Ms. Davison from the National Archives, was of a 7-25-66 conversation between Darrell Tomlinson and researcher Ray Marcus. This transcript asserted that when asked if he'd ever been shown the stretcher bullet after giving it to Wright, Tomlinson had admitted "I seen it one time after that. I believe Mr. Shanklin from the FBI had it out there at the hospital in personnel with Mr. Wright there when they called me in." When then asked by Marcus if "Shanklin" and Wright had asked him if this bullet looked the same as the one he'd recovered on November 22, 1963, Tomlinson responded "Yes, I believe they did." When then asked his response to their question, he replied "Yes, it appeared to be the same one."
Let's note the date of this transcript. This was months prior to Tomlinson's being shown the pointed tip bullet by Thompson. And yet, at this early date, he'd thought the bullet he'd been shown by "Shanklin" (more probably Odum--Tomlinson was unsure about the name of the agent and there is little reason to believe Shanklin--the Special Agent-in Charge of the Dallas Office--would personally perform such a task) resembled the bullet he'd found on the stretcher. This suggests, then, that his subsequent inability to tell Thompson whether the bullet was rounded or pointed was brought about by his not wanting to disagree with Wright.
In November 2012, moreover, I found additional support for this suspicion. It was a 4-22-77 article on the single-bullet theory by Earl Golz for The Dallas Morning News, which reported "Darrell C Tomlinson, the senior engineer at Parkland who found the slug, told The News he 'could never say for sure whose stretcher that was ... I assumed it was Connally's because of the way things happened at Parkland at that time.' Tomlinson acknowledged he was not asked to identify the bullet when he testified before the Warren Commission in 1964. He said some federal agents earlier 'came to the hospital with the bullet in a box and asked me if it was the one I found. I told them apparently it was, but I had not put a mark on it. If it wasn't the bullet, it was exactly like it.'"
So there it is. Tomlinson told Marcus in 1966 that he thought the bullet he'd found looked like CE 399, was less certain on this point when talking to Thompson later that year, and then returned to telling reporters the bullets looked the same by the time he talked to Golz in 1977. Either he'd misled Marcus and Golz, or was momentarily confused by the bullet Wright provided Thompson. Wright was a former policeman. Perhaps Tomlinson had momentarily deferred to his expertise. In any event, Tomlinson's recollection of the bullet over the years did not support Wright's recollection, and supported instead that he'd been shown CE 399 by the FBI in 1964, had told them it appeared to be the same bullet as the one he'd found on the stretcher, and had nevertheless refused to identify it. This scenario was consistent, moreover, with the FBI's 6-20-64 memo and 7-7-64 letter to the Warren Commission. It seems hard to believe this was a coincidence. As a result, Tomlinson's recollections cast considerable doubt on Wright's ID of a pointed bullet, and the scenario subsequently pushed by Thompson and Aguilar--that the FBI had lied in its 6-20 memo and 7-7 letter about the bullet--appears to be inaccurate.
On 7-8-64, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sends the Warren Commission a letter on the neutron activation analysis performed upon the bullet fragments.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
Washington 25, D.C.
July 8, 1964
By Courier Service
Honorable J. Lee Rankin
The President’s Commission
200 Maryland Avenue, Northeast
Dear Mr. Rankin:
As previously reported to the Commission, certain small lead metal fragments uncovered in connection with this matter were analyzed spectrographically to determine whether they could be associated with one or more of the lead bullet fragments and no significant differences were found within the sensitivity of the spectrographic method.
Because of the higher sensitivity of the neutron activation analysis, certain of the small lead fragments were then subjected to neutron activation analyses and comparisons with the larger bullet fragments. The items analyzed included the following: C1—bullet from stretcher; C2—fragment from front seat cushion; C4 and C5—metal fragments from President Kennedy’s head; C9—metal fragment from the arm of Governor Connally; C16—metal fragments from the rear floor board carpet of the car.
While minor variations in composition were found by this method, these were not considered sufficient to permit positively differentiating among the larger bullet fragments and thus positively determining from which of the larger bullet fragments any given small lead fragment may have come.
J. Edgar Hoover (signed)
Now, this was the official view on these tests--that they were inconclusive--until 1977, when a nuclear physicist hired by the House Select Committee on Assassinations was asked to re-assess the data. And re-assess he did. He concluded that the fragments tested by the FBI came from but two bullets, and that the wrist fragments had come from the so-called magic bullet, CE 399.
(The name of this physicist? Dr. Vincent Guinn.)
So, yeah, the FBI's initial foray into nuclear activation bullet lead analysis provided some sorely-needed scientific support for the single-bullet theory. So, why, then, did the FBI fail to report their initial results to the Warren Commission? Was it because the FBI was not then in agreement with the single-bullet theory? Or did the FBI have its own reasons to doubt these results? There was, after all, a good deal of overlap among the fragments. Perhaps, then, the FBI feared that if they promoted the NAA as evidence for Oswald's guilt, it would lead to additional testing, and the subsequent conclusion more than three bullets were fired on the President and the Governor.
Perhaps they just weren't willing to take that chance...
Don't Mess with Bill...
Above: Dallas Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander. Alexander didn't much like the FBI and Warren Commission's takeover of what would otherwise have been a local matter. In 1968, he would lose his position for saying Chief Justice Warren should be hanged.
In its 7-10-64 issue, Life Magazine resumes its campaign to convict Oswald in the public eye and bolster the by-now certain conclusions of the Commission. Its introduction to Oswald's diary from his time in Russia claims that the diary "is one of the most important pieces of evidence studied by the Warren Commission in its effort to unravel the character and motives of President Kennedy's assassin." No "accused" No "presumed." Assassin. Singular. Period.
Now, the commission had been leaking for months. But there is a problem with this leak. The Commission did not want Oswald's diary leaked to the press. This led the commission, then, to ask the FBI to find out who was behind this leak, and this, in turn, led the FBI to contact the Dallas District Attorney's office, and to focus in on one suspect in particular--Assistant District Attorney Bill Alexander. Alexander, we should recall, had discussed charging Oswald as part of a communist conspiracy, but had been shot down. Apparently, this had annoyed him a bit, and had led him to leak info to the press suggesting Oswald was the shooter, and was under the influence of Russia.
Well, this led the FBI to question Alexander on 7-10, and write up a report on 7-11. This report was written as a response to the specific claim Alexander had released evidence to the Dallas Morning News. According to the report, Alexander denied releasing this information, and claimed further that the Dallas Times-Herald had contacted him and told him they'd reveal him as the source if he wouldn't provide them with similar information, and that he told their messenger 'kiss my a--, tell your bosses that." The FBI report continues: "Alexander also advised he made a statement that Lyndon B. Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and the 'Warren Commission could kiss my a--." Knowing full well this would get back to Hoover, the writers of the report, agents Barrett and Lee, then added "Alexander was strongly admonished by interviewing agents concerning his making such remarks about Director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, and President Johnson."
But, apparently, this had no effect on Alexander other than to further ruffle his feathers. Alexander proceed to blame the leak on others, and claim "that if 'someone puts a blowtorch to my a--, we'll go on from here." The report concludes: "Alexander then made a statement that he conducts his affairs very similarly to the way that the FBI 'works,' and that he, too, keeps a 'little black book.' Alexander stated that if any pressure were ever put on him in any investigation by anyone, he would 'break an egg off in someone.' Alexander was advised that the agents were conducting an objective investigation in the matter and that there were no personal grievances involved. The interview was terminated at 11:32."
So, yikes, the Assistant DA of Dallas threatened the FBI, Hoover, and President Johnson that they would regret it if they pressured him, and the FBI backed down.
One can only wonder, then, what would have come out if they had not backed down.
Lapping Up Lyndon's Lies...
On 7-10-64, in lieu of his testimony, the commission accepts a 7-page affidavit signed by President Johnson describing what he remembered of the shooting and its aftermath. Now, not everyone is happy about this, as some--particularly junior counsel staff Arlen Specter and David Belin--feel he should be questioned as both a suspect and witness. (In his 2000 memoir Passion for Truth, Specter revealed that although he didn't think Johnson "complicit in the assassination...no self-respecting investigator would omit a thorough investigation of the slain president's successor" and that, as a result, he'd prepared 78 questions in anticipation he'd be allowed to grill Johnson.)
Let us take a look, then, at Johnson's account of his actions.
(Note: I have highlighted the statements I believe to be inaccurate. The reasons why are described in more detail in Chapter 21.)
"It was Ken O'Donnell who, at about 1:20 p.m., told us that the President had died. I think his precise words were, "He's gone." O'Donnell said that we should return to Washington and that we should take the President's plane for this purpose..."
(O'Donnell disputed this, He said he told Johnson he should return to Washington but assumed Johnson would take what had been his own plane back to Washington.)
"When Mr. O'Donnell told us to get on the plane and go back to Washington, I asked about Mrs. Kennedy. O'Donnell told me that Mrs. Kennedy would not leave the hospital without the President's body, and urged again that we go ahead and and take Air Force 1 and return to Washington."
(This is deceptive. The plane on which the President flies is automatically designated Air Force 1. Johnson would later put out the word he'd been told to take what had been Kennedy's plane because it was more secure. This would be disputed by those in a position to know. Mrs. Kennedy herself would muse that Johnson simply wanted to fly back to Washington on the bigger, newer plane, because it had a private bedroom, and was, well, bigger and newer.)
"I did not want to go and leave Mrs. Kennedy in this situation. I said so, but I agreed that we would board the airplane and wait until Mrs. Kennedy and the President's body were brought aboard the plane... Despite my awareness of the reasons for Mr. O'Donnell's insistence--in which I think he was joined by one or more of the Secret Service agents--that we board the airplane, leave Dallas, and go to Washington without delay, I was determined that we would not return until Mrs. Kennedy was ready, and that we would carry the President's body back with us if she wanted..."
(Johnson advisor Jack Valenti would later admit that Johnson was determined to return with Kennedy's body--because he feared it would look bad if he returned without it.)
"When we got to the airport, we proceeded to drive to the ramp leading into the plane, and we entered the plane. We were ushered into the private quarters of the President's plane. It didn't seem right for John Kennedy not to be there. I told someone that we preferred for Mrs. Kennedy to use these quarters."
(This conceals that Johnson did, in fact, move into the private quarters, and that when Mrs. Kennedy came onto the plane she surprised him in these quarters. This was acknowledged by Mrs. Kennedy, members of the plane's staff, and Johnson's secretary, Marie Fehmer, who was with him at the time. This also conceals that as the plane raced back to Washington, Mrs. Kennedy sat beside her husband's casket with her husband's friends, and Mrs. Johnson made use of the private quarters. This comes from Valenti.)
"Shortly after we boarded the plane. I called Robert Kennedy, the President's brother and the Attorney General."
(Johnson arrived at the plane around 1:40. It would later be revealed that he called Robert Kennedy at 1:56, after calling a number of his fellow Texans, and asking them if he should be sworn-in in Dallas.)
"I knew how grief-stricken he was, and I wanted to say something that would comfort him. Despite his shock, he discussed the practical problems at hand--problems of special urgency because we did not at that time have any information as to the motivation of the assassination or its possible implications. The Attorney General said that he would like to look into the matter of whether the oath of office as President should be administered to me immediately or after we returned to Washington, and that he would call back."
(Johnson called Robert Kennedy after having already decided to be sworn-in in Dallas. He asked Kennedy for the exact words to the oath of office, and Kennedy said he'd have someone call him back with the words.)
"I thereafter talked with McGeorge Bundy and Walter Jenkins, both of whom urged that the return to Washington should not be delayed. I told them I was waiting for Mrs. Kennedy and for the President's body to be placed on the plane, and would not return prior to that time. As I remember, our conversation was interrupted to allow the Attorney General to come back on the line. He said that the oath should be administered to me immediately, before taking off for Washington, and that it should be administered by a judicial officer of the United States."
(Kennedy never called him back. It was Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach who called him back...with the words.)
"Shortly thereafter, the Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Katzenbach, dictated the form of oath to one of the secretaries aboard the plane. I thought of Sarah Hughes, an old friend who is judge of the U.S. district court in Dallas. We telephoned Judge Hughes' office. She was not there, but she returned the call in a few minutes and said she would be at the airplane in 10 minutes."
(A close study of the timeline suggests Johnson called Hughes' office before ever talking to Robert Kennedy, and that she didn't call him back till after he'd already talked to both Kennedy, and Katzenbach. It suggests as well that Judge Hughes didn't arrive at the plane till 2:30 or so.)
"I asked that arrangements be made to permit her to have access to the airplane. A few minutes later Mrs. Kennedy and the President's coffin arrived."
(The Secret Service recorded Mrs. Kennedy's arrival around 2:18--more than 20 minutes after Johnson first called Hughes' office.)
"Mrs. Johnson and I spoke to her. We tried to comfort her, but our words seemed inadequate. She went into the private quarters of the plane."
(As stated, Mrs. Kennedy went into the private quarters upon arrival on the plane, only to discover Johnson chatting (?) with his private secretary, Marie Fehmer. This suggestion by Johnson that he spoke to Mrs. Kennedy before she went into the bedroom is almost certainly a deliberate deception.)
"I estimate that Mrs. Kennedy and the coffin arrived about a half hour after we entered the plane, just after 2 o'clock."
(The Secret Service said it was 2:18.)
"About a half hour later, I asked someone to find out if Mrs. Kennedy would stand with us during the administration of the oath. Mrs. Johnson went back to be with her. Mrs. Kennedy came and stood with us during the moments that the oath was being administered. I shall never forget her bravery, nobility, and dignity. I'm told that the oath was administered at 2:40 p.m."
(The official time for the oath was reported as 2:38. But, hey, that's close enough.)
Hmmm... Johnson's 7 page affidavit was full of deceptions. Would his testimony have been any better?
Regurgitating Lyndon's Lies
It's doubtful. The writers of the Commission's Report were determined to take Johnson's word no matter what. In Chapter 2 of the report--a chapter written by Arlen Specter, then edited by Norman Redlich--it is claimed that O'Donnell told Johnson of Kennedy's death. It then relates: "When consulted by the Vice President, O'Donnell advised him to go to the airfield immediately and return to Washington.245 It was decided that the Vice President should return on the Presidential plane rather than on the Vice-Presidential plane because it had better communication equipment.246"
The citation for footnote 245 reads "Id. at 152; 7 H 451 (O'Donnell); 5 H 561 (Johnson)." The claim is accurate and the citation is accurate. The citation for footnote 246, however, reads simply "Ibid." The Free Online Dictionary defines "Ibid" as "In the same place. Used in footnotes and bibliographies to refer to the book, chapter, article, or page cited just before." Note the words "just before." The page cited just before was a page from Johnson's statement. By placing a sentence in which O'Donnell "advised" Johnson before a sentence in which "it was decided" Johnson should return on the Presidential plane, the report had implied O'Donnell was a party to this decision. The writers of the report had thereby chosen to ignore O'Donnell's sworn testimony--the testimony they'd found credible enough to cite in the preceding footnote--and had decided to instead push the facts as related in Johnson's un-sworn statement. They'd then hidden this fact from the public.
It should come as no surprise then that they also accepted Johnson's word on the conversation he'd had with Robert Kennedy. The report claimed "From the Presidential airplane, the Vice President telephoned Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who advised that Mr. Johnson take the Presidential oath of office before the plane left Dallas.263" They, of course, never double-checked this with Kennedy.
As a result, the Johnson/O'Donnell and Johnson/Kennedy conflict on these matters was little recognized. It lay hidden beneath the surface of Washington politics. For a few years anyhow...
On 7-18-64, Jack Ruby undergoes the polygraph examination he requested when interviewed by Judge Earl Warren the month before. Arlen Specter takes the testimony of Dr. William Beavers afterward. Beavers, who'd observed and spoken to Ruby on prior occasions, tells Specter he saw no sign Ruby was out of touch with reality, but said as well he was not an expert on the "interrelationships between mental illness and the polygraph."
Above: Chief Justice Earl Warren, on one of his yearly fishing trips. This photo proves Warren was not afraid of catching big fish--as long as they were actually fish.
On 7-22-64, 8 months after the assassination of President Kennedy, the Commission formed to investigate his death finally takes the testimony of some of the closest witnesses to his murder.
This testimony, as one might guess, is largely perfunctory. Commission Counsel Wesley Liebeler, primarily tasked with establishing Oswald's motive, has at the last minute been tasked with scratching some names off a list of witnesses who should have been called to testify, but, as of yet, have not. It's to no real end, mind you, as the chapters in the report which could have been informed by the testimony of these witnesses have already been completed and approved by the commission.
Phil Willis, who'd observed the shooting from the south side of Elm Street back near the corner of Houston and Elm, took a photograph during the shooting, which has since been used by the commission. It only seems appropriate, then, that he be called as a witness. (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H492-497) “my next shot was taken at the very—in fact the shot caused me to squeeze the camera shutter, and I got a picture of the President as he was hit with the first shot. So instantaneous, in fact, that the crowd hadn’t had time to react…I proceeded down the street and didn’t take any other pictures instantly, because the three shots were fired approximately two seconds apart, and I knew my little daughters were running alongside the Presidential car, and I was immediately concerned about them, and I was screaming for them to come back, and they didn’t hear me.”
Willis' 12 year-old daughter was also a witness.
Linda Willis (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H498-499) (When asked if she heard shots) “Yes; I heard one. Then there was a little bit of time, and then there were two real fast bullets together. When the first one hit, well, the President turned from waving to the people, and he grabbed his throat, and he kind of slumped forward, and then I couldn't tell where the second shot went… I was right across from the sign that points to where Stemmons Freeway is. I was directly across when the first shot hit him…I heard the first shot come and then he slumped forward, and then I couldn’t tell where the second shot went, and then the third one, and that was the last one that hit him in the head. No; when the first shot rang out, I thought, well, it's probably fireworks, because everybody is glad the President is in town. Then I realized it was too loud and too close to be fireworks, and then when I saw, when I realized that the President was falling over, I knew he had been hit.” Last two shots bunched together with the last shot head shot.
James Altgens, a photographer for the Associated Press, famously took a photo of the President after the first shot was fired. This, then, has led to their talking to him, or at least Liebeler's talking to him. (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H512-525) “I wasn’t keeping track of the number of pops that took place, but I could vouch for number 1 and I can vouch for the last shot, but I can not tell you how many shots were in between. There was not another shot after the President was struck in the head.” (on the head shot) “up to that time I didn’t know that the President had been shot previously. I still thought up until that time that all I heard was fireworks and that they were giving some sort of celebration to the President by popping these fireworks. It stunned me so at what I saw that I failed to do my duty and make the picture I was hoping to make.”
Emmett Hudson is Dealey Plaza's groundskeeper. Although not a shutterbug himself, he was featured in the background of a Polaroid photo taken by Mary Moorman at the moment of the fatal impact. So it makes sense that he be called. We think it strange, however, that the commission has chosen to talk to Hudson, but has failed to talk to Moorman. (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H558-565) “the first shot rung out and, of course, I didn’t realize it was a shot… when the second one rung out, the motorcade had got further on down Elm…I happened to be looking right at him when that bullet hit him, the second shot…it looked like it hit him somewhere along a little bit behind the ear and a little bit above the ear." (When asked where the car was when he heard the first shot) “I remember it was right along about this light post here.” (indicating the first light post) (When asked if he heard three shots) “Yes, sir.” (When asked if he was sure the second shot hit Kennedy in the head) “Yes, I do believe it was—I know it was.” (When asked what happened during the third shot)“the young fellow that was sitting there with me—standing there with me at the present time, he says “Lay down , Mister, somebody is shooting at the President”…so I just laid down over the ground and resting my arm on the ground and when that third shot rung out and when I was close to the ground—you could tell the shot was coming from above and kind of behind.” (When asked if he’d “heard it come from sort of behind the motorcade and then above?”) “Yes.”
This brings us then, to our star witness.
Abraham Zapruder, a dressmaker, has become quite the celebrity since the murder of the President. His home movie of the shooting--the only movie presumed to show the entire shooting--has been featured in Life magazine, and has been used extensively by the commission. It is bizarre, then, that the commission has failed to question him prior to their finalizing their conclusions regarding the number of shooters, and the identity of the shooter. (7-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H569-576) “Well, as the car came in line almost...as it reached about--I imagine it was around here--I heard the first shot and I saw the President lean over and grab himself like this (holding his left chest area)…In other words, he was sitting like this and waving and then after the shot he just went like that…Leaning—leaning toward the side of Jacqueline. For a moment I thought it was—you know, like you say, “Oh, he got me,” when you hear a shot…but before I had a chance to organize my mind, I heard a second shot and then I saw his head opened up and the blood and everything came out and I started—I can hardly talk about it. (the witness crying)." (When asked how many shots he heard) “I thought I heard two, it could be three, because to my estimation I thought he was hit on the second—I really don’t know…I heard the second—after the first shot—I saw him leaning over and after the second shot—it’s possible after what I saw, you know, then I started yelling, “They killed him, they killed him.”
Huh. Here is one of the best witnesses to the shooting--a nearby witness watching the shooting through a zoom lens, for chrissakes, and here he is looking through stills taken from his movie of the shooting, and here he tells the commission his impression of the moment of the first shot--"I imagine it was around here"--and here the commission fails to note where his "here" is. Since Zapruder says Kennedy was waving when shot, and says nothing about Kennedy coming from out behind the sign when shot, the clear impression is that he thought Kennedy was hit just after he stopped waving and just before he went behind the sign, between frames 190 and 200 of Zapruder's film. As the commission believes a tree hid Kennedy from the sniper's nest between frames 170 to 210, moreover, and as they've already decided Kennedy was hit while behind the sign in frames 210-225, they, apparently, have no interest in telling the public Zapruder's proposed moment of impact. And so they fail to ask him to mark an exhibit indicating the moment of the first shot on his film, and allow his "here" to slip forever into "where?"
In the subsequent discussion of his famous film and camera, Zapruder makes another interesting statement: “Well, they claimed, they told me it was about 2 frames fast--instead of 16 it was 18 frames and they told me it was about 2 frames fast in the speed and they told me that the time between the 2 rapid shots, as I understand, that was determined--the length of time it took to the second one and that they were very fast and they claim it has proven it could be done by 1 man. You know there was indication there were two?” This statement indicates that someone, probably from the FBI, has been keeping him informed on the FBI’s tests on his camera. Instead of telling him that the speed of his camera calls into doubt that one man could have fired the shots, however, they have told him the opposite, that the tests revealed it could have been done by one man. One can only assume this is a reference to the tests performed in December.
Now, all the witnesses cited above were brought to the attention of the commission via the photographic evidence. But this wasn't true for all the witnesses called by Liebeler in the heat of July. There was one witness, in fact, who should have been among the first witnesses called, back in the cold of February, but strangely, was not.
The FBI had forwarded an interview with this witness to the Commission on 12-23-63, for what's worse, but the Commission had not sought him out for further investigation, or even acknowledged his existence, until a 6-5-64 article in the Dallas Times Herald brought his story to the public’s attention. Even then, however, word on this witness moved slow. Commissioner John McCloy had sent his notes on the drafts of chapters 2 through 5 of the Warren Report to General Counsel J. Lee Rankin on 6-24-64. On page 8 of these notes he had asked a question suggesting that he had never even heard of this witness. He had written: "Who was the person near the overpass who was struck on the cheek?"
James Tague (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H552-558) “I was standing there watching, and really I was watching to try to distinguish the President and his car. About this time I heard what sounded like a firecracker. Well, a very loud firecracker. It certainly didn’t sound like a rifle shot. It was more of a loud cannon-type sound. I looked around to see who was throwing firecrackers or what was going on and I turned my head away from the motorcade and, of course, two more shots.” (When asked if he saw the President hit) “I did not.” (When asked which shot hit him) “maybe the second or third shot, I couldn’t tell you definitely” (When asked if he heard any shots after he was hit) “I believe I did…I believe it was the second shot, so I heard the third shot afterwards." (When asked where he thought the shots came from) “my first impression was that up by the, whatever you call the monument…somebody was throwing firecrackers up there.”
As Tague was hit by a fragment from one of the last two shots, his testimony cuts into Specter and the Commission’s options. If the commission concludes the first shot missed then it has to hold that Tague was injured by a fragment from the head shot, which many might find far-fetched.
And it isn't just the eyewitnesses brought into testify at the last minute who are a bit (okay, more than a bit) problematic for the commission's already-written-in-stone conclusions Oswald acted alone.
The earwitnesses are a bit of a problem too. There were three police officers standing on the corner of Houston and Elm directing traffic at the time of the assassination. The recollections of these officers are thereby of prime interest.
Above: Dallas Police Officer Joe Marshall Smith. His claim he ran into a Secret Service Agent near the grassy knoll within minutes of the shooting is the stuff of nightmares.
Joe Marshall Smith (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H531-539) “Then I heard the shots…I started up toward the Book Depository after I heard the shots, and I didn’t know where the shots came from. I had no idea, because it was such a ricochet." (When asked if he means "echo") "Yes, sir; and this woman came up to me and she was just in hysterics. She told me, “They are shooting the President from the bushes.” So I immediately proceeded up here. (Liebeler asks: "You proceeded up to an area immediately behind the concrete structure here that is described by Elm Street and the street that runs immediately in front of the Texas School Book Depository, is that right?") "I was checking all the bushes and I checked all the cars in the parking lot...I checked all the cars. I looked into all the cars and checked around the bushes. Of course, I wasn't alone. There was some deputy sheriff with me, and I believe one Secret Service man when I got there. I got to make this statement, too. I felt awfully silly, but after the shot and this woman, I pulled my pistol from my holster, and I thought, this is silly, I don't know who I am looking for, and I put it back. Just as I did, he showed me that he was a Secret Service agent...he saw me coming with my pistol and right away he showed me who he was." (When asked if he remembered the identity of this agent) "No, sir; I don't--because then we started checking the cars. In fact, I was checking the bushes, and I went through the cars, and I started over here in this particular section." (Liebeler asks "Down toward the railroad tracks where they go over the triple underpass?") "Yes." (Liebeler then asks "Did you have any basis for believing where the shots came from, or where to look for somebody, other than what the lady told you?") "No, sir; except that maybe it was a power of suggestion. But it sounded to me like they may have came from this vicinity here."
Welcome Eugene Barnett (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H539-544) “I didn’t hear any echo. The whole sound echoed. The sound lingered, but as far as just two definite distinct sounds, when each shot was fired that one sound would linger in the air, but there would be nothing else until the next shot…I was looking at the President when the first shot was fired, and I thought I saw him slump down, but I am not sure, and I didn’t look any more then. I thought he was ducking down….I thought it was a firecracker. But none of the people moved or took any action…And when the second shot was fired it sounded high…I looked up at the building and I saw nothing in the windows. In fact, I couldn't even see any windows at that time...because I was standing too close, was the reason. And I looked back again at the crowd, and the third shot was fired. And I looked up again, and I decided it had to be on top of that building. To me it is the only place the sound could be coming from...I ran to the back of the building." (When asked if this meant running north on Houston Street) "Yes, sir...I didn't get close to it, because I was watching for a fire escape. If the man was on top, he would have to come down, and I was looking for a fire escape, and I didn't pay much attention to the door. I was still watching the top of the building, and so far as I could see, the fire escape on the east side was the only escape down.”
Edgar Smith (7-24-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H565-569) “I heard three shots. I guess they were shots. I thought that the first two were just firecrackers and kept my position and after the third one, I ran down the street there." (When asked what happened next) "Well, ran down Houston Street and then to Elm, and actually, I guess it was a little bit farther over than this, because after they turned the corner I couldn't see any of the cars, there were so many people standing there around the corner...I was under these windows here." (Warren Commission counsel Wesley Liebeler then points out that he's pointing to the county records building) "Yes; a little bit farther down. Anyhow, I couldn't see down there without running over here, and I run down here at the time to see the Presidential car go under the triple underpass at a high rate of speed, and I pulled my pistol out and there was people laying down there and run down the street and that was about all. I thought when it came to my mind that there were shots, and I was pretty sure there were when I saw his car because they were leaving in such a hurry, I thought they were coming from this area here, and I ran over there and checked back of it and, of course, there wasn't anything there. (When asked to verify that he thought the shot came from a little concrete structure in back of the arcade) "Yes, sir." (When Liebeler points out that this was "Toward the railroad tracks there?") "That's true. (And north?) "Yes...I ran down here...And I ran up to here and I couldn't get over so I went back around then." (Liebeler then clarifies "You went farther down Elm Street and right behind this concrete structure here; is that correct?") "And on back into there." (Liebeler adds "And into the parking area behind the concrete structure there") "Yes, and there's where I stayed for an hour or so and after I got around there, they started checking everybody that was going in and out of the - well, I don't know who they was checking because there was so much milling around, because there was a bunch of county officers back there plus the policemen."
So...yikes. Two of the three police officers standing in front of the depository at the time of the shooting thought the shots on the motorcade were fired from the train yards, and ran immediately to the train yards. And not only that, but one of these police officers, Joe Smith, ran into a supposed Secret Service agent in these train yards.
Only, guess what???? NO Service Agents were in the train yards at the time.
So WHO was this man ID'ing himself as an agent?
A 7-24-64 FBI report on Mrs. Clotile Williams is also revealing, and concerning. Mrs. Williams is a previously undiscovered eyewitness to the assassination. The bulk of the report is not on Mrs. Williams’ recollections, however, nor on the names of her co-workers in the building across from the school book depository, who may have seen something. The report’s focus, instead, is on trying to establish the identities of two independent researchers who contacted Mrs. Williams after someone recognized her in one of the photos of the motorcade. The investigating agent goes as far as taking a detailed description of these researchers from Mrs. Williams’ neighbor. The FBI, of course, has not found the time to interview either of the motorcycle officers to Kennedy’s right, nor have they found the time to interview Abraham Zapruder’s secretary. They have, in short, spent more time trying to identify people who have tried to talk to witnesses, than on identifying reluctant witnesses. And that's just bizarre.
Elsewhere, on 7-24-64 the Warren Commission engages the Marine Corps in a little self-protection. To counter Lt. Col. Folsom’s description of Oswald’s marksmanship as “poor,” they take the testimony of Major Eugene D. Anderson, an assistant head of the Marksmanship branch of the Marines, and Master Sergeant James Zahm, an NCO of Marksmanship Training. Arlen Specter takes their testimony. After being shown Oswald's test scores, Anderson offers an explanation for Oswald's lowly score in 1959, shortly before he left the Marines: "It may well have been a bad day for firing a rifle, windy, rainy, dark. There is little probability that he had a good, expert coach. and he probably didn't have as high a motivation because he was no longer in recruit training and under the care of the drill instructor. There is some possibility that the rifle he was firing might not have been as good a rifle as the rifle he was firing in his A course firing. because he may well have carried this rifle around for some time, and it got banged around in normal usage." Anderson summarizes Oswald's abilities as follows: "I would say that as compared to other Marines receiving the same kind of training, that Oswald was a good shot, somewhat better than or equal to--better than average let us say. As compared to a civilian who had not received this intensive training, he would be considered as a good to excellent shot." Specter then shows Anderson frames from the Zapruder film and asks him if hitting Kennedy from the distances determined at the re-enactment would be within Oswald's capabilities, and Anderson repeatedly says the shots were within Oswald's capabilities. He then asks him if Oswald could fire three shots in a time span between 4.8 and 5.6 seconds, and Anderson once again replies in the affirmative. Specter fails to ask Anderson the more pertinent question if Oswald could be expected to hit the 2 "not particularly difficult" shots within a 4.8-5.6 second time span while firing at a moving target with a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Perhaps he already knew the answer. After finishing with Anderson, Specter makes a point of asking Zahm about Oswald’s ability “based on the tests.” This avoids that the most recent test was 4 years before the shooting and that Oswald had failed to keep in practice. Zahm tells Specter what he undoubtedly wants to hear: “I would say in the Marine Corps he is a good shot, slightly above average, and as compared to the average male of his age throughout the civilian, throughout the United States, that he is an excellent shot.” Clearly, this is the new company line.
Commissioner Dulles was especially receptive to this line. A letter from Dulles to Rankin on 7-27-64, available on the Princeton University website, asks "Where have we dealt with the evidence as to Oswald's ability to handle a rifle?" This confirms that Rankin and his men had held off writing anything about Oswald's shooting ability, until after they could get "friendly" witnesses, such as Major Anderson and Master Sergeant Zahm, on the record.
In this attempt they were not particularly concerned with the truth. Only hinted at in the testimony of Anderson and Zahm is the strange fact that the Commission has already concluded that Oswald, who'd received no training whatsoever on firing at moving targets, firing from elevation, firing with a telescopic site, or even firing a bolt-action rifle, was able to rapid-fire a bolt-action rifle equipped with a telescopic site and hit a moving target from elevation two out of three times without one lick of practice. This is like a man with a driver's license--who hasn't driven a car in several years--getting behind the wheel of a dragster and winning a championship race. Also unmentioned in the testimony is that there was a stack of boxes found in the sniper's nest, and that the commission had presumed these boxes were used as a rifle rest by a sniper shooting Kennedy. The use of such a prop is not taught in the Marines. Instead, Marines like Oswald are taught to fire from a standing, kneeling, or prone position, with the rifle at a 45 degree angle to the body, and to track moving objects, such as a car, by moving the site along the path of the target, even after firing. The use of a "rifle rest", then, precludes such a tactic, and suggests that, instead, the shooter waited for the target to cross a pre-selected point. So, yes, as hard as it may be to believe, Oswald's Marine Corps training was at odds with the tactics used by Kennedy's assassin, and actually provided strong reason to doubt Oswald was this assassin. This should have been brought out in testimony...and almost certainly would have should Oswald have been provided a defense.
On 7-27-64 General Counsel Rankin receives yet another correspondence relating to Oswald’s marksmanship abilities, this one from J. Edgar Hoover. Someone at the Commission recalled the claim in the December 6 issue of Life Magazine that Oswald’s purported shots had been duplicated by someone at the NRA, and asked the FBI to look into it. The FBI report forwarded by Hoover is quite damaging to Life’s credibility. While Life claimed the shooter was an official of the NRA, it turned out the shooter had merely been recommended by the NRA. The shooter, Clayton Wheat, moreover, admitted that he’d had 8 or 9 practice shots and had used a 7.35mm Carcano in his tests, not the 6.5 mm Carcano purportedly used by Oswald. He also acknowledged that he’d fired on a moving deer target traveling slowly, 3-5 mph, right to left over 33 feet, and not at a human head and shoulders-sized target traveling 12 mph away on an angle over a distance of 100 feet or so. He also mentioned that that he’d fired at the target from a distance of 150 feet, from approximately 10 degrees above horizontal, as opposed to firing from a distance of 160-265 feet from approximately 22-16 degrees above horizontal for the purported shots on Kennedy from the sniper’s nest. In short, he didn’t reproduce the shots at all. While Wheat stood by his claim that he’d had three hits in 6.2 seconds on his first try, he admitted that he’d missed two shots in his five runs due to poor ammunition, and couldn’t remember the times of the other runs.
Re-appraising Ruby II
Above: a segment of Jack Ruby's 7-18-64 polygraph tape.
On 7-28-64, FBI polygraph examiner Bell Herndon testifies regarding the 7-18 exam he'd administered to Jack Ruby. Arlen Specter takes his testimony. Herndon claims, no surprise, that Ruby showed no signs of lying when answering the key questions. But Herndon admits the examination would be of little value if Ruby was in fact out of touch with reality.
(The accuracy of Herndon's conclusions and testimony remain open to question, however. In August 1977, the HSCA put together a panel of three veteran polygraph examiners and asked them to review Ruby's polygraph examination. This panel was provided the materials for review in March, 1978. They then issued a report in June, 1978. This report was a laundry list of complaints and observations. Among their complaints...
Too much time had passed in between Ruby's shooting of Oswald and his undergoing a polygraph examination regarding the shooting.
Ruby had been interrogated on this subject too many times for his responses to be fresh.
Too many people (8) were present during the questioning.
Too many questions were asked.
Too many relevant questions were asked. (Standard polygraph technique entails asking lots of irrelevant questions and then springing a relevant question out of nowhere to see how the subject responds. Asking relevant question after relevant question kinda defeats the purpose.)
Herndon allowed too much chaos and argument to take place among those in the room.
The questioning took place over 6 1/2 hours. It should have been broken up into two sessions, over two separate days, where the relevant questions were re-asked in the second session for comparison purposes.
No re-examination was performed.
"The polygraph instrument was either improperly adjusted, defective, or both."
The breathing tracing was "particularly poor, either because the sensitivity was maladjusted or possibly because the pneumograph tube was not properly placed on Ruby."
In addition, the galvanic skin response tracing was of little help due to Herndon's setting the sensitivity at 1/4 maximum, and then reducing it to 1/5 maximum--an action that made no sense to the HSCA panel.
Herndon used improper "control" questions. (These are questions to which the subject would be presumed to lie. The response of the subject to these "controls" is then used as a baseline to find other lies.)
Herndon improperly classified a number of relevant questions as irrelevant questions. (This, in effect, raised the bar for what might be considered a lie.)
Herndon assured Ruby on multiple occasions that he was doing very well. (This might very well have calmed Ruby's nerves a bit, and helped him to conceal his lies.)
All this, then, led the HSCA panel to conclude the "examination was probably invalid and unreliable."
But they weren't through. The panel then offered some observations under the premise the examination was in fact valid. This was eye-opening.
First, they admitted: "It appeared to the panel that Ruby was possibly lying when answering 'No' to the question 'Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?'"
The panel then noted that for the four relevant questions asked during the first two parts of Ruby's thirteen-part examination--when he was most likely to offer a valid response--"the panel could not form an opinion that Ruby told the truth when answering 'No" and that "On the contrary, the panel found more indication that Ruby was lying in response to these four questions." These four questions were:
"Did you know Oswald before November 22, 1963?"
"Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?"
"Are you now a member of the Communist Party?"
"Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"
Now, as we've seen, Ruby was concerned "they" were gonna paint him as a commie Jew, who conspired with Oswald to kill the President. It seems possible, then, that these questions upset him, even though he'd never met Oswald, and had never been a Communist.
More telling, then, is the HSCA panel's conclusion Ruby's polygraph was mishandled, and at times misinterpreted. One should wonder if this was by design.
I mean, think about it. Specter and others had long since turned in their preliminary chapters for the commission's report. These all said Oswald did it...by himself. These chapters, moreover, echoed the FBI's report from 8 months prior. So...were the commission and the FBI really gonna let the answers of a condemned man on a polygraph upset their best-laid plans? Were they really gonna roll the dice and see what happened?
Or were they gonna figure out a way to ensure Ruby passed the test, by, say, turning the sensitivity of the machine to 1/5?
On 7-29, President Johnson finally tells Robert Kennedy that he will not be his running mate in the November election, and will not be the next Vice-President of the United States.
Here are some photos of Johnson and RFK in the Oval Office. One can imagine Johnson trying to let Kennedy down easy, by buttering him up on the couch, and telling him he's made a decision to move out from his brother's shadow...
by throwing out his brother's shadow...
One can then imagine Johnson asking RFK if he had any plans...and then walking over to the door with RFK as RFK told him that he had, in fact, been thinking about running for Senator in the upcoming election...
and then running for President in 1968....
Back in the Saddle
On 8-1 Chief Justice Warren returns from his nearly month-long fishing trip.
On 8-4-64 Robert Kennedy finally replies to "Warren's" June 11 letter seeking any information he may have suggesting a possible conspiracy. "His" letter is identical to the draft proposed by Warren Commission Counsel Willens. He has merely signed it. It asserts that he knows of no credible evidence suggesting a conspiracy. It admits, however, that "As you know, I am personally not aware of the detailed results of the extensive investigation in this matter which has been conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have, however, received periodic reports about the work of the Commission from you, Deputy Attorney General Katzenbach, and Mr. Willens of the Department of Justice, who has worked for the Commission for the past several months. Based on these reports, I am confident that every effort is being made by the President's Commission to fulfill the objectives of Executive Order No. 11130 by conducting a thorough investigation into all the facts relating to the assassination."
(It is curious that Kennedy specifies that what little information on the investigation he's received has come purely from Warren, Katzenbach, and Willens. As discussed in Chapter 1, it would later become clear that Warren and Katzenbach had, within a week of the shooting, been strong-armed by President Johnson and FBI Director Hoover into pushing Oswald's sole guilt. As Willens was, in the words of Commissioner McCloy, one of "Katzenbach's boys," moreover, this suggests that Kennedy was not, at this time, in touch with anyone who would keep him informed regarding evidence for a possible conspiracy.)
A Brief Discussion of Kennedy's letter and Willens
FWIW, It seems clear Howard Willens has read the previous passage. On 11-8-2014, on his website HowardWillens.com, Willens responded to some unnamed commentators. He wrote:
"Some commentators have found it “curious,” if not “suspicious,” that the Attorney General did not send his letter back to the Warren Commission until August 4, 1964 – some seven weeks after he received Warren’s letter. They obviously had not read the following discussion of this issue at page 192 of my book:
“I met with Katzenbach on June 17 to follow up on Mrs. Kennedy’s testimony and the attorney general’s response to Warren’s letter. I told him: ‘I would prefer that the letter not be answered immediately.’ By way of explanation, I mentioned that ‘I expected there would be a considerable difference of views between the Chief Justice and the staff regarding the quality of the report.’ If this situation developed, I told Katzenbach, ‘I intended to fight for a report I considered satisfactory, and indicated that a delay in sending this letter would bolster my position.’ Katzenbach said that he would hold the letter while the attorney general was in Europe from June 23 to June 30.
I had no reason at the time to believe that Warren (or the other members of the commission) might try to limit the investigation or shape its conclusions in a way that would be unacceptable to me or other members of the staff. I may have been thinking of our difficulties with the Treasury Department on presidential protection issues. But I was obviously anticipating the worst, and being able to employ the persuasive force of the Justice Department and Robert Kennedy, if necessary, was a precautionary step that seemed appropriate at the time.”
I never spoke with Katzenbach again about Robert Kennedy’s response to the Warren Commission. I do not know the circumstances under which the letter was presented to him for signature on August 4. I do know that this was an incredibly busy (and tense) time at the Justice Department as the Attorney General considered his political future, which led to his resignation from the Department in early September."
It's quite revealing, IMO, that Willens rebuts the possibility Robert Kennedy was resistant to signing a statement to the Warren Commission by admitting he himself had doubts about the thoroughness of the Commission's investigation and report, and delayed Kennedy's signing a statement in order to gain leverage over his superiors on the Commission.
Above: Mark Lane, at one of his many public speeches/presentations, in which he tried to provide a counter-narrative to what the public was being told about the assassination by the mainstream media, and its frequently unreliable "government sources."
On 8-4-64, 8-21-64, and 9-10-64, the FBI creates reports on the “Mark Lane Security Matter” and forwards them to the Warren Commission. While ostensibly an investigation of communist involvement in Lane’s Citizen’s Committee of Inquiry, which he’d formed to unveil the truth about the assassination, these reports are really designed to feed the Commission what its critics are saying, so that the Commission can counter these arguments in their final report. (Indeed, many of Lane’s questions would be answered by the report.) There are unnerving elements to these FBI reports however. The 8-4 report details a number of Lane’s speeches, and cites ten separate confidential sources, the 8-21 report includes a complete transcript of Lane’s appearance on a radio show, and the 9-10 report details more of Lane’s speeches, and cites twelve confidential sources. This raises a few questions: Where was all this manpower when it came time to identify the unidentified witnesses in the photographs of the shooting? Where was all this manpower when it came time to interview the witnesses who were known to the media, or mentioned in the early reports of the Dallas Police? Where was all this manpower when it came to accurately simulate the conditions in Dallas, to see if Oswald could actually have performed his purported feat? Furthermore, where was all this manpower when it came time to review the autopsy report? Study Kennedy’s wounds? Study the reactions of the human body to gunshot wounds, and see if the exact moments of impact could actually be identified in the Zapruder film? And finally, where was all this manpower when it came time to match the eyewitness testimony to the proposed shooting scenario? Spying on Oswald’s mother? Watching Mark Lane?