JAHS Chapter 26
By June of '66, the critics of the Warren Commission had found their audience. The release of Edward Epstein's Inquest and the upcoming release of Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment received widespread attention in the mainstream press. Other critics, such as Harold Weisberg, received less attention. These early critics, moreover, invariably focused on the apparent migration of Kennedy's back wound, questioning how the hole in the middle of the back on the face sheet had become the hole at the base of the neck in the Rydberg drawings. Their suspicion the Rydberg drawings were in error was fueled, moreover, by their studying the photos of the President’s shirt and jacket, which revealed holes in line with the lower entrance on the face sheet, not exactly the base of the neck. Between the FBI reports at odds with the autopsy report and the face sheet and clothes at odds with the Rydberg drawings, to be clear, the critics had more than enough kindling to fuel their fire. And much of their fire was justifiably directed at Arlen Specter.
Specter was slow to come this realization, however, and would for a time grant interviews to those with a sincere interest in his work on the commission. To explain how the holes in the clothes could be so much lower than the neck wound, for example, Specter told Gaeton Fonzi in their 1966 interviews that the shirt and jacket of the President had “hunched” up while the President was waving to the crowd.This plausible-sounding theory was first suggested by Dr. Humes in his testimony before the Warren Commission, after having viewed the President’s clothes for the first time and asserting that the hole in the clothing “corresponds essentially” with the location of the back wound in the Rydberg drawing. (According to Finck’s report to his Army superiors, Humes had refused Finck’s request to inspect the clothes during the autopsy.)
Still, Specter never tested Humes’ theory. He could have arranged for an exact copy of the President’s jacket, with the precise location of the bullet entrance marked, to be worn by a man of Kennedy’s exact stature during the FBI re-enactment of May 24, 1964, but apparently was not interested in establishing that this theory actually made sense. It was only appropriate then that, according to Fonzi, when Specter tried to demonstrate to him just how this hunching could occur, he made a fool of himself. Besides simply not working, this “hunching theory” failed to adequately explain how a well-tailored shirt and jacket could hunch up precisely in unison. It also failed to explain why the wound in the Rydberg drawing was not only several inches above the hole in the jacket, but to its right.
But that didn't stop other Warren Commission counsel from trying this same line of defense. In an 11-7-66 radio interview with KCBS radio's Harv Morgan, Warren Commission counsel Wesley Liebeler proclaimed "When you take a shirt and pull it down on your body...and measure 5 1/2 inches below that bony tip behind your right ear--when I do it on myself the mark on the shirt comes 3 inches below the collar line. And then when you raise your shoulders up ever so slightly and hump the shirt up and raise your arms into the position the President was at the time, and measure it again, the mark on the shirt comes 5 1/2 inches below the collar line."
And should one think Liebeler's pushing this argument was a one-time thing, he presented an even more confusing argument in an 11-27-66 L.A. Times article in which his opinions and those of fellow Warren Commission counsel Joseph Ball were pitted against those of Warren Commission critics Edward Epstein and Mark Lane. In this article, he claimed: "I had my wife measure 14 centimeters from my right mastoid process down into my shirt and that spot came three inches below the collar...And then if you raise your arm to the position that the President was in at the time he was shot, the shirt very easily rides up and so does the coat and I did it myself and measured again and the second mark comes on my body 5 1/2 inches below the collar line which is exactly one quarter of an inch from the place where the hole was in the President's shirt."
Well, beyond being confusing (he presumably meant to say "the second mark comes on my shirt"), this is most revealing. Liebeler acknowledged that a wound 14 cm below the mastoid process (the measurement of the back wound at autopsy) would be 3 inches below the collar line. Take a look at CE 386, the drawing of this wound's supposed location, on the slide above. There is no way Liebeler could possibly believe the wound in this drawing is 3 inches below the collar line. There is no way, for that matter, he could possibly believe 2 1/2 inches of fabric bunched up above this point on Kennedy's neck/back.
And he didn't. Yes, when questioned by Morgan on the 11-7-66 radio show about the inconsistent back wound locations presented on the face sheet and Rydberg drawings, and the fact that the holes on the President's clothing suggest that the face sheet location was accurate, Liebeler (and not only Liebeler, but fellow WC counsel Joseph Ball) insisted that the face sheet measurements were "the most precise way" to determine the location of the back wound, and that, when one did so, one found it was "somewhat higher" on the back than the mark on the face sheet. No defense of the Rydberg drawings was even attempted.
Of course, Liebeler didn't exactly denounce them, either. In fact, before admitting that the measurements indicated that the back wound was only "somewhat higher" than the mark on the face sheet, he blew a puff of smoke in the direction of Morgan's listeners, telling them the wound was "right at the base of the neck." This, then, supported the myth he'd proclaimed earlier in the interview, that, when one used the wound and clothing measurements to determine the back wound location, one found that the president's back wound was "higher on the back than it was on the front" and that the bullet traveled at a "downward angle." Call me irresponsible, but it seems mighty suspicious that Liebeler would proclaim such nonsense and make a point of claiming the face sheet was inaccurate, but then fail to acknowledge the 800 pound gorilla in the room--that the Rydberg drawings were even less accurate.
As a result, it seems clear that Liebeler and Ball, as Warren, Goldberg, and Specter before them, knew full well that the Rydberg drawings were inaccurate and deceptive, but opted to not only not tell the public of this deception, but to play along and promote this deception.
Now I know what you're thinking, because I've had these thoughts myself. You're thinking that the list of people lying to support the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings has grown a bit unwieldy. And you're right. It's important to note, however, that Warren, Goldberg, Specter, and Kelley were quite possibly the only ones to have seen the autopsy photo of Kennedy's back, and to have known for an absolute fact that the wound was on Kennedy's back, not neck.
It seems possible, then, that the others didn't know for certain they were lying, and were just repeating the nonsense Specter had fed them, and supporting the commission as a whole.
When one fully immerses oneself in the Kennedy assassination medical evidence, one finds that it is indeed also quite possible that many saw the photo of Kennedy's back, and knew, for a fact, the Rydberg drawings were deceptive, but opted to conceal this from the public.
The ARRB interview of Dr. Paul Peters, one of the doctors who'd worked on Kennedy in Dallas, yielded the surprising anecdote that he was friends with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s urologist, Dr. John Lattimer, and that Lattimer had told him a surprising story--that Hoover had given him access to a set of the president's autopsy photos--Hoover's own private set, mind you--just to spite Robert Kennedy.
If Peters' story is accurate, and Lattimer's story was true--well, geez--that's truly awful. The man who'd led the FBI’s investigation into the physical aspects of the assassination, Al Rosen, we should remember, refused to look at the autopsy photos or even read the autopsy report. The man who'd conducted Kennedy’s autopsy and who'd supervised the creation of the official drawings of Kennedy’s wounds, Dr. James J. Humes, even worse, was denied the opportunity to review the autopsy photos or compare them to the drawings. And yet J. Edgar Hoover’s urologist, Dr. Lattimer, could study them to his heart’s content! Sickening.
(It should be pointed out, however, that in 1972 Dr. Lattimer became the first independent doctor to inspect the autopsy materials. It seems possible, then, that Dr. Peters took this actual event--of the urologist Lattimer's being the first to view the materials--and scrambled it up into the story he told the ARRB.)
Making Peters’ story more believable, however, is Earl Warren’s posthumously-published recollection that he saw the photos when they came over from Bethesda Naval Hospital. As the official reports and memos of Robert Bouck, head of the Protective Research Division of the Secret Service, indicate that from the night of the autopsy until mid-1965 the autopsy photos remained in the sole custody of the Secret Service--and were never returned to Bethesda Naval Hospital--this can be taken as an indication that the Navy had its own set of photos.
Bouck's comments to the HSCA's investigators are also intriguing. On 8-30-77, Bouck was interviewed by HSCA staff Jim Kelly and Andy Purdy. The notes on this interview, which were to become ARRB Medical Exhibit 123, reflect that the medical evidence in Bouck's possession were seen by "some representative of the Warren Commission who asked to see the inventory or the materials." He then went on to say that the "stuff basically remained in the drawer" and that he wasn't sure if the materials themselves were viewed, but he nevertheless recalled that Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley may have been present during the inspection by the Warren Commission representative-- "possibly the general counsel or a staff attorney."
Well, who was this? Not Specter. Specter said Kelley showed him one picture...in Dallas. And not Warren--Bouck would almost certainly have remembered the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court coming to his office. And besides, Warren said the photos were brought to him at the Supreme Court, a proposition supported, moreover, by former Warren Commission counsel Howard Willens in his 2013 book History Will Prove Us Right.
Well, that leaves Warren Commission historian Alfred Goldberg--the only remaining member of its staff to admit seeing the photos--as the man visiting Bouck.
And that puts us back at square one--who showed Warren the autopsy photos? And where did they get these photos?
(The thought occurs that Warren was in his eighties when he wrote his memoirs. Perhaps, then, he had simply forgotten a quick visit with Bouck and Kelley. If this was so, however, it still fails to explain why Bouck failed to remember Warren's viewing the autopsy materials. Bouck was, after all, but 63 years of age when interviewed by the HSCA.)
The effects of old age might also explain the June, 15, 1975, statements of Warren Commission counsel Joseph Ball. Ball told the Long Beach, California, Press-Telegram that “he was the first one to contact the autopsy surgeon at Bethesda Naval Hospital,” and that “We went out and spent the afternoon with him…he gave us a complete description of the wounds on Kennedy’s body—he even drew pictures of it…He showed us a complete set of x-rays and color pictures which were turned over to Bobby Kennedy at his request and the request of the Kennedy family.The color pictures definitely show there was an entrance wound on the rear, right side of his head that blew the top of Kennedy’s head off.” As Ball also insisted that the release of these pictures would end all speculation on the direction of the shots, and since he only mentioned the “color pictures” and stated elsewhere that “These pictures show, as every doctor has testified, that the wounds of entry were in the back of the head…he was shot in the back of the neck and the rear of the head” it seems likely the "pictures" Ball thought he'd been shown were the Rydberg drawings later provided the commission, which were in color and depicted the wounds Ball described.
Of course, the Rydberg drawings were not sent to Robert Kennedy. It seems likely then that Ball got mixed up; he knew he'd seen color depictions of the wounds, and knew some depictions of the wounds were later turned over to Robert Kennedy, but failed to realize the color depictions he remembered seeing were the "pictures" created by the doctors, and not the autopsy photos withheld from others. Ball was 73 at the time of this article.
Supporting that Ball’s memory was slipping in 1975 (and that he'd confused the Rydberg drawings for the autopsy photos) is a 1-5-67 Van Nuys Valley News article on a press conference by Ball in which he "admitted he has never seen" the autopsy photos and x-rays, but nevertheless called for the public release of the photos and x-rays to "competent pathologists" in order "to show the world Cmdr. James J. Humes and the other doctors testified properly and accurately."
There is, however, additional support for Ball's latter-day claim he'd seen the photos. A June 1967 series of articles on the Warren Commission by Associated Press writers Bernard Gavzer and Sid Moody reported: “Albert Jenner, an assistant counsel now in Chicago, says he saw some of the autopsy photographs...” Hmmm... 1967 was of course only three years after the Warren Commission and Jenner was then but 60 years old. It’s doubtful, then, that his memory could have faded so rapidly about such an issue of such importance. The possibility exists, therefore, that the autopsy photos supposedly denied the autopsy doctors prior to their Warren Commission testimony and still officially hidden from the public were never denied to anyone, and were secretly circulated among the autopsy doctors, the Warren Commission, and the Warren Commission staff, as well as various Washington insiders, throughout 1964.
A September 18, 2010 post by single-assassin theorist John Fiorentino on the alt.assassination.jfk newsgroup further supports this possibility. While disputing something I'd written, Fiorentino boasted that he'd received a clear copy of the back wound photo from Warren Commission counsel David Belin. As Belin had also worked with the Rockefeller Commission pathology panel, which had indisputably viewed the photos, however, it seems probable Belin had kept one of the Rockefeller Commission's copies as a "souvenir."
The likelihood remains, then, that Jenner lied to the Associated Press for their 1967 article. Researcher Sylvia Meagher claimed to have sat behind Jenner's daughter at a February 1967 televised discussion of the assassination, and to have overheard Jenner's conversations with his daughter. After Mark Lane quoted Jenner from a 12-23-66 radio broadcast, where Jenner claimed "Some members of the Commission saw both the film and the colored pictures, and the X-rays. We of the staff saw them ourselves," and Jenner refused to comment, Meagher heard Jenner's daughter ask her father if he'd in fact seen the photos, and witnessed Jenner shake his head "no." In December, 1966, of course, the Commission and its former counsel were dedicated to cutting off the then-widespread demands for a new investigation, and Jenner's lies may have been designed to help their cause.
There is reason to believe, moreover, that their efforts were part of a much larger plan.
And it's not as if I'm the first to conclude Specter lied. No, sadly for Specter, I'm merely the latest in a long line of researchers to do so.
We've already asserted that the placement of the back wound on the face sheet was reasonably accurate. We'll now prove it beyond all doubt. The measurements recorded at autopsy placed the back wound equidistant between two landmarks, 14 cm below the right mastoid process of Kennedy's skull, and 14 cm from acromion, the tip of his right shoulder. As demonstrated above, the mark on the face sheet is--well, I'll be darned--equidistant between these two landmarks.
That's it. That's all there is to it. This isn't rocket science.
In November, 1966, however, after critics of the Warren Commission had pointed out that he'd marked the back wound on the face sheet below the level of the throat wound, Dr. Boswell reportedly re-marked a copy of the face sheet for the Baltimore Sun, and placed the back wound at a location well above the throat wound. He explained this at the time, moreover, by stating “If I had known at the time that this sketch would become public record, I would have been more careful.”
And yet, as careful as he claimed to be in 1966, in 1977, after having been contacted by the HSCA and asked to mark a third face sheet, he depicted the back wound even higher on the body, squarely on the President’s neck.
From these actions one might wonder if Boswell was remembering things backwards, that is, if he was taking what he believed to be important or was told was important, e.g. that the bullet entrance was high enough on the President's body for a bullet heading on a downward trajectory to enter the President’s back and exit his throat, and then marking this position on the sheet. Perhaps the suggestion he'd been part of a conspiracy had taken its toll on Dr. Boswell and had led his memories of the wound to blur into accordance with the official government impression of the wounds. Perhaps this "blurring" was in full effect even before Boswell re-inspected the autopsy photos on November 1, and was to such an extent that neither he nor Dr. Humes realized the back wound in the photos they were studying was at or below the level of the throat wound, and most certainly not above. The research and writings of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus tell us, after all, that when one is led to imagine a plausible event, e.g. the single bullet theory, one’s memories can become entangled with that imagined event. Perhaps then Boswell’s face sheets are simply textbook cases of memory distortion arising from imagining a plausible event.
Dr. Boswell’s 1996 ARRB testimony in fact supports that he worked backwards. Even though he’d been shown the official back wound photos three times, most recently in 1977, Boswell corrected his questioner Jeremy Gunn by telling him that the wound was not a thoracic wound (as stated in the autopsy report signed by Boswell in 1963) but on the neck. He stated further that the wound would not be nearest a thoracic vertebrae, but a cervical vertebra. While looking at the back wound marked on the face sheet, moreover, he tried to explain his reasoning: “where I had drawn this was—if you looked at the back of the coat it was in the exact same place…but the coat had been…he was waving, and this was all scrunched up like this. And the bullet went through the coat way below where this would be on the body, because it was really at the base of his neck. And the way I know this best is my memory of the fact that…when we opened up the chest…the bullet had not pierced through into the lung cavity... And so…The wound came through and downward and out about the thyroid cartilage. So if you put a probe in this and got it back through like this, that would come out right at the base of the neck.”Minutes later, when shown the autopsy photo of Kennedy's back, however, Boswell recognized his error and acknowledged that the wound in the photo was in fact not on the neck but on the back, and was nearest, by his estimate, the second thoracic vertebrae.
Were Dr. Boswell a simple liar he would most probably have argued that the wound was actually nearest a cervical vertebrae, but that the angle of the photograph had distorted the wound’s actual position, etc...
That Dr. Boswell was remembering things backwards in ’96, however, does not preclude that he was pressured into changing his statements in ’66. He was, after all, under a military order of silence in 1966. Before speaking to the Baltimore Sun and other papers, he would almost certainly have to have received approval from the Justice Department.
Now, ask yourself, was this approval likely to be granted should Boswell not agree to, well...agree?
A little back-story (pun intended) is in order at this time...
By June of '66, people were talking not only about the books of Epstein and Lane, but articles critical of the Commission appearing in various magazines and newspapers. One of these, an article by Fred Cook in The Nation, revealed that the Warren Commission had not only failed to study the photographs and x-rays of President Kennedy's body in order to verify the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings depicting Kennedy's wounds, but had, even worse, prevented the doctors who'd created these drawings from studying these materials, and using them for reference.
This was powerful stuff. The impact of this information was such that Jacob Cohen, in a counter-point to Cook's article in The Nation, nevertheless agreed that "the x-rays and photos must now be made available for competent study and interpretation."
The net effect of these articles, even defenses of the Commission like Cohen's, then, was to raise doubts about the Commission's conclusions.
This, in turn, raised doubts about the legitimacy of Lyndon Johnson's presidency. As a consequence, it became politically desirable for the Johnson Administration to have the autopsy doctors do what they should have done in 1964--verify the accuracy of the drawings they'd presented the Warren Commission.
But there was a problem: the autopsy materials had been given to the Kennedy family the year before. Negotiations thereby commenced for their return.
Before this was done, however, Robert Kennedy had a talk with a family friend, historian Arthur Schlesinger. According to Schlesinger's posthumously published journal, Journals 1952-2000, he spent the evening of October 30, 1966 discussing William Manchester's upcoming book on the assassination with Kennedy, and "this led on to a discussion of the autopsy photographs and then of the Warren Report. RFK wondered how long he could continue to avoid comment on the report. It is evident that he believes it was a poor job and will not endorse it, but that he is unwilling to criticize it and thereby reopen the whole tragic business."
The next day, October 31, 1966, the Kennedy family transferred control of the photographs and x-rays back to the National Archives and announced that, in but five years, in what those loyal to President Johnson undoubtedly hoped would be his second elected term as President, these photographs and x-rays would be subject to review...by independent experts, beyond Johnson's control.
Wasting no time, on November 1, 1966, the Johnson Administration arranged for autopsy pathologists Dr.s Boswell and Humes, autopsy radiologist John Ebersole, and autopsy photographer John Stringer to finally review the autopsy photographs and x-rays they'd taken on 11-22-63. They created an inventory list for these items. Under the guidance of Johnson's Justice Department, they signed this list on November 10. Suspiciously, the final version of this list included a statement that these photographs and x-rays represented all the photographs and x-rays taken at the autopsy, a statement all four men would later swear was untrue. That this statement was added by the Justice Department and not the doctors is supported, moreover, by the 11-2-66 Gaylord Shaw-penned AP article on this examination (found, for example, in the Sarasota Journal). This article, built around interviews with an unnamed Justice Dept. spokesman, Boswell, and Humes on the evening of 11-1, relates: "The Justice Department spokesman said he did not know how the X-rays and pictures came into possession of the Kennedy family. The spokesman said the pictures authenticated by Humes and Boswell are the only ones known to exist."
The statements of the doctors in this article, in which they suggested these photos supported their previous testimony, were also suspicious. Here's Boswell: "These photos are nothing more than supportive evidence for information we presented to the Warren Commission...All they would do would be to document what we discussed. I am sure the photos would corroborate our testimony...They were medical-legal photographs taken for presentation in court at the Oswald trial. Oswald was still alive at the time of the autopsy."
And here's Humes, when discussing whether the doctors felt the photos and X-rays were needed for their testimony before the Warren Commission: "We felt they were not." And then when answering the million dollar question--whether or not the photos and x-rays "disclosed anything not covered in the testimony:" "I would not have testified before the commission the way I did if I felt there was anything different about them."
Wait. WHAT? Humes was asked if the photos disclosed anything not covered in his testimony and he answered by saying he wouldn't have testified as he had if he felt there was anything in the photos and x-rays not covered in his testimony. This is non-responsive. It is as evasive an answer as one can imagine. It seems almost certain then that Humes had seen something in his review of the photos that was in conflict with his testimony, and that he wasn't about to share this with the public.
The identity of this "something" seems more than clear, moreover. The inventory list signed by the doctors describes photo 11 as showing "a wound of entrance of missile high in shoulder" and color transparency 38 as showing a "missile wound high in right superior, posterior shoulder." Well, this is at odds with both Humes' testimony and the exhibits prepared for his testimony, in which this wound was placed on the back of the neck.
On 11-4-66, at a press conference, President Johnson was asked why the medical evidence had not been made available to the public. He responded:
"I think it has been available to the Warren Commission any time it wanted to see it. Second, I think it is available to any official body now. Third, I think that every American can understand the reasons why we wouldn't want to have the garments, and the records, and everything paraded out in every sewing circle in the country to be exploited and used without serving any good or official purpose. It is my understanding--all of this took place while I was away--that most of this has been over in the Archives stored all the time. It has always been available to the Warren Commission and the Government, the Justice Department, the FBI. The late, beloved President's brother was Attorney General during the period the Warren Commission was studying this thing and I certainly would think he would have a very thorough interest in seeing that the truth was made evident. I believe he did have. I think that he, the FBI, and the entire Government made available everything that the Commission wanted. I think they made a very thorough study. I know of no evidence that would in any way cause any reasonable person to have a doubt about the Warren Commission. But if there is any evidence and it is brought forth, I am sure that the Commission and the appropriate authorities will take action that may be justified."
President Johnson had of course misrepresented RFK's role in the assassination investigation, which had been next to non-existent. He had also failed to appreciate that the Commission no longer existed. He was apparently unaware, moreover, that his long-time friend and former campaign manager, Texas Governor John Connally, had just been interviewed by Life Magazine, and would magnify the cries for a new investigation by asserting that he had serious doubts about the single-bullet theory, the cornerstone upon which the commission's case for a single-assassin had been built. (Johnson shared these doubts, but had never admitted as much to the public.)
Perhaps, then, Johnson thought he had things under control. The 11-14-66 issue of U.S. News and World Report, in anticipation of William Manchester's book, recounted in detail the day of the assassination. It took Johnson's side on a number of issues. It included as well a brief article on Humes' and Boswell's 11-1-66 review of the autopsy photos and x-rays. This article showed Dr. Humes to be quite careful: "Afterward, Commander Humes said 'the pictures showed just what we testified to' before the Warren Commission—that the assassin's bullets were fired from 'above and behind,' and that the fatal shot caused a 'massive' head wound." But the article showed Dr. Boswell in a different light. It claimed: "Commander Boswell said the pictures prove that 'the drawing we submitted' to the Commission 'was identical with the photographs.'"
Yes, he said "identical." If the Administration was looking for someone to issue a license to lie, they had their man.
They most certainly had cause for concern. Johnson's Daily Diary, available on the Johnson Library website, reflects that on 11-19-63 Johnson spent the bulk of a 2 hour flight "reading a proof" of William Manchester's book on the assassination, The Death of a President. Manchester's book was authorized by the Kennedy family. The early drafts of the book were purported to have been extremely hard on Johnson--not painting him as a conspirator to kill Kennedy, but as one unable to conceal his delight in his own rise to prominence. Reading this book, particularly at this point in its development, would no doubt contribute to Johnson's already stated belief that Robert Kennedy was out to get him, and willing to use the assassination to do it.
On November 21, 1966, and over the next few days, an AP article was published nationwide, in which long-time Kennedy family friend, historian Arthur Schlesinger, was quoted as having told an audience that "substantial facts and doubts do exist which would warrant a very intensive inquiry." In the eyes of Johnson, this could only be a message from Robert Kennedy. In this same article, moreover, one-time Johnson mentor and member of the Warren Commission, Senator Richard Russell, let it be known that he'd objected to the Commission's conclusion there had been no conspiracy, and only agreed to go along with the suggestion there hadn't been one because Chief Justice Warren wouldn't allow him to publish a dissent.
Between the Life article, the upcoming Manchester book, and this AP article, then, the Johnson Administration must have felt under siege.
They decided to fight back. Some time in this period (my efforts to establish the exact date continue) Johnson's former aide Jack Valenti wrote a memo to Johnson describing disbelief of the Warren Commission's findings in Europe. According to James Reston Jr.s book on Governor Connally, The Lone Star, Valenti noted, furthermore, that "This is not a lightly or rarely held view. It is widening among the peoples of Western Europe. It could become so malignant as to threaten seriously the very integrity of the American Government." Valenti then proposed the formation of a panel of prominent lawyers, led by Louis Nizer, an outspoken supporter of the Warren Commission's findings. Valenti then concluded "Nizer and others ought to be unleashed immediately to publish a counter defense that would nail the detractors and the irresponsible nuts against the wall. The key to the whole assault on the Commission is the so-called single-bullet theory. If this panel of distinguished lawyers could demolish the attack on the single-bullet theory, the slanderers would be laid to rest."
And Valenti wasn't the only one proposing the Administration do something to silence the critics of the single-bullet theory.
On November 21, former Warren Commission counsel W. David Slawson (now working for President Johnson in the Office of Legal Counsel) wrote a memo to Acting Attorney General Ramsey Clark regarding a telephone conversation he'd just had with former Warren Commission counsel J. Wesley Liebeler. According to Slawson's memo on this phone call (which can be found in the Harold Weisberg Archives) Liebeler claimed that he'd spoken to Harrison Salisbury of the New York Times the week before, and that Salisbury "was planning a series of articles on the criticisms of the Warren Report,"and "believed the criticisms were serious enough to warrant a re-opening of the investigation." Even so, Liebeler felt:
"There is still a reasonable chance of spiking this thing by a re-investigation limited to aspects of the autopsy, but if public opinion continues to develop like it has over the past few months we may soon be faced with a politically unstoppable demand for a free-wheeling investigation of all aspects."
The political importance of this "limited" re-investigation was paramount, moreover, because, according to Liebeler: "The lunatic fringe already allege or broadly hint (involvement of) the highest echelons of Government in the assassination, and the Government's participation in the 'hiding' of the photographs and X-rays dangerously lends creditability (sic) to their hints and allegations."
According to Slawson, Liebeler then went on to relate that he (Liebeler) had tried to convince Richard Billings of Life Magazine to hold off on its current article on Connally, as it had "a responsibility not to publish" an article on Connally without asking "questions designed to elicit the other side of the issues on which he disagreed with the commission." According to Slawson, Liebeler then proceeded to discuss how at least one of the critics could be turned against the others, noting that Edward Epstein, the author of Inquest, "now feels satisfied on all issues raised in his book except those connected with the autopsy X-rays and photographs. He still believes that they should be examined by an independent group of pathologists. If they are so examined, and if the group contains a man acceptable to him, and if the result is to confirm the Commission's findings, Epstein will publicly state his satisfaction with the report--in effect, he will publicly repudiate the doubts and suspicions he himself cast in his book. And he will join with Liebeler and others in defending the report against Lane, who Epstein is now convinced is unscrupulous and dangerous."
This memo, then, suggests that the Acting Attorney General, President Johnson's legal advisers, and former Warren Commission counsel were all conspiring to prevent a new investigation.
What happened next is uncertain, but it appears that Johnson himself took the next step, and asked Governor Connally for his help. President Johnson's Daily Diary for 11-22-66 reflects that he talked to Governor Connally in the morning, and spent the entire evening with him at his presidential ranch in Texas. On 11-23, the very next day, Governor Connally, whose recent interview with Life Magazine helped fuel the crisis, called a press conference in which he read a prepared statement, reiterating his doubts about the single-bullet theory but nevertheless joining hands with the Johnson Administration by attacking the critics of the Warren Commission. A transcript of the statement published in the next day's New York Times reflects that he began by re-asserting his recollection of the shooting, in which the President and he were hit by separate bullets, but then added "I want to make It very clear, however, that simply because I disagree with the Warren Commission on this one detail does not mean that I disagree with the substance of their over-all findings." He then listed the members of the commission one by one, and described them as "men of unquestioned integrity of long and devoted service to their nation; men whose dedication to the tasks of seeking truth in these circumstances I would never question, and men whose patriotism has been manifested so many times in so many ways over such a long period that it now is somewhat shocking to me that in the backlash of tragedy, journalistic scavengers such as Mark Lane attempt to impugn the motives of these members individually, cast doubts upon the commission as a whole, and question the credibility of the government itself." He then pushed that rather than start a new investigation of "unfounded conspiracy theories" that is "neither warranted, justified, or desirable," "we (and by "we" he clearly meant members of the media, such as those working for Life Magazine and the New York Times, who'd proposed such an investigation) should turn our attention to doing a little research on and evaluation of the credentials of these self-appointed experts, who, with no new evidence, no new facts, nevertheless use distortion, inference, innuendo, in order to cast doubts and create confusion." He then offered "I suspect that a searching investigation into their own credentials will divulge that their motives have political overtones and that their views have been given prominence out of proportion to their value."
One can only speculate as to the actual author of Connally's statement. The President's diary for 11-23-66, however, reflects that at 3:34 PM he once again talked to Connally. One might venture this was a discussion of the press conference, and perhaps an expression of gratitude.
Still, Connally's press conference was too little, too late, for some close to Johnson. As discussed in a November 16, 1988 article by Seth Kantor (found in the Henderson N.C. Times-News) an 11-23-66 memo to Johnson from John Roche, one of his "special consultants", took note of both Governor Connally's recent statements and those of former Warren Commissioner Richard Russell (who'd admitted, in an interview with the Atlanta Journal, reported nationwide by UPI on this very day, that he agreed with Connally in rejecting the single-bullet theory), and asserted: "The comments of Richard Russell and the Life Magazine article by Governor Connally are the two most serious blows which have yet occurred to the public credibility of the Warren Commission. Russell, in particular, by undermining the unanimity of the commission, has turned the cat loose among the canaries. Now the newspapermen are beginning the process of interviewing everyone listed in Who's Who on his view of the Warren Commission... Paranoia, regrettably, is more infectious than measles. We have enough problems already with the war in Vietnam, and to have the nation suddenly indulging in an orgy of sick speculation on events in Dallas could really poison the atmosphere." Roche then suggested that Johnson give "top priority to the problem, perhaps convening a group of your wisest counselors to work out a strategy."
What Roche failed to realize, however, was that Johnson and at least "one of his wisest counselors" were already all over this... We'll get to that in a minute...
The Boswell Incident
On 11-24-66, a short spell after Jack Valenti wrote a memo urging that the single-bullet theory be defended, three days after David Slawson wrote a memo urging that a re-investigation of the medical evidence be used to cut off a new investigation, a day after John Roche wrote a memo stressing the importance of cutting off a new investigation, a day after John Connally called a press conference in which he defended the Warren Commission, and the very day of a 10-15 minute phone call between President Johnson and Abe Fortas, the recording of which was destroyed under order of President Johnson (the only recording to be so destroyed), an AP article by Jack Miller emerged, in which Dr. J. Thornton Boswell took personal responsibility for much of the confusion over President Kennedy's wounds.
This article, as found in The Tuscaloosa News, where it was accompanied by a photo of CE 386 with the caption "Neck Wound Correct Here," claimed:
"A doctor who helped perform the autopsy on President John F. Kennedy said today he made a diagram error in a hasty 'worksheet' sketch which was not drawn for the final autopsy report. Some critics have used the sketch in challenging the Warren Commission Report.
Dr. J. Thornton Boswell said the diagram showed that the lower bullet wound was in the President's back. Actually, he said, the wound was at the back of the base of the neck.
The position of the wound was crucial in determining the trajectory of the bullet.
Boswell said the diagram was drawn quickly during the autopsy as 'rough notes' and was not meant to be exact. He pointed out that longhand notes he made on the sketch gave the correct, precise location of the wound...
In an interview, Boswell said that when he examined the autopsy photographs for the first time Nov. 1, the pictures showed clearly that the wound was in the neck. The photographs are in the National Archives and are not available to the public...
One of the critics of the Warren Report, Edward Epstein, used the diagram and the FBI reports to suggest the possibility that there may have been a second assassin.
But Epstein, author of the book “Inquest,” conceded in the current issue of Esquire magazine that if the autopsy photos showed the wound in the neck, there would be no further doubt about the autopsy report and that second assassin would be ruled out.
While Boswell's statement contradicts critics who have based their doubts on the sketch and the FBI reports, some use other arguments to attack the single-bullet theory and single-assassin finding.
Boswell, a former Navy doctor now in private practice, said of his sketch error: 'This was unfortunate. If I had known at the time that the sketch would become public record I would have been more careful.'
Its sole purpose, he said, was to indicate for the autopsy doctors 'right, left, front, back--things like that.' The photographs were to provide the exact visual description, he said.
As for the FBI reports, they were simply wrong. He noted that the FBI agents at the autopsy were not trained in medicine.
The autopsy report concluded that a single bullet hit both Kennedy and Connally, and Boswell said in the interview 'there is absolutely no doubt in our minds' now."
Well, hold it right there. The autopsy report said no such thing. It mentioned that Connally was sitting in front of Kennedy, but never discussed his wounds, other than that they came as a result of the same three shots fired into the car that killed Kennedy. The single-bullet theory propped up by the article was not, in fact, proposed for months after the shooting.
And should one think the timing of this article a coincidence, one should also consider that an 11-25-66 article by Peter Kihss for the New York Times quoted Boswell as asserting that, after he and Dr. Humes inspected the photos on November 1, 1966, there was “absolutely no doubt in our minds now” about the single-bullet theory, and then repeated the lie that measurements were used to create the Rydberg drawings. To be precise, the article related that:
"The Warren Commission published "schematic drawings" done by a Navy medical illustrator and based on measurements and verbal descriptions given him by the autopsy surgeons just before they were called to testify. The drawings include Commission Exhibit 385, which shows the downward path the bullet is thought to have taken through the President's neck, and they remain 'sufficient to illustrate the finding' Dr. Boswell said yesterday."
And, should one still have doubts that Dr. Boswell's interviews were being orchestrated by hands unseen, one should finally consider that in the extensive 11-25-66 article in the Baltimore Sun, in which a new and improved version of the face sheet was unveiled, Dr. Boswell was purported to have also claimed that:
the photographs and X-rays prove conclusively that the facts about the wounds as printed in the Warren Commission Report were consistent with the findings of the autopsy...
there was absolutely no doubt that the controversial neck and throat wound was caused by a bullet that entered the base of President Kennedy's neck, passed completely through the neck, and exited from the throat...
The wound in the back of the neck, was without any doubt, one of entrance and not of exit...
A report made by FBI observers present at the autopsy inaccurately referred to a 'back' wound rather than a neck wound and should be discounted...
the autopsy was routine in every respect and...included every activity which would accompany a medical-legal autopsy...
(At the commencement of the autopsy) The pathologists had already been told of the probable extent of the injuries and what had been done by physicians in Dallas...
the tracheotomy incision was examined and extensive trauma was noted on one side...
(The pathologists) "concluded that night that the bullet had, in fact, entered in the back of the neck, traversed the neck, and exited anteriorly'..."
a telephone call made to the hospital in Dallas by Dr. Humes the next morning merely confirmed what was already a certainty to the pathologists--that there was a bullet wound in the President's neck at the point of the tracheotomy incision...
(CE 385) was a scale drawing based on a photograph taken of the president when he was alive...
the bullet path (on CE 385) was drawn using data about the entry hole and the lung bruises obtained during the autopsy and the precise exit wound as defined by the Dallas physicians...
(The FBI report's reference to a back wound may have represented) "a laymen's observation of an area just below the shoulder line that, to a physician, is still the neck region..."
and then the standard line, pushed by Specter and Liebeler, that:
the President, according to movie films, had his arm raised, waving to the crowds, when he was shot. This movement would have raised his coat and shirt resulting in bullet holes lower in the clothing than were indicated by the wound.
Now, all of these claims were misleading or untrue. So...was it merely a coincidence that, just days after one of President Johnson's most trusted aides informed him that the single-bullet theory must be defended, and just days after a legal adviser to President Johnson called the acting Attorney General of the United States Ramsey Clark and proposed that a "re-investigation" of the medical evidence could hold off the calls for a thorough re- investigation of the murder of President Kennedy, the supposedly sworn-to-silence Dr. Boswell, who'd signed a document stating that the non-fatal wound was in the "right superior, posterior shoulder" barely two weeks before, suddenly granted interviews in which he claimed the non-fatal wound was “in the neck” and that the location of this wound left “absolutely no doubt” about the single-bullet theory? And was it merely a coincidence that Dr. Boswell's account of the autopsy contradicted Dr. Humes' sworn testimony about the throat wound? And that he instead claimed they'd assumed it was an exit while the body was still in front of them? And was it just a coincidence that this not-so-subtle tweak to the official story might help Johnson and his men fend off calls for an exhumation of the President's body?
No. I think not. The articles reek of an orchestrated lie. And a fairly successful one at that. While revelations about FBI and CIA activities not disclosed to the Warren Commission would, in time, lead the mainstream media to join the public in calling for a new investigation, the media would never again focus its attention on the location of Kennedy's back wound--and the problems it presented for the single-bullet theory and single-assassin conclusion. In November 1995, Max Holland, writing in American Heritage magazine, demonstrated this point perfectly. In the eyes of history, he explained, the wide-spread concern regarding the face sheet and back wound location was "a passing controversy over the President’s autopsy that had been fairly easily resolved."
Holland, of course, failed to mention that the controversy was "fairly easily resolved" via a propaganda blitz worthy of Nazi Germany.
If the November 1966 Boswell articles were an orchestrated lie, moreover, it's hard not to believe the upward migration of Kennedy's back wound between the night of the autopsy and the testimony of the autopsy doctors before the Warren Commission was similarly orchestrated, and was a migration spurred on by the climate in Washington, and not the incompetence of a couple of doctors.
Don't believe it? Well, then, let's take another look at the Johnson Administration at work.
Above: one of the great ironies of American political history is that Lyndon Johnson, the one-time "Master of the Senate," spent his presidency largely on the phone.
"Clearing the Air"
An October 6, 1966 phone call between President Johnson and his most trusted adviser Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas has Johnson instructing Fortas to have a talk with FBI Assistant Director Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, whom Fortas claims is a "very close friend" to Johnson, and enlist him in their campaign to prop up the Warren Commission's conclusions.
It seems Johnson wanted Hoover to write a book on the subject. And no, I'm not kidding.
Here's an internal FBI memo freed from the archives by researcher Harold Weisberg, which eventually became the subject of a 4-1-85 column by Jack Anderson.
Now, that's quite a brain-bomb, yes? A Supreme Court Justice, acting on behalf of the President of the United States, has pressured the Director of the FBI to write a book or issue a statement to help clear the President's name, and the Director of the FBI has responded by telling him he should instead ask the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court!
One line in the memo is of particular interest--(Fortas) "had argued with the president that it was not logical for the director to prepare this book inasmuch as the director in doing so would necessarily have to substantiate the investigative efforts of many other agencies."
An internal FBI memo dated 11-22-66 (Rosen to DeLoach, 11/22/1966, FBI HQ JFK Assassination File, 62-109060-4267), for that matter, specified just what it was that Hoover was so reluctant to "substantiate." At the bottom of this memo Director Hoover added “We don’t agree with the Commission as it says one shot missed entirely & we contend all three shots hit.”
And yet, the times-they-were-a-changin'.
An 11-25-66 memo from DeLoach to Tolson recounts that DeLoach had called Chief Justice Earl Warren on 11-23-66 on an apparently unrelated matter, but that Warren had brought up some of the recent problems surrounding the commission during the phone call. According to DeLoach, Warren complained about former commission counsel Wesley Liebeler, and noted that Liebeler was a '"beatnik' type of individual who had proved to be very unethical." According to DeLoach, Warren was displeased that Liebeler had kept detailed notes on his disagreements with the commission, and that Liebeler's notes had formed the "basis" of Epstein's book. In closing, however, DeLoach revealed more about himself than about Warren and his obvious dislike of Liebeler. He wrote: "I informed the Chief Justice... that the Director, in the near future, planned to issue a statement defending the FBI's phase of the assassination investigation. The Chief Justice said he was glad to hear this and that the Director's name and prestige would be a great help in clearing the air."
Now, let's connect the dots. DeLoach told Warren on the 23rd--the day after Hoover claimed the FBI did not agree with the commission--that Hoover was about to issue a statement defending the FBI's phase of the assassination investigation. And Warren was pleased with this and felt this statement would help "clear the air." Well, seeing as a statement from Hoover defending the FBI in which he voiced his disagreement with the single-bullet theory would not be good news to Warren, it seems fairly obvious DeLoach knew Hoover was about to offer his support for the single-bullet theory...
And then it happened. On 11-26-66, Hoover issued a statement claiming "There is no conflict" between the FBI's position and that of the commission. He then explained the confusion, attributing it to the fact that the FBI agents at the autopsy had been told no exit wound could be associated with the entrance wound on the back, but that, unknown to these agents, "the physicians eventually were able to trace the path of the bullet through the body." (This, of course, never happened.) He then related "Meanwhile, the clothing worn by the President when he was shot was examined in the FBI Laboratory. This examination revealed a small hole in the back of his coat and shirt and a slit characteristic of an exit hole for a projectile in the front of the shirt one inch below the collar button. A nick on the left side of the tie knot, possibly caused by the same projectile which passed through the shirt, also was noted. These findings clearly indicated the examining physician's early observation that the bullet penetrated only a short distance into the president's back probably was in error." (Except this wasn't true! While the FBI lab did make note of the wound on Kennedy's throat in its 1-13-64 report, and describe this wound as an exit, it suggested this wound was caused by a fragment from the head wound. It did not connect the throat wound to the back wound at that time, nor for months after. To wit, the FBIcontinued to tell newsmen that the bullet striking Kennedy in the back fell out onto his gurney for months and months after the shooting.)
Hoover's statement then sunk knee-deep in some bullshit. It offered an explanation for the FBI's months-long delay in accurately reporting the medical evidence, that couldn't pass even the most forgiving of smell tests. Here it comes: "Since this observation" (that the bullet creating the back wound had only penetrated a short distance) "had been included in the FBI Report of December 9, 1963, another reference was made to it in the report of January 13, 1964, in conjunction with the laboratory findings to point up this probability."
Well, what the heck does that mean? Was it routine for the FBI to repeat inaccurate information? And, if so, how would accurate information ever come to replace it? More to the point, was the recitation of conclusions at odds with the autopsy report three weeks after the FBI received a copy of the autopsy report a mistake, or not? And, if so, why wouldn't they admit as much?
But, wait, it gets worse. Hoover's statement continued: "The FBI and the Warren Commission each received a copy of the official autopsy report on December 23, 1963, from Secret Service following a specific request for this document. Since the FBI knew the Commission had a copy of the official autopsy, its contents were not repeated in an FBI report." Wait... WHAT? This suggests that the FBI KNEW their 1-13-64 report was in error when they wrote it, but didn't want to bring it in line with the official autopsy report because...because...they were respecting the Kennedy family's privacy, and not wanting to have the contents of an official autopsy report (a public document) reported in an FBI report (a secret document). I mean, really. Are we to assume that within the FBI's files on murder after murder after murder there are FBI reports on what their agents were told about autopsy after autopsy after autopsy--that deliberately exclude information gathered from the official autopsy reports on the victims because, y'know, there might be something in these reports that might prove embarrassing to someone?
OF COURSE NOT!!! That would be stupid beyond belief.
Well, this is mighty suspicious, wouldn't you say? On 11-22-66, Hoover noted that the FBI and Warren Commission were in disagreement on the single-bullet theory. Four days later, a press release was issued in which it was claimed Hoover had received a letter from an unnamed newsman asking about this disagreement on the 21st, and that he had responded to this letter on the 23rd, and that his letter had explained that there was NO disagreement between the FBI and Warren Commission on the single-bullet theory. Well, heck, why couldn't Hoover have told this to the press in a press conference? Why issue a written statement? And why hide the identity of the newsman?
And, oh yeah, while we're asking, does it make any sense whatsoever that Hoover would change his mind about this extremely important issue...overnight?
I think not. It's just speculation, but it seems likely DeLoach and his men prepared "Hoover's" statement at Johnson's urging, and arranged for one of the FBI's contacts in the media to ask Hoover for a statement, so that Hoover could make a public statement supporting the Warren Commission without acknowledging he was doing so at Johnson's urging, or having to say the words himself.
No, scratch that. It's not just speculation. In his book Post Mortem (published 1975), Harold Weisberg recounts how he asked the FBI for a copy of the 11-26-66 statement Hoover provided the press, and how it took them nine years, and a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, to comply. He also presents the full statement sent the press.
But the story doesn't end there. Through his efforts, Weisberg was able to round up numerous FBI internal documents regarding Hoover's 11-26 press release, (including the 10-10-66 document shown above, which he provided Jack Anderson). These documents prove that the FBI worked on "Hoover's" statement for weeks before approaching Washington Star editor Sid Epstein and asking him to sign off on an FBI-penned request for information... to which Hoover then "responded."
Here are two of the FBI's memos on this transaction.
Well, this is another brain-bomb, right? Not only did the FBI compose the supposedly journalist-written letter to which Hoover responded, the letter and response had been "cleared" by Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, acting as the eyes and ears of President Johnson.
I mean, this was such a total crock...they even lied about the date! On 11-23-66, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover responded to a letter from Washington Star editor Sid Epstein dated 11-21-66, which was not actually transposed onto Washington Star stationery and signed by Epstein until that afternoon, AFTER Epstein had received Hoover's response.
And that's not even to mention that, oh yeah, the documents received by Weisberg prove Hoover's "11-23" response to Epstein's "11-21" letter was originally drafted on 10-20.
Now... Note also that the author of the 11-23 memo to DeLoach, R.E. Wick, (one of DeLoach's underlings), used the same words as DeLoach's 11-25 memo to Tolson--that is, that a statement from Hoover supporting the Warren Commission would be of great help in "clearing the air."
Let's think about this... President Johnson has pressured the FBI into creating a fake news story with a fake paper trail in order to hide his involvement in a public statement issued by the Director of the FBI, and those involved or benefiting from this action have justified it under the belief it will help "clear the air."
Of what, exactly? Certainly not the stench of cover-up!
Now, it should be noted that Weisberg wasn't the only one to blow the whistle on this dirty smelly affair.
Here's Jack Anderson, in his 4-1-85 column, on DeLoach's 10-10-66 memo on Johnson and Fortas:
"Johnson had a fallback positlion, which Fortas then presented. He asked that Hoover at least issue a statement on one point the critics had raised: the discrepancies between FBI reports and the Warren Commission concerning the Kennedy autopsy. DeLoach told Fortas he "felt certain" Hoover would agree to this modest proposal and immediately set to work drafting such a statement...DeLoach, now retired, told my associate Les Whitten that the matter was resolved by issuing a Hoover-approved statement in response to an inquiry from the Washington Star..."
(Note: one can take from this that Whitten had spoken to DeLoach about the memo, and that this had led him to believe it was Johnson's preference that Hoover write a book defending the Warren Commission. As Hoover had written, or at least put his name on, several best-selling books on communism while serving as FBI Director--and as these books had actually been written by FBI employees--and as Hoover had pocketed the profits from these books, this was, in effect, an attempt at a bribe... er, not so much a bribe as an "I know you don't want to do this, but if you do it, and feel you need to make some money off it, at the expense of the American taxpayer even, don't worry, I won't mind." Oh, for crying out loud, let's call a spade a spade...a bribe...)
So, yeah, by 1985, DeLoach was willing to acknowledge the 1966 pressure campaign on Hoover.
And that wasn't the first time he talked about it.
When testifying before the Church Committee, on 11-25-75, DeLoach was asked if he could recall any conversations he may have had with President Johnson regarding the Kennedy assassination, beyond one in which President Johnson asked him to investigate the critics of the Warren Commission. Here is his response: "To the best of my recollection, Mr. Seidel, and I previously testified to this just a minute ago, the only other conversations I recall was when President Johnson called either Mr. Hoover or me, or it was Mr. Watson (Johnson's assistant) who called Mr. Hoover or me, and indicated that he wanted the FBI to issue a statement reflecting the findings of the FBI and the Warren Commission that it was Oswald and Oswald alone that committed the assassination. I think the Bureau files would reflect not only the call from the White House to either Mr. Hoover or me and will also reflect that a press release was written under Mr. Hoover's instruction and issued shortly thereafter in this connection."
While DeLoach insisted he couldn't recall the date of his or Hoover's conversation with Johnson or Watson, the 11-26-66 press release on Hoover's 11-23 letter to Epstein is the only press release in which FBI Director Hoover defended the findings of the Warren Commission. DeLoach had thereby revealed that this press release was written at President Johnson's request...er, command.
And that Hoover was displeased by this... As questioning continued, DeLoach revealed further that "I distinctly recall that Mr. Hoover, as he often did, was unhappy about the fact that the President of the United States was calling on the FBI to issue such a release. And while he had disagreements with the request, he buckled under and issued such a release." When then asked how he knew this, DeLoach replied "either Mr. Hoover told me this or Mr. Clyde Tolson, the Associate Director, who was my superior, told me this." He then continued "as I seem to recall, Mr. Hoover or Mr. Tolson or someone felt that we were being used and we had already submitted our findings and the FBI should not be used as a public sounding board in issuing such a release." He then clarified "The FBI had no dissatisfaction ...with the findings that Oswald and Oswald alone committed the assassination. But at the same time, our findings had been submitted some years previously and we felt that it was wrong for us to be used as a public relations sounding board at that time."
So...there it is. The Johnson Administration pressured J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI into publicly supporting the Warren Commission.
Well, if it would do as much to J. Edgar Hoover, it would have done as much to J. Thornton Boswell. Correct?
That Dr. Boswell's interviews contained deliberate disinformation, and came about as a result of a united effort to mislead the public about the location of Kennedy's back wound, finds support, moreover, in an unexpected place. By November 1966, when Boswell gave his interviews, Washington D.C. was humming with chatter on the upcoming release of William Manchester's The Death of a President, a book written at the request of the Kennedy family, for which Manchester had been granted unparalleled access to Kennedy's Secret Service detail. Much of this chatter, moreover, revolved around President Johnson's concern the book would make him look bad. (After finally giving in and reading the book, Jacqueline Kennedy came to agree that the book was indeed unfair to Johnson, and fought successfully for a number of edits.)
In any event, the book, when serialized in the 1-24-67 issue of Look Magazine, included the following description of the first shot's trajectory: "The President was wounded, but not fatally. A 6.5 millimeter bullet had entered the back of his neck, bruised his right lung, ripped his windpipe, and exited at his throat, nicking the knot of his tie." Now, from this, one might assume Manchester was simply regurgitating Dr. Humes' Warren Commission testimony. But there's more to this than at first meets the eye.
It then explains:
"In the summer of 1966, a former Cornell graduate student published a dissertation that suggested that this first bullet followed a different trajectory. The implication was that a second assassin had aided Oswald. The issue is resolved by the X-rays and photographs which were taken from every conceivable angle during the autopsy on the President's body. Robert Kennedy has decided that this material is too unsightly to be shown to anyone, including qualified scholars, until 1971. He has turned it over to the National Archives with that restriction. Although this writer has not seen the material, he interviewed three people with special qualifications who examined it before it was put under seal. None of them knew the other two, but all three gave identical accounts of what they had seen in the photographs and X-rays. The X-rays show no entry wound 'below the shoulder,' as argued by the graduate student. Admittedly, X-rays of active projectiles passing through soft tissue are difficult to read. However, the photographs support them in this case--and clearly reveal that the wound was in the neck. Finally, the recollections of all doctors present during the autopsy, including the President's personal physician, agree unanimously with this overwhelming evidence."
When published in book form, three months later, moreover, the words in bold above had been re-written. This paragraph was now just a footnote, and read:
"In the summer of 1966, a former Cornell graduate student published a book which suggested that this first bullet followed a different trajectory. The implication was that a second assassin had aided Oswald. The issue is resolved by the X-rays and photographs which were taken from every conceivable angle during the autopsy on the President's body. Because the material is unsightly it will be unavailable until 1971. However, the author has discussed it with three men who examined it before it was placed under seal. All three carried special professional qualifications. Each was a stranger to the other two. Nevertheless their accounts were identical. The X-rays show no entry wound 'below the shoulder,' as argued by the graduate student. Admittedly, X-rays of active projectiles passing through soft tissue are difficult to read. Yet, the photographs support them in this case--and reveal that the wound was in the neck. Finally, the recollections of all doctors present during the autopsy, including the President's personal physician, agree unanimously with this overwhelming evidence. Thus the account in the above text is correct."
Well, I'll be. Who were these three "professionals?" While one might at first assume they were three of the four members of Kennedy's autopsy team (the four being Humes, Boswell, Stringer, and Ebersole), who'd just inventoried the evidence for the archives, Manchester specifies both that the men conducting this examination were strangers to each other, and that they'd examined the evidence before it was returned to the government and placed under seal by the Kennedy family on October 31, 1966. He also lists no interviews with these men in the Sources sections of his book.
He does list a 7-11-66 interview with Dr. George Burkley, Kennedy's physician, however. This lends support that he spoke to Burkley on this issue, and that Burkley had, yes indeed, confirmed that the wound was on the neck, as reported. There's a HUGE problem with this, however. The death certificate for Kennedy made out by Burkley on 11-23-63 described the wound Manchester describes as a wound on the "back of his neck" as a wound "in the posterior back at about the level of the third thoracic vertebra." Back, not neck. And the third thoracic vertebra--not remotely on the neck.
So who could get to Burkley, and get him to mislead Manchester about the location of the back wound? Well, it seems a bit of a coincidence that Burkley was retained by President Johnson, and was Johnson's personal physician when Manchester asked him about the back wound. It's also quite intriguing that the only known inspection of the autopsy materials prior to their being placed "under seal" was on April 26, 1965, when they were inventoried upon transfer to the Kennedy family, and that this inventory was performed by Dr. Burkley, along with Robert Bouck, Special Agent in Charge of the Protective Research Division of the Secret Service, Edith Duncan, administrative assistant to Bouck, Secret Service agent Chester Miller, and, according to some sources, Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley.
And yet...not only were these people not strangers to each other, they, (with the possible exception of Dr. Burkley), failed to have the "special professional qualifications" described by Manchester.
This, then, leads to the uncomfortable possibility the "examination" cited by Manchester took place while the autopsy materials were in possession of the Kennedy family, and that three trusted "professionals," purported strangers to each other, lied to Manchester. If so, no word of this "examination" has ever surfaced.
If it even happened... Yes, it seems probable no examination of this type actually took place, and that Manchester was exaggerating both the precision of the examination he described, and the qualifications of those performing this examination.
This probability is supported by a letter published in The Manchester Affair, a book on the difficulties Manchester faced getting his book published. This letter was written by Manchester on 7-17-66, shortly after the publication of Edward Epstein's Inquest, the book by the "former Cornell graduate student"causing Manchester so much concern. This letter was written to Robert Kennedy, and brags: "Epstein's Inquest, a really poisonous job, needn't trouble us any longer. With the help of Dr. Burkley and Howard Willens I think I've knocked out what, at first reading, appears to be one strong point in Epstein's version." (The importance of this letter was first noted by Howard Roffman.)
As we've seen, in the Sources section of his book, Manchester lists an interview with Burkley on 7-11-66. Well, he also lists an interview with Willens on 7-8-66. These are the last of the hundreds of interviews listed in the Sources section. There is no record of him interviewing three men with "special professional qualifications" at any time this month. In fact, it had been months since Manchester had interviewed anyone prior to his interviews of Willens, and then Burkley. The probability exists then, that Burkley and Willens supplied Manchester with the identities of the three strangers with "special professional qualifications," mentioned by Manchester. Burkley, was, of course, a doctor. He saw the photos and X-rays. He was almost certainly one of the three "strangers."
But who were the other two?
A close look at Willens provides us an answer. Well, at least a possible answer. Willens had, of course, served as counsel for the Warren Commission, working as an assistant to General Counsel J. Lee Rankin. But what is little appreciated about Willens is that, unlike the rest of the lawyers working for the commission, Willens did not come to the Commission from outside Washington, but inside. He was a lawyer for the Justice Department, strategically placed within the Commission by acting Attorney General Katzenbach, supposedly to work as a liaison between the Commission and the Justice Department.
But his actual role went further, much further.
According to Epstein's Inquest, for which Willens was interviewed, Willens was responsible for selecting most of the junior counsel working for the Commission. While some of these men, the work-horses of the Commission, were recommended by others, at least two were Willens' personal picks--David Belin, an old school chum from the University of Michigan, and Arlen Specter, an old school chum from Yale, with whom he'd edited the Yale Law Journal. As Willens was also tasked with assigning these men their duties, it follows from Epstein's book that Willens was far and away the man most responsible for the strange circumstance that Arlen Specter, of all the lawyers in America, would end up being the chief investigator for the Commission on the specifics of the shooting, i.e. the man tasked with determining how many shots were fired, and from where they were fired.
Specter's 2000 autobiography, Passion for Truth, in fact, supports this analysis. There, Specter admits both that Willens offered him a job on the Commission and was involved in the discussions leading Specter to become the junior counsel investigating the actual shooting. Specter does clarify, however, that Willens and Rankin offered him his choice of areas to investigate, with the exception of Area 2, which looked into the identity of the assassin (because Specter was a well-known prosecutor), and Area 4, which looked into Oswald's possible connections to Russia and Cuba (because the senior counsel for this area was also from Philadelphia), and that Specter himself made the decision to investigate Area 1 after a discussion with his law partner, Marvin Katz.
There is a strange element in Specter's account, however. He describes the area of his investigation, Area 1, as President Kennedy's activities from the moment he left the White House en route to Texas until his return to the White House after the autopsy. Well, this hides from his readers that he was also ultimately responsible for establishing the facts surrounding the shooting--how many shots were fired, how fast they were fired, and where they hit--and that this led him to orchestrate the May 24, 1964 re-enactment of the shooting, take the testimony of the FBI and Secret Service agents involved in this re-enactment, and take the testimony of two representatives of the U.S. Military on July 24, 1964, in which they played word games in order to assure the Commission Oswald was capable of performing the shooting.
And that's not all that's discomforting about the Willens/Specter nexxus. Willens was also responsible for disseminating the thousands of FBI, CIA, and Secret Service Reports provided the Warren Commission to the lawyers responsible for the related areas of investigation. This put Willens, an employee of President Johnson's Justice Department, in the driver's seat of the Commission's investigation.
And this didn't go unnoticed. When interviewed for Inquest, Commissioner John McCloy let his distrust of Willens known. He told Epstein that Willens "was one of Katzenbach's boys. Katzenbach put him in there to keep us on the right track. There was already an independent investigator (Redlich) and there were some clashes. Willens was a bureaucrat and had a different perspective. Willens had to be reprimanded several times by the chief justice. Once he kept material from us--evidence-- he locked it in his top drawer, afraid we weren't ready for it. He wanted to be the star-- thought this case would make him. He is ambitious, and will probably write a book. We finally forced him to give us the evidence. He also reported to Katzenbach, gave him a different story."
And McCloy was not alone in his criticism of Willens. In his final interview, a March 26, 1974 interview with Warren Commission historian Alfred Goldberg, Chief Justice Warren acknowledged he'd had difficulties with Willens. In a section slated to be edited from the typed-up interview, but viewable on jfkassassinationfiles.com, Warren noted the difficulties General Counsel Rankin had in dealing with the FBI, CIA, and State Department. He then added: "There was another factor--the Department of Justice sent a young man over to the Commission to act as liaison with them. He was very critical of me from the time he came over to us. Lee Rankin as Chief Counsel was in a very delicate position."
And this wasn't the last time Willens' loyalty to the commission was called into doubt...by a supposed colleague. In 1975, a June 3, 1960 memo in which FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover warned the State Department that someone might be impersonating Oswald bubbled to the surface. A 2-23-75 article in the Sacramento Bee on this discovery notes that "Neither J. Lee Rankin, the former general counsel of the commission, nor any of his former staff aides who were most involved in investigating Oswald's background, said they could remember seeing it. However, Howard P. Willens, now a private lawyer here, identified himself in an interview Saturday as the commission lawyer who had reviewed the F.B.I. file. Willens, who was then the special liaison officer to the Justice Department, said that 'while I do not think that anyone can state now with the necessary precision whether or not he saw the Hoover memo, it is my best recollection that I did, in fact, see that memo. I do not want to be in a public debate with my old colleagues,' Willens said, 'but I know that there was discussion of this among others on the staff concerned with the activities of Oswald abroad. I am concerned with continued public references to the notion that the commission overlooked obvious facts."
Well, yeah, of course he was concerned. If he'd seen the memo, but no one else had, it meant that he, as the reviewer of the files tasked with making sure they reached the appropriate counsel, screwed up, OR made it disappear.
The article then quotes W. David Slawson, one of the 'old colleagues' Willens didn't want to debate: "'We were the rumor runner-downers, and we certainly should have seen this material, as we did a great deal of other stuff that we showed to be unfounded,' he said. 'It may be more significant that we did not see it, in terms of a possible cover-up and the reasons for it, than if we had seen it. I mean, I don't know where the imposter notion would have led us--perhaps nowhere, like a lot of other leads. But the point is, we didn't know about it. And why not?' Slawson said in an interview that the investigation should be reopened also 'because the interposition of an impostor, if it happened, is a political act. And, after all, this (the assassination) was not just another murder,' he said. 'It was, by definition, a political murder.'" (Slawson later clarified that his call for a new investigation of the assassination was a call for a new investigation limited to the actions of the FBI and CIA.)
There's also this. G. Robert Blakey, the Chief Counsel to the HSCA who would subsequently come to claim that, while mobsters were behind the assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots, told William F. Buckley in a 9-10-81 interview that Willens was a "good friend" of his, and that, as a consequence, he had been pre-disposed to accepting the findings of the Warren Commission.
So, yeah, Willens was right in the middle of it. He was clearly ambitious and close to Specter, and was quite possibly told by Specter that Specter and Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley had viewed the back wound photo on May 24, 1964, the day of the re-enactment in Dallas.
Perhaps, then, Willens told Manchester that they'd viewed the photo and that it confirmed for them that the wound was in the neck. Perhaps, then, Manchester either briefly talked to them himself, or made out like he had personally spoken to them, in order to sell what he wanted his readers to believe: that there was but one shooter, Oswald. (Note: while Willens has claimed, in an October 2013 email to yours truly, that he did not know of Specter's viewing the autopsy photo at the time of his discussion with Manchester, he also claimed to have no recollection of a 1966 discussion with Manchester, or ever discussing Kennedy's back wound with Manchester. So he's clearly forgotten something...)
In any event, I have come to suspect that Willens did discuss the back wound with Manchester and that this discussion did in fact lead Manchester to conclude the location of Kennedy's back wound was no longer an issue of concern. In March 2012, I contacted Wesleyan University, where Manchester's papers are stored. It had occurred to me that the restrictions placed on Manchester's many interviews applied only to interviews conducted between March 26, 1964 and April 15, 1966, and that his July 1966 interviews with Willens and Burkley were not covered. I asked an archivist if she could help me find the notes for these interviews. Alas, she told me that a thorough search through the archives' data base turned up no record for these interviews. Hmmm... This raises the possibility no notes were created, and that they weren't created because these "interviews" were little more than short phone calls in which Manchester asked, point blank, if the wound was on the back or the neck, and was told it was on the neck.
In August 2012, moreover, I found further reason to doubt Manchester's scholarship on this issue. While browsing through the Weisberg Archives, I came across a July 1967 article by Edward Epstein--the writer whom Manchester sought to discredit with his claim the back wound was on the neck--in Commentary Magazine. Incredibly, someone (almost certainly Richard Goodwin, who'd published a positive review of Epstein's book on 7-23-66, but who was nevertheless drafted by Robert Kennedy into serving as the Kennedy family's editor of Manchester's book over the tendentious months that followed) had provided Epstein an August 1966 version of Manchester's original draft, then entitled "The Death of Lancer." Included in this draft were many references to President Johnson's weakness and lack of character. It also included the earliest version of the footnote designed to discredit Epstein's book, written before the Kennedy family had released the photos and x-rays back into the hands of the Johnson Administration. It read:
"The issue is resolved by the X-rays and photographs which were taken from every conceivable angle during the autopsy on the President's body. This material is widely believed to be in the hands of the Secret Service. In fact, it is the property of Robert Kennedy, who decided that it was too unsightly to be shown to the public, or even to members of the Warren Commission staff. However, this writer is in a position to comment upon it. The X-rays show no entry wound "below the shoulder," as argued by the graduate student. Admittedly X-rays of active projectiles passing through soft tissue are difficult to read. However, the photographs support them in this case—and clearly reveal that the wound was in the neck."
Epstein then reveals that "When asked about this footnote by Richard N. Goodwin, who was then acting as a consultant on the book, Manchester let it be understood that he had personally studied both the X-rays and the photographs of the autopsy. Yet, as Goodwin later learned to his dismay, permission had never been granted Manchester to examine the photographs. When presented with this fact, Manchester admitted that he had actually never seen either the X-rays or photographs, but was reluctant to change the text which was then being rushed to publication by Look. Finally, under editorial pressure, he inserted a statement in the final version to the effect that he had not personally seen the autopsy pictures, but had discussed them with three men, each a stranger to the others, who carried "special professional qualification" and who had examined the evidence. Each gave, according to Manchester, accounts "identical" to the one he had reported in his August footnote."
While Epstein went on to suggest that these three unnamed strangers were not real, and were invented by Manchester to cover his tracks, it seems probable, based upon Manchester's interviews of Willens and Burkley, and subsequent letter to Robert Kennedy, that Manchester was merely trying to hide the identities of the men he'd spoken to, and had decided to let Goodwin think he'd personally viewed the autopsy materials. If this is so (that Willens and Burkley had only spoken to Manchester under the condition their identities not be made public, and Manchester had sought to hide their identities from Goodwin and others), well, then, this might explain why Manchester left behind no notes on his interviews with Willens and Burkley: he'd destroyed them.
The Real War
It seems clear, for that matter, that the pronouncements of Boswell and Manchester in an effort to shoot down Epstein were but mild skirmishes in a much wider and wilder war: one held not between the Johnson Administration and conspiracy theorists but between Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy.
October 3, 1966, October 6, 1966, and January 11, 1967 taped telephone conversations between Johnson and his Supreme Court appointee and confidante Abe Fortas reveal what Johnson's friend Connally meant when he said he suspected there were "political overtones" behind the books and articles criticizing the Warren Commission. These calls make clear, moreover, that Johnson himself was a conspiracy theorist of the highest order, and that he suspected Robert Kennedy (big surprise)--along with pollster Lou Harris, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Look Magazine, and forty one employees of The Kennedy Foundation--of conspiring against him at every turn. He proposed that Kennedy was somehow behind: 1) an attempt to tie Johnson to the crimes of convicted felon Billie Sol Estes in 1962; 2) the public exposure of corruption and the subsequent loss of power of Johnson crony Bobby Baker in 1963; 3) the public disgrace and resignation of Johnson aide Walter Jenkins in 1964; 4) the current attacks on the Warren Commission; 5) the concurrent creation of "great doubt" about whether he, Johnson, "really killed the President;" 6) the forthcoming resignation of Johnson aide Bill Moyers; 7) the forthcoming release of William Manchester's The Death of a President in 1967, while Johnson was still in office, and 8) the recent exposure of corruption and the subsequent loss of power of both Democratic Congressman Adam Clayton Powell of New York and Democratic Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut. Apparently, Johnson felt "Bobby" was out to get him from even before the assassination, and was trying to undermine the legitimacy of his presidency, so that he ("Bobby") could retake the presidency in his brother's name.
Now, with that understanding, we can view a few other incidents as aspects of this hidden war.
First, in the eyes of Johnson, what was "Bobby's" response to Boswell's claim the autopsy photos proved the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings, and supported the Warren Commission's conclusions?
On 11-27-66, during a televised appearance on Face the Nation, former Warren Commissioner Hale Boggs offered up a solution to the problems raised by the recent books and articles. When asked if there should be a new investigation, Boggs, according the next day's New York Times, replied "If the objective of the investigation is to pursue new evidence, that is one thing. If the objective is to answer some of the things that have been raised up to the present, I would say that I would have grave questions about it--except for the autopsy or x-rays. The only thing that I have seen that has been presented in all these books, essays, speeches, comments, has been the fact that the commission did not look at the x-rays of the President's body at the autopsy...Of course, the members of the commission themselves are not doctors. Looking at them, just looking at x-rays, would not prove anything for me. I don't know how to read medical x-rays. We brought before the commission the man who performed the autopsy. We examined him in great detail. Now, if it would please anyone, if it would help to clarify any doubts that may exist in the minds of objective people, then I would say that if the Attorney General or some appropriate authority wants to appoint a totally objective group--of doctors and others--to look into these x-rays, maybe it should be done. But I would try to disassociate myself from those who are making these comments for gain, for notoriety, for profit, rather than those who have legitimate suspicions in their minds."
So what was the Johnson response to Boggs' (and presumably Bobby's) reasonable proposal? A thinly-veiled threat. A 12-5-66 column by Drew Pearson, Washington D.C.'s most influential muckraker, was devoted to the proposition that much of the secrecy surrounding President Kennedy's autopsy was the fault not of the Johnson Administration, but the Kennedy family, which sought to hide President Kennedy's Addison's disease from the public. This column, built around an article in a German publication, repeated and proposed a number of cruel lies, including "that the Kennedys hid the X rays, even from the Warren Commission," because the "X rays could have revealed the Addison's disease."The truth, of course, was that the x-rays were controlled by the Secret Service at Johnson's beck and call, and that Robert Kennedy had had nothing to do with keeping the x-rays from the Warren Commission. It seems likely, then, that this article was a warning shot to Robert Kennedy--"don't mess with Johnson's legacy--the Warren Commission--unless you want your brother's reputation to take a beating."
(Pearson, it should be noted, often worked as a hatchet-man for Johnson. In his oral history interview for the Johnson Library he admitted that he was scheduled to meet with Johnson at Johnson's ranch on the night of the assassination. About what it is not clear. But it seems more than a coincidence that within weeks of the assassination Pearson published a blistering attack on Don Reynolds, the insurance salesman who'd testified before congress on 11-22-63 regarding Johnson's corrupt business practices...)
And that's not remotely as fishy as what was soon to come. On March 1, 1967, after a months-long investigation performed by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's office, in which Garrison suggested President Johnson's involvement in the murder of President Kennedy, local business leader Clay Shaw was arrested as a conspirator in the murder of President Kennedy. This cast a dark shadow over the Johnson Administration. The next day, Robert Kennedy made a speech in which he implored President Johnson to stop bombing North Vietnam and give peace a chance. This cast an even darker shadow. That afternoon, a disgusted President Johnson called up men such as Senator Richard Russell, Senator Scoop Jackson, House Majority Leader Carl Albert, National Security Advisor Walt Rostow, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk to complain about Kennedy's speech, and to ask them to help get the message out that he'd tried a bombing halt, but it hadn't worked. Still later that night, President Johnson received a phone call from Texas Governor John Connally, of all people, who had heard a story going round that President Kennedy was killed by Cubans who'd been turned against him by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, as a response to Robert Kennedy's attempts at killing Castro. Johnson told Connally he'd already heard about this from Drew Pearson, and that there was almost certainly nothing to it.
But then on March 3, 1967, the very next day, Pearson and his colleague Jack Anderson published a column regarding a story they'd known about for months, and had personally discussed with President Johnson on January 16. Its opening line read: "President Johnson is sitting on a political H-bomb, an unconfirmed report that Senator Robert Kennedy may have approved an assassination plot which then possibly backfired against his late brother." Yep, you got it. In December 1966, just after Life Magazine, the New York Times, and Kennedy family friend Arthur Schlesinger called for a new investigation of the Kennedy assassination, Pearson published a column blaming the Kennedy family for the secrecy regarding President Kennedy's autopsy, and then, in March 1967, just after Robert Kennedy started criticizing Johnson's policy regarding Vietnam, Pearson published a column blaming Robert Kennedy for his brother's murder.
And I'm not the first to suspect Johnson was behind all this. Nope. Not at all. A 6-20-77 column by Pearson's colleague and successor, Jack Anderson, found in the Spokane Daily Chronicle, reveals that "Former aides of the late Robert Kennedy have now confided that he was furious over our (March 3, 1967) column. It was published at a time of strained relations between Kennedy and then-President Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy thought Johnson had leaked the story to us."
It's a lot to chew on, I admit. And there's more to chew on than I'd originally believed. In 2013, Philip Shenon published his book on the Warren Commission, A Cruel and Shocking Act. Although his book dealt primarily with the 1964 investigation of Kennedy's assassination, Shenon shined a light on this point as well. While reading Pearson's unpublished diaries (strangely stored at the LBJ Library), Shenon discovered both that Pearson was unhappy with the March 3, 1967 story as published and that the decision to publish the story was not made by Pearson, but by his younger colleague, Anderson, who was fearful the story was about to be outed by Jim Garrison, and that he and Pearson would thereby lose their scoop.
So why didn't Pearson make the decision, you might ask? Well, get this, he was out of the country, in South America, traveling across the Andes with Chief Justice Earl Warren. And what was Warren doing in South America, you might ask? Well, isn't it obvious? He was on an official visit promoting America in general and the conclusions of the Warren Commission in particular.
You know, the way Chief Justices of the United States always do...
Justice is Served
The November '66 Boswell interviews were, for that matter, not the last time the autopsy doctors talked to the news media and deliberately misrepresented the back wound location.
On January 20, 1967, the Justice Department asked the doctors to re-examine the autopsy photos. For this inspection, Dr. Finck was rushed back from Viet Nam.
The urgency of this review, moreover, appears to have been linked to an upcoming CBS News program re-investigating the assassination.
That CBS’ over-all conclusions were pre-determined and were designed to re-sell the Warren Report to the American people (CBS had run a special supporting the Warren Report when it was first released) is suggested, moreover, by a January 11, 1967 memorandum from Les Midgley, Executive Producer of the upcoming program, to former Warren Commissioner John McCloy. There, Midgley cites a need for “a statement—if possible—from Humes, Boswell and Finck that examination of the x-rays and color pictures does not change their findings, and we certainly would appreciate your assistance in obtaining same.” This memo, for that matter, may have been written in response to a 1-14-67 Saturday Evening Post article already on the street claiming “no single element of the commission’s version of the assassination is more suspect than the official account of the President’s autopsy.”
In any event, the memo appears to have reaped some rapid rewards. According to McCloy’s biographer, Kai Bird, McCloy traveled to Washington THAT VERY SAME DAY and met privately with a number of top government officials including Secretaries of State, Defense, and Treasury, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, and Henry Fowler. That Archivist Robert Bahmer wrote researcher Harold Weisberg on 1-16-67 and told him that no examinations of the autopsy photos and x-rays were pending, and that Dr. Finck received a phone call on 1-17-67--the VERY NEXT DAY--telling him to come to Washington and conduct the examination proposed by Midgley but 6 days before, then, suggests that McCloy, who had been advising CBS News President Richard Salant on the creation of their upcoming program since early December, and whose daughter was Salant’s assistant, may have talked to someone in the Justice Department as well.
That Midgley’s memo also mentions his hopes of obtaining Dr. Humes’ help in resolving “forever the discussion about back versus neck wound,” and that Humes not only made an appearance on the program, but flat-out lied about the “back versus neck wound” to Dan Rather, is suggestive as well that McCloy’s visit may have been not only the impetus for the doctors' January review of the autopsy materials, but the determinant of their written conclusions.
Something is just wrong. When one looks at the report of the so-called “military review,” dated January 26, 1967, one can see that the photographs were not merely cataloged by the doctors, but re-interpreted to show that they did indeed confirm the findings of the Warren Commission. One of the autopsy photos determined to have been taken from behind Kennedy on the November inventory list was now determined to have been taken from in front of Kennedy. And that's not the worst of it. Amazingly, the photos determined on November 1, 1966 to represent a wound in the “right superior posterior shoulder” were now described as representing a wound “low in the back of the neck.” Even worse, the report asserts that the original autopsy reports’ description of this same wound as residing in “the upper right posterior thorax,” meant that, in layman terms, it was low in the back of the neck.Since the thorax ends when it reaches neck, this would be the same as saying that Governor Connally’s wrist wound was in layman’s terms a hand wound, or that the City of Las Vegas is, in layman’s terms, in California. No doctor would make this mistake. The report goes on to say “No one photograph shows both the wound at the back of the neck and the wound in the throat, but by comparing Photographs 11, 12, 38, and 39 with the side views shown in photographs 1-4, inclusive, it is clear that Warren Commission Exhibits 385 and 386, which also depict the location of the neck wound, are accurate.”
Dr. Humes told this same tale on CBS six months later.
Well, this goes too far. There is no way one can say that CE 385 and CE 386 are accurate, as they portray a bullet hole at the base of the neck, inches above and to the right of the wound on the autopsy photo. In fact, since the Dox drawing of the back wound taken directly from the autopsy photos was published by the HSCA, one can state unequivocally that this is a damned lie. Not one defender of the Warren Report will defend this statement.
Is it simply a coincidence then that the doctors claimed to have no memory of this report when asked about it by the ARRB?
Owing to their suspicious memory loss, and the suspicious change of the description of the autopsy photos, and the outright lie that the photos confirmed the accuracy of CE 385 and 386, I believe it’s logical to conclude this report was created for political purposes...and that the doctors were forced to sign their names to it.
Dr. Finck’s notes on his urgent trip to Washington support this contention. There, he refers to the wound described in the report as a “neck wound” as simply “Entry, back.” There, rather than describe in detail the process by which the doctors composed their report, he declares that a “statement had been prepared by the Justice Department. We signed the statement.”
Call me overly sensitive if you like, but the rank odor rising from this review only adds to the rankness of Earl Warren’s earlier decision not to allow an inspection of the autopsy photos, after telling General Counsel Rankin it would be fine. Something was rotten in Washington.
A 1-21-67 phone call from Attorney General Ramsey Clark to President Johnson supports that something was rotten, and that the autopsists were pressured into changing their interpretation of the wounds for this report. The tapes of this phone call, as transcribed by Warren Commission defender Max Holland, reveal that Clark told Johnson that the doctors “feel their professional reputations are at stake" and that "they’re so reticent about signin’ anything, that it’s fairly difficult to work with ‘em.”
Well, reticence implies resistance, does it not? What were they resisting? On January 26, 1967, Clark adds more fuel to this fire by telling Johnson “we have the three pathologists and the photographer signed up now on the autopsy review.” When used in this context, the words “signed up now” would indicate the doctors were under pressure to go along with something, would it not? And why, after the doctors had inspected the photos on the night of January 20th and had stayed in the archives till midnight preparing a “statement comparing the illustrations with our autopsy report,” according to Dr. Finck’s notes, did it take Clark almost another week to get them to sign a 5 page report “prepared by the Justice Department?” Was the doctors' original statement re-written by the Justice Department? What was in this re-written report that made the doctors so reticent? And what if anything, changed their minds? Could the doctors have been given direct orders to cooperate? And if the doctors had came to their conclusions purely on their own, why couldn’t they remember their decisions years later or stand by them?
Intriguingly, Johnson is reported to have contemplated re-opening the investigation at this time. This was but a few months after Johnson had asked the FBI to figure out the Soviet Union's position on the assassination--and if it was responsible for the widespread criticism of the Warren Report--only to be told that the Soviets had long believed Kennedy was killed by the "ultraright," but had recently concluded Johnson himself was "responsible." This was within days, moreover, of Johnson's finding out about the CIA's assassination plots against Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and the possibility these plots had backfired, and had led to the bloodshed in Dallas.
While Johnson is purported to have decided that such an investigation was not in the best interests of the nation--or for the Kennedy family--there is reason to doubt this was true. As we've seen, Johnson thought Robert Kennedy was out to destroy him, and was out to destroy him in turn. This, then, undercuts any notion that Johnson was protecting the Kennedys. One can only wonder then if the problems with the doctors and autopsy photos was a bigger factor in his decision not to re-open the case.
As for Clark, I have been unable to find a single reference by him to the January 1967 review of the autopsy photos and x-rays, subsequent to his conversations with Johnson. In his 1978 interview with the HSCA’s Andy Purdy, he said the 1968 Clark Panel was formed after the autopsy photos and x-rays became available and after Finck, Boswell, Humes and Ebersole’s review proved inadequate. (Inadequate at what, one wonders—shutting down the critics?) Anyhow, this statement is confusing on its face because it makes it sound like there was but one review and that these four men worked together on this review, when, in fact, Ebersole was only involved in the 1966 inspection and Finck was only involved in the 1967 inspection.
A 1998 interview with researcher James Douglass proved equally unsatisfying. Here, Clark told Douglass of obtaining the materials and calling in the doctors to make their initial inspection and then jumped to the creation of the Clark Panel in 1968. Either Clark had forgotten there were two separate reviews in 66 and 67 or he found discussion of the second review uncomfortable.
As for McCloy, his motivation for helping CBS debunk the conspiracy theorists and defend his work with the Warren Commission seems obvious. In a mid-70's letter to Warren Commission counsel David Belin, quoted in an 11-20-88 New York Times piece by Belin, McCloy complained: “I never cease to be amazed at the willingness of so much of the public to accept the statements of the charlatans and sensationalists rather than the facts and the record.” He then recalled the political climate in the mid-sixties: “It was actually thought 'liberal' to be convinced that President Kennedy had been shot as a result of a conspiracy by a group of Texas millionaires or chauvinists and that it was quite 'illiberal' to think that he has been assassinated solely by a little 'punk' who perhaps had some communistic leanings.”
How far McCloy was willing to go while assisting CBS in their quest to re-assert “the facts and the record” is made clear, moreover, by contrasting his video-taped response on the CBS program against his private correspondence with Belin years later. On the CBS special he said “It was our own choice that we didn’t subpoena the photographs, which were then in the hands of the Kennedy family.” (This was not true; throughout the entire duration of the Warren Commission the autopsy photos were in the sole possession of the Secret Service. The Kennedy family and the Justice Department not only didn’t control them, they never even saw them.) He then proclaimed “Mr. Justice Warren was talking to the Kennedy family about that at that time. I thought he was really going to see them, but it turned out that he hadn’t.”
Now compare this to McCloy’s mid-70's letter to Belin: “I agree wholeheartedly with your criticism of the Commission itself for failure to demand the original x-rays and photographs. I agreed to having the Chief Justice’s viewing them alone if he would do so and I understand he was to do this.The argument against their being viewed by the commission as part of the record was that the X-rays and photographs of the President's body did not in themselves carry as much weight as the interpretation of them by the experts. This together with what I thought to be the oversensitivity of the Chief Justice to the attitude of the family, resulted in a good bit of just criticism of the commission which in my judgment could have been avoided...” Notice that he doesn’t say “I mistakenly believed he would do this” or “he led me to believe he would do this.” No, McCloy says that he agreed to let Warren inspect them alone and that it was his understanding that Warren did indeed inspect them alone. This, then, suggests that he knew Warren had seen the photos, and this, in turn, suggests he'd lied to CBS and the world when he said that Warren had not.
Note also that, according to Belin, this letter was written in the mid-70's. On 9-21-78 (the late '70's), McCloy testified before the HSCA, and admitted: "I think we were a little lax in the Commission in connection with the use of those X-rays. I was rather critical of Justice Warren at that time. I thought he was a little too sensitive of the sensibilities of the family. He didn't want to have put into the record some of the photographs and some of the X-rays taken at the time. We took the testimony of course, of the doctors and probably with the X-rays--we wouldn't have been able to read the X-rays if we hadn't had the doctors' testimony." Note that he failed to mention Warren's looking at the photos and x-rays all by his lonesome, and the ridiculousness of Warren's not allowing the doctors who'd created these materials to inspect the photos and x-rays to verify the accuracy of their testimony. I mean, if Warren could look at the autopsy materials without putting them into the record--why the hell couldn't the men who'd actually created the materials, who'd seen Kennedy's body with their own eyes?
There's yet another intriguing aspect to McCloy's letter to Belin... The sentence in bold appears in the version of McCloy's letter published in Belin's November, 1988 book Full Disclosure, but was edited out of Belin's 11-20-88 article in the New York Times. Now, this could have been done for a number of reasons--perhaps Belin was trying to conceal that Warren had seen the photos...11 years after the publication of Warren's autobiography in which he admitted seeing the photos. I mean, it is a bit suspicious that Belin, in a book entitled Final Disclosure, failed to disclose that both one of his closest associates on the commission's staff, Arlen Specter, and Chief Justice Warren himself, had viewed the back wound photo, and had failed to warn the commission that, oh yeah, the drawings they'd requested, and then entered into evidence, were seriously deceptive. It seems possible, then, that, subsequent to his publishing McCloy's letter in his book, Belin had decided to keep mum on this issue.
He may have done so at McCloy's request, for that matter. McCloy was 93 at the time of Belin's article. He would die early the next year... Perhaps he or someone close to him had given Belin a call...
If Belin was lying about this, years after the cat was already out of the bag, moreover, he was far from alone. Four years later, in a 3-9-82 article defending the Warren Commission published in The Nation, Belin's co-counsel J. Wesley Liebeler claimed the Commission didn't have access to the autopsy photos and x-rays because "Warren didn't want to press Bobby Kennedy, who controlled them, for their release." He then complained "Without these materials the autopsy surgeons described to the commission their recollection of the wounds, and their medical artist drew the diagrams showing the entrance wounds in the wrong place." Well, this concealed that 1) Specter and Warren had long-since admitted they'd viewed the back wound photo, 2) Warren had admitted to also viewing the head wound photos, 3) that neither of them had ever noted the entrance wounds being in the wrong place, and 4), the autopsy surgeons had had access to their measurements as well as their recollections when instructing their medical artist on the creation of the "diagrams" used by the commission. In short, then, Liebeler had provided an "innocent" excuse where there actually was none. He was either lying, or woefully misinformed. Take your pick.
On 11-16-13, furthermore, I received yet another indication McCloy (and Belin, and Liebeler) were liars. When discussing Warren's viewing of the autopsy materials, former Warren Commission Counsel Howard Willens told me that "I do have the specific recollection, which might be reflected in my journal, that the Chief Justice had the materials brought to his chambers at the Court and looked at them in the presence of the custodian." Well, if Willens was in the loop and knew Warren had viewed the materials, wouldn't McCloy have been privy as well?
In any event, it seems likely McCloy lied when he told CBS Warren had not seen the photos. Well, why would he have done this? To protect Warren? Well, if he was willing to lie to protect Warren on such a minor matter then what reason do we have to believe anything he had to say?
(If McCloy was flat-out lying to the country in 1967, when he indicated Warren had not viewed the autopsy photos, moreover, it appears that he was not the only former commissioner telling fabrications at the time. 1967 also saw the release of the LP record The Controversy, a roughly hour-long program on the assassination. Former Commissioner (and future president) Congressman Gerald Ford was interviewed for this LP. Here is his defense of the commission for its failure to view the autopsy materials: "The seven members of the Warren Commission are laymen. We are not medical men. Therefore, we were not qualified to take an x-ray, look at it and analyze it. and come to any sound conclusion...We did the best thing, in my judgment. We got the technically-trained people to come and testify under oath as to their opinion on what the x-rays and photographs meant." Wait! What? Ford would have to have known the commission forbade the "technically-trained people" from reviewing the x-rays and autopsy photos before their testimony, and his statements on this LP reek of a deliberate deception.)
And what about CBS? Since when do news divisions tell members of government commissions what types of reports will help shut down political rumors? And since when do they ask that such reports then be created? I mean, isn’t that crossing a line between reporting the news and orchestrating the news? And why did CBS consider it their job to shut down rumors anyhow?
Perhaps as an acknowledgement that his behavior was not quite kosher, Les Midgley fails to mention McCloy’s “help” on the special in a book he co-wrote about the special entitled "Should We Now Believe The Warren Report?" He also fails to mention it in his memoirs, entitled "How Many Words Do You Want?" (Clearly, Midgley was fan of using questions as titles.) While in this latter work Midgley does mention McCloy's appearance on the program, he downplays McCloy’s crucial role, and even says “McCloy was doubtful about participation, although he did, in the end, agree.” Throughout both books, for that matter, Midgley staunchly defends his program: “the avid critics and attackers thrive in a mental climate such that most of them undoubtedly believe CBS, its News Division, and its staff to be part of a vast conspiracy to conceal the “facts” about the assassination…They are wrong but nothing can be done about it…The people who wrote, filmed, produced, and appeared on these broadcasts would have been the happiest journalists of this or almost any other century if they could have come up with a sensational “solution” to the Kennedy murder…But it didn’t happen.”
Well, never mind believing the Warren Report. Based upon what we now know of Midgley’s behind the scenes dealings with McCloy, should we remotely believe him? I’m undecided. Since Midgley’s memoirs were written when he was in his seventies, it’s possible he left out his indiscreet contact with McCloy for the same reasons he said that Connally was riding beside Kennedy at the time of the assassination and the magic bullet was found on the floor of the limousine…perhaps he was simply an old man who could no longer remember the facts.
On the other hand, it seems a bit of a coincidence that Associated Press writers Sid Moody and Bernard Gavzer conducted a seven-month long investigation into the issues raised by critics such as Epstein, Lane, and Weisberg, and published their series the same week as the CBS telecasts, with nearly identical conclusions!
This coincidence becomes even more intriguing, moreover, when one realizes that Moody and Gavzer were granted interviews with 11 of the 15 Warren Commission counsel and 4 of the 10 staff for their investigation. Many of these men had spoken to Edward Epstein for his book Inquest, and had been embarrassed when Epstein used their words to expose the limitations of the commission's investigation. As one should have real doubts these men would turn around and allow such access to an investigation whose outcome was uncertain, one might reasonably conclude then that the AP's investigation was designed as a Warren Commission defense from the beginning.
Perhaps it was even coordinated with CBS through the “Justice Department.”
Incredible? Read on.
Eye on CBS
On May 27, 1967, Acting Assistant Attorney General Carl Eardley wrote a letter to Dr. James J. Humes telling him that CBS News had requested permission to interview him for a television special and that the attorney general had no objection to his appearance. As Dr. Humes was under an order of silence from the military since the day of the autopsy, and as the White House renewed this directive right before the Warren Report was published, Dr. Humes could only speak to CBS News by permission. Two days later, Cliff Sessions, the Director of Public Information, wrote a memo to Eardley which included talking points for Humes to follow when questioned by Dan Rather on this special. Humes, to his credit, gave this memo, complete with talking points, to the ARRB.
Among the talking points provided Humes was that one bullet “entered the back of the neck and exited through the throat,” that the autopsy face sheet depicted this wound lower than it really was, and that“the location of the wound was accurately described in a notation on the margin of the drawing.” It ended by stating that Humes had “thoroughly examined” the photographs and x-rays at the National Archives and that they supported in “every detail” the “autopsy findings which were reported to the Warren Commission.”
Soon thereafter came the time for Capt. Humes' close-up.
Here he is, in a taped interview first broadcast June 26, 1967. (Note that he's in his full Navy ensemble, even though he worked in civilian clothing. And if you think that's because he so loved the Navy, well, think again. Within weeks he would retire--at the grand old age of 42.)
While it's not entirely clear that the Justice Department’s providing Humes with a script was intended to communicate that he should not waver from this script, it is entirely clear that he followed the script provided. When asked about the locations of Kennedy’s wounds by Rather, Humes described the back wound as “in the base of the neck on the right.” When Rather followed up by asking about the conflicting locations of the back wound on the autopsy face sheet and Rydberg drawing CE 385, Dr. Humes inspected CE 385 and contended that the face sheet was never meant to be precise but that “the second drawing which you have mentioned (CE 385) was prepared as we were preparing to testify before the Warren Commission, to rather schematically and as accurately as we possibly could, depict the story for the members of the Warren Commission... We were trying to be precise and referred back to our measurements made in the margins of the other drawing….since this time we have had opportunity to review the photographs which we made at that time. And these photographs show very clearly that the wound was exactly where we stated it to be in our testimony before the Warren Commission, and as it is shown in this drawing.” Rather then re-asked:“Your re-examination of the photographs verify that the wounds are as shown here?” To which Humes replied “Yes sir, they do.”
This was simply not true. Humes was not only being deceptive about the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings, but about the inaccuracy of the face sheet. He told Rather "we feel that the measurements which are noted here at the margins of the drawing are the precise measurements we took...we drew two lines, points of reference-from bony points of reference...the wound was fourteen centimeters from the tip of the right acromion, and fourteen centimeters below the tip of the right mastoid. Now the acromion is the extreme outermost portion of the shoulder. The tip of the mastoid is the bony prominence just behind the ear. And where these two lines intersect was, in actuality, where this wound was situated. And if we would try and draw that to scale, which we weren’t trying to do as this mark was made, this, I think, would appear a little bit higher."
Here, moreover, is where Humes pointed as he said this.
As demonstrated earlier in this chapter, Humes was telling the truth in this instance. The back wound location on the face sheet had been marked in accordance with the measurements. Even so, the talking points provided Humes by the Justice Department had dismissed the accuracy of the face sheet by stating, simply, that "this free hand drawing shows the wound to be lower than it was." Note that Humes, in his response to Rather, had, in keeping with his instructions, said "I think" that the proper location of the wound on the sheet would be but a "little bit higher." But note the way he hedges his statement..."a little bit." This suggests then that Humes knew full well that the mark on the face sheet was a relatively accurate depiction of the measurements. And this suggests as well that Humes was lying when he subsequently supported the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings, which showed the wound he knew to have been on the back (at the level of the acromion) about two inches higher, at the base of the neck (and two inches or so above the acromion).
If Humes had been following--or trying to follow--a script presented to him by the Justice Department, moreover, he may not have been the only one. In its 6-27-67 article on Humes' interview with CBS, the New York Times made a curious mistake that suggests the possibility they'd been provided a script of what Humes was supposed to say, and had incorrectly quoted it as what he'd actually said on the program. When dispensing with the problems raised by the face sheet, the Times reported: "Captain Humes said the diagram was a prepared outline 'routinely used to mark in general where certain marks or scars or wounds may be in conducting a post-mortem examination.' He said 'it was never meant to be accurate or precisely to scale.'" Well, so far, so good. True or not, the Times was reporting what Humes actually said on the program. But then something strange occurred. The Times continued: "If the wound had been as low as the diagram mark, Captain Humes said. 'this missile would have to have had penetrated the shoulder blade of the President, which it did not.' Instead, he said, 'the missile was above the shoulder blade, and struck no bony structures whatsoever.' 'The X-rays show that it did not,' he said."
Well, geez...this is weird. As far as I can tell, Humes NEVER actually said such a thing. Not in videos of the interview available on youtube... Not in the transcript of the interview sent Harold Weisberg in 1967... Not even in the transcript published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992... Humes said the autopsy photos confirmed the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings--which was totally untrue and subsequently refuted by the HSCA's exhibits--but never said the x-rays showed that the bullet struck no bony structures--which was equally untrue and subsequently refuted by the HSCA's exhibits. Now, it was something he MIGHT have said--he had, after all, said something quite similar to the Warren Commission--but it's something he did not say, at least not in the interview as broadcast and transcribed.
So how did the Times come to make such a mistake? It's hard to believe they'd just make up some quotes, particularly when the interview from which these quotes had supposedly been taken had been broadcast just the night before. Well, this leads me to suspect that the anonymous writer of the article had made an embarrassing mistake, and had either: 1) been shown a more extensive interview than that shown the public, and incorrectly assumed the segment on the x-rays was going to be broadcast; or 2) been given a transcript of what Humes was supposed to say, and failed to realize he'd failed to say these things in the interview as broadcast. That this wasn't just a typo is supported, moreover, by the curious coincidence that this misquote of Humes about the x-rays was not only reported in the body of the article...but was the LEAD. That's right. The article began "The chief surgeon at the autopsy of President Kennedy says that X-rays prove an assassin's bullet that hit the President 'in the base of the neck did not strike any bony structures.' He says this refutes challenges to the Warren Report suggesting a lower location for the wound." Well, my God... Humes never even discussed the X-rays in the broadcast. OOPS!
There is yet another reason to suspect Humes lied to Rather and CBS, and that this lie was orchestrated by the Justice Department. And that's that Humes wasn't the only one misrepresenting the back wound location on the program. Yep. While Humes was the only member of the autopsy team to comment on the autopsy photos in the program, he was not the only person to have seen an autopsy photo to misrepresent the location of the back wound in CBS' 4-part special. The other person was--you guessed it--Arlen Specter, the man most responsible for the development of the single-bullet theory. Specter, whose viewing of the back wound photo in 1964 had been discussed at least three times (anonymously in the 8-28-66 Philadelphia Bulletin, but by name in the 10-10-66 U.S. News & World Report and 1-14-67 Saturday Evening Post) within a year of his appearance on the program, had, we should remember, been hired for his job with the commission by Howard Willens, the Justice Department's point man on the commission.
So what did Specter say? Well, while discussing the President's wounds with--you guessed it--Dan Rather, Specter twice referred to the back wound as a "wound on the President's neck." Now, some might say "Ugggh, it was a wound on his neck, stupid--did you forget that the bullet supposedly exited from the throat?" and want to give Specter a break on this, I firmly believe such a break is unjustified, as people--at least the people I know--just don't speak in that manner. I mean, no one I know would describe a bullet entering the back and exiting the throat as a bullet "inflicting" a "wound on the President's neck." And I assume your friends are no different.
And it's not as if Dr. Humes' interview with Rather was the last time the autopsy doctors misrepresented the back wound location...under pressure from the "Justice" Department.
Above: Attorney General Ramsey Clark, President of the United States Lyndon Johnson, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover share their thoughts on the latest issues. Note the dynamic between the three men. Clark was supposedly Hoover's boss. Not hardly.
During the January, 1969 trial of Clay Shaw, the subject matter of the film JFK, it became Dr. Finck’s turn to fudge the facts. Although Dr. Finck's testimony on behalf of Shaw had been orchestrated by the Justice Department, and was intended to convince the jury that the medical evidence pointed towards Oswald acting alone, Finck’s strange demeanor and surprising answers confused almost everyone. At one point, in fact, he was doing so badly that Carl Eardley rushed Dr. Boswell down as a possible replacement. In any event, in his testimony, Dr. Finck described Kennedy's back wound as a wound on the “back of the neck” not once but 33 times. This was suspicious, particularly in that in his testimony before the Warren Commission, his military reports to his superiors, and an article he'd written for Military Surgeon magazine, he had never once described the wound in such a manner, and had instead described it as being in the “upper back” or in the “right upper region of the posterior thorax.” In fact, as far as can be determined, he has never claimed it was on the “back of the neck” before or since his testimony in the Shaw trial. During his testimony before the HSCA, for example, he said the wound was on the “upper back/lower neck” 5 times, even though he had not seen the photos in the intervening years, and had no reason to add in the “upper back” outside a desire to be accurate.
So...yeah, it seems clear someone briefed Finck before his testimony, and instructed him to say the wound he'd previously claimed was on Kennedy's back was instead on the back of his neck. As a military report Finck filed on his participation in the Shaw trial discloses that he had a meeting with Acting Assistant Attorney General Carl Eardley shortly before his testimony, we may even know the name of this person.
It seems obvious then that the doctors were under intense pressure from the Justice Department when they publicly misrepresented the location of the back wound. While this may seem an argument for a vast government conspiracy, it is undoubtedly possible those putting the pressure on the doctors felt they were merely defending the government’s line against its critics, and not protecting any possible conspirators. As for Carl Eardley, who supervised the doctors’ re-inspection of the photos in January, 1967, and presumably saw the photos himself, it would have only been fair for him to have been asked on national television, with the eyes of the nation upon him, where the neck ends and the back begins, and whether the wound in question on the autopsy photos was on the neck or on the back.
The Incredible Shrinking President
Scarcely a year after the military review, however, it was determined that yet another examination was needed, this time without the input of those present at the autopsy. While the inspiration for this new panel purportedly came from Dr.s Boswell and Humes, who, according to a 1-26-68 letter written by Boswell to the Justice Department, wished for a second opinion, Dr. Boswell’s testimony before the ARRB reflects that he wrote this letter only after Carl Eardley “called me out of the blue…and said they thought it was a good idea to have an independent panel…now I had been talking about this with perhaps him and other people…And whether Carl suggested it or whether I convinced him, I’m not sure. But, anyway, he was willing to accept the letter, which he essentially described to me what they wanted, and I wrote it.”
He "described to me what they wanted"? Hmm... This should make one suspect Boswell’s letter was but window dressing to disguise the fact that someone in the government, possibly even the President himself, wanted a new panel formed.
Here, then, is "Boswell's" letter:
"As you are aware, the autopsy findings in the case of the late President John F. Kennedy, including x-rays and photographs, have been the subject of continuing controversy and speculation. Dr. Humes and I, as the Pathologists concerned, have felt for some time that an impartial board of experts including pathologists and radiologists should examine the available material.
If such a board were to be nominated in an attempt to resolve many of the allegations concerning the autopsy report, it might wish to question the autopsy participants before more time elapses and memory fades; therefore, it would be my hope that such a board would be convened at an early date. Dr. Humes and I would make ourselves available at the request of such a board.
I hope that this letter will not be considered presumptuous, but this
matter is of great concern to us, and I believe to the country as
Your attention to this matter will be greatly appreciated."
Now, the substance of this letter gives no indication who was ultimately behind this letter.
It's helpful, then, that Johnson's Attorney General Ramsey Clark later accepted credit for the panel’s creation, telling an HSCA investigator that he felt the earlier examination by the doctors was “inadequate,” and that this had led him to create a new panel.
Clark was actually quite forthcoming. He also told his interviewer he was present when the doctors viewed the photos, and that he'd viewed the photos himself. He also said he drew a line with the doctors: that they were not there to re-open the Warren Commission's investigation, but to see what was shown in the photographic evidence. He also said he was “relieved” when the experts corroborated the findings of the Warren Commission.
Heck, he even acknowledged that he'd used Jim Garrison's trial of Clay Shaw as a vehicle for releasing the panel's report.
This last acknowledgement is deceptive, however, as it seems clear Clark's reason for getting a second opinion in the first place was that Jim Garrison, the district attorney of New Orleans, had both pressed for access to the Kennedy assassination medical evidence and added President Johnson onto his list of suspects in President Kennedy's murder.
Above: New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, with his unfortunate buggy eyes.
Clark nearly admitted as much. In his book Crime in America, published 1970, Clark questioned Garrison's mental health. He claimed Garrison's conduct during his investigation of Shaw was "abusive,"and that his "charges of conspiracy reaching even into the Federal Government" were "bizarre." Such a man, in Clark's mind, would no doubt be capable of stretching the slightest inconsistency into the appearance of a vast conspiracy.
Well, it only makes sense then that Clark--with or without the support of President Johnson, whether he was involved in the assassination or not--would endeavor to find out just what the photos showed before Garrison did, and would want to make sure there was nothing in them that Garrison could use to question the legitimacy of Johnson's presidency.
It's also worth noting that, by February, 1968, Johnson had decided not to seek another term in office. It seems possible then that he wanted to be sure the photos showed no evidence for a conspiracy, lest the next President, who in his worst nightmares would be Robert Kennedy, the deceased President’s younger brother, use the photos to re-open the investigation into President Kennedy's murder and damage his--Johnson's--prized legacy.
But no matter the precise reasons for the panel's creation, it's clear it served a political purpose. Although the panel was conducted in secret on February 26, 1968, its report was not released until January 16, 1969, the day Jim Garrison’s prosecution of Clay Shaw finally went to trial. This was but four days before Johnson left office.
Should one assume the panel was set up to rubber stamp the findings of the autopsists, however, one would be wrong. In what remains one of the most shocking findings in medical history, the Clark panel disagreed with the findings of those actually viewing Kennedy's body on a central point. Instead of supporting the autopsists' claim of an entrance wound low on the back of Kennedy’s head, the secret panel concluded that this entrance hole was actually 4 inches higher than described in the autopsy report, at a point often described as the cowlick. While the skull photographs and x-rays were certainly influential in their decision, another factor apparently was that the photos of the President’s brain revealed no path of destruction linking the cerebellum (the point nearest the entrance in the President’s hairline displayed in the Rydberg drawing) with the clearly devastated upper right lobe of the President’s brain (where the bullet was presumed to have made its exit).
While much has been made of this movement of the head wound--mostly by conspiracy theorists delighted that Dr.s Humes and Boswell were made to look foolish--these same theorists miss that the Clark Panel itself made as many or more substantive mistakes as Dr.s Humes and Boswell.
Some of these mistakes, in fact, cast doubt upon the integrity of the panel. To begin with, even though the Clark Panel determined the head wound in the photos to have been four inches higher on Kennedy's skull than the one described in the autopsy report, they stuck by the measurements of the wound, only transposing the numbers. This 6 by 15 measurement, however, was not anywhere near the proportions of the mark in the cowlick in the autopsy photo they claimed as the entrance.
Even stranger, the Clark Panel claimed the back wound was 7 by 10, longer than wide, when the close-up photo subsequently released by the HSCA proves it to have been wider than long.
This suggests then that these doctors were following in the footsteps of Humes and Specter, and describing the wounds as longer than wide to help create the illusion the shots came from above.
And that's not the only reason to dis-believe...
Let's start with something simple. The Clark Panel, in concurrence with the autopsy report, concluded that the back wound was 14 cm below the mastoid process of Kennedy's skull. It also claimed, however, that the back wound was "5.5 cm below a transverse fold in the skin of the neck," also visible in the back wound photo. It follows, then, that this fold was 8.5 cm (over 3 1/2 inches) below the mastoid (which is at the approximate level of the bottom tip of the ear)...and much closer to the back wound than to the mastoid. Now look at the lateral autopsy photo on the slide above. Is it remotely possible that this fold was much closer to the back wound location shown in Fig. 24 than to the base of the skull? I think not. This suggests then, that the Clark Panel has somehow inserted extra space between the mastoid and the skin fold (perhaps in order to pretend their findings were consistent with the autopsy measurements) whilst simultaneously moving the back wound up the neck.
Beyond concluding that the back wound "lies approximately 5.5 cm below a transverse fold in the skin of the neck," the Clark Panel also asserted that the bullet wound in the throat was "above the trachea incision" and "situated approximately 9 cm below the transverse fold in the skin of the neck described in the last paragraph." They were thereby presenting the throat wound as 3 1/2 cm below the back wound.
The HSCA medical panel, conversely, proposed that the throat wound was 1 cm above the back wound. This means the two panels were 4 1/2 cm apart on their interpretation of the relative placement of these wounds.
Actually, more. The HSCA medical panel also proposed that the throat wound was on the bottom margin of the trachea incision, which was 1 1/2 cm wide. This means that, from the perspective of the HSCA, the Clark Panel's throat wound location was not 1 cm above the HSCA's back wound location, but 2 1/2 cm.
So let's do the math: the Clark Panel placed the throat wound 4 1/2 cm lower on the body in comparison to the back wound than the HSCA medical panel. The location they'd chosen for the throat wound (at the top of the trachea incision), however, was 1 1/2 cm above where the HSCA thought the throat wound was located (at the bottom of the trachea incision). If the measurements of these panels for the back wound location are identical, then, the Clark Panel's location for the bottom of the trachea incision ought to be 6 cm lower than the HSCA's location for the bottom of the trachea incision.
But the measurements for the back wound location aren't identical. As stated, the Clark Panel concurred with the measurements taken at autopsy and concluded that the back wound was 14 cm below the mastoid process. The HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel claimed instead that this wound was about 13 1/2 cm below the mastoid process. Now, that's not much of a difference. If the Clark panel was right, and the throat wound was 3 1/2 cm below this location, and the bottom of the trachea incision (where the HSCA claimed the wound to be) another 1 1/2 cm below this location, then the Clark Panel believed the bottom of this incision to be about 19 cm below the mastoid process.
This proves then that the Clark Panel's measurements are nonsense. If the Clark Panel's measurements were accurate, the bottom margin of the tracheotomy incision would be about 19 cm below the mastoid process. The measurements of the HSCA medical panel, on the other hand, place the bottom margin of the tracheotomy incision (1 cm above the back wound 13 1/2 cm below the mastoid) about 12 1/2 cm below the mastoid process. I have measured this location on myself and others and the HSCA's measurement is far more accurate. A wound 12 1/2 cm below the mastoid would be between the Adam's Apple and sternal notch. This is, not coincidentally, where Kennedy's wound was located. A wound 19 cm below the mastoid would, in contrast, be a wound overlying the sternum, about the level of the top of the heart.
This suggests then that, for the Clark Panel's measurements, they'd somehow added an extra 6 1/2 cm (over 2 1/2 inches) onto the front of Kennedy's throat, basically doubling its length. Now why would they have done this, other than to lower the throat wound location, and help sell the single-bullet theory they'd been asked to review? Were they deliberate liars? Or simply incompetent?
Only adding to the likelihood the Clark Panel lied is that they re-measured the hole in the back of Kennedy's jacket, and claimed it was 12 cm below the upper edge of the coat collar. The FBI had previously measured this distance and found it to be 5 3/8 inches, or 13.6 cm. The HSCA would subsequently measure this distance and find it to be 13.5 cm. It seems more than a coincidence then that the FBI and HSCA measurements were off by but 1 mm, and the Clark Panel's measurement was off by 15 times as much, particularly when this "mistake" by the Clark Panel helped them sell the single-bullet theory already supported by their clearly inaccurate wound location measurements.
And then there's this... As the nose of CE 399, the so-called "magic bullet", was undamaged, the single-bullet theory embraced by the Johnson Administration rested on the unlikely presumption no bones had been damaged via direct impact with this bullet as it traversed the neck. It's not exactly a surprise, then, that in its section on the x-rays, the Clark Panel reported "There is no evidence of fracture of either scapula or of the clavicles, or of the ribs or of any of the cervical or thoracic vertebrae," then later concluded "the X-ray films show no bony damage in the thorax or neck."
Now let's look at how rapidly this lie fell apart. Dr. Fred C. Hodges, the lone radiologist consulted by the Rockefeller Commission, concluded both that the transverse process of the seventh cervical vertebra was fractured, and that the transverse process of the first thoracic vertebra was probably fractured. The HSCA consulted four radiologists, all of whom mentioned possible fractures of these very same transverse processes (the small fingers of bone that jut out from the spine). Dr. G.M. McDonnel, the HSCA's number one go-to guy on the x-rays, moreover, declared that there was "an undisplaced fracture of the proximal portion of the right transverse process of T1..."
Well, how about that? Where the Clark Panel had seen "no evidence" those who studied the x-rays after them saw conclusive evidence.
One is tempted to conclude, therefore, that the Clark Panel was the fully-orchestrated cover-up many believed the Warren Commission to have been. This suspicion is only heightened, moreover, by the peculiar fact that the Clark Panel is the only review of the autopsy evidence to have a representative of the American Bar Association along to serve as “legal counsel to the panel," and to “collaborate” with the panel in the “preparation” of its report. Such an overt conspiracy is made doubtful, however, by the Clark Panel report’s acknowledgment that the Warren Commission’s wound in the “back of the neck” in fact entered in the “back” and its description of several strange things that were never even noticed by the doctors on the night of the autopsy, including metal fragments in the President’s neck, a large round fragment at the back of the President’s skull, and a strange shape in the President’s brain. If they were deliberately covering up, after all, it seems doubtful they would have opened fresh doors to such previously unexamined mysteries. The possibility remains, then, that on some of its findings the Clark Panel was well-intentioned, but just horribly, horribly wrong.
But you really gotta wonder. When one compares Warren Commission CE 386 with HSCA Figure 24, and adjusts their size based upon the measurements contained within their respective reports, one can see that the skull in the Warren Commission drawing is roughly 27 ½ cm from ear to ear, the skull of a giant, while the skull in the HSCA drawing is 19 cm, much more in line with a normal human skull. When one sizes a photo of Kennedy using the Clark Panel's measurements, moreover, one finds it to be in line with the clearly inaccurate CE 386. This is a bit shocking. That the Clark Panel's measurements reflect a body as large as the one in the Rydberg drawings, approximately 50% larger than life--and that these mistakes help support the single-bullet theory--should make one suspect that the members of the Clark Panel, as with the military doctors before them, were pressured by the Justice Department into supporting the single-bullet theory.
Russell, Harold, and John
Researcher Harold Weisberg sure smelled a rat. He attempted to gain access to the working papers of the Clark Panel, and, after being told that the working papers had been destroyed, personally contacted the various members of the panel. In his book Post Mortem Weisberg includes a small section on his correspondence with these men. He relates that Dr. Russell Fisher was the leader and spokesman for the panel. In a letter to Weisberg, Fisher claimed that “quite some time after the panel report had been submitted” he conducted tests on cadavers to see if a bullet could go through a human neck as proposed by the single-bullet theory. Fisher explained, moreover, that this was “purely to satisfy my own interest,” and that he'd made no effort to file a report on these tests, or share his results with his fellow forensic pathologists.
It may seem strange, then, that Fisher was all too happy to share his results with Weisberg. He told him “we were convinced it was possible for a bullet tract to connect the entrance and exit wounds without being deflected by, or hitting the bony vertebrae.”
There's a problem with Fisher's story, however. Fisher also told Weisberg that “The measurements… can be assumed to be accurate. They were measured by scale. We had photographs which showed a scale.We were able, therefore, to confirm the measurements…”
As we’ve seen, however, this last assertion is incorrect. The Clark Panels’ measurements for the relative positions of the back wound and throat wound were embarrassingly inaccurate. The inaccuracy of these measurements, moreover, should make us question the accuracy of whatever tests Fisher performed on the entrance and exit wounds.
I mean, seriously, did he shoot the cadavers on a downward trajectory, as theorized in his report? If he did then he should have realized that either the entrance wound was much higher than the entrance wound on Kennedy’s back depicted in the autopsy photos, or the exit wound much lower than the location of the tracheotomy incision.
Perhaps, then, Fisher simply lied to Weisberg to get him off his own back...
That Fisher lied is supported, moreover, by a series of photos found at the archives by researcher John Hunt, and posted online in his 2014 article The Warren Commission Skeleton. While not identified as photos taken by or for Fisher, these photos were found in a folder dated JAN 1969, and sent to the archives in 1993 by the Justice Dept., the instigators of the Clark Panel to whom Fisher would have supplied any materials related to the Clark Panel. The RIF number for this folder was, for that matter, but a few dozen numbers from the number provided the report of the Clark Panel. In any event, these photos prove that someone--almost certainly Fisher--tested the single-bullet theory on skeletons, and found it would only work if the bullet headed downwards from a location inches to the right and above the location of Kennedy's back wound.
The first photo was taken of the skeleton sans trajectory rod. The second photo, however, showed the skeleton with a trajectory rod to the side of the spine and its processes, and exiting from the center of the throat. Here it is:
Well, I'll be. A bullet on such a trajectory would have impacted the back far further from the spine than the bullet creating Kennedy's back wound, (purportedly 14 cm from the right shoulder tip). That bullet impacted the back around no more than two inches from the spine. A bullet on the trajectory depicted in this photo, however, would have impacted what? around four inches from the spine. Big problem.
And we're just getting started. Photo three showed the skeleton with the bones identified. But here are the next two photos...depicting the vertical trajectory for this rod.
Note that for photo 5 the trajectory rod has been placed beneath the first rib, and heads right through the lung. This shows how desperate the creators of these photos were to find something/anything that worked, whereby they could say to people like Weinberg (and myself) that, gee golly, we tested this, and found that the SBT trajectory was possible.
Now here are the next two photos from the series discovered by Hunt. (I have matched up the size of the ruler in the photos and placed them side by side for comparison purposes).
Note that the mark on the human model in these photos is at the mastoid process. (It appears to be above the bottom tip of the mastoid, the location used by the autopsy doctors, but that's a separate issue.) The mark on the ruler is at 5 1/2 inches--which translates to 14 cm. Someone--almost certainly Fisher--created these photos to test where 14 cm below the mastoid process--the location for the back wound provided in the autopsy protocol--actually placed the wound. On photo number 7, at left above, this measurement places the wound well down on the back. On photo number 8, at right above, this measurement places the wound near the base of the neck.
Well, how is this possible? What we all know--that one can lift one's shoulders, and stretch out one's neck. Note that in photo 7 there is a fold at the base of the neck, and that in photo 8 there is no fold. As noted by the Clark Panel, there is a large fold at the base of the neck on Kennedy's back wound photo. Well, this proves it. Kennedy's back wound photo was taken with his shoulders lifted.
So what can we learn from this? The Clark Panel claimed the back wound was 5 1/2 cm below the fold at the base of Kennedy's neck. That's roughly the same distance from the fold at the base of the neck as the back wound in photo 7. Now look at what happens when the neck is stretched out, as in photo 8. The black mark on the back in photo 7 (the location of the back wound in Kennedy's autopsy photos) is now 2 inches further from the mastoid! Well, this is interesting... This proves that Kennedy's back wound (when created) was--at the very least--5 1/2 cm below the base of Kennedy's neck, and quite possibly 5 cm or more further from the base of his neck, should Kennedy have been stretching his neck out when shot.
Well, this might explain the seemingly too-low holes on his clothing, correct? It wasn't that the holes on the clothing were too low, it's that the lifting of Kennedy's shoulders in the back wound photos made his back wound appear a bit higher than its location at the moment Kennedy was shot.
Well, then what about the throat wound? Should one assume the 14 cm measurement taken at autopsy was taken with the shoulder lifted, as in photo 7. it should be readily apparent that the throat wound would be at or just below this level, and not two inches or more below this level (at the approximate level of the index finger of the hand holding the ruler).
Well, then what about photo 8? Should one assume the 14 cm measurement taken at autopsy was taken with the shoulder pulled down, as in photo 8, it only makes the Clark Panel's claim the throat wound was 2 inches or more below this wound slightly more plausible. The back wound mark in this photo, after all, is roughly 7 1/2 inches below the mastoid, 19 cm. Well, that's where the Clark Panel placed the throat wound. Do you believe the throat wound was at this level? I don't.
There's also this. To look at these photos and conclude the back wound was well above the throat wound one would need to conclude Kennedy's back wound was measured not when Kennedy was in the anatomic position. per standard autopsy protocol, but with his rigor-mortised neck and back all stretched out, as in photo 8.
And that's just insane.
Let's sum this up, then. It seems more than apparent Kennedy's back wound was not inches above his throat wound, (as claimed by the Clark Panel) and the man making the photos found in the archives by Hunt (almost certainly Russell Fisher--the leader of the Clark Panel) knew as much.
They Called Him Bruce
A final point learned from Weisberg’s contact with Fisher should come as no surprise. Fisher told Weisberg that, when completed, the Clark Panel’s report ”was transmitted by Mr. Bruce Bromley to Mr. Carl Eardley of the Justice Department.” Eardley, of course, had previously worked with the autopsy doctors, and was the Justice Department's point man on the medical evidence.
But who was Bromley? Well, in a curious twist, Bromley was a high-priced New York attorney, a former judge, brought in by the Justice Department to help the panel write their report. He attended Harvard Law School with future Warren Commissioner John McCloy, and worked with McCloy at the prestigious law firm of Cravath, Swaine, and Moore for a number of years. At the time he was brought in by Ramsey Clark to work with the Clark Panel, Bromley had already achieved legendary status as an anti-trust attorney, with a well-deserved reputation for stall tactics. On January 17, 1969, in the waning days of the Johnson Administration, and Ramsey Clark's run as attorney general, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an anti-trust lawsuit against computer giant IBM. Well, guess who served as IBM's lead attorney for anti-trust? Bruce Bromley. And guess who was hired as IBM's chief counsel for what would become a 13-year fight against the government? Clark's predecessor, former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, who had led the initial investigation of Kennedy's death.
Oh, my. That is peculiar. Three days before President Johnson was to leave office, and the day after his justice department spat forth a previously secret report by a previously secret panel, which, in effect, confirmed the conclusions of his presidential commission and justice department regarding the suspicious murder of his predecessor, Johnson's justice department begins a lawsuit that will keep both the head of his justice department in its initial investigation of the murder of his predecessor--and the legal adviser to the secret panel who'd reviewed its findings--in clover for the rest of their lives.
Well, so what? You might ask. This could be a coincidence. Bromley was there to advise the four members of the Clark panel. There's no reason to believe he did anything more than check their grammar and spelling.
Uhh, no. A 4-16-70 letter from researcher Howard Roffman to Harold Weisberg, found in the the Weisberg Archives, suggests there may have been more to Bromley's actions than one might first suspect. Roffman had just spoken to Dr. John Nichols, and was telling Weisberg the substance of his conversation with Nichols, and what Nichols had told him about a recent conversation he'd had with Dr. Russell Fisher. Well, guess what? Nichols told Roffman that Fisher, the undisputed leader of the Clark Panel, had revealed that Bruce Bromley, who'd been present throughout the panel's discussions, was the primary writer of the panel's report. Hmmm...
Since when do highly-regarded professional pathologists and radiologists need high-falutin' New York attorneys to record their thoughts? Did Bromley put anything in the report? Did he cut anything out?
Because, if so, well, that would go a long ways toward explaining why no notes on the panel's discussions were kept, and no drafts of its report preserved.
And no, I'm not kidding. A 3-4-70 letter to Weisberg by Russell Fisher himself revealed that all interim versions of the report had been destroyed by either himself or Bromley. This proves that Bromley continued working with the panel for weeks if not months after their initial inspection of the photos and x-rays in February, 1968.
Why was Bromley forced onto the panel?
What were they trying to hide?
One More Thing...
Now, should one think I've gone too far in proposing the Clark panel was not on the up and up, there's still another point to consider--one that only became apparent in the subsequent years. As discussed, Dr. Fisher knew the magic bullet, CE 399, showed no signs of having struck a bone. He told Weisberg “we were convinced it was possible for a bullet tract to connect the entrance and exit wounds without being deflected by, or hitting the bony vertebrae.” Now note that he wrote "WE." Well, that would include the panel's radiologist, Dr. Russell Morgan.
So what did Dr. Morgan tell Dr. Lattimer, the first independent doctor to view the autopsy materials, after Dr. Lattimer viewed the x-rays at the archives in 1972, and came to believe he saw bone fragments in the neck?
In Kennedy and Lincoln (1980), Dr. Lattimer writes: "Admittedly it is difficult to distinguish between small fragments of metal and bone, and it was the first reaction of Dr. Russell H. Morgan, of the 1968 panel of experts, who discovered them, that they might be metal because they showed up so well. In a personal letter to me, Dr. Morgan agreed, however, that the presence of these fragments, regardless of whether they are bone or metal, indicates that the cervical spine was struck (brushed) by the neck bullet. He wrote: 'Regardless of the nature of the opacities, it seems clear to me that the bullet that passed through President Kennedy's neck, brushed the cervical spine before emerging in front.'
Let's recall here that the Clark Panel, on which Morgan was the sole radiologist, issued a report claiming "There is no evidence of fracture of either scapula or of the clavicles, or of the ribs or of any of the cervical or thoracic vertebrae," and that this report later added "the X-ray films show no bony damage in the thorax or neck."
Well, heck, it seems clear from this that, subsequent to the issuance of the panel's report, Morgan had come to realize that his government-sanctioned conclusion the cervical vertebrae were undamaged was not gonna stand the test of time, and had decided to get out from under this deception by claiming the previously unacknowledged damage within the neck may have been caused by a bullet's brushing the cervical spine, and not a direct hit. This avoided, of course, that he'd previously claimed there was no such damage within the neck.
Silly me for noticing...
Now, what about this Lattimer?
For reasons beyond my grasp, the first image in each chapter sometimes fails to appear. If there's nothing up above, don't despair; you can still see the image here
Only adding to my suspicion that the Clark Panel deliberately misrepresented Kennedy’s wounds to support the single-bullet theory is the strange coincidence that the next person to look at the photos, and the very first member of the private sector to be allowed to inspect the autopsy photos and x-rays, just so happened to be Dr. John K. Lattimer, the aforementioned urologist to FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover.
This was suspicious for a number of reasons. Not only was Lattimer not a forensic pathologist, and not only had he headed a Federal Government research program from the late 1940's to the mid-1960's, but he'd written extensively on the JFK case already, always at a time when the public's interest was heightened, and always with the conclusion that the Warren Commission had properly addressed the evidence. In mid-1966, just as books critical of the Warren Commission were starting to get wide-spread attention, there was Lattimer, with an article in The New York State Journal of Medicine comparing the deaths of John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, in which Oswald was described as "an enemy (communist) sympathizer" and an "attention-hungry fanatic." In late 1966, moreover, as doubts about Oswald's shooting ability were sweeping across the nation, up popped Lattimer with an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association asserting that Kennedy's back brace had propped him up after he was first hit, and had made him an easy target. Now this would be bad enough, but Lattimer actually made the mistake of asserting that a second coincidence also contributed to Kennedy's death--that the misalignment of Oswald's scope had coincidentally compensated for the curve in the road, so that all Oswald had to do was fire at Kennedy, and the bullet would hit him in this exact location, even though he'd moved several feet down the road, and inches to the right.
Well, this gives up the game, and reveals Lattimer to be more theorist than scientist. This misleading proposition was first offered by FBI agent Robert Frazier during his Warren Commission testimony. Perhaps Frazier was thinking of the tests undertaken AFTER he'd sighted in the scope and brought the scope and rifle in the best alignment possible without adding shims to the scope mount. These tests revealed that the rifle fired 4 inches high and 1 to the right at 100 yards. Such a misalignment would indeed allow someone to fire at JFK when he was on Elm without having to worry about a lead, should he know ahead of time the degree of this misalignment. BUT THIS WAS NOT THE MISALIGNMENT OF THE SCOPE WHEN FIRST TESTED BY THE FBI. Frazier testified that the rifle, when first tested by the FBI, fired 4 inches high and 1 to the right at ONLY 15 YARDS, and that these shots all landed within the size of a dime, and that this indicated the rifle had not recently been adjusted. Well, such a misalignment would be of no help at all to a sniper; it would force a sniper to shoot BEHIND Kennedy in order to hit him as he was moving away. It follows then that Frazier's assertion the misalignment worked to the sniper's advantage was either a total brainfart on his part or a deliberate deception, and that Lattimer's repetition of this nonsense was more of the same, or perhaps a reflection that he took his job as Hoover's urologist a bit more seriously than anyone could reasonably have imagined.
And from there things just get worse. An October 24, 1968 article in the New York Post reflects that Lattimer had started giving talks on the feasibility of the single-bullet theory to his fellow physicians, and that he believed at so early a date, long before the Zapruder film was widely available, that the first shot "hit a tree branch and never reached the President's car," and that the second "struck the back of President Kennedy's neck, went through his voice box, and 'came out at the knot of his tie,'"before striking Governor Connally. This marks him once again as more theorist than scientist. The eyewitnesses overwhelmingly claimed the President reacted to the first shot. The autopsy report fails to note damage to the voice box, or larynx. The drawings created by the autopsy doctors for the Warren Commission, moreover, depicted the bullet exiting below Kennedy's voice box or larynx, on his trachea, or windpipe. Lattimer's assertion that the first bullet hit a tree branch and the second bullet went through Kennedy's voice box, then, can only be seen as his ignoring the findings of the Warren Commission and re-interpreting the shooting sequence and bullet's angle of descent within the neck...for reasons all his own.
In any event, following his inspection of the autopsy materials on January 9, 1972, Lattimer told the New York Times that the photographs and x-rays “eliminate any doubt completely” about the validity of the Warren Commission’s conclusions and that Oswald fired all the shots. He said further that the photos and x-rays demonstrate that the back wound was actually higher than the Commission reported (yes, that’s right, even higher than on the Rydberg drawings) and that the angle of descent within the neck was far greater. He said the wound was so high in comparison to the throat wound, in fact, that in order for the throat wound to have been an entrance wound as so many believed, someone would have to have been firing from the floor of the limousine in front of Kennedy. Lattimer didn’t seem to understand that this comment meant conversely that the bullet exiting the neck should have hit the floor and not Connally, and that this statement was therefore an argument against the single-bullet theory he was so adamantly defending.
Perhaps the man had suffered some sort of meltdown. On January 10, the next day, he was interviewed by John Nebel on WNBC. and admitted that after reading the Warren report he "still had considerable doubts, and uh these doubts revolved about such items as the trajectory of the bullet that went through President Kennedy's neck" and asserted that the Warren Commission drawing for this trajectory, CE 385, "makes the bullet track look as if it's much parallel with the ground. And that worried me a good deal, and, uh, I know that it's little things like this that combine to worry you about the whole massive text." But that was in the past. Lattimer told Nebel that upon viewing the autopsy photos "I was interested to observe that the rear hole, which is clearly a wound of entrance, is quite far above the front hole, which is presumed to be a wound of exit." As it would later be shown that the bullet entrance on CE 385 was in fact two inches too high, and that the rear wound Lattimer claimed was "far above" the front wound was in reality either below or at the same level as the front wound, it's clear that Lattimer, perhaps overcome with "worry," simply reported what he wanted to see, or felt others should believe he saw.
But this was not the end of Lattimer's trail of "whoa!" For Lattimer's May 1972 Resident and Staff Physician article on his trip to the archives he created a drawing depicting his interpretation of Kennedy's back wound, and the path of the bullet purportedly entering Kennedy's back and exiting his throat. This drawing was staggeringly, and shockingly, inaccurate. While acknowledging in a February 14, 1972 letter to Robert Biecher found in the Weisberg Archives that "the wound on the back of the neck" which he'd discussed with the press "was certainly the one 14 cm. below the right mastoid process," and while acknowledging in the text of his article that the back wound was 5 cm below the neck crease “at the juncture of neck and back,” Lattimer inexplicably depicts the wound in his drawing about 5 cm below the mastoid process, at the juncture of neck and back. Equally strange, in order to explain the bruise on Kennedy's lung, Lattimer depicts the upper dome of the lung adjacent to the bullet path descending Kennedy's neck...and, in the process, lifts the dome of the lung into the neck, above the knot on Kennedy's tie. Even more absurd, to account for the holes in Kennedy's clothing being so much lower on Kennedy's back than Lattimer's proposed location for the back wound, Lattimer bunches up a gigantic fold of clothing on the back of Kennedy's neck in the drawing. No such fold, of course, can be seen on any of the assassination films.
Now that's already way too much, but Lattimer's drawing also has the bullet path descending 27 degrees through Kennedy's body, which, since the limousine was on a downhill slope of 3 degrees, means he believed the bullet was descending 30 degrees from the horizontal plane. Since he eventually claimed the bullet came from the sniper’s nest at Z-224, when the angle of descent from the sniper’s nest was 21 degrees, this suggests he believed Kennedy was leaning 9 degrees backwards when struck.
From there Lattimer’s story gets even more absurd, and disturbing. Not content with the round of extended articles he was able to publish in the aftermath of his visit to the archives, he put together a 24-page article for the November 1974 issue of Medical Times. While he spent much of this article, devoted entirely to the "Kennedy-Connally One Bullet Theory," discussing Governor Connally's wounds and the wound ballistics of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition, he did spend just enough time discussing Kennedy's wounds to slip in one heckuva lie. His "Reconstruction of What Happened" entailed: "The 6.5 mm bullet, fired from above and behind the President, had entered the top of the prominent roll of soft tissue across the back of President Kennedy's neck..." Yikes. As we have seen, the bullet wound was not on the back of the neck, let alone at the top of a prominent roll of soft tissue across the back of the neck.
Yes, there was apparently no belief too absurd, or no lie too great, for Lattimer to have shied from, should it have suggested Oswald's sole guilt. On May 7, 1975 he was interviewed by the Rockefeller Commission, and repeated much of what he’d told the New York Times. He went even further, however, and told them that inspecting Kennedy’s brain would be unnecessary, seeing as Dr. Humes had been “particularly thorough about finding any foreign material in the brain” and that “we have surprisingly good x-rays of it and surprisingly good photographs of it.” He claimed further that this provided him with a “reasonable basis for knowing what the situation in the brain was, relative, at least, to the direction of the missiles.” He ignored that he'd previously concluded that the ever-thorough Humes had incorrectly identified the entrance of the bullet on the back of Kennedy’s head, and had been off by four inches.
In November, 1976, moreover, as a response to Congressman Thomas Downing's public declaration that the Zapruder film had convinced him Kennedy was shot from the front, Lattimer popped up yet again.Somehow, someway, he just so happened to make an appearance before a luncheon of the National Press Club, and show them films of experiments he'd performed by shooting bullets into animal skulls (no doubt, your typical luncheon entertainment). Not surprisingly, these tests (later debunked by Wallace Milam) showed the skulls flying back in the direction of the bullet, and supposedly undercut Downing's claims the rearward movement of Kennedy's head suggested the fatal shot came from the front.
Evidently, these tests convinced Lattimer he’d solved everything and that no further investigation was necessary, because on March 22, 1977, an article carried by the Ridder News Service reported that Lattimer had told some 300 members of the Fayette County Medical Society that “Reviving the investigation of President Kennedy’s death would be expensive and unnecessary.” Now, why would he do this? Was he concerned that a new investigation would reveal that he had been untruthful when he asserted that the back wound was even higher than in the Rydberg drawings? Or was he really that confident? If he was really that confident, well, then, he had NO reason to be, as other statements attributed to him in this article reveal that he was simply making stuff up in order to justify shutting down the investigation already underway.
According to the article Lattimer described the shots as follows: “The first shot probably struck the branch of a tree and was deflected to the pavement where it was absorbed…Five seconds later, with the limousine now only 190 feet away from Oswald’s position, the second shot was fired. It hit the president in the back of the neck, passed through it, and entered Gov. John Connally’s side…Five seconds later, the third shot was fired from a striking distance of about 250 feet, striking Kennedy in the back of the head…” Well, wait a second! If the first shot was fired five seconds before the single-bullet shot, which was at the latest frame 224, then it was fired around frame 131, TWO seconds before any of the trees in front of the school book depository would interfere with a shot from the sniper’s nest. Could Lattimer really be proposing that Oswald led the limousine by 30 feet or more?
Okay. Okay. It seems possible Lattimer misspoke about the five seconds… A 2-27-78 HSCA Contact Report on a conversation with Lattimer, after all, reports that by then he was postulating that "the first shot occurred at Zapruder frame (Z) 166 and was a miss." But it gets worse. The 1977 article quotes Lattimer as discussing Oswald and his motivation as follows: “After returning to this country, Oswald began a propaganda campaign for Cuban revolutionaries in New Orleans and eventually ended up in Dallas. There, three weeks before he shot the President, he attempted to kill a retired Army general. He learned from having tried to shoot the general that it would take more than one shot to kill Kennedy...If he’d been assigned to shoot Kennedy, he wouldn’t have been firing at someone else just three weeks before.”
The omissions and mistakes in Lattimer’s scenario are more revealing than what he gets correct. First of all, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, with whom Oswald was affiliated in New Orleans, was not a violent or revolutionary organization, as implied by Lattimer. Second of all, Lattimer omits that this“retired general,” General Edwin Walker, was forced out of the military by Kennedy for his reactionary and racist political activities and that there is reason to doubt that anyone contemplating his assassination would kill Kennedy instead. Third, the attempt on Walker did not take place three weeks before Kennedy’s assassination, as asserted by Lattimer, but on April 10, 1963, more than 7 months before! Needless to say, Lattimer’s understanding of Oswald and his background was as wildly inaccurate as his drawing of a hunchback Kennedy, with a bundle of clothing in back of his head.
To be fair to Dr. Lattimer, I think I’ve located the source of some of his confusion. I believe this same confusion contributed to the Clark Panel’s errors. When one compares the left lateral autopsy photo, which shows the location of the throat wound, with the photographs of the back wound, and focuses on a rounded hump of flesh on Kennedy’s shoulder, one can easily imagine that this shape is a “hunch” of some sort and that the bullet entrance is in the middle of this “hunch.” Since this “hunch” in the back wound photo is clearly higher on the body than the throat wound in the left lateral photo, moreover, one can take the next step and conclude that this means the bullet traveled downwards in the body, and that the single-bullet theory is supported by the photographs. But when one relies on hunches alone one will often be wrong.
Some of whom have noticed this “hunch,” including Dr.s Lattimer and Baden, have even went so far as to speculate on its origins. Dr. Lattimer, on the day after he'd first viewed the autopsy materials in 1972, told NBC that Kennedy's body had a "slight thickening of the tissues over the shoulders, which is typical of people taking cortisone." In his paper on this inspection, presented in the May 1972 issue of Resident and Staff Physician, moreover, he expanded on this theme, and insisted that "the tissues at the back of his neck were more prominent than those of most people. This was possibly due partly to his manner of holding his shoulders very high, so that a 'roll' of tissue was produced across the back of his neck and also perhaps because he was taking the cortisone derivative which may have caused a slightly greater than normal thickening of these tissues."
To Lattimer, this "thickening" seemed somehow significant, and a key to understanding the assassination. By 1975, he was telling those questioning the single bullet theory trajectory, such as researcher Emory Brown, that "what you do not realize is that he (Kennedy) had an unusual roll of muscle tissue across the back of his neck, possibly related to the adrenal hormones he had been taking for years." This "possibly," moreover, soon dissolved away. In time, Lattimer began asserting as fact the obvious nonsense that Kennedy had grown a hunch on his back from the steroids he'd taken to combat his Addison’s disease, and that this hunch explained how the holes on Kennedy’s clothing 5 inches below the top of his collar could overlay a wound at the level of his chin. Lattimer, and those who swallowed his nonsense, like Baden, failed to realize that the left lateral autopsy photo which appears to portray a slight hunch was taken with Kennedy lying flat on his back, with his shoulders rolled outwards, pushing the flesh of his back upwards. They failed to see as well that photos of Kennedy taken on the day of the assassination prove there was no such hunch...
When one starts measuring their whole argument falls to pieces. The ruler in the un-cropped back photo appears to be about 37 mm wide, or 1.46 inches. From this measurement one can see how the Clark Panel came up with their determination that the back wound was 5.5 cm (a little over 2 inches) below the fold along the back of the neck. When one matches the “hunches” one can see that the distance from the fold to the throat wound on the lateral photo approximates the 9 cm that the Clark Panel proposed. Why no one on the Clark Panel decided to measure this distance on their own bodies is another question. I’m 6’4” and when one measures 9 cm below the fold across the back of my neck one reaches the level of my sternum, far below the level of the wound in Kennedy’s throat. Experienced doctors should have known better, or at least have been suspicious enough about the measurement to take a second look.
For when one takes a second look, one realizes that in order for this “hunch” to match in each photo, and in order for the neck lines to match, the photo of the back wound must be greatly reduced compared to the lateral photograph. A quick comparison of Kennedy’s ears in the two photos proves that this is true. Should one use the ruler in the back wound photo to measure the size of Kennedy’s head in the lateral photo (when the hunches are made to match) one can approximate that the vertical height of Kennedy’s skull was 11.5 inches. When the ears are made to match, however, this distance is only 9.8 inches. My skull, even with my mouth slightly opened, is only 9 ¼ vertical inches from the level of my slightly opened jaw to the highest point. It's hard to believe that Kennedy’s skull would be 24% longer than my own. (Fatter maybe, longer no.) When one takes the time to match the sizes of the ears and body proportions, therefore, one can see that the “hunch” was largely an illusion based on Kennedy’s body position, and that the back wound in the photograph was actually 25% closer to the level of Kennedy’s throat wound than it appears when the hunches are made to match.
When one takes notice of Kennedy's body position in the back wound photo, and sees that he's laying on his left side with his head turned to his right, moreover, it should be apparent that the back wound is, in fact, at the same level as the throat wound (when the body is in the anatomic position).
There's also this. The back wound was reported to have been 14 cm below the bottom tip of Kennedy's mastoid--which is around the level of the bottom of his ear. If the back wound was REALLY 5.5 cm below the transverse fold in Kennedy's neck, when the body was in the anatomic position, as claimed by the Clark Panel, well, then, it means the bottom tip of the mastoid was 8.5 cm above this transverse fold.
But this isn't what one sees in the photos. The transverse fold on the back of Kennedy's neck in the lateral photo does not appear to be more than 50% FARTHER away from the bottom tip of the right mastoid than it does from the supposed entrance location in the back hump.
It instead appears to be farther from the back hump.
Well, this makes it clear, then, that the back of the head in the lateral and back wound photos is leaning backwards, and that this has distorted and reduced the appearance of the length of the back of the neck in the photos...
Well, think about it. This would raise the level of the back wound when trying to match these photos with other photos...
As if things weren't confusing enough...
Up the Neck
But you don't have to trust me on this. My finding that the back wound was at the same vertical level in Kennedy's body as the throat wound was shared by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, comprising nine of the top pathologists in the country. No, that’s not quite true. The forensic pathology panel's report, released in 1979, actually asserts that the bullet fired from the sniper’s nest at least 20 degrees above Kennedy passed through his body in a slightly upwards trajectory.
When one looks at the testimony of Dr. Michael Baden before the committee, and compares the bullet entrance on the back of Kennedy’s clothing with its purported exit on Kennedy’s collar, one can begin to see why they came to this conclusion. The path is clearly upwards. If you’re surprised by this it’s no wonder. While many TV shows present the single-bullet theories of Dr. Lattimer, Gerald Posner, and Dale Myers as if they are the official government theory, the theories of these men are actually at odds with both the Warren Commission and HSCA interpretations of the wounds, trajectories, and shot sequences.
That rant having passed, I must admit that I also have problems with the HSCA's conclusions. To begin with, it seems clear to me that the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel (FPP) was indeed mistaken in their analysis of the back wound. Not by much, mind you. While they were correct to note that the abrasion collar in the back wound photo was on the lower half of the entrance wound, and that this indicated the bullet was heading upwards along the skin, they were mistaken to say “the direction of the missile in the body on initial penetration was slightly upward, inasmuch as the lower margin of the skin is abraded in an upward direction. Furthermore, the wound beneath the skin appears to be tunneled from below upward.” As the upper back is slanted towards the neck, any bullet striking the upper back at a downwards angle less than the angle of the slant would leave a mark along the skin reflecting an upwards trajectory. The abrasion ring noted by the FPP, therefore, could have represented a bullet heading downwards within the body as well as upwards.
Unfortunately, this is not the only point on which we disagree. Not by a long shot.
T-3 or Not T-3?
But before we go on to complain about the horrendous mistakes/deceptions of the HSCA, let me congratulate them for getting at least one thing right. They resolved the location of Kennedy's back wound! In both the testimony of Dr. Baden and in their exhibits they made it clear they believed the bullet entered at the level of the first thoracic vertebra, roughly 2 inches lower than the entrance depicted in the Warren Commission's drawings.
While my acceptance that the bullet entered at T-1 has led to at least one conspiracy theorist trumpeting that I'm intellectually dishonest, it would be intellectually dishonest for me to pretend I disagree with the HSCA on this point. I have looked through dozens of anatomy books and measured dozens of medical drawings, and am convinced that T-3, where many conspiracy theorists place the wound, is an inch or two lower than the back wound apparent in the photos. While some point out that Kennedy's personal physician, Dr. George Burkley, placed the wound at T-3 on Kennedy's death certificate, they fail to appreciate that Burkley was far from certain about this and had, in fact, stated "a second wound occurred in the posterior back at about the level of the third thoracic vertebra." They also fail to appreciate that there is no indication Burkley did anything more than glimpse at Kennedy's body and did anything to establish the back wound's location beyond glimpsing at the confusing face sheet.
While some note a small mark in the back wound photo near the T-3 level, and propose that this mark was the "real" back wound, I find this also has little foundation, as the size of this mark (roughly 3 mm x 4 mm, or 12 mm) is less than 1/2 the size of the bullet wound measured at autopsy (7 mm x 4 mm, or 28 mm), and the wound at T-1 is, no surprise, a much better fit (roughly 8 mm x 5 mm).
And should one not trust my measurements...one should at least consider the statements of James Curtis Jenkins. On November 22, 2013, Jenkins, Dr. Boswell's assistant at the autopsy, made his first ever appearance regarding the assassination at the JFK/Lancer conference in Dallas. While looking at a photo of the back wound (or wounds), he told the audience that the uppermost and larger of the supposed holes on Kennedy's back in the photo was the entrance wound examined at the autopsy. Period.
BTW, I am far from alone in my rejection of the claim the back wound on the face sheet and photos was at T-3. While Dr. David Mantik and myself have many disagreements about the Kennedy assassination medical evidence, this isn't one of them. In his 2011 review of Don Thomas' Hear No Evil, available on the CTKA website, Mantik made this more than clear, stating that "both the autopsy photo (Galanor 1998, Document 12) and the autopsy diagram (the descriptive sheet—see Galanor 1998, Document 5) place the wound...close to the level of T1 or T2." He thereby adopted the T1 location as the location for the purposes of discussion, a discussion which led him to reject the single-bullet theory even if the wound was at T1.
Sometimes we think alike...
T-1 is Enough
Now, it's not as if I don't understand the sentiments of those wanting to believe the bullet entered at T-3. If the bullet entered as low as the third thoracic vertebra there would be no way it could avoid piercing Kennedy's lung en route to its purported exit in his throat. The single-bullet theory would be so outlandish not even Arlen Specter would lay claim to it. But I feel that an entry at T-1 is nearly as damaging.
You see, from poring through anatomy books, trying to figure out the proper level of the back wound entrance, I came to understand that the T-1 level of the spine corresponds to the level of the first rib. This is extremely problematic for the single-bullet theory in that, if Kennedy was sitting fairly upright, a bullet entering at T-1 as depicted in the HSCA exhibits, including Exhibit F-65, would dive down below T-1, and into Kennedy's lung. According to the autopsy, which held that nothing pierced Kennedy's lung, this did not happen. An entrance at T-1 is also problematic in that, even if Kennedy was bent forward to such an extent that the bullet entering his back would head straight for his throat, the first rib would be right in its way. As the "magic bullet," CE 399, had been avoiding sweets and had a decidedly unblemished nose, this also did not happen.
So how did the HSCA solve this dilemma? Did they accept what would seem obvious? That the lynch-pin of the single-assassin conclusion, the single-bullet theory, made little sense?
That this should have been the outcome is confirmed by studying the contemporaneous writings of the most ardent supporters of the single-assassin conclusion. In October, 1975, just prior to the creation of the HSCA, Warren Commission defender Jacob Cohen attacked its critics from the pages of Commentary Magazine. There, in an article bearing the far from subtle title Conspiracy Fever, he presented the Clark Panel's defense of the single-bullet theory as the final word. He claimed: "the panel unanimously confirmed every conclusion of the autopsy including the location of the back wound and the evidence of its passage to the throat." He then extrapolated from this that the odds of these doctors being incorrect, or basing their findings on false evidence, were so microscopic "that a sane and serious person soon ceases dallying with the possibility. Therefore one must simply conclude that the holes in the jacket and shirt, the autopsy drawing, the testimony of the Dallas doctors—concerning A possible frontal hit, the FBI summary of autopsy findings, all point to exactly nothing except everyday and most unthreatening human errors or coincidences." He then went through a laundry list of conspiracy theorist claims which he considered debunked. This led him to complain: "It is usually the case in public discourse that revelations of major errors invalidate the accompanying case. When the graduate student admits faking test results, the professor is expected to denounce the conclusions resting on those results. With the assassination very different rules of discourse seem to prevail: as soon as a new line of speculation appears and remains temporarily unrefuted, all the rest take on new life."
Oh, the irony! This was a man defending the single-bullet theory, which was built upon the claim Kennedy and Connally were hit while behind the sign in the Zapruder film, when Kennedy's back wound location was higher than his throat wound location, by arguing that a sane and serious person would think it impossible for the experts to be wrong about these things.
And here it was three years later. And a government panel was preparing to claim Kennedy was hit before going behind the sign in the film, when his back wound was lower than his throat wound (anatomically speaking).
The HSCA Single Bullet Theory
If one were told in 1976 that the HSCA was going to determine that the Warren Commission and Clark panel were wrong, and that the back wound was at the same level as or even slightly below the wound in Kennedy’s throat, one would rightly have concluded that the single-bullet theory had been debunked. Instead, when the HSCA published its final report in 1979, the committee concluded that the theory was still valid. To do this, they proposed that Kennedy was leaning a lot further forward than had previously been presumed.
This was doubly surprising since the HSCA had also decided that Kennedy was first hit at Zapruder frame 190, at a point when he is clearly sitting up in his seat. The Warren Commission, we should remember, concluded he was hit somewhere between frames 210-225 of the Zapruder film, when he was behind the Stemmons Freeway sign, and his forward lean could not precisely be determined.Equally troubling, by moving up the proposed moment of impact, the HSCA put Kennedy closer to the Texas School Book Depository at the time he was shot, and made the angle of descent for the "magic bullet" that much sharper. A quick comparison of Kennedy's position in Zapruder frame 188, 1/9 of a second before the supposed impact, to Kennedy's position in HSCA Exhibit F-46, a drawing of Kennedy leaning forward to the degree required for a non-deflected bullet to pass through his back and neck and then hit Governor Connally, demonstrates that Kennedy was not in the proper position to receive his wounds as proposed.
This forces one to wonder if the drawing was simply in error, or if the doctors truly believed the single bullet-theory they were depicting. Some quick measurements show that Kennedy’s neck is bent forward 31 degrees in the drawing, and that the arrow descends at 27 degrees. A bullet on such a trajectory would ascend 4 degrees through Kennedy’s body. As this matches the pathology panel’s analysis of the back wound, it seems clear, then, that they expended some effort on the drawing, and were not just guessing. Which makes it hard to explain why the arrow in the drawing descends at 27 degrees. The angle of descent from the sniper's nest at frame 190, when the HSCA proposed Kennedy was first wounded, was only 24 degrees.
A careful reading of the panel's report offers a partial explanation for these errors. It indicates that F-46 was only supposed to demonstrate the relationship between Kennedy’s wounds, and that determining the actual position of Kennedy at the moment of the shot and the trajectory of the bullet was the responsibility of the trajectory panel.
Well, okay, but what about the panel's other exhibits? Were they also suspicious?
Avoiding the Obvious
Unfortunately, yes. On Exhibit F-58, for instance, the back wound was shifted slightly further from the spine than was indicated by the autopsy photos or by the measurements. The entrance was measured as being 4.5 cm from the mid-line of Kennedy’s spine. If the entrance on this drawing is 4.5 cm from his mid-line, however, then Kennedy measured only 13.6 cm to his shoulder. The Clark Panel measured 16 cm to his shoulder, which is as one should expect for a man of his size. If Kennedy was indeed 16 cm to his shoulder, the wound in exhibit F-58 is 5.4 cm from his spine, not 4.5. In addition, if one uses the width of the ruler in the photo (which appears to be a centimeter ruler), 37 mm or 1.46 inches, to measure the distance from Kennedy’s spine to the location of the bullet entrance in the photo, one finds that the distance from Kennedy's spine to the bullet entrance was actually more like 3.9 cm. from his spine, not 4.5. If the entrance was really 3.9 cm from the spine but presented in F-58 as 5.4 cm from the spine, it follows that the wound was moved almost 40% further from the spine.
This convenient movement of the back wound, courtesy Dr. Baden, who worked on the drawings with medical illustrator Ida Dox, created the illusion the proposed bullet path passed outside the width of Kennedy’s spine.
This is indeed suspicious.
The Problematic First Rib
That the bullet entrance on Exhibit F-307 (Figure 24 in the subsequent report) was at the level of the first rib, and the first rib was not depicted--on this or on any other of the exhibits created for the medical panel--is even more suspicious.
The 9-7-78 testimony of Dr. Cyril Wecht only adds to my concern. About the single-bullet theory, Wecht testified: "How does a bullet that is moving slightly upward in the President proceed then to move downward 25 degrees in John Connally. This is what I cannot understand. My colleagues on the panel are aware of this. We discussed it, and what we keep coming back to is, "well, don't know how the two men were seated in relationship to each other." I don't care what happened behind the Stemmons Freeway sign, there is no way in the world that they can put that together, and likewise on the horizontal plane, the bullet, please keep in mind, entered in the President's right back, I agree, exited in the anterior midline of the President's neck, I agree, and was moving thence by definition, by known facts, on a straight line from entrance to exit, from right to left. And so with that bullet moving in a leftward fashion, it then somehow made an acute angular turn, came back almost two feet, stopped, made a second turn, and slammed into Gov. John Connally behind the right armpit, referred to medically as the right posterior axillary area. The vertical and horizontal trajectory of this bullet, 399, under the single bullet theory is absolutely unfathomable, indefensible, and incredible."
Wecht's testimony indicates that some members of the panel supported the single-bullet theory under the belief the shot was fired when Kennedy and Connally's positions were unclear. Earlier and subsequent statements by four of the panel's leading lights, Dr. Werner Spitz, Dr. James Weston, Dr. Charles Petty, and Dr. Michael Baden, moreover, prove this to be true.
Let's start with Spitz. An article in the 6-2-75 Medical World News--written shortly after Spitz had first studied the medical evidence and Zapruder film on behalf the Rockefeller Commission--quoted him as follows: "Kennedy obviously was first hit while behind a sign in the Zapruder film."
Well, that's pretty clear. A May 25, 1975 appearance by Spitz on the Lou Gordon Show, however, revealed the confusion within Spitz's reasoning. While discussing the single-bullet theory, Spitz told Gordon that the shoulders of someone sitting in a "normal relaxed position" in a chair "hunched down"and that, as a result "the level of where the exit wound was becomes down...from the level of the entrance wound." Now, this more than suggests that Spitz believed Kennedy's back wound to have been below his throat wound when the body was placed in the anatomic position. But he gets it backwards. I mean, if Kennedy had leaned back in his seat, as most do in a "normal relaxed position," it would have served to lift the throat wound in comparison to the back wound. It seems probable, then, that Spitz felt that somehow someway Kennedy's throat wound ended up below his back wound at the moment he was shot, and that Spitz hadn't even taken the time to figure out that Kennedy would have to have been slouched forward, not backward, to bring his wounds into alignment with the sniper's nest.
And that's not all. Spitz similarly declared that no one could say Kennedy and Connally were not in position to have a single-bullet create all their non-fatal wounds "since you don't really know what had happened behind the sign when the President's motorcade was behind the sign which is noted on the Zapruder film. Since you don't really know what happened there, that the Governor may have turned around..."
So, yeah, Spitz not only thought Kennedy's wounds inconsistent with the single-bullet theory unless they'd come into alignment while behind the sign in the Zapruder film, but Connally's inconsistent with the theory unless he'd turned in some manner while behind the sign in the Zapruder film. It seems probable, then, that he thought Connally too close to the right door of the limousine (when last seen in the film, before going behind the sign) to be in line with a bullet fired from the sniper's nest, and exiting Kennedy's throat. I mean, why else muse that he turned around?
And the HSCA did little to change Spitz's mind on this issue. By 1988, he was still pushing that an imaginary act was needed to bring Kennedy's and Connally's wounds into alignment. In a 1988 interview on radio station WXYT, Dr. Spitz insisted that we didn't know the position of Kennedy when he was shot because "The first shot, when Kennedy is hit, is when he is passing behind a road sign which indicates the upcoming freeway and you really don't know when at exactly the point when Kennedy was hit in the shoulder. You think you know because of the echo, but we know very well that the echo follows the sound." (What echo? What is he talking about?) Spitz then revealed that he--and by extension the entire pathology panel--had never been told that the photography panel had determined Kennedy to have been hit before he went behind the sign. When told that photographs indicate Kennedy was hit before he went behind the sign, he thundered: "No, that's not true. You see him with a distorted face when he comes out from the sign. When he goes behind the sign, he's smiling and waving to the people on the right." (The photography panel had rejected this argument, and had determined that Kennedy was in fact in distress when he went behind the sign.)
Dr. Weston shared Spitz's thinking. After viewing the autopsy materials in 1975, at the request of CBS News, he emerged with a similar attitude as Spitz. According to a November 28, 1975 AP article (found in the Bangor Daily News), Weston claimed that while a better autopsy and a photo of Kennedy when the bullets struck could have helped "determine the bullet's point of origin," the "president's car is hidden by a roadside sign in the only films of the crucial seconds when he was hit."
Dr. Petty apparently concurred. While he never said anything, from what I have found, about the shot's impacting while Kennedy was hidden behind the sign in the Zapruder film, he did make some statements suggesting that he believed Kennedy's appearance in the frames when he was not behind the sign incompatible with the single-bullet theory. In his 1978 HSCA testimony, taken right after Dr. Wecht's testimony (perhaps to dull its impact), he defended the single-bullet theory's viability. After acknowledging that he believed the bullet trajectory to have been upward in Kennedy's body, he asserted, "But the President was not upright at the time he was shot, he was certainly not in the anatomic position." Shrewdly, he failed to mention when this was. If there had been a frame in which Kennedy had been leaning forward enough to support Petty's claim, one can only assume, Petty would have mentioned it.
That Petty had problems locating a frame in which Kennedy and Connally's wounds were in alignment is supported, moreover, by his statements a few moments later. When discussing the horizontal trajectory, and Dr. Wecht's claim Kennedy's throat wound was not aligned with Connally's back wound for a shot from the sniper's nest, Petty asserted "the apparent relative positions of the President and the Governor are somewhat misleading, that is, that one cannot determine by looking at a flat two dimensional view of one side of the limousine and the contained individuals precisely what relationship they had one to another." By saying the apparent relative position of the two men in the film was somewhat misleading, of course, Petty was as much as admitting that the film suggested, even to him, that Kennedy and Connally were never aligned in a manner supporting that they were struck by one bullet fired from behind. One can only assume, then, that he, as his colleagues, felt comfortable with the assumption they were hit when their exact positions could not be observed.
In 2003, at a conference sponsored by Dr. Wecht, Dr. Baden, the pathology panel's spokesman, revealed himself to be yet another more comfortable with the blinders on. When asked to point out the moment in the Zapruder film that Kennedy is first hit, he asserted: "My impression is that he is shot behind the Stemmons Freeway sign; that's why we don't see it." When Wecht correctly pointed out that Kennedy was only behind the sign for .9 seconds, hardly enough to lean forward and then back, Baden then explained: "I think Kennedy's neck has to be leaning forward a little bit, waving to somebody as you do, and that would put him in position."
And, should one wish to pretend the belief among Spitz, Weston, Baden and (probably) Petty that Kennedy was hit while behind the sign in the film did not reflect the thinking of others on the panel, one needs to stop this wishing and face the facts. Now.
First, there is a section in the panel's final report that discusses whether or not the president's body should be exhumed to more accurately determine his wound locations. It relates "The majority of the panel concurs, however, that in the absence of photographic documentation of the body's precise position at the moment the missile struck the back, more accurate wound locations would be of limited value in determining the bullet's origin."
Second, there is a footnote on the bottom of page 47 of the HSCA's Final Report. It is in a section on the findings of the Forensic Pathology Panel. It reads:
"The panel used both the location of the wounds and Zapruder frame 312 to determine the "downward" slope of the fatal head shot. It did not attempt to determine the slope of the bullet that struck the President's back because the moment of impact was not thought to be visible in the film. This decision by the forensic pathology panel was made well before the photographic panel reached its conclusion regarding the President's and Governor Connally's reactions as shown in the Zapruder film."
So why weren't they consulted afterwards?
Now, let's see. The Forensic Pathology Panel's belief the Zapruder film failed to show Kennedy in the position required for the single-bullet theory to make sense was a big problem for those running the HSCA's investigation. It cast doubt on the HSCA's findings. The men running the investigation undoubtedly knew this. This, then, raises the possibility that someone (perhaps Robert Blakey) knew the Pathology Panel could not be persuaded to accept that the Zapruder film showed Kennedy to be in the right position, and decided to bring in someone less concerned with his reputation to claim just the opposite. That way, when confronted with the fact that Kennedy never was in such a position, the doctors could raise their hands and do their best Freddie Prinze impression, protesting, "It's not my yob, mang!"
Well, then whose job was it? Whose job was it to determine Kennedy's actual position when struck by the magic bullet? And show how this bullet managed to avoid hitting bone?
As the job was virtually impossible, they gave it to another 70's television icon, a man who regularly did the impossible: Mr. Phelps.
No, not quite Mr. Phelps of Mission Impossible fame, but close. They called NASA, and NASA sent them a trajectory expert named Thomas Canning. To their eternal shame, the HSCA then gave Canning the ability to move the wounds as he saw fit, in order to better align the trajectories and, one can only assume, make sure they all pointed back to the sniper's nest.
Since this last assertion is really hard to swallow, let me quote the part of the HSCA report that makes this clear. On page 33 of HSCA Appendix Vol. 6, in the report on the trajectory analysis, when describing the procedures used to establish the bullet trajectories, it declares "The Forensic Pathology Panel was responsible for providing, to the extent possible, the precise locations of the wounds sustained by Kennedy and Connally." But there is an asterisk after this. At the bottom of the page, in an explanation of this asterisk, the report acknowledges "While the Forensic Pathology Panel did provide this information, the actual measurements related to wound locations were determined by the NASA scientist who was responsible for supervising the trajectory project. He was in frequent consultation with members of the Forensic Pathology Panel and with forensic anthropologists from both the FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute, and the Smithsonian Institute." How frequent he consulted with these unidentified panel members isn't stated. But if any of the members disagreed with Baden's testimony regarding the back wound location, and disagreed with the exhibits he presented to the committee, they were free to testify and voice their dissent. None did.
In any case, under the encouragement of others or not, when Canning testified on 9-12-78, it became clear he'd taken liberties with the wound locations. Despite the fact that HSCA Pathology Panel spokesman Dr. Michael Baden had testified but 5 days before, and wound ballistics consultant Larry Sturdivan had testified but four days before, and had presented a number of exhibits, including exhibits 46, 58, and 65, in which the bullet entered at the T-1 level, Canning boldly dragged Exhibit 376, which showed this same bullet entering considerably above the T-1 level and the problematic first rib, before the committee.
And it was actually worse than that. In his testimony, but 5 days before, Dr. Baden had specified that the back wound location in Warren Commission Exhibit CE 385 was two inches higher than its actual location. He had even entered CE 385 into evidence as an example of an incorrect depiction of the wound. And here was Canning, five days later, presenting F-376 to the committee, with the back wound up at the base of the neck, in the location presented in CE 385.
So yes, it's true. By presenting F-376 to the house select committee, Canning had boldly presented an exhibit to the committee re-affirming the wound location depicted in an exhibit already presented to the committee as an example of an inaccurate exhibit! Whew!
And, unbelievably, it was even worse than that. At the top of F-376, Canning claimed the wound locations in his own exhibit had come from the pathology panel--the panel previously claiming the wound locations in F-47 were inaccurate!
The final report of Canning's trajectory panel adds another layer to the mess. In the report, Kennedy's back and throat wound locations are presented in Figure II-13. The drawing on the right of Figure II-13 was previously published as part of Exhibit F-376. This depicts a small wound on the back and a significantly larger wound on the throat. This is as one would normally expect. This avoids, of course, that the Forensic Pathology Panel had concluded that the back wound was 9 mm in diameter, and that the throat wound was roughly half its size, and was about 6-7 mm in diameter.
The measurements provided for the wound locations were also problematic. As we've seen, Exhibit 376 depicts a bullet entrance above Kennedy's first rib, and an exit slightly below it but still above the level of the first rib. In the text of Canning's report, however, he tells a different story. When discussing the back wound, he writes "the back wound was located at a point 4.4 cm to the right of and 1.1 cm above Kennedy's neck wound at the time of the shot. The bullet was moving from right to left by 18 degrees and downward by 4 degrees relative to Kennedy if he were sitting erect". When discussing the single-bullet theory, moreover, he explains "Kennedy's neck wound was 1.1 cm below the first thoracic vertebra; his forward inclination lowered the wound an additional 2.4 centimeters."
Wait... What? What's going on here? Was Canning trying to pull a fast one? I mean, why else would he depict the bullet entrance above the rib (which is at the level of the first thoracic vertebrae) on his exhibit, and then admit it was actually at the same level as the rib (which is at the level of the first thoracic vertebrae) in the text? And why else would he depict the exit just above the level of this rib in the exhibit, and then claim it was 1.1 cm below this level in the text? And how did he get that the back wound was 1.1 cm above the neck wound, when the pathology panel had indicated it was 1 cm below the neck wound?
Well, this last question is actually answered in the report. It notes that "Independent determinations by the Photographic Evidence Panel showed the entrance wound to be from 4 to 5 centimeters from Kennedy's center plane and the exit wound to be on the center plane or as much as 0.5 centimeters to its left. When seen in the autopsy position, the outshoot wound was described as being at about the same height (or slightly higher) relative to the in shoot wound." The report further describes how Forensic Anthropologist Clyde Snow had performed some studies for the committee, and had concluded that the position of Kennedy's head and shoulders at frame 190 of the Zapruder film would move the back wound 1.1 cm higher in comparison to the throat wound and 0.1 cm closer to the midline.
So, yeah, Canning's report claims that the wound on Kennedy's back which the pathology panel claimed was 1 cm below his throat wound when he was sitting in the anatomic position, was 3.5 cm above his throat wound at the moment he was shot. The proposed wound track was but 14 cm long. It thereby dropped 4.5 cm over the course of its 14 cm, a drop of 1 cm every 3.1 cm, an angle of descent of over 20 degrees. If one sits up straight in one's seat and emulates the anatomic position, and puts a right finger on the back of one's shoulder and a left finger on one's throat a cm higher than the finger on the back, it's impossible to lower the area of throat touching the left finger to a point 3.5 cm lower than the back wound without crouching over into a position totally at odds with Kennedy's position at the time he is believed to have been shot.
Of course, Canning's report claims the Photographic Evidence Panel suggested the back wound was at the level of the throat wound when in the anatomic position, and not 1 cm below, a la the Forensic Pathology Panel. This in itself is curious. The exhibits already entered into evidence by Canning claimed the wound locations were deduced from the report of the pathology panel, and the footnote added to Canning's report by the HSCA's staff claimed he was personally responsible for the movement of the wounds.
Was Canning trying to hide that he'd moved the back wound to accommodate the single-bullet theory?
Was the rocket scientist pulling a fast one?
The Portable Hole
I suspect he was pulling a fast one, but that he wasn't alone in doing so...
I mean, here was Canning, a late addition to the HSCA's investigation, admitting in the text of his report that the back wound was at the level of the first rib, but acting much as a character on the old Mission: Impossible TV series, or a cartoon character, and availing himself of a portable hole when creating his exhibits, by lifting the wound up over the rib.
I just don't buy that he'd do this on his own. It seems likely--at least to me (please write me if you think I'm being paranoid)--that someone involved in Canning's hiring had put him up to it. This someone would have to have been involved in the creation of Canning's exhibits, someone who insisted these exhibits be used to sell the single-bullet theory to both the House Select Committee, and the public.
Perhaps this was Gary Cornwell... In his 1998 book Real Answers, HSCA Deputy Chief Counsel Gary Cornwell claimed: "In the end, when the errors committed by the original clinical pathologists as set out in the Warren Commission Report are corrected, and the Warren Commission's alleged 'precision' of wound location and bullet trajectories are recognized as actually being quite imprecise, there is nothing necessarily 'magical' about the path of the single bullet."
Yikes. Feel free to read that again... Yes, Cornwell was claiming that the HSCA's being more 'precise' than the Warren Commission in its determination of the wound locations made the single-bullet theory less magical, and therefore more probable. This was the worst kind of nonsense. There isn't a soul alive--outside perhaps Cornwell--who thinks the HSCA pathology panel's re-interpreting the back wound location at a point 2 inches lower on Kennedy's back--at a point actually below the throat wound--made it more believable these wounds were connected by the path of a bullet sharply descending from above, and entering from behind. It seems clear, then, that Cornwell was claiming Canning's work offered strong support for the single-bullet theory. It seems clear, then, that Cornwell had either swallowed Canning's kool-aid, or had helped him set up the stand.
Real Answers? Get real!
I mean, Canning's misleading exhibits weren't the only signs he was doing someone's dirty work. Canning also held that Kennedy was leaning forward 14 degrees compared to the street when he received the back wound and that a proper analysis of his wounds and a proper analysis of his body position at frame 190 of the Zapruder film indicated the bullet was descending 4 degrees as it passed through his body. This, of course, directly contradicted the professional opinions of the doctors, who suggested the bullet passed upwards in his body. Canning held, furthermore, that when one added in the 3 degree slope of the street to the 14 of the forward lean and the 4 of the descent within the body one could project back 21 degrees from the point of impact to establish the location of the shooter. Not surprisingly, he said this was just below the sniper’s nest. By deciding that Kennedy was leaning forward 14 degrees from the street and then adding the slope of the street on top of it, of course, Canning had testified that Kennedy was leaning forward 17 degrees from vertical at frame Z-190. This was far less than the 31 degrees offered by the forensic pathology panel but was still far more than was evident in the Zapruder film.
If you're having trouble grasping this, it's no wonder. There were two interpretations of Kennedy's wounds and body position put forth in major disagreement with each other. One interpretation came from nine prominent doctors and presented Kennedy leaning forward 31 degrees before he was shot, and the other interpretation came from a man with no medico-legal background whatsoever, who re-arranged the wounds and re-positioned the body to come up with something more acceptable to the committee.
When one compares Canning's depiction of the single-bullet theory to the Zapruder film one discovers another reason to doubt not only the single-bullet theory as proposed, but his commitment to the truth. As stated, by moving the single-bullet theory to Z-190 from the Warren Commission’s estimation of Z-210—Z-225, the HSCA had not only increased the vertical trajectory from the sniper's nest, but the right to left trajectory of the bullet entering the limo. This forced them to re-assess Connally's position in the limousine. In order to explain how he could be hit in the armpit by a bullet exiting Kennedy’s throat, Canning decided Connally was sitting near the middle of the limousine, turned to his right. This contradicted Connally’s testimony that after the first shot, he tried to turn to his right but couldn’t see the President, and was starting to turn to his left when hit. A man in the position Canning proposed for Connally could see the President quite easily when turned to his right, and would never have turned to his left in hopes of a better view.
Upon close inspection, it seems clear that Canning paid little attention to the Zapruder film when preparing this drawing. In the film, not only is Connally closer to the door than depicted in the trajectory drawing, but his torso is turned further to its right. A bullet hitting Connally at the angle determined by Canning, it follows, would probably have pierced his heart, and exited his left side. If Canning had studiously compared the Z-frames to the drawing he would also have noticed that Jacqueline Kennedy is in the film at Connally’s left, but that the only way she could be at his left in the drawing would be if she were hanging over the left side of the car. Since a viewing of this sequence reveals she was sitting against the back of her seat, the only logical conclusion to be made is that Connally was closer to the door than depicted.
A photo taken a few minutes before Z-190, but from a similar angle, supports this conclusion. As it depicts Jackie Kennedy sitting considerably inward from her side of the car, but still outside of Connally, it suggests that Connally was sitting in a similar position in Z-190. If one can look at Canning's exhibit and visualize Connally sliding back to the position depicted in this photo, moreover, then one can see how the backwards trajectory through Kennedy’s neck on to the sniper's nest would pivot to his left, right off the face of the school book depository and right onto the face of the Dal-Tex Building.
It gets worse. When one looks closer at the drawing, which was entered into evidence as Exhibit F-144 and re-printed in the final report the next year as Figure II-24, one can see that the line supposedly leading to the sniper’s nest actually leads back to the far east corner of the school book depository, approximately 5 feet from the sniper's nest. This means that if Connally was even one inch closer to the door than depicted in the drawing then the rearward projection of his wounds through Kennedy would miss the school book depository altogether and point accusingly back towards the Dal-Tex Building. Although the wound locations and their relative positions within the limousine were purportedly determined independently, and then projected back towards the sniper's location, the incredible coincidence that this trajectory just so happened to point to the corner makes me suspect that the original trajectories did in fact point towards the Dal-Tex Building, and that Canning subsequently moved Connally further and further inwards from the door until the trajectory from his back wound location through Kennedy’s neck reached the school book depository. Call me paranoid if you like. But there's nothing about Canning's work for the HSCA that remotely inspires trust.
In fact, it inspires mucho mistrust. Canning's drawing reminds me of an earlier drawing used to support the single-bullet theory. In his 1966 book, Our Murdered Presidents, a book supporting the Warren Report and its single-bullet theory, writer Stewart M. Brooks reprinted an early cartoon depiction of the shooting. This Boston Globe cartoon inaccurately depicted the Texas School Book Depository, on the northwest corner of Houston and Elm, in the actual location of the Dal-Tex Building, on the northeast corner of Houston and Elm. Brooks thus misled his readers into believing the Warren Commission's purported single-bullet shot came from directly behind Kennedy and Connally. Now, was this just a dumb mistake?? Or was Brooks deliberately deceiving his readers, knowing full well that the Dal-Tex location was the more "logical" source for a shot striking both men on the right sides of their bodies? Call me paranoid if you like. But I'm not so sure these innocent mistakes are "innocent."
Particularly when these "mistakes" form a pattern...
The Smoking Spine?
The realization that Baden's Exhibit F-58 misrepresented the location of Kennedy's back wound, and moved it further from the spine, led me to wonder just how a bullet entering a back within two inches of the middle of a grown man’s spine can exit from the middle of his throat without striking his spine.Since there was NO damage to the nose of the purported magic bullet, the slightest tick of a transverse process destroys the single-bullet theory. Someone needs to show us then how the proposed magic bullet made its way through Kennedy’s body without striking any bone. Every time a single-bullet theorist makes an appearance the audience should start chanting “spine…spine…” until he deals with this problem. I’m almost serious.
I mean, it's not as if Arlen Specter, when developing his theory, was unaware of this problem. Pathologists consulted for an 11-24-63 article for the Associated Press had claimed that any bullet entering or exiting near the Adam's Apple would "probably" have "struck the spinal cord." When taking the testimony of Dr. Malcolm Perry in March 1964, moreover, Specter asked Perry about his initial speculation Kennedy's throat wound and head wound were caused by one bullet. To this, Perry replied "Since I observed only two wounds in my cursory examination, it would have necessitated the missile striking probably a bony structure and being deviated in its course in order to account for these two wounds...It required striking the spine." Well, if Dr. Perry thought a bullet entering the middle of Kennedy's throat and exiting the right side of his head might very well have hit his spine, shouldn't Specter have considered the likelihood a bullet on the opposite right to left trajectory would similarly strike his spine?
So, why didn't he? Was he afraid of what he'd find? Both Dr. John Nichols in the 1970's, and Dr. David Mantik in the 1990's, studied the anatomy of the neck, and the trajectory of the bullet through Kennedy's neck, and concluded that the bullet, should it have entered the entrance described in the autopsy report, and exited the exit described in the autopsy report, would have struck his spine. This is so readily apparent, in fact, that one of the first articles on the president's wounds, by Frank Carey for the Associated Press, noted: "Pathologists here speculated that President Kennedy's spinal cord and some vital nerve tracts near the base of his brain may have been badly damaged by the bullet that killed him on Friday...the Washington pathologists said that if the neck wound was near the Adam's Apple, which is on the mid-line of the neck, the bullet probably struck the spinal cord, which runs up to the brain via the back of the neck, also at the mid-line. They said a bullet entering the body near the Adam's Apple--or leaving it at that point--could also plow into vital nerve channels at the base of the brain."
When I looked into this myself, I just couldn’t find a way for the bullet to squeak through. Although some single-assassin theorist trajectories begin above T1, they nevertheless entail that the bullet passed the spine at T1, a level where the spine is considerably wider than it is higher up on the neck (even when one ignores the problematic first rib). From photos and x-rays and from the HSCA’s Exhibit F-58, I was able to estimate that the spine at T1 is 60% the width of the neck above it. As my neck is approximately 5 inches wide, I estimated that Kennedy’s spine was 3 inches wide at T1. This means that it extended 1.5 inches across the midline. Since the spine is slightly more than halfway between the back wound and the throat wound, however, this means that, even if the middle of the bullet entrance (which was ¼ inch wide) was 2 inches to the right of the midline the bullet would strike the spine at just less than one inch from the midline, a half inch or so in from the tip of T1. If the bullet entered closer to the spine—by my analysis the entrance was roughly 1 ½ inches from the midline of the spine--then the bullet would have struck the spine at a point more than ¾ of an inch in from the tip. The width of the spine at T1, therefore, necessitates that the bullet passed either above or below this level. If the bullet passed below this level, it would have to have punctured Kennedy's lung. Well, this didn't happen. But if the bullet entered at T-1 and passed above this level, the bullet would not exit at the T1 level of Kennedy's throat, as demonstrated by the autopsy photos, and concluded by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel.
This means the only way to make the single-bullet theory work is to disregard the anatomy experts, bend it like Canning, and assert that the bullet entered above T1 and passed slightly above the first rib en route to an exit at approximately the T1 level. This has its own set of problems, however. A bullet passing just over T1 would pass at C7. In 2012, at a shopping mall, I noticed that within a series of booths set up to welcome runners returning from a 10k race for charity there were two chiropractors, and that each of them had a model spine set up to advertise his wares. I inspected these spines and spoke to these chiropractors, and they both confirmed without any hesitation whatsoever that there was "no way" a bullet could pass between the transverse processes of C7 and T1 without striking bone. (This confirmed a point I'd made years before with single-assassin theorist John McAdams, who'd repeatedly claimed a bullet could have passed on such a trajectory, and that he'd demonstrated this many times with a dowel.) In any event, this suggests that, for the bullet to pass over T1 without incident, it would have to pass the spine at C6 or higher--inches above the level of the trajectory proposed by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel.
If there’s some reason to believe Kennedy’s spine at T1 is not as wide as I’ve ventured, however, or if there is some reason to believe that the bullet entered higher than C7 and just missed striking bone, I’d appreciate someone demonstrating just how this occurred. Similarly, if someone can come up with a reason to believe Kennedy was bent over at the moment of impact, as depicted in HSCA Exhibit F-46 (only with a higher back wound), then maybe the single-bullet theory can be defended.
Even then, however, there will still be significant problems with this fantastic theory, reviled the world over, that some nevertheless claim as a “fact.”