A Single Answer
by Robert Harris
Probably no crime in history has generated as much speculation, theorizing, and guesswork as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This article will not resolve all the questions surrounding the case, but it will provide an accurate answer to what is perhaps, the most fundamental and important of all the issues - the question of whether a single assassin could have been solely responsible for the fatal attack on President Kennedy.
Surprisingly enough, that question will become answerable, due to one important characteristic of the alleged murder weapon, a Mannlicher Carcano rifle that apparently, belonged to Lee Harvey Oswald. As the owner of one of these weapons, I can personally confirm that it is not as bad as some critics have made it out to be. It is reasonably accurate, and easy to fire. In the hands of even a mediocre shooter, and with a little practice, it could certainly be a deadly weapon, entirely capable of delivering a fatal bullet from the 90 yards that separated the alleged sniper's nest from the President, at the instant of the explosive head shot.
By the way, this issue should not be confused with the ancient argument that Oswald couldn't have fired all the shots in the roughly, five and one half seconds, the Warren Commission originally suggested. In more recent times, compelling arguments have been advanced, suggesting that the shots were spread out over a longer time span, more in the range of eight seconds. My own research suggests that this is probably correct, and that undoubtedly, this weapon was capable of producing three shots in such a time span. But the issue here is, whether shots were fired too closely together to have both come from this weapon. To answer that question, we must first determine what its limitations are. Fortunately, a great deal of testing has been done, to precisely resolve that question.
The following is from the testimony of FBI firearms expert, Robert Frazier. As you look at the times required for these experts to fire three shots, remember that the first one doesn't count, since the weapon was already aimed and loaded when that shot was fired. Therefore, if a series of 3 shots was fired in say, 8 seconds we would conclude that it took an average of 4 seconds to cycle the weapon and fire each shot. Parenthetical comments are mine:
Mr. EISENBERG. And do you have the times within which each agent fired the three shots?
Mr. FRAZIER. Yes, sir. Killion fired his
nine seconds, (4.5 seconds per shot) and they are shown--the three
shots are interlocking, shown on Commission Exhibit No. 549.
Mr. EISENBERG. Can you at a later date confirm the exact time?
Mr. FRAZIER. Yes, sir.
Mr. EISENBERG. And you will do that by letter to the Commission, or if you happen to come back by oral testimony?
Mr. FRAZIER. Yes, sir.
Mr. EISENBERG. And your time, Mr. Frazier?
Mr. FRAZIER. For this series, was six seconds (three seconds per shot)..1
Three seconds then, was the very fastest time for any of them. Those tests were conducted on November 27, 1963, five days after the assassination. Despite the fact that the experts were certainly better riflemen than Oswald, their range of times was probably fairly realistic. But by March of 1964, the Warren Commission had concocted a theory that had Oswald firing all three shots in roughly, 5.5 seconds, considerably faster than any of the experts. So, on March 16, 1964, shortly before Frazier was scheduled to testify, he returned alone, to the firing range and after repeated attempts, apparently managed to get his shots off within a scant 4.6 seconds, thus bringing his average down to 2.3 seconds.
As we already know, Frazier's desperate efforts to make the Warren Commission's shooting scenario credible, was not really necessary. But besides giving us an insight into the FBI's prosecutorial mindset, Frazier's final effort in 1964 provided us with a minimal time that was probably much lower than anything we would expect from Oswald or most other riflemen in the real world, and especially those who were more interested in hitting their quarry than in setting speedshooting records.
Frazier described his final efforts in this part of his testimony,
Mr. FRAZIER. I fired three shots in 4.6 seconds at 25 yards with approximately a 3-inch spread, which is the equivalent of a 12-inch spread at a hundred yards. And I feel that a 12-inch relative circle could be reduced to 6 inches or even less with considerable practice with the weapon.
Mr. EISENBERG. That is in the 4.6-second time?
Mr. FRAZIER. Yes. I would say from 4.8 to 5 seconds, in that area 4.6 is firing this weapon as fast as the bolt can be operated, I think.2
Although we will accept the 2.3 seconds as our test standard, please remember that this number is extremely minimal. Even Warren Commission counsel, Wesley Liebeler expressed doubt that the 2.3 second standard was reasonable. This is from a memo he wrote on the subject in 1964,
The figure of 2.3 as a minimum firing time for each shot used throughout chapter 3. The present discussion of rifle capability shows that expert riflemen could not fire the assassination weapon that fast. Only one of the experts managed to do so, and his shots, like those of the other FBI experts, were high and to the right of the target. The fact is that most of the experts were much more proficient with a rifle than Oswald could ever be expected to be, and the record indicates that fact..3
In 1995 I conducted informal tests at my business, videotaping two people with substantial military and firearms experience, dry-firing the Mannlicher Carcano rifle at stationary targets (telephone poles) less than 90 yards away. Their instructions were to fire as rapidly as possible, after acquiring the target in the crosshairs. By replaying the video tapes at the standard 30 fps, it was easy to measure the amount of time they took. In very case, the shooters required over 3 seconds to carry out their assignments. They were able to get their time down to slightly less than 3 seconds, but only after I asked them to fire without aiming or attempting to acquire a target at all.
This fact was corroborated yet again, by the HSCA when they recruited expert riflemen from the Washington D.C. police department to test their own theories about the timing of the Dealey Plaza shots. Based on acoustics evidence that was later discredited, the HSCA had contrived a theory that included two early shots fired by Oswald, within a span of just 1.65 seconds. Fully aware that even experts were unable to operate the weapon that quickly, they theorized that he could have fired faster by flipping the telescopic scope out of his way, and targeting through the iron sight at the end of the rifle barrel. This was a dubious theory at best, since it made little sense for a dedicated sniper to sacrifice the accuracy of a scope, when he had no reason at all to believe he would need to speed-fire the weapon. It made even less sense to imagine Oswald bothering to smuggle the scope into the depository and then remount it on his rifle (The scope, mounted on the rifle would not fit in the bag that he was claimed to have carried it in.), if he didn't intend to use it.
But this became a moot question, when after repeated test firings, eight police sharpshooters and two committee staffers, aiming with both the telescopic scope and without it, were never able to hit their targets twice within that brief time span. There was just not enough time to operate the bolt action and acquire the target4 . The obvious conclusion then, is that the experts were correct; no-one, neither professionals, nor certainly, Oswald, was able to get off a successful shot within 2.3 or fewer, seconds. Accurate shots within less than 1.65 seconds of one another, would be beyond the abilities of even world class riflemen.
At this point then, we indeed have a potential method for answering the question of whether the assassination could have been carried out by a single gunman. If shots were fired within less than 2.3 seconds of one another, we can confidently declare that at least two snipers were involved.
But how could such a determination be made? How do we measure with certainty, the elapsed time between the shots? There are no known audio recordings of the attack, and the films taken by bystanders, were silent. In fact, among researchers, there has been universal agreement on the timing of only one shot that day. That was the one that caused the terrible and highly visible explosion of the President's head at Zapruder frame 313.
As it turns out, the problem is not quite as difficult as it might appear, but we are going to need one more tool - a device to precisely measure the elapsed time between various, visible events that occurred during the attack. That will come in the form of what is probably the single most important piece of evidence in this case - the famous 8mm color film, taken by Abraham Zapruder.
Zapruder was a dress manufacturer who had recently purchased a top of the line, Zoomatic Director series, Bell & Howell movie camera, which he intended to use to film President Kennedy when the motorcade arrived. With the help of Mary Sitzman, an employee whom he had asked to help steady him, Zapruder stood atop a four foot, concrete abutment in front of the pergola in Dealey Plaza, where he captured the entire assassination on film, including the explosive headshot that still shocks viewers today.
Zapruder's view of the crime was so good, that his film became an accepted timing standard for the FBI as well as later researchers. His camera was found to run at a steady rate of 18.3 frames per second. With that knowledge, it is easy to make extremely accurate measurements of the time between various, visible events. For example, to calculate the time that elapsed between say, frame 133 and frame 187, we simply divide the number of elapsed frames, in this case 54, by 18.3. The math is quite simple:
(187-133)/18.3= 2.95 seconds
The Zapruder film has also been used to pinpoint the timing of many of the still photos taken that day. By examining the position of the limousine in a given photo and the orientation of its occupants, experts have been able to associate many of those photos with specific Zapruder frames. Perhaps the most critical of these pictures is one taken by Associated Press photographer James Altgens at precisely the equivalent of frame number 255.
But before we start to pinpoint events down to an eighteenth of a second, it might be useful to understand the general pattern of the shots that witnesses heard that day. Most of the people who heard those shots were quite clear about that and as we will see a bit later, their recollections were fully corroborated by other, very objective evidence.
The common "wisdom” among those who have held traditional views, either pro or con, on the conspiracy question, has been that the people in Dealey Plaza were hopelessly confused by the gunshots that day. Certainly, there is a kernel of credibility to that notion, at least in regard to the sources of the shots. For example, there was a good deal of diversity among the witnesses about the locations from which the shots were fired. A small majority seemed to believe that they came from the East end of Dealey Plaza, from the area of the Depository and Daltex buildings, while a slightly smaller number placed their source at the West end, or grassy knoll area. Most witnesses gave a singular response when asked where the shots came from, probably because the question, seemed to encourage that kind of answer.
But when it came to the much simpler question of the number and timing of the shots, these witnesses were remarkably consistent. Most of them reported hearing three shots. Some of those recollections may have been contaminated by FBI investigators who told witnesses that three shells were found in the sniper's nest, or in other ways, suggested that number to them. But, there was little disagreement about the spacing of the shots. The overwhelming majority reported a sequence that could hardly have been the product of government coaxing. They heard a single gunshot, followed by an extended silence, often described as about four or five seconds, and then a flurry of at least two closely spaced shots at the very end.
Because this issue is so important to the ultimate question of conspiracy, we'll be looking at a rather large quantity of testimony and evidence. If it seems we are beating a dead horse here, I can only suggest that this is necessary to overcome false theories about the assassination, that have been repeated so many times, and for so many years, that some students of the case have come to accept them as gospel. I would also urge the reader to carefully examine every citation in this section, for the simple reason, that this is the first time many of these people's statements have been published outside of the musty confines of the Warren Commissions' 26 volumes. These are the people who actually witnessed the attack and heard the shots. For far too long, their nearly unanimous memories of the shooting sequence have taken a back seat to those who didn't like what they had to say.
As we go through these witness accounts, I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to remember, that these people can only report what they actually heard. Therefore, they can only tell us about audible gunshots. That might not include silenced shots or shots that were nearly simultaneous with one another.
Although it was only mentioned once throughout all its 26 volumes, the Warren Commission to its credit, admitted in its final report,
..a substantial majority of the witnesses stated that the shots were not evenly spaced. Most witnesses recalled that the second and third shots were bunched together.5
At one point during the hearings, Warren Commissioner Allen Dulles noted the overwhelming consistency of these witnesses, when he described the ratio of those confirming that shooting scenario in comparison with others,
There has been a certain amount of testimony indicating there was a longer pause between the report of the first shot... and the second and third shots, that is not absolutely unanimous but I would say it is something like 5 to 1 or something of that kind..6
Here are some of those peoples' statements:
And we heard what we thought to be a shot. And there seemed to be a pause between the first shot and the second shot and third shots..7
Motorcycle officer Clyde Haygood,
Mr. Belin. Were the three spaced equally distant?
Mr. Haygood. No..
Mr. Belin. Was one more close than the other one?
Mr. Haygood. The last two were closer than the first. In other words, it was the first, and then a pause, and then the other two were real close.8
Railroad superintendent Lee Bowers, who was well positioned fifteen feet above the ground in the railroad tower behind the Dealey Plaza pergola,
I heard three shots. One, then a slight pause, then two very close together.9
Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell whose vehicle was in the motorcade, several cars behind the President,
There was a longer pause between the first and second shots than there was between the second and third shots. They were in rather rapid succession.10
Mrs. Earle Cabell, who was riding with her husband,
It was in just a fleeting second that I jerked my head up and I saw something in that window, and I turned around to say to Earle, "Earle, it is a shot” and before I got the words out, just as I got the words out, he said, "Oh, no; it must have been a.." the second two shots rang out.11
U.S. Congressman Ralph W. Yarborough,
..by my estimate - to me there seemed to be a longer time between the first and second shots, a much shorter time between the second and third shots.. 12
Secret Service agent William Lawson,
...I heard two more sharp reports, the second two were closer together than the first. There was one report, and a pause, then two more reports closer together, two and three were closer together than one and two. 13
Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig,
Mr. BELIN. Two or 3 seconds between the first and the second?
Mr. CRAIG. Well, it was quite a pause between there. It could have been a little longer.
Mr. BELIN. And what about between the second and third?
Mr. CRAIG. Not more than 2 seconds. It was, they were real rapid. 14
James N. Crawford,
..the second shot followed some seconds, a little time elapsed after the first one, and followed very quickly by the third one..15
Motorcycle Police Officer, Marrion Baker,
..I looked up, as the shots started, I immediately looked up, you know. I was already facing ahead and I just kind of raised, I sighted up, and while I was looking-up, those other two shots came off.16
Secret Service agent William Greer who drove the Presidential limousine,
The last two seemed to be just simultaneously, one behind the other...17
Secret Service agent George Hickey in the followup car immediately behind the President,
At the moment he was almost sitting erect I heard two reports which... were in such rapid succession that there seemed to be practically no time element between them.18
Texas Highway Patrolman, Hurchel Jacks, who drove the Vice-President's car,
I heard a shot ring out which appeared to come from the right rear of the Vice President's car. Mr. Rufus Youngblood, the Secret Service Agent riding in my car asked me what that was and at the same time he advised the Vice President and Mrs. Johnson to get down. He climbed to the rear of the seat with the Vice President and appeared to be shielding the Vice President with his own body. At that time I heard two more shots ring out.19
Mary Woodward (reporter for the Dallas Morning News)
I heard a very loud noise. And I wasn't sure what it was at that point, and I turned to my friends and asked "what was that? Is some jerk shooting off firecrackers?' And then I heard the second one, and this time I knew what had happened, because I saw the president's motion, and then the third shot came very, very quickly, on top of the second one.20
Victoria Adams, who observed the motorcade from a window in the Texas School Book Depository,
...we heard a shot, and it was a pause, and then a second shot, and then a third shot.21
Robert H. Jackson,
I would say to me it seemed like 3 or 4 seconds between the first and the second, and between the second and third, well, I guess 2 seconds, they were very close together...22
Ladybird Johnson (wife of then, vice-president Lyndon Johnson),
..suddenly there was a sharp loud report; a shot. It seemed to me to come from the right, above my shoulder, from a building. Then a moment and then two more shots in rapid succession.23
Sheriff's Deputy, C.M. Jones,
..A few short seconds later, I heard an explosion followed in about 3 to 5 seconds later two more explosions.24
Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman, who rode in the front, passenger seat of the Presidential limousine, referring to the time between the last two shots he recalled,
Let me give you an illustration, sir, before I can give you an answer. You have heard the sound barrier, of a plane breaking the sound barrier, bang, bang? that is it.25
Billy Lovelady, standing in the front entrance of the depository,
After he had passed and was about 50 yards in front of us I heard three shots. There was a slight pause after the first shot then the next two was right close together.
Mary Ann Mitchell,
...there were three---the second and third being closer together than the first and second...26
Joe R. Molina.
... Of course, the first shot was fired then there was an interval between the first and second longer than the second and third.27
...the second and third shot was pretty close together, but there was a short lapse there between the first and second shot.28
Joe Henry Rich (Hwy Patrolman who drove the Vice Presidential security car)
We turned off of Houston Street onto Elm Street and that was when I heard the first shot. I noticed a lot of confusion up ahead of me, motorcycle policemen and in the President's car and the President's security car. This Secret Service man in the front seat with me made the remark, "What the hell was that” and about that time I heard two more shots.29
The actual time between the reports I would say now, after having had time to consider the 6 seconds between the first and second report and two between the second and third.30
...the second and third were closer than the first and second. 31
I said, "the President has been shot"; we walked back to the lot and where Tracey was. I heard one shot and then a pause and then this repetition - two shots right behind the other..32
Special Agent Forrest V. Sorrels in the lead car,
There was to me about twice as much time between the first and second shots as there was between the second and third shots. 33
About this time I heard what sounded like a firecracker. Well, a very loud firecracker. It certainly didn't sound like a rifleshot. It was more of a loud cannon-type sound. I looked around to see who was throwing firecrackers or what was going on and I turned my head away from the motorcade and, of course, two more shots. 34
Chief Sheriff's Deputy Allan Sweatt,
The President's caravan had just passed and about a minute or two, I heard a shot and about 7 seconds later another shot and approximately 2 or 3 seconds later a third shot...35
Secret Service agent Warren W. Taylor,
In the instant that my left foot touched the ground, I heard two more bangs and realized that they must be gun shots.36 (More on Taylor a bit later)
Bonnie Ray Williams
... I remembered three shots, because there was a pause between the first two shots... The second and the third shot was closer together than the first shot and the second shot.. 37
Linda Willis, the fifteen year old daughter of Phil Willis (responding to a question about the number of shots),
Yes; I heard one. Then there was a little bit of time, and then there were two real fast bullets together. When the first one hit, well, the President turned from waving to the people, and he grabbed his throat, and he kind of slumped forward, and then I couldn't tell where the second shot went. 38
Deputy Sheriff, John Wiseman,
..I heard a shot and I knew something had happened. I ran at once to the corner of Houston and Main Street and out into the street when the second and third shots rang out.39
Secret Service agent Rufus W. Youngblood,
There seemed to be a longer span of time between the first and the second shot than there was between the second and third shot. 40
Those closest to the President were nearly unanimous about the shooting sequence. The driver of the followup car, Secret Service agent Kinney was maintaining a distance of just a few feet behind the Presidential limousine. He reported,
I saw the President lean toward the left and appeared to have grabbed his chest with his right hand. There was a second of pause and then two more shots were heard. 41
Sitting next to him in the front seat, Secret Service agent Roberts reported that the second and third shots were so close that he couldn't tell which of them actually caused the explosive fatal head wound.
I do not know if it was the next shot or third shot that hit the President in the head..42
Standing on the left running board of the followup car behind Clint Hill (much more on Hill, later), Secret Service agent McIntyre reported,
..the Presidential vehicle was approximately 200 feet from the underpass when the first shot was fired, followed in quick succession by two more.43
Since the Warren Commission's primary theories contended that three shots were fired within slightly over 5 seconds, and since the FBI had proven that a bare minimum of 2.3 seconds was required to operate the weapon, the notion that the final shots were closely "bunched” was just not acceptable. Obviously, the commissioners could not admit that any of the shots were bunched closely, unless they were willing to concede that the President was attacked by multiple shooters. They handled this problem by simply declaring that witnesses in general could not be trusted to accurately hear and report gunshots.
But amazingly, the critics never, during all these years, seriously challenged this arbitrary rejection of the Dealey Plaza witnesses. Conspiracy buffs were equally unhappy with these witnesses, who were claiming that the second and third shots were fired well after both the President and Governor Connally had clearly reacted to their first wounds. This would be apparent evidence that Arlen Spector's much despised, "Single bullet theory” was indeed correct - one bullet really did pass through both victims.
So, amidst the countless other suspicions, theories, and accusations hurled by the conspiracy press, almost nothing was said about the Commission's arbitrary dismissal of this small army of critical witnesses. Somehow, both sides of this controversy decided that their own opinions outweighed those of the police officers, sheriff's deputies, highway patrolmen, Secret Service agents, and civilians, who were there and actually heard the shots.
Witnesses we can witness
Some of the photos taken that day, have been firmly matched to specific Zapruder frames. Among the most important of these is a razor sharp picture taken by Associated Press photographer James Altgens, which was determined by experts to have been snapped at precisely, Zapruder frame 255. Using the simple formula we discussed earlier, it is easy to calculate that this photo was taken, (312-255)/18.3 or 3.1 seconds prior to the fatal head wound. Coincidentally, that also happens to be the average time required by FBI experts to reload and aim the weapon.
This photo will become extremely important to our study because a number of visible bystanders in that photo, described carrying out various actions which preceded two gunshots. But, a careful examination of the picture reveals that in each case, at that point in time, those actions, some of which required at least a couple of seconds to perform, had not yet been carried out. One of the clearest examples of this comes from Secret Service agent, Warren Taylor.
Special Agent Warren Taylor
Special Agent Taylor was riding three cars behind the Presidential limousine in the Vice President's security car. At that time he was sitting in the back seat next to the left, rear door. Taylor stated in his original Treasury Dept. report that he first heard a single gunshot.
Our automobile had just turned a corner (the names of the streets are unknown to me) when I heard a bang which sounded to me like a possible firecracker... As a matter of course, I opened the door and prepared to get out of the car. In the instant that my left foot touched the ground, I heard two more bangs and realized that they must be gun shots. 44
Taylor would have been just another of many witnesses reporting that the last two shots were bunched closely together, except for that marvelously clear photo by James Altgens. In it, we can see Taylor's status in the VP security vehicle, as he opens45 the door. The picture in figure 3 is a cutout from that photograph, with the left, rear door of the car Taylor was in, encircled.
It's easy to confirm Taylor's statement that he pushed the back door open (or further open), in response to the first gunshot, but it is equally easy to see that he has not yet stepped out of the car. He will not hear "two more bangs” until after his "left foot touched the pavement".
Therefore, at this point in time, at least according to Taylor, only one shot has been fired, and two more are yet to come. If he was wrong about this and the government's theories correct, then he made two errors. First, he overlooked an early, high-powered rifle shot, reporting only a single gunshot prior to stepping out of the car. Then he imagined a nonexistent shot at the end. But if he made those two errors, he was in good company. Almost everyone in Dealey Plaza who expressed an opinion about the spacing of the shots agreed with him.
Highway Patrolman Milton Wright
Another confirmation also comes from something we don't see in the Altgens photo. In that same picture (See figure 2) the vice Presidential security car in which Taylor rode, is the last visible vehicle in the motorcade. Altgens gave us a pretty good look at the intersection of Elm and Houston, including the stop light on the northwest corner. It's easy to see that at that instant no other cars have yet come into that intersection. The car Taylor rode in was followed by the Mayor's car, in which Dallas Mayor Earl Cabell and his wife were passengers. The driver of that car, Texas Highway Patrolman Milton Wright only reported hearing the last two shots that day, but he reported hearing both of them after he made the turn onto Elm Street,
The car I was driving had just turned onto Elm Street and approximately 30 feet from the intersection when I heard the first shot. When the second shot was fired I noticed a number of people running away from the Motorcade...46
hear those two
shots only after he turns onto Elm, and travels a short
distance. But, the Altgens photo proves indisputably, that at Z255 he
has not yet made that turn and has not yet entered the intersection
of Houston and Elm. So, like Taylor, Wright confirms that at this
point in time, two shots are yet to come, at least a second or two
after that photo was taken.
Special Agent George Hickey
In that same photo, it's easy to see Secret Service agent George Hickey who was riding in the back seat of the President's followup car. This is from Hickey's original Treasury dept. report, which was among the best and most detailed, filed by the Secret Service.
After a very short distance I heard a loud report which sounded like a firecracker. It appeared to come from the right and rear and seemed to me to be at ground level. I stood up and looked to my right and rear in an attempt to identify it.. Perhaps 2 or 3 seconds elapsed from the time I looked to the rear and then looked at the President. He was slumped forward and to his left, and was straightening up to an almost erect sitting position as I turned and looked. At the moment he was almost sitting erect I heard two reports which I thought were shots and that appeared to me completely different in sound than the first report and were in such rapid succession that there seemed to be practically no time element between them. 47
The Altgens photo makes it easy to confirm Hickey's claim that he stood and looked to the rear, in response to that first noise. It also makes it clear that Hickey was still turned to the rear as late as Z255, when the photo was taken, and just before he turned back to the front and then heard two gunshots.
Of equal importance
is his confirmation
he only heard one report prior to turning around, and two afterward,
coming in extreme "rapid succession”. As with other visible
witnesses, it is easy to timestamp the first shot as prior to Z255,
with at least, two to come after that point.
Special Agent Glen Bennett
Sometimes a witness's errors can be more enlightening than the parts of his story that are correct. Secret Service agent Glen Bennett, who sat in the right-rear seat of the Secret Service followup car, next to Hickey, was cited by Gerald Posner in his book, Case Closed in support of Posner's theory that shots were fired at frames, 160, 224 and 312, placing the first two, noticeably closer together than the last two . Posner argued that Oswald first fired a missed shot, and then a second bullet that passed through both the President and Governor Connally at Z224. At first glance, Bennett seems to corroborate Posner,
At this point I heard what sounded like a firecracker. I immediately looked from the right/crowd/physical area/and looked towards the President who was seated in the right rear seat of his limousine open convertible. At the moment I looked at the back of the President I heard another fire-cracker noise and saw the shot hit the President about four inches down from the right shoulder. A second shot followed immediately and hit the right rear high of the President's head.48
At a glance, Bennett's words do seem to be consistent with Posner's theory. But besides contradicting most other witnesses in Dealey Plaza that day, this interpretation presented another problem. Why, if the first two shots were closer together than the last two, as Posner suggested, did Bennett say that the final shot "followed immediately” after the second? He certainly did not describe the earlier shots that way.
Another question arises from his claim that he "saw the shot hit the President” in the back. Obviously, the bullet in flight was not visible to the human eye, and the tiny 4x7 mm. hole would have initially, been invisible on Kennedy's dark suit coat. Of course, several seconds after the bullet struck, a bloodstain appeared, which would have made the wound much darker and easier to see. All of this prompted me to suspect that Bennett really heard pretty much the same shooting sequence that the other witnesses did.
What if, after hearing that first shot, Bennett didn't turn for a couple of seconds? Then, as he did look toward the President, another shot, several seconds after Z224, rang out. This would be the gunshot at Zapruder frame, 285, which as we will see later, probably missed the President. Having heard two reports at that point, Bennett looks closely at President Kennedy, and spots the wound in his back, which has by that time, begun to bleed profusely and has become quite visible. Understandably, he thinks that the shot he just heard, was the one that hit Kennedy.
to wonder about this issue. James Altgens' famous photo
once again, comes to our rescue. By blowing up the portion of the
photo where Bennett can be seen in the security car, we can get a
pretty good idea of his orientation. Although his facial features are
indistinct, Bennett's Secret Service standard issue, black necktie
and white shirt make it clear that at Z255, he was still turned to
his right, exactly as he is seen in photos and film, a few seconds
At Z255 therefore, Bennett is yet to turn toward the front and yet to hear those second and third shots. Like most of the other witnesses, the last two reports he heard were bunched closely together. And like Secret Service agent Taylor, Patrolman Wright, Secret Service agent Clint Hill, and others, Bennett proves that the final shots came well after Zapruder frame 255.
At this point, it should be clear that this large consensus of witnesses in Dealey Plaza were correct. Contrary to theories by either government experts or conspiracy buffs, there was only one audible shot fired, prior to Zapruder frame 255, to be followed by at least two closely spaced or "bunched” shots at the very end. It is almost unbelievable that after 40 years, experts on both sides of the controversy, still labor under the illusion that the pattern was exactly the opposite of what all these people told them.
It is for that reason, that we will continue looking at evidence that is even stronger than the witnesses we have already examined. It is critically important that the reader understand that this question of closely bunched shots is not a theory or speculation. It is an absolute fact, as real and as certain as any conclusion in this case can possibly be.
Clint Hill, positioned on the left-front running board of the Secret Service followup car, turned out to be the most responsive member of the President's protective team that day, although he only reported hearing a total of two gunshots. For the purposes of our investigation, the question of exactly when he heard these shots becomes extremely important. This part of his original Treasury Dept. report, filed just a week after the attack provides us with a critical clue. He is describing the instant in which he heard the first of the two shots he recalled:
On the left hand side was a grass area with a few people scattered along it observing the motorcade passing, and I was visually scanning these people when I heard a noise similar to a firecracker...49
When did Hill hear this shot? He is visible in the Zapruder film from the instant the limousine first appears, at frame Z-133. So, we might hope to make that determination by watching to see if and when he turned to "scan” the crowd on his left, or south side of the road. We can indeed, get a good look at him in the full-width frames of the film in the MPI video, which extends into the area of the sprocket holes.50 In that version of the film, we can track him continuously, up to Zapruder frame 248. But throughout all this time it is obvious that Hill is looking either straight ahead or to his right and was never once during those frames, turned toward the left side of the road.
We can also confirm Hill's orientation in photos taken by Phil Willis and James Altgens. The Altgens photo shows him still looking to his right, and the only Special Agent standing on the running boards, who has not yet reacted to the first gunshot. He does not appear again in photos or film, until we see him in the Muchmore film, just as he leaped from the running board of the followup car, in his belated effort to save the President. Hill continues,
The sound came from my right rear and I immediately moved my head in that direction. In so doing, my eyes had to cross the Presidential automobile and I saw the President hunch forward and then slump to his left. I jumped from the follow-up car and ran toward the Presidential automobile.51
Of course, Hill is describing his desperate effort to get to the President, which can also be seen in the Zapruder, Nix and Muchmore films. This leaves us with the question of when he was scanning the crowd on his left and when he heard what he thought was the first of the two gunshots. He was obviously, not scanning the crowd to his left prior to Z255 when the Altgens picture was snapped, so he could only have looked to his left, sometime after that. A definitive answer to that question, comes when we compare his position just a fraction of second prior to the Altgens photo.
In the wide, MPI version of the Zapruder film, which includes images in the sprocket hole area, we get a good look at Hill, just prior to Altgens snapping the shutter. At that point, he is turned far to his right, in the range of approximately 70-80 degrees. This makes sense, since the motorcade was just then, passing the strange looking "umbrella man", who hiked his large black umbrella, high into the air as the limo approached him. But, in the Altgens photo, just half a second later, Hill is turned much further back to his left. He is still in a rightward orientation, but more in the range of 30-40 degrees. It is obvious then, that at Z255, he was in the act of making a fairly rapid, leftward turn.
It's important to remember, that James Altgens was an Associated Press photographer, using an expensive camera with a very fast shutter speed. It effectively, removed most blurring and motion effects, causing people and objects in his photos to appear frozen. But, we know by comparing Hill's orientation then, with Zapruder frame images, that he was really in the act of turning to his left.
When we understand that Hill was turning at a fairly quick, leftward pace as the Altgens picture was snapped, we also solve another ancient riddle. In that photo, Hill appears to be looking in the general direction of the President. So, the natural question becomes, why didn't he leap from the running board then? How could he have failed to notice the President's obvious signs of distress, which included his elbows held high in the air? Of course, the answer is that he was in the act of turning to his left, and never stopped to examine the President at all.
At the rate he was turning, Hill should have
his rotation within a fraction of a second, which put him in perfect
position to be "scanning” the small group along the left-hand
side of the road, which the motorcade was just then approaching. As
we will see a bit later, the members of that small group, which
included Charles Brehm, Jean Hill and Mary Moorman, will unanimously
corroborate Hill's claim that they were indeed, "watching the
motorcade passing.." when they heard the first in a series of
gunshots. They in turn, will be corroborated by the Zapruder film
which shows the President passing directly in front of them at
Zapruder frame 285.
you see the
President put his hands to his throat and chest while you were still
on the followup car, or after you had left it?
Of course, we know he was mistaken. President Kennedy raised his hands and arms, long before Hill leaped from the running board. But he was totally unaware of the President's distress, prior to turning left and hearing that shot.
Examining later frames in the Muchmore film, we see that Clint Hill jumped from the running board of the followup car and was on the pavement at the equivalent of about Z312-314, almost simultaneous with the fatal headshot at 312-313. Of course, he had to begin that leap several frames earlier; there was certainly not enough time for him to have jumped in response to the 312 shot. He therefore, had to have been responding to a shot that was immediately prior to that - the same one that he mistakenly believed, first wounded the President. As will be seen a bit later, Hill was provoked to jump, by a shot at precisely, Zapruder frame 285, just 1.5 seconds before the explosive bullet that killed the President. Very obviously, he was unaware of the President's distress, prior to that.
There is a very good reason why the Secret Service agents, including Hill appeared to be sluggish that day. Prior to the cluster of gunshots during the final seconds of the attack, there was only a single, audible noise, which was not nearly as loud as some of those that followed, and which really didn't sound like a gunshot at all. A few of the agents, including Hill and Kinney, who drove the followup car, didn't notice it at all.
(audible) shot, which came at Z285, all hell belatedly broke loose.
Hill jumped from the running board; Hickey grabbed his rifle; Bennett
shouted "We're hit” and Special Agent Ready, followed Hill,
leaping off the right running board. Traditional theories required
Hill, Hickey, Bennett and the others to have heard 2-3 (more?)
gunshots, and then to have calmly watched the stricken President for
a full 5 seconds before deciding to go to work. It's little wonder
that the earliest critics were suspicious of the Secret Service.
But we get a totally different picture once we understand the timing and nature of the gunshots. Some of the agents heard a single, audible noise, resembling a firecracker. That was followed by several seconds of silence, and then a cluster of closely spaced shots. Prior to that "flurry” at the very end, there was nothing they heard that should reasonably have been interpreted as anything more than a child's firecracker. But when they heard the sound of real gunfire, their responses began instantly.
The Passengers in the President's Limo
the statements of the people who were closest to the President, would
turn out to be among the most valuable to our study. Besides the
obvious advantage of being nearest the victims, these people
presented us with an even more important resource - their own
visibility. By examining them during the attack, it becomes possible
to match their testimonies with their actions. For those readers who
have believed for many years, that these people were hopelessly
confused, it may come as a bit of a shock to discover how accurate
they really were. Second, using the same techniques we used to study
the Altgens photo witnesses, we can timestamp their visible
reactions, relative to the shots they reported.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we will be able to view the startle reactions of these people to the same loud noise that Dr. Luis Alvarez discovered, had startled Abraham Zapruder at frame 285. That same gunshot provoked Clint Hill to jump from the running board of the Secret Service followup car, and caused every nonvictim riding in the Presidential limousine to react. Not surprisingly, these reactions occurred simultaneously, all five beginning within a scant 1/6th of a single second of one another.
It was in early 1995, and long before I had read Dr. Alvarez's paper, or was even aware of this huge consensus of other witnesses, that Mrs. Connally (unbeknownst to her of course) showed me what happened. I remember reading her testimony, claiming that her husband was hit after she looked back at the President. But watching the Governor's tortured face in the film, it was clear that he was wounded well before she looked back at Kennedy. Obviously, I thought, the poor woman was hopelessly confused, just like so many of the other witnesses. That's when the truth of what happened, hit me. I cannot begin to describe the almost dizzying, heady feeling that overcame me at that instant. For the first time in my life, I knew what happened, or at least an important part of what happened. I could not sleep that night.
I would urge anyone who harbors even the slightest remaining doubts about all this, to make a special effort to study Nellie Connally's statements and visible actions in the Zapruder film. They comprise a Rosetta stone which unravels a major portion of the mystery for us.
Nellie Connally's recollection that her husband was struck by a different bullet than the one that hit the President has long been cited by conspiracy theorists as a refutation to the single bullet theory. But when we look closely at her actions in the Zapruder film, a different story emerges. Her apparent rebuttal was clearly based on a misperception about when her husband was wounded.
Let's first look at the sequence of events that she recalled. This is from her Warren Commission testimony, as she describes the "frightening noise” she heard that day,
Mrs. CONNALLY. ..I heard a noise, and not
expert rifleman, I was not aware that it was a rifle. It was just a
frightening noise, and it came from the right.
Mr. SPECTER. And you are indicating with your own hands, two hands crossing over gripping your own neck?
Mrs. CONNALLY. Yes; and it seemed to me there was - he made no utterance, no cry. I saw no blood, no anything. It was just sort of nothing, the expression on his face, and he just sort of slumped down. Then very soon there was the second shot that hit John. 53
Mrs. Connally heard a single noise, which provoked her to turn to her right. Then she describes looking to the rear and seeing the stricken President, whose arms have risen upward. It is only after that, that she hears the second of three shots, which she believed, wounded her husband.
In the Zapruder film, we see her begin to turn to her right at about, Z230. But before turning completely toward the President, she stops briefly, to examine her husband. From the Zapruder side of Elm St. we can see Governor Connally's contorted face and obvious reactions to his wounds, but during those critical seconds, his back is turned to his wife. Unaware that he has been wounded, she continues her turn to the rear, to check on the President.
At frame 246 (above), Mrs. Connally glances briefly at her husband, but can only see his back. She is unaware that he has been wounded, and will later testify that she thought he was only turning to inspect the President. She continues her turn to the rear at about Z249, and can probably see JFK by about Z257 (below). Of course, his arms have risen, exactly as she described in her testimony.
Watching John Connally during these same frames, we can see that in his pain, he twists sharply to his right, coincidentally, leaning in the general direction of the President. He will then turn back to his left, leaning toward the front. Mrs. Connally was aware of his actions, but misunderstood them, as her testimony demonstrates,
John had turned to his right also when we heard that first noise and shouted, "no, no, no,' and in the process of turning back around so that he could look back and see the President - I don't think he could see him when he turned to his right - the second shot was fired and hit him.54
Of course, Governor Connally was not turning to check on the President. He had just suffered a massive chest wound, and was undoubtedly, turning and twisting involuntarily. In the Zapruder film, we can see him first begin to swing right, toward President Kennedy at about frame 235. He leans back to his left again by frame 285. During those same frames, his wife remains oblivious to his condition, glancing briefly to the front, (probably in response to Jean Hill who was shouting for JFK to turn for a picture), then back toward President Kennedy.
She never focuses on her husband again until frame 292. At that point, she twists abruptly back toward him, not coincidentally, at the precise instant that Mrs. Kennedy started to spin abruptly toward her own husband. Immediately after that, she pulls her husband down into her lap. Of course, this is when Mrs. Connally incorrectly believed her husband was first hit. As we will see a bit later, Mrs. Connally and Mrs. Kennedy were not the only ones to hear and react to a gunshot at that instant.
There have been speculations by some critics that the sequence of Mrs. Connally looking back at the President and then hearing the second shot, may have happened much earlier. Besides the fact that we can track her movements throughout most of the film (except for a single second while the limo was behind the Stemmons sign), she thoroughly rejects this possibility with the simple words,
I never again looked in the back seat of the car after my husband was shot.55
That uncompromising statement, made to both the Warren Commission and later, to the HSCA, provides us with another important timestamp. We know that Nellie Connally turned to look back at the President twice, first at about Z256, and then again at Z283. Therefore, her claim that she never turned to the rear again, if correct, proves that the second shot she heard, came no earlier than Z283. It also confirms that her rapid spin back toward her husband at Z292, had to have been in reaction to that very shot.
Mrs. Connally's story is quite simple. She heard one report, then turned to see what happened, first briefly checking her husband who appeared to also be turning to look to the rear. Then she spotted the stricken President. At that point she has heard one "frightening noise” and seen one victim. There was no logical reason to suspect that her husband was hurt. But then she heard that second shot, and saw (for the first time) her husband's wounds. It was understandable that she thought he was first wounded, then.
We can further confirm her error through the extremely revealing fact that Governor Connally and his wife disagreed on one critical point. The Governor testified,
...I immediately, when I was hit, I said, "Oh, no, no, no"56
Mrs. Connally remembered differently. She testified,
I recall John saying "Oh, no, no, no, no". Then there was a second shot, and it hit John...57
Obviously, she thought he was shouting only because the limousine was under fire, and that he was hit after the point when he shouted "Oh, no, no, no". Nellie was not the only one to get this false, but perfectly understandable, impression. As we discussed before, Governor Connally did not fall immediately after being wounded. He first turned far to his right, and then swung back to his left. This sequence occurred during frames Z235-285. It is not surprising that Mrs. Connally whose attention was on the President, and could not see the Governor's face, also thought he was unharmed at this point.
In Mark Lane's documentary film, Rush to Judgment - the Plot to Kill Kennedy, Mr. S.M. Holland, who was viewing the motorcade from the triple overpass, confirmed Mrs. Connally's impressions by making exactly the same error:
The first bullet, the President slumped over and Governor Connally made his turn to the right and then back to the left and that's when the second shot was fired and knocked him down to the floorboard.58
Holland was also unaware that the Governor was wounded earlier He confirmed Mrs. Connally's testimony that a shot occurred after the Governor's right-left turning sequence, and just before he collapsed into her arms.
Presidential aide, Dave Powers who was well positioned in the right jump seat of the Secret Service followup car also made this error, believing that the President was hit by the first shot and the Governor by the second:
..the first shot went off and it sounded to me as if it were a firecracker. I noticed then that the President moved quite far to his left after the shot from the extreme right hand side where he had been sitting. There was a second shot and Governor Connally disappeared from sight and then there was a third shot which took off the top of the President's head..."59
Many others in this vicinity, got this same, false impression. This is from p. 77 (softback edition), Six Seconds in Dallas,
Linda Kay Willis likewise saw the first and third shots hit the President, but she "couldn't tell where the second shot went(7H498).". When in November 6, 1966, I asked Linda Kay where the second shot went, she told me that she and her whole family (all present in Dealey Plaza that day) had believed from November 22nd on that Governor Connally had been wounded by the second shot.
Mrs. Connally's recollections about the sequence of events she witnessed, are a classic example of the importance of seeking objective timestampings. She confirms the timing of the final shots in three different ways:
First, she confirmed that the final shots came after she turned toward the President, which she did in the mid Z250's.
Second, she contradicted her husband, claiming that he was hit after he shouted "Oh, no, no, no” again placing the shot after the mid 250's.
And third, she confirmed that this shot came after Z280, when she said that she never looked in the back seat again, after hearing it.
Yet, her subjective opinion of the timing of the shots, placed her among the tiny minority in Dealey Plaza that day, who thought the first shots were closer together than the final ones
Mr. SPECTER. What is your best estimate on the time that passed from the first to the last shot?
Mrs. CONNALLY. Very short. It seemed to me that there was less time between the first and the second than between the second and the third.60
It is a well know phenomena, that time seems to slow down for people who are exposed to life threatening situations. Mrs. Kennedy for example, described those terrible few seconds as "an eternity". So, it is not surprising, that when Mrs. Connally discovered that her husband's chest was drenched in blood, time came to a near standstill. The seconds must have seemed like minutes, between that instant and the President's explosive head wound.
provide the refutation to the "single bullet theory” that
conspiracy buffs thought she did, but she provided us with something
infinitely more important and credible. She confirmed beyond
reasonable doubt, the existence of a gunshot that was fired just a
few frames before she reacted. That shot was fired 1.5 seconds prior
to the devastating head wound that killed the President. Among the
many people who corroborated her, was Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy.
Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy
Mrs. Kennedy's testimony before the Warren Commission appears in places, to be somewhat ambiguous. Part of that may have been due to transcription errors resulting from her extremely soft voice. Nonetheless, her story becomes clear if we take her statements literally and in the order she presents them. She begins by talking about the first noise she heard.
You know, there is always noise in a motorcade and there are always motorcycles, beside us, a lot of them backfiring. So I was looking to the left. I guess there was a noise, but it didn't seem like any different noise really because there is so much noise, motorcycles and things.61
Mrs. Kennedy's description of this early sound is strange indeed, but it mimicked that of many others who described this first shot as much different, or weaker than those that followed. As we will see, a number of witnesses, including several Secret Service agents, never heard it at all. But based on measurements of the sound levels generated by the Mannlicher Carcano rifle, as well as witness descriptions of some of the later shots, we know that these rifle reports should been positively ear shattering. We will talk more about this later, but for the moment, let's get back to Mrs. Kennedy. We can easily confirm in the Zapruder film, her recollection that she was "..looking to the left” during this early part of the attack. We see her doing exactly that, during frames just after the limousine turned onto Elm Street.
Based on her description of that first "noise" Mrs. Kennedy certainly heard something at this early point, though she was never convinced that it was a gunshot. In fact, she makes no mention at all of possible gunshots prior to the next part of her testimony where she describes hearing Governor Connally shouting. Mrs. Kennedy continued,
But then suddenly Governor Connally was yelling, "Oh, no, no, no."62
In the film, we see Governor Connally open his mouth to shout in the early Z240's. Mrs. Kennedy's testimony continues, as Warren Commission counsel Rankin asks her a critical question,
Mr. RANKIN. Did he turn toward you?
Mrs. KENNEDY. No; I was looking this way, to the left, and I heard these terrible noises
This is where we have always misunderstood Mrs. Kennedy's testimony. At this point she has already described the early frames in which she was looking at the crowd on her left, and has moved on to describe events several seconds later. As we can easily confirm in the film, this last reference to "looking this way, to the left” describes her position after she turned leftward, away from her husband, and toward Governor Connally, who was indeed, positioned to her left. It was while she was turned to her "left” then, that she heard the "terrible noises” She further confirmed that fact, in the following passage from her testimony,
And it used to confuse me because first I remembered there were three and I used to think my husband didn't make any sound when he was shot. And Governor Connally screamed. And then I read the other day that it was the same shot that hit them both. But I used to think if I only had been looking to the right I would have seen the first shot hit him, then I could have pulled him down, and then the second shot would not have hit him. But I heard Governor Connally yelling and that made me turn around, and as I turned to the right my husband was doing this [indicating with hand at neck]. He was receiving a bullet.63
Clearly, Mrs. Kennedy's original recollection was that she was turned away from her husband when she heard what she believed, was the first shot, because Governor Connally's shouting drew her attention. Of course, we know that John Connally shouted in reaction to being hit, beginning at about Zapruder frame 240. In fact, Mrs. Kennedy's recollection is fully confirmed in the Zapruder film.
As we see in the above images, Jackie was indeed correct, that she reacted to the Governor's shouting by turning to her left and toward him. By Z257, she is looking directly toward Governor Connally. The next part of her testimony also matches perfectly with what we see in the Zapruder film,
And my husband never made any sound. So I turned to the right.
From Z257 to Z289, the first lady's eyes remained fixed on Mr. Connally but suddenly, beginning at Z290, we see her spin quickly to her right, and back toward the President, exactly as she testified, and in perfect unison with Mrs. Connally's reaction as she turned back toward her own husband.
Immediately after that, we see her begin to rapidly duck, as her head drops forward and downward. The traditional "wisdom” here has always been that Mrs. Kennedy was dropping her head in order to inspect her husband. But, a closer look at her reactions, belies that conclusion. The first step in understanding what is happening here, is to look at the speed of her reaction, as it occurred in real time. For those of you who have a good copy of the Zapruder film, I would urge you to watch in real time and notice how rapidly her head drops. Consider whether this really looks like someone gingerly inspecting her spouse, or someone who has been thoroughly frightened.
Another good way to understand what was happening then is to examine Mrs. Kennedy in the film made by Marie Muchmore from the South side of Elm Street. During two adjacent frames in this film, we see the First Lady drop her head a considerable distance, about 30 degrees. Muchmore's camera was found to run at the same 18 fps as Zapruder's, so we know that Jackie's motion occurred in a scant, eighteenth of a single second.
We can also get a good look at Mrs. Kennedy after she has dropped her head, in the relatively sharp, Zapruder frame 312. Clearly, she was looking downward and away from President Kennedy, rather than toward him.
The notion that she was ducking then is further reinforced by the reactions of the other nonvictims in the President's limousine. With the exception of the driver, Special Agent Bill Greer, who was turned to the rear at the time, every one of them can be seen to have dropped their heads, as Mrs. Kennedy did. But Greer made an incredibly rapid turn to the front and back to the rear, beginning within an 18th of a second of the other reactions. In his panic, he then stepped on the brake.
there is only
one plausible explanation for such abrupt reactions. Mrs. Kennedy was
hearing the first of what she called, the "terrible noises”
Not surprisingly, the sequence of events she described, matched
perfectly with the testimonies of her fellow passengers, or at least
those who were nonvictims. We can easily follow each part of her
testimony, in the Zapruder film, confirming not only the accuracy of
her recollections, but her orientation at each described point. Most
importantly, we can see that she heard and recalled the same pattern
of gunshots that most of her fellow witnesses that day, heard.
Special Agent Roy Kellerman
ASAIC (Assistant Special Agent in charge) Roy Kellerman, in the front passenger's seat of the Presidential limousine was one of the first to react to the first shot, which was probably fired around Zapruder frame 150. Like some of the other Secret Service agents, his recollection of events was quite detailed, and much of it can be visually confirmed in the Zapruder film. But Kellerman also held another distinction. He was almost certainly, the last person to have ever heard the President speak. This is from his original report, filed just 7 days after the assassination,
As the motorcade completed the main thoroughfare through Dallas, we made a sharp right turn, for about a 1/2 block, then a curved left turn into a slight downhill grade entering an area with little or no spectators. We were still traveling at the normal rate of speed of from 12 to 15 miles per hour when I heard a noise, similar to a firecracker, exploding in the area to the rear of the car..64
Notice by the way, that like Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Connally, Kellerman does not call this first "noise” a gunshot. He will later testify that it was much different than the sounds of gunshots that followed. He continues,
I turned around to find out what happened when two additional shots rang out, and the President slumped into Mrs. Kennedy's lap and Governor Connally fell to Mrs. Connally's lap.. 65
Kellerman heard two shots (He will later testify to "at least” two shots then.) after turning to look toward the back. We know that one of them was the fatal headshot at Zapruder frame 313 after which, the President did of course, "slump” into his wife's lap. Viewing Kellerman in the Zapruder film, he first begins to turn to his left, looking into the back seat, just after Nellie Connally also turned to look back. He appears to be turned far enough to see the President by about Z270. We might reasonably suspect that the second and third shots he spoke of, occurred at some point after that.
We also see that like Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Connally, Roy Kellerman responded instantly to the startlingly loud shock wave, by instinctively dropping his head and then raising his left hand up to shield his ear.. We can see this beginning at about Z292-293. Within less than a second, he has returned to his upright position.
This motion began just 1/9th of a second after Jackie Kennedy began to duck, and 1/18th of a second after Mrs. Connally began to twist in a counterclockwise motion, away from the President, and toward her husband. In his Warren Commission testimony, Kellerman was quite explicit in his description of the final shots,
I come right back and grabbed the speaker and said to the driver, "Let's get out of here; we are hit,” and grabbed the mike and I said, "Lawson, this is Kellerman" this is Lawson, who is in the front car. "We are hit; get us to the hospital immediately.” Now, in the seconds that I talked just now, a flurry of shells come into the car.66
Later in his testimony, he was asked again about the "flurry",
Mr. SPECTER. Now, in your prior testimony you described a flurry of shells into the car. How many shots did you hear after the first noise which you described as sounding like a firecracker?
Mr. KELLERMAN. Mr. Specter, these shells came in all together.
Mr. SPECTER. Are you able to say how many you heard?
Mr. KELLERMAN. I am going to say two, and it was like a double bang--bang, bang.
Mr. SPECTER. You mean now two shots in addition to the first noise?
Mr. KELLERMAN. Yes,
yes, sir; at
Mr. KELLERMAN. Let me give you an
before I can give you an answer. You have heard the sound barrier, of
a plane breaking the sound barrier, bang, bang? that is it.
Mr. KELLERMAN. That is right; that is right, sir.68
Kellerman has corroborated the fact that there was a flurry of shots at this point in four different ways. First, he stated that he heard two shots after turning to look back and check on the President, which firmly places those reports well after the Z260's. Second, he stated that the final shots were like the closely spaced, double bang of a sonic boom. Third, he described the final shots as a flurry of "at least” two shots.
compelling and precise corroboration however, comes from his visible
ducking movement (click
here to view his reaction), dropping his head rapidly downward by
roughly 30 degrees, a fraction of a second after the noise at Z285
which also startled Abraham Zapruder, and was in near perfect unison
with reactions by Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Connally. As you study
Kellerman, pay particular attention to his left hand, as he raises it
to shield his left ear from the shrill, 130-140 decibel shock wave of
the passing bullet.
Special Agent William Greer
William Greer, the 54-year-old driver of the Presidential limousine has been the target of critics, practically since the day of the assassination. He was first accused of being an accomplice in the crime by deliberately slowing the limousine in order to make the President an easier target. Years later, in one of the silliest and most outrageous "theories” ever put forward, he was charged with actually turning around and shooting Kennedy himself, with a handgun. Since I have seen a number of people on the Internet posting messages in support of this nonsense, I will take a moment to discuss it.
This theory has been thoroughly debunked by Robert Groden as well as others. The foundation for it rests on a not-too-convincing illusion in the Zapruder film. In frame 313, we can see the glare of the sun reflecting off the top of Kellerman's head. As it happened, the shape of the glare spot and it's height look a bit like Greer is holding a shiny handgun. The effect is even more convincing, since the creator of this hoax used a poor quality copy of the film (claiming it was "enhanced"), to make his case. If there is still anyone out there who believes this nonsense, I would urge him to consider the likelihood that hundreds of witnesses who were focused on the President, as well as Mrs. Kennedy and the Connallys, just didn't happen to notice that Greer turned around and shot the President, while in plain view of everyone. Of course, no witness ever reported seeing or even faintly suspecting such a thing.
As we will see, the other charge, that Greer deliberately slowed the limousine down, is also false. He most certainly did hit the brake, just before Zapruder frame 300, but he did so in a state of panic, just a fraction of a second after being thoroughly startled by the sharp crack of the shock wave at Z285. To understand this, let's go back a few frames. Like Mrs. Connally and Kellerman, Greer responded to the first audible shot by turning to look to the rear. It is difficult to see exactly when this turn was made, though my impression is that it happened just after Z260. But there is no doubt at all that he is looking backward well before Z280.
Greer testified that he didn't turn far enough to see the President, but he recalled seeing Governor and Mrs. Connally. Of course, this matches perfectly with his first turn to the rear. But suddenly, beginning at about Z291-292, he begins an abrupt and extremely rapid counterclockwise movement back toward the front. As Dr. Alvarez and other researchers have determined, by analyzing the speed of the limousine from frame to frame, the limo begins a substantial slowdown just after Zapruder frame 300. This tells us that after Greer turned back to the front, he panicked and hit the brake, although he doesn't hold it down long enough to bring the heavy limousine to a full stop. Like almost everyone else who heard the shots, Greer confirmed that the shooting sequence ended with a flurry of closely spaced reports. This is from his Warren Commission testimony:
Mr. SPECTER. Do you have an independent recollection at this moment of having heard three shots at that time
Mr. GREER. I knew that after I heard the second one, that is when I looked over my shoulder, and I was conscious that there was something wrong, because that is when I saw Governor Connally. And when I turned around again, to the best of my recollection there was another one, right immediately after.
Mr. SPECTER. ..how much time elapsed from the first noise which you have described as being similar to the backfire of a motor vehicle until you heard the second noise?
Mr. GREER. It seems a matter of seconds, I really couldn't say. Three or four seconds.
Mr. SPECTER. How much time elapsed, to the best of your ability to estimate and recollect, between the time of the second noise and the time of the third noise?
Mr. GREER. The last two seemed to be just simultaneously, one behind the other..69
shot at frame Z285 startled Greer, causing him to spin around to the
front in a panic. Interestingly, some critics have claimed that his
turn at that point was so rapid that it was humanly impossible and
therefore evidence that the film was edited or tampered with. In
early 1997 I ran some simple tests in which I had someone film me as
I turned rapidly in a chair, similar to Greer. The test proved quite
conclusively that his turn was not at all impossible, but it most
certainly was rapid. The turns I made that matched his performance
quite frankly, left me a little bit dizzy.
Greer further confirmed the notion that he was startled by this shot, in this part of his testimony where he describes his impressions of the second shot,
Mr. GREER. The second one didn't sound any different much than the first one but I kind of got, by turning around, I don't know whether I got a little concussion of it, maybe when it hit something or not, I may have gotten a little concussion that made me think there was something different to it.70
This is an important part of Greer's recollections. First, he confirms that he was turned around when he heard this second gunshot. Since we know he turned to the rear no earlier than Z260, he fully corroborates the recollections of Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Connally, Secret Service agent Kellerman, and as most other witnesses who placed the final shots at the very end of the attack.
His statement makes even more sense when we consider his seemingly strange claim that he felt the "concussion” of this shot. The shock wave of a supersonic bullet carries with it, a small but noticeable amount of force, enough in most cases, to blow out a candle and certainly enough to cause a distinct tingling sensation on the skin of anyone who is in close proximity to it. We can easily see that at Z285, Greer was facing the rear, so a supersonic bullet from that direction, and especially one that missed, would generate a shock wave that would certainly have been felt on his face. This was the "concussion” he reported. The slight sting of such a force, combined with it's ear-shattering noise would certainly be more than enough to provoke the rapid, panic reaction we see in the film.
Greer might have simply gotten confused and was thinking of the
explosive Z312-313 shot when he described feeling it's "concussion".
But he seems to have eliminated that possibility when he described
his uncertainty about, "when it hit something or not".
Certainly, after the terrible explosion at Z313 he would have had no
doubts at all about whether that bullet had found its target. But as
it turned out, the Z285 bullet missed the President and found another
victim more than 200 feet away.
The Shot at Z285
At this point, we have looked at quite a few important clues. One of these is that a very large majority of the witnesses who expressed an opinion about the shooting sequence, said the final shots were bunched closely together. But while this general consensus is important, it fails to provide us with specific knowledge of when the individual shots were fired. We started to zero in on that question when we looked at witnesses who described hearing two shots after carrying out actions that we can see, had not yet happened, until some time after Zapruder frames in the range of 255 to 270. That knowledge alone, makes it virtually impossible that a single assassin, using the Mannlicher Carcano rifle, could have carried out the attack by himself.
Fortunately however, we have not quite used up all of our resources. The most powerful of these is based on the rather obvious notion that people are startled by the effects of unexpected gunfire. To understand why this can be so revealing, we first need to understand what the occupants of the Presidential limousine were exposed to as the high powered rifle bullets flew into or near the vehicle. In 1978, acoustics experts for the HSCA conducted some very revealing tests using microphones and decibel meters. One of those experts, Dr. James E. Barger, explained how they positioned microphones at varying distances from Oswald's rifle and measured both the shock wave and the muzzle blast it produced. This is from his HSCA testimony,
..the shock wave was measured by a microphone 10 feet from the trajectory of the bullet and the muzzle blast was measured by the same microphone which was at the same time 30 feet from the muzzle... The shockwave has an intensity of 130 decibels. The muzzle blast at 30 feet is more intense. It has an intensity of 137 decibels.71
For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology here, a "decibel” is a very precise measurement of sound, or loudness. For example, a typical household vacuum cleaner generates about 80 decibels of sound. To the human ear, sound levels double every 10 decibels, so 90db is twice as loud as the vacuum cleaner and 100 decibels is twice as loud as 90. Levels in excess of 110db will destroy most home stereo loudspeakers. 120db is twice as loud as 110 and can result in permanent hearing damage. 130db, the level generated by a Mannlicher Carcano bullet is then, twice as loud as 120. So, if John Kennedy was struck by a bullet from the Mannlicher Carcano rifle, or a similar weapon, then for a brief fraction of a second, Mrs. Kennedy and the others in the limousine, were exposed to precisely that level of ear shattering intensity.
It's also important to understand the difference between a muzzle blast and a shock wave. A muzzle blast is the explosion of a bullet cartridge as a firearm discharges. This is of course, the loudest sound associated with a gunshot. But sound diminishes with distance, so the muzzle blast from a weapon several hundred feet away, would not be nearly as loud as the shock wave near the bullet's path, which is actually generated as it flys at supersonic velocity through the air. So, if such a supersonic bullet passes near someone, its shock wave would probably be the loudest sound he or she heard, and certainly louder than a muzzle blast say, two hundred feet away. This is how Dr. Bargis described the phenomenon,
By the way, for clarification of those listening who may be wondering what a shock wave is, that is the well-known crack sound that you hear when a rifle is fired that precedes the muzzle blast. It is normally almost simultaneous with the bang or muzzle blast, itself. It is similar to the sort of thing you hear when someone cracks a whip and, of course, a very louder and deeper toned example is the sound you hear when an airplane goes by overhead at a greater speed than the speed of sound. It is a sharp, very brief, but very intense sound.72
So, a bullet passing near an individual will be heard almost simultaneous with the bullet's passing, whereas the muzzle blast from a more distant rifle will be heard only after it arrives, at a velocity of about 1100 feet per second. In most cases, the two sounds will be perceived as simultaneous. It is easy to observe the effect of such a sound on the passengers in the President's limousine. Mrs. Kennedy, Special Agent Roy Kellerman, Special Agent Greer, and Mrs. Connally all clearly reacted within a tiny fraction of a second following their exposure to the piercing shock wave that was generated by the fatal bullet at Zapruder frame 312-313.
Of course, these extremely rapid reactions were entirely involuntary. It is simply not possible for the human mind to calculate and then make conscious decisions within 2/9ths of a second. Further, we can see that these reactions were not the result of these people seeing the President struck. Kellerman for example, was turned fully toward the front and could not see him at all. Neither could Mrs. Kennedy who was looking down and away from her husband at that instant. Of equal importance to our study, is the fact that these involuntary, startle reactions must begin within a very short time following the stimulus. This is from the HSCA reports, citing research that very precisely, measured these response times,
Startile reaction times in response to the sound of gunshots were measured in the experimental work of Landis and Hunt in 1939. (31) For "head movement:' "movement of neck muscles,” and "initiation of arm movement,” Landis and Hunt found that the reaction time was 0.06 to 0.2 second (i.e., 1.1 to 3.7 frames).74
Of course, Hunt and Landis were examining their subjects from very close range, where they could perceive the earliest and most subtle reactions. Watching from a greater distance in the Zapruder film, we would expect a slightly greater delay in spotting them. But this kind of rapid, involuntary response is entirely different than the "What was that?" kind of reactions we saw during the early part of the attack, and which were spread out over a time frame of 4-5 seconds.
Dr. Luis Alvarez
This principle of startle reactions was the foundation of some revealing scientific analysis of the Zapruder film that was conducted by the Nobel prize winning physicist and consultant to Bell & Howell (the manufacturer of Zapruder's camera) Dr. Luis Alvarez. One of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, Alvarez was the youngest scientist on the Manhattan project, working on the development of the atomic bomb in 1945. In 1968 he won a Nobel prize for his work in particle Physics. He also filed hundreds of patents on a wide range of inventions. In his spare time, Alvarez solved one of the greatest mysteries in Paleontology, when he discovered the likely cause for the extinction of the dinosaur. But for our purposes, Alvarez's greatest contribution was his brilliant analysis of the Zapruder film.
Alvarez wrote articles in 1966 for Life magazine and in 1976, for the American Journal of Physics, explaining how sharp noises could be detected in film by looking for certain patterns of blurred frames. These telltale series of "angular accelerations" as he called them, identified points at which the camera operator was startled, provoking him to slightly jerk the camera. In his paper, Alvarez talked about his experiences working with a film crew in Africa and their problems trying to film big game hunters, with handheld cameras. In every case, they found blurred frames in the film, immediately following rifle shots. But the blurring disappeared when the camera was placed on a tripod, confirming that it was indeed, the camera operators who caused the problem.
These blurrings appeared in a very distinct and predictable pattern, each separated by 1/3 of a second from the other. Alvarez saw that same pattern following the explosive head wound in the Zapruder film. But this is not the only place where he discovered this pattern. After a long series of relatively clear frames, between Z230 and Z289, he found a substantial blurring in frames 290-291. This was followed by slightly weaker blurs at Z296, a third of a second later, and again at Z302-303, each easily seen in any decent copy of the film. Although the reactions are not quite as strong as those following Z312, they appear in the same telltale, 6 frame or 1/3 second pattern. From this, Alvarez deduced that Zapruder was startled by a sharp noise at Z285.
But this presented a serious problem for Alvarez, who was an unabashed supporter of the Warren Commission. Z285 came just 1.5 seconds before the known shot at Z312, and he was acutely aware that the FBI had determined that a minimum of 2.3 seconds was required to operate the Mannlicher Carcano rifle, as he made clear in his paper,
One of the "boundary conditions” on the timing of the shots (assuming there were three - one from each ejected cartridge) was the FBI's finding that a skilled marksman could not space his shots more closely than 2.3 sec. or 42 frames of Mr. Zapruder's camera, with its measured frame rate of 18.3 per second.75
Operating on the assumption or "boundary condition” that Oswald could not have fired both shots in that time span, Alvarez speculated that someone in the motorcade could have turned on a siren at that instant, which startled Zapruder. That might not have been a bad theory, except for the fact that among the nearly 400 people in the vicinity of Dealey Plaza that day, including the police officers and Secret Service agents who operated the sirens, not a single person reported hearing such a thing until well after the shooting ended.
Alvarez also noted that the blurring in these frames was not as strong as in the frames following Z312. Of course, operating on the assumption that all of the shots came from the same place, it made sense for him to assume that each report should have provoked the same degree of reaction. But, for that same reason, he never mentioned or apparently considered the possibility that a shot from a different weapon and from a different location, might have startled Zapruder substantially more or less than did the Z312 shot. The obvious principle of course, is that a louder explosion will provoke a more pronounced reaction than a weaker one. As we will see, the answer to this puzzle was before us in the Zapruder film, all along. Alvarez would have gotten it too, if he had only considered the obvious fact that the passengers in the Presidential limousine were roughly 30 times closer to the origin of the bullets shock wave than was Zapruder. Predictably, their reactions were much stronger and more obvious.
What Alvarez overlooked was that within 1/18th of a second after Z290-291, the instant Zapruder blurred the first in that series of telltale frames, four other startle reactions can be seen in the Zapruder film. You can view that segment in the following animation.
Of course, the key to determining the nature of these responses is to determine when each reactions begins. The reactions are as follows:
1. At precisely Z290, Mrs. Kennedy, who has been focused on Governor Connally, begins to spin to her right, toward her husband. Almost immediately, she begins to drop her head in a very rapid ducking motion.
2. At Z291, Mrs. Connally begins to turn away from President Kennedy and toward her husband. She mistakenly believed that he was hit by this shot.
3. At Z292, Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman begins to abruptly drop his head, almost exactly as he will do 1.5 second later, in reaction to the next shot. He will later testify that a rapid "flurry of shells” came into the car at that instant.
4. At Z292, the driver, Special Agent Roy Greer who was turned to the rear, begins a breakneck turn back toward the front. His motion is so quick, that some critics will later claim (incorrectly) that it was humanly impossible and evidence of forgery in the film. Greer will later testify that the final shots "..seemed to be just simultaneously, one behind the other..76
Put another way, every nonvictim in the limousine reacted within 1/9th of a second of Zapruder's reaction at Z290-291. All five of them reacted within 1/6th of a second of one another.
It is easy to confirm these reactions in the Zapruder film,
But if there really was a gunshot at Z285, we would also expect corroboration from the people who stood along the road where the limo passed at that instant. We already know from Clint Hill's testimony, that the limo was indeed, passing in front of a small crowd when this shot went off. He described the crowd as, "a few people in a grassy area", who were "observing the motorcade passing".
Between the limo's arrival on Elm St. and the fatal, Z313 head shot, the motorcade only passed in front of one group that really fit that description. This was a small cluster of people on the south side of Elm that included Charles Brehm and his 5-year-old son, an unknown lady known to researchers, only as "Babushka lady"77, Jean Hill, and Mary Moorman. If Clint Hill's recollection was correct, then we would expect those witnesses to have each heard a series of two or more gunshots, just as the limo passed in front of them. As it turned out, that is exactly what they each reported.
Combat veteran Charles Brehm stood at a point almost midway between Houston St. and the triple underpass. He was a great fan of President Kennedy's and literally, broke into tears as he told a television interviewer, shortly after the assassination, that he was quite certain the President was fatally wounded. To understand Brehm, we must first consider the fact that we can still see him enthusiastically applauding, as late as Zapruder frame 295. This suggests that he did not hear any earlier shots, or he would certainly have stopped. His statements to the FBI and other interviewers, fully confirms that fact.
Charles Brehm was interviewed by the FBI on 11/24/63, less than 48 hours after the assassination, at which time, he said that he heard three rapid shots, just as the limousine passed in front of him. This is from the original FBI report (emphasis is mine):
When the President's automobile was very close to him and he could see the President's face very well, the President was seated, but was leaning forward when he stiffened perceptibly at the same instant what appeared to be a rifle shot sounded. According to BREHM, the President seemed to stiffen and come to a pause when another shot sounded and the President appeared to be badly hit in the head...
BREHM said that a third shot followed and that all three shots were relatively close together.78
Brehm's recollection here is extremely important. Not only does he confirm that he heard the first of three shots just as the limo pulled "very close to him” but he also confirms that there was a final gunshot after the explosive head wound. From that same report,
BREHM expressed his opinion that between the first and third shots, the President's car only seemed to move 10 or 12 feet.79
Of course, the actual distance the limo moved during the shots at Z285, 312 and 323, was a tad less than 28 feet, but then Brehm wasn't using a tape measure. He also spoke to other reporters that day, and was even more specific about the location of the President when he heard that first of three shots,
I happened to be about 15 feet away from the President when the first shot hit him.80
In yet another interview on 11/22/63, Brehm stated that the President was "15-20 feet” from him when he heard the first report. Keeping in mind, that Elm St. was (and is) almost exactly 40 feet wide, it is easy to calculate the distance between Kennedy and Brehm at Zapruder frame 285. Depending on the limousine's exact position in the road, it turns out to have been about 18-21 feet.
Jean Hill and Mary Moorman
Jean Hill is easily seen in the Zapruder film, wearing a bright red coat, and standing on the South side of Elm St. next to her friend, Mary Moorman. This is from her interview with WFAA television on the day of the assassination,
..just as the car came right inline with us, the President looked up and just as he looked up two shots rang out..81
We already know that the limousine was passing directly in front of Charles Brehm at frame 285. But, within a fraction of a second, it continued on to pass in front of Jean Hill, and Mary Moorman. Jean's recollection that it was "right inline with us” makes perfect sense.
Hill has been a controversial witness because she changed several aspects of her story over the years, claiming for example that she saw the muzzle flash of a rifle on the grassy knoll. But this contradicted her statements in original interviews on 11/22/63, when she said that she saw no-one shooting. Much of that was probably due to the influence of conspiracy writers who desperately wanted her to have seen such a thing, and apparently, convinced her that she did. But, her memories about the timing of the gunshots have never changed. This is a statement from her 1988 interview in the documentary film, "the Men Who Shot Kennedy"
Just as my friend started to take a Polaroid picture of the President, as his car was coming abreast the shots rang out.82
It's important to understand that like Charles Brehm, and many others, Hill Moorman did not hear the first shots. In fact, as the limousine approached their position, Jean was shouting for the President to turn toward their side of the road so that her friend could get a good picture. This is from her Warren Commission testimony,
I was so afraid he was going to look the other way because there were a lot of people across the street and we were, as far as I know, we were the only people down there in that area, and just as I yelled, "Hey," to him, he started to bring his head up to look at me and just as he did the shot rang out. Mary took the picture and fell on the ground and of course there were more shots.83
Hill and Moorman were standing just a few feet beyond the point on Elm St. where the limousine passed at Z285, the frame in which Alvarez declared that Zapruder was startled. Not surprisingly, Mary Moorman's description of the final shots at the end of the attack was nearly identical to those by Brehm and Hill,
There was three or four real close together, and it must have been the first one that shot him...84
a gunshot, as the limo passed in front of her? Well, in addition to
the other witness statements, we can further corroborate her by
watching her closely in the Zapruder film. At the sound of the Z285,
Jean did a kind of double-take, snapping her heard away from the
President, and to her right, in the direction of the Daltex building
and Depository. Within a fraction of a second, she snapped back to
her left again, toward the President.
At frame 298, we see that Jean Hill has snapped her head to the right, and away from the stricken President. She turns quickly back toward him by frame 310, 2/3rds of a second later. This motion began a scant 1/9th of a second after the reactions of the 5 other witnesses, and matches perfectly with her recollection of a series of shots beginning "as the car was coming abreast” of her position.
What caused Jean Hill to react this way, and so abruptly, just as the limousine was pulling in front of her? Of course, the answer is obvious. She heard the gunshot at Zapruder frame 285 and snapped her head back in the direction of source of the shot.
Was there a gunshot at Z285? Certainly, witness testimony is subject to error, even when there is such a huge consensus of opinion. But what settles the matter here, is not just the claims made by these witnesses; it is the corroborations. If indeed, the passengers in the Presidential limousine were exposed to a gunshot at Z285, we would expect them to have been startled, exactly as they were by the known shot at Z312. Likewise, if Jean Hill heard a shot as the limo was "inline” with her position, we would look for some kind of reaction.
If there was indeed, a gunshot at Z285, the next question would seem to be, what was the result of it? There seems to be no visible evidence in the Zapruder film that the President was hit then and it is more than obvious that Governor Connally was likewise, hit much earlier. Of course, Connally suffered wounds in the back, chest, wrist and left thigh, so we cannot entirely rule out the possibility that he was hit a second time, as some theorists believe.
gets a bit
complex and long-winded, but after a great deal of study, my own very
strong belief is that he did indeed, incur all of his wounds at Z223.
Part of the logic here is that this bullet almost had to have struck
the wrist in order to have been deflected down into the thigh and
causing the rather shallow wound there. Otherwise, the thigh wound
would have to have been the result of a rather preposterous
trajectory, high above the limousine. Alternatively, if Connally was
struck in the wrist by a pristine bullet from a high powered rifle,
the damage would have been far more devastating than it actually was.
In fact, much of the Governor's wrist would have been pulverized. As
it was, the wrist wound was relatively minor, and was mostly healed
by the time he testified before the Warren Commission. This would
seem to suggest rather strongly, that the bullet which struck his
wrist, did so at a very low velocity, much more consistent with a
bullet that was already slowed after passing through two human
bodies. That conclusion would seem to be confirmed by the shallow
hole it created in the Governor's thigh.
Eventually, Tague was called in to testify before the commission, where he repeated his story, which was in full agreement with Deputy Walthers' statements. Although he wasn't completely certain, Tague did offer a clue that is important to our investigation. He felt that the shot which caused his minor wound was the second of the three he heard that day. This is from his testimony,
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you have any idea which bullet might have made that mark?
Mr. TAGUE. I would guess it was either the second or third. I wouldn't say definitely on which one.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you hear any more shots after you felt yourself get hit in the face?
Mr. TAGUE. I believe I did.
Mr. LIEBELER. You think you did?
Mr. TAGUE. I believe I did.
Mr. LIEBELER. How many?
Mr. TAGUE. I believe that it was the second shot, so I heard the third shot afterward.85
Of course, it is understandable that Tague was uncertain about which of the final, closely spaced shots caused his wound. But, despite his hesitancy, he has always felt certain that it was not the first. In fact, he became quite angry at author, Gerald Posner who claimed exactly that. But, the Tague wound and lead smear on the nearby curbing has always been a thorn in the side of those who promote the single assassin theory.
The first problem is that none of their theories can tolerate the missed, second shot that Tague recalled. As we discussed earlier, there is very strong visual evidence for a gunshot at Z223, as well as an earlier shot, probably around Z150. Since there is no doubt at all about the Z312-313 headshot, the Special Agent supporters have to place the number two shot at Z223. But since this bullet wound up in Governor Connally's thigh, it could hardly have had anything to do with the Tague wound. Therefore, they are left with assigning this bullet to either the first or the third shot.
In direct contradiction to Tague, Gerald Posner argued that Oswald missed the first shot of the day, firing down through the foliage of the tree below him, where it hit a twig. This "twig” or very tiny branch by the way, has to be part of his theory, since photos taken during the FBI simulation confirmed that at Posner's Z160, there was almost no foliage at all between the alleged sniper's nest and the President. According to Posner the bullet then shattered, sharply altering its course and sending a large fragment to strike the curbing nearly five hundred feet away and cause a piece of debris to hit Tague. His theory might sound plausible, except for the simple fact that a 2000 fps bullet just would not have significantly changed course by striking such a flimsy object. In 1996 I spoke with Larry Sturdevan, an Army ballistics expert who testified years earlier, before the HSCA. Larry by the way, is a staunch Warren Commission defender, but he was adamant that Posner's theory was totally wrong, and that such a bullet would have passed through such thin branches, almost as if they weren't there at all.
The alternative theory, that this damage came from the explosive head shot at Z313 seems to be by far, the more popular of the two. The claim is that a bullet fragment, exiting Kennedy's head, flew over the windshield and went on to cause the Main St. damage. This doesn't sound unreasonable, especially since we know that this bullet certainly did break up, and that its remaining momentum was transferred to the fragments, one of which struck the windshield with enough force to cause a visible crack in the glass.
But the problems with this theory are even more serious than with Posner's, and relate to some fundamental laws of physics. It is easy to see in earlier photos of the President that the top of his head was well below the top of the limousine's windshield, and further yet, below the top of the visors that were flipped fully upward. We also know that a fragment traveling from the President to anywhere close to the Tague area, had to have passed above that windshield. Because of the limo's orientation and position then, it could not have passed at a lower elevation to either the left or right, or it would have wound up far from the area in which the lead smear was found.
The image below illustrates the minimum ascending angle necessary for a bullet fragment to have exited the President's head and flown out over the top of the windshield. Keep in mind that his head was tilted downward and forward at Z312, considerably lower than it is in this picture, which was taken as the limo departed Love Field.
Had our hypothetical fragment continued at this angle, at a reasonably high velocity, it would have passed nearly 30 feet above the Main St. pavement, leaving the curbing and Mr. Tague completely unscathed. But that presumes a high velocity. Certainly, the fragment might have run out of gas and simply fallen to the area of the curbing. But if that happened, it would have lost most of its velocity and could not have struck the curbing with nearly enough force to have caused the lead to smear. The drawing below illustrates the principle.
The most obvious answer to the Tague question and by far the simplest is that a pristine bullet struck the Main St. pavement and shattered, resulting in a sizable fragment going on to smash itself against the top of the curbing. At the same time, a tiny piece of debris, probably asphalt, went off in Tague's direction, causing the minor cut on his cheek. The illustration below demonstrates two possible trajectories for such a shot.
this shot was fired by Oswald or anyone else, from the alleged
sniper's nest, it would mean he missed the President by nearly 20
feet. But we find a much more plausible trajectory from behind that
infamous fire escape in the Daltex building. In fact, depending on
the exact position of the President and the exact spot on Main St.
where the bullet struck, it could easily have passed within inches of
the his head.
The View from the Daltex
The first thing most first time visitors notice about Dealey Plaza is that it seems much smaller than it appears in photographs. It really is hard to imagine a competent shooter, armed with a good rifle and scope, missing a Kennedy-sized target. Put another way, if such a sniper ever did completely miss his target there had to be a very good reason. As it turns out, there may very well have been, at least to anyone firing from the Daltex building, and positioned in one of the long suspected windows behind the fire escape.
Using the extremely accurate surveyor's diagram made for the HSCA, we can get a good idea of the line of sight from this possible sniper's nest by overlaying lines from there to the limousine's location at different points on Elm St. Using that technique, it appears that throughout most of the attack, such a shooter would have clearly seen the President just to the left of SA's Ready and Landis, who were standing on the right running board of the Secret Service followup car. In that alignment, he should have had an easy time hitting his target. But as it turned out, something happened immediately prior to Z285, which would have disrupted this sniper's shot. The limousine swerved a few feet to the right.
This is easy to confirm, by comparing the limo's position in the Z255 Altgens photo, with later frames from the Muchmore film. In the Altgens photo we can easily see that the left tires on the limousine are nearly touching the left, center lane divider line. But by the time of the fatal head wound at Z312, just 3 seconds later, we see that the tires are several feet further to the right than they were.
As we discussed in chapter 3, Special Agent Bill Greer, the driver of the limousine turned to look back over his right shoulder, probably around Z260. It makes sense that as he turned abruptly to his right to look into the back seat, he slightly pulled the steering wheel in the same direction, causing the limo to drift a few feet toward the center of the road.
But as the President and his limousine drifted to the right, our sniper's view of him, would have been obstructed by the backs of Special Agents Johns and Landis. It's important to remember that skilled riflemen never jerk their weapon's trigger. They apply continually increasing pressure, until the shot goes off. If this sniper was in the act of pulling the trigger at the instant Special Agent Landis's back fell into his crosshairs, it is entirely possible that he was unable to stop himself from firing, and that the best he could do to avoid shooting one of the agents was to jerk the shot high and/or to the right. As we saw in figure 32, that matches the trajectory from the Daltex to the Tague area quite well.
Of course, the evidence for a shot at Alvarez's Z285 is about as compelling as anything we will encounter in this case. It also seems that this shot did not hit anyone, which by process of elimination seems to make it the prime candidate for the Tague shot. That fact also matches Tague's original recollection that it was the second audible shot that caused his minor wound. And finally, we know for a fact, that Special Agent Greer did indeed, swerve several feet to his right, just prior to Z285, and that his maneuver had to have caused the agents on the running board behind them, to have come directly between the Daltex window and Kennedy.
Obviously, if this theory is correct, the errant bullet must have passed fairly close and to the right of agents, Landis and Ready. They would therefore, have been exposed to the brunt of the bullet's 130 decibel shock wave, which would certainly have left their ears ringing, and very likely, temporarily deafened. As it turned out, both agents seem to have been confused and totally unaware of the final shots. Special Agent Johns was the only Secret Service agent on Elm St. then, who in his report, failed to even venture a guess as to the number of shots. And like Clint Hill who stood on the other side of the limo, Special Agent Paul Landis was among the tiny minority who only heard two gunshots that day.
this bullet, which seems to have passed above the rightmost lane of
Elm St. was the Newman family, positioned directly across the road
from Charles Brehm. The recollections of both Bill and Gail Newman
have always perplexed researchers, since they claimed to have heard a
shot, just as the limo passed directly in front of them. That makes
perfect sense, since they were standing only a few feet west of the
Z285 position. But strangely, both of them claimed that this was the
last shot they heard, and the one that caused the explosive head
wound. Yet in reality, we know that the Z312-313 shot did not occur
until the limo was almost 30 feet beyond them.
Bill Newman told the Sheriff's dept.
By this time he was directly in front of us and I was looking directly at him when he was hit...86
His wife Gail said the same,
Just about the time President Kennedy was right in front of us, I heard another shot ring out...87
If the shot passed to the right of the President, as our trajectory from the Daltex suggests, then the Newmans, like the agents on the right running board, were exposed to the ear-shattering shock wave of the Z285 bullet. It makes perfect sense that if they were temporarily deafened at that instant, they would have failed to hear the shots that immediately followed. It also makes sense that if they heard the Z285 shot, and then saw the head explode 1.5 seconds later, they would presume that the last shot they heard was the one that caused the devastating wound.
Of course, the origin of the Z285 shot is really a matter of historical trivia. Regardless of that sniper's location, the conspiracy question is settled, because it came 1.5 seconds before the fatal head wound at Z-312. Both of those shots could not have come from the alleged murder weapon. But for those who still wonder about the origin of the 285 shot, I will leave you with one more clue.
ago, I was
engaged in a debate with Paul Burke, in the alt.conspiracy.jfk
newsgroup. Burke was a fervent supporter of Gerald Posner and a long
time "lone nut” advocate. He was also an experienced CAD user,
who had created a detailed, three dimensional model of Dealey Plaza.
At the time, I was arguing that the "magic bullet” shot at
Z-223 might have come from the second floor of the Daltex, where the
Altgens photo revealed a white blotch that some had argued was a
human face. Burke contended that the second floor window was too low
however, and that a shot from there, striking Kennedy in the back
would have had to first pass through the windshield of the Secret
Service followup car. He then made the passing comment that a
trajectory from the third floor would have indeed, cleared the
windshield and would have aligned with Kennedy and Connally's wounds,
Of all the people who were questioned in Dealey Plaza that day, there was only one known, professional criminal. His name was Eugene Brading, and he had a sizable rap sheet as well as known connections to organized crime. He was also discovered to have been in the Cabana motel, not far from Dealey Plaza, along with Jack Ruby and some of Ruby's Chicago associates, on the night before the assassination. In later years, Anthony Summers also found connections between Brading and longtime suspect David Ferrie.
Brading had been taken to the Sheriff's office for questioning, but had recently changed his name to James Braden, so the deputies were apparently unaware that they had arrested a professional criminal. In the years since, Brading has been caught telling several rather serious lies about his actions that day. He originally told the Sheriff's deputy who stopped him, that he was in the building during the assassination, but by the time he arrived at the Sheriff's office and made out his affidavit, he decided to claim that he went in that after the assassination was over. He also made the claim that he had just come from an appointment with his parole officer, an appointment that the parole officer later denied.
But there is one thing Brading could not lie about, and that was the number of the floor of the Daltex, where he was discovered. That's because the man who spotted him was the elevator operator. Brading was discovered on the third floor of the Daltex building, the one place in all of Dealey Plaza, where the alignment for the "Single bullet theory” shot was confirmed to be perfect, in both the horizontal and vertical planes.
One of the oldest arguments against the single bullet theory was that the 9-10 degree horizontal angle from the alleged sniper's nest in the depository, would have placed Governor Connally's back wound considerably further to his left, than it was. But as it turns out, the three degree angle from the Daltex is indeed, "perfect” as is the vertical angle.
The First Shot
rated the rifle shots as very very loud, and they were unable
(HSCA report on tests of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle in Dealey Plaza)
At this point, some readers are undoubtedly wondering why we are not discussing the shots in the order they were fired. There is a reason for this. My research suggests that the shots at Z-285 and 312, were actually the third and fourth. I deferred discussing the earliest shots, because we have to first understand the nature of the startle reactions following Z-285 and Z-312, in order to understand the significance of the absence of such reactions following the first shots.
As we have seen, extremely loud noises like the 130-140 decibel shock wave of a high powered rifle bullet, will not only provoke visible reactions by startled bystanders, but by their very nature, must provoke such reactions, which are entirely involuntary. We also know that in order to identify such reactions in films, they must occur within a tiny window of about one third of a second, following the noise or for our purposes, about 6 or 7 Zapruder frames. But this knowledge presents us with another problem. Why do we see no such reactions to the early shots? Why is it that the only visible startle reactions occurred after frames 285 and 312? It is obvious that both the President and Governor Connally reacted to their wounds, long before Zapruder frame 285, so we would expect to see similar reactions by the other limo passengers, then.
Equally baffling is this large preponderance of witnesses claiming they heard only a single report, prior to the very end of the attack. As we will see, there is compelling visual evidence of two early shots, one at Zapruder frame 223 and one prior to that, probably around frame 150.
As we saw before, witnesses who were startled by the extremely loud effects of some of the gunshots, reacted pretty much as we might expect, moving very abruptly, either dropping their heads or turning at extreme speed. More definitively, they began their reactions in almost perfect unison with one another. But the reactions to the very first shot were much different, and more in the "What was that?” category, than anything resembling startle or shock. Also, in direct contrast to the other sets of reactions, they were spread out over a wide time frame, spanning several seconds.
Probably, the earliest reactions to the first shot were by Secret Service agent George Hickey in the left-rear seat of the followup car, Mrs. Kennedy, and by the President himself. As readers may recall, Mrs. Kennedy first heard an ambiguous sound followed several seconds later, by the "terrible noises". But although her reaction was rather slow, she certainly did respond to that first sound. In the Zapruder film we can see her turn toward her husband in frames just after Z170. Special Agent Hickey can also be seen turning to his right, just after Mrs. Kennedy began to react.
For some reason, perhaps because amateur photographer Phil Willis shouted for the Presidential party to look his way, the President, Governor Connally, and Hickey can all be seen turning to their left, during the very earliest frames of the Zapruder film. Hickey was very explicit in his report, describing how he then turned back to his right, in reaction to the first "firecracker” sound,
Just prior to the shooting the Presidential car turned left at the intersection and started down an incline toward an underpass followed by 679X. After a very short distance I heard a loud report which sounded like a firecracker. It appeared to come from the right and rear and seemed to me to be at ground level.88
Notice first, that Hickey heard this shot at "ground level” In fact, almost no-one recalled this first shot coming from an elevation. Likewise, in the Altgens photo, we see a number of witnesses looking back toward the Houston/Elm intersection, and not one of them looking upward. As we will soon discover, there is a very good reason for that.
In the wide version of the Zapruder film, Hickey can be seen turning to his right, just before Z200. By Z255, we can see him in the Altgens photo, partially standing and fully turned to the rear. It would seem therefore, that he was reacting to a gunshot perhaps a second or two before that point. Mrs. Kennedy reacted more quickly, beginning her turn toward her husband at about frame 170. She will also be the first to react to the shots 285 and 312.
There are other apparent reactions as well, by Secret Service agents Landis and Ready on the right running board of the followup car, and as Gerald Posner pointed out, by little Rosemary Willis, the 10 year old girl who stopped running alongside the Presidential limousine, just before Z200. But without a doubt, the most definitive reactions to this shot, were by the President himself.
President Kennedy seemed to have decided to take a break from waving, when in the Z150's, he dropped his right hand, interlacing the fingers of his two hands together and bringing them to rest in his lap. But, within the next single second, he suddenly and very abruptly, separates the two hands, raising his right arm very rapidly.
The curious reader might want to try a simple experiment here, to get a feel for the pace of these actions. Simply, lace the fingers of your two hands together, and then separate them within no more than a single second. Does the action seem natural, or does it feel extremely rushed? Also, examine your left hand, immediately after separating your fingers. Kennedy's left had rose upward, and the fingers of that hand were pointed upward and splayed, after they separated, which means that his fingers were still interlaced when he began to react (see frame 174, below). If you are like me, you separated your fingers before raising your right hand. Kennedy did not. His hands initially, rose together, in an obviously, involuntary reaction.
Within a third of a second after that, President Kennedy puts his right hand into a rather strange position, directly in front of his face. He then spins his head sharply to his right, and by Z193, can be seen shielding his face with that same right hand.
In the above images, it certainly appears that the President is reacting to something, as he raises his right hand to shield his face. But, his reaction is visually inconsistent with a bullet striking him in the back or throat. It is also entirely different than his reactions a few seconds later, when the limousine emerged from behind the Stemmons sign.
One of the best and most detailed recollections of the President's reaction to the first shot came from Mr. S. M. Holland, who had an excellent view of the motorcade from atop the triple overpass. The following is from his Warren Commission testimony,
Mr. HOLLAND. And the motorcade was coming down in this fashion, and the President was waving to the people on this side [indicating].
Mr. STERN. That is the north side of Elm Street?
Mr. HOLLAND. Yes; On the north side.
Mr. STERN. All right.
Mr. HOLLAND. And she was looking in this direction [indicating].
Mr. STERN. "She,” is Mrs. Kennedy?
Mr. HOLLAND. His wife. And about that time---
Mr..STERN. Was looking in a southern direction?
Mr. HOLLAND. In the southern direction.
Mr. STERN. South side of Elm Street?
Mr. HOLLAND. And about that time he went over like that [indicating], and put his hand up, and she was still looking off, as well as I could tell.
Mr. STERN. Now, when you say, "he went like
you leaned forward and
Mr. HOLLAND. Pulled forward and hand just stood like that momentarily.
Mr. STERN. With his right hand?
Mr. HOLLAND. His right hand and that was the first report that I heard.89
Obviously, Holland saw the President raise his right hand, exactly as we saw in Zapruder frame 193. The only plausible reason why the President would have been shielding his face then, is that he was struck in by something. That "something” appears to have been debris resulting from an errant bullet striking the Elm Street pavement and shattering. That notion is further supported by Mrs. Donald Baker (Virgie Rachley at the time of the assassination), who told the Warren Commission that she saw what would seem to have been a bullet striking the Elm St. pavement, and generating "sparks"
Mr. LIEBELER. So, you were standing directly in front of the Texas School Book Depository Building and on the same side of Elm Street that the Texas School Book Depository is located?
Mrs. BAKER. Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. Tell me what you saw?
Mrs. BAKER. Well, after he passed us, then we heard a noise and I thought it was firecrackers, because I saw a shot or something hit the pavement......
Mr. LIEBELER. As you went down Elm Street that you saw this thing hit the street - what did it look like when you saw it?
Mrs. BAKER. Well, as I said, I thought it was a firecracker. It looked just like you could see the sparks from it and I just thought it was a firecracker...90
Contrary to Baker's and many other witness's recollections, this was no firecracker. Of course, the "sparks” were pieces of asphalt and bullet fragments that were part of an explosion, resulting from a bullet striking the Elm St. pavement and exploding.
Another clue comes once again, from Special Agent Roy Kellerman, in the front passenger's seat of the limousine,
And I turned my head to the right because whatever this noise was I was sure that it came from the right and perhaps into the rear, and as I turned my head to the right to view whatever it was or see whatever it was, I heard a voice from the back seat and I firmly believe it was the President's, "My God, I am hit” and I turned around and he has got his hands up here like this.91
Kellerman was the only person in the limousine to report hearing President Kennedy speak, then. But the others may have overlooked his words because he was at that moment, turned sharply to his right, and facing directly away from them. Also, for at least some of that time he held his right hand in front of, or blocking his mouth (see figure 39).
It is also important to notice that Kellerman said he began to turn to his right in reaction to this first noise. Although he is hard to see in the early frames of the film, it appears that he may have made that turn to the right, as early as Z-161. At the very least, we know that he has turned before frame 220, in which we get a fairly good look at him, so if Kellerman's recollection is correct, he must have heard Kennedy's words, well before the next shot at Z-223.
This is more from Kellerman's testimony,
Mr. KELLERMAN. OK. From the noise of which I was in the process of turning to determine where it was or what it was, it carried on right then. Why I am so positive, gentlemen, that it was his voice there is only one man in that back seat that was from Boston, and the accents carried very clearly.
Mr. SPECTER. Well, had you become familiar with the President's voice prior to that day?
Mr. KELLERMAN. Yes; very much so.
Mr. SPECTER. And what was the basis for your becoming familiar with his voice prior to that day?
Mr. KELLERMAN. I had been with him for 3 years.
Mr. SPECTER. And had you talked with him on a very frequent basis during the course of that association?
Mr. KELLERMAN. He was a very free man to talk to; yes. He. knew most all the men, most everybody who worked in the White House as well as everywhere, and he would call you.
Mr. SPECTER. And from your experience would you say that you could recognize the voice?
Mr. KELLERMAN. Very much, sir; I would.92
Kellerman's recollection matches quite well with what we see in the Zapruder film. The President was struck in the face by debris from the same bullet that generated the "sparks” that Rachley saw. It seems doubtful that Kennedy would have been capable of speaking after a bullet passed through his throat, and indeed, no-one recalls him making any sounds at all after that point. Nor do his actions, spinning to his right and shielding his face, suggest that he was hit in the back then. In fact, his most pronounced actions at this time, suggest that he was protecting his face.
But while the President's reactions to this apparent shot were clearly visible, many other witnesses seemed oblivious to it. Unlike the responses that closely followed the Z285 and Z312 shots, no one in the limousine or apparently anywhere else, seemed to exhibit startle reactions to these early gunshots. Certainly, some of the bystanders heard something, and some of them turned around to try to figure out what it was. But their reactions were spread out over 50-60 frames, and were entirely different than those that followed the later shots. As we already know, a considerable number of witnesses did not hear this shot at all. Mrs. Kennedy heard something, but could not identify it as a rifle shot.
I guess there was a noise, but it didn't seem like any different noise really because there is so much noise, motorcycles and things.93
Of equal importance, many witnesses who did hear something then, described it as distinctly different than shots that followed.
Mr. KELLERMAN. Well, having heard all types of guns fired, most of them, rather, if I recall correctly these were two sharp reports, sir. Again, I am going to refer to it as like a plane going through a sound barrier; bang, bang.
Mr. SPECTER. Now, you are referring to the flurry?
Mr. KELLERMAN. That is right.
Mr. SPECTER. Did it sound differently from the first noise you have described as being a firecracker?
Mr. KELLERMAN. Yes; definitely; very much so.94
Special Agent Rufus Youngblood said,
But in my mind, I think I identified the last two positively as shots, whereas the first one I thought was just an explosive noise, and I didn't know whether it was a firecracker or a shot. It seems, as I try to think over it, there was more of a crack sound to the last two shots.95
Mary Ann Mitchell testified,
the first one---there were three---the second and third being closer together than the first and second and probably on the first one my thought was that it was a firecracker.96
James Tague described the first shot this way,
Well, I was standing there watching, and really I was watching to try to distinguish the President and his car. About this time I heard what sounded like a firecracker. Well, a very loud firecracker. It certainly didn't sound like a rifleshot.97
What could have caused this report to sound so much different than the others? And why was it so weak that it not only failed to provoke startle reactions as other shots did, but was totally overlooked by a considerable number of witnesses? For years, researchers have shrugged off this question, claiming that the bystanders were caught off guard by the first report. But, that really doesn't make a lot of sense, since the first rifleshot should have been the most startling of all. Yet, as we examine the Zapruder film during the seconds in which this shot seems to have been fired, no-one appears to be startled, and only a handful bother to turn to look to the rear.
Special Agent George Hickey, riding in the car behind Kellerman also recalled that the first shot sounded "like a firecracker” and was distinctly different from those that followed,
I heard two reports which I thought were shots and that appeared to me completely different in sound than the first report.. 98
James Robert Underwood was a short distance from the intersection of Elm and Houston when he heard the first shot. This is from his Warren Commission testimony,
I thought it was an explosion. I have heard many rifles fired but it did not sound like a rifle to me. Evidently must have been a reverberation from the buildings .or something. I believe I said to one of the other fellows it sounds like a giant firecracker 99
In fact, throughout the Warren Commission hearings, numerous witnesses described the first noise as more like a "firecracker” than a gunshot. When Governor Connally stated that he recognized that shot as a true gunshot, Warren Commissioner Dulles stated,
You and one other happen to be the only witnesses who have indicated that they recognized it as being a rifleshot. Most of the witnesses have indicated they thought it was a backfire; the first shot was a backfire or a firecracker. 100
conclusion that can be drawn from all this then, is that this shot
was noticed by some witnesses, but was not loud enough to startle
anyone. It just didn't sound like a real gunshot. I believe the most
logical explanation for this is that the first shot was fired from a
silenced weapon. What some of the witnesses actually heard, was not
the muzzle blast of a rifle at all, but only the sound of a bullet
striking the pavement and exploding. This is why so many
described it as a "firecracker". And if the bullet was
subsonic, traveling at less than 1100 fps, it would have created no
Silencers are often, illegal devices, which of necessity, are homemade. Even when they are constructed perfectly, they are known to reduce the accuracy of the weapons they are used with. It makes perfect sense therefore, that if the first two shots were fired from a silenced weapon, they might have went astray. Even the slightest imperfection in their construction or mounting would have resulted in errant shots, exactly as we know those first two shots, were.
Of course, none of this can be absolutely proven. But, it is the only explanation I can offer that matches not only the testimonies of these key witnesses, but also explains the nonreactions of most of the bystanders. It also explains the President's very pronounced reaction, and his apparent claim that he had been hit. Perhaps more significantly, we will see an even better argument that a silenced weapon was used, when we look at the shot that followed.
The Second Shot
This is the bullet, known to conspiracy buffs as the "magic bullet". The Warren Commission concluded that this shot struck President Kennedy in the back, and passed through his neck. It continued on to hit Governor Connally in the back, exited from his chest, entered his right wrist, and was then diverted downward to finally embed itself in his left thigh. Despite the seemingly convoluted nature of it's path, my own opinion is that the Commission got this one right, at least up to that point.
To understand this conclusion, we must first consider the nature of President Kennedy's reactions. Beginning at frame Z226, we see his arms and elbows begin to rapidly rise. Watching this, the natural presumption by most of us would be that he was reaching for his throat wound, or perhaps, trying to shield his face. But neither of those explanations seem to be correct. In fact, President Kennedy's hands grasp for nothing then, and never touch his throat, or any other part of his body. They simply rise, along with his arms and remain pretty much frozen in that position, several inches in front of his face. He remains in that strange position until Mrs. Kennedy reaches over and pulls his left arm down. As she does so, the right arm drops in perfect tandem with the left, as though the two were invisibly linked. What is most revealing here is the position of the President's elbows, high in the air and well above the level of his hands.
This issue is important, and well worth the time required for readers to try a simple experiment. Imagine that you have a terrible pain in your throat and then reach up with your hands to clutch that area. Notice that there is no natural compulsion to raise your elbows and arms, and that you do not do so unless you make a deliberate effort. Yet Kennedy's not only rose, but rose well above the level of his hands and even his shoulders. After showing images of the President to numerous doctors and other medical people, there seems to be no doubt at all that this was an involuntary, neuromuscular reaction.
When the bullet entered his upper back, it passed very near vertebrae which contained nerves that connected directly to the President's elbow extensors. Based on a number of conversations with neurologists and other doctors, I feel quite convinced that the shock from the bullet strike stimulated these nerves and caused his elbows to rise.
In 1997, I interviewed neuro-psychologist Larry Wilson who explained that the upper vertebrae of the spine contains a large number of neuro connections to various parts of the body. Of particular interest to me, was his reference to nerves that connected directly from some of these vertebrae, to the elbow extensors. As the name implies, these are muscles that control the movements of the elbows, and would indeed, be responsible for the kind of movements we see in the Zapruder film. I asked Dr. Wilson if the shock of a bullet strike near those vertebrae could have caused the reactions we see in the film. He replied,
Yes, in fact, that is exactly what I would expect if a doctor applied some kind of stimulus to those vertebrae, such as a mild electrical shock. A nearby bullet strike could elicit the same response.101
I then asked him how much time he would expect to see between the stimulus and the response. He replied,
Milliseconds! To the eye of an observer, the reaction would be almost simultaneous to the stimulus.102
I have since that time, spoken with other doctors who have confirmed Dr. Wilson's opinion, and invite skeptics to do likewise. Talk to neurologists, preferably those who have no strong opinions about the JFK case, and ask them these same questions. Show them relevant images from the Zapruder film and see if they do not unanimously agree that these reactions were consistent with a bullet strike near the upper vertebrae in the spine.
So, at least in this researcher's opinion, it seems reasonable to presume that the first visible rise of the President's arms would be powerful evidence that he was hit no more than a few frames earlier. Fortunately, that instant is fairly easy to spot in the Zapruder film.
If the doctors were correct, then it would seem that the President would have been hit immediately prior to this reaction. And if one bullet really did strike both victims, then we would expect to see evidence that Governor Connally was also hit, almost simultaneous with the President's reactions. We see exactly that at Z223, three frames prior to the instant when the President's arms began to rise.
Looking closely at Zapruder frame 223, we can see that the right side of the Governor's jacket has been blown open, and his tie has been driven to the left. It is important to understand that the exit wound in Governor Connally's chest was very large, and quite forceful, ripping the Governor's shirt and causing a 4 centimeter tear. Dr. Shaw described it as follows,
The picture and the shirt show on the right side a much larger rent in the garment with the rent being approximately 4 centimeters in its largest diameter.103
By contrast, the entrance wound in the Governor's back was only 1 centimeter in its largest dimension. The obvious reason that the exit hole was much larger than the entrance wound, or for that matter, the bullet itself, is that this bullet took with it, a considerable amount of blood, tissue, and rib, as it exited. The result was a rather large expulsion of matter from the Governor's chest that caused his jacket to be blown outward, and his tie to be deflected to the left. In the frames that follow, the Governor spins abruptly to his left, as his right shoulder drops. (animation of Connally's reaction) There is just no serious doubt that he was wounded at Zapruder frame 223.
In all fairness I cannot claim with 100% certainty that a single bullet passed through both victims. But the visual evidence that Governor Connally was hit at Z223 is at least in this investigator's opinion, quite conclusive. And there is no doubt at all that President Kennedy's right arm began to rise at precisely, Zapruder frame 226, three frames later. That spacing was perfectly consistent with the neurological nature of his reaction. If instead, two separate bullets were involved, it would seem that they would have to have been fired simultaneously, or within a few milliseconds of one another, which really does seem unlikely.
We must remember however, that none of this confirms that the shot came from the Depository, or even that CE399, the bullet presented to the Warren Commission, was the one that actually struck the two men. In fact, there is considerable evidence which casts doubt on those claims. As students of the case know, a bullet was found on a stretcher at Parkland hospital, by Darrell Tomlinson, which was believed to have been the one that finally lodged in the thigh of Governor Connally. Tomlinson passed this bullet to his superior, personnel officer O.P. Wright, who gave it to Secret Service agent Richard Johnson. Johnson passed it on to his superior, Special Agent James Rowley, who in turn gave it to FBI agent Elmer Lee Todd. Todd then, is supposed to have taken it to the FBI laboratories for testing.
But according to Warren Commission exhibit CE2011, after the bullet was examined in FBI labs, agent Todd brought it back to the Secret Service agents, to acquire formal verification that it was the bullet they originally handled. This would normally have been a simple formality in which the Special Agents quickly signed off. But instead, a strange thing happened. According to the report, both Secret Service Agents Johnson and Rowley, "could not identify this bullet.."
This same report seems to make up for that omission by reporting that on June 12, 1964, FBI agent Bardwell Odum showed the Manlicher-Carcano bullet to its discoverers at Parkland, Darrell Tomlinson and O.P.Wright, and that both men said the bullet "appears to be the same one” that was found on the stretcher. But this appears to have been pure fiction. A 6/20/64 FBI Airtel to J. Edgar Hoover stated,
WFO (FBI Washington Field Office), neither DARRELL C. TOMLINSON, who found bullet at Parkland Hospital, Dallas, nor O. P. WRIGHT, Personnel Officer, Parkland Hospital, who obtained bullet from TOMLINSON and gave to Special Service, at Dallas 11/22/63, can identify bullet.
Josiah Thompson's classic 1967 book Six Seconds in Dallas contains an even more revealing look at the recollections of one of the men who actually held the original bullet in his hands.
Thompson reported that he interviewed Wright in November of 1966. As Thompson recalled the episode,
Before any photos were shown or he was asked for any description of #399 (Wright) said: 'That bullet had a pointed tip.' I said, 'Pointed tip?' He said, "Yeah, I'll show you. It was like this one here,' he said, reaching into his desk and pulling out the .30 caliber bullet pictured in Six Seconds. After Thompson showed Wright the various bullet photos and finally #399, Wright asked, "Is that the bullet I was supposed to have had?".104
Of course, there is no doubt that the bullet labeled CE399, which the FBI returned from their laboratories was from the alleged murder weapon, which had also been in the FBI's possession. But based on the unanimous refusal of all four witnesses to acknowledge that it was the same one they saw, it seems likely that the bullet was switched for one that was fired from the Mannlicher Carcano. That would also explain the pristine condition of the bullet, which was probably fired into water or some other soft material.
But if the actual bullet that Tomlinson found, was not fired from Oswald's rifle, and if we assume that it was associated with the attack, then where did it come from? At the instant the limousine passed the Z223 point on Elm St, the lateral angle from the infamous 6th floor window of the Depository was almost exactly 10 degrees. So, if the shot came from there, it is fairly easy to calculate the path it would have had to take in order to pass through the two victims. As it turns out, the angle is just too sharp; the bullet winds up striking the Governor at his spine, several inches to the left of the point just below his right armpit where we know the entry wound was actually located. This easily confirmed fact, prompted many proconspiracy authors to ridicule the single bullet theory by pointing out that a "zigzag” trajectory would have been required get the bullet back to the actual wound location just below the Governor's right armpit.
many of whom had frequently speculated about the possibility of a
shooter in the Daltex building, apparently never thought it was worth
the effort to look at possible trajectories from the very position,
they had long suspected. This angle, calculated from the windows
behind the Daltex fire escape, which looked directly down Elm St,
turns out to be almost exactly, 3 degrees. If we replace our
misaligned 10 degree trajectory with one of exactly 3 degrees, we
make a fascinating discovery. The alignment from the President's neck
wound to the Governor's back wound is nearly perfect. It is easy to
compare the two trajectories in figure 52, below.
Another serious problem with a trajectory from the alleged sniper's nest is that there is considerable evidence suggesting that the President was hit somewhat lower in the back, than the Warren Commission claimed.
Of course a lower entry wound, as the holes in Kennedy's clothes suggest, would make a shot from the 6th floor of the depository, virtually impossible. But, from the lower altitude of the third floor of the Daltex building, we once again, find a far more convincing trajectory.
Before we get too carried away with all this, it must be emphasized that all of this analysis contains at least some margin for error, and we are dealing with relatively small differences in angles, which are not easy to calculate with absolute precision. But there can be no serious doubt, that the trajectory from the third floor Daltex window behind the fire escape is much more consistent with the President's and Governor's wounds than is the alleged sniper's nest in the depository.
In fact, in the internet newsgroup, alt.conspiracy.jfk several posters argued against my theory, claiming that a bullet traveling less than 1100 feet per second, as it would have to have been, if it generated no shock wave, would not have had enough velocity to have passed through both victims.
Their argument made sense, except for the apparent fact, that as Daryl Tomlinson stated, the actual bullet he discovered, had a very "pointed tip” It’s ability to penetrate would therefore, have been far greater than the blunt ended bullet the FBI produced. As a result, that bullet could have exited the President's neck, losing relatively little of its velocity.
The Final Shots
One of the most controversial aspects of the assassination has been the question of whether President Kennedy was hit from the front or the rear when he was fatally struck at Zapruder frame 312-313.105 The Warren Commission of course, concluded that shot came from the rear. But critics have pointed to the large number of doctors and nurses at Parkland hospital, as well as others, who reported that a major portion of the back of the President's head appeared to have been blown out, strongly suggesting that he had been hit from the front. Indeed, when we look at closeups of some of the Zapruder frames, it is more than obvious, that the back of the President's head has been thoroughly devastated. As we will see a bit later, there is other, extremely compelling evidence which supports that notion.
But as the Warren Commission made clear, other evidence proved that the President was hit from the rear. The answer to this dilemma may actually be somewhat simpler than it appears. After years of careful study, I have little doubt that the shot at Z312-313 did indeed, come from behind the President. There are several reasons for this conclusion, the first being related to the motion of the President's head as he was first struck. His head does indeed, move "left and back” as critics have been pointing out for years, but not immediately. It is easily seen in the Zapruder film that initially, the head was driven forward and downward, entirely consistent with a bullet striking from the rear.
But, the terrible explosion that followed, caused an entirely different reaction. Every first year Physics student knows the long proven axiom, that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When the fatal bullet exploded, it created a substantial amount of thrust, as it blew out the right temple area. The predictable result was that the head was driven to the left, or in a counterclockwise direction, rising, only after it had gone as far as possible in that direction.
Another critical consideration in determining the direction of this shot is the presence of bullet fragments, which had been blown to the front. Fragments were not only found in the front part of the limousine and on the floorboard, but one struck the inside of the windshield with enough force to crack the glass, while another damaged trim of the windshield. Needless to say, a direct bullet strike on the glass would have passed completely through it, rather than just leaving a crack.
It would certainly seem that these fragments would have to have been the result of a gunshot from the rear, and one in which the bullet shattered and broke into pieces. The explosive shot at frame 312-313 would appear to be the only one, which could have caused such a thing. It has been suggested that this might have been the result of a bullet striking Governor Connally's wrist, but that would seem unlikely, since a pristine bullet striking his wrist would certainly have caused far greater damage than Governor Connally actually suffered. Also, there were no pieces of wristbone found in the limo, or other evidence supporting such a theory.
We also know that the wound discovered in the back of the head by the autopsy doctors, showed clear signs of beveling on the inside of the skull. Well known to forensic pathologists, beveling is the process by which a small crater is created in bone or skull material, on the exiting side of a bullethole. This was explained by Dr. Finck in his Warren Commission testimony,
This scheme is based upon observation of through and through wounds of bone, and the same differences apply to a pane of glass. The surface struck first by the missile in relation to the surface struck next by the missile, this one, shows a smaller diameter, which means that if you look at the route of entrance in this case here, C, from the outside you will not see a crater. If you examine it from the inside, you will see a crater corresponding to the beveling, coning, shelving, previously described by Commander Humes. In the case we are discussing today, it was possible to have enough curvature and enough portion of the crater to identify positively the wound of entrance at the site of the bone.106
Dr. Finck continued,
Colonel FINCK. My opinion as regards Exhibit 388, letter A, is that this wound is the wound of entrance.
Mr. SPECTER. And what are the characteristics of that wound which lead you to that conclusion?
Colonel FINCK. The characteristics were that seen from the inside of the skull, I could see a beveling in the bone, a beveling that could not be seen when the wound was seen from outside the skull.107
Of course, conspiracy buffs, over the years, have been skeptical of anything the autopsy doctors said. My own opinion is that Humes, Boswell and Finck exonerated themselves in later years, when they unanimously rejected attempts by the federally appointed Clark Commission (later to become the HSCA medical panel) to convince them to change their conclusion about the location of the (apparent) entry wound in the back of the President's head. For those who still reject their observations related to beveling, I can only say, that the windshield damage alone, should be enough to settle this issue.
The evidence then, for a shot from the rear at Z-312, would seem to be quite convincing. But, none of this explains the contradictory evidence suggesting that the back of the President's head was blown out.
Most students of the JFK assassination are aware that motorcycle patrolman, Bobby Hargis, riding behind and far to the left of President Kennedy, was spattered with blood and tissue from a wound to the President's head. For years critics have argued that it made no sense that a shot from the rear, which blew out the right side of the President's head, could have caused such a thing. But what is rarely mentioned is that Hargis was not the only officer to have been spattered that way. Riding 8-10 feet further to his left, Officer B. J. Martin was also hit by a substantial quantity of blood. This is from his Warren Commission testimony:
Mr. BALL. Did you notice any stains on your helmet?
Mr. MARTIN. Yes, sir; during the process of working traffic there, I noticed that there were blood stains on the windshield on my motor and then I pulled off my helmet and I noticed there were blood stains on the left side of my helmet.
Unlikely as it may seem that a shot from the rear caused blood and tissue to strike Hargis, the notion that it also hit Martin, borders on absurdity. To get a perspective on the two officers' positions, relative to the President, as well as to consider the possible trajectories for such a shot, please examine the following image.
Although officer Hargis later expressed uncertainty, his original statement about that shot, on the day of the assassination was, "the fatal bullet struck the President in the right side of the head."108
Government defenders have long argued that the reason the officers were spattered was that blood and debris were first blown upward, and then carried by the wind, to the other side of the road. Such an argument can only be persuasive to people who have no idea where the motorcycles were in relation to the President. But for such a theory to be even remotely plausible, there would have to have been a very stiff wind from the north,blowing this material sharply to the President's left, or southward. As it turns out, exactly the opposite was true. This is more from officer Martin's testimony:
Mr. BALL. Was there any breeze that day?
Mr. MARTIN. Yes; there was.
Mr. BALL. From what direction?
Mr. MARTIN. I believe it was blowing out of the southwest at that particular location109
Martin was corroborated by James Romack, who testified,
"The wind was blowing a little bit from the south that day, I can remember."110
But if there are any remaining doubts about the wind, we can allay them by simply looking at it's effect on the coats worn by witnesses standing near the limousine. The following image from the Muchmore film clearly, corroborates officer Martin's claim that the wind was blowing from the Southwest, and certainly could not have blown anything in a southward direction, toward the motorcycle officers.
Not surprisingly, witnesses who were closest to the President during those final shots, fully confirmed the fact that the debris exited the President's head, traveling directly to his left. AP photographer James Altgens, standing a short distance ahead of the limousine, was in an extremely good position to see the direction of the debris,
There was flesh particles that flew out of the side of his head in my direction from where I was standing, so much so that it indicated to me that the shot came out the left side of his head.111
Charles Brehm, who was standing a short distance behind the President then, was asked about this in an interview with Mark Lane,
LANE. Did you see any particles of the President's skull fly when the bullet struck him in the head.
BREHM. I saw a piece fly over in the area of the curb where I was standing.
LANE. And in which direction did that fly?
BREHM. It seemed to have come left and back.112
Police officer Seymour Weitzman found another piece of skull near the south curbing of Elm St, again, nearly 20 feet to the President's left.
Mr. WEITZMAN. ..I told them it should go to the lab because it looked to me like human bone. I later found out it was supposedly a portion of the President's skull.
Mr. BALL. That you picked up off the street?
Mr. WEITZMAN. Yes.
Mr. BALL. What part of the street did you pick this up?
Mr. WEITZMAN. As the President's car was going off, it would be on the left-hand side of the street. It would be the----
Mr. BALL. The left-hand side facing----
Mr. WEITZMAN that would be the south side of the street.
Mr. BALL It was on the south side of the street. Was it in the street?
Mr. WEITZMAN. It was in the street itself.
Mr. BALL. On the pavement?
Mr. WEITZMAN Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL. Anywhere near the curb?
Mr. WEITZMAN. Approximately, oh, I would say 8 to 12 inches from the curb, something like that.113
was found on the right side of the road that day, which
makes sense if we consider that the trajectory of the Z-312 shot,
formed an almost perfect straight line, parallel with the limousine.
The Z-323 shot, came in at a much sharper angle, passing across Elm
Street, perfectly consistent with the known path of blood and
skullbone. In both cases, the debris followed the paths of the
respective bullet's trajectories.
We've never been able to prove that. But just in my mind and by the direction of the blood and brains from the President, from one of the shots, it just seems that it would have to be fired from the front, rather than behind.114
As students of the JFK case know, the near unanimous consensus of the doctors and nurses who examined the President after the assassination, was that the back of his head was blown out. Their recollections can be confirmed by objective evidence that settles this matter quite conclusively. That same evidence will also resolve another controversy that has haunted us since 1968, when the Clark panel was appointed to examine President Kennedy's autopsy X-rays.
In 1968, a panel was appointed by attorney general, Ramsey Clark, for the purpose of evaluating the President's autopsy Xrays. The panel of doctors, which would later be recruited by the HSCA (House Select Committee on Assassinations), discovered evidence of a wound in the cowlick area of the President's head, as well as an adjacent, tiny metal fragment. Both the wound and the fragment were confirmed in X-rays and photos.
The Entrance Wound in the Back of the Head
In order to understand what happened during the final shots, it is important to consider where exactly, this bullet struck. All three of the doctors who took part in the Bethesda autopsy agreed that the entry point was relatively low on the back of the head, very close and slightly to the right of the EOP, which is a small, bony protuberance near the base of the skull. But in later years, the federally appointed Clark panel discovered evidence of another wound, 4 inches higher, and in the cowlick area, near the top of the President's head. Not only was a small hole clearly visible there, in one of the autopsy photos, but X-rays revealed a pattern of small metal fragments inside the head, which pointed directly to this wound.
Perhaps, the most intriguing of these fragments was found embedded in the outer table of the skull, very close to that same, visible wound. This is from the original Clark Panel's report,
Also there is, embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole, a large metallic fragment which on the anteroposterior film (#1) lies 25mm. To the right of the midline. This fragment as seen in the latter film is round and measures 6.5 mm. in diameter.115
The logical conclusion from this would seem to be that there was evidence of a second wound, in addition to the one at the eop. But, the Clark panel never seemed to even consider such an outrageous notion. Instead, they decided that all three of the Bethesda doctors who actually examined and measured the skull, must have misplaced the wound by nearly four inches.
In 1978 a panel appointed by the HSCA and made up of most of the same doctors that were on the Clark panel, agreed with that conclusion. But they did so, over the vehement objections of the original autopsists. Both Boswell and Humes had based their wound placement on measurements they had made themselves, and were adamant that they located it correctly. The following exchange is from the interview of Humes and Boswell, by the HSCA medical panel. At this point the panel is doing everything in its power to persuade the Bethesda doctors to change their minds.
Dr. PETTY. I'm now looking at No. 2, X-ray No. 2. Is this the point of entrance that I'm pointing to?
Dr. HUMES. No.
Dr. PETTY. This is not?
Drs. HUMES and BOSWELL. No.
Dr. PETTY. Where is the point of entrance? That doesn't show..
Dr. HUMES. It doesn't show. Below the external occipital protuberance.
Dr. PETTY. It's below it?
Dr. HUMES. Right.
Dr. PETTY. Not above it?
Dr. BOSWELL. No. It's to the right and inferior to the external occipital protuberance.
Dr. PETTY. O.K. All right. Let me show you then color photograph No. 42, which then is the -
Dr. HUMES. Precisely coincides with that wound on the scalp.
K. KLEIN. Could you describe that point that you just made?
Dr. HUMES. That's an elliptical wound of the scalp which we described our protocol. I'm quite confident. And it's just to the right and below by a centimeter and maybe a centimeter to the right and maybe 2 centimeters below the midpoint of the external occipital protuberance. And when the scalp was reflected from there, there was virtually an identical wound in the occipital bone.
Of course, by reflecting or pulling the scalp back these doctors would certainly have seen the occipital protuberance. It is preposterous to imagine that they were really looking four inches higher, near the top of the head. Dr. Finck, who testified to viewing the entry bullethole from both the outside, and the inside of the skull (after the brain was removed) was equally certain that the wound was at the lower, EOP location. The simple fact that he was able to look down into the skull and see this wound, is by itself, compelling evidence that it was located low on the back of the head. As we will see, the cowlick region of the skull was not even present when the autopsy began. But even if it had been, it would have been virtually impossible for the doctor to have looked into the skull cavity after the brain had been removed, and seen a wound high on the back of the head, in the cowlick region.
Ultimately, Dr. Baden of the HSCA panel had to admit.
In all candor, these three pathologists, to the present time, do feel that the entrance perforation is 4 inches lower than we have concluded. They place the entrance perforation approximately in the area of that dried brain tissue in the lower portion of the scalp above the hairline.116
So, who should we believe? Well, in addition to the autopsists rather significant advantage of actually having seen and measured these wounds, we find more corroboration for their conclusion, through the simple process of examining the trajectories that would have been required for the two suggested entry points. As you examine the image below, keep in mind that the damage to the President's head, centered in the right, temple region.
It's important to realize that at this instant, the President's head was tipped forward and downward, making the area where the Clark panel saw this bullethole, very close to being the uppermost extremity of the head. It seems extremely unlikely that a bullet entering there would make it's way down to the center of the temple. But the original wound location described by the Bethesda doctors makes far more sense, and would seem to be much more consistent with the explosive damage to the President's right and upper temple region.
Perhaps, even more convincing, is the fact that the cowlick region where the Clark panel tried to place an entry wound, was actually blown out from the head during the attack, and the bone there was not present when the autopsy began. There are three very simple ways to confirm this. First, Dr. Boswell created a drawing which carefully mapped out the damage to the President's head. At the top of the head, he marked the damage there as "17 missing” which he has stated, referred to 17 centimeters. This was considerably larger than the 13 centimeters Dr. Humes reported to the Warren Commission, but Boswell told the HSCA medical panel that Humes took his measurements after a 4 centimeter piece of skull was flown into Bethesda on the night of the autopsy, and put back into place. Boswell's measurement extends the rearmost part of that wound, back into the occipital area of the head, and certainly encompasses the cowlick area.
Second, it is easy to see in X-rays of the head, which were also taken after the reconstruction, that large pieces of skull which encompass the cowlick, were broken out and sitting loosely atop the head when the X-rays were taken. Not surprisingly, these X-rays match perfectly with Boswell's illustration.
And finally, we see in frames from the Zapruder film, that this same area was blown out, with what appears to be a large flap of scalp still attached to bone and tissue, hanging back across the rear of the head. This may have given the appearance to some observers that the damaged area was larger and positioned lower than it really was.
But there can be no doubt at all, that this part of the President's head was blown out. That is why the motorcycle officers to his left and rear were splattered with blood, and why pieces of skull were blasted all the way across the road, landing in the grass. Of course, diehard government defenders will argue, in direct contradiction to Itek and other experts who confirmed that all blood and matter went forward then, that somehow, the explosion at 313 was responsible for all of this. Those who still cling to that notion, might wish to consider two important points.
First, The damage we see in figure 56 was from frame 337. We see the same thing in other frames after 229. But in earlier frames, even after the terrible explosion at 313, has completely subsided, we see that the back of President Kennedy's head was visibly undamaged. Look at the following comparison between frame 317, and 335.
At first glance, all this might seem to be an exercise in academic trivia. Why should it really matter where the bullet struck the President? Well, it probably wouldn't, except for the fact that if we conclude that the original autopsists were correct, we are still left with the problem of how to explain the existence of the bullet wound in the cowlick, as well as the 6.5 millimeter fragment, embedded in the outer table of the skull.
to this dilemma is that the two wound locations are the result of two
separate gunshots. The first shot came from the rear at Z312-313 and
was pretty much as the Warren Commission described it. But as we will
see, the cowlick wound area was the result of a second gunshot, which
exited there, taking with it, tissue, bone and blood.
More from Mrs. Kennedy
It is hard to think of an aspect of this crime that has been more flagrantly misrepresented than the actions of the Mrs. Kennedy during these critical frames. In it's 1963 article on the Zapruder film, Life magazine, which had recently acquired the rights to the Zapruder film, made the claim that the First Lady, "climbed out on the trunk” an assertion that was never really challenged, but repeated endlessly over the years, even in books by Warren Commission critics. Over the years, she has often been described as trying to escape from the limousine, or more charitably, to have been trying to assist Special Agent Clint Hill. As we will see, neither of those claims were correct.
First, Mrs. Kennedy never, ever "climbed out on the trunk” In fact, neither her legs, nor any part of her lower body ever touched the trunk's surface. Neither did she make any effort to climb over the back seat or get out of the vehicle. It is easier to prove these points by showing her animated, in the Zapruder film, which you can see here. But the following series of stills, should also make the point.
The key to understanding what is happening here is to watch Mrs. Kennedy's right arm and hand. She is very obviously, reaching back to grasp at something. There is no attempt whatsoever, to escape and not even an acknowledgment of Clint Hill's presence. In fact, we see her completely ignore his outstretched hand, as she rushes to return to her seat. If anyone has even the slightest doubt about the actions being described here, I cannot urge strongly enough, that he or she look at this part of the film repeatedly, and in slow or stopped motion.
Not surprisingly, Clint Hill, who was just inches from the First Lady, saw the same thing that we see in the Zapruder film. This is what he told the Warren Commission,
Between the time I originally grabbed the handhold and until I was up on the car, Mrs. Kennedy--the second noise that I heard had removed a portion of the President's head, and he had slumped noticeably to his left. Mrs. Kennedy had jumped up from the seat and was, it appeared to me, reaching for something coming off the right rear bumper of the car, the right rear tail.. 117
Looking at figure 59, we can see that at its furthest extension, during the Z370's Mrs. Kennedy's right hand is partially obscured by the right handhold on the limousine trunk. This is probably why we are unable to see the object she is reaching for. For many years, a handful of researchers have argued that she must have been trying to retrieve a piece of brain tissue or skull that was blown to the rear from her husband's head. That is certainly the visual impression we get from watching her.
Of course, it's hard to imagine anything else that might have been out there that would have caught her attention. But what seems to have been overlooked, amounts to far more powerful and objective corroboration for this notion. Mrs. Kennedy, in fact, made it very clear at that time, exactly what she had recovered from the trunk. This is from Mrs. Connally's Warren Commission testimony,
..and then after the third shot she said, "they have killed my husband. I have his brains in my hand,” and she repeated that several times, and that was all the conversation.118
Years later, in an article by Robert Rees, Mrs. Connally reported the sequence of events that transpired after the President was fatally wounded. This is how Rees reported her story,
"I thought my husband was dead,". Connally stated somberly. From behind her came Jackie's tortured wail, "Jack! Jack! They've killed my husband! I have his brains in my hands!". The Secret Service man yelled for the driver to pull out of the motorcade. On his radio phone he related to the motorcyclists to head to the nearest hospital. "We pulled out of line at a terrific speed,", Connally recollected.
If Mrs. Connally's recollection was correct, she heard the first lady shouting "I have his brains in my hand", even before Roy Kellerman told Greer, the driver, to get out of Dealey Plaza, and before the limousine "pulled out of line". Of course, we know that Kellerman gave Greer those instructions well before the limo exited Dealey Plaza. Likewise, we can easily see in various film footage, that the limo also pulled out to the right, to pass the lead car, before it was even on the Stemmons exit ramp.
It is also clear that Mrs. Kennedy had nothing in her hand when she turned to reach across the trunk, so she had to have acquired the brain tissue afterward. Governor John Connally heard Mrs. Kennedy say exactly the same thing.
Mr. SPECTER. Did she say anything more?
Governor CONNALLY. Yes; she said, I heard her say one time, "I have got his brains in my hand."119
For our purposes, Governor Connally's testimony is even more significant than his wife's. This is because the Governor, by his own admission, lost consciousness before the limousine had even left Dealey Plaza. He did not awaken until after it had arrived at Parkland hospital. This is more from Governor Connally's testimony,
After the third shot, and I heard Roy Kellerman tell the driver, "Bill, get out of line.” And then I saw him move, and I assumed he was moving a button or something on the panel of the automobile, and he said, "Get us to a hospital quick.” I assumed he was saying this to the patrolman, the motorcycle police who were leading us. At about that time, we began to pull out of the cavalcade, out of the line, and I lost consciousness and didn't regain consciousness until we got to the hospital.120
This left only a scant few seconds of consciousness during which he could have heard the First Lady's comment about holding brain tissue in her hand. We therefore, know that she must have said this immediately, upon returning to her seat. Final corroboration comes from Parkland hospital doctor, Marion Jenkins, who stated,
I noticed that her hands were cupped in front of her, as if she were cradling something. As she passed by, she nudged me with an elbow and handed me what she had been nursing in her hands - a large chunk of her husband's brain tissues.121
Mrs. Kennedy's visible actions in the Zapruder film, her own words, and Clint Hill's recollection confirm that she retrieved a piece of brain tissue from the trunk, at a point near the right handhold, which was located directly behind the President. But a careful study of her actions during those critical seconds, tells us a bit more.
The Missing Shot
Simple logic tells us that Mrs. Kennedy would not have risen in her seat and reached back to retrieve the brain tissue unless she realized it was there. But her actions, turning, rising, and reaching back across the trunk, were carried out very quickly and almost in a single motion, with no apparent attempt to first locate the tissue.
This is one place where interested readers should examine their own copies of the Zapruder film, in order to confirm what I am saying. As was mentioned some time ago, Mrs. Kennedy and others in the limousine, quickly dropped their heads in reaction to the gunshot at Z-285. By frame 312, when the President was first hit in the head, Jackie was looking downward and away from her husband. At that instant she could not have seen any of that terrible damage. Her head remained in that downward position until she looked up, at precisely Z-323, at which point, she looks directly into the massive head wound. It is important, that she never takes her eyes off that area, until frame 337, when she begins to turn and rise from her seat. She then gets up, and reaches back across the trunk. At no point does she hesitate or stop to look around.
We can draw one, extremely important conclusion from all this. Whatever provoked Mrs. Kennedy to turn and retrieve the tissue, happened between Z-223 and Z-337. It may even be possible to pin down the exact frame.
After the explosion at Z-313, we see only one frame that suggests a possible bullet strike. That came at precisely, Zapruder frame 323. The most glaring aspect of that frame is the pair of highly visible flaps in the right temple area, which for a brief instant, flared out into an ugly, distended oval. Immediately afterward, they fell back into the same, flaccid state they were in before.
My first impression of this phenomenon was that this was the result of another shot from the rear. But that would be inconsistent with a great deal of evidence pointing to the cowlick region being blown out then. The answer may be that the bullet which struck the President at frame 323, was an explosive round, which as one firearms expert told me, could have caused a shock wave that resonated within the skull and resulted in the distension of these flaps.
This explosion was not anything like the massive display we saw at 313, but it certainly could have caused the bullet to break up into smaller fragments, that exited in the general area of the cowlick. Whatever it was, we know that something caused this highly visible reaction, and it is hard to think of a cause that was not related to a bullet strike. Mrs. Kennedy provided us with another clue in her December, 1963 interview with journalist, Theodore White, when she described what had to have been her view of tissue and bone being blown out from the President's head,
..I could see a piece of his skull coming off; It was flesh colored not white - he was holding out his hand - and I can see this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head - then he slumped in my lap..122
Undoubtedly, the "flesh colored” material was brain tissue, rather than skullbone, unlike the "perfectly clean piece” which may well have been the piece of skull that Charles Brehm saw, land in the grass. She again talked about that "flesh colored” piece, in this part of her Warren Commission testimony,
And all I remember is seeing my husband, he had this sort of quizzical look on his face, and his hand was up, it must have been his left hand (It was actually, his right hand). And just as I turned and looked at him, I could see a piece of his skull and I remember it was flesh colored.123
Mrs. Kennedy provides one more clue, when we examine her reaction immediately following Zapruder frame 323. At that instant, her right hand snapped away from her husband's head at extreme speed, as though she had touched a hot stove. Watch that hand in the images below. It travels through more than 180 degrees during the 5/18ths of a second following the suspected Z-323 shot.
We might suspect that this reaction was the result of revulsion as she looked into the devastation of her husband's head. But, revulsion cannot provoke a startle reaction, which would be necessary to provoke such an extremely rapid response.
One other point might be of interest here. As was previously mentioned, Mrs. Kennedy told Theodore White, that she saw "flesh colored” skull and a "perfectly white piece” being separated from her husband's head. Obviously, the white "piece” was skullbone, but why would she claim to have seen flesh colored skullbone? In her Warren Commission testimony, she likewise, stated that she saw "a piece of skull and I remember it was flesh colored” Notice, that she never once describes any of this material as brain tissue.
So why would she have identified what was certainly brain tissue, as flesh colored skullbone? Since she repeatedly shouted about the brain tissue she carried all the way to Parkland hospital and then turned over to Dr. Jenkins at Parkland, she had to have known what it was. Yet, she never once, stated that she held tissue, always substituting, "flesh colored” skull of some kind. She also told the Warren Commission that she had no recollection of going out on the trunk.
You know, then, there were pictures later on of me climbing out the back. But I don't remember that at all.124
We might accept that Mrs. Kennedy's mind blanked out the horror of all this, if it wasn't for her actions immediately afterward, repeatedly shouting about the tissue she held and then carried to the hospital. We also know, from her detailed descriptions of brain and bone being blown out of her husband's head, that she was fully capable of dealing with and remembering the more grisly aspects of what happened. Yet somehow, Mrs. Kennedy seems to have been incapable of remembering anything related to reaching back across the trunk, or to the brain tissue she held in her hand, all the way to Parkland hospital.
There is no way to prove it, but I find it hard not to suspect that Mrs. Kennedy was told, probably by FBI people, not to mention the fact that she retrieved brain tissue from a point directly behind the President. This might not have been done with sinister intent. At that time, there was still strong suspicion that Oswald was connected to Fidel Castro's Cuba, and/or the Soviet Union. The argument, which was probably believed by some members of government, was that they dared not find evidence of conspiracy, since it would point to the communists, which in turn, would could force the United States into a position where it would have to retaliate, and risk precipitating a third world war.
Mrs. Kennedy insisted that her interview with Theodore White not be published until after her death. It may be, that she intended to say more (or did say more), since she made no reference at all to reaching across the trunk or retrieving anything there. But if she was indeed, told not to talk about the brain tissue, she left us with a very obvious clue, when she repeatedly referred instead, to "flesh colored” bone.
Putting the Pieces Together
Undoubtedly, there are readers who even now, are skeptical of the notion that the President suffered two, separate head wounds. Perhaps, those readers will be more impressed by the simple fact that every qualified radiologist, who examined the autopsy Xrays and was not on the government's payroll has come to the conclusion that the President was hit in the head by two, separate shots. These include Dr. David Mantik Phd., Dr. Randy Robertson, radiologist and Dr. Joseph Riley Phd.
In his paper entitled, The JFK Assassination: The Second Head Shot and the Jet Effect, Dr. Mantik described the second headshot as being fired at Z-324, a scant eighteenth of a second after my proposed Z-323.
First, all the metal fragments in the bullet trail are well above both the depressed fracture and the 6.5 mm object. This was never honestly addressed by the HSCA. This is understandable, however, as it was the only option available to them for a single bullet scenario. Any other options would have required two bullets to the head.125
One of the most detailed and impressive analyses of the President's X-rays was written by Dr. Joseph Riley, who concluded,
When the correct relationship between the X-rays is appreciated, what emerges is a clear, coherent, and consistent description of John Kennedy's head wounds. John Kennedy was struck in the head by two bullets, one from the right front and one from the rear. 126
You can view Doctor Riley's paper here.
Radiologist, Dr. Randy Robertson does not have the degrees that Riley and Mantik do, but he probably has more real-world experience with X-rays than the two of them, combined. He was the first non-governmental, radiologist to be permitted to examine the X-rays.
The first shot which struck the President's head was fired from behind the limousine. The photographic and radiographic evidence, as well as eyewitness accounts, corroborates the location of the first point of entry in the rear of the skull described by the autopsy pathologists in their protocol. The evidence does not support the findings by subsequent review panels that the autopsy team erred by four inches in locating that wound. The second shot to the head was fired from the right front of the Presidential motorcade..
In sum, it is a medical and scientific fact that the damage to the President's skull did not result from a single shot but was instead caused by two separate bullets.
I have included Dr. Robertson's excellent paper on this subject, at the end of this manuscript, in Appendix A. It is required reading for anyone who is even slightly interested in this aspect of the assassination.
none of those doctors adopted the traditional conspiracy buff
argument that the President was only hit in the head once, by a shot
from the front. Neither, did they agree with each other on every
detail, including the trajectory of the frontal shot, which seemed to
be a source of difficulty for all of them. But there was no
disagreement at all, that the President was hit once by a shot from
the rear, at precisely the spot that the autopsy doctors claimed, and
one time, from the right, front.
The Final Shot
For me, this was the single, most difficult part of the book to write. This is because there are two distinct possibilities for the location of the shooter who fired the final shot that day, and although I have opinions as to which is correct, I cannot completely dismiss either.
Despite the tendency of people like myself, to spend way too much time on such issues, we should not forget, that the question of where specific shots came from, is really not all that important. Of course, we do want to confirm that there are plausible locations for such shots, but once we understand that at least three of them were fired during the final two seconds of the attack, we know that regardless of their origins, this President was the victim of multiple assassins.
By far, the most popular theory related to a headshot from the front has been that it was fired from behind the fence at the top of the infamous, "grassy knoll” But, there are two very serious problems with that theory. To understand the first of them, let's empathize a bit and put ourselves in the shoes of the killer. What would he look for when he chose his location? What would be his concerns?
Not knowing his identity, there is no way to be sure, but it would seem reasonable that two questions would be foremost in his mind. Of course, he would want to be sure that he could get off a clear shot from that location. But that was probably not his first priority. His first concern would certainly be whether he could do his job and remain undetected, giving himself at least a reasonable chance to escape.
This might be a good time to try a test, much like the one we used earlier, when we considered the likelihood that no-one would have noticed some of the high powered rifle shots. Imagine yourself in a Dealey Plaza full of tourists, on a Sunday. You grab a rifle or pistol, loaded with blanks and stand behind that fence and take a potshot at one of the cars. What are the chances that nobody would notice you shooting? What are the chances that afterward, not one witness would recall you standing back there, with a rifle in your hands? If you have any doubts about that, then add a hundred or so, Secret Servicemen, motorcycles cops, Sheriff's deputies, and Highway patrolmen to the equation, all there to keep an eye out for troublemakers like you. Exactly what are the odds that you would remain unnoticed? The simple fact is, that not one witness, originally claimed to have seen anyone firing or carrying a weapon in that area, although a few made such claims, many years later.
But even if we set that aside, there is another problem which also conflicts with the notion that a shot was fired from there. The trajectory for a knoll shot, does not match the known results of that final shot. This same problem applies to all locations that were at substantially higher elevations than the limousine. Look at the following illustrations to compare the difference, keeping in mind, that the President's head was tilted sharply to his left, immediately following the explosion at frame 313.
As we see in figure 64, it is not impossible that a bullet on a descending trajectory could have entered in the right temple area and blown out the cowlick region of the President's skull. But, we would expect the result of such a shot to have been blood and other matter, blown in the same general, downward direction. We would have seen a large amount of blood blasted onto the back of the car seat and trunk, and on Mrs. Kennedy as well. Instead, most of this material was blown upward, striking the motorcycle officers on their helmets, and flying more than twenty feet, across the road - far more consistent with a rising trajectory. But to me, the trajectory was not the most convincing aspect of this. It was the timing.
In 1995, I traveled to Dallas Texas and met with associates who helped me conduct some simple tests. I climbed down into the storm drain, while they positioned their car so that the man in the back seat, was at the precise location where JFK sat, when he was hit by the fatal bullet at Zapruder frame 312-313. Looking out through the narrow slit that faced Elm St, I could not see him at all.
It is important that curious students of the case, who might wish to try this themselves, understand that the storm drain along the curb, was much more open in 1963 than it is today. Over the decades, Elm street has been subjected to numerous repavings, which stacked layers of asphalt that block much of the opening, leaving only a narrow slit. Nonetheless, our Kennedy stand-in came clearly into my view, after we moved the car exactly eight feet forward, in order to place it at the Z-323 position. From my vantage point, the shot would probably have been difficult, though achievable by a talented shooter. But, if the layers of asphalt were removed, making the opening nearly six inches tall, and slightly lowering the height of the street, the shot would have been a proverbial piece of cake, even for a novice gunman.
Put another way, I discovered that the Z323 frame which I had already suspected, constituted almost the exact instant, when the President first came into view of anyone sitting in that storm drain. The sniper would have had a very small window of opportunity to make this shot, so he would have wanted to fire as early as possible, in order to leave himself another opportunity, if he missed. Timing his shot would have been easy, as the front bumper and hood of the slow moving limo first came into view, followed by Kellerman, Governor Connally, and finally the President. A professional would have begun to squeeze the trigger, even before his quarry became fully visible.
The notion of a storm drain sniper has long been ridiculed, even by many conspiracy advocates, probably because the notion just sounds silly. But, if we empathize a bit and put ourselves into the shoes of a 1963 sniper, the view changes considerably. The problem facing a would-be assassin in Dallas that day, was not in carrying out the murder. There were numerous locations along the motorcade route, especially on Main Street, from which a successful shot would have been quite easy. The problem was in getting away with it. How could the shooter be reasonably certain that he could escape and remain undetected?
By their very nature, such drains are virtually invisible to the people who walk by them every day. In fact, no police officers or investigators are known to have even peeked inside the ones in Dealey Plaza, after the assassination. But the storm drain system in Dallas, which was built for the purpose of providing an outlet for excess rain water, is made up of an extensive network of tunnels and drains, which could have provided a perfect place for a sniper to hide and then make his way out of Dealey Plaza. In fact, investigators have proven that it was quite easy for a slight-of-build individual to crawl through the drains, which became progressively larger as they branched out from Dealey Plaza, and within a few minutes, to arrive a point at the Trinity river, well away from the murder scene, from which he could have easily departed. Likewise, he could have exited the drain system at numerous other places along the way to the river.
Of course, none of this conclusively proves that a sniper fired from inside the drain, but the angles, the timing of the final shot, and the logistics permitting a sniper to hide and easily escape, certainly make that location far more likely than the grassy knoll.
The President was almost exactly 70 feet from the storm drain at Z-323. The shot came at an ascending angle of 3.5 to 4 degrees and at a horizontal angle of about 22 degrees, relative to the limousine, give or take no more than 1-2 degrees.
A Few Conclusions
I wish I could offer absolute certainty about every aspect of this case that was discussed here, but I cannot do that. I think that the third floor of the Daltex building was almost certainly, the location of one or more snipers. But I cannot disprove the possibility that it was just a coincidence that the trajectories of two shots pointed to the same location, where James Braden was discovered.
Nor can I prove beyond all doubt, that a shot was fired from the storm drain, next to the steps leading up to the pergola. In fact, I cannot even answer with certainly, the question of whether Lee Harvey Oswald took part in the attack. But if we stop and think about it, those are really just matters of historical trivia. What is infinitely more important, and quite easily proven, is that shots were fired that day, which were totally inconsistent with a single assassin, using the alleged murder weapon.
Though it was probably not the massive coup d'etats that some authors have suggested, President Kennedy was indeed, the victim of a conspiracy, which involved at the very least, a few snipers. We therefore know, that guilty men escaped prosecution for this crime. And we know that our government failed, in it's investigations.
time to examine this document. It is and always will be, a work in
progress, and I expect to be adding to it and correcting it, as
necessary. Please send your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
STATEMENT OF RANDOLPH H. ROBERTSON M.D. BEFORE THE LEGISLATION AND NATIONAL SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCERNING PUBLIC LAW 102-526
Mr. Chairman. members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify. I am a diagnostic radiologist in private practice in Nashville, Tennessee. Several years ago I became interested in the medical evidence in the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy. In pursuing study of this important evidence I have read extensively from the available government records from the Warren Commission through the House Select Committee on Assassinations (the "HSCA"). as well as medically related articles.
As a researcher, the body of evidence has been limited because many of the principles involved, especially the autopsy pathologists, have been very selective in their discussions of the case and have not been open to critical questioning about the circumstances around the autopsy. In addition, much of the primary source material has, until recently, been inaccessible. Answers to questions posed by official governmental investigators have not been available for the most part. The release of some of the autopsy related documents from the HSCA investigation, has substantially improved my understanding of the medical evidence of the case. However, many documents remain withheld, apparently, because of the delay in nominating the members of the Assassinations Records Review Board.
Recently, I overcame a significant barrier to the study of the medical evidence when I was granted permission to examine the original radiographic and photographic record pertaining to President Kennedy's autopsy. So far as is known, I have the distinction of being the only diagnostic radiologist to be allowed to examine the original radiographic and photographic record of the late President Kennedy's mortal remains independent of any governmental agency or investigative body.
In 1963 the pathologists who conducted the President's autopsy reported that he was struck by a bullet which entered in the back of the head near the hairline. Subsequently, three official government inquiries--the Ramsey Clark Autopsy Panel in 1967, the Rockefeller Commission in 1975, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979--all concluded that the autopsy pathologists were mistaken in their placement of this wound by four inches, an error so great that it cannot be attributed to simple human error. From the newly available documents under this law I have found numerous very credible eyewitnesses to the autopsy whose HSCA testimony contradicts the conclusions of three governmental review panels and validates the original autopsy pathologists placement of a wound of entry low in the back of the head near the hairline as seen on autopsy photographs. These eyewitnesses include agents of the Secret Service and FBI and officers of the Armed Forces. Both the autopsy pathologists and the government panels agreed, however, that a single bullet struck President Kennedy in the head. We are left to decide whose conclusion is correct--the government review panels who have had to rely on an admittedly poor radiographic and photographic record or the autopsy pathologists who have had the unparalleled benefit of close, direct and prolonged visual inspection and manipulation of the skull and scalp and who have steadfastly maintained the lower entry point for almost 30 years. The testimony of many other credible witnesses who were also in the autopsy room on 11-22-63 endorses their location. My research has provided the answer.
It is my opinion that the photographic and radiographic record is AUTHENTIC and that these materials have not been altered. It is my opinion that they provide MEDICO LEGAL EVIDENCE OF CONSPIRACY in the President's assassination. It is also my considered opinion that to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, the President was killed when he was struck in the head by two bullets instead of one as previously reported.
I draw these conclusions after a careful and meticulous study of the autopsy related materials at the National Archives, the autopsy report and the testimony of those present the night of the autopsy, some of which have just recently been released. I have discovered radiographic evidence which confirms a low entry in the back of the head. Previous governmental review panels have overlooked or have not reported a transverse fracture of the right occipital bone present on the postmortem skull radiographs. This fracture propagates from the area where the autopsy doctors have persistently maintained a wound of entrance was. When the autopsy pathologists examined the photographs with the HSCA medical review panel they unanimously pointed out the scalp defect near the hairline as the entrance wound. This transverse fracture of the right occipital bone lies immediately under this scalp defect. Dr. Boswell diagrammed this fracture pattern in the autopsy notes at the autopsy table. The postmortem skull radiographs validate the accuracy of Dr. Boswell's drawing.
This pattern of intersecting skull fractures leaves no doubt that the damage to the President's skull is inconsistent with only one bullet entry and was necessarily caused by two separate impacts. The original autopsy team and all subsequent reviewers of the photographic and radiographic record failed to analyze and properly evaluate the intersecting fracture pattern in their reports. The principle is simple and relies on the fact that a secondary series of propagating fractures has to stop abruptly at their intersection with the gap created by a preexisting primary fracture. This analysis of intersecting fracture lines is the first correct interpretation of the evidence which explains the discrepancy between the location of the wound of entry by the autopsy pathologists and subsequent review panels and allows the deduction of two separate bullet wounds to the President's head. I have included a diagram based upon the postmortem skull radiographs to illustrate this principle.
The first shot which struck the President's head was fired from behind the limousine. The photographic and radiographic evidence, as well as eyewitness accounts, corroborates the location of the first point of entry in the rear of the skull described by the autopsy pathologists in their protocol. The evidence does not support the findings by subsequent review panels that the autopsy team erred by four inches in locating that wound. The second shot to the head was fired from the right front of the Presidential motorcade as it traveled through Dealey Plaza in Dallas. It is my opinion that this second shot from the right front accounts for the snap of the President's head back and to the left as seen in the Zapruder film.
The evaluation of the postmortem skull radiographs need not be limited to the proof that President Kennedy was killed by two shots fired from different directions. They provide strong evidence that in some manner they were used in the preparation of Warren Commission exhibit CE 388 which I have included a reproduction of at the end of my prepared statement. CE 388 is a lateral illustration of the damage to the President's skull made under the supervision of Drs. Humes and Boswell for their Warren Commission testimony. According to the autopsy doctors, this was made without the benefit of the radiographs or photographs. On the lateral skull radiograph there is a pair of diverging pencil lines that were drawn there by Dr. John Ebersole, the radiologist present the night of the autopsy. These lines from a 32 degree angle and extend from the entrance, low in the back of the head to the projected exit point of the first bullet in the right front of the skull. On CE 388 there is a pair of lines which corresponds to the proposed trajectory of the first bullet through the skull. These lines have almost exactly the same 32 degree angle and intersect the skull at exactly the same point as the pencil lines drawn by Dr. Ebersole on the lateral skull x-ray. This match is not a coincidence and speaks to the fact that either directly or indirectly the radiographs were used in preparation of CE 388. It also speaks to the fact that the original autopsy team knew exactly where the first bullet entered the skull both on visual inspection and radiographically. Both the pencil lines on the radiographs and the trajectory lines on CE 388 point to the level of entry for the first bullet and the transverse fracture of the right occipital bone which was created by it.
The autopsy team's denial of the obvious radiographic evidence for a second impact point on the back of the skull is shown in their misleading written description in their autopsy protocol of the lead fragment distribution which has lead subsequent review panels to conclude that they erred in their placement of the wound of entry by four inches. The radiographic evidence for the second bullet impact to the back of the head, at a higher location, has been obvious to the governmental review panels. The subtle radiographic evidence confirming the lower entrance has not been obvious to these review panels. We are left to wonder why this obvious evidence of a second impact was not recognized by the original autopsy team. We may also ask why the largest bullet fragment present on these x-rays was not recovered the night of the autopsy. It is my belief that this fragment was dropped out of the evidentiary chain because it was related to the second bullet which struck President Kennedy's head originating from the Grassy Knoll area.
It is my belief that at least some of the physicians present that night were aware of the evidence of a second gunshot wound to the head either through the radiographs or through visual inspection of the wounds. Dr. George Burkley, the President's personal physician present the night of the autopsy, in a recently released interview with HSCA investigators in 1977 conceded the possibility of two gunshot wounds to the head. Ten years earlier in an oral history interview for the John F. Kennedy Library, Dr. Burkley was asked a simple question concerning the assassination. Do you agree with the Warren Report on the number of bullets that entered the Presidents body? His reply was "I would not care to be quoted on that".
It is imperative that the review board be put in place as soon as possible so that more evidence can be brought forward so that the American people can after 30 years find the truth concerning the circumstances surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The intent of the law was for these documents to be released. For this to come to fruition, the review board should be nominated and put in place as soon as possible. They must be allowed to commence work quickly so that we do not squander possibly the last opportunity to see these documents in our lifetime. There is no question in my mind that the medical evidence indicates that President John F. Kennedy was killed as the result of a conspiracy. What is left to be found out is the how and the why. The immediate release of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records may bring us closer to answers to these questions than we have been in the last 30 years.
1 Warren Commission reports Vol. III, P. 404
3. WC internal memo by Wesley Liebeler, dated 9/6/64
4 Despite the failure of every shooter in every test, the HSCA still concluded that Oswald could have carried out the feat, since there were a couple of near-misses.
5. Warren Commission report p.115 (St. Martin's Press edition).
7. Warren Commission Reports Vol. III, p. 292
8 Warren Commission Reports Vol. VI p. 297
9. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p.287
11. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p.486
12. Warren Commission Report vol. 7, p. 439
13. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 4, p.353
15. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p.172
16. Warren Commission reports, Vol. III, p. 267 Officer Baker at first, volunteered no specific opinion about the timing of the shots, but when pressed by Belin said he thought they were evenly spaced. This seems to be in contradiction to his recollection that he was looking upward at the pigeons that were startled by the first shot, and then heard "two extra shots".
17. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 2, p.118
19. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 18, p.801
20 Interview in the documentary film, the Men Who Killed Kennedy
21. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p.388
23. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 5, p.565
24. Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.512
25. Warren Commission report, Vol. II, p. 76
27. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6 p. 371
28. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 3, p.282
29. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 18, p.800
31. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p.184
32. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p.394
33. . Warren Commission Report Vol. 7, p.345
35. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 19. p.531
36. Original Treasury dept. report dated 11/22/63 - Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.782
37. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 3, p.179
39. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 19, p.535
40. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 2, p.150
41. Original Treasury dept. report Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.730
43. Treasury dept. report - 11/29/1963 - Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.746. McIntyre, and others among these witnesses may well have actually heard the 2nd, 3rd and 4th shots based on his descriptions of events.
44. Original Treasury dept. report dated 11/22/63 - Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.782
45. We know from previous photos that the door near Taylor had been at least partially open during much of the motorcade. He probably meant that he pushed it far enough open, to step out.
47 Original Treasury dept. report.
48. Original Treasury Dept. report 11/22/63
49. Original Treasury dept. report 11/29/63- Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.740
51 Original Treasury Dept. report 11/22/63
52 WCR Vol. II, p. 139
53. Warren Commission Report Vol. 4, p. 147
55. Warren Commission Report Vol. 4, p.147
56. Warren Commission Report Vol. 4, p.133
57. Warren Commission Report Vol. 4, p.147
59. Warren Commission Report Vol. 7, p.473
61. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 5, p. 180
63 WCR Vol. 5, page 180
64 Original Treasury Dept. report 11/29/63
65. Original Treasury dept. report 11/29/63- Warren Commission Report Vol. 18, p.724
68. Warren Commission reports, Vol. II, p.76
69. Warren Commission Report Vol. 2, p. 118
71 HSCA report Vol. II, page 23
72 HSCA reports Vol. 5, p. 613
73. Description of "startle reaction” from the online Encyclopedia Britannica
76. Warren Commission Report Vol. 2, p. 118
77 The identity of "Babushka Lady” is a very controversial issue.
80 p.544, Pictures of the Pain by Richard Trask from 11/22/1963 interview
81 Interview with WFAA television, 11/22/63.
85. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p. 552
88. Original Treasury Dept. report, dated 11/22/63
89. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 6, p. 243
91. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 2, p. 72
93. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 5, p. 180
95 WCR Vol. II, p. 150
96 WCR Vol. VI, p. 176
97. Warren Commission Reports Vol. 7, p. 552
99 WC report Vol. 6 p. 168
100 WC report Vol. 4 p. 145
101 Interview Jan. 11, 1997
103 WCR Vol. IV, p. 110
104 From an email reply to Dr. Gary Aguilar. For the bullet Wright gave Thompson, see p. 175 of Six Seconds.
105 Although the explosion takes place at Z313, most experts believe the bullet struck one frame earlier, at Z312.
108 p. 209, Pictures of the Pain by Richard Trask. Trask cites a typescript of interview with B.W. Hargis within photograph collections of the Dallas Times Herald.
109 Warren Commission reports, Vol. 6, p. 291
111 Warren Commission reports Vol. 7, p. 518
112 Documentary film, Rush to Judgment - the Plot to Kill Kennedy, by Mark Lane
113 Warren Commission reports, Vol. 7, p. 107
115 Clark Panel final report 1968
116 HSCA Reports Vol. I, p. 300
117 Warren Commission report Vol. 2, page 138
119 Warren Commission reports Vol. IV p. 134
121 p. 71 Pictures of the Pain by Richard B. Trask
123. WCR Vol. 5 p. 179
125. From a draft by Dr. David Mantik, dated April 19, 1994