FACT VS. MYTH IN THE JFK ASSASSINATION
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
MYTH: There is no "missing autopsy evidence." The photographic and x-ray record from President Kennedy's autopsy is complete.
FACT: The chief autopsy pathologist, Dr. James Humes, said histological sections were taken from the wound in the back. These slides are nowhere to be found. They could have provided undeniable evidence of the wound's nature, whether it was an entry wound or an exit wound.
The autopsy report says x-rays were taken of "the ENTIRE BODY" (JFK autopsy report, p. 6, in WARREN COMMISSION REPORT, p. 543, emphasis added). Dr. Humes told the Warren Commission (WC), "we . . . completed the x-ray examination by x-raying the president's body IN TOTO" (2 H 364, emphasis added). But even the Clark Panel noted there are no autopsy x-rays of the lower arms, wrists, hands, lower legs, feet, and ankles. So several autopsy x-rays are missing.
Radiologic technician Jerrol Custer, who was present at the autopsy and assisted with the autopsy x-rays, testified to the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) that he was certain he took x-rays of the C3/C4 region of the neck and that those x-rays showed numerous fragments. Custer added he suspected the reason those x-rays disappeared was that they showed a large number of bullet fragments. Custer's testimony can be found in the record of his ARRB deposition that was conducted on October 28, 1997.
John Stringer was a photographer at the autopsy. Stringer acknowledged to the ARRB that the current set of autopsy photos is INCOMPLETE (Deposition of John T. Stringer to the ARRB, July 16, 1996, pp. 215-216).
In fact, incredibly, no photographs of the body from the rib cage down are known to exist.
MYTH: There is no doubt about the non-fatal bullet's path from the back wound to the throat wound. The bullet's path is documented in the autopsy report:
The other missile entered the right superior posterior thorax above the scapula and traversed the soft tissues of the supra-scapular and the supra-clavicular portions of the base of the right side of the neck. This missile produced contusions of the right apical parietal pleura and of the apical portion of the right upper lobe of the lung. The missile contused the strap muscles of the right side of the neck, damaged the trachea and made its exit through the anterior surface of the neck. (JFK autopsy report, p. 6, in WARREN COMMISSION REPORT, p. 543)
FACT: Dr. Michael Kurtz has said the following about the autopsy report's description of a bullet path from the back wound to the throat wound:
The bullet wound was not dissected, even though dissection is the only certain means of tracking a bullet's path through the body. At the trial of Clay Shaw in 1969, one of the autopsy pathologists, Dr. Pierre Finck, admitted that the autopsy team was ordered by a general or admiral not to dissect the back wound. Since no dissection took place, it is obvious that no bullet track was ever revealed at the autopsy.
Even though the wound was not dissected, the body was opened up during the autopsy. The autopsy pathologists noticed bruising of the strap muscles on the right side of the neck and also on the very top of the right lung. This led to the unproven assumption that the bruising was caused by the bullet as it passed from the back through the upper thoracic cavity and exited out of the throat. . . .
Furthermore, the air in the tissues, the bruising, the laceration are no more indicative of a bullet's going from back to front than they are of a bullet's going from front to back. The fact that the hole in the front of the throat was only half as large as the hole in the back suggested either that they were both entrance wound or that the hole in the throat was the wound of entrance and that in the back was the exit wound. (Kurtz, CRIME OF THE CENTURY, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1982, pp. 73-74)
The fact that the autopsy doctors did not observe a bullet path from the back wound to the throat wound is evident in their descriptions of the back and throat wounds. They said the back wound was "presumably" a wound of entrance, and the throat wound "presumably" a wound of exit. If they had seen a track from the back wound to the throat wound, they wouldn't have had to "presume" anything. Even lone-gunman theorist Dr. John Lattimer admitted there is only "CIRCUMSTANTIAL" evidence of a bullet track between the back wound and the throat wound. The back wound was not dissected, and only dissection of the wound through the body would have provided us with conclusive proof of the missile's path.
We know from released documents relating to the autopsy that on the night of the autopsy the pathologists were absolutely positive the back wound did NOT have an exit point. We also know they probed the wound repeatedly, that they removed the chest organs and probed the wound again and still saw no exit point, and that one of the medical technicians at the autopsy, James Jenkins, could see the end of the surgical probe pushing against the lining of the chest cavity. Jenkins observed there was "no entry" into the chest cavity:
I remember looking inside the chest cavity and I could see the probe . . . through the pleura [the lining of the chest cavity]. . . . You could actually see where it [the probe] was making an indentation . . . where it was pushing the skin up. . . . There was no entry into the chest cavity. . . . No way that could have exited in the front because it was then low in the chest cavity. (In Anthony Summers, NOT IN YOUR LIFETIME, New York: Marlowe and Company, 1998, p. 34)
Several doctors have noted there is no way a bullet could have gone from the back wound to the throat wound without smashing directly through the seventh cervical transverse process of the spine or without causing considerable lung damage (see, for example, Dr. David Mantik, "The JFK Assassination: Cause for Doubt," in James Fetzer, editor, ASSASSINATION SCIENCE, Chicago: Catfeet Press, 1998, pp. 102-103). Such damage is not mentioned in the autopsy report and is not seen on the autopsy x-rays.
MYTH: The Dallas doctors' descriptions of a large wound in the right-rear region of Kennedy's head aren't reliable because those doctors never examined the wound--they were hurrying to save the president's life and just never had the chance to examine the large head wound.
FACT: Dr. Kemp Clark, who, by the way, was a neurosurgeon, said the following to the WC:
I assisted in withdrawing the endotracheal tube from the throat as Dr. Perry was then ready to insert the tracheotomy tube. I then examined the President briefly.
My findings showed his pupils were widely dilated, did not react to light, and his eyes were deviated outward with a slight skew deviation.
I THEN EXAMINED THE WOUND IN THE BACK OF THE PRESIDENT'S HEAD. This was a large, gaping wound in the right posterior part, with cerebral and cerebellar tissue being damaged and exposed. There was considerable blood loss evident on the carriage, the floor, and the clothing of some of the people present. (6 H 20, emphasis added)
Dr. Clark was not the only doctor at Parkland Hospital to examine the large head wound. Dr. Robert McClelland assisted with the efforts to save the president, and he "closely" examined the large defect in the head. He testified as follows about his observations regarding the large head wound:
Mr. SPECTER. Before proceeding to describe what you did in connection with the tracheostomy, will you more fully describe your observation with respect to the head wound?
Dr. McCLELLAND. As I took the position at the head of the table that I have already described, to help out with the tracheotomy, I WAS IN SUCH A POSITION THAT I COULD VERY CLOSELY EXAMINE THE HEAD WOUND, AND I NOTED THAT THE RIGHT POSTERIOR PORTION OF THE SKULL HAD BEEN EXTREMELY BLASTED. (6 H 33, emphasis added)
As one would expect, some of the nurses who treated the president likewise got a good look at the large head wound. One of those nurses was Nurse Diana Bowron. Nurse Bowron observed the head wound as the president's body lay in the limousine shortly after the car pulled up to the hospital, and later she cleaned the wound and then packed it with gauze squares. Here is what Nurse Bowron said about the large head wound:
Mr. SPECTER. And what, in a general way, did you observe with respect to President Kennedy's condition?
Miss BOWRON. He was very pale, he was lying across Mrs. Kennedy's knee and there seemed to be blood everywhere. When I went around to the other side of the car I saw the condition of his head.
Mr. SPECTER. You saw the condition of his what?
Miss BOWRON. The back of his head.
Mr. SPECTER. And what was that condition?
Miss BOWRON. Well, it was very bad---you know.
Mr. SPECTER. How many holes did you see?
Miss BOWRON. I just saw one large hole. (6 H 136)
This is crucial testimony, because, as mentioned, a short while later Nurse Bowron helped clean the large head wound and packed it with gauze squares.
MYTH: The alleged shooting feat would have been "like shooting fish in a bowl." It would not have been difficult at all. Oswald was more than capable of doing what the WC said he did.
FACT: None other than Dan Rather admitted in a 1993 documentary on the assassination, "Who Killed JFK? The Final Chapter," that the 1967 CBS rifle test showed the alleged shooting feat would have been difficult. Specifically, Rather said the test showed "the odds are against" a gunman doing what the WC said Oswald did. In fact, Rather added that this fact constituted support "for the theory that there perhaps was more than one gunman." What led Rather to say this? Because in the 1967 simulation NOT ONE of the eleven expert riflemen who took part in the test managed to score two hits out of three shots on the moving target sled in less than 6 seconds. Seven of them failed to do so on ANY attempt. Oswald would have one and only one attempt.
The WC's own rifle tests likewise show the alleged shooting feat would have been very difficult, even for an accomplished marksman. The commission hired three Master-rated riflemen to attempt to duplicate Oswald's alleged shooting feat. The three Master-rated shooters fired 18 rounds while using the scope and three rounds while using the iron sights. They used the alleged murder weapon, the Mannlicher-Carcano that was traced to Lee Harvey Oswald. They missed the head and neck area of the target board silhouettes 18 out of 18 times when they used the scope, and two out of three times when they used the iron sights. Thus, they missed the head and neck area of the silhouettes 20 out of 21 times. Several of their misses were far apart on the target boards. Indeed, some of their shots missed the silhouettes entirely. It's revealing that they shot so poorly even though they were allowed to take as long as they wanted for the first shot, even though two of them took longer than 6 seconds to fire, even though they were only firing from 30 feet up, and even though they were shooting at stationary target boards--yes, STATIONARY target boards.
The three riflemen in the test were named Miller, Hendrix, and Staley. (Their first names were never given.) In the first series, Miller took 4.6 seconds to fire three shots, Staley took 6.75 seconds, and Hendrix took 8.25 seconds. In the next series, Miller took 5.15 seconds, Staley took 6.45 seconds, and Hendrix took 7 seconds. It bears repeating that Oswald would have had only one attempt, only one series. Oswald supposedly scored two hits out of three shots, yet Miller, Hendrix, and Staley missed the head and neck area of the silhouettes 20 out of 21 times, even though two of them took longer than 6 seconds to fire. This is worth noting because lone-gunman theorists now assert that the supposed lone gunman actually would have had more than 6 seconds to fire. If two Master-rated riflemen shot so poorly with the alleged murder weapon while taking 7 and 8.25 seconds to fire, at stationary targets no less, what are the odds that a mediocre marksman like Oswald could have scored two hits out of three shots against a moving target in 6-9 seconds? The poor performance of the Master-rated shooters certainly proves the alleged shooting feat would not have been "easy" by any means.
Incidentally, the only way lone-gunman theorists can give their single assassin 2-4 more seconds to fire is to assume he completely missed both Kennedy and the huge limousine with his first and closest shot, that he missed such a gigantic target from 60 feet up and from less than 140 feet away.
MYTH: The right-frontal explosion that we see coming from Kennedy's head in the Zapruder film proves a bullet exited that part of the skull. The bullet entered the back of the head and caused a large exit wound above the right ear. That's why blood and brain matter can be seen exploding from that part of the head in the Zapruder film.
FACT: Two wound ballistics experts and a former Marine sniper disagree. Wound ballistics experts Massad Ayoob and Dr. Roger McCarthy argue the right-frontal explosion is typical of the IMPACT of a high-velocity, frangible missile to the head ("The JFK Assassination: A Shooter's Eye View, THE AMERICAN HANDGUNNER, March 1993, "The Ayoob Files" section; Harrison Livingstone, KILLING THE TRUTH, New York: Carroll and Graf, 1993, pp. 156, 237-238). Craig Roberts, a former Marine sniper in Vietnam, likewise argues that the right-frontal explosion is indicative of the IMPACT of a frangible bullet (KILL ZONE, Typhoon Press, 1994, pp. 17-18).
Another expert who takes issue with the claim that the right-frontal explosion could only have resulted from the exiting of a bullet is Sherry Gutierrez, a certified crime scene analyst and a consultant in the field of bloodstain pattern analysis. She has concluded, "I am convinced the head injury to President Kennedy was the result" of a shot fired "from the right front of the President." Gutierrez argues that the spray of blood and brain that spews out from the right temple in the Zapruder film is back spatter forcefully expressed from an entry wound back toward the source of the energy ("The JFK Case: What Does the Blood Tell Us?", THE ASSASSINATION CHRONICLES, December 1995, pp. 45-49).
The argument that a bullet struck the president's right temple is supported by the autopsy skull x-rays themselves. Dr. Kurtz explains this in his analysis of the testimony of wound ballistics expert Dr. Larry Sturdivan to the House Select Committee on Assassinations:
Sturvidan also stated that Kennedy was not struck in the front of the head by an exploding bullet fired from the grassy knoll. The reason, Sturdivan declared, was that the computer-enhanced x-rays of Kennedy's skull do not depict "a cloud of metallic fragments very near the entrance wound." In cases where exploding bullets impact, he asserted that "you would definitely have seen" such a cloud of fragments in the x-ray. Sturdivan's remarks betrayed both his own ignorance of the medical evidence and the committee's careful manipulation of that evidence. Sturdivan saw only the computer-enhanced x-ray of the skull, not the original, unretouched x-rays. Had he seen the originals, he would have observed a cloud of metallic fragments clustered in the right front portion of the head. Furthermore, the close-up photograph of the margins of the large wound in the head shows numerous small fragments. The Forensic Pathology Panel itself noted the presence of "missile dust" near the wound in the front of the head. One of the expert radiologists who examined the x-rays noticed "a linear alignment of tiny metallic fragments" located in the "posterior aspect of the right frontal bone." The chief autopsy pathologist, Dr. James J. Humes, remarked about the numerous metallic fragments like grains of sand scattered near the front head wound. The medical evidence, then, definitely proves the existence of a cloud of fragments in the right front portion of Kennedy's head, convincing evidence, according to Sturdivan, that an exploding bullet actually did strike the president there. (CRIME OF THE CENTURY, pp. 177-178)
There is other evidence that a bullet struck Kennedy in the right temple. Tom Robinson, the mortician who reassembled the President's skull after the autopsy, has stated that he saw a small hole in one of the temples, and that he believes it was in the right temple.
Patrolman Hurchel Jacks saw Kennedy's body in the limousine at Parkland Hospital before the body was taken inside. In a formal report, he said, "it appeared that the bullet had struck him above the right ear or near the temple."
During a news conference at Parkland Hospital, White House press secretary Malcolm Kilduff was asked to describe where the bullet entered, he replied,
Dr. Burkley [Kennedy's personal physician] told me it is a simple matter . . . of a bullet right through the head. . . . It is my understanding that it entered in the temple, the right temple.
In a picture that has long been famous among researchers, Kilduff is seen to illustrate his answer by pointing to his own right temple. Veteran reporter Seth Kantor attended this press conference, and in his notes he wrote that the bullet had "entered right temple." At 1:47, CST, about fifteen minutes after Kilduff's press conference, UPI transmitted the following bulletin:
President Kennedy was shot in the right temple. "It was a simple matter of a bullet right through the head," said Dr. George Burkley, White House Medical Officer.
Minutes later, NBC anchorman Chet Huntley repeated this statement on national television. Press sources quoted an unidentified bystander outside Parkland Hospital as saying, "I could see a hole in the President's left [from viewer's perspective] temple and his head and hair were bathed in blood." This was very probably the same small temple-entry hole that was described by some of the Parkland doctors and that was filled with wax by Tom Robinson.
The SEATTLE POST INTELLIGENCER matter-of-factly reported that "President Kennedy was shot in the right temple." The WASHINGTON POST said the President "was shot at 12:30 CST . . . by an assassin, who sent a rifle bullet crashing into his right temple."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael T. Griffith holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College in Albany, New York, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force. He is also a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas. He has earned instructor certification from both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force. He is the author of the book Compelling Evidence: A New Look at the Assassination of President Kennedy (Grand Prairie, TX: JFK-Lancer Productions and Publications, 1996). His articles on the assassination have appeared in several journals that deal with the subject. In addition, he is the author of four books on Mormonism and ancient texts.
JFK Assassination Web Page
JFK Assassination Web Page 2
JFK Assassination Web Page (Old)