Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Why does the wounding of James Tague constitute evidence that a second gunman was firing during the assassination of President Kennedy? Because it is very probable, if not certain, that none of the three bullets that were allegedly fired by Lee Harvey Oswald could have caused Tague's injury and/or nicked the curb near Tague.
Some Basic Facts About the Wounding of James Tague
When the shots were fired, James Tague was standing near the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza. He was about 450 feet from the Texas School Book Depository Building (TSBD). Suddenly, a bullet, or a sizable bullet fragment, apparently struck the curb on Main Street about 20 feet from where he was standing. Moments after the shooting, a police officer noticed that Tague was bleeding from his left cheek. It was assumed that Tague had been struck by a piece of concrete that had been sent flying by the projectile that had struck the curb, or by a fragment from the bullet that hit the curb, or by a fragment that struck him before it hit anything else. The curb scar was deep enough that Tague assumed he could have been cut by a chip of concrete from it. He recalled that when the shooting started he had felt a sting on his cheek. Later, he described the mark on the curb as it appeared when he saw it:
There was a mark. Quite obviously, it was a bullet, and it was very fresh. (Weisberg, CASE OPEN, New York: Carroll and Graf, 1994, p. 141; Warren Commission Report 116, hereafter cited as WCR [Note: I am using the Barnes & Noble edition of the report.])
Deputy Sheriff Buddy Walthers, who saw the mark soon after the shooting, agreed that it had been caused by a bullet (Henry Hurt, REASONABLE DOUBT, New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1985, p. 135). Patrolman Clyde Haygood, who radioed in the incident at around 12:40, seems to have been under the same impression (WCR 116). In a 1966 filmed interview, Tague unequivocally said the curb mark was the result of a bullet striking the curb.
The Implications of the Tague Incident
Why does the wounding of Tague destroy the lone-gunman scenario? For a number of reasons. One reason is that it virtually proves there were at least four bullets fired at the President, but the lone-assassin theory allows for only three shots.
The lone-gunman theory allows for only one miss. Yet, if the supposed miss from the sixth-floor window hit the curb near Tague, without striking anything else first, then it was a wild miss. Realizing this fact, and accepting the evidence of an early first-shot miss, most modern lone-gunman theorists claim that only a fragment caused the mark on the curb. There is, in fact, good evidence, which is now accepted by leading Warren Commission (WC) defenders, that the first shot was fired much earlier than the Commission thought it was, and that this shot missed. But if the first shot was fired before the limousine drove beneath the oak tree, how could that missile have caused Tague's injury and/or struck the curb? However, if Tague's wound wasn't caused by the first miss--which, according to WC supporters, was the ONLY miss--then what bullet or bullet fragment could have caused it? Here's where the lone-assassin case gets particularly desperate and far-fetched.
J. Edgar Hoover said the mark on the curb must have been caused by the lead fragment of a bullet. The WC suggested the fragment might have come from the fatal head shot. In other words, a lead fragment from the fatal head shot struck the curb and sent a piece of concrete or lead streaking toward Tague. However, the fatal missile was around 260 feet away from the curb when it struck Kennedy in the head. Furthermore, according to this hypothesis, the lead fragment separated from its metal jacket while plowing through JFK's skull, exited the skull, then somehow cleared the limousine's roll bar and traveled over 200 feet to the south Main Street curb, yet struck the curb with enough force (1) to send a concrete chip flying at least 20 feet, and (2) to cause that chip to cut Tague's face at the end of the 20-foot journey. But after plowing through a human skull, it is extremely doubtful the fragment could have traveled over 200 feet and still have been moving fast enough to visibly mark the curb and to send a concrete chip, or a lead fragment, streaking toward Tague. Moreover, how could the supposed fragment have traveled the required distance and speed, when two other fragments dropped into the car and did not even penetrate the windshield or the soft surfaces on which they were found? Other researchers have noted the marked implausibility of this theory. Jim Marrs:
. . . the only . . . [bullet] that could have lost such an amount of lead is the final head shot and that was at a location more than 200 feet away, a considerable distance for a small fragment to travel and still impact the curb as described.
If the bullet mark on the curb was a miss, it was an incredible miss. If the shot that struck the Main Street curb came from the Texas School Book Depository's sixth floor, it must have missed Kennedy by thirty-three feet in the air and twenty-one feet to the right. Such a miss is hardly compatible with that claim that Oswald was able to hit home with two out of three shots from his inefficient rifle aiming at a target moving laterally and away from him. . . . (Marrs, CROSSFIRE: THE PLOT THAT KILLED KENNEDY, New York: Carroll and Graf, 1988, p. 63)
It [the WC] suggests that a fragment from the bullet that hit the President's head might have produced the mark on the curb, ignoring the fact that two large fragments (equivalent respectively to one-fourth and one-eighth of the mass of the bullet) had dropped into the car without even penetrating the windshield or the relatively soft surfaces on which they were found. (WCR 76-77, 557; 5 H 66-74) If those fragments suffered such a dramatic loss of velocity upon impact and fragmentation, how could a different piece of the bullet retain sufficient momentum to travel "about 260 feet farther, and to cut Tague's face and/or mark the curb? (Meagher, ACCESSORIES AFTER THE FACT, New York: Vintage Books, 1992, reprint of 1967 original, p. 7)
Moreover, in order for a fragment from the head shot to have struck the curb near Tague, it would have had to somehow fly over the limousine's roll bar and over its windshield, and then dive down to the curb. However, it is hard to imagine how the fragment could have flown over the support bar and/or the windshield, much less dived down to hit the curb and still have had enough force to create a readily visible mark on the curb and to send a concrete chip, or a piece of the bullet fragment, streaking toward Tague. In addition, if the missile had been fired from the sixth-floor window, the bullet would have approached from the right rear and would have struck the head at a downward angle of around 20 degrees. How would a fragment from such a bullet have traveled upward so as to clear both the support bar and the windshield? And even if this amazing fragment had been deflected upward after plowing through the skull, how could it have possibly retained enough force to travel over 200 feet, mark a concrete curb, and then send a concrete chip flying so fast that it could cut a man's face? Even if it's assumed that Tague was cut by something other than a chip of concrete from the curb, there is still the fact that the curb was visibly marked and that some concrete had been blasted out of the curb by the object which struck it (which is why Tague and others assumed he could have been cut by a piece of concrete from the curb scar).
Could a fragment from the head shot have struck Tague's face directly, that is, without hitting anything else first? This suggestion is as problematic as the theory that a fragment fro the head shot caused the mark on the curb. For example, in order to have struck Tague's face, the fragment still would have had to somehow fly over the limousine's support bar and windshield. The HSCA's trajectory expert, Dr. Tom Canning, told the Committee that the windshield damage appeared to be too high to have been caused by a fragment from the head-shot missile. Yet, to accept the theory that a fragment from this bullet somehow reached Tague, we would have to believe that the fragment flew well above the damaged portions of the windshield. In fact, it would have had to clear the support bar, which was slightly HIGHER then the windshield. But if it had managed to do this, how could it have gone on to strike the curb and/or Tague with any appreciable force?
Jim Moore's theory to explain the mark on the curb is even more problematic than the WC's. According to Moore, the first shot struck the road near the right rear of the President's limousine while the car was hidden from the gunman's view by the oak tree in front of the TSBD. Then, says Moore, this missile bounded low beneath the car and traveled diagonally until it hit the curb, which was nearly 300 feet away (Moore, CONSPIRACY OF ONE, Ft. Worth: The Summit Group, 1991, p. 198). Doesn't this theory sound incredible? Furthermore, the metal smears taken from the mark on the curb had no traces of copper in them, which means the bullet that caused the mark could not have been the copper-jacketed ammunition that Oswald supposedly used, assuming the FBI crime lab accurately reported the results of its analysis of the sample taken from the curb mark.
To make matters worse, Moore says the first shot was fired at frame 186 of the Zapruder film, when the limousine appeared for a split second between a break in the foliage of the oak tree in front of the Depository (Moore 123, 198). Even the WC was highly skeptical of the idea that a gunman would have fired at this time (WCR 98, 105). The gunman would have had only 1/18th of a second to aim and fire during the foliage break, but the human eye requires 1/6th of a second to register and react to data.
Why would the alleged lone assassin have fired at Z186 when this shot would have had very little chance, if any, of hitting the target and could have alerted the President's driver, not to mention the other security personnel, that the limousine was under attack? (Of course, a gunman firing from the Dal-Tex Building or from the County Records Building would have had a good shot at the limousine just after the limousine turned onto Elm Street, but lone-assassin theorists claim that all the shots were fired from the sixth floor of the Book Depository.)
Perhaps the most fanciful theory of all has been proposed by Gerald Posner, the author of the book CASE CLOSED (New York: Random House, 1992). Posner suggests that the mark on the curb was caused by a lead fragment from a bullet that allegedly struck a limb of the oak tree, in spite of the fact that the tree was at least 400 feet from the curb. Additionally, according to Posner, this was the first shot, but Tague said it was the second shot which caused the mark on the curb and/or which wounded his face (Weisberg, CASE OPEN, 146-147; WCR 116). Moreover, Posner theorizes that the lead core separated from its copper jacketing after the alleged tree-branch collision and then traveled over 400 feet in a straight line from the Depository to the curb (Posner 326). But after separating from the jacket and then flying over 400 feet, it is highly doubtful the lead core would have been able to hit the curb with enough force to cause a concrete chip to reach Tague with enough speed to visibly cut his face; it is equally doubtful that such a missile fragment would have had enough force to fly straight to Tague's face and then cut it.
Another problem with Posner's theory is that it would require us to believe that the alleged lone assassin fired--and missed--sometime between Zapruder frames 145 and 166 (see Posner 324; see also Weisberg, CASE OPEN, 98). But to make this assumption, we would have to believe that the supposed lone gunman completely missed, not only Kennedy, but the entire limousine, from an elevation of 60 feet and from a distance of less than 140 feet. Even the WC admitted it was hard to believe the gunman would have been so wildly off the mark with his first and closest shot (WCR 111).
Additionally, in order for Posner's errant shot to have fragmented off a tree limb, one would think the missile would have had to strike far enough up the limb so that the limb would not move, bend, or snap when the bullet hit it. This would have been an unbelievable miss from the sixth-floor window.
There are several factors behind Moore's and Posner's convoluted theories. One, there is persuasive eyewitness testimony that a shot was fired between Z140 and Z160. Two, Moore and Posner cannot allow for the distinct possibility that a gunman was firing from one of the buildings adjacent to the TSBD, such as the Dal-Tex Building or the County Records Building, even though those buildings would have afforded an assassin a good view of the limousine from frames 140-210 (and beyond). Three, they cannot accept the possibility that the mark on the curb was caused by a non-copper-jacketed bullet, or by a lead bullet, because the alleged lone gunman supposedly used copper-jacketed ammunition. Nor can they accept the possibility that the mark was caused by a large fragment from a missed shot that struck much farther down on Elm Street (and, of course, much closer to the south Main Street curb near Tague).
The mark on the curb near Tague and Tague's resulting facial injury present lone-gunman theorists with severe difficulties. Oswald supposedly used copper-jacketed bullets, but the metal smears taken from the mark on the curb had no traces of copper in them, according to the FBI's crime lab. If it is claimed that the mark was caused by a direct strike from the lone gunman's errant shot, then the single-assassin theory is refuted by the absence of copper in the metal smears and by the significant nature of the miss. On the other hand, if it is assumed that the mark was caused by a lead fragment, the closest fragment that the lone-gunman theory can offer was over 200 feet away, had just finished plowing through a human skull, and would have had to fly over the limousine's roll bar.
The plain fact of the matter is that the Tague incident reveals the patently implausible nature of the single-assassin scenario. All of the reasonable explanations for the absence of copper in the curbing section and for Tague's facial injury are incompatible with the lone-gunman theory.
A House Divided
I have had several exchanges with WC supporters concerning the projectile that struck the curb near James Tague and then cut his face. One or two lone-gunman theorists have opined that the curb mark was unrelated to the wounding of Tague (most researchers reject this view). The majority of WC defenders with whom I've dialogued have either tacitly or overtly questioned, if not rejected, Gerald Posner's explanation of the Tague wounding. Instead, they've opted for the WC's suggestion that a fragment from the head shot caused the curb mark and/or the cut on Tague's face. In reply, I've argued that this theory is just as farfetched as Posner's, and that it is highly unlikely that such a fragment, which would have had to first plow through a human skull, could have marked the curb and/or cut Tague, even assuming it somehow cleared the limo's support bar and windshield. It should be mentioned that Posner himself rejects the head-shot-fragment theory:
The Commission's guess that a fragment from the head wound might have caused the curb damage is not realistic. Two large fragments were found in the front of the President's car, one weighing 44.6 grams, and the other 21.0 grams. . . . Smaller lead fragments were found under the carpet and near the front seat. However, those fragments were so spent from the tremendous force expended on Kennedy's head wound that all they did inside the car was crack the windshield and dent a chrome strip. They did not penetrate any of the leather seats or the dashboard or cause any other damage to the car or its occupants. It is highly unlikely that any fragment from the head shot would have enough energy left to travel another 260 feet and knock a chip off a concrete curb. (Posner 325)
The Tague incident is one of the most fatal flaws of the lone-gunman scenario. WC supporters don't have a credible explanation for it. The head-shot-fragment theory is just as untenable and unlikely as Posner's tree-branch-collision theory.
As mentioned, the latter theory says that a Z160 shot struck a limb of the intervening oak tree, that this collision caused the lead core to separate from the copper jacket, and that the lead core then flew over 400 feet, struck the curb and sent at least one concrete chip streaking toward Tague fast enough to cut his face. For starters, the first shot was almost certainly fired several frames BEFORE Z160; it was most likely fired at around Z145. Second, the only way a Z160 shot could have struck a tree limb would have been if a stiff gust of wind came along and blew the limb into the bullet's path at just the right microsecond. Third, even making this huge leap of faith, i.e., assuming a branch was blown into the missile's path at just the right split-second, the separated lead core would have had to miss all of the other branches that were situated between the branch that was struck and the curb. A branch blown into the missile's path at Z160 would have been on the northern side of the tree; there would have been at least three or four, and possibly several, branches between that branch and the curb, as well as dozens of leaves (see, for example, WCR 100, 101, 113; cf. WCR 62).
Questions and Answers
The following exchanges are edited excerpts from dialogues I've had with lone-gunman theorists. The arguments of the lone- gunman theorists are indicated by the initials "LGT."
LGT: The curb mark was only a smear. Where did Tague describe the curb mark as more than a "smear"?
RESPONSE: There are pictures of the curb mark that prove it was more than just a "smear," unless you're employing some special definition of the word "smear" and not bothering to say you're doing so.
People can turn to any number of books with photos of the curb mark and see immediately that the mark was much more than just a smear. Take a look at the Underwood frame on p. 457 of Richard Trask's book PICTURES OF THE PAIN (Danvers, MA: Yeoman Press, 1994). Look at the DEPTH of the mark--that's no "smear." It's a hole, a visible chip, etc. Or, take a look at the three Dillard frames on the next page (Trask 458). Again, one can readily see that the mark is more than just a smear.
Tague's statement to Liebeler WAS his earliest known comment on the mark, and therefore constitutes his "initial" comment on the subject. And just exactly what did Tague say? Let's take a look:
Mr. TAGUE Right. Going on Elm. So I stood there looking around. I looked up---there was a motorcycle policeman, and he stopped and had drawn his gun and was running up the embankment toward the railroad tracks. A crowd of people; several people, were starting to come down into that area where he was running, and the people pointing, and excitement up there and so on, and about that time a patrolman who evidently had been stationed under the triple underpass walked up and said, "What happened?" and I said, "I don't know; something."
And we walked up to the---by this time the motorcycle policeman returned back close to where his motorcycle was, and we walked up there and there was a man standing there. Seeing that he was very excited--I don't remember his name at the time I did have it on the tip of my tongue very excited saying he was watching the President and it seemed like his head just exploded. This was a couple or 3 minutes after this happened. And the patrolman said, "Well, I SAW SOMETHING FLY OFF BACK ON THE STREET." We walked back down there, and another man joined us who identified himself as the deputy sheriff, who was in civilian clothes, and I guess this was 3 or 4 minutes after. I don't know how to gage time on something like that.
And I says, "Well, you know now, I recall something sting me on the face while I was standing down there."
And he looked up and he said, "Yes; you have blood there on your cheek."
And I reached up and there was a couple of drops of blood. And he said, "Where were you standing?"
And I says, "Right down here." We walked 15 feet away when this deputy sheriff said, "Look here on the curb." THERE WAS A MARK QUITE OBVIOUSLY THAT WAS A BULLET, AND IT WAS VERY FRESH. (7 H 553, emphasis added)
And a little later on:
Mr. LIEBELER. Let's go back and fix the general spot when the deputy sheriff saw the mark on the street, going back to point No. 6, which is where you were standing when you were hit. We go east along----
Mr. TAGUE. Right here is the curb.
Mr. LIEBELER. There is a curb that runs along----
Mr. TAGUE. About 12 to 15 feet right on the top of round of the curb, was the mark that very definitely was fresh, AND I WOULD SAY IT WAS A MARK OF A BULLET. (7 H 554-555, emphasis added)
So, before he knew what he was supposed to say, before he realized the huge, fatal problems the curb mark posed for the lone-gunman theory, James Tague swore that in his opinion the curb mark was the "mark of a bullet," i.e., that it was made by a bullet. Notice, too, that the patrolman told Tague had seen something "FLY OFF BACK ON THE STREET." If this wasn't concrete from the curb being kicked up by the impact of a projectile, what was it?
Not only this, but leading WC supporters have acknowledged that at least one sizable chip of concrete was dislodged from the curb mark as a result of the impact of the projectile that hit it. For example, both Posner and Moore opine that Tague's face was cut by a concrete fragment. "A chip of concrete," says Posner (Posner 325). "The impact" of the projectile, says Moore, "knocked pieces of concrete into the face of spectator James Tague" (Moore 198).
Officer Haygood himself told the Commission that Tague came up to him right after the shooting and said "he had gotten hit by a piece of concrete or something" (6 H 297). Thus, Tague assumed he could have been hit by a piece of concrete from the curb mark because enough material was missing from the mark to enable him to make this suggestion in the first place.
Some WC supporters have attempted to capitalize on Deputy Sheriff Walthers' use of the word "splattered" in his description of the curb mark. Walthers said he believed the mark was made by a bullet that had "splattered" on the curb. So you interpret this as support for your view that the mark was just a smear. However, a little further in the statement, Walthers also said the "projectile STRUCK" the curb. In addition, just because Walthers at one point said the bullet or fragment appeared to have "splattered" on the curb does not mean he saying that no concrete was dislodged from the mark. In fact, on the day of the shooting both Walthers and Tague believed that at least one piece of concrete large enough to cut Tague's face had been dislodged from the curb mark.
LGT: You said,
. . . Walthers immediately started to search where Tague had been standing and located a place on the south curb of Main Street WHERE IT APPEARED A BULLET HAD HIT THE CEMENT. According to Tague, "THERE WAS A MARK QUITE OBVIOUSLY THAT WAS A BULLET, AND IT WAS VERY FRESH." (WCR 116, emphasis added)
What were you thinking? NOWHERE in this passage does the word "nick" even appear! The only description given here is that there was a "mark". Am I to believe that you want to try to equate the word "mark" with "nick"? The two are not synonymous.
RESPONSE: Tague was obviously describing the mark as a fresh bullet mark. That is the only rational, logical way to read his testimony. Yet, in the face of this fact, you reach so far as to suggest that by "bullet mark" Tague actually meant it was really only a "smear."
What do people normally mean when they describe a mark on a street or sidewalk as a "bullet mark"? Are they merely talking about a "smear" with no depth and with no material missing from it? Do you really believe that's what Tague and others had in mind when they used the word "mark" and when Tague described it as a "bullet mark"? The very fact that Tague believed a fragment from the curb mark might have cut his face proves the mark was not just a smear.
Which again brings us to the question of why anyone would have thought Tague could have been cut by concrete chipped off from the mark if the mark was merely a smear? I've asked you this question several times, and I have yet to see you answer it. You've also seemingly avoided other troublesome questions that I've asked you concerning the mark, such as why the FBI destroyed the crucial spectrographic plate from the curb mark just as Weisberg was pressing a suit to obtain access to it, and why the Dallas FBI lied about not being able to find the curb mark (if they didn't lie but really couldn't find it, this raises the question of whether or not the mark was covered up for a while, since Shaneyfelt later had no trouble locating it).
How could any of those who saw the curb, including Tague himself, have even speculated that Tague was hit by a piece of cement from the curb if the mark was only a smear?
And how can you continue to deny that the photos plainly show the curb mark to be more than a smear?
There is indisputable proof that originally James Tague believed the curb mark was caused by a direct strike from a bullet. I am referring to his 1966 filmed interview with attorney Mark Lane for the documentary RUSH TO JUDGMENT, from which I quote (notice, too, that Tague clearly believed the mark was very obvious and visible):
TAGUE. Right after the presidential car had turned the corner, I heard these three loud noises, and I jumped behind the concrete abutment, which is between Main and Commerce.
There was a motorcycle policeman who had just stopped his motorcycle up by the monument and had drawn his revolver and was racing up the hill to the left of me.
Uh, there was a deputy sheriff, which I think was stationed under the underpass, Buddy Walthers. At this time, I says, "You know, I felt something sting me on the face as I was standing there." And Walthers looked at me and says, "Yes, you got blood on your cheek." He says, "Where were you standing?" I says, "Well, down by the underpass."
So, we started walking down there, and when Walthers got about, oh, I'd say, ten feet away, he says, "Look there on the curb." THERE WAS A VERY VISIBLE MARK ON THE CURB WHERE A BULLET HAD STRUCK. EITHER A FRAGMENT OF THE BULLET OR A PIECE OF THE CONCRETE HAD FLEW UP [sic] AND SCRATCHED MY FACE.
He said, "Go to the city police headquarters and make a statement," which I did. . . .
LANE. And, Sir, could you indicate [on a picture of Dealey Plaza] where the bullet struck the concrete curb?
TAGUE. THE BULLET STRUCK THE CURB on the south curb of Main Street. It would be right here. (Emphasis added)
Considering these unambiguous statements, along with the other evidence I've presented to you, how can you possibly continue to deny that those who first saw the curb immediately recognized it as a bullet strike (an "obvious" bullet strike, at that) and saw that a noticeable amount of concrete had been blown out of the curb (hence Tague's automatic assumption that his facial cut could have been caused by concrete from the curb, even though he was standing over 20 feet away and even though the cut was readily visible and bleeding)?
LGT: The only contemporaneous record that you have is the caption for the Dillard photograph that appeared in November 24, 1963 edition of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. But, as I've pointed out, you have no clue as to just who wrote the caption, nor if that person ever actually observed the mark. Thus, that is far from a early statement or an early description of the actual curb mark.
RESPONSE: "No clue as to just who wrote the caption, nor if that person ever actually observed the mark"? Who wrote the caption? Well, probably one of the persons whose job it was to write captions for photos printed in the newspaper! And, when you say "actually observed the mark," are you talking about seeing the mark at the curb itself? The whole point is that the caption writer looked at the photo and saw what is plainly there for all to see: a picture of a hole or chip in the curb. And that's how he described it--as a "hole," "chip," and "scar." He didn't know this would later turn out to be inconvenient and problematic for the lone-gunman theory. He just looked at the picture and described what he saw. We can all see it, but you won't or can't admit it because your theory of the assassination can't explain it.
I don't even think your theory can explain a smear, for that matter. Bob Harris and Bruce Schuck have made a similar point. Go get a small piece of metal and see how hard you have to propel it just to get it to create a "smear" on a similar concrete curb.
And, again, from what source would this fragment have come? In order to create even just a "smear," a smear with the outer dimension of the hole seen in the photos, the fragment would have had to be at least somewhat sizable and would have had to be traveling at a significant rate of speed. The closest bullet you can produce is the head shot missile, which was over 200 feet away and had just finished plowing through a human skull. How could a fragment from that bullet have traveled over 200 feet, around 260 feet, to be exact, and have done so with enough speed to create a curb smear of the required size, one that would be visible from 15-20 feet away, as the curb mark was? How would this magic fragment have cleared the roll bar and/or the windshield (with the sun visors in the up position, no less)? Even Posner has rejected this fanciful theory, calling it "unrealistic." But, to further complicate matters, you have tacitly rejected Posner's equally absurd speculation that the first miss struck a branch of the oak tree and sent the lead core streaking toward the curb near Tague, though at least Posner admits that a piece of concrete was chipped off the curb by a projectile's impact.
If All Else Fails
One lone-gunman theorist with whom I corresponded actually proposed that the curb mark was not connected to the assassination!
LGT: You're ALMOST there! There ISN'T sufficient energy in a bullet fragment to "deform" concrete.
RESPONSE: The photos of the mark alone prove it was more than just a smear. And the closest bullet from which you can get this alleged fragment is the head shot, which was over 200 feet away. You've also got to somehow get the fragment over the support bar and the sun visors; then the fragment must dip, must go downward, in order to hit the curb. How, then, could it have even had enough energy to allegedly "smear" the curb? Even Posner has labeled this speculation "unrealistic," and at least Posner admits that concrete was dislodged from the mark as a result of the projectile's impact.
LGT: The best that can be expected is a slight smear of grey material. Considering the small size of any fragment or fragments of the head shot bullet that continue on towards Tague, the chances of that fragment doing visible damage to the curb, and THEN doing more to Tague are infinitesimal.
RESPONSE: But what about the concrete fragments that were dislodged by the projectile's impact? Even Tague assumed he could have been cut by a piece of concrete. He could not have even thought this if there had not been material visibly missing from the curb mark. There is evidence, moreover, that the curb was patched shortly after the assassination, as Weisberg discusses at length in CASE OPEN and NEVER AGAIN (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1995).
And, once more, even if you somehow get this fragment over the support bar and/or the sun visors, you must assume it dipped in flight, in which case it almost certainly wouldn't have had enough force to even smear the curb, much less to dislodge concrete chips from it. This entire line of speculation is untenable because we're talking about a fragment from a bullet that had just finished plowing through a human skull that was over 200 feet from the curb.
LGT: However, that SAME fragment could have hit Tague directly, and could have caused the minor wound.
RESPONSE: But Tague himself walked over to the curb and saw a FRESH BULLET MARK, which is exactly how he described it to Liebeler, and he assumed he could have been cut by concrete from the mark, proving that he realized that material had been dislodged from it. Besides, again, there are pictures which show the mark was more than a smear.
LGT: The mark on the curb is a misleader, since no one has ANY idea when it happened, or what created it.
RESPONSE: This is very strained, and also as a tacit admission that one can't have both a curb mark, even just a smear, and Tague's facial cut both caused by a fragment from the head shot. It's unlikely enough just to suggest that the curb mark, whether it was a smear or a chip, was caused by a fragment from the head shot, but to then have to explain Tague's facial cut (from which at least two drops of blood emerged) really poses a severe challenge for WC defenders.
LGT: You HAVE examined the file CURBTEST.GIF? Full-powered bullets fired into curbing from a distance of only 4 feet create nothing more than smears. No nicks, no deformities at all. There is NO reason to conclude that the curb "damage" is due to a bullet fired that day.
RESPONSE: So this, then, is your approach to the problem: Deny the curb mark was even caused by a bullet fired on the day of the assassination! In other words, the curb mark had nothing to do with the assassination! This theory ignores Tague's and Walthers' testimony, for starters. It also ignores the fact that there are photos showing the curb mark to be more than a smear, and it ignores the evidence that the curb mark was patched. When the caption writer at the DALLAS MORNING NEWS looked at the printed Dillard photo, he saw exactly what is there to be seen, a "scar," a "chip," and a "hole" (cf. Weisberg, NEVER AGAIN, 332-333). That's what the picture shows. So does Underwood's photo (Trask 457).
The WC was guilty of a lot of inexcusable failings and distortions, but it never tried to deny that the curb mark was made by at least a bullet fragment on the day of the shooting. And, while the FBI initially pretended it couldn't find the mark, at least it didn't deny that the mark had been made on the day of the assassination and that it had been made by a missile or missile fragment. But, now that the fatal, revealing implications of the curb mark and of Tague's facial cut are becoming more and more apparent, we see the desperate claim that the mark wasn't even made during the shooting. Let's just briefly review a few relevant facts:
1. In speaking of the mark on the curb, Tague told the Commission, "There was a mark QUITE OBVIOUSLY THAT WAS A BULLET [MARK], and it was very fresh" (WCR 116).
2. A policeman on the scene with Tague radioed in, shortly after the shooting, that "I have one guy [Tague] that was possibly hit by a ricochet FROM THE BULLET OFF THE CONCRETE" (WCR 116). So the mark looked to him like it had been made by a bullet.
3. Another policeman, Buddy Walthers, "located a place on the south curb of Main Street WHERE IT APPEARED A BULLET HAD HIT THE CEMENT" (WCR 116). Walthers later told the Commission, "IT WAS A FRESH RICOCHET MARK. I have seen them and I noticed it got grayer and grayer and grayer as it aged" (Hurt 135).
4. Tague believed it was the second shot that hit the curb, not the third one (WCR 116). He was pretty certain he heard a shot AFTER he was stung by a fragment of cement or lead. This tends to refute the already implausible idea that Tague was struck by a fragment from the head shot.
5. Henry Hurt, after studying photos of the mark, referred to it as "a distinct pockmark" (Hurt 131).
6. The DALLAS MORNING NEWS technician who prepared the caption for a photo of the mark that appeared in the 11/24/63 edition of the newspaper described the mark as a "chip" and a "hole." Yes, the man misunderstood the location of the mark (for that matter, he was probably given the wrong location by someone else), but I'm interested in his description of the photo of the mark itself. He looked at it and concluded it was a "chip" and a "hole."
7. When the Dallas FBI office was asked to investigate the curb mark, incredibly, it reported back that its agents had been unable to find the mark! This, of course, was a lie, and it raises the question of why, if the mark was just a "smear," they would have lied about it. But, what I want to focus on is the wording of the Dallas FBI's report: It said that "no NICK" had been found. So apparently they had heard from someone that the curb mark was a "nick." (The Dallas FBI went farther and said they didn't see a mark of any kind at the curb site! Yet, weeks later, an FBI man from Washington, D.C., Lyndal Shaneyfelt, found the mark with no difficulty.)
8. If the curb mark was just a "smear," how could anyone have gotten the idea that Tague was struck by a concrete chip from the curb? (Tague, it should be recalled, was visibly cut in the face and wiped at least two drops of blood off his face when the cut was pointed out to him.)
Now, let's return to the question of why the Dallas FBI lied about not being able to find the curb mark. Photos of the mark show it to be much more than just a "smear" (see, for example, Weisberg, NEVER AGAIN, 332-333, and Trask 457-458). I think it's pretty clear that they lied about not being able to find the mark because they realized it was a substantive scar/chip/hole that must have been caused by a bullet or by a sizable fragment, and because the FBI's position at the time was that Kennedy and Connally were hit by separate bullets. Thus, the Dallas FBI realized the curb mark represented a miss for which they could not account. So, they said they couldn't find the mark, and even floated the laughable theory that the mark had been erased by street cleaning machines!
At this point it should again be noted that you, as a WC supporter, have no credible explanation for the mark. The two principal theories available to you--Posner's tree-branch collision theory, and the head-shot-fragment theory--are unrealistic and farfetched. The one or two others that have been offered are even worse, though not by much.
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 a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, in Arabic and Hebrew. He is also a two-time graduate of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas, and holds an Occupational Instructor Certificate from the Community College of the 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 case. In addition, he is the author of four books on Mormonism and ancient texts.
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