Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The single bullet fantasy - Part 1

No discussion of the JFK assassination would be complete, without discussing the single bullet fantasy (or as Robert Groden once famously coined it – the single bullshit theory). We are all aware that the single bullet theory postulates the bullet which penetrated President Kennedy’s back, exited his throat, then went on to hit Governor Connally near his right arm pit, exiting his chest, shattering the radius bone near his right wrist, and then magically embedding itself in his left thigh. Of course without the single bullet theory, the lone gunman myth is completely destroyed.

The “simultaneous” reactions.

The best “proof” cited by lone gunman kooks is the apparent simultaneous reaction of President Kennedy and Governor Connally to being shot. Just as Kennedy emerges from behind the Stemmons freeway sign, we can see that he is reaching for his throat. We also see Governor Connally rapidly turn from looking to his right, to looking forward. We also see Connally’s right arm flip up with his Stetson hat, followed by him collapsing to the right with a look of panic on his face. Lone gunman theorists agree almost unanimously that Connally was struck by a bullet at circa Zapruder frame 224.

Although there are many conspiracy theorists who believe Connally wasn’t wounded at this point, I respectfully disagree. At frame 223, we see Connally looking to his right with his body turned in that direction. However, in frame 224, we can see that his body is now slightly twisted towards the front, and his jacket has bulged out (in my opinion, the most logical explanation being the transfer of momentum from the bullet). A couple of frames later, we see the expression on Connally’s face changes to a look of concern/pain. We can also see his left shoulder hunching up. The flipping of his arm/Stetson hat is, in my opinion, most likely due to some type of reflex reaction to the bullet shattering his wrist. Zapruder frames 223 and 224 below (my apologies for the lack of quality):

Now in order for the single bullet theory to be true, the bullet also had to hit Kennedy at frame 224. Although lone gunman kooks believe President Kennedy was also hit by the same bullet as Connally, in frame 224 we can see that he is clearly already reacting to a gunshot. His left hand is already near his chest/throat, and he is beginning to lower it, when he suddenly raises it to his throat in the subsequent frames, along with his right hand.

I also discussed the HSCA photographic panel’s belief that President Kennedy was already showing a reaction to some type of external stimulus. Since we know Kennedy was killed as a result of gunfire, the most logical explanation for his reaction is due to a gunshot. These reactions by themselves destroy the single bullet fantasy. It’s actually quite amusing watching lone gunman kooks such as Dale Myers and David Von Pein support the single bullet fantasy whilst ignoring these reactions by President Kennedy.

Many conspiracy theorists believe Kennedy was struck in the throat at circa frame 190. The evidence they cite for this is Kennedy’s right hand gliding across his face as he goes behind the freeway sign. Whilst I believe this theory has some merit to it, the truth is we can’t see whether Kennedy is reaching for his throat as he goes behind the sign. In any event, the most probable explanation for the throat wound is that the bullet which entered near his EOP, deflected downwards and exited the throat (as I will discuss further in part 2).

The stretcher bullet

The Warren commission told us that the non- fatal wounds to both President Kennedy and Governor Connally were caused by a virtually pristine bullet, which was entered into evidence as Commission exhibit 399. See below

The bullet was allegedly discovered on Governor Connally’s stretcher by hospital orderly, Darrell Tomlinson. Upon discovering it, Tomlinson passed the bullet to O.P Wright, who was the chief of security at Parkland memorial hospital. Wright then gave the bullet to secret service agent Richard Johnsen, who then gave it James Rowley, the chief of the secret service, at the white house.

Rowley then gave it to FBI agent, Elmer Todd. Todd then allegedly gave the bullet to FBI agent, Robert Frazier. However, the extraordinary work by Josiah Thompson, Gary Aguilar, and John Hunt has proven that Ce399 was never found on the stretcher in Parkland hospital! Tomlinson drew a diagram for Thompson which was printed in his book, Six seconds in Dallas, where he illustrated the stretcher the bullet was found on didn’t belong to Governor Connally, but rather to a little boy named Ronald Fuller.

In fact, when Thompson interviewed Wright for his book, wright identified the bullet as a pointed bullet! Lone gunman kooks have naturally tried to dismiss wright as being unreliable. However, it’s important to note that neither Tomlinson, Wright, Johnsen, nor Rowley could positively ID ce399 as the bullet they handled. Even worse, HSCA investigator James E McDonald, interviewed a man named Nathan Burgess Pool, who was present when Tomlinson discovered the bullet on the stretcher. Pool described the bullet as being bronze, long, pointed, and smooth (a description which doesn’t match Ce399)!  Be sure to check out this link.

The work by John Hunt has demonstrated that neither Johnsen’s, Rowley’s, nor Todd’s initials are on Ce399 - even though they were required to mark the bullet to establish its chain of possession. Hunt’s work has also shown that Todd received the bullet from Rowley at 8:50 pm. Whereas Frazier, to whom Todd allegedly gave the bullet, wrote down that he received Ce399 at 7:30 pm. Obviously Frazier couldn’t have received the bullet before the man who allegedly gave it to him received it from Rowley. Be sure to check out John Hunt’s work on JFK Lancer!

When we add in the work by Robert Harris (here), with the ear witness analysis by Pat Speer - demonstrating the shot to Connally was from a rifle using a silencer/suppressor, we have proven beyond any doubt that Ce399 was not fired in Dealey Plaza, but was substituted for the pointed bullet discovered on Ronald Fuller’s stretcher. Many conspiracy theorists are of the belief that the bullet was planted on the stretcher by Jack Ruby. Ruby was identified by two witnesses as being present in Parkland Hospital, at the time President Kennedy was being attended to.  

I don’t doubt that Ruby was at Parkland hospital, but did he plant the bullet on the stretcher? I don’t think so. My belief is that one of the secret service agents found it in the limousine, and negligently placed it on the stretcher. When the significance of the bullet was established, the agent who placed it there was probably told to keep his mouth shut. This is speculation on my part; however, I think it makes more sense than the conspirators deliberately planting the wrong type of bullet.

Location of the back wound

Without a doubt, the location of the back wound in relation to the throat wound is of paramount importance to the single bullet fantasy. President Kennedy’s personal physician, Admiral George Burkley, who was present at the autopsy, wrote a death certificate on the day following the assassination where he located the back wound “at about the level of the third thoracic vertebrae”. The bullet holes in Kennedy’s shirt and suit jacket, place the wound at approximately 5.75 inches, and 5.375 inches respectively below the top of the shirt and jacket collar. Dr Boswell also marked the location of the back wound on the autopsy face sheet. Boswell’s location of the wound appears to correspond to where Burkley and the President’s clothing places the wound. See below:

However, when the HSCA’s medical panel viewed the autopsy photographs, they decided the wound was located at approximately the level of the first thoracic vertebrae. The HSCA’s findings have been met with a great deal of resistance by conspiracy theorists who stubbornly believe the wound was located at the third thoracic vertebrae, where the death certificate placed it. The Rydberg drawings, prepared by Navy artist Harold Rydberg, placed the wound at the base of the neck. However, the autopsy photograph of the back placed the wound clearly in the back - not the neck. See below.


There are many conspiracy theorists who firmly believe the above autopsy photograph is a fake. They believe the photograph depicts somebody other than President Kennedy, with the wound drawn in deliberately higher to support the single bullet theory. Now I’m sorry to say, but this makes little sense. In the first place, why wouldn’t the conspirators draw the wound at the level of the base of the neck (as the Rydberg drawings depict it), instead of the level of the first thoracic vertebrae where the HSCA medical panel determined it was (which is still anatomically lower than the throat wound!).

Secondly, the HSCA medical panel determined the wound had an upwards abrasion collar. An upwards abrasion collar indicates the bullet was travelling upwards in the body. In fact, the HSCA concluded the bullet was upwards in the body, at an angle of approximately 11 degrees. The Rydberg drawings on the other hand, has the bullet travelling at a downwards angle (with the approximate angle at Zapruder frame 224 to the TSBD sniper’s nest at 21 degrees). So why the heck would the conspirators a. Place the wound anatomically lower than the throat wound? b. Draw in an upwards abrasion collar? It simply defies belief.

Now, there is a way to determine the back wound was anatomically lower than the throat wound. The autopsy measurement placed the wound “14 cm below the tip of the mastoid process”, with the tip of the mastoid process referring to the base of the skull. The long side of a CD case measurements roughly 14.1 cm. Take the CD cover and place it at the tip of the mastoid, tilting your head slightly back (as President Kennedy’s was in the autopsy photo). Then get somebody to take a photograph. This very simple test was demonstrated by Pat Speer in his documentary, the mysterious death of number 35, and proves the back wound was anatomically lower than the throat wound.

As far as the bullet holes in President Kennedy’s shirt and suit jacket are concerned, they shouldn’t be used as reliable measurements, since the amount of bunching of the fabric at the moment of the shot to the back cannot be known. As far as admiral Burkley’s placement of the back wound is concerned, let’s bear in mind that he wrote it the following day. Hence his recollection of the wound location would not have been accurate. As for Dr. Boswell’s placement of the wound on the autopsy face sheet, his drawing obviously couldn’t be 100% accurate.

I should mention that the observations of secret service agents Clint Hill, and Glen Bennett, also support the wound in the back being lower than what is depicted in the autopsy photo. Hill, who was also present at the autopsy, described the wound as follows: “I observed a wound about six inches down from the neckline on the back just to the right of the spinal column.”

Bennett, who was seated in the right rear seat of the secret service follow-up car, described the following in his secret service report: “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.”

Now let’s be honest, unlike the autopsy pathologists, neither Hill nor Bennett actually measured the location of the wound. Their observations were merely based on estimating the location of the wound. Bennett’s observation is nevertheless a critical blow to David Lifton’s pet theory that the back wound was punched in, after the President’s body was removed from Parkland hospital.

The fact that the HSCA’s medical panel determined the bullet travelled at an 11 degree upward trajectory through President Kennedy’s back, is undoubtedly a major problem for the single bullet theory. To solve this problem, lone gunman kooks such as Dale Myers, simply have Kennedy leaning forward at Zapruder frame 224 – the alleged moment of impact on both Kennedy and Connally. For the 21 degree trajectory from the sniper’s nest to work, Kennedy would have been leaning forward by about 29 degrees (after we subtract the 3 degree downward slope of Elm Street). Another requirement was for Connally to be leaning slightly backwards for the bullet to hit him near his armpit. The problem with this is that Zapruder frames 224 and 225 show President Kennedy sitting upright! See below.

Now, obviously with Kennedy sitting upright and the back wound being anatomically lower than the throat wound, the single bullet theory is totally bogus. Unless of course we are to believe the bullet magically deflected upwards in Kennedy’s back, and then magically deflected downwards upon exiting his throat to then strike Governor Connally. Completely ridiculous!

No exit for the back wound

If there is one thing that completely destroys the single bullet fantasy, it is the observations of the autopsy witnesses who claim they saw the back wound probed – with no exit being discovered! Not that lone gunman kooks would tell you this mind you. Bear in mind, that despite Dr Humes having written in his autopsy report that the back wound and throat wound were connected, there are no autopsy photographs which actually depict a surgical probe connecting the wounds. In other words, there is simply no hard evidence to support Dr Humes’ claims.

First, let’s take a look at the autopsy report made on the night of the assassination by the two FBI agents, James Sibert, and Francis X O’Neill. In their report, Sibert and O’Neill wrote:

“During the latter stages of this autopsy, Dr. Humes located an opening which appeared to be a bullet hole which was below the shoulders and two inches to the right of the middle line of the spinal column. This opening was probed by Dr. Humes with the finger, at which time it was determined that the trajectory of the missile entering at this point had entered at a downward position of 45 to 60 degrees. Further probing determined that the distance traveled by this missile was a short distance inasmuch as the end of the opening could be felt with the finger.”

Also in the same report, we have the following information:

“A call was made by Bureau agents to the Firearms Section of the FBI Laboratory, at which time SA Charles l. Killion advised that the Laboratory had received through Secret Service Agent Richard Johnsen a bullet which had reportedly been found on a stretcher in the emergency room of Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Texas. This stretcher had also contained a stethoscope and pair of rubber gloves. Agent Johnsen had advised the Laboratory that it had not been ascertained whether or not this was the stretcher which had been used to transport the body of President Kennedy. Agent Killion further described this bullet as pertaining to a 6.5 millimeter rifle which would be approximately a 25 caliber rifle and that this bullet consisted of a copper alloy full jacket.

 Immediately following receipt of this information, this was made available to Dr. Humes who advised that in his opinion this accounted for no bullet being located which had entered the back region and that since external cardiac massage had been performed at Parkland Hospital, it was entirely possible that through such movement the bullet had worked its way back out of the point of entry and had fallen on the stretcher.”

(Please note: I corrected several spelling errors in the above excerpt from the autopsy report).

As the autopsy report makes perfectly clear, the back wound was probed by Dr Humes, and it was determined that the wound did not penetrate to the throat. Confirmation for the observations of Sibert and O’Neill come from autopsy witnesses such as Paul O’Connor, James Jenkins, and Dr Robert Karnei. O’Connor and Jenkins were autopsy technicians who assisted Drs Humes, Boswell, and Finck during the President’s autopsy. Karnei was a pathologist himself, but had not direct involvement in the autopsy.

According to their interviews with HSCA and ARRB investigators, and with William Law, author of the informative book, In the eye of history, all three of these witnesses claimed to see a surgical probe penetrate only a couple of inches into the President’s back! Karnei further claimed that photographs of the probe inside the President’s body were taken during the autopsy. Only no such photographs are known to exist today. Just a tad bit curious isn’t it?

Now if you want an example of intellectual dishonesty on the part of lone gunman advocates, just consider the fact that they completely ignore the Sibert O’Neill report and instead uphold Humes’ report. Bear in mind that Humes actually admitted to the ARRB during his deposition, that he burned both his notes and the first draft of his autopsy report. So who in their right mind would take Humes word over Sibert and O’Neill’s?

I don’t wish to go over the testimonies by the autopsy pathologists and witnesses one by one, as all that information is available on resourceful websites such as history matters. Also be sure to read through a copy of William Law’s book whenever you get the chance.

Incidentally, Dr Boswell informed Josiah Thompson during an interview in 1966 that there was no exit for the back wound. Furthermore, Secret Service agent, Roy Kellerman, who was present at the autopsy, had asked Dr Finck about where the bullet had ended up after causing the President’s back wound (Kellerman referred to this as a shoulder wound). Finck responded: “There are no lanes for an outlet of this entry into this man’s shoulder”. In other words, there was no exit for the back wound!

Another witness at the autopsy, who claimed the surgical probe didn’t penetrate from the President’s back to his throat, was Navy Petty Officer Chester H. Boyers (see here, page 6).

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