Last October I wrote an article entitled “The Kennedy Casket Conspiracy” in which I detailed the strange circumstances surrounding the delivery of President John F. Kennedy’s body to the morgue at Bethesda Naval Hospital after the fatal shooting in Dallas in November 1963. My article was based mostly on the evidence presented in Douglas P. Horne’s 2009 five-volume work on the assassination, Inside the Assassination Records Review Board: The U.S. Government’s Final Attempt to Reconcile the Conflicting Medical Evidence in the Assassination of JFK, which in turn was based on the 1981 bestselling book on the assassination, Best Evidence, by David Lifton.
My article detailed the evidence establishing that there were actually three different casket deliveries to the Bethesda morgue on the evening of November 22, 1963, with the earliest casket delivery — the one that high U.S. officials have long denied took place — occurring at 6:35 p.m., almost 1 hour and 45 minutes before the autopsy officially began at 8:15 p.m.
The evidence, as documented in Lifton’s and Horne’s books, consisted of the statements of several enlisted military men who were charged with security at the morgue and with carrying the body into the morgue, as well as contemporaneous official reports that had been kept secret for decades, until they were released in the 1990s pursuant to the new law, the JFK Records Act, that was enacted in the wake of Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie JFK.
As I stated in my article, the possibility that all the enlisted men and all the people who prepared the official reports entered into a conspiracy on the day of the assassination to concoct a fake and false story about the time and circumstances that the president’s body was delivered to the morgue is so preposterous as to be nonexistent.
Since my article was published, not a single person has written me alleging that I got any of the facts in the matter wrong or that the conclusions I drew from the facts were incorrect. A couple of people did call me a conspiracy theorist. Duh! The title of my article was “The Kennedy Casket Conspiracy.” Since the early, secret delivery of Kennedy’s body to the Bethesda morgue involved several people, the matter necessarily involved a conspiracy — by definition.
If you haven’t read my article “The Kennedy Casket Conspiracy,” I invite you to do so. It’s long, but necessarily so because it pulls together the overwhelming weight of evidence showing that government officials secretly and surreptitiously delivered President Kennedy’s body to the Bethesda morgue an hour and a half before the autopsy officially began.
Now, you might say, “Jacob, all that is fine and good. But was there anything unusual about the autopsy itself that would make this information important?”
Well, as a matter of fact, yes. In fact, there are many unusual aspects to the president’s autopsy, which was entirely controlled by the U.S. military.
Let’s consider, for example, the head shot, the fatal wound that brought an end to the president’s life.
Immediately after the assassination, the doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, where the president was treated, made note of a hole in the back of Kennedy’s head that was approximately 2 or 3 inches in diameter. The hole was primarily in the lower part of the back of the head.
Is the size of such a hole significant? Yes, owing to the manner in which a bullet enters and exits a solid mass. When a bullet enters, say, a person’s head, it creates a very small hole, like the size of the bullet itself. But as it passes through the brain, it pushes mass in front of it and also begins to tumble. Thus, by the time it exits, it leaves a hole much larger than the entry hole.
Let’s review what the Dallas physicians stated about Kennedy’s head wound. According to Lifton (page 317),
Indeed, six Dallas doctors testified the wound in the head was an exit wound; and a seventh, Dr. Kemp Clark, said it could be an exit wound but it was also possible the wound was “tangential”; Dr. Jones testified it “appeared to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull”; Dr. Perry referred to it as “avulsive”; Dr. Jenkins, referring to the region as “exploded,” said, “I would interpret it as being a wound of exit”; and Dr. Akin said, “I assume that the right occipitoparietal [lower right rear of head] region was the exit.” [Text in brackets added.]
Lifton relates Dr. Robert McClelland’s testimony before the Warren Commission:
As I took the position at the head of the table … 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. It has been shattered, apparently, by the force of the shot…. This sprung open the bones … in such a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself and see that probably a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue, posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue had been blasted out.”
So, what’s the problem?
Well, take a look at a copy of one of the official autopsy photographs of the back of Kennedy’s head. As you can see, you are not looking at anything gruesome.
Do you see the problem? At the risk of belaboring the obvious, what purports to be an official autopsy photograph of the back of President Kennedy’s head clearly does not show the big exit hole that the Dallas doctors stated was there in the back of the head. In fact, according to the official version of events, that official autopsy photograph depicts a small entry wound, which then exited in a large blow-out wound in the top of Kennedy’s head.
The difference between what the Parkland doctors saw and what the autopsy photograph shows is obviously of critical importance.
If the Parkland doctors are correct, then there are two inevitable conclusions:
One, the government’s official photographs of the president’s body had to have been faked, and two, accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald could not have been the one who shot President Kennedy in the head, given that he was supposed to have fired from behind the president while the president was facing forward.
If, on the other hand, the photographs correctly depict the back of the president’s head, then there are two inevitable conclusions: the Dallas doctors either entered into a conspiracy to falsify the location of the wound or they simply imagined a wound that didn’t actually exist.
But the possibility that the doctors knowingly conspired with each other to concoct a fake and false wound is as preposterous as the possibility that the enlisted men and morticians in Bethesda conspired to concoct a fake and false story of when the president’s body was delivered to the Bethesda morgue.
But before you jump to the conclusion that the Dallas doctors must have imagined a big exit wound at the back of Kennedy’s head that didn’t really exist, keep in mind that Parkland Hospital was — and still is — one of the most renowned trauma centers in the United States. In fact, it is among the largest teaching hospitals in the country. If a person gets shot, there is hardly a better, more competent place to be treated than Parkland Hospital.
What about the doctors at the Bethesda morgue, the ones who were at the autopsy that night? What did they say about the head wound?
In 1976 the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) conducted an official investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy, owing to widespread doubts among the public about the Warren Commission’s official report in 1964. The final report of the House Committee stated in part as follows:
In disagreement with the observations of the Parkland doctors are the 26 people present at the autopsy. All of those interviewed who attended the autopsy corroborated the general location of the wounds as depicted in the photographs; none had differing accounts.
So, there you have it: the Parkland doctors versus the Bethesda doctors.
Well, except for one big thing. Whoever it was that drafted that particular paragraph was a liar.
The last thing the House Select Committee anticipated was that anyone would find that the Committee was lying when it made that statement, because the Committee specifically ordered that the evidence in the case, including the evidence that would expose the lie, would remain secret for 50 years. Apparently they were as concerned with “national security” as the Warren Commission, which had ordered its evidence about the assassination sealed for 75 years. Of course, everyone knows that by the time 50 years or 75 years pass, most, if not all, of the pertinent evidence would probably have disappeared or been destroyed.
Oliver Stone changed all those plans with his movie JFK. Thanks to the movie and the resulting JFK Records Act, the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), on which Douglas Horne served, was able to bring the House Select Committee records into the public eye.
And guess what. The records showed that that particular portion of the Committee’s official report was one great big lie. Horne writes (volume 3, page 886),
One might well ask how I can be so sure that this statement was a falsehood, and not just a “mistake.” Here is why — the autopsy photos show the back of the head to be intact, and yet the following autopsy witnesses interviewed by the HSCA indicated that it was not…. [Emphasis in original.]
Horne then proceeds to show a chart listing the following federal personnel who attended the Bethesda autopsy and the manner in which they disagreed with the autopsy photos and the source for their respective testimonies: HMC Chester H. Boyles; HM3 Jan G. Rudnicki; HM3 James E. Metzler; LCDR Gregory H. Cross, M.D.; HM3 Edward F. Reed; HM3 Paul K. O’Connor; HM3 James C. Jenkins; LCDR John H. Ebersole, M.D.; FBI Agent Frank O’Neill; FBI agent Jim Sibert; and U.S. Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman.
Well, yes. Do you recall that Secret Service agent, Clint Hill, who crawled up on the back of the Kennedy limousine and pushed Jacqueline Kennedy back into the car? He got a good look at the back of the president’s head while he was shielding the president and Mrs. Kennedy in the back seat while on the way to Parkland Hospital. Here is what he stated (Lifton, page 39), “The right rear portion of the head was missing. It was lying in the rear seat of the car. His brain was exposed.”
According to Horne (volume 1, page xxxix), “In the HSCA transcript, [mortician] Tom Robinson describes a round defect in the rear of President Kennedy’s head about the size of a small orange — three inches in diameter.”
Well, yes. According to Horne (volume 1, page xliv), Navy photographer Saundra Spencer was assigned the secret task of developing photographs of the autopsy. She “recalled one photograph showing a blowout or missing area in the center of the back of the President’s head in one image, which appeared to be two to two-and-one-half inches wide.”
In 1997 the ARRB interviewed a retired federal government civilian photographer, Joe O’Donnell, who knew the official White House photographer in the Kennedy administration, Robert Knudsen, who had told his family before he died that he was involved in taking photographs for the Kennedy autopsy and that he was sworn to secrecy about what he had done. According to Horne (volume 1, page xliv), Knudsen showed O’Donnell two sets of photographs:
One set of images showed a hole in the back of the head about the size of a grapefruit, and an apparent entry wound in the forehead above the right eye, about 3/8 in diameter. A second set of images showed no damage to the rear of the head, and the hair appeared to be wet, and washed, in those photographs.
I probably should also mention that immediately after the assassination, a medical student named William Harper found a section of Kennedy’s skull on the grass near where Kennedy was shot. Lifton writes (page 316),
Harper took the bone to Methodist Hospital, where it was examined by Dr. Cairns, the Chief Pathologist. According to an FBI interview, “Dr. Cairns stated the bone specimen looked like it came from the occipital region of the skull.” According to Dr. Cairns’ identification, the fragment found by William Harper came from the same anatomic location where Dr. McClelland, and many other Dallas observers, saw the wound in the president’s head.
After the Harper fragment was turned over to the federal officials, they somehow lost it and could never locate it again.
Is there a connection between Kennedy’s head wound and the early delivery of Kennedy’s body to the Bethesda morgue on the evening of November 22?
The answer to that question is including in a fascinating scenario, initially set forth by David Lifton back in 1981 in his book Best Evidence and then later expanded upon by Douglas Horne in 2009 in his five-volume work on the assassination.
But before we delve into that proposition, let’s examine why it was that the president’s body ended up in the hands of the military in a nation that is supposedly run by civilians.