Despite numerous investigations over thirty years intended to resolve the controversies regarding the nature and locations of President John F. Kennedy's wounds, great mystery still exists and unresolved contradictions abound. Most evidence suggests that Kennedy's death must be understood in terms of four wounds: a wound in the back or, as some insist, the back of the neck, a second in the throat, a third in the right-rear of the skull, and a fourth wound in the right side of the skull. While evidence was given for a wound in the left temple, possibly of entrance, this has been discounted by most observers.
The difficulties in arriving at conclusions about how the wounds were inflicted results from paradoxical evidence about the dimensions and locations of the wounds. The availability of autopsy photographs and eyewitness testimony has only muddled matters because they don't agree. For example, it seems that virtually all close witnesses to the head wounds, from the secret service agent Hill, possibly the first observer of this wound, to Jackie Kennedy, to the Parkland physicians, and even to the witnesses in the morgue, gave descriptions of the head injury as a rear skull/scalp defect. Despite the disparate sources, the many descriptions of JFK's skull wound are in surprising and overwhelming agreement. These descriptions, however, are quite inconsistent with the autopsy photographs and X- rays. Those images have thus taken on a central position in the controversy as they were authenticated by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1977, and so they are supposed to be reliable representations of JFK's wounds. These hard pieces of evidence, therefore, comprise the "best evidence" -- evidence more reliable, according to some, than human recollections.
That JFK's head wound was on the right side of his head is universally accepted. With a single exception, all witnesses placed JFK's major skull defect on the right side, and given the frequency of witness error, this suggests good witness reliability in this case. The most peculiar aspect of JFK's wounds is that of the 46 witnesses I whose opinions I have examined between Parkland and Bethesda, 45 of whom correctly claimed that the skull defect was on the right side, 44 were apparently wrong by the "best" evidence to claim that the wound was in the right-rear, rather than the right-front. The "authenticated" photographs, the originals of which were twice examined by author Aguilar at the National Archives, show no rear defect at all, only an anterior-lateral defect, and so, if valid, the images prove that not a single witness accurately described JFK's fatal wound, and that even the autopsy report fails to accurately describe the skull defect visible in the images!
The HSCA's forensic panel, which delved into the mysteries of JFK's autopsy, accepted the authenticity of the current inventory of X-rays and photographs. Principally on the basis of these images, the panel concluded that the autopsists missed the correct location for the entrance bullet wound to the skull by placing it 10-cm too low, and missed the location of the bullet entrance to JFK's back by placing it 5-cm too high. While the HSCA's forensic panel apparently never considered the overwhelming witness testimony that there was a rear defect in JFK's scalp/skull, it follows that all the witnesses were wrong if the images are right. To add to the muddle, recently revealed documents cast doubt on at least the completeness of the photographic inventory, and the technicians who took JFK's X-rays and photographs both insist the current images are not those they took.
The photographs show the right rear of the scalp to be intact behind the ear while the X- rays suggest a bony defect that extends behind the ear but whose existence might have been obscured by intact overlying scalp. The photographs and X-rays indicate the major exit wound on the scalp and skull to be largely forward on the right side, possibly extending as far forward as a centimeter or so anterior to the coronal suture - just about the edge of the hairline at the top of the forehead. How unexpected that so many qualified eyewitnesses' observations of a rear wound would later be disproved by the "best evidence". Witness error is common and it would be easier to accept in this case if some witnesses described a right-rearward wound, some a left-sided wound and others an anterior wound. In this case the best evidence would support those who recalled a right, anterolateral wound. As we'll see, however, an inexplicable concordance of reliable, close eyewitnesses places the major visible defect in JFK's scalp and skull at the right rear where it is absent in the "authenticated" photographs and X-rays. In addition, as we will see, even the back wound, or "back of neck" wound, and the throat wound remain deeply controversial - even after 30 years.
It is well known that the earlier accounts witnesses give are usually more reliable than later recollections, for in time, memory fades and may be influenced by other factors. In compiling the witnesses' accounts of the wounds, every effort was made to locate and present the first account given by each witness. In many cases these were to be found either in notes prepared on the day of the assassination, in Warren Commission testimony a few months later, or in press interviews in the mid 1960's. Some of the witnesses' opinions, however, never appeared until years later, some as late as the 1990's. It was not the author's intent to list every comment ever made by every witnesses, but rather to gather the earliest, and presumably most reliable, accounts for inspection. However, when witnesses gave later, contradictory accounts, an attempt was made to present, explore and interpret the various versions. It is likely that some witnesses' descriptions have been unintentionally overlooked. (The author welcomes any contributions that might make this compilation more complete.)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Skull Wound as Seen by Witnesses at Parkland Hospital:
The witnesses of the head wound at Parkland were at a distinct advantage over witnesses in Dealey Plaza as they were closer to the President, he was not moving, they had plenty of time in which to observe, and they were experienced observers familiar with the type of injuries JFK suffered.With the exception of Adolph Giesecke, MD, the Parkland witnesses were unanimous in placing the skull wound rearward on the right side. No Parkland observer placed the wound solely anteriorly on the right side. (Adolph Giesecke, MD felt the wound extended from occiput to the front, but on the left side.) Given Mrs. Kennedy's recollection of "holding the top of his head down" it may well be that the wound did extend more anteriorly than was apparent to Parkland witnesses. This might be explained by a blood clot forming en route from Dealey Plaza to Parkland while Mrs. Kennedy held "the top" of JFK's "head down" causing the more anterior extent of the wound to be unappreciated by the emergency personnel. It is clear, however, that the Parkland witnesses described a wound in the rear of the skull on the right side. The background and qualifications of the Parkland observers make their repeated, corroborating observations compelling: there was a very obvious defect in the back of the head which was much more than a bullet entrance wound.
1) KEMP CLARK, MD: Professor and Director of Neurological Surgery at Parkland, in an undated note apparently written contemporaneously at Parkland described the President's skull wound as, "...in the occipital region of the skull... Through the head wound, blood and brain were extruding... There was a large wound in the right occipitoparietal region, from which profuse bleeding was occurring... There was considerable loss of scalp and bone tissue. Both cerebral and cerebellar tissue were extruding from the wound." (WC--CE#392)
In a hand written note dated 11-22-63, Dr. Clark wrote, "a large 3 x 3 cm remnant of cerebral tissue present....there was a smaller amount of cerebellar tissue present also....There was a large wound beginning in the right occiput extending into the parietal region....Much of the skull appeared gone at the brief examination...." (Exhibit #392: WC V17:9-10)
At a press conference 2&1/2 hours after the shooting Clark said, "The head wound could have been either the exit wound from the neck or it could have been a tangential wound, as it was simply a large, gaping loss of tissue." ("At the White House with Wayne Hawks" news conference, 11/22/63, 3:16 PM, CST, Dallas, Texas) This virtually contemporaneous description is not entirely unequivocal. However, if JFK's skull defect were not rearward, it is impossible to imagine Clark would have conjectured that the skull defect was the possible exit site of the neck wound, for Malcolm Perry, MD, who participated with him in the press conference, and had performed a tracheotomy on JFK, had just claimed three times the neck wound was a wound of entrance.
In a typed summary submitted to Rear Admiral Burkley on 11-23-63, Clark described the head wound as, "a large wound in the right occipito-parietal region... Both cerebral and cerebellar tissue were extruding from the wound. (Warren Report, p.518, Warren Commission Exhibit #392, Lifton, D. Best Evidence, p. 322)
Under oath and to the Warren Commission's Arlen Specter, Clark described his findings upon arrival to the emergency room, "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." (WC--V6:20) Specter, either inattentive to Dr. Clark's skull wound description or wishing to move the wound more anterior than the eyewitness, neurosurgery professor placed it, later asked Clark, "Now, you described the massive wound at the top of the of the President's head, with brain protruding..." (WC:6:25) Dr. Clark later located the skull wound to Mr. Specter again, "...in the right occipital region of the President's skull, from which considerable blood loss had occurred which stained the back of his head, neck and upper shoulders." (WC--V6:29)
In answer to a question from Specter about the survivability of Kennedy's head wounding, Clark said: "...the loss of cerebellar (sic) tissue wound probably have been of minimal consequence in the performance of his duties. The loss of the right occipital and probably part of the right parietal lobes wound have been of specific importance..." (WC6:26) That Clark, a neurosurgeon, specified that the occipital lobe of the brain was missing cannot suggest anything but a very posterior defect.
On 1/20/94 a steel salesman from Tennessee, David Naro, interviewed Clark, MD. Naro reported Clark said, "The lower right occipital region of the head was blown out and I saw cerebellum." This conveys the same message as the document he prepared on 11/22/63 which read, "There was a large wound in the right occipitoparietal region... Both cerebral and cerebellar tissue was extruding from the wound."
2) ROBERT McCLELLAND, MD: In testimony at Parkland taken before Arlen Specter on 3-21-64, McClelland described the head wound as, "...I could very closely examine the head wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been extremely blasted. It had been shattered...so that the parietal bone was protruded up through the scalp and seemed to be fractured almost along its right posterior half, as well as some of the occipital bone being fractured in its lateral half, and this sprung open the bones that I mentioned 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...." (WC--V6:33) Later he said, "...unfortunately the loss of blood and the loss of cerebral and cerebellar tissues were so great that the efforts (to save Kennedy's life) were of no avail." (Emphasis added throughout) (WC--V6:34) McClelland made clear that he thought the rear wound in the skull was an exit wound (WC-V6:35,37). McClelland ascribed the cause of death to, "...massive head injuries with loss of large amounts of cerebral and cerebellar tissues and massive blood loss." (WC--V6:34)
McClelland's unwillingness to change his recollection has recently attracted detractors in the aftermath of Charles Crenshaw's book, "Conspiracy of Silence". McClelland told Posner, "I saw a piece of cerebellum fall out on the stretcher." (Posner, G. "CC.", p. 311, paper). To dismiss McClelland, Posner quotes Malcolm Perry, "I am astonished that Bob (McClelland) would say that... It shows such poor judgment, and usually he has such good judgment." (Posner G. "Case Closed". p. 311, paperback edition.) Perry's own inconsistent and unreliable memory lessens the merit of his opinions of others, as we will see.
3) MARION THOMAS JENKINS, MD: In a contemporaneous note dated 11-22-63, Jenkins described "a great laceration on the right side of the head (temporal and occipital) (sic), causing a great defect in the skull plate so that there was herniation and laceration of great areas of the brain, even to the extent that the cerebellum had protruded from the wound." (WC--Exhibit #392) To the Warren Commission's Arlen Specter Dr. Jenkins said, "Part of the brain was herniated. I really think part of the cerebellum, as I recognized it, was herniated from the wound..." (WC--V6:48) Jenkins told Specter that the temporal and occipital wound was a wound of exit, "...the wound with the exploded area of the scalp, as I interpreted it being exploded, I would interpret it being a wound of exit..." (WC--V6:51.)
Jenkins described a wound in JFK's left temple to Specter. Jenkins: "...I thought there was a wound on the left temporal area, right in the hairline and right above the zygomatic process." Specter: "The autopsy report discloses no such development, Dr. Jenkins." Jenkins: "Well, I was feeling for--I was palpating here for a pulse to see whether the closed chest cardiac massage was effective or not and this probably was some blood that had come from the other point and so I thought there was a wound there also." A few moments later Jenkins again pursued the possibility that there had been a wound in the left temple: "...I asked you a little bit ago if there was a wound in the left temporal area, right above the zygomatic bone in the hairline, because there was blood there and I thought there might have been a wound there (indicating) (sic). Specter: "Indicating the left temporal area?" Jenkins: "Yes; the left temporal, which could have been a point of entrance and exit here (indicating) (sic-presumably pointing to where he had identified the wound in prior testimony--the right rear of the skull), but you have answered that for me (that 'the autopsy report discloses no such development')." (WC-V6:51)
In an interview with the HSCA's Andy Purdy on 11-10-77 Marion Jenkins was said to have expressed that as an anesthesiologist he (Jenkins) "...was positioned at the head of the table so he had one of the closest views of the head wound...believes he was '...the only one who knew the extent of the head wound.') (sic)...Regarding the head wound, Dr. Jenkins said that only one segment of bone was blown out--it was a segment of occipital or temporal bone. He noted that a portion of the cerebellum (lower rear brain) (sic) was hanging out from a hole in the right--rear of the head." (Emphasis added) (HSCA-V7:286-287) In an interview with the American Medical News published on 11-24-78 Jenkins said, "...(Kennedy) had part of his head blown away and part of his cerebellum was hanging out.".
Amazingly, in an interview with author Gerald Posner on March 3, 1992, Jenkins' recollection had changed dramatically. "The description of the cerebellum was my fault," Jenkins insisted, "When I read my report over I realized there could not be any cerebellum. The autopsy photo, with the rear of the head intact and a protrusion in the parietal region, is the way I remember it. I never did say occipital." (Gerald Posner, Case Closed", p. 312) Jenkins has obviously forgotten that in his own note prepared, typed, and signed on the day of the assassination, Jenkins said, "a great laceration on the right side of the head (temporal and occipital) (sic)", and HSCA's Purdy reported that Jenkins said "occipital or temporal bone" was blown out.
When told by Posner that Robert McClelland, MD had claimed, "I saw a piece of cerebellum fall out on the stretcher." Jenkins responded, "Bob (McClelland) is an excellent surgeon. He knows anatomy. I hate to say Bob is mistaken, but that is clearly not right...". (Posner G. Case Closed. p. 313) Clearly, Jenkins had forgotten that he himself had claimed that "cerebellum was hanging out" (as had Ronald Coy Jones, MD--see below). [Might this controversy be resolved in Jenkins' and Jones' favors? Possibly Jenkins believes that cerebellum was 'hanging out' but that it had not reached the surface of the gurney despite the close proximity of the skull in the supine position to its surface?]
Jenkins, however, was not through with discrediting McClelland. To Posner, Jenkins explained how McClelland had made an error, which McClelland later corrected, that there was a wound in JFK's left temple. "I'll tell you how that happened," Jenkins explained, "When Bob McClelland came into the room, he asked me, 'Where are his wounds?' And at that time I was operating a breathing bag with my right hand, and was trying to take the President's temporal pulse, and I had my finger on his left temple. Bob thought I pointed to the left temple as the wound." (Gerald Posner, Case Closed". p. 313)Ignoring the absurdity of such a supposition for the moment, Jenkins failed to reveal an important part of the story. Jenkins failed to tell Posner,who was apparently too uninformed to know, that it was Jenkins himself who had most strikingly claimed that there was an entrance wound in the left temple, as Jenkins' Commission testimony (cited above) proves.
As we will see, Dr. Jenkins' faulty, and possibly self-serving memory seems to have frequently plagued him. It is a testament to JAMA's and Posner's laxity in fact-checking that Jenkins' recollections are so unquestioningly reported. Both Breo and Posner quickly attempted to discredit those who, like McClelland, did not share their biases, and ignored many stupendous inconsistencies of "allies", such as Jenkins (see next chapter). Nonetheless, Jenkins' earliest, "un-enhanced" recollections must be given greatest weight and considered the most likely to be reliable, as in any police investigation. Fortunately, they also agree with the earliest recollections of other Parkland witnesses, an important corroborative factor.
4) CHARLES JAMES CARRICO, MD: On the day of the assassination he hand wrote, " (the skull) wound had avulsed the calvarium and shredded brain tissue present with profuse oozing... attempts to control slow oozing from cerebral and cerebellar tissue via packs instituted..." (CE 392--WC V17:4-5)
In is first mention of JFK's skull wound to the Warren Commission on 3/25/64, Carrico said, "There seemed to be a 4 to 5 cm. area of avulsion of the scalp and the skull was fragmented and bleeding cerebral and cerebellar tissue." (6H3) And... "The (skull) wound that I saw was a large gaping wound, located in the right occipitoparietal area. I would estimate to be about 5 to 7 cm. in size, more or less circular, with avulsions of the calvarium and scalp tissue. As I stated before, I believe there was shredded macerated cerebral and cerebellar tissues both in the wounds and on the fragments of the skull attached to the dura." (6H6)
On 3/30/64 Carrico appeared again before the Commission. Arlen Specter asked, "Will you describe as specifically as you can the head wound which you have already mentioned briefly?" Dr. Carrico: "Sure. This was a 5 by 71 cm (sic--the author feels certain that Dr. Carrico must have said "5 by 7 cm) defect in the posterior skull, the occipital region. There was an absence of the calvarium or skull in this area, with shredded tissue, brain tissue present...". Specter: "Was any other wound observed on the head in addition to this large opening where the skull was absent?" Carrico: "No other wound on the head."(WC--V3:361)
In an interview with Andy Purdy for the HSCA on 1-11-78, Dr. Carrico said, "The skull wound" ...was a fairly large wound in the right side of the head, in the parietal, occipital area. (sic) One could see blood and brains, both cerebellum and cerebrum fragments in that wound." (sic) (HSCA-V7:268)
As with several other Parkland witnesses, Carrico's memory seemed to undergo a transformation when confronted by an interviewer who seems to have preferred he recall things differently than he did under oath. In an interview with author Gerald Posner on March 8, 1992, Posner alleges Carrico reported, "We saw a large hole on the right side of his head. I don't believe we saw any occipital bone. It was not there. It was parietal bone...". (Gerald Posner, " Case Closed , New York, Random House, p. 311) The notorious unreliability of recollections so different and so far removedfrom the original event places Carrico's more recent opinions under a cloud. It seems possible that Carrico has been persuaded that the photographs of the back of JFK's head have been "authenticated", a scientific impossibility, and therefore he should adjust accordingly his recollections to agree with this "best evidence".
5) MALCOLM PERRY, MD: In a note written at Parkland Hospital and dated, 11-22-63 Dr., Perry described the head wound as, "A large wound of the right posterior cranium..." (WC--V17:6--CE#392) Describing Kennedy's appearance to the Warren Commission's Arlen Specter Dr. Perry stated, "Yes, there was a large avulsive wound on the right posterior cranium...." (WC- V3:368) Later to Specter: "...I noted a large avulsive wound of the right parietal occipital area, in which both scalp and portions of skull were absent, and there was severe laceration of underlying brain tissue..." (WC--V3:372) In an interview with the HSCA's Andy Purdy in 1-11-78 Mr. Purdy reported that "Dr. Perry... believed the head wound was located on the "occipital parietal" (sic) region of the skull and that the right posterior aspect of the skull was missing..." (HSCA- V7:292-293) Perry told Mr. Purdy: "I looked at the head wound briefly by leaning over the table and noticed that the parietal occipital head wound was largely avulsive and there was visible brain tissue in the macard and some cerebellum seen..." (HSCA-V7:302-interview with Purdy 1-11-78.
Inexplicably, Perry told author Gerald Posner on April 2, 1992, "I did not see any cerebellum." (Gerald Posner, "Case Closed", p. 312) When told that Robert McClelland, MD had claimed "I saw cerebellum fall out on the stretcher", Posner claimed Perry responded, "I am astonished that Bob wound say that... It shows such poor judgment, and usually he has such good judgment."
6) RONALD COY JONES: was a senior General Surgery resident physician at Parkland Hospital. Under oath he told the Warren Commission's Arlen Specter, "...he had a large wound in the right posterior side of the head... There was large defect in the back side of the head as the President lay on the cart with what appeared to be some brain hanging out of this wound with multiple pieces of skull noted next with the brain and with a tremendous amount of clot and blood." (WC-V6:53-54) A few minutes later he described "what appeared to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull". (Emphasis added throughout) (WC-V6:56)
Specter asked Jones to speculate from his observations the nature of JFK's wounding. He asked, "Dr. Jones, did you have any speculative thought as to accounting for the point of wounds (sic) which you observed on the President, as you thought about it when you were treating the President that day, or shortly thereafter?" Jones answered, "With no history as to the number of times that the President had been shot or knowing the direction from which he had been shot, and seeing he wound in the midline of the neck, and what appeared to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull, the only speculation that I could have as far as to how this could occur with a single wound would be that it would enter the anterior neck and possibly strike a vertebral body and then change its course and exit in the region of the posterior portion of the head." (WC.V.6:56) While he then expressed some doubt that a high velocity bullet would so radically change course, JFK's skull wound must have appeared to him quite posterior for him to have advanced such an hypothesis.
It is particularly noteworthy that Jones continued to believe JFK's skull suggested a rear exit of a bullet that entered from anterior. In January, 1983 he told David Lifton, "If you brought him in here today, I'd still say he was shot from the front." (BE, p. 705) Jones told student, Brad Parker, on 8/10/92, again, "...if they brought him in today, I would tend - seeing what I saw, I would say that he was shot from the front." Jones told Parker that he fundamentally agreed with McClelland's drawing of the back of the head as seen in Six Seconds . Jones specifically denied to Parker that hehad seen a right anterior skull defect. He said, "Yeah. I didn't think that there was any wound -- I didn't appreciate any wound, anyway, in the right temporal area or the right side of the upper part of the head, you know, over the -- in front of the ear say, or anything like that ". These description are fully consistent with the autopsy report of a right rear defect. If the defect did extend forward, the anterior portion was quite small. Only Gerald Posner reported Jones described JFK's wound as "a large side wound". Posner made no mention of Jones' Warren Commission testimony, testimony which is incompatible with Posner's thesis, nor did Posner ask about the statements attributed to Jones by Lifton, which Jones repeated to Brad Parker in 1992).
7) GENE AIKIN, MD: an anesthesiologist at Parkland told the Warren Commission under oath, "The back of the right occipitalparietal portion of his head was shattered with brain substance extruding." (WC-V6:65.) He later opined, "I assume the right occipitalparietal region was the exit, so to speak, that he had probably been hit on the other side of the head, or at least tangentially in the back of the head...". (WC-V6:67)
8) PAUL PETERS, MD: a resident physician at Parkland described the head wound to the Warren Commission's Arlen Specter under oath as, "...I noticed that there was a large defect in the occiput...It seemed to me that in the right occipitalparietal area that there was a large defect." (WC-V6:71)
Peters told author Lifton on 11-12-66, "I was trying to think how he could have had a hole in his neck and a hole in the occiput, and the only answer we could think (of) was perhaps the bullet had gone in through the front, hit the bony spinal column, and exited through the back of the head, since a wound of exit is always bigger than a wound of entry." (David Lifton, Best Evidence. p. 317) Peters repeated this speculation in a speech on the subject on 4/2/92, in a talk entitled, "Who Killed JFK?", given at the 14th annual meeting of the Wilk-Amite Medical Society, at Centreville Academy, Centreville, Mississippi, according to a transcript furnished by Claude B. Slaton, of Zachary, Louisiana.) As if to emphasize the low location of the skull wound, Peters elaborated to Lifton, "I'd be willing to swear that the wound was in the occiput, you know. I could see the occipital lobes clearly, and so I know it was that far back, on the skull. I could look inside the skull, and I thought it looked like the cerebellum was injured, or missing, because the occipital lobes seemed to rest almost on the foramen magnum. Now I didn't put my hand inside his head and lift up the occipital lobes, because I wasn't about to do that under the circumstances... (but it) looked like the occipital lobes were resting on the foramen magnum. It was as if something underneath them, that usually kept them up from that a little ways, namely, the cerebellum and brainstem, might have been injured, or missing." (David Lifton, Best Evidence, p. 324) Author Livingstone read Peters' words of description back to Peters asking for his comment. Peters, after hearing the above quote said, "Well, I would say that's pretty accurate about what I thought at the time. But Dr. Lattimer from New York who was privileged to view the autopsy findings told me that the cerebellum did appear to be intact. So, if I say, what I have reasoned since then is that probably what had happened was that part of the cerebral hemisphere had been shot away, which caused the occipital lobe, you see, to fall down. So rather than the props underneath it being destroyed, part of it was actually destroyed... You have to remember, I've been an American all this time, too. And so I'm subject to what I've learned from reading and looking since." (Transcript of Livingstone interview with Peters)
When shown enlarged Zapruder film frames depicting a right-anterior wound, Peters wrote, "The wound which you marked...I never saw and I don't think there was such a wound. I think that was simply an artifact of copying Zapruder's movie... The only wound I saw on President Kennedy's head was in the occipitoparietal area on the right side." (Personal letter to Wallace Milam 4-14-80, copy, courtesy of Wallace Milam to author Aguilar; also in Lifton, BE: 557)
Peters told author Livingstone that he and others closely examined JFK's skull wound. "...Dr. Jenkins commented that we'd better take a look at the brain before deciding whether to open the chest and to massage the heart with our hands, we stepped up and looked inside the skull and that's how I made note in my own mind of where the wound was in the skull." (Transcript of Livingstone interview with Peters. Peters repeated this assertion in a speech on the subject on 4/2/92, in a talk entitled, "Who Killed JFK?", given at the 14th annual meeting of the Wilk-Amite Medical Society, at Centreville Academy, Centreville, Mississippi, according to a transcript furnished by Claude B. Slaton, of Zachary, Louisiana.)
When shown by author Livingstone the HSCA's Dox drawings of the rear of JFK's skull prepared to precisely replicate the photographs, Peters claimed, "Well, this is an artist's drawing, and I don't think that it's consistent with what I saw... It's to, (sic) in the rear and to the side, that's the parietal area. So it's in the back and the side of the head, I would say in laymen's terms." To eliminate any confusion as to what Peters meant, Livingstone asked, "The way I read it (Lifton's question to Peters regarding the location of the head wound), you're saying that the center of the gaping wound that you did see was 2.5 centimeters to the right of the occipital protuberance." Peters answered, "Well, I wouldn't say that was the center of it (the skull wound he saw). I would say that was about where it began. Yeah." (Transcript of Livingstone interview with Paul Peters)
Author Gerald Posner claimed that on March 10, 1992, Peters told him, "The only thing I would say is that over the last twenty-eight years I now believe the head wound is more forward than I first placed it. More to the side than the rear. I tried to tell Lifton where the wound was, but he did not want to hear." (Posner, Case Closed", p. 310, paperback edition.) On April 2, 1992, Peters said, "...my observations were given earlier but they're still, I think, accurate after 25 years... The wound was occipital-parietal... I saw about a 7 centimeter hole in the occiput...". (Speech by Peters, "Who Killed JFK?", given at the 14th annual meeting of the Wilk-Amite Medical Society, at Centreville Academy, Centreville, Mississippi, according to a transcript furnished by Claude B. Slaton, of Zachary, Louisiana) While Posner seemed to wish to cast doubt on the manner Lifton represented Peters' opinions, it seems that Lifton's account was far more consistent with Peters' other statements than Posner's. Lifton still has a recording of his interview with Peters and told the author the statements Lifton cited were taken from Peters verbatim and in context.
In a speech to a gathering of Urologists in San Francisco in 1992, Peters demonstrated JFK's skull defect as he recalled it, on a human head for author Aguilar, placing the wound at the top rear portion of the skull, which, if the skull were a cube, involved the right rear corner--a location that has no defect in current autopsy photographs.
Peters apparently reported to author Gerald Posner on March 10 1992 that Robert McClelland, MD, who has steadfastly maintained the view that there was a rear skull wound of exit, was in error. "I don't think Bob McClelland was in the best place to see the head wound..." (Posner, Case Closed", p. 313) Robert McClelland, MD had diagramed a skull and indicated JFK's skull wound in the low rear portion of JFK's skull to author Thompson. Peters indicated on that same diagram complete agreement with the McClelland's low placement on 8-7-79 in a letter to author Livingstone. A copy of Peters' letter and diagram was produced in Groden and Livingstone's High Treason ". Peters' letter to author Livingstone reads in full:
"Dear Mr. Livingstone, "I have marked an "X" on the picture which more accurately depicts the wound, although neither is quite accurate in my opinion. There was a large hole in the back of the head through which one could see the brain. Sincerely, Paul C. Peters, MD"
Peters believed that the "X" marked the point of exit for the wound in the head. In an interview with author Livingstone, Peters referred to the "X" in the aforementioned diagram and said, "...the "X" is about where the wound was. The "X" does not imply that that wound is exactly correct. The "X" applies about where I thought the wound of exit was." (transcript of interview with Peters)
The "X" is marked squarely on the right rear portion of the skull parallel with a point just below the top of the ear. (See group of photographs following page 27 in Groden and Livingstone, High Treason", for a copy of the diagram and Peters' letter.) So Peters has done a complete about face after having discussed the case with Lattimer who convinced Peters that he did not see what he had repeatedly said he saw. Moreover, Peters felt confident enough in Latimer's opinion of what Peters had seen that he was willing to reproach McClelland for his refusal to alter his recollection to agree with Lattimer as Peters himself had done. Apparently suggestion from non-witness, Lattimer, has done wonders for Peters' memory of what he saw. It may not, however, have helped his credibility.
9) CHARLES CRENSHAW, MD: a resident physician at Parkland neither wrote his observations contemporaneously or was interviewed by the Warren Commission. He, with co-authors, Jess Hansen and Gary Shaw, recently published a book, JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, " (Crenshaw, CA, Hansen, J, Shaw, G. ( JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, 1992, New York, Signet). Crenshaw has claimed both in his book and in public interviews that the President's head wound was posterior on the right side. In JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, he wrote, "I walked to the President's head to get a closer look. His entire right cerebral hemisphere appeared to be gone. It looked like a crater--an empty cavity. All I could see there was mangled, bloody tissue. From the damage I saw, there was no doubt in my mind that the bullet had entered his head through the front, and as it surgically passed through his cranium, the missile obliterated part of the temporal and all the parietal and occipital lobes before it lacerated the cerebellum." ( JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, p. 86)
The FBI interviewed Crenshaw July 22, 1992 and reported Crenshaw apparently did not like his own description of JFK's skull wound in JFK: Conspiracy of Silence Of the skull wound the FBI reported, "(Crenshaw said) The head wound was located at the back of the President's head and was the approximate size of Doctor CRENSHAW's (sic) fist. It extended from the approximate center of the skull in the back to just behind the right ear, utilizing a left to right orientation and from a position a couple of inches above the right ear to the approximate middle of the right ear utilizing a top to bottom orientation." (FBI file # 89A-DL-60165-99) The FBI also reported, "(Crenshaw's) description which indicates that the wound extended from the hairline back behind the ear and to the back of the head was 'poorly worded.' (sic) The correct description indicates that the wound was located entirely at the rear of the head behind the right ear." (FBI file # 89A-DL-60615-100.) While Crenshaw has been roundly criticized for having kept silent for so long, his observations regarding the head wound are consistent with the contemporaneous observations of others, especially those of Kemp Clark, MD, professor of Neurosurgery, who pronounced Kennedy dead. Crenshaw claimed to have kept quiet about his observations out of professional and personal fear of reprisals.
As will be seen Breo took great exception to Crenshaw's account. Author Gerald Posner dismissed Crenshaw with quotations from fellow Parkland physicians: Perry stated, "I feel sorry for him. I had thought of suing him, but when I saw him on television [promoting his book], (sic) my anger melted. He has to know that what he said is false, and he knows the rest of us know that. You have to pity him. What a way to end his career. His story is filled with half-truths and insinuations, and those of us who know him know he is desperate... He is a pitiful sight." Perry's excoriation of Crenshaw must, however, be considered in the context of his own egregious memory, and his own possible perjury before the Warren Commission. Perry, as will be discussed, denied under oath to the Warren Commission that he had made unequivocal statements to the press claiming the neck wound was a wound of entrance. He falsely accused the press of misrepresenting his comments when an exact transcript of his comments revealed that the press had accurately reported his unequivocal comments that the neck wound was a wound of entrance. Perry, to the author's knowledge, has never apologized to the press nor has he explained his untruthful testimony to the Commission. Moreover, as has been demonstrated, Perry seems to have adjusted his recollections to suit his questioner, whether Specter of the Warren Commission, or author, Posner.
10) CHARLES RUFUS BAXTER, MD: a resident physician at Parkland in a hand written note prepared on 11-22-63 and published in the Warren Report (p. 523) Baxter wrote, "...the right temporal and occipital bones were missing (emphasis added) and the brain was lying on the table..." (WR:523). Very oddly, as Wallace Milam pointed out to one of the authors (Aguilar), when asked to read his own hand written report into the record before the Warren Commission's Arlen Specter the words are recorded exactly as he wrote them, except for the above sentence. That sentence was recorded by the Warren Commission and reads "...the right temporal and parietal bones were missing. (emphasis added)...". (WC-V6:44) It is reasonable to assume that Baxter's original description of a more rearward wound is more reliable than his later testimony before Arlen Specter, who on more than one occasion tried to move the skull wound away from the rear. Baxter then described the head wound saying, "...literally the right side of his head had been blown off. With this and the observation that the cerebellum was present...." (WC-V6:41) Thus the wound he saw was more likely to have been "temporo-occipital" than "temporo-parietal", because he also recalled, "cerebellum was present". (WC-V6:41) Shortly later in the same interview he also said, "...the temporal and parietal bones were missing and the brain was lying on the table...." (WC-V6:44) The authors are unaware of any explanation for the discrepancies, and can only speculate that either Baxter was misquoted twice or he adjusted his testimony to conform with what he might have felt was wanted of him. The mystery was confounded when author Livingstone reported that Baxter described the skull wound as "...a large gaping wound in the occipital area." Livingstone also reported that "(Baxter) could not have been more clear when he rejected the official picture (showing the rear scalp intact)."(Groden & Livingstone, High Treason, 1989, New York, Berkley Books, p. 45)
Baxter's reliability has also been called into question for a comment attributed to him by Dennis Breo, staff writer for JAMA, and Gerald Posner. Baxter apparently supported Breo's suggestion that Charles Crenshaw, MD, author of the recent book, "Conspiracy of Silence", (Crenshaw, CA, Hansen, J, Shaw, G. JFK: Conspiracy of Silence. 1992, New York, Signet) was not in JFK's trauma room. JAMA wrote, "Most of those who know the facts express disgust at Crenshaw's actions and question if he was involved in the care of the President at all... None of the four (interviewed by Breo) recalls ever seeing him at the scene." (Breo, D. L., JAMA, 267:2804-2805). This claim was used by JAMA to support the Warren Commission's reconstruction of the event, and call into question Crenshaw's recollections of JFK's wounds published in his book--recollections that flatly contradicted the Commission's findings. In an interview with author Gerald Posner in 1992, Baxter said, "I don't either (remember that Crenshaw was present in JFK's trauma room)." (Posner, G. Case Closed, p. 312, paper version). Embarrassingly, before the Warren Commission's Arlen Specter, however, Baxter, under oath, listed the physicians present with him in the emergency room with JFK. The first physician he named was Charles Crenshaw. (WC- V6:40)
As if Baxter's credibility had not suffered enough, he reported to author Posner on March 12, 1992, "I never even saw the back of (JFK's) head. The wound was on the right side, not the back." (Posner, Case Closed, p. 312) Baxter would do well to read his own hand-written note, prepared on the day of the assassination, and reproduced legibly in the Warren Report, and read the transcripts of interviews he's given authors before allowing further interviews.
This fact will be explored again in the following chapter. In any case it seems that Baxter is either terribly unreliable or is often misquoted, as seem to be all of Breo's and Posner's "allies". McClelland, disparaged by the other Parkland witnesses used by Breo and Posner, is the only one of these witnesses whose opinion has not seemed to change with the wind.
11) ROBERT GROSSMAN, MD: had just joined the staff of Parkland at the time of the assassination as an Instructor in Neurosurgery. He never testified to the Warren Commission or the HSCA. Authors Groden and Livingstone, however, claim, "He (Grossman) said that he saw two large holes in the head, as he told the (Boston) Globe, and he described a large hole squarely in the occiput, far too large for a bullet entry wound...". (HT-I Groden and Livingstone, p. 51)-& also "Duffy & Ricci, The Assassination of John F. Kennedy--A Complete Book of Facts, p. 207-208.)
12) RICHARD BROOKS DULANEY, MD: was a first year general surgery resident at Parkland Hospital on the day of the assassination. He appeared before the Commission and claimed only, "...he had a large head wound---that was the first thing I noticed." Arlen Specter did not ask him to elaborate and Dulaney did not volunteer any additional details.(WC-V:114). As Groden and Livingston reported, however, Dulaney told journalist Ben Bradlee, Jr., "...Somebody lifted up his head and showed me the back of his head. We couldn't see much until they picked up his head. I was standing beside him. The wound was on the back of his head. On the back side" They lifted up the head and "the whole back-side was gone." (Groden R., Livingston, H., High Treason. 1989 New York, Berkley Books, p.460.)
13) ADOLPH GIESECKE, MD: an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Parkland in 1963 authored a typed summary of his care of Governor Connally on 11-25-63, Warren Commission "Gieske Exhibit #1", (WC-V20:5-7) in which he does not mention JFK's wounds. In Warren Commission testimony he described JFK's head wound as: "...from the vertex to the left ear, and from the brow line to the occiput on the left-hand side of the head the cranium was entirely missing." Specter surprised that Giesecke claimed the left side asked: "That's your recollection?" Giesecke answered: "Right, like I say, I was there a very short time--really." (WC-V:6:72-78) This is the only case of any witness mistaking which side the skull injuries were on. However, despite his error on the laterality, he claimed that the skull defect extended from the occiput to the front of the skull.
14) FOUAD BASHOUR, MD: an associate professor of medicine, cardiology, at Parkland at the time of the assassination. Groden and Livingstone reported, "He was most insistent that the official picture was not representative of the wounds, and he continually laid his hand both on the back of Livingstone's head and his own to show where the large hole was. 'Why do they cover it up?' he repeated numerous times. 'This is not the way it was!' he kept repeating, shaking his head no." (Groden & Livingston, H., High Treason. 1989 New York, Berkley Books, p.45)
15) KENNETH EVERETT SALYER, MD: was an intern at Parkland at the time of JFK's death. In a Warren Commission interview with Arlen Specter, Salyer stated, "...(JFK) had a wound of his right temporal region...I came in on the left side of him and noticed that his major wound seemed to be in his right temporal area, at least from the point of view that I could see him, and other than that--nothing other than he did have a gaping scalp wound-- cranial wound" (Warren Commission-V6:81) Salyer reported to author Aguilar that the wound was right sided but extended both posterior to and anterior to the ear. He repeated a claim made to Robert Groden that the photographs appeared to have been tampered with.
Note: Specter asked Salyer, "To what extent did Dr. Crenshaw participate?"
Salyer answered, "Dr. Crenshaw participated about the extent that I did. We were occupied in making sure an I. V. was going and hanging up a bottle of blood." Specter, "Is the--is Dr. Crenshaw a resident?" Salyer: "yes, he is a third-year resident. That's the reason I remember him specifically because we were sort of working there together on that." (Warren Commission, V6:81)
16) PAT HUTTON, RN: a nurse at Parkland who met the limousine and helped to wheel the President into Trauma Room 1 wrote a report soon after claiming, "Mr. Kennedy was bleeding profusely from a wound in the back of his head, and was lying there unresponsive." (Price Exhibit V21 H 216--Emphasis added). While helping with resuscitation efforts a physician asked her to apply a pressure dressing to the head wound, she observed, however, that, "This was no use, however, because of the massive opening in the back of the head." (IBID)
17) DORIS NELSON, RN: was a supervising nurse at Parkland. She was interviewed by Arlen Specter for the Warren Commission and she was neither asked or volunteered information regarding the nature of JFK's wounds. (WC-V6:143-147) As Groden and Livingstone reported, however, journalist Ben Bradlee, Jr. asked her, "Did you get a good look at his head injuries?" Nelson: "A very good look...When we wrapped him up and put him in the coffin. I saw his whole head." Asked about the accuracy of the HSCA autopsy photographs she reacted: "No. It's not true. Because there was no hair back there. There wasn't even hair back there. It was blown away. Some of his head was blown away and his brains were fallen down on the stretcher." (High Treason I. p. 454)
18) SECRET SERVICE AGENT WILLIAM GREER: described the President's wounds upon arrival at Parkland to Arlen Specter of the Warren Commission: "His head was all shot, this whole part was all a matter of blood like he had been hit." Specter, "Indicating the top and right rear side of the head?" Greer: "Yes, sir; it looked like that was all blown off."(WCV2:124)
19) SECRET SERVICE AGENT CLINT HILL: described the wounds he saw at Parkland as, "The right rear portion of his head was missing. It was lying in the rear seat of the car. His brain was exposed...There was so much blood you could not tell if there had been any other wound or not, except for the one large gaping wound in the right rear portion of the head." (WC--V2:141)
20) NURSE DIANA HAMILTON BOWRON: greeted the limousine with a stretcher. She claimed, "...the back of his head...well, it was very bad--you know..." Arlen Specter failed to elucidate what she meant by the "back of the head" being very bad. (emphasis added) (WC V6:136:) Within 48 hours of the assassination the British press relayed a second hand account from Bowron through her mother: "...there was blood all over this neck and shoulders. There was a gaping wound in the back of his head." (Livingstone, Killing the Truth , p. 180) Author Livingstone corresponded and spoke by phone with Bowron in 1993. He reported that Bowron claimed, "I first saw the large wound in the back of the head in the car. When we were preparing the body for the coffin I had the opportunity to examine it more closely. It was about five inches in diameter and there was no flap of skin covering it, just a fraction of skin along part of the edges of bone. There was, however, some hair hanging down from the top of the head, which was caked with blood, and most of the brain was missing. The wound was so large I could almost put my whole left fist inside." (Livingstone, Killing the Truth, p. 181) She also said, "...The hole was basically almost the size of a saucer, and sort of from the occiput. So there was quite a reasonable amount missing from the top as well." (Livingstone, Killing the Truth, p. 190) When asked her opinion of the nature of the defect in the rear of the skull, Bowron told Livingstone, "Well, to me it was an exit hole." (Livingstone, Killing the Truth, p. 192) Livingstone asked, "Did you see any entry hole in the back of the head?". "I assumed and I still do that that was an exit wound." Bowron answered. ( Killing the Truth , p. 195). Bowron prepared a drawing depicting the skull wound as she saw it for Livingstone which bears a striking similarity to the diagram of the wound prepared by Robert McClelland, MD and agreed to by Paul Peters, MD ( High Treason in group of images following p. 23 in hard cover edition.) It shows a defect squarely in the occiput on the right side; a second diagram depicting the skull from above shows the right rear quadrant of the skull absent with the notation "missing". (Killing the Truth,in images following p. 368)
21) WILLIAM MIDGETT, MD: an Obstetrics and Gynecology resident at Parkland greeted the President's limousine pushing a stretcher. In an interview with Wallace Milam on February 8, 1993, he described JFK's wound as "right parietal" and said it was behind the right ear.
22) Don T. Curtis, D.D.S.: an oral surgery resident was mentioned in the Warren Report (p.66), but gave no account to the Commission regarding JFK's wounds. Pre-med student, Brad J. Parker, sent Curtis a copy of McClelland's drawing showing a large right-sided defect in the rear of JFK's skull to ask his opinion about it. On October 25, 1994, Curtis wrote Parker. His letter in full read: Dear Mr. Parker, The drawing by Dr. Robert McClelland is essentially by recollection of the wound suffered by John F. Kennedy. Please let me know if you need any further information. Best regards, Don T. Curtis, D.D.S.
Left Temporal Wound Described At Parkland
It must be mentioned that there were those at Parkland who described a left temporal entry: Robert McClelland, MD, Marion Jenkins, MD (WC--V6:48) and Father Oscar Huber all mentioned such a wound.(BE:46, 331) This location for a wound has been abandoned by all: the Warren Commission loyalists by arguing that Oswald was firing from the school book depository, while some Warren Commission critics rejected it for conflicting with a grassy knoll origin and left-rear head thrust.
The Rear Skull Wound as Exit WoundAuthor Lifton neatly summarized the claims of Parkland witnesses who interpreted the rear wound they saw as an exit wound, "Indeed, six Dallas doctors testified that wound in the rear of 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 wound interpret it being a wound of exit'; and Dr. Akin said: 'I assume that the right occipitoparietal region was the exit.'" (Lifton, BE, p.317) Apparently Dr. Clark is holding fast in 1994 to the opinion he first gave in 1963 of a rear exit wound (see above), unlike some of his colleagues.
Thus, twenty of twenty-two Parkland witnesses (all but Giesecke's and Salyer's) first, unrehearsed, and specific recollection of the head wound, either in writing, verbally, or both, placed a major skull defect unambiguously posteriorly on the right. Not one description, other than Giesecke's ambiguous and obviously erroneous account, described any anterior wound, or even an anterior-lateral wound--as the HSCA forensic panel and the Clark Panel claimed existed on the basis of the "best evidence", the photographs and X-rays. Salyer's account of a right temporal wound is the only account given which fails to describe a rear defect. By his own admission, Salyer was positioned on JFK's left side, a poor vantage point for seeing JFK's right skull wound, and he admitted that he had not had a good look. Salyer did say, however, that the defect extended behind the right ear and he expressed the opinion the photographs appeared to him to have been tampered with in this area.
The conclusion that there was a major skull and scalp defect in the rear of JFK's skull based on the descriptions of very qualified and experienced Parkland witnesses cannot be easily dismissed. The absence of a rear skull defect in JFK's autopsy photographs must be viewed with consideration of compelling evidence that the photographic inventory is incomplete. If images have been deleted from the original inventory, might there not also have been tampering with the images that remain? Might the 'adjusted' photographic record be responsible for the conclusions of later reviewers whose conclusion of an anterolateral skull defect is quite at odds with the descriptions of witnesses? If not alteration, what hypothesis can better explain the contradictory conclusions of later well-credentialed, non-witness reviewers who arrived at such vastly different conclusions based upon photographs and X- rays?
Witnesses at Bethesda
Besides the physicians who performed the autopsy, the authors have assembled the recollections of twenty-one witnesses who saw the body at Bethesda and described a rear skull wound. Among them are four physicians besides the autopsists, two autopsy photographers, three secret service agents, two FBI agents five technicians, a hospital corpsman, a presidential aid, and a mortician. All the witnesses' testimonies save one corroborate the Parkland descriptions of a rear skull defect, and, if the analysis of the HSCA's panel is right, these twenty Bethesda witnesses, as well as the autopsists, and twenty Parkland witnesses, are all wrong in locating the major skull defect in the rear of the skull:
1) GODFREY McHUGH: was President Kennedy's Air Force Aid, and was present with Kennedy in Dallas and traveled with the body to Bethesda. He described the head wound to author David Lifton (BE:430): "...he was in absolute perfect shape, except the back of the head, top back of the head, had an explosive bullet in it (sic) and was badly damaged..."
Later to clarify the point Lifton asked: "When you think of the head wounds, then, you think of, primarily, the top of the head, or primarily the back of the head? McHugh answered, "Both. Ninety-nine percent the back, the top back of the head... that's the portion that had been badly damaged by the bullet." (BE:432) Lifton, to leave no doubt about what was meant then asked McHugh to define the back of the head. McHugh answered: "The portion that is in the back of the head, when you're lying down in the bathtub, you hit the back of the head." (Best Evidence, p. 430)
2) JOHN STRINGER: was the autopsy photographer. David Lifton interviewed Stringer, in part, as follows: Lifton: "When you lifted him out, was the main damage to the skull on the top or in the back?" Stringer: "In the back." Lifton: "In the back?...High in the back or lower in the back?" Stringer: "In the occipital part, in the back there, up above the neck." Lifton: "In other words, the main part of his head that was blasted away was in the occipital part of the skull?" Stringer: "Yes. In the back part." Lifton: "The back portion. Okay. In other words, there was no five-inch hole in the top of the skull?" Stringer: "Oh, some of it was blown off--yes, I mean, toward, out of the top in the back, yes." Lifton: "Top in the back. But the top in the front was pretty intact?" Stringer: "Yes, sure." Lifton: "The top front was intact?" Stringer: "Right." Lifton, unsatisfied with precisely what Stringer may have meant by the 'back of the head' asked, as he had asked McHugh, if by "back of the head" Stringer meant the portion of the head that rests on the rear portion of a bathtub during bathing. Stringer replied, "Yes."--as had McHugh (BE, p.516)(
On November 14, 1993 the Vero Beach Press Journal's Craig Colgan reported Stringer's surprise when he heard, and positively identified, his own tape-recorded voice making the above statements to Lifton in 1972. He insisted in the interview with Colgan that he did not recall his ever claiming that the wound was in the rear. The wound he recalled was to the right side of the head. ABC's "Prime Time Live" associate producer, Jacqueline Hall- Kallas, sent a film crew to interview Stringer for a 1988 San Francisco KRON-TV interview after Stringer, in a pre-filming interview told Hall-Kallas that the wound was as he described it to Lifton. Colgan reported, "'When the camera crew arrived, Stringer's story had changed', said Stanhope Gould, a producer who also is currently at ABC and who conducted the 1988 on-camera interview with Stringer...'We wouldn't have sent a camera crew all the way across the country on our budget if we thought he would reverse himself.' Gould said...'(In the telephone pre-interview) he corroborated what he told David Lifton, that the wounds were not as the official version said they were,' Hall-Kallas said." (Vero Beach Press-Journal, November 14, 1993, p. 1C-3C. Provided to author by David Lifton.) The reader will have to decide for himself which description is more likely to be reliable.
As a final note on the Colgan article: Author Gerald Posner attempted to discredit Charles Crenshaw, MD's claim of a rear wound to journalist Colgan claiming that conspiracists cannot accept Crenshaw's (tardy) posterior location if they do not also accept Stringer's later recollection of an anterior-lateral skull defect rather than the posterior defect he initially described. The comparisons are disanalogous, it seems, as Stringer repudiated his earlier, unambiguous account of a rear wound. Crenshaw never had claimed any other location than a posterior location for JFK's skull wound (before his book, JFK: Conspiracy of Silence).
The integrity of JFK's autopsy photographs was apparently also challenged by Stringer in an intriguing observation uncovered only in recently released HSCA data. HSCA counsel Andy Purdy interviewed Stringer and reported, "STRINGER (sic) said it was his recollection that all the photographs he had taken were not present in 1966 (when he first saw the photographs). He noted that the receipt he had said some of the film holders (sic) had no film in one side of the cassettes. He said the receipt said this happened in two or three of the film holders where one side only was allegedly loaded. He said he could understand it if the film holders were reported to have poorly exposed or defective film but could not believe that there were any sides on the film holders which were not loaded with film... STRINGER (sic) also said that he thought he had taken some interior photographs of the President's chest ("I believe so") (sic). He said he was present in the room where the autopsy was conducted between approximately 6:00 and 6:30 P. M. on the night of the 22nd and 3:00 to 3:30 A.M. on the morning of the 23rd... STRINGER remembers taking "at least two exposures of the body cavity" (HSCA rec # 180-10093-10429. Agency file # 002070, p. 11.)
3) SECRET SERVICE AGENT WILLIAM GREER: was asked by Arlen Specter for the Warren Commission to describe the head wound he saw at Bethesda. Greer said, "I would--to the best of my recollection it was in this part of the head right here." Specter immediately asked, "Upper right?" Greer: "Upper right side." Specter: "Upper right side, going toward the rear. and what was the condition of the skull at that point?" Greer: "The skull was completely--this part was completely gone." (Warren Comm-- V2:127)
4) SECRET SERVICE AGENT ROY KELLERMAN: under oath before the Warren Commission explained the head wound he saw to Arlen Specter, "He had a large wound this size." Specter: "Indicating a circle with your finger of the diameter of 5 inches would that be approximately correct?" (sic) Kellerman: "Yes, circular; yes, on this part of the head." Specter: "Indicating the rear portion of the head." Kellerman: "Yes." Specter: "More to the right side of the head." Kellerman: "Right. This was removed." Specter: "When you say, "This was removed", what do you mean by this?" Kellerman: "The skull part was removed." Specter: "All right." Kellerman: "To the left of the (right) ear, sir, and a little high; yes...(I recall that this portion of the rear portion of the skull) was absent when I saw him." (WC-V2:80- 81)
On 8/24/77 Kellerman sketched JFK's skull wound showing only a rear view with a small hole at the right base and a larger hole below the top of the rear skull on the left side of midline.
5) SECRET SERVICE AGENT CLINTON J. HILL: after seeing the President's skull wound in Dealey Plaza, and after returning with the body to Bethesda he was "summoned...down to the morgue to view the body (again) and to witness the damage of the gunshot wounds."--as agent Kellerman put it in his 11-29-63 report. (WC--CE #1024, Kellerman report of 11-29-63. In: WC--V18:26-27) Hill reported, "When I arrived the autopsy had been completed and...I observed another wound (in addition to the throat wound) on the right rear portion of the skull." (WC--CE#1024, V18:744)
6) FBI AGENT FRANCIS X. O'NEILL: In an HSCA interview with Andy Purdy and Mark Flanagan on 1/10/78 O'Neill said that the autopsy doctors felt that "the bullet that entered the head struck the center, low portion of the head and exited from the top, right side, towards the front." (HSCA rec # 006185.) However, O'Neill made a sketch witnessed and signed by D. A. Purdy and M. T. Flanagan that showed an "entry" at the low rear central portion of JFK's skull and an 'exit' on the right rear quadrant of the head no more anterior than the posterior portion of the ear. (HSCA rec # 006185 p. 10.) (O'Neill felt it odd that while he had been interviewed by the Warren Commission's Arlen Specter, he had never been called to testify. O'Neill recalled that "On the issue of the full vs. partial autopsy, O'Neill said that Admiral Galloway resolved this by ordering a complete autopsy." (HSCA rec # 006185, p. 3) "O'Neill emphatically stated that the doctors removed only two fragments and not 'a missile'." (IBID. p. 5.) "O'Neill mentioned that the doctors just wanted to obtain the large fragments and that many small fragments did exit.)
In a television interview in 1992 with Warren Commission critic, George Michael Evica, O'Neill repeatedly emphasized that he had closely observed the entire autopsy. O'Neill claimed, "There was a massive wound in the right rear of the head." During the course of the interview he placed his hand over the upper right rear portion of his head, behind the right ear, at least four times to demonstrated the wound. (Emphasis added.)
7) FBI agent JAMES SIBERT: assisted Francis O'Neill. After an interview for the HSCA J. Kelly and A. Purdy reported, "Regarding the head wound, Sibert said it was in the "...Upper back of the head." (sic) In an affidavit prepared for the HSCA Sibert claimed, "The head wound was in the upper back of the head.", and "...a large head wound in the upper back of the head with a section of the scull (sic) bone missing..." Sibert sketched a drawing of the skull wound and traced a small wound square in the central rear portion of the skull neither to the right or the left, slightly above the level depicted for the ears but well below the level depicted for the top of the skull. (HSCA REC # 002191) (Emphasis added.)
8) MORTICIAN TOM ROBINSON: was the assistant to Joe Hagen, president of Gawler's Funeral Home, which prepared John Kennedy's body for his coffin. Robinson assisted with the preparations for an open casket funeral so preparation of the skull was especially meticulous. Robertson described the skull wound in a 1/12/77 HSCA interview released in 1993 conducted by Andy Purdy and Jim Conzelman: Purdy asked Robinson: "Approximately where was this wound (the skull wound) located?" Robinson: "Directly behind the back of his head." Purdy: "Approximately between the ears or higher up?" Robinson, "No, I would say pretty much between them." (HSCA rec # 189-10089-10178, agency file # 000661, p.3. On the day of their interview Purdy and Conzelman signed a diagram prepared and also signed by Robinson. The sketch depicts a defect directly in the central, lower rear portion of the skull. (HSCA doc # 180-10089-10179, agency file # 000662)
Robertson gave the same description to author, Harrison Livingstone: "There was not enough scalp to pull together over that large wound in the back. The big hole was only in the back (emphasis added). We filled the skull with plaster and put back the bones, but we did not have all of the bones and could not completely cover over the hole in the back. I do not remember any bone being missing on the top of the head." (HT-II:579- 581)(emphasis added) As one of the morticians who carefully prepared JFK's skull for burial after the autopsy, Robinson cannot be easily dismissed or ignored.
9) ROBERT FREDERICK KARNEI, MD: Bethesda pathologist, Karnai, retired July 1, 1991 as director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. He claimed he was present throughout nearly all of the autopsy and was himself a US Navy pathologist. He described the skull wound to Harrison Livingstone as, "Most of the bone that was missing was destroyed in the back of the head." (HT-II:182) Most disturbing about this recollection is that as a physician-witness and a pathologist, Dr. Karnei, specified bone absence, not scalp loss. The area of loss he noticed cannot possibly be right if the X-rays are true for there is no rear bone loss, and his recollections are probably wrong if the current photographs are valid as they seem to repudiate a rear wound. His memory jibes with virtually all others, however.
10) PAUL KELLY O'CONNOR: one of two laboratory technologists present during JFK's autopsy at Bethesda, he has repeatedly insisted that the skull wound extended on the right side well into the rear of the skull. "O'Connor was shown the autopsy photographs and he said, "No, that doesn't look like what I saw...A lot worse wound extended way back here, " and he demonstrated with his hand to the back of the head." (Groden & Livingstone, High Treason, p. 451) Paul O'Connor has consistently maintained that opinion in interviews since that time.
11) JAMES CURTIS JENKINS: the other laboratory technologist who worked with the autopsy team on JFK, Jenkins was at that time in a Ph.D. program in pathology. ( High Treason II , p. 226) The HSCA's Jim Kelly and Andy Purdy reported that Jenkins "said he saw a head wound in the "...middle temporal region back to the occipital." (HSCA interview with Curtis Jenkins, Jim Kelly and Andy Purdy, 8-29-77. JFK Collection, RG 233, Document #002193, p.4) He told author, David Lifton, "I would say that parietal and occipital section on the right side of the head--it was a large gaping area...It had just been crushed, and kind of blown apart, toward the rear." (Lifton, Best Evidence ", p. 616) When Lifton told Jenkins that photographs showed that the back of the head was essentially intact, except for a small bullet entry wound at the top, he responded, "That's not possible, That is totally--you know, there's no possible way. Okay? It's not possible." ( Best Evidence , p. 617) Jenkins told Livingstone, "Everything from just above the right ear back was fragmented...there was (an absence of scalp and bone) along the midline just above the occipital area....this (wound) would not have been low enough to have gotten into the cerebellum." ( High Treason II , p. 228). Jenkins' views, whether as given by the HSCA, Livingstone, or Lifton, are noteworthy by their consistency, and as Jenkins was in a Ph.D. pathology program, his anatomic specificity is of value.
12) EDWARD REED: one of two X-ray technicians who worked with Jerrol F. Custer taking X-rays told author David Lifton that he formed an opinion the night of the autopsy that JFK had been shot from the front because the skull wound was "more posterior than anterior". (Lifton, David, Best Evidence, p. 619)
13) JERROL CUSTER: the other X-ray technician told David Lifton that the wound in the skull was posterior in the skull and said that "he exposed, and returned to the morgue, X- rays showing that the rear of the President's head was blown off." ( Best Evidence , p. 620) The extant X-rays show no such thing. In May 29, 1992 and November 18, 1993 press conferences Custer repeated his consistent claim that the current X-rays are forgeries. (Reuters wire service, reported in: Duffy JP, Ricci VL, The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, New York, 1992, Thunder's Mouth Press, p. 142.)
14) JAN GAIL RUDNICKI: Dr. Boswell's lab assistant on the night of the autopsy, Rudnicki was interviewed by HSCA's Mark Flanagan on 5/2/78. Flanagan reported Rudnicki said, the "back-right quadrant of the head was missing." (HSCA rec # 180- 10105-10397, agency file number # 014461, p.2.)He told author Harrison Livingston, "...from the ear back, the scalp was either gone or definitely destroyed in that area.....it would look more like it was an exit than an entrance." When asked if there was any scalp left in the right rear of the head behind the ear, Rudnicki said, "That was gone."( High Treason II , p. 207) Rudnicki's account to the HSCA squares with Livingstone's.
15) JAMES E. METZLER: was a hospital corpsman, third class who helped transport the body from the casket to the autopsy table in the morgue. Author David Lifton reported, "It was also his impression, from the way the wound was located toward the back of the head, that President Kennedy must have been shot in the head from the front." ( Best Evidence, p. 633-634)
16) DAVID P. OSBORNE, M.: a military physician present at the autopsy who was not questioned by the Warren Commission or the HSCA, he wrote researcher Joanne Braun on 4-5-90 that, "...a second (bullet) hit in the occipital region of the posterior skull which blew off the posterior top of his skull and impacted and disintegrated against the interior surface of the frontal bone just above the level of the eyes. I know this for a fact because I was the one who worked on his head, removing his brain and closed the skull so that he could have had an open casket funeral if so desired." (Copy of letter furnished to author by Joanne Braun.)
17) JOHN EBERSOLE, MD: was Assistant Chief of Radiology and head of the Radiology Division at Bethesda, and was the radiologist who evaluated the X-rays in close cooperation with the autopsists on the night of the autopsy. He was not called to testify before the Warren Commission. However he was called to testify by the HSCA on March 11, 1978. Ebersole's deposition was not published by the HSCA causing it to be sealed for 50 years under congressional rules. (Due to pressure, however, the transcript of his interview was released in October, 1993.) A brief wire service account appeared regarding his appearance before the HSCA claiming that he agreed with the Warren Commissions' conclusions. However, in an interview with reporter Gil Dulaney published two days before his HSCA appearance Ebersole said of the head wound, "When the body was removed from the casket there was a very obvious horrible gaping wound to the back of the head (BE:543).", and "The front of the body, except for a very slight bruise above the right eye on the forehead, was absolutely intact. It was the back of the head that was blown off." (BE:546)
In HSCA testimony recently released, Ebersole claimed, "The back of the head was missing..."(HSCA interview with Ebersole, 3-11-78, p.3), and when shown the autopsy photograph with the back of the scalp intact, Ebersole commented, "You know, my recollection is more of a gaping occipital wound than this but I can certainly not state that this is the way it looked. Again we are relying on a 15 year old recollection. But had you asked me without seeing these or seeing the pictures, you know, I would have put the wound here rather than more forward." (HSCA interview with Ebersole, 3-11-78, p. 62). Ebersole, faced with the photographs before the HSCA, said JFK's skull defect was, "More lateral. Much more lateral and superior than I remembered." (HSCA interview with Ebersole, 3-11-63, p. 63) Yet Ebersole claimed that "I had the opportunity (to examine the back of JFK's head while positioning the head for X-rays) (HSCA Ebersole interview, 3-11-78, p. 64). Later Ebersole said, "...perhaps about 12:30 (am) a large fragment of the occipital bone was received from Dallas and at Dr. Finck's request I X-rayed these (sic)...". As Lifton observed about Ebersole's HSCA enlightenment, "When Ebersole met with Art Smith on March 28, and of course after his HSCA interview, he said: 'The back portion of the head...the back part of the head, was reasonably intact.' Ebersole claimed that Dulaney had misquoted him. Smith asked: "That was a misquote?" Ebersole: "Yes, Misquoted. I, really, ah, I may have said that--what I meant was, the side." David Lifton had Dulaney read a verbatim transcript of the Ebersole interview. Dulaney again quoted Ebersole describing the head wound as "a very obvious horrible gaping wound at the back of the head..." (BE:546) (Emphasis added.) Ebersole's reliability has also been questioned as he also claimed that the neck wound upon arrival at Bethesda was sutured closed. Ebersole told this to both Dulaney and to Art Smith (BE:543).
18) RICHARD A. LIPSEY: an aide to General Wehle who was Commanding General of the military District of Washington, U. S. Army, he was present at JFK's autopsy. In an interview with the HSCA's Andy Purdy and Mark Flanagan on 1-18-78, he claimed that the autopsists "were 'absolutely, unequivocally' convinced that he (JFK) had been shot three times...there were three separate wounds and three separate bullets.". Lipsey gave a confusing account of JFK's head wound. He "identified the entrance in the lower head as being just inside the hairline", but claimed that there was "no real entrance in the rear of the head...one bullet blasted away an entire portion (entrance and exit)..." (sic). Purdy also reported that Lipsey felt that "one bullet entered the back of the head and exited resulting in part of the face and head being blown away" (HSCA, JFK Collection, RG 233) Lipsey completed an autopsy face sheet diagram that depicted an area of the right lateral skull missing, anterior and posterior to the ear, where he had written "same area blown away as wound". In addition, there was a wound low in the skull, presumably of entrance, that was the source of the throat exit wound, which he labeled bullet #2. Finally there was a wound on the back, labeled #3 but the bullet could not be found in the body Lipsey claimed.
19) PHILIP C. WEHLE: then Commanding officer of the military District of Washington, D. C., he described the head wound to the HSCA's Andy Purdy on 8-19-77 He did not describe it to the Warren Commission. A copy of memo on Purdy's interview with Wehle was only released in 1993. Purdy reported that Wehle said he was an observer during the later stages of the autopsy. "(Wehle) noticed a slight bruise over the right temple of the President but did not see any significant damage to any other part of the head. He noted that the wound was in the back of the head so he would not see it because the President was lying face up; he also said he did not see any damage to the top of the head, but said the President had a lot of hair which could have hidden that...." (HSCA record # 10010042, agency file # 002086, p. 2)
20) CAPTAIN JOHN STOVER: then Commanding Officer of the National Naval Medical School, he gave no description of the skull wound to the Warren Commission. (The Pathology Department was under the jurisdiction of the school.) The HSCA's Mark Flanagan reported that he interviewed him and, "Stover observed...a wound on the top of the head...".(HSCA Document received from C. Cunningham, 10-22-92)
21) CHESTER H. BOYERS: Boyers "was stationed at Bethesda naval hospital and was the chief Petty Officer in charge of the Pathology Department in November 1963." (HSCA Telephone contact--Mark Flanagan, 4/25/78, rec #? 13614)
Flanagan reported, "In regard to the wounds Boyers recalls an entrance wound in the rear of the head to the right of the external occipital protuberance which exited along the top, right side of the head towards the rear and just above the right eyebrow." (HSCA Telephone contact--Mark Flanagan, 4/25/78, rec #? 13614, p. 2)
22) J. THORNTON BOSWELL, MD: was the "Chief of Pathology of the Naval Hospital" at the time of JFK's autopsy (while Humes was Director of Laboratories). Boswell appeared before the Warren Commission immediately after Humes had completed his testimony. He was not asked to give the precise location of the wounds, but as he had just sat through Humes testimony giving the information, Arlan Specter merely asked him for his assent: Specter: "And specifically, as to the points of entry and points of exit which have been testified to by Doctor Humes, do his views express yours as well? Boswell: "They do. Yes."(Warren Commission, Vol.2:377.) In an interview on 8/17/77 (which was released in 1993) the HSCA's Andy Purdy reported, "Dr. Boswell said the wound was fairly low in the back of the head and that the bone was completely gone above the entry wound. He said that during the autopsy, a piece of skull fragment was brought in which included a portion which corresponded to the missing half of the entry wound in the head." (HSCA rec # 180-10093-10430. Agency file # 002071, p. 6.) Purdy also reported, "Regarding the head wounds he said the entry hole was only approximately half in evidence, the other half being part of the skull fragment which was brought in."(IBID. p. 9--emphasis in original.) In Finck's autopsy notes he seemed to corroborate Boswell's account that only a portion of the entrance wound was visible on JFK's skull. He wrote, "Corresponding to that wound (the scalp wound), the skull shows the portion of a crater, the beveling of which is obvious on the internal aspect of the bone..." ("Finck's notes of the November 22, 1963, autopsy." In Breo DL. JFK's death, part III - Dr. Finck speaks out: 'two bullets, from the rear'. JAMA. 268:1752) "Regarding the autopsy face sheet, Dr. Boswell said that the entry wound to the head, if not exactly accurate, may have been '...possibly off a little to the left.'". (IBID. p.11) It is especially significant that Boswell allowed that his face sheet entrance wound might have been off in the horizontal, but not in the vertical dimension. That is, the wound of entrance, which was contiguous with the skull defect, may have been slightly more to the right than he depicted in his contemporaneous drawing, but it was not in the higher location accepted by the HSCA.
In an interview with Humes published in JAMA on May 27, 1992, Boswell repeated the claim that JFK's fatal entrance wound was to the right and just above the external occipital protuberance.
Unexpectedly, author Gerald Posner reported to the Conyers Committee on 11-17-94, that both Drs. Boswell and Humes told him the President's skull wound was "in fact correctly placed 4 inches higher" (Hearing before the Legislation and National Security Subcommittee of the Committee on Government operations House of Representatives, November, 17, 1993, p. 112-113, Washington, D.C., 1994. U.S. Government Printing Office) and not low in the skull where Boswell had previously placed it. This, of course was, if true, the first time that Boswell had ever made such a claim, and he specifically disallowed such a placement in near contemporaneous interviews he gave fellow physician and JAMA editor, George. D. Lundberg, MD. (The Journal of the American Medical Association - JAMA. May 27, 1992.) Inexplicably, Posner made no mention of these an astonishing revelations in his book, either in the original or the "updated" paperback version released in August, 1994.
On March 30, 1994, I called both Drs. Boswell and Humes and asked them about Posner's claims. Both denied to me, in recorded conversations, that they had changed their minds about the location of the President's skull wound entrance. Humes did speak to Posner, but Boswell told me flatly, and twice, that not only had he not changed his mind about the location of JFK's low skull wound, he'd never ever spoken with Posner. Therefore, as of 3/30/ 94 both Drs. Boswell and Humes believe JFK's skull entrance wound was low. I wrote Boswell that I had made his admission to me about Posner public in a letter to the editor of the Federal Bar News and Journal, and since that time, Boswell has refused to answer my calls or letters.
23) JAMES J. HUMES, MD: JFK's chief autopsy pathologist, he wrote the autopsy summary which included the skull wound description, "There is a large irregular defect of the scalp and skull on the right involving chiefly the parietal bone but extending somewhat into the temporal and occipital regions. In this region there is an actual absence of scalp and bone producing a defect which measures approximately 13 cm in greatest diameter..." Much controversy regarding Humes subsequent statements has confused the simple autopsy description he wrote. This will be explored below. Nevertheless, a single skull defect involving parietal, temporal and occipital regions would involve, of necessity, the right rear quadrant of the skull.
24) PIERRE A. FINCK, MD: the forensics specialist called in to assist Humes and Boswell with JFK's autopsy. In 1963 Finck was an Army lieutenant colonel and the chief of the Wound Ballistics Pathology Branch of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. As reported in JAMA, Finck testified to the Warren Commission: "Rep. Ford: 'There has been complete unanimity (with Humes and Boswell who had just testified) on what you saw, what you did, and what you have reported?' Col. Finck: 'Yes.'" (Warren Commission, V.2:383, in: Breo, "JFK's death, part III". JAMA. 268:1752, October 7, 1992.) It is unfortunate for JAMA's reputation for scientific objectivity that while Breo was able to track down Finck's testimony from the Warren Commission volumes, he was unable to find any one of the five citations in the volumes that confirmed Crenshaw's participation - see above.) Finck was also asked by Arlan Specter, "Were you present here today and did you hear the entire testimony of Doctor Humes?" Finck; "Yes; I did." Specter: " And do you concur in Dr. Humes' statements and opinions regarding the point of entry C, point of exit D (referring to diagrams), and general angle on the flight of the missile?" Finck: "I certainly do." (Warren Commission. Vol 2:380) Finck, of course, also signed the autopsy report as well. Finck will be further explored below.
In JAMA, Finck, in a written response to Breo's question, reported, "The FATAL WOUND (sic) - entry 25mm to the right of the external occipital protuberance and slightly above. After removal of the brain, the beveling of the internal table (of the skull) (sic) indicates this was a wound of entry." (Breo, JFK's death, part III. JAMA. 268:1749. October 7, 1992)
Finck denied to the HSCA Boswell's claim that only a portion of the entrance wound was visible on JFK's skull, and that the remainder of the entrance wound was found on a late- arriving fragment. Finck stated that the entire entrance wound was in the skull bone. However, by the time Finck arrived, the autopsy had been underway for approximately 30 minutes. By then some manipulations had been done to JFK's skull and the brain had been removed. So Finck did not see what Boswell and Humes saw before the skull manipulations. Nevertheless, Finck's notes on JFK's autopsy, later sent to his superior, General Joe Blumberg, suggested that Finck then shared Boswell's recollection of the entrance wound. He wrote, "Corresponding to that wound (the scalp wound), the skull shows the portion of a crater, the beveling of which is obvious on the internal aspect of the bone..." ("Finck's notes of the November 22, 1963, autopsy." In: Breo DL. JFK's death, part III - Dr. Finck speaks out: 'two bullets, from the rear'. JAMA. 268:1752 - emphasis added) Confusingly, Finck wrote Blumberg on 2/1/65 suggesting the crater in occipital bone was not incomplete. He wrote, "I examined (JFK's) wounds. The scalp of the back of he head shows a small laceration, 15 X 6 mm. Corresponding to this lesion, I found a through-and through wound of the occipital bone, with a crater visible from the inside of he cranial cavity..." (In: Breo DL. JFK's death, part III - Dr. Finck speaks out: 'two bullets, from the rear'. JAMA. 268:1754.)
How is one to understand the overwhelming witness opinion of a rear skull defect when the photographic images show no such defect? It has been argued that the exit wound was anterior but may only have appeared posterior to most witnesses; as the President lay on his back, so the argument goes, the loose, unsupported scalp fell rearward creating the false impression among viewers that the wound was further posterior than it truly was. Critics of this speculation argue that if the scalp had "fallen posteriorly" the anterior portion of the wound would have been uncovered revealing an unmistakable defect anteriorly or anterolaterally. Unfortunately, not a single witness described a wound or skull defect solely anteriorly or in anterior-lateral skull. John Kennedy's autopsists have not clarified this issue appreciably.
In sum, accepting Ebersole's earliest, "un-coached" description, there are forty four well qualified witnesses to JFK's skull wound from Parkland to Bethesda. Their earliest, unrehearsed, specific descriptions, written, verbal or both, place a major skull defect unambiguously posteriorly. Only Giesecke and Boyers recalled an anterior wound, which is close to the anterior-lateral wound, as the HSCA forensic panel and the Clark Panel concluded solely existed on the basis of the "best evidence", the photographs and X-rays. (Both Giesecke and Boyers also recalled a rear wound as well, and Giesecke erred in believing that the injuries were on the left side of JFK's skull.)
Only Salyer, who admitted to a poor vantage as he was positioned on JFK's left, claimed to have seen a right temporal wound. Salyer was not endorsing the photographs, however. He told this author that JFK's skull wound extended behind the right ear, and he was of the opinion the photographs had been tampered with and did not show the wounds as they were. Therefore, the conclusion that there was a major skull and scalp defect in the rear of JFK's skull based on the descriptions of such qualified and experienced witnesses cannot be easily or satisfactorily dismissed. It may also be that the defect extended somewhat anteriorly beyond the right rear. That subsequent investigators, based primarily on "authenticated" photographic and X-ray evidence, arrived at vastly different conclusions can only be viewed with profound confusion. Neither the Clark Panel nor the HSCA's forensic panel apparently considered the overwhelming agreement of both the Parkland and Bethesda witnesses whose skull wound descriptions were so at odds with their own conclusions about JFK.
If, as has been argued, the error rate in the determination of entrance from exit in single, perforating wounds is 37% among emergency physicians (Randall T. Clinicians' forensic interpretations of fatal gunshot wounds often miss the mark. JAMA. 1993; 269:2058- 2061), and, accepting for the sake of argument that the determining of the location of a skull defect is as troublesome as determining entrance from exit in perforating bullet wounds (it should not be, of course), the likelihood of error by 44 witnesses from two facilities is 1 divided by 2 to the 44th power, or 1 in 4,294,967,296. The likelihood that 44 of 44 erroneous witnesses would agree (excepting Giesecke and Salyer) among themselves to the same "wrong" location is considerably less than 1 divided by 2 to the 44th power. Critics of the Warren Commission's conclusions are chary to embrace such odds and are troubled that loyalists seem to be unaware of this problem.