A lingering problem for the Warren Commission’s theory that a single bullet wounded both President John F. Kennedy and John Connally was the Texas governor’s insistence he had been hit be a second shot, not the same shot that hit JFK, contends WND senior staff reporter Jerome R. Corsi, author the new WND Books release “Who Really Killed Kennedy? 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations about the JFK Assassination.”
Corsi points out that Connally, even while he was in the hospital recovering from his wounds, insisted he was hit by a second shot.
“Connally’s testimony was particularly challenging to the Warren Commission’s claim Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone-gun assassin,” Corsi stressed. “If Connally was hit by a separate shot, and a shot missed to hit bystander James Tague, then at least four shots were fired at the JFK limousine.”
Corsi notes that the Warren Commission already had determined the maximum number of shots Oswald could have fired with the manual bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was three.
If four shots were fired at JFK, there had to have been a second shooter.
“Who Really Killed Kennedy,” released this month as the 50th anniversary of the assassination approaches, is bolstered by recently declassified documents that shed new light on the greatest “who-done-it” mystery of the 20th century. Corsi sorted through tens of thousands of documents, all 26 volumes of the Warren Commission’s report, hundreds of books, several films and countless photographs.
Journalist Martin Agronsky interviewed Connally from his Parkland Memorial Hospital room on Nov. 27, 1963, five days after the assassination. The governor insisted he was hit by the second shot, not the same shot that hit JFK:
And then we had just turned the corner [from Houston onto Elm], we heard a shot; I turned to my left
I was sitting in the jump seat. I turned to my left to look in the back seat – the president had slumped. He had said nothing. Almost simultaneously, as I turned, I was hit and I knew I had been hit badly. I knew the president had been hit and I said, “My God, they are going to kill us all.”
Then there was a third shot and the president was hit again and we thought then very seriously. I had still retained consciousness but the president had slumped in Mrs. Kennedy’s lap, and when he was hit the second time she said, “Oh, my God, they have killed my husband – Jack, Jack.”
After the third shot, the next thing that occurred – I was conscious, the Secret Service man, of course, the chauffeur had pulled out of the line, they said, “Get out of here”; on the radios they said, “Get us to a hospital immediately” and we pulled out, of course, immediately, as fast as we could go and got to the hospital. In the space of a few seconds, it is unbelievable what can happen, Martin. We went from great joy, anticipation, wonderful crowds, wonderful throngs, to great tragedy.
On April 21, 1964, Connally testified to the Warren Commission, telling essentially the same story – that he was hit by the second shot. Connally testified:
Gov. Connally: We had just made the turn … when I heard what I thought was a shot. I heard this noise, which I immediately took to be a rifle shot. I instinctively turned to my right because the sound appeared to come from over my right shoulder, so I turned to look back over my right shoulder, and I saw nothing unusual except just people in the crowd, but I did catch the president in the corner of my eye, and I was interested, because once I heard the shot in my own mind I identified it as a rifle shot, and I immediately – the only thought that crossed my mind was that this is an assassination attempt.
So I looked, failing to see him, I was turning to look back over my left shoulder into the back seat, but I never got that far in my turn. I got about in the position I am now in facing you, looking a little bit to the left of center, and then I felt like somebody had hit me in the back.
Mr. Specter: What is the best estimate that you have as to the time span between the sound of the first shot and the feeling of someone hitting you in the back, which you just described?
Gov. Connally: A very, very brief span of time. Again my trend of thought just happened to be, I suppose along this line. I immediately thought that this – that I had been shot. I knew it when I just looked down and I was covered with blood, and the thought immediately passed through my mind that there were either two or three people involved or more in this or someone was shooting with an automatic rifle. These were just thoughts that went through my mind because of the rapidity of these two, of the first shot plus the blow that I took, and I knew I had been hit, and I immediately assumed, because of the amount of blood, and, in fact, that it had obviously passed through my chest that I had probably been fatally shot.
So, I merely doubled up, and then turned to my right again and began to – I just sat there, and Mrs. Connally pulled me over to her lap. She was sitting, of course, on the jump seat, so I reclined with my head in her lap, conscious all the time, and with my eyes open; and then, of course, the third shot sounded, and I heard the shot very clearly. I heard it hit him [JFK]. I heard the shot hit something, and I assumed again – it never entered my mind that it ever hit anybody but the president. I heard it. It was a very loud noise, just that audible, very clear.
‘Not conceivable’ hit by first bullet
Connally testified that he did not hear the second shot that hit him, but that he estimated it was 10 to 12 seconds between the first and third shots.
He was emphatic about the time frame, even when under cross-examination Specter repeatedly asked the same question slightly rephrased each time he asked it.
“It is not conceivable to me that I could have been hit by the first bullet, and then I felt the blow from something which was obviously a bullet, which I assumed was a bullet, and I never heard the second shot, didn’t hear it,” Connally explained to Specter. “I didn’t hear but two shots. The first shot and the third shot.”
Connally further explained he did not know he had been hit in the left wrist and left thigh until he woke up in the hospital and saw his arm bandaged in a sling. In response to a question from Warren Commission member Allen Dulles, Connally elaborated once again:
Gov. Connally: I turned to the right both to see, because it was an instinctive movement, because that is where the sound came from, but even more important, I thought it was a rifle shot. I immediately thought of an assassination attempt, and I turned to see if I could see the president, if he was all right. Failing to see him over my right shoulder, I turned to look over my left shoulder.
Mr. Dulles: I see.
Gov. Connally: Into the back seat, and I never completed that turn. I got no more than substantially looking forward, a little bit to the left of forward when I got hit.
Connally further testified that he had been familiar with the sound of a rifle shot all his life, and that he never thought the first sound he heard was a firecracker or a tire blowout.
“I thought it was a rifle shot,” he insisted. “I have hunted enough to think that my perception with respect to directions is very, very good, and the shot I heard came from back over my right shoulder, which was in the direction of the School Book Depository, no question about it. I heard one other. The first and third shots came from there.”
Connally testified he did not hear any shots from the direction of the overpass ahead of the limousine.
Nellie Connally, the governor’s wife, testified to the Warren Commission immediately after her husband. She was equally clear that Connally was hit by the second shot:
Mrs. Connally: In fact, the receptions had been so good every place that I had showed much restraint by not mentioning something about it before.
I could resist no longer. When we got past this area [the turn from Main onto Houston] I did turn to the president and said, “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.”
Then I don’t know how soon. It seems to me it was very soon, that I heard a noise, and not being an expert rifleman, I was not aware that it was a rifle. It was just a frightening noise, and it came from the right.
I turned over my right shoulder and looked back, and saw the president as he had both hands at his neck.
Mr. Specter: And you are indicating with your own hands, two hands crossing over gripping your own neck.
Mrs. Connally: Yes; and it seemed to me there was – he made no utterance, no cry. I saw no blood, no anything. It was just sort of nothing, the expression on his face, and he just sort of slumped down.
Then very soon there was the second shot that hit John. As the first shot was hit, and I turned to look at the same time, I recall John saying, “Oh, no, no, no.” Then there was a second shot, and it hit John, and as he recoiled to the right, he said, “My God, they are going to kill us all.”
Mrs. Connally explained: “I put my head down over his head so that his head and my head were right together, and all I could see, too, were the people flashing by. I didn’t look back any more.”
‘No one will ever convince me otherwise’
The controversy over which bullet hit Connally intensified in November 1966, when Life Magazine arranged to have Connally inspect enlarged frames from the Zapruder film.
An article titled “A Matter of Reasonable Doubt: Amid Heightening Controversy about the Warren Report, Governor Connally Examines for ‘Life’ the Assassination Film” was published by Life Nov. 25, 1966, hitting the newsstands on the third anniversary of the assassination.
The multiple-page article, featured on the magazine’s cover, contained a full-page photograph of Connally. He was shown with a magnifying glass held in both hands, bent over a light table to examine enlarged positives of six frames from the Zapruder film displayed for his examination.
It was the first time Connally had made a public comment about the assassination since the Warren Commission presented its report to President Lyndon Johnson on Sept. 24, 1964.
Connally told Life that he was looking over his right shoulder at frame 193 of the Zapruder film, just before the limousine went behind the highway sign.
At frame 222, as the limousine pulled clear of the highway sign, Connally emerges, still turned to his right. When President Kennedy can be seen, a sixth of a second later, at frame 225, it is clear he has been hit.
Beginning at frame 225, Connally turns his head leftward until, in 228, he faces straight ahead through frame 231, the last frame Life showed on a page-and-a-half spread.
“You can see my leftward movement clearly,” Connally explained to Life as he studied the frames. “I had turned to the right when the limousine was behind the sign. Now I’m turning back again. I know that I made that turn to the left before I was hit. You can see the grimace on the president’s face. You cannot see it in mine. There is no question about it. I haven’t been hit yet.”
Connally told Life he believed, as best he could judge it, that the bullet hit him in frame 234, nine frames and one-half second later than the Warren Commission said he had been hit.
“Having looked at frames 233 to 235,” he told Life, “I can begin to see myself slump in 234. The slump is very pronounced in 235. I am hunched. It looks as if my coat is pulled away from my shirt. My mouth is elongated. I don’t think there is any question that my reaction to the shot begins in this time sequence.”
In the interview with Life, Nellie Connally was equally firm about her testimony.
“As far as the shots go,” she explained to the magazine, “my memory is divided into four distinct events. First I heard the shot, or a strange loud noise – I’m not that expert on rifles – back behind us. Then next I turned to my right and saw the president gripping at his throat. Then I turned back toward John, and I heard the second shot that hit John. … I must have been looking right at him when it hit because I saw him recoil to the right … so you see I had time to look at the president after he was already hit, then turn and see John hit by a second shot. Then, of course, he slumped, and I reached to pull him toward me.
Gov. Connally ended the Life interview by insisting he would never change his story.
“They talk about the ‘one-bullet or two-bullet theory,’” he concluded, “but as far as I’m concerned, there is no ‘theory.’ There is my absolute knowledge, and Nellie’s too, that one bullet caused the president’s first wound, then an entirely separate shot struck me.”
Mrs. Connally added, “No one will ever convince me otherwise.”
Her husband concurred: “It’s a certainty. I’ll never change my mind.”
It turned out exactly that way. To the end of their lives, both John Connally and his wife, Nellie, held to their original recollections of the tragic sequence of shots on Nov. 22, 1963.
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