WASHINGTON – James T. Tague, the eyewitness to the JFK assassination who was nicked by a piece of concrete sidewalk or a bullet fragment from a shot aimed at President Kennedy, has charged in a new book that the Warren Commission was planning to ignore his testimony until he objected publicly.
“In early June 1964 I read in a newspaper that the Warren Commission had finished its investigation, was sending its Commission helpers home, and was going to write its report: Three shots fired: first hitting Kennedy, the second Connally, the third Kennedy, and the deed was done by a ‘lone nut assassin’ named Lee Harvey Oswald,” Tague writes in “LBJ and the Kennedy Killing.”
“The ‘facts’ were just as (FBI Director J. Edgar) Hoover had stated 48 hours after the assassination,” he says.
In his book, Tague comments that in the six months after the assassination he had not been called to testify before the Warren Commission, even though the FBI interviewed him Dec. 14, 1963.
“Something was wrong,” Tague continues. “I felt the missed shot was important, because it indicated there was more than one shooter. I raised my hand and related to a reporter what I knew – the story was printed nationwide, and I was at last called to testify.”
A close examination of Warren Commission records strongly suggests Tague’s evidence did influence the commission’s conclusions, but not as Tague had expected.
The only way for the Warren Commission to incorporate Tague’s testimony and still conclude that only three shots had been fired, all by Lee Harvey Oswald, was to adopt the “single-bullet theory.”
Make the evidence fit the conclusion
Of relevance to Tague’s testimony is a memo written in April 1964 by Norman Redlich, a special assistant to the Warren Commission. The memo provides evidence the purpose of the investigation was not to examine the evidence of the JFK assassination to determine who shot the president, but to substantiate a politically preconceived conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the “lone gun assassin.”
On April 27, 1964, Redlich wrote a memo to Warren Commission chief counsel Lee J. Rankin indicating the Warren Commission staff had determined Gov. John Connally was hit by the second shot, a different bullet than the bullet from the first shot that hit President Kennedy.
Our report presumably will state that the President was hit by the first bullet, Governor Connally by the second, and the President by the final and fatal bullet. The report will also conclude that the bullets were fired by one person located in the sixth floor southeast corner window of the TSBD (Texas School Book Depository) building.
The purpose of Redlich’s memo was to argue the Warren Commission staff should make a field trip to Dallas to identify as closely as possible the exact location on Elm Street where shots hit Kennedy and Connally, as determined by a close examination of the famous film by bystander Abraham Zapruder.
“Our intention is not to establish the point with complete accuracy,” Redlich wrote.
He specified the goal was not to determine whether or not the assassin could have shot JFK prior to Zapruder frame 190, “but merely to substantiate the hypothesis which underlies the conclusions that Oswald was the sole assassin.”
The wording suggests a predetermined political conclusion. The purpose of the field trip was not to test whether or not Oswald could have fired all three shots with the bolt-action rifle, but to “substantiate the hypothesis” by fixing the earliest possible location where a shooter from that vantage point could have fired the first shot hitting President Kennedy.
“As our investigation now stands, however, we have not shown that these events could possibly have occurred in the manner suggested above,” Redlich conceded. “All we have is a reasonable hypothesis which appears to be supported by the medical testimony but which has not been checked out against the physical facts at the scene of the crime.”
What Redlich was admitting was that the hypothesis that Oswald was the lone assassin came first and the examination of the evidence came second, instead of developing the hypothesis from the evidence.
“If we do not attempt to answer these questions with observable facts,” Redlich argued, “others may answer them with facts that challenge our most basic assumptions, or with fanciful theories based on our unwillingness to test our hypothesis by the investigatory methods available to us.”
When on July 23, 1964, Tague testified to the Warren Commission in Dallas that he had been hit in the cheek by a bullet fragment or a piece of concrete, the Warren Commission had a problem.
The problem was compounded when Tague’s testimony was confirmed the next day by the testimony of Dallas County Deputy Sheriff Eddy Raymond Walthers.
The officer confirmed Tague was struck by a bullet fragment or a piece of concrete that had been dislodged from the curb in the Main Street lane of the three roads that converge at the triple underpass.
Tague’s testimony also was confirmed by photographic evidence showing exactly where he stood to watch the motorcade and documenting the cut on his cheek after the shooting.
Tague was not sure which shot caused the injury, but he believed it was the second or third, not the first.
His testimony forced the Warren Commission to recalculate. If shots one and three hit JFK, and shot two hit Connally, which shot hit Tague?
The Zapruder film set a narrow time frame in which the shooting could have happened, somewhere between 4.8 seconds and 7 seconds, according to the final report. Even a top expert using a bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano rifle would be limited to three shots in that time range, especially with the need to zero in the target with the scope anew for each shot.
Warren Commission’s conclusion
Warren Commission junior counsel Arlen Specter, later a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, came up with the “single-bullet” theory, arguing one bullet hit both JFK and Connally, one bullet missed and the third bullet was the fatal head shot that killed JFK.
The problem the Warren Commission faced was that if four shots were fired, there had to be a second shooter, since the commission had already determined Oswald could only have fired three shots in a 4.8- to 7-second interval.
In his testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Redlich appeared once again to suggest the Warren Commission’s purpose was to find Oswald guilty, not necessarily to determine the truth.
“I think there are simply a great many people who cannot accept what I believe to be the simple truth, that one rather insignificant person was able to assassinate the president of the United States,” Redlich told an executive session of the House panel on Nov. 8, 1977.