The "single-bullet theory" that forms the basis of the Warren Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of JFK is not supported by the medical evidence, contends Jerome Corsi, author of the newly released "Who Really Killed Kennedy? 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations about the JFK Assassination."
"What seems clear is that prior to the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, the evidence strongly suggested there were multiple shooters and that some of the shooters were positioned in front of the motorcade along the grassy knoll," says Corsi.
Corsi said the forensic evidence in the JFK autopsy "does not support the theory that a 'magic bullet' somehow passed from JFK’s back through his neck on the way to wounding John Connally."
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“Lacking medical evidence that a bullet passed through JFK’s body, the linchpin of the Warren Commission’s conclusion fails,” Corsi contends.
"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.
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The ER team at Parkland Hospital in Dallas and the autopsy team at Bethesda Naval Hospital produced medical records that describe two completely different views of JFK’s wounds. Professor Ronald F. White succinctly summarized the problem:
Because the ER team [at Parkland Hospital] focused exclusively on stabilizing vital signs, they did not turn over the President’s body, and therefore did not notice another bullet wound (or wounds) located in the President’s upper back. Hence, we have the makings of one of the most incredible foul-ups in medical history. The Parkland physicians didn’t know of the back wound and the Bethesda autopsy team did not know that the tracheostomy incision concealed a bullet wound. Or, at least, so they have alleged. It is difficult to believe that subsequent controversy over the exact location of the wounds can be attributed solely to an unfortunate communication failure between two groups of physicians.
After realizing Kennedy had been shot, the motorcade rushed from Dealey Plaza directly to Parkland Hospital. Once the presidential limousine arrived, the ER team at Parkland went into immediate action implementing trauma efforts to resuscitate JFK, despite realizing almost immediately that the president’s massive head wounds made their efforts to save his life futile.
Amid the confusion at both Parkland and Bethesda, no one imagined junior counsel Arlen Specter, who later served 30 years in the U.S. Senate, would virtually single-handedly take over configuring the medical evidence into a legal argument.
"Specter concocted his single-bullet theory to deflect consideration of a conspiracy, and in the process pinned the blame on the conveniently deceased Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole gunman responsible for shooting the president," Corsi says. "Lee Harvey Oswald’s murder brought the criminal investigation to a screeching halt and obviated the need for a criminal prosecution."
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Yet the problem remained, says Corsi, that Specter’s theory depended on establishing medical proof that the pristine bullet, which came to be known as the “magic bullet,” passed from the entrance wound in JFK’s back, through his body, to exit in his throat. The theory was never considered or pursued by the medical teams at Parkland and Bethesda.
Here was the crux of the medical dilemma: The Parkland ER doctors identified JFK’s throat wound as an entry wound and never noticed the wound in his back.
The Parkland medical team enlarged the throat wound with their tracheotomy.
Once the Parkland medical team realized they had no chance of reviving JFK, they didn’t bother searching for an exit wound or the bullet in his body.
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The Parkland medical team assumed JFK had been hit twice from the front: once in the throat and once in the right front forehead.
Viewing the throat wound as a large gaping hole, the Bethesda autopsy team assumed it was caused by a tracheotomy, not by a bullet.
The Bethesda autopsy team assumed the wound in JFK’s back to be a superficial entry would but could not identify the path of the bullet or find the bullet itself.
Upon learning from Parkland that a pristine bullet had been found on a stretcher, the Bethesda autopsy team assumed it was the bullet they were unable to find.
The Bethesda autopsy medical team concluded JFK had been hit twice from behind: first, in the back and then by a shot to the back of the head.
The doctors at Parkland assumed JFK had been shot from the front.
There is nothing in the Bethesda autopsy records to indicate that the doctors determined the path through JFK’s body of the bullet that the Warren Commission concluded entered his back.
Lack of proof
Only after Specter proposed the single-bullet theory did it become important to prove that the bullet that wounded JFK’s back and neck was the same bullet that wounded Connally in the back, lungs, wrist and thigh, states Corsi.
The Warren Commission concluded that only three shots could had been fired by the Mannlicher-Carcano bolt-action rifle in the time available for shooting. If there was another bullett there had to have been a second shooter.
Moreover, Lee Harvey Oswald was firing from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, behind JFK when the shooting started. If the throat wound was determined to be an entrance wound, there had to be a second shooter positioned in front of the motorcade.
Specter’s entire argument rested on the hypothesis that the bullet that entered JFK’s back exited through his throat and went on to cause all Connally’s wounds. However, neither the medical evidence ascertained in the ER at Parkland nor in the autopsy at Bethesda supported that theory, Corsi points out.
Lacking the medical evidence, Corsi says, Specter resorted to elaborate diagrams of various assassination reconstructions to argue that a trajectory could be established making it possible for a single bullet to injure both men.
If the theory didn't hold, the commission would be unable to establish that Oswald was the lone assassin. If there were more than one shooter, then there was a conspiracy to assassinate JFK, which would instigate a public outcry for an investigation.
The Warren Commission sought to avoid that, says Corsi, because no one knew how high up and widespread a conspiracy might go. As long as Oswald remained the only viable suspect, the case could be closed as a horrible accident of history.
According to the doctors at Parkland hospital, JFK suffered an entrance wound in his neck. At a press conference at the hospital the day of the assassination, a newsman asked Dr. Malcolm Perry, the physician who had performed the tracheotomy on JFK, whether or not the wound to the president' throat was an entrance wound.
Perry explained: "The wound appeared to be an entrance wound in the front of the throat; yes, that is correct. The exit wound, I don’t know. It could have been the head or there could have been a second wound of the head. There was not time to determine this at the particular instant."
Tom Wicker, reporting for The New York Times in an article published two days after the assassination, wrote: “Mr. Kennedy was hit by a bullet in the throat, just below the Adam’s apple, [Dr. Malcolm Perry, an attending surgeon at Parkland, and Dr. Kemp Clark, chief of neurosurgery at Parkland] said. This wound had the appearance of the bullet’s entry.”
Wicker also reported JFK had “a massive, gaping wound” in the back and on the right side of his head and that Parkland physicians said immediately after the shooting that it was impossible to tell if JFK’s wounds were caused by one or two bullets.
“According to the doctors at Parkland Hospital, the President suffered an entrance wound at the Adam’s apple and a massive wound at the head,” wrote assassination researcher Sylvia Meagher, whose 1967 book "Accessories After the Fact: The Warren Commission, the Authorities, and the Report" is considered the definitive guide to the Warren Commission testimony.
In his testimony to the Warren Commission on March 30, 1964, Dr. Charles James Carrico explained why the back wound went unnoticed at Parkland Hospital. Warren Commission counsel Arlen Specter asked Carrico about whether he had noticed a small wound on the right side of JFK’s head:
Dr. Carrico: No, sir; at least initially there was no time to examine the president completely for all small wounds. As we said before, this was an acutely ill patient and all we had time to do was to determine what things were life-threatening right then and attempt to resuscitate him and after which a more complete examination would be carried out, and we didn’t have time to examine for other wounds.
Mr. Specter: Was such a more complete examination ever carried out by the doctors in Parkland?
Dr. Carrico: No, sir; not in my presence.
Mr. Specter: Why not?
Dr. Carrico: As we said initially, this was an acute emergency situation and there was not time initially and when the cardiac massage was done this prevented any further examination during this time this was being done. After the president was pronounced dead, his wife was there, he was the president, and we felt certainly that complete examination would be carried out and no one had the heart, I believe, to examine him there.
During the Bethesda autopsy, Dr. Humes examined the back wound and found it to be a shallow entry wound that had penetrated less than an inch into JFK’s back.
Navy Commander J. Thornton Boswell, attending the autopsy, found the depth of JFK’s back wound could be probed up to only the first or second knuckle of the little finger, a depth of about two inches.
No path through JFK’s body could be established for the missile, and X-rays failed to detect any bullets yet remaining in JFK’s body. A report by FBI agents James W. Silbert and Francis X. O’Neill Jr., who were present during the autopsy, gives the following description of the examination of JFK’s back wound:
During the latter stages of this autopsy, Dr. Humes located an opening which appeared to be a bullet hole which was below the shoulders and two inches to the right of the middle line of the spinal column.
This opening was probed by Dr. Humes with the finger, at which time it was determined that the trajectory of the missile entering at this point had entered at a downward position of 45 to 60 degrees. Further probing determined that the distance traveled by this missile was a short distance inasmuch as the end of the opening could be felt with the finger.
Inasmuch as no complete bullet of any size could be located in the brain area and likewise no bullet could be located in the back or any other area of the body as determined by total body X-rays and physical inspection revealing there was no point of exit, the individuals performing the autopsy were at a loss to explain why they could find no bullets.
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