Friday, October 13, 2017

My Take on the Assassination of John Kennedy

I remember the day when we were sent home from school early after John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. A few of us were hanging out in the front yard when Larry, the milk man, came by and commiserated with us about the horrible events in Texas. I remember the photographs of the funeral in Life magazine. 1963, I was fourteen.

John Kennedy, John Connolly, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Fidel Castro, Cuban exiles and the Bay of Pigs, mafia don Sam Giancana, the CIA, the Warren Commission. Abe Zapruder and his 8 mm. Kodachrome home movie, Walter Cronkite - claims and conspiracy theories, the whole thing was confusing.  It was hard to follow, too hard for me and so I left it as a sad memory.

Bits and pieces, theories and counter-theories have come out from time to time ever since, nothing conclusive. Now we're just two weeks away from the scheduled release of the remaining US government records on the events of that day.  Trump may seek to extend the classification of those documents but it's hard to understand why he would. There are about 3,000 documents, mainly FBI and CIA, that have been withheld from the public.  Will they shed any light on the culprits?

I never followed this closely but for a brief encounter during law school in Ottawa. Just for a lark I took a survey course in forensic science.  It taught the basics of document examinations, hair and fiber evidence, counterfeiting and handwriting analysis, firearms and ballistics, no end of forensic pathology including gruesome slideshows of the greatest hits from the morgue slab.

One, three-hour lecture was devoted to the science of blood spatter, what can be learned from blood evidence at crime scenes.  The lecturer they brought in, flew him all the way from Alaska, was a pioneer in blood spatter evidence. I guess he was the "Pro from Dover." 

Anyway, this fellow, whose name I've long forgotten, was involved in the Kennedy assassination investigation. He was summoned to Dallas only he arrived there to find most of the relevant evidence had been destroyed. Kennedy's suit had apparently gone into the hospital incinerator. The limo had been cleaned and repaired. Jacqueline Kennedy's pink dress wasn't there either. She had worn it on the flight back to Washington.

Eventually this fellow decided to scrutinize the Zapruder film. Kennedy gets shot from behind - in the throat - and clutches his hands to his neck. There's one more shot, the head shot. Everything happens in an instant but luckily the film captured the split second that Kennedy was hit. What's visible is a pink cloud of spray coming from his forehead. A chunk of Kennedy's skull lands on the limo trunk lid and Jacqueline scrambles out to retrieve it.

This blood spatter expert described how he set out to replicate that final round. He got the same model rifle that Oswald had owned, same sort of ammunition. He couldn't shoot humans in the skull so he arranged to test his theories on cattle in an abattoir. He used ultra high speed cameras to document the experiment.

The results? There was a consistent pattern. A pink cloud of spray coming from the entry wound and a chunk of skull coming from the exit wound. The impact of the bullet at high speed pressurized the brain by the entry hole and created the pink blood cloud. The remaining energy of the bullet created the much larger exit wound and skull fragmentation.  His conclusion? The head shot had been fired from the direction of the entry wound blood cloud, to the front of Kennedy. It could not have been fired by Oswald in the book depository behind Kennedy.

Was this guy right? Hell if I know. All I know is that the blood spray clearly came from the front of Kennedy's head and the major damage, including the piece of his skull blown out, the piece that Mrs. Kennedy scrambled to recover from the trunk deck, came from the back.  I also know that bullet entry wounds are always smaller than the exit wounds.

It's Friday and all so I'll spare you - and me - the gory photos. Let's see what comes out on the 26th.


Northern PoV said...

You may be interested in S. Hunter's Bob Lee Swagger story "The Third Bullet"

A gun-expert pov.

"We should start by taking the rifle over to the National Archives and turning it over not to ballistics experts, but to a panel of snipers and hunters, men who have shot for blood with telescopic sights during field conditions. It's eminently doable, and it wouldn't take a 500-man, trillion-dollar investigation."

The Mound of Sound said...

They did engage a team of marksmen for tests, at least as I recall it NPoV.

Anonymous said...

Most interesting post, especially considering the background you supplied with the experience on that forensics course. I was just returning to residence after a Chemistry lab, when someone yelled out of the window about Kennedy being shot. Could never understand the Jack Ruby shooting of Oswald.

Anyway, it all set up the grand tradition of obfuscation the Americans seem so good at when various tragedies occur. They leap around in more confusion than the Greeks in my experience of a weird incident in my backpacking days in Greece in 1970. The Kennedy assassination fuelled the present day set of conspiracy theorists, who think the CIA is behind everything from plane crashes to Charlie Hebdo and the Las Vegas shootings.

Some prime nutbars such as Paul Craig Roberts seem to think the Las Vegas shootings were all fake, put on by actors, same as the Nice truck rampage and the Boston Marathon explosions. Tell that to the family of Tara Roe whose funeral was in Winnipeg today. I guess the actors were American and only Canadians died. Makes me sick that conspiracy theorists cannot see a much simpler reality than the whole Kennedy thing, and disrespect grieving families in so doing.

Owen Gray said...

Given Ruby's background, his shooting of Oswald has always suggested that somebody -- or somebodies -- else was or were involved.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Owen Gray. Jack Ruby did not act alone or on his own.
Oswald was just a "patsy" or a decoy/dupe, this is what he said during his brief interrogation.

The Mound of Sound said...

I guess we'll have to hope that the final trove of documents, these 3,000 odd documents that have been kept from the public for more than half a century, hold some answers.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Those 3000 (give or take) documents are bound to end up being (mysteriously) "inconclusive".

The Mound of Sound said...

Hard to say, Tal. There are volumes of documents that have been released. Why has this tranche been off limits for more than half a century?

Now that it looks like the 9/11 trials might finally get underway (survivors/dependents versus Saudi Arabia) there's renewed speculation about what might be in those 28-redacted pages fro the 9/11 commission report. Harper's magazine has a good article on that.