Gary L. Aguilar, MD and Kathy Cunningham
May 2003


President John F. Kennedy in September 1963.
(White House Photo - JFK Library)

More than two decades after the Church Committee revealed U.S. plots to assassinate foreign leaders, including Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba,[1] and after confirmed reports that in 1962 the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff had approved plans that ABC News reported had included, “hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities,”[2] few informed Americans would dismiss as inconceivable the possibility that in 1963 a sitting U.S. President could succumb to a murder conspiracy, perhaps even one of domestic origin. What is harder for some citizens to conceive is that the conspirators could have eluded the exhaustive and painstaking pursuit of the executive, legislative and judiciary arms of government.

Was not, after all, the full majesty of the state put in service of solving the Crime of the Century? Would unimpeachable icons such as Chief Justice Earl Warren, CIA head Allen Dulles, FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and President Johnson have settled for anything less than the full truth? Were there not indisputable facts extracted during the President’s post mortem that established, if not the assassin’s name, the essential fact that there was but one of them pulling a trigger, and only from behind? There was a time when reasonable assumptions such as these carried great power.

Warren Commission. From left: Rep. Gerald Ford, Rep. Hale Boggs, Sen. Richard Russell, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Sen. Sherman Cooper, John McCloy, Allen Dulles.

It was during 1966, for example, while touting the sine qua non of Lee Harvey Oswald’s guilt – Kennedy’s autopsy findings – that onetime Warren Commission counsel Arlen Specter offered readers of U. S. News and World Report the following reassurance:  “[T] here is every reason to believe that we did get a comprehensive, thorough, professional autopsy report from trained, skilled experts.”[3] The experts’ famous conclusion? Two shots, from the rear.

But time has not rewarded Specter’s species of blind faith. On the contrary. Given what has since been learned, today his confidence in JFK’s autopsists seems remarkably naïve. “Where bungled autopsies are concerned,” Michael Baden, MD has observed, “President Kennedy’s is the exemplar.”[4] As a noted autopsy expert who had chaired the 1978 House Select Committee’s (HSCA) forensic panel that studied the performance of JFK’s pathologists, Baden was in an unique position to know.

The failure of the original team, it appears, was not a failure of facility or of capability. Men with good, if not exceptional, credentials performed JFK’s autopsy at a perfectly adequate Navy hospital. Their failure was borne of lack of practice and poor process; the execution of JFK’s port mortem was marked by almost unbelievable amateurishness and incompleteness. However, as defenders of the Warren Commission always hasten to point out, the ultimate verdict of the original team has withstood the test of time.

Supported by virtually unfalsifiable original autopsy notes, photographs and X-rays, three independent teams of forensic authorities, all of impeccable reputation, have seconded their sole-assassin solution. In all, four expert panels affirmed that Kennedy fell to a lone gunman. Thus, except for pointless pedantic quibbling, what, it is fair to wonder, is left to carp about? That all these leaders and all the independent medical experts were mistaken, or corrupt, or part of the conspiracy?

Skeptics who have devoted years studying the incredible saga that is the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath can lose sight of this common sense perspective. It is one that is even held by some astute observers who are not predisposed to automatically accept as true pronouncements of the state. In fact, it was the laconic articulation of precisely this perspective by Victor Navasky, the savvy and skeptical editor of The Nation, that inspired the authors to vastly expand a prior work into this essay.[5]

The event that had elicited Navasky’s observation was a visit by one of the authors to the offices of The Nation magazine in New York City on 13 September 1999.  That visit was arranged to allow some students of the Kennedy case an opportunity to share with the staff of the magazine some of the amazing new JFK evidence declassified during the 1990s. Besides Navasky, Hamilton Fish, a moderately large group of staffers, and Nation in-house JFK “expert,” Max Holland, attended.[6] A commodious conference room was devoted to more or less formal talks. Historian John Newman, researchers John Armstrong, Milicent Cranor and co-author Aguilar gave slide presentations.

At the conclusion of the author’s talk on the medical evidence, Navasky gave his head a skeptical shake. Was it really possible, Navasky wondered, that all the nationally recognized experts who had reviewed JFK's autopsy were wrong? Ramsey Clark, for one, has established his credentials as a willing critic of government. Yet he had never expressed doubts about the pro-Warren Commission findings of the eponymous panel of experts who had worked under his name investigating JFK’s autopsy findings when he was Attorney General in 1968. And since numerous other, independent forensic experts had agreed with the Warren Commission and the “Clark Panel” that JFK was struck only from behind, could Aguilar be right they were either wrong, or, even more improbably, party to a cover-up?

As usual, Navasky had cut to the heart of issue. After all, although Aguilar’s presentation had highlighted classified autopsy evidence, hadn’t these authorities rendered their verdicts after having reviewed all of it? And, though he was polite enough not to ask it, Navasky might also have wondered, Weren’t these authorities – professors of forensic pathology and radiology at the best universities in the United States – vastly better qualified than the ophthalmologist from San Francisco who was standing at The Nation’s podium?

It’s a plain fact that there is no shortage of expert opinion to support the theory Oswald did it. That includes the experts of the Warren Commission, the Clark Panel, the Rockefeller Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). And also, as will be shown, the Justice Department. This is not to say that support for the lone-gunman theory is unanimous. One of the HSCA’s forensic experts, Pittsburgh coroner Cyril Wecht, MD, JD, has been an unwavering Warren Commission skeptic. Yet despite his erudition, eloquence and determination, Warren loyalists have dismissed him as an “outlier” – as  someone who, despite solid credentials and good faith, simply refuses to see what is so obvious to all the other experts.

Most noteworthy among the experts who are cited by Warren loyalists is the aforementioned chairman of the House Select Committee’s panel of consulting forensic pathologists. “The President had been killed by a lone assassin,” Michael Baden, MD has written, adding, “Forensically, we had proved it beyond a reasonable doubt.” With his background as New York City medical examiner from 1960 to 1985 and as the current co-director of the Medico-Legal Investigative Unit of the New York State Police, his word can’t be easily dismissed. Baden, moreover, has numerous, accomplished allies, not only among his fellow forensic experts who consulted for the HSCA, but also those of the Rockefeller Commission and the Clark Panel.

JFK's casket being unloaded into a hearse at Andrews Air Force Base on the evening of November 22, 1963.
(White House Photo - LBJ Library)

By comparison, there are few authorities that side with Wecht. Though uncredentialed, perhaps the best known among them is David Lifton, a skeptic who proffers a conspiracy theory Wecht disdains. Author of the popular 1980 book, Best Evidence,[7] Lifton, who has no specific training or experience, disputed JFK’s autopsy findings because he said they differed so with the findings of the doctors who treated the President in Dallas. He agreed with the autopsy report that JFK’s injuries were different than those seen in Dallas, but he concluded the differences were so vast as to preclude an innocent explanation.

Lifton explained them by theorizing that JFK’s body had been intercepted en route to the morgue, so his wounds could be rearranged to make it appear JFK had been shot from the rear rather than from where he’d really been shot from – the front. In view of recent disclosures, however, Lifton’s thesis has lost some of its traction. From the 1990s-era work of the Assassinations Records Review Board, the differences in JFK’s wounds, as described by witnesses in Dallas and others in the Navy morgue, have all but vanished. The few differences that remain can be explained via a far less complicated and ambitious scenario.[8] [9]

What cannot be so easily explained, as we will see, is why the injuries that myriad witnesses at two different locations said they saw differ so from the wounds in JFK’s autopsy pictures, the now-controversial images that are said to support Oswald’s guilt. Furthermore, it has emerged that federal officials misstated witness accounts, apparently to falsely diminish the stark differences between the descriptions and the post mortem images. They also misrepresented the results of federal tests conducted to authenticate JFK’s autopsy images; although the government publicly touted the authenticity of the images, declassified documents show that the government kept secret the fact that the pictures had failed a key authentication test.

Besides Lifton, Wecht can also call upon the work of the respected forensics coroner of Larimer County, Colorado, Dr. Charles G. Wilbur. His 1978 book, “Medico-legal Investigation of the President John F. Kennedy Murder,” eloquently details some of the sticky medical/autopsy contradictions that cannot be easily brushed off the official explanation.[10] Another respected skeptic is John Nichols, MD, a University of Kansas professor of pathology who authored several articles challenging the Warren Commission’s findings. But since both Wilbur and Nichols have died, Wecht has few professionally trained allies who are still active on the medical front.

Among the few who still are active (in 2003+) are David Mantik, MD, Ph.D., a practicing radiation oncologist who holds a Ph.D. in physics, and who disputes JFK’s autopsy X-rays;[11] Arthur Snyder, Ph.D., a senior physicist at Stanford Linear Accelerator, who rejects the claim that Neutron Activation Analysis proves that the fragments found in JFK’s limousine came only from Oswald’s rifle;[12] and the physician who contributed to this essay.

Funeral casket on its way toward Arlington National Cemetery, November 25, 1963.
(White House Photo - JFK Library)

Given the complexity and technical nature of JFK’s medical/autopsy evidence, it may seem to the general reader that one has little recourse but to weigh the credentials of the authorities in deciding where the balance of truth lies. The balance of credible expertise seems to be tipped far in the direction of defenders of the Warren Commission. But credentials aren’t the only things worth putting on the scales.

At least some consideration needs to be paid to the weight of the evidence itself. Since these experts examined the case, significant new autopsy-related data has surfaced. At this remove from the assassination, at least two questions are still worth pondering: First, did the loyal majority approach the evidence they had with an open mind, giving it an unbiased evaluation? Second, would the same experts arrive at the same conclusions if they had seen the new evidence? These central issues are the subjects of the present section. They are the very heart of Victor Navasky’s important question.

A Peculiarly Inadequate Post Mortem

Although its inadequacies have been apparent from the outset, new files reveal that the Autopsy of the Century was even more inadequate, inexplicably inadequate, than had previously been supposed. While one good official investigation, say, like the Warren Commission’s, should have settled matters, in this case it didn’t. There were three additional, publicized probes: those of the so-called “Clark Panel” in 1968,[13] the Rockefeller Commission in 1975, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1978. And there was also another one conducted without public disclosure in 1966 and 1967 by the U.S. Justice Department. Yet despite the repeated investigations, there still remain glaring gaps in the evidence, and so at least some uncertainty about the ultimate truth.

For example, all five groups of investigators failed to question at least one key medical witness, the President’s personal physician, Admiral George Burkley. The admiral was the only physician who was intimately involved with both JFK’s emergency care in Dallas and with his autopsy at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. Yet he was not asked to testify by any of the investigators. The ironic tragedy of this omission is that Burkley had repeatedly said he believed there had been a conspiracy. And he had acted on his belief. As we will see, he discreetly passed his suspicions to the HSCA, only to be ignored.

The way this opportunity was lost, unfortunately, typified the manner in which several similar opportunities were lost: HSCA attorneys never asked Burkley in for an interview. They also kept word of his contact from the HSCA’s own physician consultants, the very authorities whose job it was to follow-up such leads. (Of course, even if Burkley had not approached the HSCA himself, curiosity alone should have prompted the forensic experts to call this key witness anyway.) Alas, Burkley’s case is only one of many surprises to come from the declassified record. But if there is one that is particularly unexpected, surely it is the schizoid nature of the HSCA.

Tipping the Scales Toward Oswald?

HSCA rendition of JFK autopsy photo.
(see HSCA vol 7, p. 104)

Although the HSCA, composed predominantly of lawyers, looked at the body of evidence and declared officially that they had palpated the pulse of conspiracy, the HSCA’s physician consultants, and the legal diagnosticians who worked the medical/autopsy part of the investigation, acted as if they disagreed with that diagnosis. The HSCA reported, for example, that, as per the autopsy photographs, there was no evidence of any damage to the backside of JFK’s head.

Drawing of JFK head wound made under direction of Dr. McClelland of Parkland Hospital, Dallas.
(see ARRB MD #264)

Those pictures show that the back of Kennedy’s head was without a blemish, except for a small red spot near the top of the back of the head. This spot, the HSCA decided, marked the site where the entering, fatal bullet had struck. The photos also seem to show a large blowout wound toward the right front part of JFK’s skull. The pictures were in stark contrast to the doctors who had treated JFK in Dallas, who had all said JFK’s gaping skull wound was not in front, but in the back.

To refute the Dallas doctors, the HSCA presented its own, better witnesses. The HSCA said that 26 witnesses who saw JFK’s autopsy had endorsed the photographs, and thus endorsed the theory a bullet had entered the back of JFK’s skull and blew out of the right front.[14] But, as we will show, the opposite was true: Declassified files prove that, by both word and diagram, autopsy witnesses had refuted the pictures, not endorsed them. What did the HSCA do? In addition to misreporting on them, it suppressed the witness interviews and the explicit autopsy diagrams they’d prepared. [As with its treatment of Dr. Burkley, not even the HSCA’s own autopsy experts were allowed to see the HSCA’s interviews with the autopsy witnesses.] Thus, witnesses who had actually challenged Oswald’s guilt were cited as corroborating it.

Suppressed drawing made for HSCA by James Sibert, an FBI agent who witnessed JFK's autopsy, showing a rear head wound. This and several other such drawings and statements were suppressed not only from the public but even from the HSCA's own forensic panel, and were misrepresented in the HSCA's published reports.
(see ARRB MD #85, p.9)

And there were other disturbing revelations in suppressed files, too. The HSCA also reported that its experts had authenticated the controversial autopsy pictures. Like its claim regarding the 26 autopsy witnesses, that wasn’t exactly true either. In a once-secret letter, the HSCA’s chief counsel Robert Blakey reported that tests by his experts had proved that JFK’s autopsy camera did not match Kennedy’s autopsy photos. Continuing the pattern set with Burkley and the inconvenient autopsy witnesses, that letter was similarly withheld from the gaze of the HSCA’s forensic experts and the public.

These discoveries are not without a touch of irony. D. Andy Purdy, JD was the HSCA counsel who had interviewed most of the pro-conspiracy autopsy witnesses. In 1994, he reported that, while the HSCA was sympathetic to conspiracy, and had honestly looked for medical/autopsy evidence for it, it couldn’t find any.[15] Sure enough, the medical/autopsy analysis the HSCA published in 1978 offered little grist for skeptics’ mills. But Purdy must have known there was more to the story. Declassified files prove that it was Purdy himself who had interviewed the autopsy witnesses. And it may even have been Purdy who chose to withhold these inconvenient interviews from the public, and even from the HSCA’s own forensic consultants whose job it was to evaluate autopsy evidence.

But Purdy wasn’t completely off base. He was quite right about the pro-conspiracy sympathies of some of the  HSCA investigators. He didn’t let on, however, that some didn’t start out that way. Notre Dame law professor Robert Blakey, for example, became a conspiracy convert. As he admitted in a Washington Post article, when Congressman Louis Stokes first offered him the job of HSCA chief counsel, Blakey warned Stokes that while he would keep his mind open, his “personal belief was that Oswald had acted alone.”[16] By the time he wound up his investigation, the evidence had convinced him otherwise.

It is prudent to resist the temptation to view the HSCA’s selective suppression of pro-conspiracy autopsy data (and Purdy’s misstatements) as proof the HSCA acted conspiratorially in bad faith, or that no HSCA statement is to be taken on face value. Although the proven deceptions put one on notice that HSCA claims must be viewed with at least some caution,  there may be a less sinister, if more complicated, explanation for some of the HSCA’s misbehavior.

Knowing now how complex and conflicted the subject is, it is apparent today that no investigative body ever had sufficient time to truly master the complexities of Kennedy’s labyrinthine autopsy evidence. (And that’s without taking into account the fact that there is new evidence that previous reviewers have never saw.) Against impossible time constraints, the officials struggled to discharge their duties. Perfectly understandable and unavoidable shortcuts appear to have been taken. Seemingly reasonable suppositions to complex questions were prematurely embraced, with evidence thereafter being filtered and massaged to fit.

The HSCA investigators’ burden wasn’t lightened by the fact there was august precedent for their autopsy examinations. The forensic pathology panelists and Purdy were revisiting a post mortem that had already been reexamined by three highly revered groups of experts: the members of the Rockefeller Commission, who in the mid 70s had derived the same conclusions as a group of experts who had worked in 1968, the Clark Panel, who, in turn, had weighed in on the work of the impeccable Warren Commissioners. The HSCA’s forensics group would surely have appreciated that challenging Kennedy’s original autopsy conclusions would have been as much a rebuke of the government’s reassuring solution to the assassination in 1964 as it would have been to the judgment and good faith of their professional friends and colleagues who had served on the Rockefeller Commission and the Clark Panel.

Finally, in handling JFK’s medical/autopsy evidence, the HSCA, the Rockefeller Commission, the Clark Panel and the Warren Commission didn’t help their cause by an evident unwillingness to admit uncertainty in the face of the conflicted and uncertain nature of some of the evidence. Consequently, some of the sweeping official pronouncements about JFK’s autopsy findings – regarding JFK’s wounds, the origins and timing of the shots, and the impressions of the autopsy witnesses, for example – have not withstood scrutiny, perhaps the casualties of overeager, hurried writing by men not fully familiar with the evidence.

JFK’S Wounds - A Primer

To comprehend the manner in which JFK’s medical/autopsy evidence has been repeatedly reinvestigated over the years, a brief review of the President’s wounding, and his wounds, is in order.

The Warren Commission concluded that two, and only two, bullets struck JFK, both fired from above and behind. The first struck the President in the upper back between the 210th and 225th frame of a home movie being shot by a bystander, Abraham Zapruder.[17] [A second investigation, that of the House Select Committee, later moved that first hit back to Zapruder frame 200 or earlier.] The bullet is then supposed to have exited Kennedy’s throat, and passed on to inflict all the wounds suffered by the man sitting directly in front of him, Governor John Connally. The bullet is supposed to have entered the governor’s back below the right armpit, pulverized a 10-cm segment of rib, and exited below his right nipple. It then entered the dorsal [or back] side of his lower forearm/wrist, fracturing bone, before it exited again from the volar surface of his wrist [the surface facing the palm]. It then, theoretically, entered his left thigh. Sometime after Connally arrived at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, this energetic but quite insignificantly deformed missile, derisively called “the magic bullet” by skeptics, is then supposed to have fallen out onto a stretcher. The only “hard” evidence of its passing consisted of X-rays showing a small fragment embedded in Connally’s thigh, and several more in his wrist.

Warren Commission exhibits 385 (left), 386 (center), and 388 (right). Produced under the direction of JFK autopsy physician Dr. James Humes, these drawings represent the Commission's view of the paths of two bullets that struck Kennedy.
(see Warren Commission Volume 16, CE 385, CE 386, and CE 388).

The second, fatal, bullet has two “official” paths. Based on the autopsy findings, the Warren Commission concluded that the fatal bullet had a low path from its entrance at base of the rear of JFK’s skull to the exit on the right side of his head.[18] But based on the first independent examination of autopsy photographs and X-rays by the Clark Panel in 1968, it was decided that, while it indeed had entered from behind, the fatal bullet had followed a distinctly different course: It had entered 10-cm higher than originally described by the autopsy surgeons and through a different bone. And it had exited further toward the front of JFK’s skull.

HSCA representation of path of the fatal bullet, entering 4 inches higher in the skull than the Warren version.
(see HSCA Vol 7, p. 125)

The Rockefeller Commission and the HSCA experts all agreed with the Clark Panel’s conclusion that the bullet had entered JFK’s skull high in the rear, not low as originally described in 1963. For students of the case, the difference is neither minor nor negligible. The back of the human skull measures approximately 12-cm, top to bottom. The supposed error, if indeed it was an error, means that three anatomic pathologists mistook the anatomy of the top of JFK’s skull for the bottom. That they mistook the high parietal bone for the lower, occipital bone. That “mistake” carries profound implications for the origin of the shot, and the identity of the assassin. If the examining pathologists, who were professors active in teaching resident physicians, were right that the bullet had entered low, and it is hard to imagine that three trained pathologists got it so wrong, the ballistics suggest Oswald could not have committed the crime.

Unfortunately, the autopsy report doesn’t close the case. It describes the entrance point imprecisely as “just above” the external occipital protuberance (EOP), the bony knob at the bottom of the rear of the skull. But just how far above the EOP wasn’t specified. It’s clear, though, that “just above” didn’t mean 10-cm above, a distance of more than 4 inches. The autopsists prepared diagrams for the Warren Commission of JFK’s wounds, and later labeled a skull for the HSCA, depicting in both cases the skull entrance wound as having been within 1-cm of the external occipital protuberance.[19] (See Figure 1)  Moreover, they later adamantly denied there was a wound of any kind at the higher location selected by the Clark Panel.[20]

The official conclusions regarding JFK’s wounds also pertinently include the fact that at the moment JFK was hit in the back – whether at Zapruder frame 224, as claimed by some Warren loyalists,[21] or earlier as concluded by the HSCA, which put the first shot at approximately 190[22] – the official reconstruction requires that the back wound of entrance must have been higher than the throat wound of exit. For Oswald was firing from above and behind the upright-seated President. Similarly, JFK’s rear skull wound could not have been as low on JFK’s skull as described by the autopsy team. As we will see, in 1964 government experiments reported by the Warren Commission proved that if Oswald had shot from above and behind, and had he struck JFK at the base of his skull, the bullet would not have blown out through the right side of Kennedy’s skull, but through his face, or perhaps even lower, from his neck.

The Completeness of Evidence

A final note should be added regarding the evidence investigators considered. As we will see, there are troubling gaps in the evidentiary record. An important, newly discovered gap was recently reported. It concerns original notes taken during JFK’s autopsy report by James H. Humes, MD, Kennedy’s chief pathologist and his forensics consultant, Pierre Finck, MD.

On August 2, 1998, the Associated Press reported that a group of government investigators, the Assassinations Records Review Board, had made a discovery about JFK’s autopsy notes. “Under oath [before the ARRB], Humes finally acknowledged under persistent questioning – in testimony that differs from what he told the Warren Commission – that he had destroyed both his notes taken at the autopsy and the first draft of the autopsy report.”[23] Humes had told the Warren Commission he’d incinerated a first draft of JFK’s autopsy protocol, but he’d said nothing about destroying autopsy notes taken by hand during the autopsy. In fact, he implied, apparently untruthfully, that all original notes had been preserved.

Besides his ARRB admission conflicting with his 1964 testimony, it also contradicted two affidavits he had signed shortly after the assassination, a fact even the ARRB may not have been aware of. Two days after JFK’s death, Humes “certified” over his signature that he had “destroyed by burning certain preliminary draft notes relating to” JFK’s autopsy,”[24] but that otherwise, “all working papers associated with [JFK’s autopsy] have remained in my personal custody at all times. Autopsy notes and the holograph draft of the final report were handed to Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Medical School, at 1700, 24 November 1963.”[25]

Certificate in which Dr. Humes admitted destroying "certain preliminary draft notes" related to JFK's autopsy. Only in 1996, did Humes finally admit under oath that, besides burning an early draft of JFK's autopsy report, he also burned original autopsy notes written on the night of the autopsy.
(see ARRB MD #9, and also his 1996 ARRB testimony, p. 128 - 139)

Thus, Humes admitted he’d destroyed “preliminary draft notes” that were written up while he worked at home drafting Kennedy’s autopsy report. But in his affidavit, the essence of which he repeated to the Warren Commission, he made no mention that he also had destroyed original working papers – autopsy notes. On the contrary. He left the impression he hadn’t. For he made a point in this same affidavit to distinguish between “autopsy notes” that he had “handed over,” and “preliminary draft notes,” which he incinerated. (Torching original autopsy notes, of course, would have been medico-legally frowned upon had it occurred in a civilian autopsy of even the most undistinguished murder victim.) Humes may have also destroyed the original, hand-written autopsy notes of his forensics-consulting expert, Pierre Finck MD.[26]

The Associated Press reported another, similar ARRB discovery: “In an affidavit, Leonard D. Saslaw (Ph.D.), a biochemist who worked at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda, Md., said that at lunch in the week following the assassination he overheard one of the autopsy doctors, Pierre Finck, ‘complain that he had been unable to locate the handwritten notes that he had taken during the autopsy … Dr. Finck elaborated to his companions, with considerable irritation, that immediately after washing up following the autopsy, he looked for his notes, and could not find them anywhere.’”

Autopsy face sheet prepared during the autopsy by Dr. Boswell. Note the presence of JFK's bloodstains on these notes. The explanation Dr. Humes gave for destroying other notes from the autopsy was that they were stained with the President's blood.
(see ARRB MD #1)

The original ARRB account added that, “Dr. Saslaw’s main concern with what he heard Dr. Finck say is that as a scientist, he is well aware that any observations which are not written down contemporaneously, but reconstructed from memory after the fact, are not likely to be as accurate or complete as the original observations were.”[27] The AP also reported that, “Finck told the board he couldn’t recall the lunchroom conversation.”[28] Yet Finck testified to the HSCA and to the ARRB that he had taken measurements and written notes himself, and that both his notes and measurements “were turned over to Dr. Humes.”[29] Those documents have vanished.

Ironically, as we will see, the explanation Humes gave for destroying the original notes – to forever deny possible sensationalists access to pages bespattered with the President’s blood – seems dubious at best. For Humes did not destroy all of the original autopsy notes; he preserved those of his Navy assistant, J. Thornton Boswell, MD. And just like those he supposedly destroyed because of JFK’s bloodstains, Boswell’s notes are also adorned with JFK’s blood.

Next: I-A. The First Investigation - The Warren Commission

[1] Stephen R. Weismann. Opening the Secret Files on Lumumba’s Murder. Washington Post, 7/21/02, p. B-3. [“Forty-one years ago. Lumumba, the only leader ever democratically elected in Congo, was delivered to his enemies, tortured and summarily executed … The conventional explanation of Lumumba’s death has been that he was murdered by Congolese rivals after earlier U.S. attempts to kill him, including a plot to inject toxins into his food or toothpaste, failed. In 1975, the U.S. Senate’s ‘Church Committee’ probed CIA assassination plots and concluded there was ‘no evidence of CIA involvement in bringing about the death of Lumumba.’ Not so. I have obtained classified U.S. government documents, including a chronology of covert actions approved by a National Security Council subgroup, that reveal U.S. involvement in – and significant responsibility for – the death of Lumumba, who was mistakenly seen by the Eisenhower administration as an African Fidel Castro.”]

[2] David Ruppe. Friendly Fire – Book: U.S. Military Drafted Plans to Terrorize U.S. Cities to Provoke War With Cuba,, available at: Original Joint Chiefs of Staff documents available for viewing on-line at The National Security Archive at George Washington University, see:

[3] "Overwhelming Evidence Oswald Was the Assassin" - Interview with Arlen Specter, Assistant Counsel, Warren Commission. U. S. News and World Report, 10/10/66, p. 50.

[4] Baden, Michael M. Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner. New York:  Ivy Books, published by Ballantine Books, 1989, p. 5.

[5] Gary Aguilar, Kathy Cunningham. How Three Investigations into JFK’s Autopsy Evidence Got It Wrong. Probe Magazine, Part I: Vol. 4, #3, March-April, 1997. Part II: Vol.4, #4, May-June, 1997.

[6] Author Aguilar has written about Warren Commission defender Max Holland in an essay entitled. Holland Rescues the Warren Commission, and The Nation. Originally published in Probe Magazine in 2001.

[7] David Lifton. Best Evidence. New York: Carroll & Graf edition first published in 1988.

[8] See: The Converging Medical Case for Conspiracy in the Death of JFK by Gary Aguilar. In: Murder in Dealey Plaza, edited by James Fetzer, Chicago: Catfeet Press, 2000.

[9] “However, an aspect of Lifton’s thesis – that Kennedy’s body was removed from the ceremonial casket in transit from Dallas to Washington, and delivered to Bethesda in an alternate casket – has received unexpected corroboration.  It came in a recently released, taped HSCA interview from 1978 with autopsy witness Richard Lipsey. The senior aide to Gen. Wehle responsible for moving Kennedy’s body from Andrews Air Force Base to the medical hospital, Lipsey described in detail that there was an empty “decoy” hearse and casket that arrived at the front of the morgue with Jackie. Meanwhile, Lipsey said he was among those who unloaded the President’s body from an alternate limousine and casket. The purpose of the charade was to avoid the crowds at Bethesda.  [Audio available online at:]

[10] Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas publisher.

[11] See Mantik’s insightful essays in: Assassination Science, edited by James Fetzer, Chicago: Catfeet Press, 1998, 1999; and Murder in Dealey Plaza, edited by James Fetzer, Chicago: Catfeet Press, 2000, 2001.

[12] See: Case Still Open – Skepticism and the Assassination of JFK by Arthur and Margaret Snyder. In: Skeptic Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 4, 1998, p. 51ff.

[13] Named for then-Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who established the first publicly acknowledged re-examination.

[15] Coalition on Political Assassinations conference in Washington, D.C., 1994.

[16] G. Robert Blakey. The Mafia and JFK’s Murder – Thirty years later, the question remains: Did Oswald act alone? The Washington Post National Weekly Edition, November 15 – 21, p. 23.

[17] Report of the Warren Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964, p. 110.

[18] Report of the Warren Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964, p. 543. (WR) [“The fatal missile entered the skull above and to the right of the external occipital protuberance. A portion of the projectile traversed the cranial cavity in a posterior-anterior direction ... A portion of the projectile made its exit through the parietal bone on the right carrying with it portions of cerebrum, skull and scalp.”]

[19] Warren Commission Exhibits #386 and #388, and HSCA Vol.7:114-115.

[20] HSCA testimony of autopsists James H. Humes, MD and J. Thornton Boswell, MD, HSCA, Vol. 7:246 – 260.

[21] Gerald Posner, Case Closed. New York: Random House, 1993, p. 330.

[23] Mike Feinsalber, “JFK Autopsy Files Are Incomplete.Associated Press, August 2, 1998, 11:48 a.m. EDT.

[24] See “CERTIFICATE” signed by “J. J. Humes,” 11/24/63, and cosigned by George Burkley, MD. Reproduced in: Weisberg, Harold, Post Mortem. Frederick, Maryland, 1975, p. 524. This document was published by the Assassination Records Review Board as ARRB MD # 9.

[25] See “CERTIFICATE” signed by “J. J. Humes,” 11/24/63, and cosigned by George Burkley, MD,. Reproduced in: Weisberg, Harold, Post Mortem. Frederick, Maryland, 1975, p. 525. This document was published by the Assassination Records Review Board as ARRB MD # 10.

[26] See essay “The Medical Case for Conspiracy” by Gary Aguilar and Cyril Wecht in the book Trauma Room One by Charles Crenshaw, New York: Paraview Press, 2001.

[27] ARRB MD # 254; ARRB contact report of interview with Dr. Leonard D. Saslaw, Ph.D., 4/25/96.

[28] Mike Feinsiber, “JFK Autopsy Files Are Incomplete.” AP, Sunday, August 2, 1998; 11:48 a.m. EDT.