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The authors didn't do their homework
, November 3, 2012
This review is from: Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot (Hardcover)
O'Reilly and Dugard write a riveting narrative interweaving the lives of President Kennedy, his brother Robert, Lee Harvey Oswald and Johnson and all the important people and events surrounding the Kennedy presidency. As an historical narrative, the reader is drawn closer and closer to the day of the assassination and follows the lives and events of the period involving the two principals, John Kennedy and Oswald, as the horrible day draws near. The narrative proceeds in a manner which would indicate the authors have a strong control of the facts of both the personal lives of the two men but also of the events of the era.
Then we come to the assassination itself. According to the authors, Oswald is already at 12:14 p.m. standing at the sixth-floor window holding his rifle diagonally across his body. Shooting standing up, Oswald fires three shots, two of which hit the President -- one in the "back of his lower neck" and another "travels all the way through the brain and out the front of the skull." Kennedy's hand reflexively goes to the top of his head. "But now the top of his head is gone."
The plausibility of their narrative of Oswald-- their interpretation of his life, his motives and particularly his actions that day, in fact depend on the accuracy of their claims of the nature of the President's wounding, and it is here that neither author has done his homework. The two best sources we have for the actual nature of the President's wounds as first viewed would be the depositions of the Parkland doctors and nurses, their contemporaneous notes, and the earliest interviews of them, the latter of which are found in David Lifton's Best Evidence. It is well-known that at the press conference attending the announcement of Kennedy's death, the transcript of which the WC did not publish, that three times Dr. Perry is quoted as saying the wound in the front of Kennedy's throat was an entrance wound, the report of which went out through the UPI at 3:10 CST. Later on Nov 26 Dr. Kemp Clark would tell the New York Times the bullet entered Kennedy's neck, "ranged downward, and did not exit." The first doctor to see the wound, Dr. Carrico, also described the the wound as a "small penetrating wound of the anterior neck in the lower one-third." Before the Warren Commission, Nurse Henchcliff made the same observation. In his WC deposition, Dr. Ronald Jones said "The hole was very small and relatively clean-cut as you would see in a bullet that is entering rather than exiting a patient." Dr. Chrenshaw in his book Conspiracy of Silence p. 79 also identified the wound as one of entry."There was no doubt in my mind about that wound. I had seen dozens of them in the emergency room."
Because Perry performed a tracheotomy incision over the wound, an incision he told Lifton was 2-3 centimeters in 1966, at the Bethesda autopsy the wound was not recognized as such and in the FBI autopsy report by agents Sibert and O'Neill is unmentioned. Instead the FBI report describes Humes probing a shallow back wound right where the death certificate places it: at the level of the third thoracic vertebra. Corroborating the FBI reports are interviews (by Lifton and Law) of personnel at Bethesda who witnessed attempts at probing the wound, including James Curtis Jenkins and Paul O'Connor. Significantly, the neck area was not dissected and on Friday night the shallow back wound represented all that was known about Kennedy's non-fatal wounding. William Law's book, In the Eye of History, contains extensive interviews with the FBI agents on this very point. Clint Hill is brought to the morgue late at night, approximately 2:45 a.m., to verify the location of this wound, and he verifies its location as 6 inches down from the top of the shoulder, consistent with the death certificate.
The Warren Commission, however, attempted to erase the shoulder wound from history. It did not call FBI agents Sibert and O'Neill as witnesses nor publish their autopsy report in the 26 volumes; instead they squirreled it to the National Archives. In a very bold lie, the report consigns the non-transiting shoulder wound as mere speculation early in the autopsy. But the FBI report, the witnesses to Humes' probing of the wound, and Clint Hill's late night verification of its location are a matter or record.
It is only later, and probably Saturday morning, after the body has left the morgue and out of reach of the autopsy doctors, that Dr. Humes learns there is bullet wound in the front of Kennedy's throat, and this has to be accounted for. He admits burning a draft of the original autopsy, and by Sunday, the shallow back wound will rise to become a transiting neck wound, with a bullet entering Kennedy just to the right of the spine, exiting the midline of the throat without hitting any vertebrae, and proceeding onward to to hit Connally, destroy 5 inches of rib, shatter his right wrist, and end up in his thigh, all with little deformation or loss of metal. Thus was born the "magic bullet," required to account for a wound that never existed, and to conceal a wound that everyone at Bethesda saw, reported by the FBI and on Kennedy's own death certificate.
Now on to the head wound.
The first to see the head wound were Jackie Kennedy and Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent who climbed aboard the limo before it sped off to Parkland hospital. Hill: "The right rear portion of his head was missing. It was lying in the rear seat of his car." O'Reilly claims, in a statement without foundation in the autopsy report, official x-rays or photos, that a bullet entering the skull exploded "the thin wall of bone as it exists the front of the skull." But what does Jackie tell the WC? Jackie: "From the front there was nothing...but from the back you could see you know, you were trying to hold his hair on and his skull on."
And what was observed at Parkland corrobrates Clint Hill and Jackie Kennedy, the first witnesses. In his WC testimony, Dr. McClelland: "I was in a position that I could very closely examine the head wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull and been extremely blasted." The bones in the right rear were sprung open "in such a way that you could actually look down into the skull cavity itself and see that probably a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue, posterior cerebral and some of the cerebellar tissue had been blasted out." Dr. Jones described before the WC an exit wound in the rear of the skull. Dr. Peters described "a large defect in the occiput," and gave a more precise description to Lifton (p. 324, Best Evidence) which stressed how far back in the head the wound was. Dr. Chrenshaw, present in Trauma Room 1, drew diagrams of the wound for the ARRB consistent with the above descriptions.
But what of the author's contention that the top of Kennedy's head was gone, and the bullet exited the front of Kennedy's skull? No such wounds were reported at Parkland. Upon entering Trauma Room 1, nurse Audrey Bell had to ask Dr. Perry where the wound was in Kennedy's head, whereupon Perry turned Kennedy's head to the left, revealing the right rear posterior wound. Her recollection that the top of the skull and front were entirely intact is shared unanimously by those at Parkland in their earliest statements. The Parkland verdict: Kennedy was shot from the front, and the body told the story unambiguously. The face was clear, the bones in the back of the head sprung open, with no obvious injury to the top of the skull.
So what does this do to O'Reilly's 300 plus page artifice? It tears it down like a house of cards. The problems with conflicting medical evidence is so great in this case whole volumes have been devoted to it, and the authors simply didn't do their homework. Those first on the scene and able to describe the President's wounds exonerate Oswald as Kennedy's murderer. The case is much too deep and complicated for a popular book such as this, and frankly, it never should have been written. The authors are simply in well over their heads. For a better picture of the medical evidence, it is still hard to improve upon Best Evidence; one would do well to read Doug Horne's 5 volume work Inside the ARRB and William Law's In the Eye of History. These give a more complete picture of the strange and distrubing picture that emerges from the events following Kennedy's murder. There is so much more to the story that has to be told.
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