THE HEAD SHOT FROM THE FRONT
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Revised and Expanded on 1/24/02As more has been learned about President Kennedy's head wounds, it has become increasingly apparent that he was struck in the head by a bullet that was fired from in front of the limousine. This, of course, contradicts the Warren Commission's lone-gunman scenario that all the shots were fired from behind, by a lone assassin. This shot from the front hit the President's head in the area of the right temple and then exited the right rear part of his skull, leaving a large, orange-sized defect in the right occipital-parietal region. (The term "right occipital-parietal" is another way of saying "the right rear part of the head.") The evidence of this frontal shot to the head includes the following:
* Massive eyewitness testimony, much of it given by experienced doctors and nurses who saw the body at Parkland Hospital or during the autopsy, that there was a large hole in the right rear part of Kennedy's head.
* Eyewitness accounts of a small entry-like wound in the President's right temple.
* Eyewitness accounts of a bullet striking the area of the right temple.
* Expert analysis of the right frontal spray and explosion seen in the Zapruder film.
* The autopsy x-rays of the President's skull.
Let us begin with the testimony concerning the large defect in the right occipital-parietal region of President Kennedy's head:
The Large Defect
The location of the large defect is a crucial issue. Warren Commission (WC) supporters claim that the large head wound, i.e., the exit wound, was on the right side of the head--not in the back at all, but strictly on the right side. They also maintain that there was substantial damage to the top of the head. For the most part, they further claim that all of the witnesses who reported seeing a large defect in the right rear part of the head were simply mistaken. This view was tenuous from the moment it was espoused.
With the release of the previously sealed interviews conducted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) with the autopsy witnesses, among other things, it is patently untenable. The transcripts of these interviews show that virtually every single autopsy witness saw the same large head wound described by the medical personnel at Parkland Hospital.
A number of the doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital, where the President was taken immediately after the shooting, got a good look at his head injuries. Here is some of what they had to say about the large defect in the back of the head:
* Dr. Kemp Clark:
. . . a bullet had gone in and out of the back of his head causing external lacerations and loss of brain tissue. . . . a large, gaping loss of tissue . . . back of his head . . . principally on his right side, towards the right side.
. . . a large wound in the right occipitoparietal region, from which profuse bleeding was occurring.* Dr. Ronald Coy Jones:
. . . what appeared to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull.* Nurse Diana Bowron:
BOWRON. There was a gaping wound in the back of his head.
Q. So, in this massive hole, was there a flap of scalp there, or was scalp actually gone?
BOWRON. It was gone. Gone. There was nothing there. Just a big gaping hole.
Q. We're talking about scalp first, and then bone, right?
BOWRON. Yeah. There might have been little clumps of scalp, but most of the bone over the hole, there was no bone there.Nurse Bowron cleaned and then packed the large defect with gauze squares. She said in a recent interview that she vividly recalls that the wound was in the right rear part of the head.
* Dr. Jackie Hunt:
Q. So, the exit wound would be in the occipital-parietal area?
DR. HUNT. Yeah, uh-huh. It would be somewhere in the right posterior part of it. . . .* Dr. Malcolm Perry:
. . . a large avulsive [exploded] injury of the right occipitoparietal area.* Dr. Charles Baxter:
. . . a large gaping wound in the back of the skull.* Dr. Gene Akin:
. . . the back of the right occipitoparietal portion of his head was shattered with brain substance protruding.* Dr. Robert McClelland:
As I took the position at the head of the table . . . I was in such a position that I could very closely examine the wound, and I noted that the right posterior portion of the skull had been blasted . . . a third or so, at least, of the brain tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue had been blasted out.* Dr. Charles Carrico:
The wound that I saw was a large gaping wound, located in the right occipitoparietal area. I would estimate it to be about 5 to 7 cm. in size, more or less circular, with avulsions of the calvarium and scalp tissue.Some WC supporters claim that the 1988 NOVA documentary Who Shot President Kennedy? shows that all of the Parkland doctors and nurses who described a right-rear defect were mistaken. This is a very weak assertion, especially in light of the fact that released HSCA interview files prove that witness after witness at the autopsy saw the same right-rear defect.
NOVA only interviewed four of the Parkland doctors. After viewing what was represented to them as the JFK autopsy photos, three of the doctors placed the wound more to the side of the head than they had previously. One of the doctors, Dr. McClelland, emerged from viewing the photos and indicated they showed the wound where he originally placed it, in the right rear part of the head. We do not know what pictures the doctors were shown, or if they even viewed the same photographs. Dr. McClelland said the large right-rear defect was visible in some of the photos he examined at the National Archives for the NOVA program.
It's easy to understand what might have caused the three other doctors to change their minds. At the time they saw the photos at the National Archives, it had been 25 years since the shooting. In earlier interviews, each of them had placed the wound in the right rear part of the head. Yet, when they saw the pictures, which they naturally accepted as authentic, they simply assumed they were somehow mistaken about the defect's location.
However, as mentioned, Dr. McClelland did not change his recollection of the wound's location after seeing the photos. It's worth mentioning at this point that according to Veronica Cass, a leading expert on photo retouching, the famous autopsy pictures of the back of the head, which show that region intact, have been altered. Professional photographer and photo lab tech Steve Mills has also identified indications of tampering in these pictures. It is clear from the released files alone that there was a large defect in the back of the head. Even the autopsy report states that there was damage to the occipital area, yet none appears in the autopsy pictures of the back of the head. We now know from the released files that one of the autopsy doctors, when interviewed by the HSCA, even questioned how the photos of the back of the head had been established as having been made during the autopsy!
In recent interviews some of the Dallas doctors reportedly changed their minds about the large defect's location. However, these same doctors clearly said in previous interviews, some of which were given under oath to federal investigators, that the wound was in the right rear part of the head. Moreover, to date, not a single Parkland nurse who saw the head wound has "changed her mind" about where the defect was located.
What about the witnesses at the autopsy? What did they see? Several of those witnesses have given interviews to private researchers. In addition, the released files include the statements these witnesses made to HSCA investigators concerning the large defect. Almost all of the witnesses at the autopsy said the large defect was in the back of the skull. Who are some of these crucial witnesses?
* Dr. Robert Karnei, who assisted with the autopsy.
* Floyd Riebe, one of the photographers at the autopsy.
* James Jenkins, a Navy medical technician who assisted one of the autopsy pathologists during the autopsy.
* Jan Gail Rudnicki, a lab technician who was present during part of the autopsy.
* John Stringer, one of the photographers at the autopsy.
* Tom Robinson, the mortician. He reassembled the President's skull after the autopsy. He reports that there was still a visible defect in the back of the head even after the inclusion of some late-arriving skull fragments from Dallas.
* Joe Hagen, the mortician's supervisor. Hagen got a very good look at the large head wound, and reports that it was in the back of the skull.
* Jerrol Custer, a Navy radiographic technician who took x-rays at the autopsy.
* General Phillip Wehle, commander of the Military District of Washington, D.C., who was present at the autopsy.
* Dr. John Ebersole, the radiologist at the autopsy.
Secret Service Agent Clint Hill was in a unique position to report on the location of the large defect. SSA Hill got a close-up look at the wound as he was riding on the back of limousine on the way to Parkland Hospital. In addition, Agent Hill was present in the trauma room where Parkland doctors were trying to save JFK's life. Then, hours later in Washington, D.C., Agent Hill was called to the morgue at Bethesda Hospital for the express purpose of viewing the President's wounds. And where did Agent Hill say the large defect was located? He said it was in the right rear part of the head. Newsman Roy Stamps saw Kennedy's body in the limousine at Parkland Hospital shortly before it was taken inside. He said,
I rushed up and saw Kennedy lying in the car on his side. His foot was hanging over the side of the car. The back of his head was gone.Nurse Doris Nelson was the Emergency Room supervisor at the time of the shooting. She assisted in treating the President, and helped prepare his body for placement in the coffin. When asked about one of the autopsy photos which show the back of the head intact, she replied,
It's not true. . . . There wasn't even hair back there. It was blown away. All that area was blown out.General Godfrey McHugh, one of Kennedy's top aides and was in attendance at the autopsy. He got a very good look at the President's head wounds. McHugh unmistakably placed the large defect in the back of the head. When asked by to define what he meant by "back of the head," McHugh replied,
The portion that is in the back of the head, when you're lying down in the bathtub, you hit the back of the head.An Entry Wound in the Right Temple
Some of the Dallas doctors described an entry wound in the left temple. Researchers have long suspected that those doctors, in the rush and stress of the moment, simply confused their left with Kennedy's left, and that what they were really describing was an entry wound in the right temple.
Tom Robinson, the mortician who reassembled the President's skull after the autopsy, has stated that he saw a small hole in one of the temples, and that he believes it was in the right temple.
Patrolman Hurchel Jacks saw Kennedy's body in the limousine at Parkland Hospital before the body was taken inside. In a formal report, he said, "it appeared that the bullet had struck him above the right ear or near the temple."
During a news conference at Parkland Hospital, White House press secretary Malcolm Kilduff was asked to describe where the bullet entered, he replied,
Dr. Burkley [Kennedy's personal physician] told me it is a simple matter . . . of a bullet right through the head. . . . It is my understanding that it entered in the temple, the right temple.In a picture that has long been famous among researchers, Kilduff is seen to illustrate his answer by pointing to his own right temple. Veteran reporter Seth Kantor attended this press conference, and in his notes he wrote that the bullet had "entered right temple." At 1:47, CST, about fifteen minutes after Kilduff's press conference, UPI transmitted the following bulletin:
President Kennedy was shot in the right temple. "It was a simple matter of a bullet right through the head," said Dr. George Burkley, White House Medical Officer.Minutes later, NBC anchorman Chet Huntley repeated this statement on national television. Press sources quoted an unidentified bystander outside Parkland Hospital as saying, "I could see a hole in the President's left [from viewer's perspective] temple and his head and hair were bathed in blood." This was very probably the same small temple-entry hole that was described by some of the Parkland doctors and that was filled with wax by Tom Robinson.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer matter-of-factly reported that "President Kennedy was shot in the right temple." The Washington Post said the President "was shot at 12:30 CST . . . by an assassin, who sent a rifle bullet crashing into his right temple."
When interviewed on ABC's "20/20," Dr. Charles Crenshaw, one of the Parkland doctors who treated the President, stated that the bullet entered in the area of the right temple and exited the right rear part of the head.
In the released files we read that Dr. John Ebersole, the radiologist at the autopsy, told HSCA investigators that he believed the entry wound was on the side of the head, that the bullet "would have come from the side."
James Curtis Jenkins, a Navy medical technician who assisted with the autopsy, has told researchers that upon seeing the President's head wounds, he formed the impression that a bullet had entered the right temple and had exited the right rear part of the skull. He reports that he saw what appeared to be metal smears in the right temple, and that the large wound in the back of the head looked like an exit wound:
And the opening and the way the bone was damaged behind the head would have definitely been a type of exit wound. The reason I have said this is that I saw this before in other wounds and it was very striking.Accounts of a Bullet Striking the Right Temple
Given the evidence considered above, it's not surprising to learn that witnesses who were located near the President's limousine during the shooting reported seeing him struck in the area of the right temple by a bullet.
Bill Newman was standing between the limousine and the grassy knoll. Reported Newman, "I was looking directly at him when he was hit in the side of the head." Similarly, Marilyn Sitzman, who was standing only 75 feet away when the shot struck, said, "And the next thing I remembered clearly was the shot that hit . . . him on the side of the face . . . above the ear and to the front . . . between the eye and the ear."
The Right-Frontal Explosion in the Zapruder Film
Although the right-frontal explosion seen in frames 313-320 of the Zapruder film appears to have been enhanced somewhat, the explosion and the resulting spray seem to indicate that the bullet was fired from the front. Ballistic experts, criminalists, and a former sniper who have studied the film believe the right-frontal explosion indicates the shot came from the front.
Sherry Gutierrez, for example, a certified crime scene analyst and a consultant in the field of bloodstain pattern analysis, studied the blood splatter in the head-shot sequence and has concluded, "I am convinced the head injury to President Kennedy was the result" of a shot fired "from the right front of the President." Gutierrez observes that the spray of blood and brain that spews out from the right temple in the Z film is back spatter forcefully expressed from an entry wound back toward the source of the energy.
After carefully studying the Z film, a former Marine sniper Craig Roberts is certain the shot was fired from the front. Roberts says the right-frontal explosion and forward effusion are characteristic of the impact of a high-velocity missile on a human skull.
Yet another expert who has reached this conclusion is Massad Ayoob, a police trainer and firearms journalist who has taught courses on the effects of bullet on human bodies in police instructor schools and medical institutions. Ayoob believes the head-shot sequence in the Z film is not very consistent with a shot from behind, but rather that it is "far more consistent with an explosive wound of entry with a small-bore, hypervelocity rifle bullet traveling between 3,000 and 4,000 fps."
Ballistics expert Dr. Roger McCarthy of Failure Analysis, Inc., testified at the 1992 ABA mock Oswald trial that the head-shot sequence was indicative of a shot from the right front.
President Kennedy’s Skull X-Rays
Dr. Randy Robertson, a highly qualified radiologist, was allowed to study the original autopsy x-rays at the National Archives. After doing so, Dr. Robertson came away convinced that the x-rays showed evidence that two bullets had struck the skull, and that one of them entered from the right front.
Dr. Robertson is by no means alone in finding evidence in the President's skull x-rays of a shot from the front. For example, Dr. Joseph Riley, an expert in neuroanatomy, says the skull x-rays, along with other autopsy evidence, demonstrate "conclusively that John Kennedy was struck in the head by two bullets, one from the rear and one from the front." Among other things, doctors and radiologists have keyed on two separate fragment trails in the x-rays. Many researchers believe the rear entry wound was "relocated" by such a huge distance in an attempt to bring the supposed lone entry point at least somewhat into line with the higher trail of fragments seen in the x-rays. But that leaves the lower trail of fragments unexplained, unless, of course, one posits another shot to the head.
Dr. David Mantik, a radiation oncologist and physicist, is another doctor who has had the opportunity to study the original autopsy x-rays at the National Archives, and who has likewise concluded they show that two bullets struck the President in the skull, one from the front. Dr. Mantik notes that there is a "notch" in the right frontal bone, over the lateral orbit. "Such missing bone," says Dr. Mantik, "fits very well with a frontal entry at exactly this site." In addition, Dr. Mantik, in agreement with other experts, has observed that the two trails of fragments seen in the x-rays prove that two missiles must have struck the skull.
The autopsy x-rays contain additional evidence of a frontal shot. Wound ballistics expert Dr. Larry Sturdivan told the HSCA that if an exploding or frangible bullet had struck the skull, it "definitely" would have left a cloud of metal fragments close to the point of entrance:
Mr. MATHEWS. Mr. Sturdivan, taking a look at JFK exhibit F-53, which is an X-ray of President Kennedy's skull, can you give us your opinion as to whether the President may have been hit with an exploding bullet?
Mr. STURDIVAN. . . . In those cases, you would definitely have seen a cloud of metallic fragments very near the entrance wound. (1 HSCA 401)Dr. Sturdivan was seemingly unaware of the fact that on the unenhanced autopsy x-rays, a cloud of fragments is visible in the right frontal region, which would indicate that a frangible bullet struck in that area. Apparently Dr. Sturdivan only examined the enhanced x-rays and not the original x-rays. Historian Dr. Michael Kurtz comments on Dr. Sturdivan's testimony:
Sturvidan also stated that Kennedy was not struck in the front of the head by an exploding bullet fired from the grassy knoll. The reason, Sturdivan declared, was that the computer-enhanced x-rays of Kennedy's skull do not depict "a cloud of metallic fragments very near the entrance wound." In cases where exploding bullets impact, he asserted that "you would definitely have seen" such a cloud of fragments in the x-ray. Sturdivan's remarks betrayed both his own ignorance of the medical evidence and the committee's careful manipulation of that evidence. Sturdivan saw only the computer-enhanced x-ray of the skull, not the original, unretouched x-rays. Had he seen the originals, he would have observed a cloud of metallic fragments clustered in the right front portion of the head. Furthermore, the close-up photograph of the margins of the large wound in the head shows numerous small fragments. The Forensic Pathology Panel itself noted the presence of "missile dust" near the wound in the front of the head. One of the expert radiologists who examined the x-rays noticed "a linear alignment of tiny metallic fragments" located in the "posterior aspect of the right frontal bone." The chief autopsy pathologist, Dr. James J. Humes, remarked about the numerous metallic fragments like grains of sand scattered near the front head wound. The medical evidence, then, definitely proves the existence of a cloud of fragments in the right front portion of Kennedy's head, convincing evidence, according to Sturdivan, that an exploding bullet actually did strike the president there.SOURCES:
Act of Treason, by Mark North, pp. 383-387, 406-408. Reports of a wound in the right wound.
Best Evidence, by David Lifton, pp. 43-48, 322-331. Large wound in the back of head.
Cover-Up, by Stewart Galanor, pp. 17-27. Witnesses at the autopsy saw same large back-of-head wound that the Dallas witnesses saw.
Crime of the Century, by Michael Kurtz, pp. 177-178. Dr. Kurtz on Sturdivan's testimony and a right-frontal shot.
Killing Kennedy, by Harrison Edward Livingstone, pp. 90-93, 236-265, 298-305, 351-353. Descriptions of large head wound from released files.
Killing the Truth, by Harrison Edward Livingstone, pp. 156, 682-695. Massad Ayoob on the right-frontal explosion as impact of frontal shot, large wound in back of head, small hole in one of the temples.
"The JFK Case: What Does the Blood Tell Us," The Assassination Chronicles, December 1995, by Sherry Gutierrez, pp. 45-49. Blood spray indicates frontal shot.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael T. Griffith holds a Master’s degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from American Military University, a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force. He also holds an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College. He is a graduate in Arabic and Hebrew of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas. In addition, he has completed Advanced Hebrew programs at Haifa University in Israel and at the Spiro Institute in London, England. He is the author of five books on Mormonism and ancient texts, including How Firm A Foundation, A Ready Reply, and One Lord, One Faith. He is also the author of a book on the JFK assassination titled Compelling Evidence (JFK Lancer, 1996).