Treason doth never prosper, what’s the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.
—MICHAEL FARRINGTON, 16th Century poet
A Short Ride on Elm
The lead cars in a parade must slow down after each turn. Otherwise an increasingly larger gap develops between the cars following, making the last car whip around the corners at a high rate of speed in order to catch up. The President’s limousine had turned two corners in the last block as it arrived at Dealey Plaza, and Greer, the driver, had to slow it down even more. The car was moving at just a little over eleven miles an hour as it reached the Texas School Book Depository.
Then it passed the old red brick book depository. The car was thirty feet past the building, then fifty. The rifle shots, clustered together like strung fire crackers, split the air. In six seconds it was all over.
Now the lies would begin. The government’s lies would be unending, each failing lie shored up by two others, then six others, than a dozen. A galaxy of lies would be constructed to pacify the American people and to endeavor to confuse the rest of the world. Distinguished men from each branch of the government would authenticate the lies. The media would race each lie around the world, performing this service not because the media are evil but because it was inconceivable to the publishers and editors that the government of the United States of America had descended to a point where its leaders would lie in concert to conceal from the people the truth about the President’s assassination.
But we had reached such a point, and no one—the men in government least of all—seemed able to cope with it.
Conversely, whenever the truth began to come into view, ever more certainly, the government would counterattack, denouncing each bearer of truth. As time went on, there were fewer and fewer men willing to bear the truth or even to discuss it.
The first shot struck John Kennedy in the front of his throat, and he tried to clutch at the wound with both hands. The governor of Texas, sitting in front of him, started to turn and look back at him, when a shot from above and behind entered his back.
As his wife testified before the Warren Commission, Governor Connally cried out: “My God! They’re going to kill us all!” Later, however, when subpoenaed by the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office, the governor issued a press release indicating that, after reflection, it was his conclusion that they were being shot at by a lone assassin.
The third shot struck the President in the back and caused him to fall forward slightly. The evidence indicated that this shot came from a different point of origin than the shot which struck Governor Connally in the back, entering the President’s body at a different horizontal angle.
Now, once more from the front, from the right front in the vicinity of the grassy knoll, came the final shot. The bullet tore off the top of the President’s head in a red spray of blood. A piece of his skull flew off and landed in the grass to the left rear of the limousine. The force of the shot threw the President violently backward onto Mrs. Kennedy who was at his left.
Then it was all over.
The Secret Service, to the last man, stayed with the limousine and rode on to the hospital like inscrutable pallbearers.
The book depository, an old building distinguished only by its unattractiveness, still had no connection with the fatal shot which had just struck the President from his right front. The depository was well behind the limousine at the time of the fatal shot and the United States had not yet begun its historic venture into the rewriting of history.
Among the two witnesses having the clearest view of what happened to the President of the United States were Richard Randolph Carr and William Newman. Carr was on the upper floor of a building which permitted him to look down on the scene. Newman was standing ten or fifteen feet away from the President’s limousine when the President received the fatal shot. Their observations of what happened to the President were representative of the majority of persons who observed the assassination. Inasmuch as the Warren Commission did not call either one of these men, calling instead those few witnesses who did not observe clearly what happened, parts of their testimony will be quoted in the interest of bringing to clear view the long-hidden truth.
What was seen and heard by Richard Randolph Carr, who was then standing on the seventh floor of an unfinished building a block away, conforms with what was seen and heard by most witnesses in a position to observe. Carr had an unusually good background to be a witness to gunfire, having served in combat with the Fifth Ranger Battalion in North Africa and at Anzio. Carr heard three shots coming from the grassy knoll, one right after another. He heard a fourth shot come from a completely different part of Dealey Plaza.
In considering Mr. Carr’s description of the locale, keep in mind that among the assembled eyesores of Dealey Plaza was a long, white, cement arcade. The shots struck the President as his car passed in front of it. At the eastern end of the cement arcade was the book depository, to which the federal government would dedicate all its power in an effort to change the facts and convert the building into the assassin’s lair. At the western end, toward the overpass, was the grassy knoll, in the vicinity of which Julia Ann Mercer had seen a young man with a rifle climb down from a truck driven by Jack Ruby.
GARRISON: Can you recognize the cement arcade in the aerial
GARRISON: Now, are you able to recall from which ends of the cement arcade the three shots came from? Was it from the end towards the Depository or the end towards the overpass?
CARR: At the end towards the overpass, right here.
GARRISON: Let the record show that Mr. Carr just indicated—would you point your ruler up there?—let the record show Mr. Carr is indicating an area on the grassy knoll in the vicinity of the picket fence.
THE COURT: Let it be noted in the record.
Mr. Carr earlier had stated that, because of the picket fence and the dense foliage on the trees, it was impossible to see the men on the grassy knoll behind the fence. During the actual shooting, however, he did observe one of the bullets ripping through the grass of Dealey Plaza. Inasmuch as the bullet’s path was virtually opposite to the route a bullet would take if fired by a lone assassin crouched in the book depository, the government’s investigators did not welcome Mr. Carr with open arms.
In the superstate’s self-serving view of reality, Carr might as well not have existed. Actually, government technicians took steps to treat him in such as way as to render him for practical purposes nonexistent.
GARRISON: Mr. Carr, did you talk to any FBI agents about this
CARR: Yes, I did.
GARRISON: Did they tell you to forget about it?
DYMOND: I object to that as hearsay.
GARRISON: Were you threatened in any way?
THE COURT: I sustain the objection. You cannot tell us the words used by someone who spoke to you because of hearsay; however, you can state that you had conversations with them and what you did as a result of those conversations. I will permit that.
GARRISON: As the result of the conversations with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, what did you do?
CARR: I done as I was instructed. I shut my mouth.
GARRISON: Were you called to testify before the Warren Commission?
CARR: No, sir.
From his vantage point Carr was able to see men running from the scene and climbing into a station wagon on the side street by the depository. The car pulled off so fast that one door was still open and flapping as it left. Other witnesses saw men racing from the grassy knoll as soon as the shooting ended. One of them appeared to be carrying a headset, similar to that used in radio communications. J. C. Price, the man who gave the Dallas police an affidavit as to the headset, was ignored completely by the Warren Commission.
As the sounds of the shots died down, the men and women in the vicinity of the President’s limousine ran toward the grassy knoll. By the time they reached the knoll, the drama was in full operation. One of the first to arrive was a police officer. He immediately began questioning a man he encountered in the vicinity, but he was shown Secret Service credentials. The questioning ended. A short time afterward, Sergeant D. V. Harkness, inspecting the rear of the book depository, found: “There were some Secret Service Agents there. I didn’t get them identified. They told me they were Secret Service Agents.”
It was later learned that no Secret Service agent stayed at the scene of the shooting. All the Secret Service men had gone with the motorcade to Parkland Hospital. Forrest V. Sorrels, special agent in charge of the Dallas office, was the first Secret Service agent to return to the scene of the assassination approximately 20 or 25 minutes after the shots were fired. The appearance of men with apparently legitimate Secret Service credentials at key points in Dealey Plaza had the effect of stopping any effective search for the riflemen before it could be started. The impersonation of a Secret Service agent is a federal crime, but the Warren Commission saw nothing to interest it in the behavior of those men on the deadly knoll.
Like Richard Randolph Carr, William Newman seems to have so clearly seen what really happened to John Kennedy that the Warren Commission was forced to pretend that he also did not exist. Newman, his wife and child were standing on the grass just in front of the knoll. He testified that the shots were coming from the knoll area right behind him. In fact, he and his family threw themselves on the ground to avoid being hit by the fusillade.
Newman’s testimony made it clear that the fatal shot caused the President to fall backward and away from the grassy knoll from which the shots were being fired:
GARRISON: Just tell us what you observed.
NEWMAN: Well, I observed his ear flying off, and he turned just real white and then blood red, and the President, when the third shot hit him he just went stiff like a board and fell over to his left in his wife’s lap, and I told my wife, “That is it, hit the ground,” and that is when we hit the ground because I thought the shots were coming over our heads. And then I looked back and I saw Mrs. Kennedy jumping up on the back end of the car and the Secret Service man or whoever it was into the car, and then they shot on off, took off.
GARRISON: Approximately how far were you from the President when the third shot hit him?
NEWMAN: I was the width of one lane, approximately 10 or 15 feet. I was standing on the curb’s edge, edge of the curb. They were in the second lane.
GARRISON: What was the reaction which you observed to the President’s head on the third shot?
NEWMAN: The only reaction that I can recall—I don’t recall whether his head went back or forward, but I do recall when the impact hit him that he just stiffened and he went to the left, real hard to the left and into her lap, and—
GARRISON: From your position, did he come toward you or away from you?
NEWMAN: He went away from me.
GARRISON: Did you give any statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation?
NEWMAN: Yes, sir, I did, and also the Sheriffs Office after the assassination. A news reporter carried me to the FAA, and then from that point went to the Sheriff’s Office and I give a written statement.
GARRISON: Were you called as a witness to the Warren Commission?
NEWMAN: No, sir, I wasn’t.
The remnants of the parade pulled up in front of the deserted emergency entrance at Parkland Hospital. It was a caravan of disaster and confusion. One of the President’s feet hung over the right side of the long convertible while his head bled onto his wife’s lap. She held him closely, as the aides and Secret Service men fanned out in search of the emergency room and hospital personnel.
They rolled him into Trauma Room One. This would be the last place where the truth would be sought about him, where he would be examined by men of medicine who were relatively free of the fear of military power above them. Doctors Ronald Jones and Charles Carrico observed the neck wound and later described it in their reports as a frontal wound. Not one of the civilian doctors who examined the President at Parkland Hospital regarded his throat wound as anything but a wound of entry.
Dr. John McClelland examined Kennedy after his death. That afternoon he made out the official cause of death statement. The cause of death, he wrote down, was a “massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple.” Dr. Marion T. Jenkins later also recalled seeing a gunshot wound in the President’s left temple. It was the impression of a few doctors, when questioned later, that they saw an entrance wound, but in any event if it was a wound it was one of entry in the front of the head. The doctors found no wounds of entry in the back of the head—but these were civilian doctors, uncorrupted by fear of high rank. The substitution of fiction for fact would have to wait until the body was moved into the controlled environment of the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington.
While the President still lived, the Parkland Hospital doctors tried a tracheotomy. They tried everything conceivable; still, his life faded away, for the top of his head and part of his brain were gone. All of the doctors’ efforts, and all of the hopes and prayers of those who loved him, could not undo what had been done to him.
The President’s breathing grew steadily fainter. His heart stopped. And so he died there in Trauma Room One, his head and clothes covered with blood.
The day may come when time seems to hang suspended, when weeds cover our deserted streets and when the only sound is the arrogant squeak of the rat swarms, eager now for their turn at evolution. Someone from a distant place, searching through our artifacts, may chance upon a human skull. Perhaps he will pick it up, looking through the goggled sockets at the dusty hollow where a handful of gray tissue once took the measure of the universe.
“Alas, poor man,” he might say. “A fellow of most infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. Where are your gibbets now? Your thumbscrews and your gallows? Your treasured hates and your fond cruelties?
“What happened to your disinterested millions? Your uncommitted and uninvolved, your preoccupied and bored? Where are their private horizons and their mirrored worlds of self? Where is their splendid indifference today?
Good News from Washington
The official explanation for the incredibly early swearing in of the new President was that after the occurrence of such a disaster as the shooting of the President there was no way for any man to divine what was happening. The ship of state should not be left unmanned at the helm when foreign attack could come within hours, even minutes. Ever mindful of the great risk to the nation, Lyndon Johnson stayed on the telephone until he found a U.S. District Judge who could be brought over to swear him in. The ceremony was held on Air Force One.
Once the President was sworn in, however, the prospects for the nation’s survival appeared to have brightened considerably.
The only danger to which the new President seems to have been exposed was the rapid takeoff from Love Field of Air Force One. Under the law of Texas an inquest had to be held, and the approval of the Dallas County Medical Examiner was needed before a body which had died an unnatural death could be removed.
Back at Parkland Hospital the contingent of men with the new President had been told of this rule, but they ignored it. It is doubtful if any body was ever rolled out of Parkland Hospital any faster. When a coup d’état has occurred there is a big difference between an autopsy performed by civilian doctors and one performed by doctors working for the government. This is all the more the case when the government has announced that the deed was done by a lone assassin crouched behind the President while gunshot wounds appear to have been inflicted on the front as well as the back of the President’s body.
By the time the last carload of prospective passengers for Air Force One had arrived, the plane had taxied over to the runway. Air Force One waited only long enough for the late arrivals to climb aboard before taking off and heading northeast. The departure of Air Force One from Love Field that Friday afternoon was not so much a takeoff as it was a getaway.
The federal investigation of the President’s murder would take many months. There would be many witnesses to question and much evidence to be photographed and collected. Nevertheless, the military announced the solution of the case that afternoon.
This solution was contrary to the laws of physics, violated all reason and contradicted the evidence. No matter. The government of the United States immediately adopted the military’s announcement as its own solution. Thereafter, the objective of investigation was to show how true the military’s solution was. Evidence to the contrary was disregarded. If evidence to the contrary was made public, it was discredited by authoritative government pronouncements. Some witnesses who saw things which contradicted the government’s early-born solution became strangely silent. Others were killed.
The lightning solution of the military was announced late Friday afternoon, while confusion still dominated the benumbed Dallas law enforcement community.
Air Force One left behind the flat land of east Texas and passed over the rolling hills and woods of Arkansas, still climbing because of reports of bad weather ahead. The exact time of arrival was given as 6:00 P.M., Washington, D.C., time. As the plane passed over Memphis, it approached the first fringes of night.
Then came the radio transmission, cool and matter of fact, reaching the plane from the White House Communications Center in Washington. The passengers were given the reassuring news that there was no conspiracy, and they were informed about Oswald’s identity and arrest.
This was a pattern which would be seen more and more in the 1960’s. An opponent of the Vietnam War would die a violent death. Then, before the investigation was underway, even before the funeral, there would come the announcement from Washington that there had been no conspiracy.
It is hard to strip our minds of all that we have learned or heard in the years since November, 1963. Consequently, it is hard to believe there was a time when there were still other suspects, a time when Lee Oswald did not own the title of sole suspect as the lone assassin. However, there was a period as late as early Saturday, the day following the assassination, when confusion was still predominant, and it was not yet clear that the assassin was Oswald and Oswald alone. It was plain enough that he had been designated the official quarry, but it was not yet plain that there were to be no accomplices.
Back in Dallas, at the time of the radio transmission from the military to Air Force One announcing that there was no conspiracy, the men in law enforcement had not yet reached the conclusion that everything had been done by one man to the exclusion of all others. Oswald, for example, was not charged with the killing of the President until early Saturday morning, and even then the thought of many was that there could be others. In Saturday’s edition of the Dallas Morning News, the District Attorney was quoted as saying that “... preliminary reports indicated that more than one person was involved in the shooting”.
Yet on Friday afternoon, the Communications Center in the White House radioed to Air Force One that there was no conspiracy, that there was only one assassin and he was Lee Oswald. This was more than a mere premature announcement. This was to be the official government line, from which it would never deviate, even though there was no evidence to support it at the time it was made. On the contrary, the evidence was quite to the opposite effect: the vast majority of witnesses had heard the shooting from the grassy knoll, and Oswald had been nowhere near there. Furthermore, the witnesses in a position to see had observed a number of men in flight as soon as the shooting ended. The people of the United States were being fooled and our military chieftains had taken the lead in fooling them. The other agencies of the government, as well as the other leaders of the government when their turns came, would join them in fooling the people.
Such an announcement of no conspiracy prior to six o’clock on Friday evening was far and away too early to be possible under the circumstances. This must be recognized as nothing less than a major fraud, the first of many to come. Remember that there existed not the slightest practical liaison between the military and evidence of any kind. Ordinarily they could not be expected to know what the weight of the evidence was until several days later, when they read about it in the paper. The military leadership of the United States had entered the business of announcing, not what the news was, but what by their fiat it was going to be.
The announcement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff while Oswald still was being questioned that there was no conspiracy and no one else was involved in the President’s murder indicated an ability to foresee the future rarely demonstrated by the military profession. Had they applied the same prescience to the Vietnam War, they might have been able to see that we would have more than a quarter of a million casualties and having no business there in the first place, they might not have dragged us into Southeast Asia.
Nothing so completely indicates the premature confidence of the federal government in its control over the minds of Americans as its handling of the Presidential limousine. Ordinarily the car in which a man has been murdered is carefully left untouched and kept as a most important piece of evidence. Bloodstains, bullet holes and bullet fragments are of immeasurable value in helping to reconstruct what happened. In the case of the President’s murder there was a good likelihood that a study of the limousine would have helped to indicate how many gunmen were involved and from what directions they were shooting. Once again the federal government demonstrated that it wanted these questions to remain unanswered. Instead of being examined and photographed, the car was washed out with buckets of water and was sent back to the Ford Motor Company, where the inside was completely rebuilt.
Radio transmissions between the Communications Center of the White House and Air Force One are monitored and recorded by the Signal Corps Midwestern Center. In a genuinely free society, therefore, it might be expected that a copy of the tape of the exceptionally early announcement that there was no conspiracy could be obtained. However, an attempt to obtain the tape itself was met with the reply from the Air Force that the tapes were for official use only and were not releasable.
Either the Joint Chiefs had suddenly acquired a remarkable prescience, or else they had an advance copy of the scenario.
The government’s lies about the President’s murder now would come in steady succession. They would be bold and arrogant lies backed by high authority, demonstrably impossible lies being hammered into history by repetition in the press. The first autopsy notes, which would be made the very night of the assassination, later would be burned by Commander James J. Humes. The holes in the President’s body and the directions from which they came, as described in the original notes, quite apparently seem not to have fit the government’s explanation of what happened. This conflict appears to have been resolved when Humes burned his autopsy notes. Not long afterward Humes was promoted by the military to higher rank, presumably for service beyond the call of duty.
Air Force One landed in the drizzle at Andrews Air Force Base. Back in Dallas, almost at this very hour, Jack Ruby was at police headquarters, trying to get into the homicide office on the third floor where Oswald was still being questioned. He had a sack full of sandwiches which he had bought for the officers, but the men stationed at the door refused to let him in. Nor did they respond to the reporter’s badge which he had somehow obtained and which he wore on his lapel. Nor were they impressed by the reporter’s notebook which he ostentatiously carried.
Masquerades seem to have been the order of the weekend. Although no Secret Service agents stayed on the scene of the shooting at Dealey Plaza, Sergeant D. V. Harkness and Patrolman J. M. Smith encountered men who identified themselves as Secret Service agents but who were not with the Secret Service. Later there were voices heard on the police radio—voices which were not those of any members of the Dallas Police Department but which gave early descriptions, incriminatingly premature descriptions, of Lee Oswald. In addition, there would soon occur an autopsy which was less than a real autopsy.
When Air Force One landed, the coffin bearing John Kennedy’s body was removed from the back of the plane by an automatic hoist. Robert Kennedy, who had come to meet the plane, and Mrs. Kennedy, her pink dress covered with dried blood, went down on the hoist with the coffin.
The new President, his face revealing the grave preoccupations of state which now burdened him, went down the front steps of the plane with his aides. It was a different scene, indeed it was a different world, than when Air Force One last had left Washington. Now Lyndon Johnson was a world leader, and John Kennedy was a cadaver for whom the pathologists at the United States Naval Hospital at Bethesda waited.
The dead President then began the trip to Maryland to the hospital at Bethesda. Around the country, the media continued its frantic coverage of the preposterous, still unbelievable day in Dallas. Yet the government itself appeared to be functioning in a state bordering on apathy. In retrospect, it is very likely that the Parkland diagnosis of the throat wound as an entrance wound was keeping some men in a high state of anxiety, but no such concern could be seen by the general public or the news media. As later events would demonstrate, there was enough power available now to solve this or any other problems which might arise.
Why was there no public fear that the assassination was only the first blow, to be followed by military action from some enemy? For years during the cold war we had been told of the devastating capabilities of our enemies, of their evil intentions; we had responded by providing billions and billions of dollars for defense. The possibility of such an enemy attack, in fact, had been the rationale for the swearing in of Lyndon Johnson aboard Air Force One before it took off from Love Field. How, even before the investigation was underway, did the government know that this disaster was not the beginning of one of the great cataclysms which, we had been told, might descend upon us without warning and destroy us all?
There was no sealing off of the transportation facilities out of Dallas. Nor was there a blocking off of the exits from the country.
Ordinarily, when the head of the government is assassinated, a nation responds by blocking off its borders so that the assassins cannot flee to a distant haven. In spite of the clear evidence on the afternoon of November 22 that a number of men were involved in the President’s assassination, no such action was taken at any time. The failure to respond in the normal manner was one of many indications that the United States government neither feared the assassins nor desired to have them caught.
When an assassination is a chance occurrence caused by a random individual, the government has an uncomplicated interest in letting the facts be known and bringing the man who killed the Chief of State to the full measure of justice. When, however, it is a political execution accomplished by a power elite within the government, making the truth available to the people and seeking to bring to justice the men who caused it may present unacceptable complications to the government. Accordingly, the occurrence of a coup d’état, no matter how well it might have been camouflaged, may be identified to some extent by a disproportionate lack of interest on the part of the government in blocking its borders and in conducting an honest, aggressive investigation into the facts behind the murder of the Chief of State.
Historically, when a coup d’état is successful the force which initiated the removal of the fallen leader becomes the dominant force in the government. The fact that a government department bears the euphemistic label of Justice does not mean that overnight it will turn into a suicide battalion. As in the case of all other agencies, its leaders respond not to a dead man buried in a box but to the newly dominant forces. Their slogan becomes: “The king is dead. Long live the new king.”
Consequently, there occurs the phenomenon in which the “Justice” Department and other government agencies devote their efforts, not to bringing out the truth about the assassination, but to concealing it and counterattacking those who do seek the truth. When the subsequent assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy would occur, the Justice Department would be announcing the absence of conspiracy as the bodies hit the ground.
The surviving officials and heads of agencies predictably will band together in the defense of the power elite which accomplished the assassination, because the failure to orient toward the new center of authority will mean their replacement. Thus do the most highly reputed agencies bring into the service of the successful planners of an assassination not merely allegiance but all the credit and honor they have accumulated over the years. These agencies, respected by the press and public for historical reasons, are then available to help obstruct any independent inquiry into the facts of the assassination. In the case of an unauthorized assassination, their search for the assassins is rationalized on the basis of justice. In the case of an authorized assassination, their obstruction of the search for the assassins is rationalized on the ground of national security.
In the Dark of the Night
The autopsy of President Kennedy was held at the United States Naval Hospital at Bethesda, Maryland, in a small room crowded with generals and admirals. Although there were questions in the minds of millions of Americans which this autopsy could have answered, they were left unanswered. In fact, the autopsy was never completed.
The bullet wound in the neck—that wound which would have confirmed beyond any conjecture the testimony of the many witnesses who heard the shooting from in front of the President—was never examined at the autopsy. It will be recalled that a complete inquest of the President, as required by Texas law, was prevented in Dallas by rushing his body to Air Force One and taking off before the Dallas County Coroner could get to the body. All of the evidence prior to the time when the military obtained control of John Kennedy’s body indicated that a bullet had entered the front of the neck and never exited from the back of the neck. This meant that there was a very real possibility that the bullet even yet was lodged in the thick extension of the spine which forms the center of the neck. Normally, an autopsy probes all such wounds to determine the direction of entry, obtain the bullet itself and ascertain a variety of other facts. As time went on the directions from which the different shots originated became an even more pressing question, but by then the concrete had been poured over John Kennedy’s grave.
Immediately following the assassination, the doctors at Parkland Hospital had diagnosed the President’s neck wound as an “anterior” wound, received in the front of the neck. The long concealed Zapruder film shows the President distinctly reacting as if the neck wound were received in the front. Yet the world had been told that there was only one assassin and that he was in the book depository to the President’s rear.
A probe of the neck wound by the pathologists in the Bethesda autopsy room would have revealed which way the truth lay. In retrospect, it is easy to see that this is precisely why no such probe was allowed. The neck wound, with the indications of a bullet entry but no exit, was to be the last real hurdle for the planners of the assassination. Afterward, the federal government would seize control of the investigation despite its complete lack of legal authority and that would be, in more ways than one, the end of the matter.
It was five years after the assassination, at the trial in New Orleans, that it was learned that the neck wound had never been examined. Colonel Pierre Finck, the Army pathologist subpoenaed from Washington by the District Attorney’s office, had an unusually retentive memory for details. He simply could not recall, however, who ordered the pathologists not to look at the wound in the neck. Considering the historic occasion and considering the implications of such a strange order, one would think he would never forget the man who issued this command. Finck was able to remember that the man was a general and that he was not a doctor, but then his memory failed him.
Finck was one of the pathologists who had conducted the autopsy. One of the other pathologists, Commander Humes, afterward had burned his autopsy notes, contrary to medical custom.
The government’s pathologist was pressed on this point by the New Orleans District Attorney’s office. His questioning was conducted in behalf of the District Attorney’s office by Alvin Oser, the Executive Assistant District Attorney.
OSER: Well, at that particular time, Doctor, why didn’t you
call the doctors at Parkland or attempt to ascertain what the
doctors at Parkland may have done or may have seen while the
President’s body was still exposed to view on the autopsy
DR. FINCK: I will remind you that I was not in charge of this autopsy, that I was called—
OSER: You were a co-author of the report though, weren’t you, Doctor?
DR. FINCK: Wait. I was called as a consultant to look at these wounds; that doesn’t mean I am running the show.
OSER: Was Dr. Humes running the show?
DR. FINCK: Well, I heard Dr. Humes stating that—he said, “Who is in charge here?” and I heard an Army General, I don’t remember his name, stating, “I am.” You must understand that in those circumstances, there were law enforcement officers, military people with various ranks, and you have to coordinate the operation according to directions.
OSER: But you were one of the three qualified pathologists standing at that autopsy table, were you not. Doctor?
DR. FINCK: Yes, I was.
OSER: Was this Army General a qualified pathologist?
DR. FINCK: No.
OSER: Was he a doctor?
DR. FINCK: No, not to my knowledge.
OSER: Can you give me his name, Colonel?
DR. FINCK: No, I can’t. I don’t remember.
OSER: Do you happen to have the photographs and X-rays taken of President Kennedy’s body at the time of the autopsy and shortly thereafter? Do you?
DR. FINCK: I do not have X-rays or photographs of President Kennedy with me.
OSER: How many other military personnel were present at the autopsy in the autopsy room?
DR. FINCK: That autopsy room was quite crowded. It is a small autopsy room, and when you are called in circumstances like that to look at the wound of the President of the United States who is dead, you don’t look around too much to ask people for their names and take notes on who they are and how many there are. I did not do so. The room was crowded with military and civilian personnel and federal agents, Secret Service agents, FBI agents, for part of the autopsy, but I cannot give you a precise breakdown as regards the attendance of the people in that autopsy room at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
OSER: Colonel, did you feel that you had to take orders from this Army General that was there directing the autopsy?
DR. FINCK: No, because there were others, there were Admirals.
OSER: There were Admirals?
DR. FINCK: Oh, yes, there were Admirals, and when you are a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army you just follow orders, and at the end of the autopsy we were specifically told—as I recall it, it was by Admiral Kenney, the Surgeon General of the Navy—this is subject to verifications—we were specifically told not to discuss the case.
Now Oser began to press the Army pathologist. Observe Dr. Finck’s rapid backpedaling in this sensitive area.
OSER: Did you have an occasion to dissect the track of that
particular bullet in the victim as it lay on the autopsy table?
DR. FINCK: I did not dissect the track in the neck.
DR. FINCK: This leads us into the disclosure of medical records.
OSER: Your Honor, I would like an answer from the Colonel and I would ask the Court so to direct.
THE COURT: That is correct, you should answer, Doctor.
DR. FINCK: We didn’t remove the organs of the neck.
OSER: Why not. Doctor?
DR. FINCK: For the reason that we were told to examine the head wounds and that the—
OSER: Are you saying someone told you not to dissect the track?
THE COURT: Let him finish his answer.
DR. FINCK: I was told that the family wanted an examination of the head, as I recall, the head and chest, but the prosecutors in this autopsy didn’t remove the organs of the neck, to my recollection.
OSER: You have said they did not, I want to know why didn’t you as an autopsy pathologist attempt to ascertain the track through the body which you had on the autopsy table in trying to ascertain the cause or causes of death? Why?
DR. FINCK: I had the cause of death.
OSER: Why did you not trace the track of the wound?
DR. FINCK: As I recall I didn’t remove these organs from the neck.
OSER: I didn’t hear you.
DR. FINCK: I examined the wounds but I didn’t remove the organs of the neck.
OSER: You said you didn’t do this; I am asking you why you didn’t do this as a pathologist?
DR. FINCK: From what I recall I looked at the trachea, there was a tracheotomy wound the best I can remember, but I didn’t dissect or remove these organs.
OSER: Your Honor, I would ask Your Honor to direct the witness to answer my question.
I will ask you the question one more time: Why did you not dissect the track of the bullet wound that you have described today and you saw at the time of the autopsy at the time you examined the body? Why? I ask you to answer that question.
DR. FINCK: As I recall I was told not to, but I don’t remember by whom.
OSER: You were told not to but you don’t remember by whom?
DR. FINCK: Right.
OSER: Could it have been one of the Admirals or one of the Generals in the room?
DR. FINCK: I don’t recall.
OSER: Do you have any particular reason why you cannot recall at this time?
DR. FINCK: Because we were told to examine the head and the chest cavity, and that doesn’t include the removal of the organs of the neck.
OSER: You are one of the three autopsy specialists and pathologists at the time, and you saw what you described as an entrance wound in the neck area of the President of the United States who had just been assassinated, and you were only interested in the other wound but not interested in the track through his neck, is that what you are telling me?
DR. FINCK: I was interested in the track and I had observed the conditions of bruising between the point of entry in the back of the neck and the point of exit at the front of the neck, which is entirely compatible with the bullet path.
OSER: But you were told not to go into the area of the neck, is that your testimony?
DR. FINCK: From what I recall, yes, but I don’t remember by whom.
Now we arrive at an area where Dr. Finck, whose recollection of details is usually exquisite, becomes inexplicably vague. This is Dr. Finck’s second day of testimony.
OSER: Can you give me the name of the General that
you said told Dr. Humes not to talk about the
DR. FINCK: This was not a General, it was an Admiral.
OSER: All right, excuse me, the Admiral, can you give me the name of the Admiral?
DR. FINCK: Who stated that we were not to discuss the autopsy findings?
DR. FINCK: This was in the autopsy room on the 22nd and 23rd of November, 1963.
OSER: What was his name?
DR. FINCK: Well, there were several people in charge, there were several Admirals, and, as I recall, the Adjutant General of the Navy.
OSER: Do you have a name, Colonel?
DR. FINCK: It was Admiral Kinney, K-i-n-n-e-y, as I recall.
OSER: Now, can you give me the name then of the General that was in charge of the autopsy, as you testified about?
DR. FINCK: Well, there was no General in charge of the autopsy. There were several people, as I have stated before. I heard Dr. Humes state who was in charge here, and he stated that the General answered “I am,” it may have been pertaining to operations other than the autopsy, it does not mean the Army General was in charge of the autopsy, but when Dr. Humes asked who was in charge here, it may have been who was in charge of the operations, but not of the autopsy, and by “operations,” I mean the over-all supervision.
OSER: Which includes your report. Does it not?
DR. FINCK: Sir?
OSER: Which includes your report? Does it not?
DR. FINCK: No.
OSER: It does not.
DR. FINCK: I would not say so, because the report I signed was signed by two other pathologists and at no time did this Army General say that he would have anything to do with signing this autopsy report.
OSER: Can you give me the Army General’s name?
DR. FINCK: I don’t remember it.
OSER: How did you know he was an Army General?
DR. FINCK: Because Dr. Humes said so.
OSER: Was he in uniform?
DR. FINCK: I don’t remember.
OSER: Were any of the Admirals or Generals or any of the Military in uniform in that autopsy room?
DR. FINCK: Yes.
OSER: Were there any other Generals in uniform?
DR. FINCK: I remember a Brigadier General of the Air Force but I don’t remember his name.
OSER: Were there any Admirals in uniform in the autopsy room?
DR. FINCK: From what I remember, Admiral Galloway was in uniform, I don’t remember whether or not Admiral Berkley, the President’s physician, was in uniform.