Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A New Look At CE 399 and the Autopsy of JFK

It is obvious that the Magic Bullet theory has been problematic from the beginning. Created by a lawyer, now Senator, Arlen Specter, it’s been a bone of contention from the very start and remains so to this day. That something so crucial to the investigation of a murdered President comes to us from a man with no physics or ballistics expertise, serves only to distance us from the truth of what happened that day in Dallas. As I contend here and in other articles, the single bullet theory (Magic Bullet) is concocted for purely political reasons because they had to have one bullet pulling double-duty as it passed through the bodies of two men.

As shown in a January 22, 1963 Warren Commission closed-door secret session, of which a surviving stenographer’s tape (ordered destroyed but was not) clearly shows that the Commission decided early on to go for the lone gunman scenario. They were afraid of finding out more than they wanted to know about Lee H. Oswald and feared if it were discovered that he was a government agent of some type, then the public would never believe the lone gunman theory. Notice the thinking here—they have a predetermined conclusion and they concerned about the pubic not buying it. This is before the first witness was called to testify! There is no, “Let us find out the truth and present it to the people.” The Warren Commission becomes a politicized at this point and will seek a political solution to the death of John F. Kennedy.

You will find no bigger mess in the Kennedy assassination saga than the medical evidence in the case. It’s too big and vast to go into here. To put it simply, it is the tale of two groups of witnesses. One group is the doctors and staff at the Parkland Hospital in Dallas and the other group is the pathologists at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Basically, virtually everyone that came into contact with Kennedy’s body at Parkland and many at Bethesda saw the large gaping wound to the right rear of his head in what is called the occipital region. However, in the final autopsy report fails to state there is a large rear deficit at all. Years later, the pathologists, Drs Humes, Boswell, and Finck would give conflicting testimony, further adding to the controversy.

Another element to consider is that the autopsy was not performed in a normal manner. The mortuary was filled with people—military brass, FBI agents, doctors, and various specialists. Dr. James Humes and Dr. J. Thorton Boswell were career navy men (Commander and Lieutenant Commander, respectively) and neither had done an autopsy in years. They were essentially paper pushers at the time. They got the job because they were on duty that night. Neither had done a forensic autopsy before. Dr. Pierre Finck, a Lt. Col. in the army, came in from Walter Reed to assist. He was the only forensic pathologist of the group and experienced with ballistic wounds.

The Two Witnesses

The most damning witnesses against the Magic Bullet theory were two navy corpsmen, Paul O’Connor and James Jenkins. Both were highly experienced autopsy technicians. They did the set up and the break down afterwards. They were on duty the night of November 22 and assisted the pathologists in all phases of President Kennedy’s autopsy. They were never subpoenaed to give testimony, under oath, to any investigation from the Warren Commission to the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the late 1970’s. Not even Jim Garrison’s trial of Clay Shaw.

As interviewed by William Law for his book, In The Eye of History, O’Connor and Jenkins agreed on the following points:

• Both report seeing the massive head wound (blow out) to the rear of Kennedy’s head.
• They both saw Kennedy’s back wound probed with a flexible metal rod. The wound was downward in the body, not deep, and was not a pass-through wound to the upper thorax.
• Both saw Kennedy’s lungs removed and saw no bullet holes or bullet fragments in them. They both did witness a purple bruise on the back of right lung, upper lobe.
• The President’s neck wound was not examined, under orders from Admiral Burkley, the President’s personal physician. (Who in turn was taking orders from the Kennedy family.)
• Both agree that several of the “official” autopsy photographs are forgeries and do not represent what they saw.
• From the evidence they saw, both men believed there was more than one shooter involved in the assassination.

Paul O’Connor and James Jenkins were first-hand witnesses to three major issues regarding Kennedy’s wounds. First, they saw the back wound being probed with a flexible metal rod, showing beyond all doubt that Kennedy’s injury did not go deep, did not penetrate any organs, and did not exit the body at the throat. Secondly, they examined the lungs and knew that other than a bruise, no bullet holes or bullet fragments were found. The pass through bullet would have to have left a trace through the lung. Thirdly, they clearly saw the massive rear head injury, as did the medical staff at Parkland and many other non-medical witnesses. (As O’Connor said, it was like a bomb exploded in his head.)

And the most telling part of these observances is all three of the pathologists knew these details as well. They knew the back wound was not connected by any path through the body to the neck. The three men assigned to document this, Drs Humes, Boswell, and Finck apparently did not. None of this information made its way into the final autopsy report. Here we have a cover-up.

The probing of the wound itself is instrumental in any forensic investigation. It traces the oath and trajectory of the bullet’s course through the body. If what O’Connor and Jenkins witnessed is accurate the single bullet theory is false.

As Dr. Humes wrote in the official autopsy report:

“The other missile entered the right superior posterior thorax above the scapula and traversed the soft tissues of the supra-scapular and the supra-clavicular portions of the base of the right side of the neck. This missile produced contusions of the right apical parietal pleura and of the apical portion of the right upper lobe of the lung. The missile contused the strap muscles of the right side of the neck, damaged the trachea and made its exit through the anterior surface of the neck. As far as can be ascertained this missile struck no bony structures in its path through the body.”

According to O’Connor and Jenkins the metal probe only went few inches in the back and stopped. It was thought at the time the bullet might be defective, without enough power to pass through the body. If that was the case, the bullet should have passed through at a downward angle (remember, shooter was six floors above) and exited through the sternum, possibly striking the heart. No bullet or fragments was uncovered from the back wound.

However, could the slug that caused the back wound have been the famous “pristine bullet” known as CE 399? It would make sense as CE 399 had been fired into something; it is slightly flatten on one side. Striking bone is another matter. Joseph Dolce, chairman of the Army’s Wounds Ballistic Board, did tests to determine if bullets striking human bone would maintain their shape. After hitting ten cadaver wrists with Oswald’s rifle, Dolce concluded all ten were “markedly deformed.” Not a single one resembled what is known as CE 399—the magic bullet. However, if this bullet struck the fleshy part of Kenney’s back the deformation would not be so severe. Cardiac stimulation, in the process of trying to save Kennedy’s life, may have worked the bullet out, hence it’s appearance on the stretcher.

I don’t want to be too hard on Humes or Boswell because both men served their country with honor and distinction. It has been said they were all painted into corner. Humes and Boswell wear nearing retirement at the time and surely didn’t want to jeopardize that. Many times Humes would answer questions in a confusing or cryptic way, such as this comment to the HSCA: “It is impossible for the bullet to have either entered or exited from other than behind.”

Pierre Finck however, is another story. Harold Rydberg, medical illustrator at Bethesda and close friend of Humes said of him, “He was the one they called to do the covers…He’s in Cally. He’s in Kennedy. He’s in Pitzer…He was a very deadly man.” Rydberg added that Finck was involved with Special Forces and military intelligence as well. Dr. Fink made his rounds through the National Security State apparatus (which included being present at the autopsy of Robert F. Kennedy). Eventually, he would resign his commission, leave the country, and move to Switzerland.

In Closing

Paul O’Connor and James Jenkins stand out as the mice in church, witnessing the sacrilege, but not deemed worthy enough to be questioned. At the time they were both ordered to sign nondisclosure agreements and threatened with court marital and prison if they uttered a word about what transpired that night. Critics to conspiracy want to know if there is one, why doesn’t somebody talk? If you are in the military you are expected to take orders, keep your mouth shut, and move along. Apparently, that is what the three pathologists did.

So then, where were their orders coming from? The investigation continues…

Sources: Law, William, In The Eye of History; WC and ARRB,; McKnight, Gerald, Breach of Trust