insidethearrb (insidethearrb) wrote,
insidethearrb
insidethearrb

RETHINKING the Question: "Why Was the First Draft of JFK's Autopsy Report Destroyed?"

In Volume III of my book "Inside the Assassination Records Review Board," in Chapter 11, I wrote in the text on page 866, and summarized in a data table on page 872, that the proximate cause, or stimulus, for why the unsigned, draft version of the JFK autopsy report (reviewed on Saturday, 11/23/63 at Bethesda Naval Hospital by CDR Humes, CDR Boswell, and CAPT Canada) was abandoned, and subsequently destroyed by Humes in his fireplace on Sunday, 11/24/63, was the fact that James Tague's wounding on Main Street in Dealey Plaza (as a result of the ricochet of a bullet off of the Main Street curb) was evidence of a missed shot. BACKGROUND FOLLOWS: The three shot scenario---the conclusion that there was only one assassin, and that he was above and behind the limousine, and that he fired only three shots---was adopted by the Dallas police department and the U.S. government on Friday afternoon; Richard Lipsey, the Aide to General Wehle (Commandant of the Military District of Washington), recounted to the HSCA staff with great certainty that he heard the pathologists discussing a three-hit scenario---that is, three hits on JFK without any discussion of what had happened to Connally---in the autopsy morgue; and yet the version of the autopsy report entered into evidence by the Warren Commission (CE 387) concluded that there were only two hits on President Kennedy. Clearly, at least one change to the autopsy conclusions had taken place between the time Lipsey heard the pathologists discuss three hits on JFK, and the time CE 387 was entered into evidence during the testimony of James J. Humes before Arlen Specter in March of 1964.

At the time I drafted this chapter it seemed obvious to me that public knowledge of James Tague's wounding, and therefore of a missed shot which had struck the curb on Main Street, had forced Humes, et. al. to abandon the 3-shot, 3-hit scenario arrived at inside the Bethesda morgue in front of Richard Lipsey late Friday evening (after the FBI agents had departed at 11:00 PM).

It is now apparent, as a result of an astute question asked of me by a friend, that the James Tague wounding could NOT have been the proximate cause, or stimulus, for junking the first draft of the JFK autopsy report. WHY? Because as James Tague clearly stated in his own book, published in 2003, there was no widely available public mention of his wounding until newspaper journalist Jim Lehrer published the results of his interview with Tague in the Dallas Times-Herald on June 5, 1964. This was followed by an FBI interview and subsequent Warren Commission testimony. While it is true that Deputy Sheriff Buddy Walthers spoke to Tague about the wounding on the very afternoon of the assassination, and photographer Tom Dillard photographed the curb strike (and Tague himself) the afternoon of the assassination, there is no evidence that this information was publicly available on November 23rd, or that it was known within the confines of Bethesda Naval Hospital by Humes, Boswell, or Canada.

The error is mine and I am solely responsible for it.

However, IT REMAINS A FACT THAT THE 3-HIT SCENARIO SURELY RECORDED IN THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE JFK AUTOPSY REPORT ON SATURDAY (3 HITS ON JFK) WAS ABANDONED IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS, AND REPLACED WITH A 2-HIT SCENARIO THE VERY NEXT DAY (WHICH EXPLAINED THE WOUND SEEN IN THE THROAT AT PARKLAND HOSPITAL AS HAVING BEEN CAUSED BY A FRAGMENT FROM THE HEAD SHOT). [It is this version of the 2-hit scenario that apparently disappeared while in the custody of Robert F. Kennedy between April of 1965 and October of 1966.]

So if James Tague's wounding was not the stimulus that caused Humes to rewrite the autopsy report Saturday night and then burn the first draft in his fireplace Sunday morning, what was?

Actually, the answer is remarkably simple. The official conclusions of both the Secret Service and the FBI, although not yet published, had clearly already been reached late Friday night (after the two FBI agents left the morgue, having heard a 2-hit conclusion arrived at by Humes), namely: THAT PRESIDENT KENNEDY WAS HIT BY TWO SHOTS, AND GOVERNOR CONNALLY WAS HIT BY ONE SHOT. The official conclusions of both the Secret Service and the FBI were that 3 shots were fired by the assassin; the first and third shots hit President Kennedy; and the second shot hit Governor Connally. [And what is truly remarkable, in hindsight, is that in spite of the public's eventual knowledge, in the summer of 1964, of the missed shot that wounded James Tague, and the recognition of a missed shot by the Warren Commission in its late September 1964 report, neither the FBI nor the Secret Service ever changed their official positions that two shots hit JFK from behind, and one shot hit Connally from behind. Neither the Secret Service nor the FBI have ever publicly acknowledged a missed shot, even though the evidence for it is quite strong.] In summary, it was clearly the simple fact that Connally had been seriously wounded (and indeed, had almost died), that caused Navy officials to abandon the 3-hit scenario on JFK that the pathologists had inconveniently arrived at about 11:30 PM Friday night at Bethesda, in response to Humes' phone call with Dr. Perry shortly after 11:00 PM.

Before the FBI agents (Sibert and O'Neill) left the Bethesda morgue at 11:00 PM on November 22, 1963, they heard Dr. Humes soberly intone his conclusion that the pattern was clear, and that two shots and only two shots had struck JFK, and that both of his wounds (a high shoulder wound and a head shot) had been inflicted from behind. This information led to the conclusions of the Secret Service and the FBI reported above. But Humes then spoke to Dr. Perry in Dallas shortly after the FBI agents left the Bethesda morgue, and was confronted with the fact that the Dallas treating physicians had noted a bullet wound in JFK's throat. This fact caused the prosectors to change a 2-hit conclusion to a 3-hit conclusion, as witnessed by Richard Lipsey, and recounted to the HSCA staff, both orally and in a very precise diagram, in 1978. Lipsey obviously witnessed the revised conclusions reached AFTER the FBI agents left the morgue---conclusions reached based upon the new information from Dallas that President Kennedy had a bullet wound in the anterior neck. It is surely this late-Friday night conclusion that JFK was hit 3 times, that went into the first draft reviewed on Saturday, November 23, 1963 at Bethesda.

Obviously, after reviewing the first draft on Saturday, someone in authority over Humes at Bethesda---either CAPT Canada, or CAPT Stover, or RADM Galloway---said "Wait a minute! Connally was wounded too, wasn't he?" And because the U.S. government was already imprisoned in its evidentiary straightjacket of "one assassin, three shots," this necessitated that the number of hits on JFK was reduced back down to the two hits originally postulated by Humes in front of FBI agents Sibert and O'Neill, so that the third bullet could account for Connally's wounds. It is my belief that the next version of the autopsy report, the first signed version (which later went missing), explained the throat wound seen in Dallas as having been caused by a fragment from the head shot. (The remarks of Warren Commission Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin, recorded in a then-Top Secret transcript of conversation by a court reporter at an Executive Session hearing in January, is the evidence for this conclusion.)

In short order---probably within a day or two after the first signed version was executed on Sunday, November 24th---the Zapruder film had revealed to anyone who looked at it that the throat wound could not have been caused by a fragment from the head shot, since the film showed JFK reacting with distress to a throat wound PRIOR TO the head shot. The Zapruder film was therefore clearly the cause for the abandonment of the FIRST SIGNED VERSION of the autopsy report, and its replacement with the SECOND SIGNED VERSION, no later than December 11th, 1963. But the Zapruder film had not yet been seen by those who abandoned the 3-hit scenario on Saturday afternoon, and replaced it with a 2-hit scenario that postulated the throat wound was caused by a fragment from the head shot.

Summing up here, it is still evident to me that the autopsy prosectors changed a 2-hit conclusion re: JFK to a 3-hit conclusion late Friday night (11/22/63), and then abandoned the 3-hits on JFK in favor of a modified 2-hit conclusion late on Saturday (11/23/63). The cause for this change was almost certainly NOT the knowledge that James Tague had been wounded, however; the cause was the simple necessity to account for Governor Connally's wounds.

To those who wish to more completely understand this change in thinking on my part, and the evolution of the autopsy report's conclusions during the hours and days following President Kennedy's assassination, I refer you to Chapter 11 of my book. END
Subscribe

Comments for this post were disabled by the author