In reporting on Zac Efron’s upcoming role in Tom Hank’s upcoming JFK movie Politico says, “No word on whom Efron will play.”
Not true. According to multiple Hollywood sources, Efron is slated to play Dr. Charles Carrico, a 28-year old resident surgeon who was the first doctor to examine JFK when he was brought to the hospital.
The movie, called Parkland, promises a dramatic and controversial role for the rising young star because Carrico’s cameo in history landed him in the heart of the debate about the nature of JFK’s wounds.
Since the Parkland screenplay is based on Vince Bugliosi’s book “Reclaiming History,” which makes mistakes about the evidence on some key points, it is worth asking, What are the facts?
When Carrico came into the emergency room, he saw First Lady Jackie Kennedy and some men whom he assumed were Secret Service men. JFK was breathing but only spasmodically. In the first of two appearances before the Warren Commission, this is what he said he saw:
“His– the President’s color–I don’t believe I said–he was an ashen, bluish, grey, cyanotic [ed note.: meaning “the appearance of a blue or purple coloration of the skin or mucous membranes due to the tissues near the skin surface being low on oxygen”] he was making no spontaneous movements, I mean, no voluntary movements at all.
We opened his shirt and coat and tie and observed a small wound in the anterior lower third of the neck, listened very briefly, heard a few cardiac beats, felt the President’s back, and detected no large or sucking chest wounds, and then proceeded to the examination of his head. The large skull and scalp wound had been previously observed and was inspected a little more closely. There seemed to be a 4-5 cm. area of avulsion of the scalp and the skull was fragmented and bleeding cerebral and cerebellar tissue.”
Carrico inserted a tube what is called “orotracheal tube” into the throat, connecting it to a breathing apparatus. He was soon joined by Dr. Malcolm Perry, an assistant professor of surgery, who took over JFK’s care. Perry performed a tracheostomy, cutting open the throat wound and introducing a tube to remove secretions from the lungs. It was all in vain and the president was pronounced dead within minutes.
Carrico was clear about the president’s head wound, which he described as “a 4-5 cm. area of avulsion of the scalp and the skull was fragmented and bleeding cerebral and cerebellar tissue.” In laymen terms, he later said, the wound was “above and posterior to the ear, almost from the crown of the head.”
The neck wound was more controversial. At a press conference after JFK’s death Dr. Perry was asked, “Where was the entrance wound?”
According to the transcript given to the Secret Service, he replied, “There was an entrance wound in the neck.” Asked again about the throat wound, Dr. Perry said, “the wound appeared to be an entrance wound in the front of the throat; yes, that is correct.”
These statements led many people to conclude what at least 34 people on the scene had said: that at least one gunshot had been fired from in front of JFK’s limousine.
But the doctor’s testimony posed a huge problem for the new President Lyndon Johnson and the White House staff, which decided within 48 hours that:
“The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.”
Because Oswald had allegedly fired from behind the motorcade, Dr. Perry came under intense pressure to recant, which he eventually did.
Carrico said he wasn’t sure. When questioned four months later by Warren Commission attorney (and future U.S. Senator) Arlen Specter, the exchange went like this:
Mr. SPECTER – Was there any discussion among the doctors who attended President Kennedy as to the cause of the neck wound?
Dr. CARRICO – Yes; after that afternoon.
Mr. SPECTER – And what conversations were there?
Dr. CARRICO – As I recall, Dr. Perry, and I talked and tried after—later in the afternoon to determine what exactly had happened, and we were not aware of the missile wound to the back, and postulated that this was either a tangential wound from a fragment, possibly another entrance wound. It could have been an exit wound, but we knew of no other entrance wound.
Mr. SPECTER – Was the wound in the neck consistent with being either an entry or exit wound, in your opinion?
Dr. CARRICO – Yes.
Mr. SPECTER – Or, did it look to be more one than the other?
Dr. CARRICO – No; it could have been either, depending on the size of the missile, the velocity of the missile, the tissues that it struck.
Then Specter asked a leading question that would have been comic under any other circumstances. It was intended to confirm his “single bullet theory:” that the throat wound was an exit wound caused by a bullet that hit JFK in the back.
Mr. SPECTER – Dr. Carrico, assume these facts, if you will—first, that President Kennedy was struck by a 6.5-mm. missile which entered the upper-right posterior thorax, just above the scapula, being 14 cm. from the tip of the right acromion, a-c-r-o-m-i-o-n (spelling) process, and 14 cm. below the tip of the right mastoid process, and that the missile traveled between two strap muscles, proceeded through the fascia channel without violating the pleural cavity, striking the side of the trachea and exiting in the lower third of the anterior throat. Under the circumstances which I have just described to you, would the wound which you observed on the President’s throat be consistent with the damage which a 6.5-mm. missile, traveling at the rate of approximately 2,000 feet per second, that being muzzle velocity, with the President being 160 to 250 feet away from the rifle, would that wound be consistent with that type of a weapon at that distance, with the missile taking the path I have just described to you?
Dr. CARRICO – I certainly think it could.
In essence, Specter asked Carrico to assume that JFK had been hit by a bullet in the back that came out his throat. If so, was the throat wound an exit wound? Given the assumption, Carrico sensibly agreed it was possible. But when asked by congressional investigators in 1978, if he had “independent knowledge of this fact” as assumed by Specter, Carrico said, “No.”
When Perry testified to the Warren Commission he was asked the same leading question by Specter and responded the same way.
Perry was also questioned by former CIA director Allen Dulles who had been fired by JFK as CIA director in 1961. Throughout the Warren Commission hearings, Dulles sought to block evidence that cast doubt on the desired “lone gunman” theory. He claimed Perry had been misquoted by the New York Times.
“What I wanted to be sure,” said Dulles, “was that when we are through with this we do have in our files and records adequate information to deal with a great many of the false rumors that have been spread on the basis of false interpretation of these appearances before television, radio, and so forth and so on.”
In fact, the transcript shows that Perry was quoted accurately.
For the rest of his life, Perry refused to talk about November 22, 1963, even with close colleagues.
As for the question of whether the throat showed an entrance or an exit wound, Carrico was consistent: “It could have been either.”
It will be interesting to see what words Parkland script puts into Zac Efron’s mouth.