Dale Myers v. Max Holland on the first shot

In JFK Files: Holland’s Magic Bullet, Dale Myers critiques Max Holland’s recent writing on the first gunshot fired President Kennedy’s motorcade. Holland has argued that the first shot grazed the arm of a lamp post and missed the motorcade, hit a curb and injured bystander James Tague.

In characteristically sharp language, Meyers finds Holland’s version wanting in evidence and logic. Myers argues for the Warren Commission’s version of the gunfire.

JFK Facts contributor Pat Speer responded to Holland’s theory last week.


One of Myers’ stronger arguments in rebuttal to Holland is the testimony of Tague himself.

One thing that I have always been positive about is that the first shot was not the shot that hit the curb near me…” Tague wrote in 2003.

James Tague, Nov. 22 victim
James Tague

The weakest part of Myers’ argument is this claim that Tague was hit by the ricochet of a fragment of a bullet from a shot  fired by Oswald from the Texas Schoolbook Depository that first hit President Kennedy in the head. (I apologize if you have to read that sentence twice; its a complicated scenario.)

The Warren Commission did not make this argument, saying only that the first or second shot missed altogether and struck a curb, resulting in Tague’s wound. The imprecision of the Warren Commission account is indicative of its larger weakness.

In a shameful display of historical denial, James Tague was given no place in Dallas’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination. Such was the official desire to avoid the JFK facts that one of the victims of a historic crime was purposefully excluded from its commemoration, probably because of his independent thinking. Tague wrote a book arguing that Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. Tague died in 2014.

What the Evidence Says

Grassy knoll aftermath
Aftermath: a Dallas cop runs toward the grassy knoll a few seconds after JFK was shot.

I’m no forensic expert but I think Pat Speer’s critique of Holland is more convincing and less convoluted than Myers’.

In larger perspective, the gunfire scenario most supported by evidence comes from the testimony of John and Nellie Connally. They said that they believed first shot hit President Kennedy in the back and the second shot hit Governor Connally in the back.They said this right after the assassination and they said it for the rest of their lives.

Tague said he was hit and injured after the first shot. Since he couldn’t have been hit by the two bullets that hit JFK and Connally he must have been hit by another shot. Yet another shot hit President Kennedy in the head. If the Connallys and Tague were right, there were at least four shots, which means there were two gunmen and the president was ambushed by enemies.

At least 21 law enforcement officers at the scene of the crime thought one of the shots had come from in front of the motorcade. If there was a second gunman, he has never been persuasively identified.

For that its worth, Jackie Kennedy told friends that her recollection of the gunfire was very different than the Warren Commission asserted. She also told her friend William Walton that she thought he husband had been killed by “a major domestic conspiracy.”

Myers doesn’t address this evidence.

Other Scenarios

Below you can see a graphic interpretation of the gunfire, set forth by the FBI, which was memorialized in a postcard from early 1964. The Warren Commission abandoned this scenario, at least in part because it could not account for Tague’s wound.

JFK Postcard

The Warren Commission avoided this account of the crime in favor of the so-called “single bullet theory,” which, as many have pointed out, has problems of its its own. Holland, to his credit, has tried to resolve some of these problems. Myers is skilled at attacking critics but less successful at explaining away the manifest problems of the single-bullet theory.

5 thoughts on “Dale Myers v. Max Holland on the first shot”

  1. Myers is most probably correct. For his “convoluted” scenario to be plausible, it needs a more-or-less straight line from the TSBD (as Myers accepts the SBT) and a bullet that has shattered. With the head shot bullet, we have those requirements satisfied. Only a minor deflection is needed for a fragment to have hit Tague, and we know that the bullet which struck Kennedy in the head shattered, and some fragments continued forward – the shattered window is consistent with that bullet, and a trajectory of a different fragment going over the windshield accounts for what hit Tague.

  2. Randy Robertson

    Pat you make some good points which show the fallibility of eyewitness testimony when measured against hard evidence. There were 5 shots in total so Tague is mistaken if he only heard three. If the second shot he heard was the one which struck Connally then he could not have been struck by this bullet as it was lodged in Connally’s thigh. This seems unlikely as he heard the last two shots in quick succession and he would then had to have heard an additional earlier shot which struck neither JFK or Connally and he would have not heard the last three shots at all. The last two shots fired from behind were recorded at 144.9 and 145.61 seconds on the DPD DictaBelt, the first arising from the Dal-Tex building and the second fired from the TSBD. These caused physical reactions of flares of reflected sunlight from the front windshield at frames 314 and 329 seen on the Zapruder film and human acoustic startle reactions by Zapruder himself seen as blurs on the film at frames 318 and 331 respectively. The reflected flares of sunlight occurred 1 frame after impacts at frames 313 and 328 with the first being due to a bullet fragment cracking the windshield and the second when a bullet struck the chrome windshield frame. Zapruder reacted to both these shots in less than 1 second indicating that both could not have been fired from the TSBD. It is possible that fragments from either one of these later impacts could have gone forward and have been responsible for Tague’s wounding. I can’t disprove either one of these scenarios but given the distances involved and the trajectories it is my opinion that Tague was struck by the first shot, not off a lamppost but the one which traversed JFK and exited on an upward trajectory.

    I would encourage you to review the Zapruder film for the umpteenth time and look for the flares of reflected sunlight from the front windshield at frames 314 and 329 and Zapruder’s near immediate reactions to hearing these two shots at frames 318 and 331 corresponding to two bullets fired from behind the first cracking the windshield and the second striking the chrome windshield frame. Both occurring in less than 1 second indicating two shooters from behind. Tague’s recollection then becomes irrelevant as does Holland’s hopelessly flawed explanation of a first “missed” shot.

  3. Randy Robertson

    Tague was correct when he said he was struck by the first shot. The first shot struck JFK in the back and was deflected exiting his throat in an upward angle consistent with the findings of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. This bullet did not strike Connaly,consistent with his WC testimony, but continued forward up and out of the limo to strike the curb and subsequently injure Tague. A straight line trajectory from the 2nd floor of the Dal-Tex building through JFK at frame Z-201 lines up exactly with the point on the curb. This shot was fired at frame Z-199 and Phil Willis who was 3 frames acoustically distant from the Dal-Tex building took his photo simultaneously with hearing this first shot. The FBI determined that the photo was taken at frame Z-202 which validates Willis’ recollection as 199+3= frame Z-202. The HSCA Photographic Panel noted a change in JFK’s countenance at ~ frame Z-207 and as it would take ~4 frames to see a voluntary reaction this correlates quite well with him being struck at frame Z-201 (201+4= frame Z-205).

    1. With all due respect, Dr. Robertson, I think you read that wrong, Tague always insisted he was not hit by the first shot.

      Here are some quotes from Tague:
      12-16-63 FBI report, CD205 p31) “was stopped in traffic at the Triple Underpass…He stood near the curb of Main Street waiting for the motorcade…When the motorcade was approximately 100 feet from him he heard a loud noise, and at that time he looked around as he thought someone had shot a firecracker. He then heard two more loud noises in quick succession…During the time of the shooting he felt something hit him on the right cheek….He thought that possibly one of the bullets had hit the curb near his feet and possibly a piece of the curbing had hit him on the cheek”
      (Interview in the Dallas Times Herald, 6-5-64) “There was that first shot, then the second and the third. Some time, I think it was the second shot, a bullet–I’m sure it was a bullet–hit the curb in front of me and I felt a sting on my cheek.”
      (7-23-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 7H552-558) (When asked which shot hit him) “maybe the second or third shot, I couldn’t tell you definitely” (When asked if he heard any shots after he was hit) “I believe I did…I believe it was the second shot, so I heard the third shot afterwards.”
      (First person account published in the National Enquirer, 4-7-68) “Then there was a second blast, louder and even more distinct, as if from closer range. At that instant I was facing the gazebo. My attention was so caught up that I was only dimly aware of a stinging sensation in my right cheek. Then a third report followed quickly, not waiting–as the second one had–until the previous one died away…”
      (1-19-92 interview with Gerald Posner, reported in Case Closed, 1993) (When asked which shot hit the curb) “I actually can’t tell you which one. I could try to pick one, but through the years have maintained accuracy. I don’t know which one hit me.”
      (Article by William Goggins available on the website of John McAdams, making repeated reference to a 5-6-97 interview with Tague) (On Posner’s quoting him in Case Closed) “After personally interviewing James Tague, he made it aware to me that he was misquoted in Posner’s book. Tague told me that it was not the first shot that caused his wound. He told the author in an interview that “something made me jump back behind the abutment, and that’s why I think it was the second one (shot).”
      (Truth Withheld, 2003) “One thing that I have always been positive of is that the first shot was not the shot that hit the curb near me…
      (11-22-11 e-mail from Tague posted by Jim Pomerville on the JFK Assassination Forum website, 12-2-11) (On Max Holland’s theory the first shot missed more than six full seconds before the second shot, and was the bullet causing the wound on Tague’s cheek–the theory tested in JFK: The Lost Bullet) “Holland is full of crap. One thing I know for sure is that the first shot was not the missed curb shot. Another thing I am positive about is that the last shot was the missed shot.”

  4. I think we don’t have to be 100% certain of names of other gunmen. Showing that there WERE other gumnmen, based on directions from the shots, as well as showing that the “single-bullet theory” was just that, a theory(as opposed to a fact), should be enough to prove Oswald wasn’t the only one firing at President Kennedy.

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