Doctor’s story rivets JFK conference

He was there as JFK lay dying.

The story of Dr. Robert McClelland never fails to fascinate. Fifty years ago, McClelland was a 34-year surgery instructor at Dallas’s Parkland Hospital who was called into the emergency room to treat President John F. Kennedy after he had been shot.

Yesterday, the 84-year old McClelland spoke by videolink to an audience of 400 people attending a conference at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on the assassination of JFK.

McClelland recounted that terrible day with quiet dignity, describing the frontal gunshot wound to the president’s head with massive blowout damage to the back of his skull. He was standing at the head of the gurney looking down at JFK as he took his last breath and he left no doubt that after 10 minutes looking at Kennedy’s wounds from less than five feet away that Kennedy had been hit by gunfire from two different directions.

McClelland’s story was the highlight of the day that ended with a panel discussion on JFK assassination and the media in which I spoke, along with Oliver Stone, David Talbot, Russ Baker, and Lisa Pease. More on that in a coming post.

The lowlight of the day was the talk by photo expert Robert Groden. He showed photos from his unparalleled collection of JFK imagery and offered his opinion (“theory” would be too strong a word) that the JFK was the target of 10 gunshots, a number that is not based on earwitness testimony, eyewitness testimony, ballistic evidence or photographic evidence. In other words, Groden made it up.

Those eager to banish the JFK story from their minds (and public discussion) will say that since Groden is an unreliable witness and McClelland spoke at the same conference, therefore McClelland must be unreliable too. Such desperate and illogical thinking is a hallmark of what I call “JFK denialism” — the impulse to deny inconvenient facts in the case of the murdered president.

The facts are that Groden is an unreliable commentator and McClelland is an unimpeachable witness.

See also:

Surgeon recounts JFK operation”  (From the McKinney Courier Gazette, January 28, 2012)

“21 cops who heard a grassy knoll shot.” (JFK Facts, September 24, 2013)

“What did JFK’s doctors think of his wounds?” (JFK Facts, April 23, 2103)

From Washington Decoded:  “New LIght on a Lingering Forensic Controversy.”

Annals of denial: In March 1964, Warren Commission staff attorney Arlen Specter took testimony from Dr. McClelland. Specter’s efforts to lead the witness toward his own opinion are revealing in their nakedness.




45 thoughts on “Doctor’s story rivets JFK conference”

  1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

    Jeff, did Dr. McClelland elaborate about which directions he thought the shots came from…one from the front…but the other?

    “he left no doubt that after 10 minutes looking at Kennedy’s wounds from less than five feet away that Kennedy had been hit by gunfire from two different directions.”

    I ask because looking at the altered Bethesda Autopsy images of JFK, I have often wondered if perhaps the bullet striking JFK might have split in half on impact. Or also if he was possibly struck twice in the head due to the two different and largest areas of alteration which are not side by side, but separated to a fair degree, which on the surface seems to agree with Dr. McClellands assessment.

    If Mr. Groden was the “expert” some claim, he should have noticed these….

    Or this…..

    Or this….

    Film footage can account for a minimum of “Four” shots, JFK-throat, back and head, and J.Connally. Then if Dr. McClelland is accurate…one more to JFK’s head….a total of five, which…coincidentally corresponds with this….

    1. If you have to come up with scenarios that postulate a full metal jacket round splitting in two or two simultaneous rounds hitting inches apart from two widly separated shooting sites you probably ought to re-think your original premise.

      1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

        Photon, I stand by my original position, what you witness in my posts is the mental processing of information stated by Dr. McClelland.

        I do not agree with Dr.McClellands idea that the throat wound was caused by a second shot to JFK’s head, and for specific reasons. The primary reason is the transfer of Kinetic energy, which exists for the head shot in frame 313 of the Zapruder film, but no where else. When JFK is hit in the throat and raises his arms, there is no violent movement in agreement with the kinetic energy that would have been transferred to his head at the time of impact, (meaning, no violent movement of the head as happened with the head shot depicted in frame 313).
        The lack of that kinetic energy transfer when JFK raised his arms to the “thornburn” position tells me that this was indeed a frontal throat shot, as it also proceeded the body/head movement of the secondary back shot by nearly two full seconds.

        1. Dusty, You need to take a course in kinematics at the college level . Your statement has no scientific basis in fact and leads me to wonder how much you really know about kinetic energy in the first place.
          Actually JFK does not assume a Thorburn position, although his arm positions are a reflex reflecting spinal cord trauma. But it is impossible to determine the direction of the missile that caused that trauma by any means except post- mortem examination. Your claims of being able to make physical diagnoses from reviewing the various films taken of the assassination are simply not possible.
          Perhaps if you had training in anatomy, physiology or medicine I could take your point of view more seriously. But it is obvious that your grasp of physics is weak.

          1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            Photon, once again you post derogatory and false information. BTW, perhaps you should take a course in “ethics”.

            Let’s examine some of your deductions and feel free to elaborate and expound to those of us who are ignorant.

            Explain to all of us, why Doctors had to remove 5 bullet fragments from J. Connally’s wrist, and the fragment in his leg. Are the “Magic” fragments that came from the “Magic” bullet that was in “pristine” condition?
            Then….feel free to explain to us how, if one of the bullets striking Connally fragmented, how that same “magic” could not cause the bullet striking JFK’s head to fragment. Oh, I know…it must be those darn double standards.
            Explain to us in your profound wisdom, the difference between a conditioned response and an unconditioned one. Explain the difference between a controlled muscle reaction, and the lack of control, define the cause and effects for the sake of my ignorance.
            An idea, let me blindfold you….and strike you in the throat unexpectedly, and let’s film your instinctual reaction and body movements, shall we?
            The rest of your post is laughable and I’m not going to bother responding, as I’m not the one who made the claim JFK’s arm’s went into the “Thornburn” position….that was the Warren Commissions statement when creating the “Magic Bullet” theory….which you supposedly support but now deny, lol.

          2. Photon, If as you claim, Kennedy’s body was not moved in order to study the wounds, can you explain why no one turn his body over? After all, these were physicians trained in the preservation of life. Why would they have hesitated to “move heaven and earth” (literally?) to determine the wounds? Sounds like possible intimidation to me.

            I am not claiming to know that the doctors were under pressure; I am merely introducing into your insistence that no one could have seen the rear of his body because no one turned him over.

            I would think that you would ask similar questions if you are committed to turning over every detail to prove that Oswald shot Kennedy.

          3. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            This is just an FYI Photon….if you go to this link….


            which is my FB page, you will see my profile image, I am in one of the space suits, in the background are white streaks in the blue sky, those are incoming missiles. I worked with the “SDI” program, also known as “Star Wars”, working with ICBM’s (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles)….also at times referred to as KKV’s, or (Kinetic Kill Vehicles). They are called KKV’s because they use their own “Kinetic” energy to destroy incoming missiles as opposed to using an “explosive” force. I guess these scientists didn’t understand the concept either, at least according to your logic.
            Why you insist on making foolish comments is beyond me.

          4. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            Last post in response to your’s Photon, (hopefully)!
            You stated….

            “Perhaps if you had training in anatomy, physiology or medicine I could take your point of view more seriously.”

            You speak as if you know anything about me, and if you did, you wouldn’t make such an ignorant post. The majority of my working career has been as an Aerospace/Structural Firefighter and EMT and spent two straight years as Crew Chief on an ambulance. Hmmm, I wonder if that involves any training in anatomy, physiology or medicine.
            Oh….and it also included training in identifying, analyzing and securing crime scene evidence, just so you have a heads up.

          5. So you’re saying that JFK suffered spinal cord trauma? So a bullet hit or deflected off his spinal cord to cause that?

  2. Sherry P. Fiester is a retired crime scene investigator and court certified expert in crime scene reconstruction and blood spatter analysis. I consider her book, Enemy Of The Truth: Myths, Forensics, and The Kennedy Assassination to be one of the most significant ever produced on the subject of the assassination.

    Contemporary forensic sciences have produced revelations in the emerging applications of new methods and new technologies employed in modern crime scene reconstruction and analysis.

    Research developments include revelations in the mechanics of head wound ballistics, the utilization of unbelievably high-speed photography, radial and concentric fracture sequencing studies of human skulls, symmetrical and asymmetrical beveling in relation to projectile directionality, the related subjects of distinguishing back spatter from forward spatter and, perhaps most extraordinary of all, the news that current forensic research indicates the forward movement of President Kennedy’s head (at Z-frame 313) followed by violent rearward movement is consistent with a single gunshot to the head from the front.*

    My interview with Sherry Fiester may be heard here:

    * “front” is not the grassy knoll. I hope all who are interested will invest the necessary time with an open mind.

    1. How many autopsies has she attended?
      How many murders did she investigate when she was a member of her small town police force?
      Name one study published in a reputable refereed journal that supports any of the claims made in your third paragraph.

      1. UsethebrainsJFKnolongerhas

        Photon, out of curiosity, how many autopsies have you attended? Because I have attended dozens and am just curious to see where on your scale of ignorance I may or may not belong.

        1. Well, I can tell you he does not think much of Dr. Wecht in spite of his documented experience and accomplishments.

      2. “Name one study published in a reputable refereed journal that supports any of the claims made in your third paragraph.”~Photon

        > Quatrehomme, 1998, Coe, 1981; Prahlow, 2010; Adams, 2010

        >Essentials of Forensic Imaging: A Text Atlas, CRC Press, Boca Raton FL

        >Patterns of Tissue Injury, Viel, 2009,

        >Knight’s Forensic Pathology Fourth Edition Karger, 2008; Smith, 1987; Leestma, 2009

        >Forensic Pathology Reviews. Volume 5 – Forensic Ballistics; Bernd Karger

        >Characteristics of Backspatter on the Firearm and Shooting Hand—An Experimental Analysis of Close-range Gunshots
        Sebastian N. Kunz M.D., Ph.D.*, Herwig Brandtner M.D. and Harald J. Meyer Ph.D.; Journal of Forensic Sciences
        Volume 60, Issue 1, pages 166–170, January 2015
        * * * *

      3. Why don’t you name one study published in a reputable refereed journal that DEBUNKS any of the claims made in Alan Dale’s third paragraph.

        How many autopsies have you attended? How many murders have you investigated or covered as a reporter? Outside of a viewing room in a funeral parlor, how many corpses have you seen?

        Just where does this tremendous expertise in so many fields come from, Paul? You’ve been challenged on this point many, many times, and to my knowledge you’ve never been able to prove that you have anything more than the most cursory knowledge of medicine (and ER protocol), criminal law, ballistics, physics, and all the other subjects about which you insinuate you know so much. It’s long past time for you to put up or forever hold you peace.

  3. Clarence Carlson

    I just reread McClelland’s testimony to the Warren Commission. He (and others) were very clear on one point, cerebellar tissue was present in the wound. The only way this would be possible is for Kennedy to have suffered a large boney occipital wound, a “blow out” at the back of the head. This unequivocally speaks to a more frontal entrance.

    1. Has Dr. McClelland ever answered the question how he can be sure of his observations of the head wound? The President was on the examining table in a supine position?

      1. This whole McAdams, “supine position” argument is a JOKE. Get real. There were people like Clint Hill who saw the back of JFK’s head blown out, there was Nurse Audrey Bell who saw JFK’s head blown out in the back, and there were numerous doctors who operated on Kennedy who saw the back of his head leaking blood and brain matter, AND they saw an entrance bullet wound in Kennedy’s right temple, indicating an entrance wound there from the front. Drs. Perry and some others changed their story AFTER pressure was exerted upon them by the Warren Commission’s kangaroo court (led by Allen Dulles whom Kennedy fired), but there were a couple of doctors and witnesses who held to what they saw, Drs. Crenshaw and McClelland among them.

        1. And only McClelland and Crenshaw of all of the MDs in the ER disagreed with the Warren Commision and Crenshaw never could have seen what he claimed to have seen.
          Tell me- is a 10 minute exam where the physician never touches the patient superior to a 3 hour formal autopsy including X- rays and precise measurements including anatomical relationships?
          Did Audrey Bell touch JFK or did 2 other nurses wrap up his head and body?
          Where did you take physical diagnosis that makes you an expert on ER evaluations of wounds? I have referred to articles posted in reputable medical journals from superior medical institutions documenting the accuracy of wound interpretations in the ER. Those studies have conclusively proved that ER wound interpretations are often erroneous ; Kemp Clark himself stated during his Nov. 22 press conference that ER wound interpretation was not precise and that wound specifics would be established by post- mortem examination.
          Perhaps if you ever saw an autopsy or worked in an ER you would understand these facts.

          1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            And perhaps if the Bethesda Autopsy images represented the actual wounds instead of the “altered” fakes that they are, people might have actually seen the true wounds.

          2. Your argument falls flat on its face Photon. Kennedy had a massive, blown out portion of his head in the back. He had to be taken out of the limousine to get to the ER. Agent Clint Hill said he saw the back of the President’s head blown out. The Dallas surgeons may have been hurried, but they didn’t just put blindfolds on, and they certainly knew what gunshot wounds look like. They certainly knew, even if they couldn’t examine the entire body (the back wound for ex.) that Kennedy had a small entrance wound in his right temple, and another small entrance wound in his neck. They were looking right at those wounds! Your elaborate emperor’s new clothes AMA Journal of Medicine and “I know what ER conditions are like” argument misses the point. There’s “precise” and there’s “obvious”. Certainly a complete autopsy needs to be done, but to dismiss the eyewitness reports of doctors who saw the wounds firsthand is absurd. You don’t need a frickin’ certified pathologist to tell you when the back of somebody’s head is blown out. Whoever is feeding you this stuff (you say you know doctors but aren’t one yourself) is giving you the wrong information. You need to go back and tell them so, because what they are telling you is completely off base to the point of being absurd.

          3. JSA, I have trouble with the suggestion that doctors saw a small entrance wound in JFK’s right temple when the Zapruder film shows the whole right front of his head being sheared off.

          4. I don’t think that the Zapruder film is very clear; it’s a fairly low definition, 8mm home movie. But okay, you might have a point. My feeling is that enough witnesses said that they heard shots from behind the fence, plus you had SS Agent Hill who jumped up onto the car and said Kennedy’s entire back of his head was blown off. In addition to that you had an entrance wound in Kennedy’s neck as well. I think shots were fired from both the front and the back, but because the Warren Commission hired Arlen Specter to do his “if the glove doesn’t fit you must acquit” argument of a single bullet, and you had autopsy photos and photos of the car which were missing or not very clear, there has been a lot of argument back and forth. The bottom line: The Zapruder film shows some information, but isn’t all inclusive. It’s so grainy and low definition that it leaves some ambiguity and imprecision to the table.

          5. Photon, after those pathologists spent hours in Bethesda, the HSCA panel concluded their rear wound of entrance was off by 4 inches.


          6. To arrive at a modern conclusion, JFK should be exhumed and examined by todays techniques. One has to realize, the autopsy, the Warren Commission’s findings, all had to match the Report of J. Edgar Hoovers official FBI report on the theory of one crazed killer. It’s all a big coverup… One that those living at the time, will never likely hear the truth on.

        2. And don’t forget that Dr Perry described the neck wound as a wound of entrance in the press conference at Parklands.

          1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            And the “whole story” would be that the back wound didn’t penetrate through the body.

      2. I’m sure Doctor McClellan was standing behind JFK’s head and could see cerebellar tissue on the gurney at the base of back of the head or base of his neck.

        Also, they had to move JFK onto and off the gurney at some point, if not raise his head or move it side to side momentarily.

        Ample opportunities to see an avulsion like many others claimed to have seen.

          1. Yes, and most pathologists don’t have military commanders telling them which wounds they can probe and which wounds they can’t either. The autopsy wasn’t thorough. The back wound wasn’t even probed completely. Photos are missing. It was a complete joke.

          2. UsethebrainsJFKnolongerhas

            Actually, all forensic personnel make notes, I should know. If “many pathologists don’t make autopsy notes in the first place” and this doctor didn’t then how in the world would there exist both diagrams of the wounds/ body, and typed notes with the MD’s signature (identifying his own notes}…um, duh?

      1. Of course, he may be mistaken, but considering he was a Doctor with experience of observing over 200 gunshot wounds ( WC testimony) its certainly a lot more probable that he was correct.

        1. Not when he was contradicted by every other MD in the room save his 3rd year resident and three board-certified pathologists who actually did the autopsy.

          1. So according to you, Photon, the Dallas doctors make mistakes when you find it convenient for them to do so? Your take on the Dallas doctors is based on what—speculation? McAdams’ “supine theory”? But the pathologists, working under orders to not probe all of the bullet wounds, are somehow infallible? That’s illogical.

          2. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

            Let me add one bit if info to support your statement JSA….

            Quote from Dr. Crenshaw, from “JFK Conspiracy of Silence”, by J.Hansen and J.G.Shaw.

            “Before I directed that the body be moved, I turned down the sheet and took one long, last look at President Kennedy’s head wound. I was the last doctor at Parkland Hospital to see it. After making my final examination, I lightly stroked his reddish brown hair.”

          3. I’ve heard and seen that video clip of Crenshaw saying that in 1991. The response of the Lone Gunman Theorists has been to smear Crenshaw and say that he is “making this up.” That’s the best they can do when confronted with powerful testimony like this. Funny though—NONE of their witnesses ever lie—it’s always those who bring up statements that contradict the Lone Gunman Theory who are “liars”.

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