I began writing this opinion piece in response to one specific John McAdams comment in the thread following Peter Voskamp’s interview of Richard Stolley of LIFE magazine, about his involvement with the Zapruder film the weekend of JFK’s assassination.
The response I was writing evolved and morphed into something bigger as I was composing it. It is really about much more than just the one specific comment I am rebutting; it is about a much bigger issue — namely, the negative tone and apparent intent to disrupt, and ridicule, that John McAdams too often brings to the JFKFACTS site, and to other JFK chat rooms.
If John McAdams had truly read any of my work on the Zapruder film — such as the 200-page Z film chapter, number 14 in my book “Inside the ARRB;” or my 19,000-word, footnoted research paper on the 2 NPIC events (posted at LewRockwell.com) — he would know that I have completely discredited David Wrone’s book on the Zapruder film, and have done so with great specificity, quoting Wrone’s incorrect conclusions verbatim, and citing exactly why his major conclusions (that the USG had no interest in the film and did not have the capability to alter it) are incorrect, in light of new evidence. David Wrone’s book misrepresented/failed to report properly on the 2 NPIC events, as I reported in my chapter 14, and that obfuscation, I believe, was intentional. Wrone’s book, when it was published, was widely considered the best defense to date, at that time, of the Z film’s authenticity. But it now reads like a “flat earth” document, following Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe. Citing David Wrone’s book at this point in the Z film debate is about as useful as citing the Warren Report when discussing the medical evidence.
No one who has watched Dino Brugioni’s interview in the Shane O’Sullivan piece titled “The Zapruder Film Mystery” has expressed anything but respect for his excellent memory and his integrity, and this includes the moderator on this site, Jefferson Morley. Dino’s memories, when recorded on video in 2011, were 47 years old, and yet were more truthful, and useful, and reliable, than much of the testimony taken by the Warren Commission just months after JFK’s assassination. The best example of this is Dr. James J. Humes, who perjured himself on many occasions before the Warren Commission (and later before the ARRB). Humes’ testimony in 1964 was not “valid” just because it was “fresh.” And Dino Brugioni’s recollections (and those of Homer McMahon of NPIC in 1997) are not “invalid” just because they were not recorded in 1964. Each witnesses’ testimony and recollections must be evaluated independently, within the context of all known evidence and what they have said previously. Every oral historian and jurist knows this.
On those occasions when he discusses my work, McAdams keeps trotting out his favorite old shibboleth about how no one can trust 30+ year old memories; he attempts to use this rather lame, simplistic dismissal — a standard lawyer’s trick used in adversarial proceedings — whenever he cannot counter any of my specific assertions or conclusions by discussing specific evidence, or by discussing the pattern revealed by a large body of facts (and what those facts mean). On the rare occasions when he does discuss facts, he attempts to use a “reductionist” approach — which entails ignoring the “big picture” and selectively picking out one statement among many made by someone else, in an attempt to destroy a larger argument by nitpicking to death, and casting doubt upon, one small item in a large body of evidence. I find this approach to the JFK assassination counterproductive, for in adopting these methods, Mr. McAdams contributes nothing positive to the JFK debate; his sole object seems to be to cast the maximum doubt possible upon any facts contrary to the Warren Commission’s findings, and to debunk the serious work of dedicated JFK researchers, whose sole goal is to determine what really happened in our country in 1963.
But for the sake of this response, let me on this one occasion, counter his tired old argument that we cannot trust 30+ year old memories — which is demonstrably not true (Dennis David and Dino Brugioni are two good examples of “old” recollections that are rock-solid) — by stating that most of the evidence that causes us to mistrust the Warren Commission’s medical conclusions are NOT 30+ year old memories, but rather, are contemporaneous documents created at or near the time of the assassination, to wit:
(1) The Boyajian Report dated 11/26/63, which records the arrival of JFK’s body at the Bethesda morgue 20 minutes prior to the Andrews AFB motorcade;
(2)The Sibert and O’Neill FBI FD-302 report dated 11/26/63, which quotes Dr. Humes’ statement at the autopsy (when describing the condition of JFK’s body) that there had been “surgery of the head area, namely, in the top of the skull.” The significance of this statement is that there was no cranial surgery in Dallas.
(3) The receipt trail for the JFK autopsy report (from both 1965 and from 1967) which proves that the Secret Service TWICE relinquished “original autopsy reports” on JFK to others. The point here is that you cannot give away an “original” twice, if there was only one original. And we know the first draft of the autopsy report was burned by Dr. Humes in his fireplace after it was revised, because this is what Humes testified to in 1964 before Arlen Specter of the Warren Commission. That was not a 30+ year old memory — it was only about 4 months after the assassination. So we can have no confidence today in the extant autopsy report.
(4) National Archives personnel recorded in a written report on 10/31/66 that all of the paragraph nine materials (see the APR ’65 inventory) given to RFK in 1965 (including the brain and an “original autopsy report”) were not returned to the govt by the Kennedy family; and we have a 1969 memo written by Assistant S.S. Director Tom Kelley which records that the group of USG officials he was meeting with discussed the missing autopsy report, and the incendiary nature of that fact, and decided to do nothing about it.
(5) The Joint Casket Bearer Team’s official report written in 1963 lists the time that the honor guard took the Dallas casket into the morgue as “2000 hours,” or 8:00 PM. This contemporaneous document records the final casket entry (of three) that night at the Bethesda morgue; and when married with the Boyajian report (documenting the first casket entry at 18:35 hours, or 6:35 PM) proves that there was a shell game underway at Bethesda Naval Hospital on 11/22/63 with JFK’s body, and that its chain of custody from Dallas to Bethesda was broken — seriously compromised.
(6) The Gawler’s Funeral Home “first call sheet” prepared on 11/22/63 records that JFK’s body arrived at Bethesda Naval Hospital in a metal shipping casket, a term which had a specific meaning within the funeral trade. A shipping casket is used for the public transportation of corpses, and is not ornamental in any way. (Three Navy men at Bethesda Naval Hospital — Dennis David, Floyd Riebe, and Paul O’Connor — all recalled that the shipping casket was light gray in color, and was very simple and unadorned. It had no siderails, no viewing lid, and Riebe recalled that it sported ugly turnbuckles. Their testimony years later is to be believed because it is consistent with the Gawler’s document, which they never saw.) But JFK’s body did not leave Dallas in a cheap, lightweight gray aluminum shipping casket; rather, it left Dallas in a heavy, dark brown, bronze ceremonial viewing coffin. The break in the chain of custody of JFK’s body already established by the Boyajian report, and the report of the Casket Bearer Team, is further substantiated by this written record created on 11/22/63 by the Gawler’s funeral home embalming team.
(7) The contemporaneous treatment notes and reports of the Parkland treating physicians written on 11/22/63 — they are certainly not 30+ year old memories — all record a large head wound in the rear, or right rear, of President Kennedy’s head. None of them describe any damage to the top of the head or to the right side. Those are NOT simply my interpretations of what they wrote (as McAdams has claimed in an earlier posting), for if one consults a medical anatomy atlas, there is only ONE possible interpretation to what they wrote: JFK had a large defect in the back of his head, devoid of scalp and skull, extruding cerebral AND CEREBELLAR tissue. Those key observations speak to a fatal shot from the front, and dramatically disagree with the later autopsy conclusions (and the controversial autopsy photos of the back of the head). If one reads the treatment notes of the Parkland physicians, you will note a great uniformity and consistency in their descriptions of JFK’s wounds. If error was at play here, there should be a wide range of responses in their notes — but there is not. Dr. Clark stated that day that the treatment of JFK went on for 40 minutes (implying that the time of death was backdated to 1:00 PM after treatment was concluded). So the Dallas doctors and nurses had plenty of time to observe his wounds, both during treatment and after death; and they were all well trained professionals, so when they used words like “occipital” or “occipital-parietal” in their notes, we can have great confidence that they were making reasonably precise descriptions of what they had plenty of time to observe.
I could go on and on, but by now the readers of this thread surely get the point: you cannot dismiss serious evidence, and the conclusions derived from studying the patterns in that evidence, by refusing to discuss the facts, and by resorting to simplistic techniques to attempt to discount “wholesale” everything someone says. That is an intellectually dishonest approach. END