‘Dr. Finck … looked for his notes and could not find them anywhere’

“I clearly heard Dr. Finck … complain that he had been unable to locate the handwritten notes that he had taken during the autopsy …. Dr. Finck concluded his story by angrily stating that he had to reconstruct his notes from memory shortly after the autopsy.”

Affidavit of Leonard D. Saslaw, Ph.D. In 1996, Dr. Saslaw signed an affidavit recounting that JFK autopsy pathologist Dr. Pierre Finck had “with considerable irritation” told of his post-washup search for the notes he had taken during the autopsy.

The missing Finck notes join the litany of missing materials from the JFK autopsy, among them:

27 thoughts on “‘Dr. Finck … looked for his notes and could not find them anywhere’”

    1. Some months ago, McAdams tried a fast one, claiming there was an abrasion collar around JFK’s back wound. When I asked for a citation, he disappeared faster than a genie drawing back inside its magic lamp.

  1. FYI: I was the one who “found” Dr. Sawlaw, in 1996. I did a filmed interview, and found him quite credible. Here’s how it happened: A young Israeli lady with a keen interest in my book, Nathalie Apteker was employed by me, in Los Angeles, starting in May, 1992, as a research assistant. Back in Washington, her father was riding on a metroliner (either to or from Washington) and the two struck up a conversation. Her father was proud of the work she had been doing, and his fellow passenger then related the story about Dr. Finck’s notes. Nathalie called me soon thereafter, and I then interviewed Dr. Saslaw by phone, and then flew east and did a filmed interview. I turned over what I had to the ARRB (specifically, to Jeremy Gunn, via Doug Horne) and they did their own interview of Dr. Saslaw. As to Vaman Waradeker, I interviewed him (too), by phone, and my synopsis, dated 3/28/96, reads: “Vaman definitely remembers an incident in which Lenny (as he calls him [i.e., Dr. Saslaw]) was concerned right [back] then. Back in 1963, on the day it happened…He is certain about his recollection that the week after the assassination, [Dr.] Saslaw expressed to him concern over something he had overheard in the AFIP lunchroom.

    1. Mr. Lifton, your statement is contradicted by Douglas Horne’s ARRB entry of April 26,1996.
      Quote: “All Dr. Waradekar remembered was that Saslaw had reported that there was something about the autopsy that bothered him, BUT COULDN’T REMEMBER DETAILS.”
      Your report to the ARRB was on 3-29. Are you implying that you talked to Dr. Waradekar exactly the day before and never informed the ARRB of what he told you? As the ARRB report of Dr. Waradekar’s comments came directly from Saslaw himself it would appear that you have a credibility problem. Or did you speak with Dr. Waradekar after he was contacted by Dr. Saslaw and informed about what Dr. Saslaw was going to claim?

      1. I don’t see the problem. I spoke to Dr. Saslaw, and then filmed him. At some point, I spoke with Dr. Waradekar. Then I turned over everything to the ARRB. Its possible, of course, that Dr. Waradekar said something different to me, than he did several weeks later when he received a phone call from the ARRB.

        I can’t address that issue. I can only report what he said to me.

        And I can report the sequence:

        (a) I first heard the whole story from Nathalie Apteker, who had recently spoke with her father, who met Dr. Leonard Saslaw while riding on the Metroliner, in Washington.

        (b) Nathalie then telephoned me and related the story.

        (c) Then I spoke with Dr. Saslaw, made a taped record of that conversation (very likely with his permission); and made the appropriate notes–and probably a transcript.

        (d) Then I flew to Washington, and did the entire interview on camera.

        (e ) At some point, I spoke with Dr. Waradeker, and wrote a brief synopsis.

        During this entire period, I was in touch–constantly–with the ARRB (mostly via Douglas Horne) –because they wanted access to my audiotapes and filmed records of the Bethesda witnesses, whom I had interviewed for Best Evidence (back in 1979). And now, Dr. Saslaw was added to the list of things I wanted to share with them.

        Shortly after the filmed interview with Leonard Saslaw, I turned over everything to the ARRB,

        As to what happened next, I had no control over that. All I know is what I was told at the time: that Dr. Saslaw essentially confirmed what he had said to me, when he spoke to the ARRB.

        Dr. Waradekar is (relatively speaking) a minor player in this affair. His chief importance, to me, was that he confirmed that Dr. Saslaw had been concerned about something he heard Dr. Finck say–and that this dated back to the week after the assassination.

        Now, about Colonel Finck, and his importance:

        If you are a student of this case, then surely you know how precise (and “anal”, to use contemporary jargon) Dr. Finck was. If so, then you understand that Dr. Finck made copious notes, while Kennedy’s body was right there, on the autopsy table. And if you understand that, then hopefully you will understand how serious it is that such a detailed written record would–“somehow”–disappear before the evening (or late morning) had passed. That written record, made by the only forensic pathologit present, would be of paramount importance–historically, and legally.

        As far as I’m concerned, there is no innocent explanation for such a thing. One of the high ranking people connected with this autopsy must have given an instruction, or issued an order, to obtain those notes–in effect, to steal them–and they have never since seen the light of day.

        Who could have done such a thing?

        The chain of command at the morgue that night was:

        Admiral Edward Kenney, Surgeon General of the Navy (and Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery);

        Admiral Calvin Galloway, the Commanding Officer of the National Naval Medical Center (“NNMC”)–of which the U.S. Navy Medical School was a component command.

        Captain Stover, the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Navy Medical School.

        In addition, present was Admiral George Burkley, the White House Physician.

        Now those pages of notes did not just disappear, into thin air.

        Had there been a proper investigation–e.g., had there been a Special Prosecutor in this case–the disappearance of Col. Finck’s pages of notes would have been a proper area for investigation.

        First, there would be Dr. Finck, under oath, describing exactly what notes he took, how many pages, and a full account of how he first became aware of their disappearance.

        Then would follow detailed questioning of all the high ranking officials names above.

        I’m not saying the notes would ever have been found, but the disappearance of such a contemporaneous written record is, first of all, outrageous, and secondly, and this is my opinion, almost as important as the disappearance of JFK’s brain.

        You cannot diminish the importance of all this by starting with Dr. Waradekar, who, 33 years after the fact, may have told me one thing, and the ARRB something slightly different, a month or two later.

        The primary question is: what happened to Dr. Finck’s notes? Who made them “disappear,” and on whose authority did any of this happen?

        (David S. Lifton)
        11/18/18, 6:40 PM PST
        Los Angeles, California

        1. FYI,
          My mother, Maria K. Meyer, was working at Brooks AFB, in San Antonio, at the time of the JFK assassination. I was 7. She was in the secretarial pool there where she did technical writing and editing. At some point not too long after the assassination, it was her job to type up one of the Doctor’s autopsy notes. I think it was Col. Finck’s. Might have been the re-created notes. I have no way of knowing. But there should be or should have been a record of that autopsy at Brooks. I don’t know whether those transcribed notes are in the public record or not. My mother did not keep a copy of what she did.
          -Paul Meyer

          1. Your mom was at Brooks AFB in San Antonio. The autopsy was at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland. I do not see why anyone on the staff at Brooks would be typing notes from Bethesda.

  2. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

    At this point in time, the Bethesda Autopsy can be proven to be an elaborate deception intended to defraud the American Public and the Warren Commission. There is enough evidence to charge those individuals involved. I think the Legal system in America should do exactly that. Tampering, altering, destroying, or ordering any of the above to be done to autopsy evidence is a felony. Any surviving individuals directly involved should be held accountable.
    This is the easiest egg to crack right now, due to available evidence, who knows where it might lead when tongues start wagging?

    1. None of this is true. It was an autopsy done by board certified pathologists including one of the world’s foremost experts on firearms wounds. To this day no forensic pathologist has proven that the conclusions reached about the wounds or their origins have been in error, namely that all wounds were caused by bullets coming from behind. The only way that critics can deal with this is to invent ridiculous claims, such as faked autopsy photos or hidden evidence or destruction of official records- none of which occurred.
      The claims of enlisted personnel with “A” school corpsman training do not hold a candle to those of medical officers with years of post graduate training AFTER medical school. The claims of these enlisted personnel to have come in contact with JFK’s body or to have removed it from the Dallas casket are exaggerated or frankly false- the pathologists themselves moved the body.
      Unless you have attended an autopsy you have no standing in criticizing the procedure, any more than you have the background to criticize a cholecystectomy.

      1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

        What conclusions Photon? The Phony ones? The altered ones? The conclusions controlled and dictated to the Autopsy phsyicians?
        Don’t make me laugh….”the worlds foremost experts on firearms wounds”…that is an outright deliberate deception on your part. Any of the staff at Parkland was far more experienced and skilled then those at Bethesda and you know it. The Bethesda autopsy and the supposed results were nothing but fabrication from beginning to end.

        1. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde

          PS: JFK’s body was stolen by the Secret Service by force with threats and weapons. The integrity of the Bethesda Autopsy was stolen by Officials in attendance dictating results. The truth of a genuine autopsy was destroyed by fabrication, the destruction and the alteration of related evidence.
          That Photon….is Truth….no need to Troll…no need to make up stories….all the evidence exists to prove each of these points.

          1. “Angel is Airborne”, the Washingtonian article on the AF One flight back to Andrews highlighted on this blog clearly states that the Dallas D.A. released the body for travel back to Washington, D.C.
            So the Secret Service never “stole” a body that they were legally entitled to.
            A genuine autopsy was performed by board certified pathologists, including a world expert in firearms wounds-Dr. Finck. Aside from Dr. Wecht, please document a single forensic pathologist familiar with the case who disagrees with the findings of that autopsy. I don’t believe that being an EMT qualifies you to pass judgement on the skills and qualifications of 2 pathologists who were on the faculty of one of the premier pathology training programs of the United States.

          2. S.R."Dusty" Rohde

            Photon, since LBJ had no intention of leaving Texas before being sworn in as President and knew he had to wait for officials to arrive, then why didn’t he allow the autopsy to take place? They (Secret Service-LBJ) were told the autopsy would take 45 minutes so why not allow it? LBJ and the others had to wait much more then 45 minutes before the swearing could take place anyhow. Why hide the body in the rabbit hole?

          3. I’m a bit rusty on the subject, but recall Justice of the Peace, Theron Ward, signed off on the death certificate which was adequate to have the body released.

            But prior to this, the Secret Servicemen inside Trauma Room 1 attempted to leave with the body. A violent shoving match ensued between them and Dallas law enforcement personnel. This was an illegal act and some of the Secret Servicemen engaged in very threatening behaviour. Ambulance driver, Aubrey Rike, describes the atmosphere as intense.

            After the release of the body, if I’m not mistaken, the country coroner, Earl Rose, made a final stand and according to Dr. Crenshaw, Roy Kellerman drew his sidearm and pointed it at the doctor’s midsection.

            As you imply, the behaviour of the Secret Service in removing the body, especially before they were given permission, raises a red flag. It was illegal.

            When it is examined within the greater context of all the medical irregularaities, for example, contradictions between the Dallas and Bethesda witnesses, the pressure placed on the Navy pathologists as they worked, orders not to talk under threat of court martial, the missing brain, missing photos, the two coffin controversy, and Humes’ burnt notes, the behaviour of the Secret Service at Parkland takes on a far more sinister quality.

      2. Neither Humes or Boswell had any experience with gunshot wounds. Finck did but he was late in arrival and was told not to do routine procedures. The wounds were never tracked. The measurements were imprecise. The Clark Panel in 1968 actually moved a head wound four inches. Nothing about the wounds seen in the autopsy photos matches what dozens of witnesses actually saw. To suggest this event was in any way above board is simply dishonest.

        1. Please document your claim that neither Humes or Boswell had any experience with gunshot wounds. It is false-how else could they have sat for the pathology boards?

          1. Dr Robert Baden, to use one example, told the HSCA in 1978:
            “(Humes) had not been exposed to many gunshot wounds and had not performed autopsies in deaths due to shooting previously: neither had the other autopsy pathologists present.”

            Baden was delivering an apologia to the HSCA, in description of the JFK autopsy, as he had to acknowledge its deficiencies and why its deficiencies had created such problems.

          2. But you claimed “Neither Humes nor Boswell had any experience with gunshot wounds.”
            Again, if that was true how could they have sat for the board exam? They were board certified, weren’t they?

      3. Photon’s patriotic interspretation reflects his unfamiliarity with what we’ve learned in the wake of the declassified files and work of the Assassinations Records Review Board. As I’ve elsewhere written http://www.history-matters.com/essays/jfkmed/How5Investigations/How5InvestigationsGotItWrong_7.htm:
        Besides the President’s brain and tissue slides, the camera that took JFK’s “best evidence” autopsy photographs has vanished, as have the HSCA tests that revealed that the camera failed a test to match them with the official photographs. The skull fragments that ostensibly proved the bullet’s direction by their supposed beveling characteristics have disappeared. Original autopsy notes were vaporized by JFK’s chief pathologist, who followed that up by signing false affidavits about them, and then by giving the Warren Commission misleading testimony. Also, multiple lines of evidence suggest that crucial – what might fairly be described as “diagnostic” – autopsy photographs are also missing, if not falsified.

      4. Even Finck, whom you refer to as “one of the world’s foremost experts on firearms wounds,” wasn’t at all what the circs called for when JFK was wheeled into the morgue. And that opinion isn’t just that of “wacky conspiracists,” but of a recognized forensic authority.

        As I’ve elsewhere written: http://www.history-matters.com/essays/jfkmed/How5Investigations/How5InvestigationsGotItWrong_1a.htm

        The famed New York City coroner Milton Helpern, MD, has laid out the problem (with JFK’s autopsy) particularly well: “Colonel Finck’s position throughout the entire proceeding was extremely uncomfortable. If it had not been for him, the autopsy would not have been handled as well as it was; but he was in the role of the poor bastard Army child foisted into the Navy family reunion. He was the only one of the three doctors with any experience with bullet wounds; but you have to remember that his experience was limited primarily to ‘reviewing’ files, pictures, and records of finished cases. There’s a world of difference between standing at the autopsy table and trying to decide whether a hole in the body is a wound of entrance or a wound of exit, and in reviewing another man’s work at some later date in the relaxed, academic atmosphere of a private office … .”[32]


      5. “It was an autopsy done by board certified pathologists including one of the world’s foremost experts on firearms wounds.”

        hardly accurate. Wecht states the opposite, and, unless you’ve got his credentials, I’ll trust … him.

  3. So you accept as “evidence” a note written 32 years after the assassination describing a conversation in a lunch room at another table? A conversation of which the good Dr. Saslaw was not a part of? Saslaw was a chemist, not a pathologist. He wasn’t even an M.D., so how could he possibly know what exactly Finck was describing – particularly about a procedure he had never seen or frankly knew anything about? He never saw an autopsy, nor did he have any more medical knowledge than a layman.
    The least believable claim is that Saslaw reported this to his superior.Why? That individual was in the biochemistry department and had no relationship to anatomic pathology, which is a medical specialty. That superior was not an M.D. He would have absolutely no standing to comment on ANY medical procedure or issues related to that procedure. Why did Saslaw claim to have told him? Perhaps because by 1996 he was dead and could not contradict him.

    1. Or Dr. Saslaw may have thought that Waravdekar was dead. But he wasn’t . And nowhere is there any evidence that Waravdekar ever confirmed Saslaw’s account; a confirmation that would have been easy to get as Waravdekar was still active and living in Frederick as late as 2002.

  4. Both pathologists, Dr Hume and Dr Finck, appear to struggle when being questioned.
    Dr Hume in his testimony to the ARRB admitted that some of the notes he destroyed had no blood stains on them at all, whilst other documents which did have bloodstains he kept.
    Dr Finck in his testimony to the Clay Shaw trial stated that the pathologists were not in charge of the autopsy, but a member of the military was ( he couldn’t remember his name). Also, he was told not to dissect the wounds ( but he could not remember by whom).
    I find Dr Fincks testimony in the Clay Shaw trial especially suspicious. He obviously tries not to answer the question as to why he did not dissect the wounds, and had to be directed by the Judge to answer.

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